Manila by night manila-by-night

There are lots of reasons why I wanted to post this photo. First, I waited more than two weeks to take it. I stayed with Sam on her first night at the condo and when I saw the view from the balcony, I swore that I’d bring a camera next time and have a ball capturing the city lights of Manila by night.

Second, I stayed in that condo for an entire day while Sam was at school and the experience was both surprising and unsettling.

Third, after last week’s torrential rains, Sam has her own stories to tell about what it’s like spending a stormy night in a high-rise building.

And last but not the least, I wanted to share what a small camera like the Canon Powershot G10 can do. Right. This photo of Manila by night wasn’t taken with my dSLR but with my compact camera using the Manual setting. Hard to believe, eh? Even the large original format of the photo is impressive.

Anyway, at the risk of starting to sound like a mouthpiece for Canon, which I’m not, I’ll let the photo serve as a testament to the wonders of that small cam called the G10. I really love it to death. Now, let me tell the stories I’ve been wanting to tell.

That day I was alone in the condo was the first time in a long time that I spent so many hours doing nothing except listen to the sounds of the city. It was a cloudy day, breezy but a bit humid. I took a shower, got hold of my book and started to read. But having spent a restless night on an unfamiliar bed, I started feeling drowsy. I thought about turning on the aircon and giving in to the sleepiness. There was no electric fan in the bedroom (Speedy would bring one later that day) and I didn’t think I would last the day without turning the aircon on. But I decided I didn’t want to fall asleep in case Sam returned for lunch. She had a three-hour lunch break that day and she might decide that three hours of hanging around the school was too boring. I stepped out on the balcony for a smoke and the breeze — no, it was more than a breeze — started whipping my hair across my face. Instead of turning on the aircon, I opened the door to the balcony and resumed reading.

Then, the unexpected happened. The sounds from far down below started to distract me. Sirens wailing (unbelievable how many sirens I heard that day), vehicles honking, the LRT roaring… I put down the book and started focusing on the sounds, trying to separate them from one another and attempting to count just how many kinds of sound there were.

I grew up in the city in a two-story house on a busy street. And I hated the noise. I hated every noise that inevitably infects a city. I hated the sound of the speeding vehicles and people shouting to get themselves heard over the din. That was one of the reasons why moving to the suburb was such a welcome idea.

But high above the city that day in the condo with the balcony door wide open, the sounds of the city didn’t hurt my ears so much. I actually found them pleasant and they started to excite me. I felt alive. Suddenly, they were no longer senseless noises. It was like listening to a pulse — a steady stream of sounds representing the lives of the people, their dreams, their agonies, their daily grind.

And I wondered if I was getting tired of my rather isolated life in the suburb. I wondered if deep inside me there was a longing to go back to the city life I grew up with. Unsettling thoughts, really. We just bought what we always said was our dream house, and there I was feeling drawn to the rhythm of city life. Because that was what all the noises amounted to — a rhythm. Separately, they might seem like discordant sounds but, taken together, they formed a rhythm that stimulated my senses like nothing ever could. It felt marvelous.

I tried to make sense of that feeling in the following days. I tried to reconcile the high I felt experiencing the rhythm twenty-eight stories from the ground with the lifestyle that city living represents. The sounds might sound great from up there but am I ready to live with the traffic and the pollution and the jostling crowds day in and day out that awaits me every time I step out of the building?

The truth is, I don’t know. I’m honest enough to admit that the city feels like a magnet these days. And even more honest to admit that my part of suburbia is fast becoming overcrowded and the once charming laid back life is turning into a thing of the past. I have no answers now and no decisions have to be made right now either.

If there is one big additional attraction, Sam said that during a storm, the howling wind twenty-eight stories from the ground is incomparable. I don’t know whether she said that in awe or in fear, but me loving the rain and the wind with so much gusto, I like what she described.

We’ll see. We will see.