between dreams & wakefulness, on edsa, ayala, philcoa, paco, marikina & cainta

[ Note : If you’re reading this you have to indulge me yet again, this is a blog exercise on dreams and post-dream remembrances.  Thanks for reading and your patience ! ]

DO YOU sometimes wake up from the half-awake / half-asleep world (not from a dream) and discover that you’re in a dream? You know you’re not awake, but you’re not so sure if everything’s just in your mind either.  I’m not smoking funny cigarets, and I haven’t had one too many brown bottles.  Come on, you know you’re sometimes in a very vivid halfway inn-type of situation between our world now, and what many of us perceive as our nocturnal habitat (unless you’re a forever night shift person, in which case it’s the opposite of nocturnal I guess).

To proceed, this neverwhere-sort of place that I’m always just leaving or just entering, one time seemed remarkably like the place I grew up in, Metro Manila in the Philippines.  I knew I wouldn’t be here for long, so I thought of doing five things which I hoped I could stretch out along the few moments I would be here :

Buy lunch for one in Dencio’s.  I almost instinctively willed myself ( I didn’t need normal transportation) to that area between Buildings A and B of Megamall in Mandaluyong / Pasig Cities, have they decided where it is actually?  I knew that was where I saw Dencio’s the last time, and when I came in I didn’t even have to order, because inexplicably the waiter knew what I wanted : the house specialty of crispy pata and kaldereta.  I wanted more, but (1) I didn’t how how well the food in this Bizarro Dencio’s was going down my tubes, and (2) I had other things to do.  Use all the right words : crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside, pork skin baked just right, vinegar with garlic combined with fragrant, perfectly boiled rice.  And the kaldereta melted in your mouth, with the ideal blending of tomato, pepper / capsicum and potato, of course supplemented with rice.  That was the easiest part of the sort-of dream.

Visit Ninang.  I did this right after the meal, cuz I might forget later.  Mom had a best friend during her dalagahood, someone who didn’t have her luck with the love of her life, or a family, or health.  Hard-luck, no?  Golden heart that she is, Mom, remained her best buddy and confidante through Ninang’s best and worst times, and was seeing her through a rough spot, maybe her last.  I was also Ninang’s godchild (of course, that’s why I called her such), and she was very nice to me.  I visited her and even brought her meals homecooked from Mom’s kitchen, and I was happy to see she still recognized me.  She asked me where I had been all these years, and I gave her the short version : raised a family, worked, got out of work, went abroad, now in a sort-of dream visiting her.  Something told me this would be one of the last times I would see her, realworld or otherwise, so I went beyond the small talk and told her how sorry I was we didn’t bond more often, because she really was a decent, always-positive and compassionate friend that depended on my mom, and vice-versa.

After that, I flew over Philcoa, College of Arts and Sciences or A.S., the Narra Dorm, Vinzons Hall, School of Economics and the College of Law, all lining the the Academic Oval on Diliman where the University of the Philippines campus had been sitting since the 1950s.  I never excelled in what started out as a promising academic career, but there were certainly good memories there.  I had an even better time chuckling to myself going around good old Saint Jude Catholic School near Malacañang, where I experienced a wonderful high school life, warts and all.

After that, I went to all the places I lived in right after I became a family man.  Before settling down in Cainta, we moved in and out of quite a number of places, including Caloocan, Sta Mesa, Marikina (twice), and Paco with my folks.  I loved living in each of those places.  Well, except Caloocan, which was right along EDSA, which was the equivalent carbon monoxide wise of smoking two packs of cigarets daily.

The last place I visited and I knew the meter was running out was to Oroquieta St on Sta Cruz where I lived as a toddler.  The apartment adjoining ours shared a small vacant square into which windows looked down on and on most mornings I did so, and each time there was a young boy roughly my age ( I later learned he was a year older).  We would talk the way six or seven-year olds do, full of hot air and empty boastings, yet eager to learn about each other and the rest of the world.  Looking back, he reminded me of a Chinese Filipino Bart Simpson : hair slicked back everywhere except the top, Oriental eyes but bugged out in the middle, and he had a small Buddist talisman pinned to his tank top.  He had all the great toys which I could only look at but sometimes he let me touch them, and he would cry insufferably for the silliest things, sounding like the siren of an old firetruck with the switch stuck, so that he would go on and off forever.  His yaya would, everytime he launched into this acting-out phase, dutifully ignore him but never slapped or hit him, something I always marveled at considering his neurotic weeping.

I never dreamed about him before, and so I told him that after 1972 when we moved out of the apartment I always thought of him, and although I had a vague idea of where he went to school after that (St Stephen’s in Chinatown I think) I never saw him again.  True to form, he ignored my senti statements and just continued playing with his toys.  His name I won’t easily forget, Henry Chong.

Soon after that neither-here-nor-there episode, I either woke up or entered into real, actual sleep.  Funny though, I knew there was a clear demarcation between that halfway stage and actual, more fantastical dreams, because I clearly discerned (in the first stage) that I was back home in the Philippines.

Thanks for reading !

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