Losing direction


I don’t dread getting lost. Most people I know hate losing one’s geographical bearings and get upset about it. They abhor losing that sense of location, of where one is in relation to the Rizal Monument, for example. Some also go balistic at the point they begin to realize that their pockets are not deep enough for the purchase of another set of jewelry, or ticket to Tokyo Disneyland, or another week in the highlands of Baguio. I don’t mind. I love losing people who hate losing their cars, their bank accounts, their club membership and oh, losing their toupee as well.

“I welcome instances when I would unwittingly take a different route than I was supposed to take in a strange city knowing there is always a story waiting there somewhere.

I’ve been lost to people many times before I have lost count. Many times I have lost so-called friends growing up in the province all those years ago. There were sets of friends in high school or college who were very close in the freshman year, but moved on to that point where we cannot stand the sight of each other a boxing match was arranged just before graduation. I have one such friend in high school, a kababayan, the son of the first overseas Filipino worker I know at the time, who I came to blows with over some silly thing I could not now remember. We would find each other via Facebook years later when we were already professionals and called me up in San Jose, California where I was covering an IT event.

There wasn’t enough time to actually arrange a meet-up, but we had maybe an hour over the phone recalling what it was we were bickering about. In high school we were evenly match, but there is no doubt in my mind now he can whoop me up quick if we ever came to blows again; the boy of 15 then and maybe only 90 pounds has since grown close to 180, maybe more.

“I don’t mind losing my way in a place I have not been to.

There were these two kids, one who had free access to the then popular Honda Scambler 90 and another with access to his dad’s pockets and my poor self who was just me. I would learn to ride that Honda quick and get into the habit of smoking flip-top Marlboro on the sly.

The duo would chase girls while I merely wanted to kickstart the two-wheeler and go off into the sunset with my smoke. Years later, I would lose one of them, allegedly to a drug-related vengeance murder, while the guy was sleeping, shot in the head through the window at 9 in the morning, in his own house. This was well before the tokhang jedis came into popular lore, the bastards of the force. Then, as now, no one knew who pulled the trigger although the motivation was supposedly crystal clear. As for the other kid, he would grow up to be a rather outstanding athlete of some fame, an eventual sports scholar in college who would later marry one of the town belles and serve as a kagawad. Then just one day, he with the regular ball exercises just felt pain in the chest and would be dead within hours. I would learn of his passing within hours as well, via Messenger, and was sad for a few minutes. These were the boys of my youth who drilled into my head the importance of driving on the right side of the road, on the side of the oncoming traffic and to walk on the left side of it, always.

I learned that lesson well, I think, because both are now dead and I am still alive. I remember these boys mostly because they grew on me. They dropped me off one day, looked past my head the day after and damn it, for years on end thereafter.

Like I said, I don’t mind losing my way in a place I have not been to. In Toulouse, while fetching somebody’s aircraft with a bunch of journalists, I got separated from the rest after dinner and had to find my way back to the hotel on my own. We had our bellies full of French food and getting ready to leave when I asked for a few more minutes at the table to allow my phone to update. I guess no one listened because when the update was complete in about a minute, the bunch of rowdy journalists and the bus we were on was gone. I paid heed of the way in and thought it should be no trouble getting back and started walking, ticking off the landmarks with the Wi-Fi-only smartphone as I saw them. Tolouse at 10 in the evening when it drizzles is a wonderful place, it turns out. And the French whom I thought would talk to a non-local only in the language of his birth responded to me in English. These were basically guys manning the front desk of boutique hotels along the way, who pointed me in the right direction. I would not have done the same in Manila where even decent-looking guys often turn up hedious opportunists with crooked teeth and large smiles. I was tempted at some point to see a local cabaret show because as someone who lives in Bulacan, the kabaret I know is something else entirely. The thought of watching a French show would perish because I know the PR staff with us would die a thousand deaths before I hit the hotel again.

And so I welcome instances when I would unwittingly take a different route than I was supposed to take in a strange city knowing there is always a story waiting there somewhere.

On the way back to the New York consulate from Chinatown in New York, for instance, I nearly missed the chance to interview then Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations and former Supreme Court Justice Hilario Davide as I took the wrong line when told to change trains and ended up in Brooklyn looking back across the waters to the skyscrapers on Manhattan. In Lepazpi City, I merely wanted to buy native bags in Daraga and took the jeepney from the hotel but ended up about an hour later in the mountains when I realized that was the last trip for the day and I would have to wait out the night. One would think the Bicolano as hospitable people, but they could be as opportunistic as anyone else. The tricycle driver I later contracted would charge an arm and a leg for the 45-minute trip back to the hotel that same night.

The wandering would not stop, of course. There is alway a story there somewhere, just around the corner. Even if it involves circling the stove at home.

What are your thoughts?

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