Good

I bought five small bread buns from the bakery on Kalantiaw Street as I waited for my Grab Taxi cab to arrive. I ate three and left two for the cab driver. I gave him the buns as I entered the cab and he thanked me profusely. Then he told me he'd been stuck in terrible traffic from NAIA 3 to Cubao. I guess he was hungry.

As we stopped at a red light before entering White Plains, he said he'd eat the buns. I told him I liked the bakery I'd bought the buns from; their breads were tasty and filling and cheap. He took one bun out of the plastic bag and thanked me again. Suddenly, there was a knock on his window: a little girl, asking for food or money.

"She's asking for the other piece," he said with a smile. He rolled down the window a little and handed her a bun. "Let's share," he told the girl.

The light turned green. We moved forward. He bit into the remaining bun. "It's good," he said.

It is.

"All the rest is hypothesis and dream"

Theory of Memory
By Louise Glück

Long, long ago, before I was a tormented artist, afflicted with longing yet incapable of forming durable attachments, long before this, I was a glorious ruler uniting all of a divided country—so I was told by the fortune-teller who examined my palm. Great things, she said, are ahead of you, or perhaps behind you; it is difficult to be sure. And yet, she added, what is the difference? Right now you are a child holding hands with a fortune-teller. All the rest is hypothesis and dream.

All right stop

A neighbor is playing Ice Ice Baby really loud and suddenly I'm 12, in sixth grade again... and not wanting to go to school. I'm thinking how much I hated my English teacher back then, which was a pity because her subjects (Reading and Language) were my favorite and I was really good at them. She was in charge of the school paper too, but that didn't stop me from joining.

And suddenly, too, my reality becomes even more real. It is 25 years from grade 6, I have gout, and I wish I were getting ready for school instead.

When I first moved to the Eastwood office, and when I leave

When I first moved to the Eastwood office from Alabang in 2009, I stayed at my uncle's place in Serendra and took the taxi to work. Every day was a challenge because I'd had a bad experience during a cab ride in Manila and was still experiencing some form of post traumatic stress disorder.

Almost five years and a move to Project 4 later, I'm still a very careful cab rider and slow to trust, but I've also developed an appreciation of how hard honest taxi drivers work. I've had wonderful conversations with drivers; I've been on the receiving end of their kindness as they waited for me to enter my apartment before driving off with my fare.

Because of my many cab rides I know many of the taxi drivers work 24-hour shifts and often can't help but catch some sleep. I know that not every place is safe for them, so they have their favorite spots where they can get safety for themselves and the vehicles entrusted to them, security for the day's earnings, and some rest.

On my usual route, I see them parked in front of the Eastwood City police and fire station. They converge at eateries near the corner of 20th Avenue and Bonny Serrano. Many times, I walk past a few of them sleeping soundly along Rajah Matanda.

When I see a taxi driver grabbing a meal or taking a nap, my first thought is "God bless you." I silently thank the likes of them for their service, for bringing me home safe at all hours of the day, in the 1,500 days or so since I started working in Eastwood.

My post stress anxiety has given way to appreciation and a gratitude that is almost automatic.

I'm due to leave Eastwood and my place of work at the end of March. There's a six-week goodbye to people and places and friends and routines and things, six weeks that ought to end in what five years of daily cab rides led to. As I take that last cab ride home, I want to be saying thank you, I really want to.

Happy travels

I finally had my US visa interview last week. I came prepared and also relaxed, since I'd been psyching myself up for months for this trip. Having missed a couple of important family moments in the US (an uncle's funeral, a cousin's wedding, being with an aunt for her treatments), I'd set my mind on making the time this time. Armed with my best intentions and some papers, I went to ask the US embassy to let me in their country for a while.

The wait was long, but the interview didn't last even five minutes. I got my visa today, two working days later. Thank you, U.S. of A. You will get some of my money in return.

Later, outside the embassy, I hailed a Ryo Aki cab, in competition with a family of five and a barker. They were ahead of me on Roxas Boulevard, but the driver ignored them, stopped in front of me, opened the passenger window, and told me to get in.

I beamed, congratulating myself on my luck. I had already opened the door when I heard the mother (I assumed) yelling at her adult son to tell me they'd flagged the cab first. I stepped aside.

The driver said to ignore them. I told him they were mad. He yelled at me to get in, because he wasn't going to let them ride anyway because he didn't want the barker to get a single centavo.

"Barkers are cheats," he said in angry Filipino, "They get money from both the driver and the passenger."
"Why? How much do you give them?" I asked.
"Nothing. A punch in the face."

I changed the subject and checked if I could open the locks. Just in case I would have to.

He had calmed down by the time we got to Taft Avenue.

I had lunch at a Wai Ying along Taft (beside DLSU!): hakao, siomai, buchi, and Binondo-style Hong Kong milk tea.

On the bus back to Las Piñas, I brought out the book I had been reading at the embassy: Manila Noir. My reading was soon interrupted by the unmistakable scent of freshly fried bread. An empanada peddler had gotten on the bus, carrying a plastic box filled with pastry.

"Taste this," he told a lady passenger, "you won't be disappointed. My wife is a good cook."

The lady bought a piece, ate it, and bought one more later.

Though full, I bought four ham and cheese empanadas because I had heard the love in the peddler's voice when he mentioned his wife. And because the other option was chicken asado and I was more suspicious of that meat.

I'll see you soon, USA. I'll see you again soon, Manila, you crazy beautiful city you.