My week-long teaching in my former high school ended two days ago. A really good experience for me, in many ways. The class, made of graduating seniors, was incredibly sweet; as parting gifts, they gave me a packed lunch cooked by the girls in their home economics class, a picture of the entire class, a thank-you card signed by each student, and a box of chocolate crinkles. On the last session, I asked them to do a bit of evaluation for the course and divided them into groups to perform skits based on each narrative technique. I felt so proud of them after viewing their performances and reading their evaluation. They had understood more than what I had expected of them and made it applicable (not to mention in a very clever manner), and (despite how cliche the next phrase is going to be) apparently my class really did help them appreciate literature a lot more (yay, success stories under my belt!). I’m really glad I did this. That felt great.
I went to Binondo (Chinatown….I don’t live there, by the way. My mother did though, in the early days) yesterday with my mother and my godmother to sing carols for the elderly and the lonely.
Observation 1: Carrying a guitar + hard case up and down old apartment buildings (most of them with no lifts) is not usually considered fun.
Observation 2: Binondo (as far as the Benavidez-Masangkay-Recto area is concerned) is more ghetto than I thought. When I went there every Sunday years and years ago, I never went into the buildings and never got the full effect of the crampedness and the squalidness of a five-hundred-year-old town of trade and commerce. A water pipe connecting from one room of an apartment building to another room in a different apartment building because the water of the other building has too much of a stench. It does feel as if the floor would just give way and everything would crumble in silence. The image of the inside of an apartment is a bit like the background of an old Holocaust movie.
Observation 3: A lot of old people really are incredibly lonely. 没有人关心我 is the general sentiment here. And Binondo is not exactly the safest place in Manila, and that’s an extremely euphemised understatement. Frankly, I don’t know how they manage to want to keep on living when there doesn’t seem anything to look forward to, especially in that state. I guess that’s why they love visitors. They just start talking without any initiating question and keep at it, and you really would have to interrupt politely. They lead really sad lives, and the stories they tell, what brought them to that…amazing how they keep on living through that. As one old lady taking care of a husband parayzed for 17 years was saying, you can sit there on the corner and think and cry your eyes out, but what good is that going to be? I guess I’ve always been aware of the existence of that, the loneliness of old age. Having to actually see it, in the context of Binondo, is quite psychologically taxing.
On a lighter point, last Saturday my best friends and I spent the night in my house. Finally had the sleepover we were talking about for seven years, haha. Prompting this was the future, that we are going to be permanently separated because most of us are leaving the country. I’ll be flying back to Australia again to finish my studies, one friend is going back to her work in Shenzhen, China (where she earns…quite a bit), another will be going to Alberta, Canada, to work in a hotel, the other is going to the Bronx in New York to live with her sister, and another friend will (thankfully) still be staying in her programming job here in the Philippines. But at least we’ll still be coming back here to the Philippines for long holidays, and from that thought, a pact has been made to come back to the Philippines every Christmas to see each other again.