A Brief Affair with the Metro

The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind. - Lewis Mumford

There was a time when I was supposed to go to Baler but got left by the bus because I arrived at the bus station ten minutes late. I was in the mood for travel and didn't want my free time to go to waste so I went to another bus station in search of a ride that would take me to an alternative place. I made a quick call to a friend from the Metro and was soon on a bus heading towards the south.

I arrived a couple of hours later and got bombarded by heat, smoke, and dust. It was exactly how I remembered it to be - an urban jungle filled with sprawling edifices and crawling vehicles with an occasional rumble from the distance. As I waited for my friend to pick me up, I couldn't help but feel a bit of nostalgia for the place where I spent a large chunk of my childhood - a place that I once called home. Everything that was once familiar have long been forgotten so I braced myself like an explorer venturing into the unknown.

I met up with my friend and we let ourselves get lost in a sea of faces. I didn't have a concrete list of places to visit so we just followed the crowd for some time - crossing busy roads and hopping on packed trains while on the look out for lonely places and secret abodes.

The Metro is a busy place. A fast paced society where people hustle and bustle through modern cliffs and canyons. For a person who spent most of his life in the rural province, this place is an enigma. It isn't really a far cry from how it is portrayed by the media. A place said to be teeming with monsters who lurk in the shadows of the poorly lighted streets silently waiting for their prey. But one couldn't help but ask - is that really all there is to it?

I was definitely surprised at the train station when I saw people wearing their backpacks in front. There's just something sad about seeing people being too conscious about security in broad daylight.

Fortunately, although eclipsed by bad news, the Metro is still home to people of good will - people who are not afraid to help the oppressed, people who are compassionate towards the less fortunate, and many others.

After much deliberation, I asked my friend to take me to the National Museum to see Juan Luna's Spoliarium which has been in my bucketlist ever since I saw its replica in a museum in Vigan. The painting is enormous and I'm glad to have been able to see it in its full, restored glory.

We also found a special item while roaming around. I have only seen photos of the Manunggul Jar from textbooks and the old one thousand peso bills so it was a surprise to find it there along with other ancient Philippine artifacts including the various items obtained from trading with other Asian countries.

As we strolled along the corridors, we were bombarded by paintings and sculptures from different generations of Filipino artists. I loved the paintings that depicted how the now urbanized cities used to look like.

There was also a permanent exhibit dedicated to our ancient writing script known as Baybayin (incorrectly known as Alibata). It was a timely addition since there has been a surge in the interest on Baybayin in recent years.

Fort Santiago was also close by so we hired a ride and visited the Rizal Shrine before heading out to Makati to look for the hostel where I was due to spend the night.

Before I left the following day, I visited Ayala Museum and was lucky enough to catch the Philippine Ancient Gold exhibit and the Fernando Zobel exhibit. I've been meaning to visit the place so I could pick up my certificate for the Filipino is Waterproof Exhibit in Japan where one of my artworks was included but I was told that it was at the main office. My bad for not contacting them earlier before visiting. I visited all the exhibits and then took off to find my way to the bus station bound for home.

Like the mist that suddenly comes and quickly disappears, I, once again, spent a short-lived moment in the Metropolitan's embrace. She has been overshadowed by a dark veil for some time now but if you know what to look for and where to find them you would be surprised to know that she is still there in one piece like a beauty asleep - one who rouses to show her elegance and grace to those who seek.


Wanderlust

It starts out as a heavy feeling in your chest when you see a photo of your friend's smiling face against a backdrop of the sea being kissed by the sun's golden rays. You dismiss the feeling and go on with your life not knowing that the travel bug has settled in your heart at last.

Suddenly you begin to notice the little brochures, the ads, and the TV shows, in which you see photos of remote islands, towering mountain peaks, and secluded beaches. The heavy feeling returns but this time heavier than the last. You clutch your chest and will the feeling to pass. You tell yourself that traveling can only be a dream because to do so would cost a lot of money and you don't earn that much cash. It's only for the lucky people with big fat wallets and designer hats.

Then something happens and suddenly you find yourself opening up. Asking questions like, "Will I ever get to see that?" You start seeking for answers and then find out that you were your own biggest hurdle for your excuses were but scant. Some time later, maybe days, weeks, or months, you find yourself clutching a ticket you have booked in advance.

Excitement builds up until the day before departure. You start thinking of so many what ifs. Your mind goes on overdrive and you end up unable to sleep. You doze off sometime into the night and wake up with an aching head when your alarm breaks out in tantrums screaming for you to get up from your bed.

Still groggy from a few hours of sleep you double check your things to see if something was missed. After a thousand glances at your wristwatch you finally gear up and go out into the street.

On your way to the station your nerves build up and start to overflow. Questions cloud your mind and you start to doubt what you know.

  • "What if I can't do this?"
  • "What if I get lost?"
  • "What if I missed something important?"
  • "What if my money is not enough?"

The deciding moment soon comes. Do you get in or do you run? In that exact moment you find calm and bliss. The weight that you carry suddenly disappears. You hop on and find a seat.

On the window you watch the scenes outside as they pass by. Taking in as much as you can try to memorize.

Hours later your senses tingle as you see the sign posts telling you that you're near. The unfamiliar surrounding leaves your heart racing with excitement and a tinge of fear. Once you arrive you slowly walk out the door. You look around and then walk on with vigor. Here is a place from far away. For a few days, here you will stay.

  • Too many sights to see.
  • Too many food to taste.
  • Too many things to learn.
  • Too many people to meet.

Everything is like a whirlwind. You go from here to there. But like everything else things go slowly when the sun begins to set. You find your spot and settle with a drink in hand. You watch as the sky gets painted by the rays of the sun.

The following days pass by like a blur. You get in the zone and forget who you once were. It's only on the last day that the old you begins to stir. It's time to go back where reality waits to devour you like a lion in its den.

The past days will seem like a distant dream. You hop on your ride back still in a daze from everything that you've experienced and seen.

And when you finally get back to the place that you call home. You try to blend back into the life that you once had but discover that you no longer see things as they were before. Material collections turn to clutter, petty problems become trivial, time becomes precious, and experience has now become valuable.

Now, staying at home makes you jittery. Friday night outs no longer make you merry. Your old life filled with routing and comfort have fallen into rust. It's no longer just an itch from the travel bug but an insatiable case of wanderlust.

Planning to travel to Baguio, La Union, Vigan, or Laoag?

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The name‘s Kendrick and I developed a severe case of wanderlust last January 2014 and never recovered since. It was a bit daunting (and still is) for an introvert like me but traveling has opened up doors and helped me overcome fears and weaknesses (especially on the socializing department).

As a traveler, I try to go off the beaten path as much as I can. I continually seek for places of solace and of silence where I get to see the world in it’s brilliance. Be it from the secluded corners of museums to towering mountain peaks or disappearing islands.

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