Poetry / July 2018 (Issue 40: Writing the Philippines)

Top 5 Places in Manila to Check Out While the City Swallows Us Whole

by Jam Pascual

after spot.ph

For when you forget that history is the wage of ruin. Or for when the next white tourist comes over. Either way, how to be presentable in the face of what conquers? Perhaps we can begin with time, which is unkind to flesh and steel, vomits out the topical, but smoothens out the wrinkles of memory, reminds us that what used to be
5) an ocean aeons ago will eventually kiss the skin of the sun. The way we spend our summers here, we flock our feet to sand soft as the body of the next pitying lover willing to house your sorrow in its heat for the night. The alternative is the bay, and the saltwater breeze filtered through the daily revolutions of the ferris wheel. Indigo giving way to neon. Call it development, that luminous promise of the modern. But in case you forget that within spitting distance of the dock is

4) the biggest mall in the country, sitting heavy on this place like a glass crown on the liver-spotted scalp of a withering king, they put an actual globe in the middle of the roundabout, because nothing says united nations like an enclosure of neighbouring casinos, the few remaining smoking areas since that damned Executive Order 26. Yes we have sky lights. Yes our smog is bespoke. Yes it is possible to be lost even when you know exactly where you are, if where you are is the last corner unmolested by the shadow promises of a tiger utopia. And if we're talking about the dark, you can drive to

3) that new speakeasy everybody's raving about, and by everybody I mean, whoever dethroned the yuppies of Gen X from the high council of Gutenberg and gloss. And by the way, it isn't a fucking speakeasy just because it's hard to find. If that were true, I ought to build my own speakeasy, call it After the End of History, or A Day on the Calendar In Which All Your Friends Are Free to Hang, or Decent Fucking Wifi. One time I had this drink called ABC: absinthe, Bacardi, something costly. The language this place speaks is carved from an alphabet of sedatives. Some people say this city was also named after our capacity to thirst—may dila—so open wide, big boy, because isn't everything here just

2) a desert mouth calling out to Abraham for a drop of the last typhoon that promised a clean canvas to begin again with. Still, check out this sky deck. Babylon with a penthouse. A view that also gazes into thee. All these stories beneath us and I still can't find a solid metanarrative to ride the dick of. Better luck in the red light district. Better luck in Congress. I'll let you in on a secret: we turn the wheels of the content machine, we deal beauty, we cast pearls into the nooks where so many snouts before have burrowed into for a scrap of what flourishes in decay. May we never forget what sustains us. Let me speak of the Great

1) Jollibee Drought of 2014, and how for weeks there was no golden skin to tear from the savory morsel of all our tiny dreaming, and how back then we didn't know, I'm sorry, we didn't know the whirring in the back of the kitchen were death rattles, and we were still young enough to believe that turning back time meant we could catch the swing of its nastiest haymakers and throw it down on the mat to twist its limbs and make it consider mercy. No move in the book to get you out of this headlock. Ditch your cyanide molar tactics. It's all teeth.
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