Self knew that there would come a point when Bacolod would seem less like a discovery and more like a disturbance. “You can only be discovered once,” a friend told her a long time ago. Similarly, self feels she can now say: “You can only discover a place once.”
But in self’s case, she got to discover Bacolod twice: first as a child, spending summer vacations there, and then as an American and a writer, searching for pieces of her identity there. Not many people have that opportunity. She is lucky.
Self is also deeply grateful that Barack Obama’s Dreams From My Father was in her suitcase! His experiences in Kenya so closely resemble self’s own, it’s positively uncanny.
She’s trying out a new driver tomorrow. Woot hoot! It is really incredible that this city is so dead on All Souls Day. Virgie’s, Pendy’s, Bob’s, Calea – all her usual hangouts – are closed. She is so grateful that C’s, next to L’Fisher, was open, because when Zack messaged her and asked, Whacha doing? She was able to reply: “I have just had lunch of sans rival and brewed coffee.”
It is also incredible that she has not encountered, on this trip, a single mention of aswang or mangkukulam or any of the various Filipino ghosts that fed her imagination as a child. Mebbe it’s because she wasn’t able to get out of the city much? Unlike in March, when she returned to Siquijor with Zack?
Barack mentions a Kenyan form of witch called “a night runner.” The lights go off, and people might say it is caused by the supernatural, by night runners. A history professor named Rukia tells Barack that she has a daughter, and this daughter has “no use for night runners.” Her daughter’s first language is “not Luo. Not even Swahili. It is English.” But, Rukia says, “In the end, I’m less interested in a daughter who’s authentically African than one who is authentically herself.”
A cousin told self yesterday that people here think her frequent comings and goings are due to the fact that she has “nothing better to do.” So she fills up her time with little invented dramas that put her center stage. Over there, in America, no one pays attention to her. It’s only in Bacolod that she gets the attention she craves. Because why on earth would self keep wanting to come back here? Is it only that she wants to keep messing with people? Why not just shut up and blend into the great anonymous US of A? Her visits here are so tense and stressful, so why does she keep insisting on coming?
Who knows, maybe these people are right. She will certainly give that question very serious thought, in the coming year. Maybe self really is nothing more than a bored, attention-seeking weirdo. Maybe she is like the Emily Van Camp character in “Revenge,” dedicating the rest of her life to getting even. In that case, self will very happily yield the stage to her brothers and Dearest Mum. From now on, she will spare herself the travesty and visit Bacolod only every other year.
But, Oh my goodness, can you see what has happened here? Self has gotten herself all tied up in knots. When, actually, the decision of when and how often she should come to Bacolod is hers and hers alone. Shut up, people! Since self isn’t begging for handouts from any of you, can’cha all just sit back and endure her presence for a mere month? Is that really too much to ask? Hey, she’s certainly making Bacolod famous, over there. So many of her American friends check in every day, just to see what new encounters self shares.
Yesterday, she actually got to hear the fabulous Ida’s voice on the phone, for the first time in almost two years. “This is Ida,” went the voice (sounding much less robust than it sounded in her imagination. If self hadn’t known that was Ida on the other end, she would have thought it was a mouse!). “And this is Batchoy,” self replied. “Ma’am, this is Ida,” went Ida. “And this is Batchoy,” self replied. “OK, just cut the crap. I need 10,000 pesos.” The answer was very direct: No. “OK, make it 15,000 pesos. How about a loan? Just 15,000 pesos.” This was highly amusing to self, because this caused Ida some distress. Self knows because she came running back to the office (She was with Elenita, somewhere near Mandalagan) and then closed the door to her inner sanctum. Great! Self briefly contemplated kicking the door, but decided to remove herself from the premises, especially as Ida’s swarthy brother suddenly materialized by her elbow, and having a man she doesn’t know stand that close to her is, quite frankly, ICCKY. Even, unbearable.
Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.