Saturday, November 12, 2005


They frisk you at the malls in Manila. In Baguio City, too. There is a slot for MEN and WOMEN, just like the (imaginary) doors we walked through in elementary school. You walk through, and you're padded down, and if you're absent of any hand grenades or switchblades or submachine guns, you're free to check out the Mickey Dees and cinema screens. I'd never been frisked before, let alone before going into a mall, but now, even after a few days, it's become a familiar experience. (And I didn't say I enjoyed it; don't go there, people...)

Landing in a new land, a strange land, you latch onto the familiar, noticing what's the same, what's different, what's odd, what's mundane. Usually it's a mishmash of all of the above. Here in the Philippines, given that most of the people are reasonably poor, people take jeepneys around town -- a kind of taxi-type bus that is reasonably cheap. Each of the jeepneys is decorated with their owners own particular colour and fetish, but most of them display red and white stickers that ask: "How's my driving?". Followed by a phone number, of course.

Here in Baguio, a mountain city, a northern city, it's full of what mountains are full of -- hills. Long and winding ones. Up and down ones. All of these hills reminding me of similar altitudes from my stay in Japan, down to the myriad checkerbox houses that dot the high and mighty landscape. Given that I'm 'up', it's cool, quite cool, late-October-in-Canada-cool. I like it. After the heat of Cambodia, endless and dense, it's nice to be cold again. Nice to need a blanket at night.

In a strange land, a foreign land, you embrace the unknown and reach for the familiar. I've already dived into a paperback copy of Lost Boy, Lost Girl, one of Peter Straub's latest fantastical, slightly horrific offerings. Straub being one of my adolescent idols, running right behind Stephen King, it's good, for a time, for a moment, to lose myself in harmless yet insightful entertainment. Good to see how literature can use the tangible weight of metaphors to make sense of the senseless. Good to be distracted from what even the fresh mountain air and sloping crescents can't deny.


chika said...


right this moment I'm at my mom's in nagano, that little house up on the hill. air is brisk and yes you'd definitely need a blanket or two, thick ones. I hope your girlfriend is doing good there, and you too take care and be well.

ciao, c

Jim said...

You're in a great place Scott.I
was stationed at Clark Air Base
about 90 years ago it seems.It
was in the lowlands and quite hot
and humid.But I was lucky enough
to once go on some kind of mail
delivery to Baguio and I thought
I had died and gone to heaven.
Don't know what the political situation is there now but I do remember it as being a mountainous
shangri-la type place from another
lifetime.Hope Helen is well and
you prosper in your new environment.

Scott said...

Chika-san -- Arigato. Kiotsukete, ne.

Jim -- Things have probably changed a lot in Baguio since you've been here -- a lot more shopping malls, McDonald's, yada yada yada.

But it's still cool (literally), politically safe (it seems), and full of gorgeous mountains.