Farewell to Manila

21 May

There is such a thing, when playing hide and seek, as being too clever for one’s own good. In which category I would have to place depositing oneself in the deep end of a swimming pool by night, breathing through a snorkel, commando style.

Yep. My son has definitely watched Dr. No one too many times.

And, it appears, Jaws too.

As he put it, “I’m not sure I’m quite equipped for midnight swims. You see, when you’re underwater, breathing with a snorkel, and it’s dark, you don’t have many senses left to remind you there’s no sharks about.”

We spent a lovely couple of days, our farewell to Manila, with Agnes and Billy, in their house in Quezon City, Manila. The hide-and-seekers were grandchildren of a friend of theirs, Carlo, who plays piano in Siem Reap.

And it was, as ever, lovely to see how children put linguistic differences aside to simply play.

And scold, of course.

Because you don’t get much more disapproving than a nine-year-old girl when a nine-year-old boy has immersed himself in a darkened swimming pool, simultaneously breaking the unwritten rules of the game and doing something terribly, terribly dangerous.

But it’s truly lovely watching three Tagalog-speaking kids who have known each other since year dot make the linguistic effort to include the English-speaking incomer. And really wonderful to see (and hear!) all four of them scampering together.

Agnes is a sculptor. Or, rather, she’s an artist who works in three dimensions (she tends to cast, not sculpt). Billy was in a band and now makes rituals. They inhabit a sprawling green compound, studded with sculptures, prayer flags and Asian art, in a part of Manila so stunningly quiet you can hear the frogs and geckos at night.

We’ve done very little. Swum a little. Worked with clay. Thanks to Agnes, Z now understands the beginnings of working with clay – kneading, dampening, firing – has made his own piece and has watched a master at work transforming plaster to a marbled sheen.

We’ve talked, we’ve read, we’ve eaten natural, healthy food. And we’ve seen tranquility, something hard to attain in any city, and super-hard in Manila. They’ll be moving soon, to a plot on the beach, or in the mountains, to build traditionally and eco-friendlily, live simply, maybe run a retreat.

Whatever it is, it will be another amazing space. And there’s plenty of bases to build that on in the Philippines.

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4 Responses to “Farewell to Manila”

  1. Paolo Baluyot May 28, 2010 at 4:35 am #

    Among all the south east Asian countries you have visited, which do you like best? 🙂

    • MummyT May 28, 2010 at 3:36 pm #

      Probably a toss-up between the Philippines, Cambodia and Laos. Gosh! That doesn’t narrow it much, does it?

      The Philippines are easier to get around as a monoglot, and it’s easier to meet people, obviously, because of the language issue. There’s an amazing and very diverse landscape, people are overwhelmingly sweet and lovely, and I am, in a warped way, very fond of Manila. I would have liked to got more into the art scene: we missed a couple of openings, and it would have been interesting to see that side of things.

      However, as a cheesy Westerner, there’s a historic appeal and a magic to Theravada Buddhist nations, old IndoChina, the early S-E Asian city states that tips me towards Cambodia and Laos. Angkor Wat does absolutely floor you. And then there is, of course, the Mekong, which is one of those hypnotic rivers, like the Amazon or the Yangtze, that has a power all its own.

      So I’ll keep thinking about it. The Philippines is Z’s favourite so far…

      What about you? Where do you stand?

  2. Paolo Baluyot May 29, 2010 at 11:00 am #

    NOOO! you have to choose only one! hahaha. I’m just kidding.

    Honestly, I haven’t been to the many places you have visited in south east Asia. I have only been to Singapore and Malaysia. Which do I like best? Singapore! Because of its super cosmopolitan feel and disciplined citizens, I feel like I’m always safe there. And! That’s where the culture of the West blends with the Asian culture, which is kind of a unique thing to see in Asia. (evident on the cities, its history and language)

    And of course, the Philippines. That’s where I’m from! I will always love it, despite the many corruption practices exercised by both politicians and citizens, particularly the taxi drivers (!). hahaha. I moved here in the U.S. together with my family two years ago, and aside from the Philippine heat that I miss, I miss the warm hospitality of my countrymen. Sigh. I wish we were a jet setter like you.

    I hope you’ll get the chance to go to China someday! I want to see some pictures 🙂 I think it’s a pretty interesting place. I learned from my history class that at least one aspect of one Asian country’s culture came from China.

    Oh and I want to go to London! hahaha.

    • MummyT May 30, 2010 at 11:46 am #

      I would love to see China. It’s not on our schedule at the moment, just because it’s such a big trip in itself, but we will make it there one day.

      And, I would whole-heartedly recommend London. I’d be interested to hear your take on it as a visitor. On the plus side, there’s the history, the vibrancy, the cosmopolitan aspect. On the down side, there’s the aggression and heavy-duty drunkenness on the weekends. I suspect there’s also scams.

      I think we’ll pop into Singapore. Was there anything you did there that really stood out as amazing? It was a British colonial creation, pretty much, so it’s something I’d be interested to see…

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