Thursday, May 04, 2006


IT WAS A SPONTENEOUS SIDE-TRIP that only cost P14. Well worth it, I thought. Having already exhausted myself in Cubao, but home feeling like a familiar foe, I went for it, surpassing unfamiliar stations in the longest LRT ride I’ve ever been on, finally ending at Recto Station, where every single person emptied out of the train.

I was nervous. It was my first time away from the familiar stops of Cubao and Katipunan on LRT Line 2. I’m a city dweller whose never been around the city that much, aside from where obligation and “A and B-class” fun had taken me. It was an unnerving feeling being in an unfamiliar area. But it was a good sort of apprehension—based on really opening my eyes to other parts of the city.

Recto Station was different. While Cubao saw a short walk to Gateway, and Katipunan was an underground station kept spotless, free of anyone who was not a commuter or an employee of the station, Recto looked like a converted parking lot in a mall. Entire levels of the station were deserted, some areas occupied only by a few food stalls. Hardly any of the escalators were turned on. Here, commuters in shorts, sandos, and tsinelas are more prevalent, while not a single passenger I saw was wearing office attire.

I walked out of the station onto the main street along where Line 2 passes. There’s an energy in this part of the city, as if everyone was living under a shared pulse, sharing the same oxygen because of the place’s density. It feels like you’re trapped in the trance of that pulse. LRT Line 2 shadows the main street from above. The buildings, though not tall, block off more light. But in between the buildings, the sun shines hard. The sweat, even the oil that quickly developed on my face, was thicker.

It’s really a youthful place. Mostly students brisk-walk along the sidewalks. And that’s the only way to go—brisk-walk—or else you’ll risk getting lost amidst the many pedestrians behind, in front, and beside you. The elderly tend to position themselves in a steady spot to their liking along the side of the sidewalks. They’re ambivalent to the place’s youth. They’ve had plenty more stories about the place than all the students combined. However outnumbered they are, they know that this is still their domain. The wrinkles on their faces, the dirt cemented onto their nails, the stains on their skin…they’re all proof of who runs the city.

The character of the buildings matches those of the elderly. All the buildings have seen better days. Perhaps the most striking of buildings are those of the Far Eastern University, which are brick stunners, comparable to that of Ateneo, only lighter in shade. But beyond that are gloomy structures, where human activity is manic, as if excited insects have infested dead carcasses.

Every nook and cranny of this place is a market. DVDs, clothing, accessories, food… There are even places where people can trade in their old pocket books for even older ones. Tattoo parlors are a plenty. A mall like Isetan is easily the Rockwell of these parts; everywhere else is too real to even attempt superficial fronts.

There’s a realness to the place. People go about doing what they want to do, sometimes inappropriate, but then who’s to say? You can’t take the hustle away from the area, either. Everyone’s trying to get the better deal, trying to walk ahead of the pack, trying to avoid pick-pockets, trying to get into the crowded jeepney, guys trying to get the attention of girls. And yet, there’s no pretense about it. It’s just doing what you have to do.

In all the stories we hear of deceit, petty-crimes, and what-not…well…they’re probably all true, but there’s an unapologetic energy to Recto that displays a higher level of sincerity and genuineness than many places I frequent. Everyone here is who they are, in all their strengths, and in all their flaws.

As I walked balk to the LRT station, I realized that I had only explored for less than a half an hour. It’s not like I wanted out, already. It’s just that the place provided me with so much to see, so many sensory stimuli, that I was overwhelmed—in a good way.

I’ll be heading back there soon. I’m not anywhere close to exhausting the place. There’s still the other side of the main street to walk by. And then there’s the side streets. Divisoria is close by, as well. And LRT Line 1 still awaits.

Thu 4 May 06


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