I spent the first few days of my arrival in isolation. It was the semestral break, there were only a few students left meandering in our sprawling university campus. I visited the university press to buy books from my favourite Filipino authors. I bought food and ate alone. Finally on a friday night, I went out to see an old friend and we visited some food stalls within the city.
We drove around Manila as I watched commuters struggling while crossing busy streets, hopping on already cramped PUJs, wiping their sweat with their dusty hands.
I felt the city throbbing, it was a far different view and feel from where I had been 72 hours prior. I had left a quiet place, pine trees and berry shrubs in between every structure. All I could see now was a jumble of fluorescent, incandescent and neon lights. Cars, buses, jeeps, stores that never slept, shanties as tall as buildings, and houses too close to each other.
I opened the car window and breathed in the warm air. I felt it all, the dust, the heat, the smell. I was back.