Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Unexpected Holiday

Hi everyone--

Felice asked after my last post about the reaction to Corazon Aquino's death here. Well, today's the funeral, and the government has declared a special holiday so that, across the nation, people can pay respects to a woman who helped the country turn away from martial law and back to democracy.

Last night, Beng went to the Manila Cathedral to pay her respects to Cory, as she's called here. On TV, I could see lines and lines of people passing the open coffin, signing the cross and then moving on. It was raining hard, off and on, and so I decided to decline Beng's invitation to come with her, despite my urge to be a part of this country's history.

Today, we met up with Joe and Kokkeong, who run the Philippines exchange program back at SNC. They're here to renegotiate the contract between SNC and the UP; perhaps if we change the program a bit and add a little more flexibility for SNC professors, more of them will opt to apply for the exchange.

We were going to head out to Intramuros and Fort Santiago again, but the rain is quite heavy, so we ended up at the Mall of Asia (huge place--pictures to follow in another entry), and ate lunch at the Pancake House. I'm sure that Joe didn't travel 1000s of miles to this country in order to eat at the equivalent of a Denny's, but he was a good sport and let Lizzie take the lead (too many choices at the M of A, let me tell you; at the directory, we stood there for at least 5 minutes, contemplating three long lists of available restaurants). Then we headed out for a pair of cheap shorts, which we found at the SM Hypermarket, aptly named. I'm trying not to let it affect my ego that I'm a size LARGE here, by the way.

On our way back to campus, we passed a clot of parked cars on the expressway, pulled over to the side. A line of people leaned over the railing, looking down at the freeway below, where we could see a long procession of people clothed in yellow shirts. That's where the funeral cortege will bring Cory's body on the way to her burial.

When I woke up this morning, it occured to me that I'd forgotten to bring home my work--I've got a set of fiction exercises to read through, and I usually hand them back on Thursdays. So as we passed through campus on the way back to the apartment, I asked if we could stop at the Faculty Center so that I could run in and get my work. The building was dark and, for once, still. No one ran into or out of the building. "I wonder if it's locked up," I said.

"No," said Kokkeong. "It won't be."

But it was. Only a single turon vender sat outside the locked front entrance, giving me a half-hearted smile and shrug as I jiggled the door, futilely, against its bar.

"No homework for me, I guess," I said, dodging fat raindrops as I squeezed back into the car.

And so here we are, fully reloaded with Buffy episodes (Joe acted as our Buffy mule, bringing us seasons 4 through 7 from home), the delicious kettle corn that Cynch has managed to hook us on (there was a stand in the M of A, of course), delivered from school and homework.


We have new neighbors in the apartment next to us. They moved in a few days ago, and we were instantly aware that they were American. Because it's so hot, we've got our windows open all the time, and sound travels nicely across the air shaft--we could hear them and their children talking, laughing, making dinner, playing little kid games full of under-the-breath color commentary.

I met Nathan, a PhD candidate in Political Science at a university in Australia, yesterday when I came home from school. He's studying trade relations with the Philippines, and he followed one of his advisors from the University of Illinois to Australia. He and his family, including wife Vanessa and two boys, 3 and 5, are here for four months while he does research. Nathan and Vanessa are originally from California, but have ended up here. He's actually driving while he's here--they got their car yesterday.

I have yet to meet Vanessa and the boys, but I'm sure that we'll meet up soon, probably over laundry. Nathan says his wife's having a little trouble with "staring and catcalls" while they're out and about. Apparently, they walked down to the busy avenue, Commonwealth, that fronts the main entrance to the University, and managed to walk past rows and rows of shanties. Now Vanessa's afraid, Nathan says, to take the boys out by herself.

I smiled and nodded, thinking thank God I'm past that stage. And thank God I spent all those years in Mexico, getting used to it. Reminds me of our Psychology professor friends at Grand Valley State University, the ones who told us about the consolations of downward social comparison, where you look at those you deem to be less fortunate than yourself and say, with a mental pat on your own mental back, "At least I've got it better than that." Smugness: the universal cure for social and cultural depression.

1 comment:

  1. laurie and lizzie we miss you!! Bella and I would love to be able to communicate a bit better with you. please e-mail me facebook info or e-mail info to danielle.euclide@gmail.com please.

    looking forward to hearing from you soon your friendly neighbor hood Dani and Bella