August 30, 2009

My Public Street Bath II

Driven by shame, I turned back, along with Jefran. Chica, Geraldyn and Kareejil continued their walk. Then, a man riding a yellow motorcycle stopped to talk to us.

“Do you have an appointment here?” the man asked.

The man was talking to Jefran, but Jefran just responded with a scratch on his head and went away. For the man to not treat it as a disrespect, I said, “No, sir.” [Note: that the conversation was carried out in Tagalog, I just translated it for the sake of World Wide Web.]

“Then, why are you here?” the man asked.

“We just went here to see something.” I said.

“From what school are you from?” he asked as if he was interviewing.

I was troubled by that question. The possibility of him calling our principal and complaining about trespassing students is high, so I hesitated to say it. I looked at Kacielyn and realized that I need to say it. Our uniform is very distinct, and he can even read our school name in our ID laces.

“Systems Plus College Foundation.” I answered.

“Why are you exactly here?” He asked again.

This time, there was Kareejil to help me out, and she told the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. She said that we have a play in English and that we are asking permission if we can shoot inside. She also asked if we can enter the function rooms, and what are the things that we are going to do in order to be allowed.

He parked his motorcycle in front of the café for a while and made us wait around the fountain. I was amazed by how beautiful the venue is. The fountain is part of the entrance to the main hall. It is surrounded by a splendid garden and ten foot pillars. The fountain is covered by a translucent dome, making the sunrays spread among the splashing waters of the fountain. Chica is wow-ing really loudly.

Kareejil asked if we can see what is inside the hall, and the man granted us an all-access trip inside the hall. He opened the white royal door. The door has big golden handles, and opening it is like entering in a palace.

The towering mermaid statue standing on a circular pedestal in front of the hall went out of the view when they already closed the door, but the next scene was more breathtaking. Everyone said a “WOW” upon seeing the interior. The ceiling was unreachable in height, and the length is endless. There are many sculptures, mostly golden, and the walls are decorated with Da Vinci-like life-size paintings.

There is another room, and upon opening it, another world turns to life. In it are dozens of tables, each with a dozen bronze chairs. There is a stage near the middle of the room with two seats. Still, everything inside is Greek!

The next room is a dream. The man opened the lights and on the seemingly endless ceiling appears a mass of floating candles – a chandelier! There are four chandeliers in the room, and when alight, they lift the mood of the whole room. The third room is filled with Greek furniture – a brass mirror with a winged god’s statue below, a table with different images engraved on its edge and a room surrounded with stained glass, both in the ceiling and in the walls.

The whole trip is a journey onto another world. I have personally seen for the first time the world of the rich and famous and how far their world is they from us. Moreover, it seems that time had stopped, and that my eyes were suddenly filled with images. The thrill of being in a new place is very extreme – it is like every step you take, there is a sigh that you will release.

We went out, and of course, our trip will not be complete without a picture. The view is spectacular, and I was taking tons of pictures all the time. After the breathtaking view, we took a picture in front of one of their mystique doors. One, two, three.. CLICK! What we don’t know is that rain clouds are gathering from afar, and we are in great danger.

We walked from Grand Palazzo real to a terminal of jeepney with a clump of half-naked men chatting on the grass. The danger was there, but we ignored it. Jeepneys are less frequent at this time, and we can see that the skies have now darkened. We asked ourselves if we should just split into two separate jeepneys, so that we can go home earlier, rather than waiting an empty one for all of us to fit. Fortunately, a jeepney arrived, with a fair number of vacant seats. It is not enough for us, but since we are in need of going home, we just boarded the jeepney with some of my classmates sitting in the lap of my other classmates.

Kareejil unboarded the jeepney first, then a few minutes after, we followed, leaving Geraldyn and Emy on the jeepney. Along with me is Jefran, Claudine and Kacielyn.

From Jefran’s instruction, we boarded the C-Point Hensonville Holy route. He was with us throughout the trip. We were all tired, and then I was delighted upon seeing the almost dried up Abacan River, because it signifies that I am not far from home.

Jefran unboarded the jeepney first, and right after he unboarded the jeep, the incredible twists of fate happens. It was like one of the most embarrassing days of my life. Promise me, see me after the damage has been done on me, I look terrifyingly terrible.

Rain began falling hard – really hard. The whole world was like pouring the whole Pacific on one small spot. After the rain, the jeepney began to stop. The wheels are not spinning, but the driver is pushing the “gas” pedal. He tried for almost two minutes, for he does not want his trip to be cancelled, because that may mean a cancelled dinner for his hungry family.

Fortunately, the jeepney moved. But unfortunately, the fortune did not last long; the jeepney had stucked again. It was terribly raining, and the driver tried to push his luck for another two minutes.

Soon, he gave up, and asked us to board the jeepney behind. I raced the other passengers so that I can be the first to sit in the empty jeepney. I’m dreadfully wrong. As I was holding my bag on my head so that my head won’t be wet, I saw that the jeepney is reaching its full capacity. I just sighed a bad word in my mind and still continued my walk to the jeepney.

Everyone was selfish, as they do not want to take a bath in the rain. Monsoon rains are really punishing, a second’s bath at it will cause you wet hair and wet uniform. Make it two seconds and you’ll get a totally wet look.

I asked the woman to give me some space to seat, for I noticed that her sleeping daughter has so much space beside her. She moved over, but only just a little bit. Of course, I do not want to spark a war inside the jeepney, so I just sat uncomfortably. Claudine is racing frantically. Of course, no one wants to be left alone in the rain in an unfamiliar place.

Claudine just sat in Kacielyn’s lap, and Chica sat in front of us. They were all noisy, as if they have escaped a volcanic eruption. One old woman in front of me sighed, “Like an evacuation center.”

As the jeepney moved, the weather worsened. Floods are extensive on the streets, and everywhere the jeepney turns, there will be a river going downstream. The driver’s windshield is merciless to the countless droplets of water blurring the view, and the wheel is being endlessly tortured with floodwater.

Chica said, “Here we are,” and he told us that it is time to unboard the jeepney. He tried to ask if the jeepney will still go to Main Gate, but he is not.

“Claudine, prepare your umbrella,” Kacielyn told Claudine, the only person among us three with an umbrella on hand…..

August 29, 2009

My Public Street Bath I

Woot Woot!

Ok. Here is another story of my high school madness. This is now my senior year, so I make effort in making remembrances by putting my experiences as blog entries.

Kareejil is present after one week of having fever. Of course, I missed her. Her laughs, her voice, her hugs and her very unique way of talking to her “friends”. (Guess what the quote is for). Nine students had been absent today on our section – all because of fever. Everyone is talking about A(H1N1), and some have already been making jingles about it. Many say that the probable cause of so many students being absent at once is the swine flu virus. So far, the Philippines is the top 10 country with the most cases of A(H1N1), and of course, we are alarmed. Our capital is already under low-level community outbreak, as worded by the DOH.

Back to the story. Last two weeks, our class has been divided in two groups for the biggest project yet in my high school history. We are going to make a play in English about the Greek tragedy that we have discussed in the class. The title is Antigone, which is about the title character who fought a king, buried his brother’s corpse, gets imprisoned in a cave in doing it, and committing suicide moments before her supposed freedom.

We are all looking forward in finishing the movie, but the big question is, can we? We have the acting guts, and we have the writing hands. All is perfect, that is, for a classroom role-play, but what we have here is a movie. What we need to have is: a) money and b) setting. Money is a major concern, but as children born to middle class families, we have already learned how to minimize the costs of normally extravagant plays.

Now, to the setting. We need Greece within a two mile radius from the city of Angeles. Where in the world is Greece? Some 5,000 miles from here, halfway around the globe. That is the big problem. Where can we find Greece here? And where can we find an ancient one? 85% of the play is set inside or outside an ancient Greek castle, 10% inside and outside a cave and the other 5% is on a barren field.

We have the barren field. But we do not have the other 95%. After dozens of meetings and two weekend workshops, somebody has thought of this place. The place she named was Grand Palazzo Real, and she said that it was a really grandioso place to have a play in. The interior design contains majorly of classical Greek art, and the whole rooms are decorated lavishly. She minimally described it, and I can only imagine it as a simple room with some fading cement sculptures.

This Tuesday, July 07, 2009, we decided to visit Grand Palazzo Real. (For typing convenience, I’ll call it GPR.) Kareejil asked me to go with her, and I hesitated. I asked them if they would pay my fare, and she, with Geraldyn, have agreed to treat me. They asked me four times, and I said no. But in the end, they have successfully urged me to join them.

I have no idea where we are going or what dangers am I entering. All I know is that we are going to a small function room with a big great name. We rode the first jeepney, in which I am very common with – C-point Holy Hi-way. The jeepney ride is like any other ordinary ride --the same scene, the same classmates and the same laughs.

Inside the jeepney are Kacielyn, Claudine, Jefran, Kareejil, Geraldyn and Chica – all my junior classmates.

Then, after a few minutes, we unboarded the jeepney and went to the next one. There are so many people in the streets – the normal urban scene. People are blocking roads as they walk in big groups, causing traffic jams on the cars. I did not notice any pedestrian lane, for I assumed that every inch of the road is the pedestrian lane. If jaywalking is really illegal, 99% of Angelenos will be imprisoned.

Kareejil, the oh so great tour guide who assures that she knows where to go and what to do, does not know where the terminal have gone. Did it walk? Did it hide? Or was it abducted by a giant UFO? Good thing, her husband-out-of-the-law is here, Jefran. Jefran is also our tour guide, though he rarely shares information about places we see.

As we walk more, there was a long line of students, professionals and casual people. The line is a hundred meters long by my reckoning. It is a line in a terminal where jeepneys rarely come. The route is Angeles-Manibaug, a route that I have never ridden before. I feel pity to thos students who have to suffer that kind of long line every day, because their patience is tested every time they go home.

Kareejil said that we are going to ride an orange jeepney. I have seen many before, but that was months ago. Upon hearing the word “orange jeepney”, I began thinking of yummy and tasty things. The color just stimulates my taste buds.

And yes! There is the terminal of the orange jeepneys. The route is Sunset, and I already forgot the words after the dash. We are going to the end of the world, where the sun is setting.

The barker told us that we could all sit comfortably inside the jeepney. Of course, with our foolish belief on the barker, and with time not on our hands, we boarded the jeep and realized that we have made a mistake. One cannot sit. We are like elementary students trying to fit ourselves inside the jeepney service. We are screaming and laughing at the same time, and I do not know how we are able to face people without shame. I guess that is what natural to us.

As usual, barkers are liars when it comes to passenger comfort. They make jeepneys a moving can of vacuum-sealed tightly packed sardines. Inside the Filipino jeepney, you’ll feel the heat, the exhaustion, the discomfort and the total bonding and happiness.

The ride is long. We passed through Carmenville, a community that I have never been inside before. Carmenville can be described as a silence inside a noisy city, a small gateway for some little meditation. The roads are wide and amazingly clean. The neighborhood is really quiet – showing the exceptional discipline of the people here. There are also many road humps, which I enjoy a lot.

Another amazing thing that I have noticed is that the jeepney is quieter and calmer than any jeep I have been before. Whenever a jeepney stops for a hump ahead, the vehicle’s engine is in total silence, unlike most jeepneys that continue their full-frictioned vibration when in standstill. The ride is also smooth. It does not feel like you are crossing a very rocky road when in fact, you are crossing smooth ice.

We are so amazed by the new scene – except for Jefran, who lectures us to hide the fact that we are newbies in this part of the city. Kareejil, our spokeswoman, asked the driver to bring us to GPR.

He did it, and he dropped us at the very gate of GPR. The gate looks old, and it seems like it has been subject to the weather’s fury for ages. Inside, there is a road, which I don’t know where it leads. There is a sign outside: Grand Palazzo Real.

We entered, without any permission from anyone. There is no guard outside. It seems like everyone is welcome inside. Quickly, we have seen many probable settings for different scenes. Chica’s mind is already overloading with ideas for the play, while I am looking for the famous scrolled pillars of Parthenon.

As we walk down the straight road, I can see that Greek art is very influential in the overall design of the venue. There are sculptures of men and women on their perfect forms, many half-naked. There are fountains with infant and female sculptures in it, but these fountains were not working when we came. It gave me a feeling that this place will be abandoned soon.

Geraldyn is telling us how she got here before. She told us of a marriage reception. She said that at night, the whole GPR is a sparkling gem when viewed from the sky. All the walkways are alight, and the fountains are abundant in water.

Led by her, we turned left to the sandy road. There is a church, and the gardening beside it is excellent. The leaves are of different colors, like on entrances of high class subdivisions.

There is a wide field following the turn, and from afar, I can see a café and some sculptures standing side by side as if they seemingly guard an entrance. We approached the entrance, following the trail of firmly stepped grass, but as soon as we drew near, the people inside the café looked at us, some even standing to recognize us...