Happy travels


I finally had my US visa interview last week. I came prepared and also relaxed, since I'd been psyching myself up for months for this trip. Having missed a couple of important family moments in the US (an uncle's funeral, a cousin's wedding, being with an aunt for her treatments), I'd set my mind on making the time this time. Armed with my best intentions and some papers, I went to ask the US embassy to let me in their country for a while.

The wait was long, but the interview didn't last even five minutes. I got my visa today, two working days later. Thank you, U.S. of A. You will get some of my money in return.

Later, outside the embassy, I hailed a Ryo Aki cab, in competition with a family of five and a barker. They were ahead of me on Roxas Boulevard, but the driver ignored them, stopped in front of me, opened the passenger window, and told me to get in.

I beamed, congratulating myself on my luck. I had already opened the door when I heard the mother (I assumed) yelling at her adult son to tell me they'd flagged the cab first. I stepped aside.

The driver said to ignore them. I told him they were mad. He yelled at me to get in, because he wasn't going to let them ride anyway because he didn't want the barker to get a single centavo.

"Barkers are cheats," he said in angry Filipino, "They get money from both the driver and the passenger."
"Why? How much do you give them?" I asked.
"Nothing. A punch in the face."

I changed the subject and checked if I could open the locks. Just in case I would have to.

He had calmed down by the time we got to Taft Avenue.

I had lunch at a Wai Ying along Taft (beside DLSU!): hakao, siomai, buchi, and Binondo-style Hong Kong milk tea.

On the bus back to Las PiƱas, I brought out the book I had been reading at the embassy: Manila Noir. My reading was soon interrupted by the unmistakable scent of freshly fried bread. An empanada peddler had gotten on the bus, carrying a plastic box filled with pastry.

"Taste this," he told a lady passenger, "you won't be disappointed. My wife is a good cook."

The lady bought a piece, ate it, and bought one more later.

Though full, I bought four ham and cheese empanadas because I had heard the love in the peddler's voice when he mentioned his wife. And because the other option was chicken asado and I was more suspicious of that meat.

I'll see you soon, USA. I'll see you again soon, Manila, you crazy beautiful city you.