Riding an Ayala-Leveriza Bus

I do not know where this bus route leads but from anywhere between Fairview or Gardens in Bulacan to just before the right turn on EDSA to Ayala Avenue, I am usually taking any bus with this sign on the lower left-hand corner of its window. Ayala-Leveriza buses pass by this place in Makati, where I shall be staying for the whole of summer.

Unlike in other big metropolis in the world, the bus system in Manila still follows a rather old system of using the name of the place for the routes. Some cities use numbers (Saigon), the alphabet (Jakarta), or a combination of both (Singapore). But this is not the case in Manila, and it is not bound to change any time soon.

Tourists will find the streets of Manila bewildering because of the absence of any directional signs to guide them where to wait, where to go next, and where to get off. They are left to themselves and the benevolence of the people to help them go around. At least, Manilenos do not speak gibberish and luckily their facility of English is close to decent.

When I came to Manila almost a year ago, I was enamored by the megalopolis’ lack of wit and charmlessness. It’s a city that that does not think of language as necessary for it to exist. Manila is a dumb city. It does not have any use for written language. But what it lacks in written literature, it compensates in the more powerful non-verbal language of its streets. Its sexuality is reflected in the billboards of naked models that sell almost anything from baby feeding bottles to plastic surgery. Its worship of and unquestioning faith in the ultimate god, ‘Kaching’, is seen in the scandalous stretch of Ayala Avenue, and the poverty it tries to ignore thrives and is plastered on the faces of ordinary Manilenos who will do anything just to get by.

But no one questions Manila’s stark illiteracy. It is taken as ordinary, a discomfort and inconvenience, that has long been taken in as a normalcy a probinsiyano, like me, can either take or leave.

And from the inside of this air-conditioned Ayala-Leveriza which only god knows where it leads, I am left with a question I have no answer as yet, where does this lead?

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The banal and the divine

I’ve been reading an expository work on Realism written by Linda Nochlin of similar title, bringing it along with me wherever I go: in the bathroom, riding a bus, having my meal, or while doing a balancing act inside a train. It is a book meant for the academic and art connoisseur, but I forced myself to understand its thesis and use it to reflect on the current life I am trying to start in Manila.

What struck me most is the importance given by visual and literary artists on contemporaneity. For Gustave Courbet, a leading exponent of Realism, the artists of one century is “basically incapable of reproducing the aspect of past or a future century.” There is no idealism, no romanticism, no outrageous and distorted analysis of entities in reality.

Nochlin wrote that Claude Manet was the city-dweller par excellence. ‘To enjoy the crowd is an art’ declared Baudelaire, and Manet seems to have developed the art to an extraordinary degree. It is with him that the city ceases to be picturesque or pathetic and becomes instead the fecund source of a pictorial viewpoint, a viewpoint towards contemporary reality itself. In Manet’s case, this has nothing to do with capturing the bitterness of the lower-class existence, nor yet with a specific and systematic depiction of the haute monde, nor is it related to the minute topographical accuracy which informed the urban scenes of eighteen century vedutisti.

The books gives me a new perspective on how to live in a metropolis. For most of the time we complain about the ills of city life, the ubiquitous poverty, crazy traffic jam, unbearable noise, anomie, alienation, impersonality, and rat race that we miss the reasons for the dynamism of life in a big city. That there are patches of inspiration from the struggles of people, the pace routines are done, the hushed individual; and that these streaks of reality are legitimate subject for academic discourses or can be elevated from banality to divinity.

That one can get a glimpse of truth from events as mundane as a movie taping in the parking lot of a mall at 1 o’clock in the morning.

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Letting go of fatalism: finding a job

I’m on a frenzy now. A mix of emotions that border on the absurd. I just started looking for jobs in the Philippines last night and it’s not easy. I’ve never tried looking for a serious work before. My application as an instructor in the University of the Philippines was not that difficult, at least, because the panel already knew my strengths and weaknesses and that I did not have to sell my self to a certain extent. But for a job in a private corporation in Manila, my credentials may speak for me, but I think it won’t be enough considering the competition in the working world this time.

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I intend to work in Manila after, in case, this will be my first time to work in my country’s capital city and to actually stay there and immerse my self in the hustle and bustle of a big metropolis. I am scared but am even more excited. Bigger world means being able to experience a lot of things that I will otherwise miss if I stay in one place during my entire lifetime.

I am trying to console myself that the economic condition of the world in general and my lack of working experience might delegate me to the lowest position, or worse not being able to find a job at all, but I am trying to be hopeful.

In fact I am considering finding another scholarship for a graduate degree just to postpone my entrance to the working world. I just hate the idea of working. I loved formal learning so much, but this time, I’ve got to choose, and it appears that the best choice is to work.

For most twenty-somethings this part of life is one of the most dreadful. I just can’t imagine being asked about my salary and not being able to answer because it’s dismally low. I can’t imagine being asked about what I do if it’s something I am not happy doing. A lot of things to consider, but at the end of the day it all boils down to a fact that I have to work. I may study forever and reason out that I am learning for learning’s sake, but then again, learning is not an end in itself. I have to apply what I have learned through a job and receive remuneration for doing my job.

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I’ve been quite fatalistic these past few years. If given a chance to choose between a stable job or studying abroad, without any consideration, I’ll choose the former, but as I age I am starting to realize that I can’t think of adventures all the time because travelers also have to take a rest, or that superheroes have Louis or grandma waiting for them after a day of saving the world from all nemeses.

I guess I have to slow down on my fatalism and be more pragmatic and realistic. I have to plan my next action. A new life will greet me a month from now, and I cannot afford to fail.