Acacia Estates, 9:45am
The sun has begun to bake the day. Already the heat waves from the un-airconned rooms of Alice’s house trail our footsteps as we gather our bags. Outside, we greet a middle aged man standing by a modest 4-door sedan. Our car and driver have arrived to take us to Arvin’s family home in Bulacan province, about an hour and a half north of Manila.
After hurried hugs goodbye to Alice, we slip into the cool interior of the car accompanied by anticipation and its half-sibling, anxiety, and wave goodbye to Alice’s parents, who are standing on the 2nd floor balcony.
The trip begins with a twisting exodus from Alice’s house in Taguig, located in central-south Manila. A mix of multi-laned, highway-like roads cuts through municipalities that wrap around the perimeter of central Manila City: Pasig. Mandaluyong. San Juan. Quezon…
The city stretches seemingly endlessly in every direction, its sprawling expansion inhibited on one side by Manila bay. In California we know traffic and we know urban congestion. Manila is a different sort altogether. Whereas the relentless roadway chaos of our arrival night was magnified by darkness and disorientation, daylight doesn’t simplify things much. It lays everything bare. As a result, the urge to take a picture of absolutely every vehicle, overpass, billboard, building and high-speed roadside vignette is overwhelming.
The only antidote is to sit back and try to absorb it all. But we’re nothing without our visual cues, so as soon as the camera is turned off and set on the seat between us, it’s back in hand and grabbing another blurry image, desperately seeking to find a balance between witness, comprehension and remembrance.
The Road to Bulacan
The main road to Bulacan is an expressway that stretches from Caloocan City in nearly a straight line toward Guiguinto and beyond, interrupted only by an occasional, monolithic tollbooth.
Next stop: Malolos City.