30 October 2016
I’ve taken a break from work, from the ills of my life, from the dreadful politics of the city, and from the day-to-day of trying to rise above it all in order to remain sane. I want to say, I’ve taken a break from myself, but I bring the whole of who I am wherever I go I suppose (as if I had any say in the matter).
We have a long weekend in observation of all saints’ and all souls’ day next week. A lot of people are going home to their respective provinces, or spending time at churches and cemeteries to remember their dead.
I have a feeling that most of Manila is emptied out by now, a rare occurrence often reserved for boxing matches. Those of us who have loved ones buried or kept in crypts within the city, however, are taking this opportunity to leave, if only for a few days. I think of my grandfather and his ashes, of bones turning to dust. I think of his frail body leaving this earth, seven years ago come November 9th.
I am back in Tagaytay again, this place I’ve been mooning over for years and years. Every time I return it is the same and not the same. I know her face and she knows mine, and yet there’s something different with us both.
The past two weeks I’ve been involved in several conversations about the cities and bodies. How my own body and the city I am in reflect separate and yet similar geographies. The self changes as the city changes, I told someone.
I mean, look: I carried with me the trappings of someone whose head is full of urban concerns. And yet when faced with the bluest sky this morning, and that quiet little volcano surrounded by the bluest lake, I want to weep. How much longer can Manila suit my life, or my life suit Manila?
A book I brought with me—Animal Triste by Monika Maron. Here is an excerpt I’ve been sitting with for the past few hours:
“I like to think about the brachiosaurus. Besides my lover and the brachiosaurus, there is not much else I like to think about. Over the years I have learned not to remember what I would rather forget. I don’t understand why people clutter their memories with mountains of inconsequential events, most of them not worth experiencing in the first place, so they can rummage around in them a hundred times or more and parade them as if they were proof positive of a life well spent. In my life there was not much that didn’t deserve to be forgotten; consequently, the version I deem worth preserving has become a rather condensed life.
…Forgetting is the fainting of the soul. Remembering has nothing at all to do with not forgetting. The whole world had forgotten the brachiosaurus. For 150 million years he had been lost to earthly, maybe even cosmic, memory, until Professor Janesch found a few bones in Tendaguru. From then on, we began to remember him, which means: We reinvented him, his tiny brain, his food, habits, contemporaries, the long span of his species’ life, and his death. Now he exists again, and every child knows him.
Since its passing, I have been inventing and reinventing that night, forty or fifty years ago, when my lover was sitting upright with his back against the wall, surrounded by carnivorous plants, like all the nights I spent with my lover. This way time passes and yet stands still.”
— from Animal Triste by Monika Maron, translated by Brigitte Goldstein
What does this city remember about me? What has it forgotten? I am not the same person I was that wrote you letters from this same place three years ago, although I have been here many times since then. I think this trip is my third time for this year. And yet it is still me, I am still in love with the mountains, I still dream of living here someday.
Remembering has nothing at all to do with not forgetting. I wonder if this is true, or if it only sounds beautiful because it offers me the possibility of rekindling with every little memory I have unknowingly parted ways with.
Here: I am sitting at the balcony, my feet freezing. I am facing the other side of the city, the lights as small as the stars above me. I am wrapped in a hand-knitted scarf I bought on a whim in Hanoi, my hair trying to escape from its braid. Who am I at this moment? I have changed the moment I arrived here, I felt it keenly, and I know it will happen again once I leave. What kind of self will I be bringing back home, and how long will I be able to hold on to her?