We consider Sunday ‘Recto Day’. My sister who stays in Pampanga comes here to Manila on a fairly regular basis, after every two weeks, to buy stuff for her ukay-ukay business that is rapidly making headway. My younger brother and I would accompany to carry her tote bag for her while she carries on her back a Jansport-ful of Guccis, Louis Vuittons, DKNYs, Pradas, Dolce and Gabbanas and when she happens to be lucky, some pairs Manolo Blahnik stilettos which according to her customers are incomparably beautiful but painfully punishing to their well-pedicured toenails.
Coming from Mandaluyong, I take the MRT to Taft then transfer to the LRT1 line going to Monumento. I alight at D. Jose station and meet her at Chowking in the corner facing the long lines of run-down cinemas on Recto and stalls selling pirated DVDs on Avenida. My brother, who is coming from Makati takes the route from Gil Puyat/Buendia.
After a glass of cold coffee gulaman called nai cha, which my sister loves, and a heavy breakfast for me, we begin treading the street going to Carriedo passing one by one her suki who give her great discounts, after patient bargaining. Need I say? From Avenida, we either cross the other side of the street or brave the crowded street market to Quiapo church, dodging fortune tellers, toy vendors, and young children selling Sampaguita or leis made from colorful Everlastings. Experience tells us that ukay-ukay supplies in these areas are being replenished every two weeks, usually on a Sunday.
I eagerly look forward to this weekend activity because this is a time for the three of us to catch up on each other’s life and talk about the latest gossips involving our parents in Mindanao and younger siblings who are both studying in a university in Iloilo. We talk a lot about work, our individual love stories, and plans for the future. I notice we often talk about almost the same things but we do not seem to get tired of them because they make us feel secure; these talks remind us that despite the complications in our lives, complications that we may have a hard time sharing even to each other, still simple things like family remain constant.
Of course, other than this, we also get to experience the bustle of old Manila that is hard to come by in newer cities like Mandaluyong or Quezon City. It is a good thing that the three of us never really like malls that function as the only source of cultural immersion in these cities bordering Manila. We all agree these drab buildings are suffocating and magnify boredom several hundred times.
But Manila, the old Manila, that is, is different. It’s alive. These more modern cities that comprise Metro Manila may rival Manila in terms of business opportunities but they all pale in comparison to the culture and the brand of cosmopolitanism the capital has. The noise of Ortigas in Pasig, or even the sleek Ayala Avenue in Makati are irritating, and to borrow Emile Durkheim’s terminology–alienating, but Manila redefines the idea of noise, and to anyone who has had a taste of it, it’s called music.
And what better way to get immersed in this soothing diaphanous cacophony of sounds but on the streets of Recto.
We end the eventful day by saying good byes to each other and sending our sister off to a bus to Pampanga but not before buying a box of freshly-baked diced mungo or ube hopia from Bakers’ Fair.