Friday, June 22, 2007

wherever, whatever

APART FROM the heart, home will always be where the gut is. And purgatory is everywhere, yes. Here's a reprint of my recent opinion column in Sun.Star Cebu (12 June 2007) :

Besides the chicken that crossed the road

Easy goes the green light for envy en route to any American city. It’s all it takes, hands down, to feel a sudden surge of empathy for stray dogs. Go ask any Third World drifter driving himself headlong into the dead-end of undue comparison.

Consider the commercial of a fast-food joint cranking up the condescending tone of a balikbayan matron. Sweating and fanning away the frustration off her face, she hissed at all the signals of the doggone state of our streets: “Walang ganyan sa States!”

Wringing that woman’s neck, however, may yet entail squeezing dry the threadbare fabric of one’s nationalistic streak.
For one preferring “a government run like hell by Filipinos,” our major thoroughfares are metaphors for a future that renders horoscopes way far better reading fare than op-ed columns.

What a relief, therefore, to run into Anne Lamott’s latest book of essays—
Grace (Eventually)—and to be reassured that the geography of what goes bad or wrong is our common ground. Regardless of race, yes.

“Nowhere is better than anywhere else,” writes Lammot.

Angels may fear to tread through the traffic anywhere in our country’s asphalt jungles, but even the world’s most affluent nation is neither a breeze through the boulevard.

Hardly a minute goes in New York at night, swear some expat friends, without emergency sirens blaring by. In Los Angeles, where road rage is rampant down the freeway, an unidentified man stalking the sidewalk has been caught on video cam lugging a baseball bat and swinging it down his victims’ head at random.

And here comes, where I’m helpless at waxing touristy at the camera-worthy pace of suburbia, this swerve of sobering news: A 16-year-old woman out from the mall was whisked off on the way to her car in the parking lot, her dead body found in a wooded area in the neighboring state three days after she was reported missing.
Reading all that, who wouldn’t rather scoot away into the tracks of Paris Hilton or veer off where Ruffa and Yilmaz exchange a flurry of toxic fumes?

Better yet, scratch one’s head at the sidelines while Cebu’s movers and shakers merrily rouse up sparks around and smack at each other as if they were inside bump cars in a children’s arcade.

Doesn’t the smash-up between the Capitol of Cebu and City Hall hit any Bisdak, displaced or not, as if—lucky us—we don’t have to bother anymore about global warming, the war in Iraq, and terrorism? Isn’t that entertaining enough to sideswipe us away from other pressing concerns like the lack of urban planning, the garbage-filled and flood-prone streets, the invasion of squatters in the sidewalks?
Oh, well, thank God for gawk-worthy dollops of distraction. Ignorance is bliss, right?

Where there’s mayhem in the streets to go with the caravan of political circus, sneaking online for nostalgic peeks at the homefront would be a chronic compulsion. As if it would be where I might stumble on the cure for cancer soon.
Of her city, Kerima Polotan notes the impossibility of getting intimate with it without the cocktail of “love and repulsion and sorrow.”

That, for all we know, is what the mayor imbibes in full measure while he looms large enough for both the affection of those who vote for him and the aversion of everyone else.

That, too, might explain why, even if it’s where her pet peeve holds sway, it’s no sweat for the island’s lady governor to swear, hand to her heart: “I love Cebu City!”
Come on, with all that drama worthy of a YouTube spot soon, my birthplace might as well be the center of the universe.

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