18 April 2004

Owning the Maze

The more I go to places, the more I know names of streets and cities--when I get to picture the block behind the block I am in--the more the world becomes small. All seems simple and conquerable. Although the more you know, the more you have to know.

After almost ten years of not going there, I went to Divisoria again this morning with my mother and father. It looks and smells the same as Baclaran except for the horses and Chinese, and it's farther from home; it must also be a better place to shop as my parents prefer going there.

When I got there, I remembered. When we got to the narrow street that has a stall which sells nuts, I remembered going there when I was a kid with my cousins who lived in San Andres and Pandacan. It was there that my mother bought kasoy and Pili nuts. On the other block, a store which sells chocolates.

Divisoria was dirty, crowded and inconvenient; but we got out of it with lots of chocolates and I got two beautiful bags for Php500. My mother haggled with the Chinese owner. The woman only liked to give the bags for as low as Php570. My mother with all her skills turned then walked away, dramatically. After a few steps, the woman shouted at her--"sold!". Mama got the bags and the Chinese woman angrily snatched the 500 pesos in mama's hand.

I would love to shop there on my own. For a thousand pesos, I could have so much, but that is something I think unimaginable for me. I can never haggle the way my mother can. I can never get out of Divisoria with 2 good bags for 500 pesos.

Claiming Manila, acquainting myself with its every inch and corner, memorizing routes and buildings, makes me feel healthy and wise. It's like I have enough knowledge to get me through to the next region, even the next uncharted territory. Knowing the ins and outs of Manila is like mastering a portion of a maze; you know enough dead ends to avoid and some short cuts for future convenience, but there's still so much work to reach exit.

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