I write to you now from Sin City, which speaks to me in psychedelic and pulsating hues.
The forest of neon─ the restlessness and freedom from inhibition─ is a philosophical
quandary for the wandering spirit and a gallery of the best and likely the worst that
humanity has to offer.
“Topless cowgirls. Call now.” You can imagine what I did next. I went out for ice cream
with my dad and threw a coin at a miniature Venice canal. Still, kudos to the Devil for
coating the highway to hell with the enlivening scent of chocolate crepes and fine
The Nevada wind was an ever-present companion. Never have I felt such a chill, one
that mimicked the sensation of fingernails running across your arm and that dove deep
into your bones. It followed me everywhere and worsened when I remembered you
were half-way across the world.
I feel alone in a city of strangers that felt so familiar. I was a convict of a living suburbia.
However, I felt free, even for a glittering, neon-lit moment, under the desert moon. Still,
the occasional “kamusta?” as I passed by glowing waterworks, to me at least, were
verbal echoes of home, of fellow countrymen who find shelter in a land not their own. As
I write this, I remember the little Filipino girl who was begging her mother for a picture
with a dancing snowman in front of the hotel. She got her wish, while her father
reluctantly clutched his wallet. They strolled off into the crowd, the girl hopping
alongside her parents, her aunt, and what I assumed to be seven or so cousins.
It reminds me that, among the melting pot of races that rub shoulders in this country,
there was still “Filipino-ness” shining against the background─ family, togetherness and
optimism in a time when borders are almost non-existent. The city was their metaphor
and it is as unyielding as ever.
Regardless, I wondered how different this trip might have been had you been with me,
had I had a hand to hold through the cold. I am half-way around the world now and for
reasons I cannot explain, the world is bigger and smaller at the same time. I feel
unstable without you.
You are “the gravity that ballasts me in space,” wrote Angela Manalang-Gloria. That you
were even if that space is a tumultuous and anxiety-ridden college life, punctuated by
periods of near alcohol poisoning. I wonder then, which among us is carefully-kept
For you were always the one riding to the rescue in a white horse (actually, usually just
a rusty tricycle) with a cup of coffee in your hand, beating back “the dragon,” or more
specifically my frustrating pleas for one more bottle.
I wonder how I should write to you after this. I never quite imagined that the world was
in a wrong way until very recently, as I stand on that exciting yet terrifying demarcation
of youngster and adult.
When I was ten, I waited every Saturday morning for my favorite cartoons. The next
day, I was scrolling through the pages of internet classifieds to get my bearing in this
hyper-competitive workplace of ours, slumping and slouching in front of a glaring
monitor as “the man” trumpets along: “more green means more smiles.”
Suddenly I am alone now as I face the expectations of an imposing and at times
vindictive world. Get a degree. Find a job. Settle down. Have a family. Life in this new
age comes prepackaged with outfits we are expected to wear and faces we are all
expected to put on.
I suddenly feel like the one to be rescued, like the one stuck in a tower. And you are the
one in shining “armor”─ that iconic shawl, those wide glasses and that pile of books that
is always tucked along your right arm. You are my better and I am the supposed
rescuer you never needed. I think it’s about time to do away with the damsel in distress
in image, or even the princess get up all together.
Perhaps this city might be a fitting metaphor─ bright, optimistic and comfortable in the
arid and chilling winds of the desert, maintaining its inner unyielding nature. No more
knights, towers and dragons, only the myths and legends you will carve for yourself.
To this workplace of ours, we are the gears that grind into the midnight hours. Turn, get
rusty, unscrewed, replaced. To our parents, we are the dreams that never will be; the
stars formed from the nebulae of lost dreams.
These are our crosses, and the long, cemented road to Calvary, our lives. But I admire
you for bearing one cross too many and still making the same journey.
I remember when, those many nights ago, I found myself stranded on an island of my
own making, with the very shores themselves riled up and treacherous; the currents
lunged for the shore, the tempest of my dread.
Yet it was you who calmed them, you who parted the nimbus curtain and drew me back
to a more calm once more.
I was not aware from birth that your kingdom was in peril and when I did you were
already soldiering on, fighting the good fight. I never had to save you from the dragon. I
doubt I ever will.