Iloilo City is in the extreme opposite end of the dialectic Miagao inadvertently creates in the minds of students and professors that are forced to partake in its cerebral torturing and intellectual orgies at the university Mondays to Fridays without providing anything close to something we generally call civilization. By six, or very rarely seven, in the evening, or just after the Angelus is broadcast by the powerful sound system of the Miagao church, life and anything that has semblance to it come to a halt. Except for some brave souls sipping coffee in roadside bakeries and 24-hour burger stands, people are inside their homes with their families conversing about mundane adventures during the day while having dinner.
The gears of life in Miagao, a municipality forty kilometers away from the nearest city, have ceaselessly hummed like this ever since I first arrived in the place six years ago. Its people have religiously maintained this kind of life; nothing revolutionary or radical has occurred within those six years. And I am inclined to believe that its residents would like to keep this orthodoxy until a more forward-looking monsignor comes to their rescue like the titan Prometheus bringing fire to the Greeks.
In the mean time, since I can hardly wait for that progressive monsignor, I am disposed to traverse every Friday the dangerous highway connecting Antique and Iloilo, gambling my limbs and life on jeepneys whose speedometers have long gone futile since they travel, at minimum, 2 mach. Rumors have it that Pasajero Sosyal, the jeepney-maker holding the monopoly from Sta. Barbara up to San Joaquin in assembling the metal bodies of these all-Filipino transport, is developing designs that will allow these colorful jeepneys to travel even faster than the speed of light surpassing NASA’s technology by a decade. All this is because of the drivers’ obsession to induce the ‘high’ among commuters while these unknowing passengers take their chance on one of these jeepneys-to-hell.
Nonetheless, my two-day stay in the city is all worth the hassles and effort. I wake up every Saturday morning in the blaring 80s rock song coming from the transistor radio of an AB English student in the room adjacent my sister’s. I wash my face, wear something decent (at least not a pair of boxer’s shorts and tattered shirt), and palaver my younger sister, who is not wont having breakfast, to eat in a carinderia on the other street. We pass by a newsstand, get a copy of national broadsheet, and read the paper on our way. Every once in a while I see familiar faces on jeepneys that go past us; I wave at them if I remember them or give them a wondering look if my memory of them escape me.
Even for a very short two-day sojourn, the break allows me to lose myself in the induced indifference of the city. The incidental noise, the extraneous conversations, the disinterested glances, the alienation, all these make the city an excellent place to visit after a week of forced nicety, assaulting familiarity, and hostile friendliness of Miagao.