Last Tuesday, I was with a friend who asked me if I missed Manila. And my answer came without pause or thought — Yes, I do.. I do miss Manila.. a lot. Everyone who means something to me is in Manila — well, except for my little guy who is attached to me at the hip so he is here. But everything I love and hold dear is there. My mom who is turning 75 this year.. my siblings.. my friends..
And I’m so happy at the thought that I will be coming home this April. It’s a belated birthday gift to myself.. and a chance to be a principal sponsor at the wedding of one of my favorite godsons in baptism. My first ever as Ninang, too. =) I guess every other godchild who got married got hitched when I was already here in New York, but Anthony is one of the few I actually seek out each time I go home, so he was never more than just a thought away. And to him, there was always my next visit to look forward to. When I saw him in December 2013, he boldly requested if I would consider coming home for his wedding, and again, I said yes in a heartbeat.
That’s this April, and just thinking about it is making me smile.
There are a hundred and one things that I miss about my city of birth, and I thought one way of “going back” today was to share a few of them here. Maybe in writing about it, I will at least spend a bit of time “back home” and curbing a craving for things I hold dear.
I’ve been fortunate to have a mom who is a true wiz in the kitchen, and I can’t wait to taste her Kare-kare (Oxtail peanut stew), Ginataang Alimango (Crabs in coconut milk), and Macapuno (a coconut dessert).
I miss going to church in my favorite places of worship: The Redemptorist Church in Baclaran where I used to go EVERY Wednesday for the 9-week novenas which were answered even before the 9 weeks were up; my local Pinaglabanan Church in San Juan City, and get a bunch of apa later from the vendors who ply their trade on Sundays; and Manaoag Church which I visit every time I go home, even if it’s via a 5-hour commute each way.
I miss Jollibee, ChowKing, Aristocrat, Max, Dencio’s and Gerry’s Grill. How come it feels like writing that enumeration just made me gain a pound? LOL
I miss riding the tricycles and jeepneys. And one thing I’m looking forward to doing is riding again with my little guy if we get to go back together in December. It was such a thrill for him the first time when he realized the jeepneys were OPEN and had no windows! (My boy gets carsick with the scent of enclosed vehicles, even here in New York with our buses!)
I miss Divisoria with all its textile, notions and craft stores. I grew up going to Mom’s suki from whom we got our textiles and which were brought to the favorite designer or modista or dressmaker of the month (or season). It is quite a trek and the experience, but once upon a time, I used to brave the place when I was doing hair accessories and selling quite a hefty bunch of them to friends. Plus, I used to tag along when mom went around and bought various spices and ingredients from the Chinese wholesalers/retailers.
One time I went on my own looking for those wooden steamers, and I asked the salesperson in the vernacular how much it was, whereupon I chanced upon a gorgeous all-steel tea pot. I lifted it and uttered “Too heavy.” From thereon, our conversation went on in perfect Engish. My trader was apparently one of those rich guys dressed for work in regular garb but who was educated in one of the exclusive universities in the city, and he somehow saw I wasn’t exactly “from here”. That was an interesting and eye-opening experience.. and which convinced me that no matter how I dress down and wear the slightest hint of lipstick only, I will still stick out like a sore thumb in that crowd. Still, I love swimming in that crowd of people.
I miss watching Tagalog movies on the big screen. Here in New York I actually consider sitting down through a two-hour movie a chore and a waste of precious time. In Manila, though, I’d love to squeeze in as many movies as I can but I never have enough time.
I miss roaming Greenhills which is the shopping center that I saw grow and change in front of my eyes through the decades. I know I’m dating myself here again — but I’ve seen that place change with me as I grew older. And no matter how there are bigger and posher malls now, Greenhills has a homey feeling that none of the other malls actually engender. Perhaps it’s the size of the entire complex.. or the presence of smaller, individual stores.. and no matter how it gets as crowded as other similar places, it remains MY shopping place of choice.
I miss National Bookstore. For those who know Staples, Barnes & Noble, OfficeMax, Papyrus and Hudson News here in the US, National Bookstore is all those stores COMBINED. I am one of those who can literally claim to be “Laking National” or one who grew up on National Bookstore. Whichever mall I find myself in, if there is a National Bookstore there, I MUST check it out for the goodies and postcards (of course!).
I miss Cafe Adriatico. I haven’t been back there in the last 3-4 trips I’ve made back home but will make sure I go back this time around. BFF Fe and I spent many ours just sitting there people watching and passing the time away.
I miss the kakanin vendors and the Jollyjeeps that are parked on the streets of Makati for lunch. Again, something to do when I come back.. this April if not in December.
I miss hanging out in the malls, in Starbucks (which I hate doing here but don’t mind doing in Manila), and sampling the great culinary outlets that are everywhere. Yes, there may be a ton of people just going into the malls for a whiff of the airconditioning, and yes, Starbucks there is the same as here (well, almost.. they have food offerings there that aren’t present here like their delicious tuna pandesal), but it’s the whole vibe there that’s different. And the restaurants — I have to salute those culinary schools for the genuises they have nurtured and grown! More! More!! More!!!
I miss the live band performances — wherever and whenever. The world was so wowwed by Arnel Pineda who was a perfect replacement for Steve Perry in Journey but there are hundreds of Arnel Pinedas in the Philippines — and quite a number of them perform with world class bands who can get you dancing on your feet with their perfectly strung together music sets.
Would I consider moving back to Manila? Yes, I would. Sometimes I actually dream of doing that. Yes, even if the view below is a glorious postcard view that I actually have within reach every day.