Thursday, November 4, 2010

Iloilo-Go-Round

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Iloilo City isn’t my site, but it has been my refuge. I made the jeepney trip to the city on about a weekly basis, searching for coffee, wifi, food and a chance to escape the heat. In the process I learned the jeep routes (but not the street names), some shortcuts-that-are-not, where to find the best internet connections and which places charge a fee for using wall outlets.

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Iloilo is dirty and polluted and sometimes is seems like nothing’s happening, aside from an ill-considered and long-running construction project to add another vehicle flyover to a not-that-important intersection. They are, however, now building the city’s first Starbucks.

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But I’m going to miss Iloilo. I’ll miss its cheap pensions as much as its nice hotels, and the cracked sidewalks much more than the several shiny malls.

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During the rainy season I cursed its slippery walkways. In the summer I despaired in its shimmering swelter. And after every trip I extracted the black residue from my nostrils, washed off the urban slime and wondered why I bothered.

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And of course the reason was simple: it gave me a break. A break from my town, where (and this is not a disparaging comment) two roadside burger stands were as cosmopolitan as it got, aircon was almost impossible to find, and power outages left me in a heat stupor on a daily basis.

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I started writing this post in the present tense at first and had to make a conscious effort to change it. I’m gone – hopefully not for good, but at least for the foreseeable future. On Monday night I made the last ride into the city with my supervisor, my counterpart and several of my center’s youth: it was rainy and cars’ tires slopped mud around the pavement, and lights bounced off the puddles and streaked windows.

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The next morning, before my flight up to Manila, I couldn’t resist taking one more stroll downtown. I walked past the cafes I’ve frequented, down the streets I’ve walked a dozen times without really seeing them, and through one last market, its floors slick with freshly spilled pigs’ blood and its air smelling of bangus and pasayan.

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And then I was leaving, riding the air over the City of Love one last time. Below, 400,000 Ilonggos continued their business; nobody looked up. But I looked down.

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4 comments:

Carren said...

Aw. Where to next?

Ryan Murphy said...

I'll be traveling around Asia for a while. First is Japan, and after that... I haven't decided yet.

Marcos said...

I enjoy reading your posts about my hometown. It's refreshing to get a perspective of Iloilo from an "outsider's" perspective.

Added the quotations because I also get the feeling that hardly an outsider to Iloilo having spent a considerable time here.

Ryan Murphy said...

Thanks, Marcos. Now that I'm not living in Iloilo anymore, I miss it a lot. I still read some Ilonggo blogs to keep up with what is changing there.