Dumaguete was a different animal when I left it for ostensibly greener pastures. Not to say it wasn’t already awesome with its laid-back air, educational vibe, award-winning universities, its nurturing of the creative arts and the powerful literary forces that keep the local pride alive, not to mention its ability to churn out nurses who are almost always guaranteed to pass the bar exam, but let’s face it, Dumaguete was the kind of city that would – and did – commemorate the opening of a Dunkin’ Donuts. Yes. We had a rousing block party complete with B-list celebrity guest (Carlos Agassi, deep in his Amir of Rap phase) and people queued for hours just to get donuts. Choco butternut for life! It was glorious.
We Dumagueteños have always been at odds with ourselves when it comes to our penchant for tranquility and simplicity as well as our desire to be – for lack of a better word – happening. There will always be a part of us that wants to keep the charm of provincial living at war with the part of us that wants, say, a Starbucks frappuccino without having to haul ass over to the next island to get it. Remember when the best part of having your parents come home from the big city was knowing they’d be bringing Goldilocks and/or Red Ribbon?
God, I’m old.
Time, tide and the siren song of commercialism have finally lured our fair city of gentle people and motorcycles into the future. We now have a mall, an updated movie theatre, and a number of excellent food franchises. We take Goldilocks and Red Ribbon for granted. (Don’t. They’re awesome. Why do I focus on food so much?) The streets are so choked with motorcycles and pedicabs, if it was rush hour and you squinted a little, it could be Hanoi. It’s all very Field of Dreams. They built it, and people came. Our city has grown while the streets are as narrow as ever; as I said, we are always at war.
No matter where I am in the world, a major part of me will always miss the occupational hazards of living in Dumaguete. I remember being graced with a power outage (brown-out) the last time I visited, and it felt just like home always felt. Endearing. Exasperating. Maybe my friend Ramon was right. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Once upon a time, I occupied this space on a regular basis. I was younger then, which means quite a few of my opinions were formed when I had absolutely no idea what life in general has in store for you when you start paying your own bills, buying your own food and paying your own rent. As to whether or not my insights are going to be new and improved since I now have to pay my own bills, buy my own food and pay my own rent – the crucible otherwise known as being an adult – that remains to be seen. I don’t feel like a very different me, with the main exception being I now get my kicks when I get carded. For the dubious benefit of those who’ve never had the dubious pleasure of having read Snigger, my former column: I overuse commas and parentheses (parenthesises, parenthesi). I do not like spoilers. I put the hag in fag hag. I believe hell is a place where we will be doomed to get a root canal for all eternity, stuck in a dentist’s chair while demons caper about, cackling merrily.
The hiatus is over. I’m back. I think. Don’t quote me.