The city eats me up alive.
Here in the Philippines, our cities are as busy as any other metropolitan area in the world. You can see the streets bustling with activity any time of the day. Traffic jam starts early; and it barely rests. People from all walks of life clang and bang against each other to make a living, to interact, to do business.
Last night, I chose the bus as a form of transportation to head to my destination. At 11 in the evening, the streets of the metro were convoluted with every land vehicle imaginable. As I stared out the window, I was reminded of how I am just one of the millions of residents in this city; just another alien. No city can claim that all their “tenants” are locals. Like the metropolitan Manila, almost half (or perhaps more) are immigrants from nearby provinces. They migrated to look for work, better wages, better lives… but not everyone is successful in this game.
Lights pass by, vehicles chase the road for their destinations. As the bus trudges from city to city, the scenario more or less differs. The richer cities have all these high rise condominium units, huge shopping malls and pretty lights illuminating everything. The older cities have ugly, soot-covered buildings. The bus made a few stops, unloaded, and loaded again. I looked at their faces, then stared outside again. The darkness seems to fight the light. It asserts itself upon us. I started to wonder. How many of these people have actual destinations to go? Were they headed to a beginning or to an end? Were they chasing their dreams or running away from something?
Hundreds of faces passed me by. Happy, lonely, bored faces, just wanting the ride to be over.
And at that moment, all I wanted was to slip through the cracks on the walls or on the road just to hide from everything else. The scene was desolate; not hopeful. I was surrounded by life, yet I have never felt more alone.
The irony is that, most of us crave the city. Whatever it reminds us of, you cannot deny that its charms range from the mundane to the sublime. We want to see action and the everyday hustle because it reminds us that life goes on, one form or another.
Indeed, life goes on, one form or another. And the city chronicles all its harsh beauty, cruelty and fierce hope better than anything else.