Drugs are rampant,
like shirtless men walking your dirty streets.
Your bumpy, filthy pavements
mirror your pier and your cove.
Still, your muddied bay remains home
To many couples holding hands
While walking along the breakwater.
Than the moon’s darkest side and Dylan’s desolated row.
You and your people breathe
Nicotine smoke and Sarao Jeepney’s belching mufflers.
All your rising
can never hide
dressing the edges of Pasig River.
your beauty lies in your obscurity:
the vigorous nightlife,
sparkling with neon lights, and
the music of honking horns
and bands in bars.
Manila, keep your hope alive in the dying night.
Someday, Manila, someday
the kid you once cradled
will return and dance the same dance
with better timing
and rebellious elegance
until the moon retires its nighttime frivolities.
Traffic was worse, back in my younger days.
But the commute was always interesting
because as they say, “It’s more fun in the Philippines!”
I hop into a vividly colored jeepney filled
with random commuters – fathers, mothers, sons,
daughters, high school students, teachers,
bank tellers, construction workers,
college students, the unemployed
On any given day, I’ll see one or the other
A mother screaming to clear the road as she rushes her son
who had a knife on his belly to the nearest hospital
A college girl who had her necklace snatched by a random thief
A creepy dude trying to feel a woman’s side boob with his elbow
Out on the streets, pedestrians snack on street foods –
Dirty ice cream, deep fried quail eggs, fish balls, coagulated blood,
hotdogs, squid balls, chicken feet paired with mineral water,
coke in a clear plastic bag, pineapple juice from a can.
And at the end of the school day, shirtless men light their cigarettes,
drink ice cold beer at corner convenience stores,
piss on walls that say “ONLY DOGS PEE HERE.”
At the end of the day, people relax at pool halls or makeshift karaoke bars singing
Sinatra’s My Way,
U2’s With or Without You,
Savage Garden’s Truly, Madly, Deeply,
Aqua’s Barbie Girl