Friday, May 25, 2007

Just A Little Dose of Patriotism

The other night, Kelly, one of my ex-pat friends in HK, hosted cocktails at his place for Buddha's birthday. I was the third guest to arrive at 8:30. Half an hour later, his apartment was packed with 19 gay men talking about the HK public transport system, economics, tax, politics, shoes, arts, etc. I was the youngest in the group --- and the only Asian.

Later that evening, Kelly announced that he and his friend Philip (yeah.. I think that was his friend's name. I'm not so sure though), who was visiting from Canada, were going to Borneo the following day and would be vacationing there for a week. That announcement initiated a very interesting general conversation about travel. I wouldn't consider myself a well-travelled person. I share the same interest that they have on travel and culture but I am not so immersed as any of them are. The only places I've been to, outside the Philippines are France, Malaysia, Singapore and HK. So I found the conversation very engaging. In fact, too engaging that I didn't realize I was drinking faster than I normally would.

I asked the room, "Has anyone of you ever been to the Philippines?" Only two, out of 18, answered affirmatively. Hugh, an Aussie international school teacher said, "But I really, really wanna go and see the Philippines soon. What are your recommendations?"

I said that if anyone of them was going to the Philippines for the first time, they should see Boracay, Palawan or Bohol first before Manila. I shamelessly said that they need to fall in love with the Philippines first before they see its capital. I was asked why I thought they wouldn't fall in love with the Philippines if they saw Manila first. I said that's not what I meant. I just thought that in doing so, they'd fall deeper in love with the people. I said sometihng like, "First, you have to see how beautiful the Philippines is at its finest. Then you go and see the city and you feel like you're in a totally different world. Manila is dirty and crowded and noisy and polluted. You can practically smell, taste, hear, see and feel poverty everywhere. But all that is part of Manila's charm." The room laughed and asked why. Then I said, "Because that's what makes you realize how poor a nation we really are. And yet, we are among the happiest peoples in the world. And then you ask yourself why and how we are able to do that. But there are no answers. We just are."

The room fell silent.