I forgot how dangerous it can be to get rained on in the motherland. Remember how your parents always made sure you wouldn’t get wet, and the cardinal rule that states one must shower soon as possible if, despite all effort to the contrary, one ends up getting rained on anyway? I decided my constitution, having been exposed to snow, could weather a little warm rain. WRONG. Do not get rained on in the Philippines, no matter what you do. You will regret it. You will end up with red eyes leaking gross stuff, coughing yourself raw for days. You will wind up in the office of your old paediatrician and find yourself standing on a weighing scale, subjected to the double indignities of admitting how old you are and confronting how much you really weigh. You will get diagnosed with bronchitis. You will give kudos to SUMC for coming up with a priority number system that works smoothly. You will cough and hack your way through your entire vacation, going all Typhoid Mary on your family.
Each time I come home, something strikes me like a bolt out of the blue. It could be anything. It’s usually some nondescript little detail that suddenly becomes this strange, weird, twilight zone-y sort of fact that serves to bring the realization of being home crashing down around my ears.
This time, the lizards do it for me. A lizard in my apartment would have as much of a chance of survival as a cockroach would. It’s been a while since I’ve willingly allowed a foreign creature to live in my nearby vicinity. Here, they chase each other across the ceiling, silent sentinels of death that wait around a naked light bulb for any unsuspecting insect that dares to come too close to the light. I find it simultaneously comforting and strange that lizards are allowed to gambol freely across our ceiling. It really shouldn’t be strange. I grew up here, after all.
But the Dumaguete I’ve returned to isn’t exactly the place I grew up in. It’s a far cry from when the city was mostly pawnshops and not much else. I learned not to be overexcited at the prospect of a new edifice being built. Like as not, the business was bound to be a pawnshop or a Western Union. Now, there are hotels, condos, new apartments, and a serious overflow of places to eat in. I have officially lost count of the number of Foodnets I have passed. Not a complaint. Food is a good thing.
There are also cars parked in the most inconvenient of places, which doesn’t help traffic in any way, shape or form. We need all the help we can get in that area, because our roads aren’t the widest and the traffic is truly awful. Drivers bob and weave their way through thoroughfares clogged with cars, some that are inexplicably parked on a street that was already narrow to start with. I’m not quite sure why this is a thing. If a car isn’t moving, it shouldn’t be parked on a two-lane street. That’s like willingly allowing cholesterol to accumulate in an artery.
Is anyone regulating vehicle ownership yet? Are we thinking about road widening without necessarily cutting down trees? Building parking lots? Coming up with a bylaw that states one must have a garage before one can own a car? With the rapid expansion, urban planning is important; in a few years, the city will drown in a sea of vehicles if no one does anything.
Still, it’s exciting to see how fast the city has grown. It’s become busier, noisier, stuffed to the gills with cars, motorcabs and scooters. But there are some things I wish remained the same. In place of the chickens I used to terrorize on my scooter, stray dogs now roam the streets in packs. They’re everywhere. (Paging Animal Control. Barangay Bantayan needs you.) I miss those chickens. At least the lizards are still there.