It was the day before Day Zero. I hadn’t had any sleep and I had just spent half the afternoon standing in line at the bus terminal. I breathed a sigh of relief and sank into my seat.
“Finally, some much-needed shut-eye!” I almost said out loud.
But then I realized that I was seated next to some random guy so I clutched my backpack and leaned my head against the window instead. A conversation with a stranger was the last thing I wanted.
Every muscle in my body was sore and my eyelids felt like lead. I looked out the window at the heavy traffic and giant billboards.
“Hello, Manila. We meet again,” I whispered as I half-smiled.
It wasn’t long after that I found myself weaving in and out of consciousness.
Although I was in a stupor for a good part of the trip, I did have moments of alacrity. Whenever I would find something interesting, I would scribble on my imaginary notepad and take snapshots with the camera in my head.
Tidbit No. 1: Juxtaposition and Ambivalence
Tall buildings are a dime a dozen in Metro Manila but one particular building managed to stand out: a high-rise building that seemed to be in limbo. It looked half-unfinished but also half-abandoned. It was like seeing the beginning and the end all at once.
Something about its ambivalence stirred something in me.
Tidbit No. 2: Different Strokes for Different Folks
Like in most places, houses and buildings gave way to increasing stretches of green as we moved farther and farther away from the metropolis. I couldn’t help oohing and aahing over the sheer variety of trees that dotted the landscape. I imagined painting them, using a certain type of brush stroke for each type of tree.
Tidbit No. 3: The Desolation of SCTEX
But what I found even more riveting were those pockets of petrified land in the midst of all the greenery. It was as if some maniacal sorcerer on a dragon haphazardly threw down balls of fire, scorching patches of grass. Leaving behind nothing but shriveled remnants of shrubs standing in mute horror and seemingly delicate magenta flowers clinging onto the branches in defiance.
Tidbit No.4: Sea of Devastation
Those little pockets of desolation along SCTEX, however, paled in comparison to the river of lahar in Porac. I could only imagine the terror the people of Pampanga must have felt when Mt. Pinatubo erupted all those years ago. My college roommates’ stories came rushing back to me as I stared in awe at the lahar flow.
My reminiscence of these borrowed memories, however, was interrupted by the high school kids behind me.
“What a weird-looking sea!” they exclaimed.
I honestly didn’t know whether I should be amused or mortified.
“That’s lahar,” I couldn’t help saying.
Their eyes grew wide for a moment and they nodded in comprehension.
Although these kids initially had no cognizance of lahar, they were still in a way correct. This may be a river of lahar but it could just as well be a sea.
A sea of devastation, that is.