Guest Blogger: Mia Angela Judicpa

Oct 18, 2011 by

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Not So Much As “Adapt and Survive”

I used to dream of living someplace else when I was a kid. My imagination had gone to all sorts of countries, mostly European (some Asian when I felt like being partially patriotic). Now that I’ve grown a few inches and probably a little less naïve, I look back and think how much my perception of things has changed.

Coupled with the number of foreign cities I wanted to live in when I grow older were the infinitely many jobs I grappled my subconscious for. I dreamed of becoming a writer in New York, an artist in Venice, a musician playing the sax near a downtrodden subway in London, and even a member of the Yakuza in Tokyo (by which you get to drive a tinted Mercedes—how awesome is that?) all the while knowing I wouldn’t be able to achieve these because: one, I am too small to wear yakuza uniforms and two, New York, Venice and London are home to some of the most promiscuous people on the planet. I, in my quest for celibacy, am not welcome to the idea of hooking up with every other guy in a room.

My list of “future homes” got shorter as I grew more mature. Needless to say, I also grew less ambitious. With that, however, came something perhaps better than any other virtue that might have stemmed from ambition: acceptance. I realized I didn’t want to live anywhere else aside from the soil on which I was born. It’s not that I am against change; change comes anytime and we have no choice but to put up with it whether we like it or not. The population of Iloilo City may be dense with families living under the poverty level enough to keep the pressure in the social barometer to a staggering thousand hectopascals, but it suffices for my definition of “home.”

I’ve grown fond of the little things Iloilo has that other cities in the world don’t possess, like commuting in public utility jeepneys. Here we call it “jeep”. The other day I had to do an errand for one of my student orgs, and I ended up traveling for almost an hour to get to my destination.

When you’ve lived in one place all your life and haven’t been around for a while, it gets nostalgic to the point of making you smile whenever you see a place associated with a good memory. It gets really corny and degrading. You become carelessly emotional. During the jeepney ride I got to appreciate the things I discounted while I still went to school in the city. I went around the buildings downtown. Seeing them made me wonder about the years they have survived. They are dilapidated, yes, and a few have already been replaced by new structures. But I couldn’t help wondering how much history they have seen and felt within those cracked walls. They might have been put up around the 50’s or 60’s or even earlier.

The downtown has been inhabited by a lot of people, events. . . things. Over the years, the Chinese have dominated the area, which I find ironic, considering that five hundred years ago, they were not even counted in the caste system. Now every corner has some sort of Chinese retail outlet that sells everything: slippers, undergarments, kitchen knives, and food supply, at very affordable cost. (Are they trying to help Filipinos fill pantries or are they pointing out that they should have been the real conquerors circa 1500?)

The Chinatown of Iloilo, Iznart Street, celebrates the biggest Chinese New Year in the Philippines outside Metro Manila (photo from http://www.gigsilonggo.com)

At least that proves Iloilo is home to a lot of cultures.

On the sidewalks near the cramped buildings are the vendors that sell an assortment of oily food: chicken, chicken skin, and tempura. If I were a tourist I’d definitely shell out some money to have a taste of our own street food. How they came about, though, I have no concrete idea. They might have been the spawn of fast food business enterprisers who failed because of incorporating too much oil in their recipes. (But Filipinos like to stay unhealthy while spending less. That explains the existence of food vendors.)

If you’re lucky, you might even spot a food vendor who sells shaved ice with artificial flavoring. Oh yes, Iloilo City and unhealthy living are two peas in an evil pod, but while you’re enjoying the sinfulness that is delicious street food, you can say you are living for something. And living, as we all know, is good.

What else do I love about Iloilo? Maybe the puddles formed from rain collecting in the uneven, coarse roads, and the reflections of neon-lit signs at night. It could be the giant weeds that look like mutated daffodils thriving in the empty lots of subdivisions, and how they sway in the silent breeze and sunlight. Still, it could be the people. Just the people living in the city—their warmth, their welcoming smiles. It could be anything!

I live in this city and I love it here.

The author, Mia Angela Judicpa, is a freshman BS Chemistry student at the University of the Philippines Visayas

Myiloilo.net is accepting articles for publication with themes on being an Ilonggo, being in Iloilo, your memories of Iloilo, what you think of Iloilo, the Ilonggos you love, etc. Please email your article to rl.rodriguezph@gmail.com. Provide a brief description and a photo of yourself.

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