New to Leap Local? Learn More
Dreams on the Manila Seawall - by Miodrag Kojadinovic
by & © Miodrag Kojadinovic
I don’t remember the name of the man in his early 30s whom I saw all but one night of my week long stay in Manila.
He’d come out of the shadows, as if he had been lurking in them all along, on the seawall in Malate, where people walked in the tiniest of February breezes at Spring Festival time. He never officially and directly propositioned sex-for-money to me, but it was omnipresent in his Weltanschauung, even though his advanced age precluded it for most purposes in the capital city teaming with underage prostitutes of both genders, of a country so fascinatingly beautiful and so flabbergastingly poor amidst such natural abundance.
“Our government is corrupt”, he’d say, like most Pinoys. “Well, why do you keep voting for them?” I’d ask. “And how can a corrupt handful syphon out the wealth of millions?” My brief acquaintances in the Philippines, just like my students in China, my third cousins in Serbia, my co-workers in British Columbia, my fellow researchers and PhD students in Norway… used the feeble excuse of their situation being so special, so unique — that no outsider could possible understand it. A condolence of the weak who allow themselves to be manipulated, or of the disillusioned who gave up like junkies (even when not real addicts of anything but tobacco)? Perhaps, but if it functioned for them, who was I to question it?
The man’s sister sold cookies and coffee on the seawall at night. He complained that the police would ask for free coffee and then even refills. Half of the large thermos bottle went to them for free. She didn’t have a permit for her “business”, and had to take it. She’d make coffee at home, mixing the overly sweet powder of instant coffee-with-whitener with warm (unboiled) water from the heater at the kitchen sink, pick the package of cookies and set off to make money. “She didn’t have to”, my acquaintance explained, “for her husband worked abroad and sent money to her and the kid”.
Ah, the big life he dreamed of! He’d “go there as soon as he got an offer, abandon his stupid little job”. He hated working at the tiny office above the shop, he hated the beautiful Philippines that I came to explore for 19 days, he loved his sister, but hated the fact she was trying to make the extra buck by pandering lukewarm coffee to prostitutes for a fee and to cops for free around midnight, in the bay, with her child in tow. He wanted to be successful like his sister’s husband.
The husband was in Dubai. Or in Singapore. Somewhere where Filipinos go to make money and send it to Filipinas stuck in “boring Manila” with their I'm-only-gay-for-pay-well-perhaps-not-but-it’s-easier-to-cope-with-it-this-way brothers.
I suggested ways for him to try to arrange for his escape from the place he hated. But he said he couldn’t afford to go back to university that he dropped out in the second grade, and he didn’t want to. There were more immediate concerns: money to be made in the Emirates, settling with a girl he loved. “Or with a boy”, he admitted, “if that turns out to be the case”.
What happened with him? Has he gotten to his dreamed-of Dubai, now almost bankrupt what with its Babel Tower of vanity look-alike, or is he still passing the half mile along the promenade every night? Will I ever see him again? Would I even care to? Or will I only ever be returning just to Davao-the-Tobacco-Free-City off the equator and skip Manila altogether?
Bio: Miodrag Kojadinovic is a writer, editor, poet and translator between English, Serbian, French, and Dutch and a guest lecturer at several colleges. He has lived and worked in seven countries on three continents in the last 20 years. His writing has appeared in print in the US, Serbia, Canada, Russia, the Netherlands, Slovenia, China, the UK, Montenegro, India, France, Australia, and Croatia.
Miodrag Kojadinovic on
Miodrag's recommendation on Leap Local's website is the.