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I can now say with clarity what day it is. For an indescribable stretch in time, we were racing the calendar, racing the sun. Such is travel that traverses more than half the circumference of our planet. It is a new world. We are among the first on Earth to see a new day. We are guilty of a leap into the future. It should be said that even though none of the laws of physics was broken, the nerves still splay at every end, at least temporarily, until one learns the new clock.

My body adjusts with remarkable speed. A rebellion against sleep may have done the trick. I wanted to see every step of the journey, to take in the landscape, to familiarize myself with the port of entry, as if calamity might call me swiftly back through that port, offering some brave or purposeful assignment, as if no one would be able to bring me back at the set time, unless I willed it.

Another current in time runs over this landscape, through the people. 'There is a different rhythm here'. This mantra greets me as I take my first breath of tropic metropolitan air. 'There is a different rhythm here'. This I hear from every quarter, from every mouth. It seems to be a national chorus, introducing me to the difference, without knowing how to describe it. 'It may take time', they tell me. I have already begun to succumb.

We are on the opposite side of the globe, lingering languishing in multiple heats, approximately four degrees north of the equator. Tropic climes. Last night, I saw my first small vertical lizard since leaving Barcelona. 'Reptilium domesticum'. A green like no other green. Moving green. I have decided to interpret the familiar pattern of the animal's movement as an invitation, a reminder that this place was once the opposite end of an empire I had only begun to visit in Spain.

'Magandáng umága'. It looks a fine day: sweltering (as it should be), rhythmic, hazy, entrancing. I may drown in this air. The day arrives intemperate but seductive. I feel already it will come in waves, tides, long stretches of noise and of silence, erasing and perfecting one another. Is it fair to say a place is hypnotized with its own pace? Is it fair to say otherwise?

A cool shower, a shave, a series of juices and unheated foods. These are the new weapons of the day, the new hope for stasis, a method for acclimation. Cool recalcitrant melancholy calm, waning into itself, becoming a strange new joy. With a little concentration, it is possible to sense the day peeling away, harmless as a 'señorita'.

Bananas of all shapes and sizes adorn the breakfast table. Food is discussed over food. What better place to tap the culinary instincts? We are here, settling, sinking, stitched into the country like insignia we know not how to be. It will be nineteen days yet. Strange, that having spent so much time inside the body of an airplane, one should feel the pull of such a tedious experience. Some effort will have to be put forth to energize my tourist's appetite. I will have to find the middle way, exert a certain patient effort to quiet my soul, and so reduce the propensity to perspire.

Inside the church: scents of mango, incense, hyacinth. False, distant, pulsating aromas, works of the imagination. I find myself creating this environment, to keep from being recreated by it. There is a sense of wet soil underfoot, clay, possibility, though the ground is dry. There hovers a subtle despair about our heads.

I have encountered in my life no heat so overwhelming as this, this heat that soaks every pedestrian nape in Bacoor. The 'abanico' would be the only viable outdoor armament against the weathers, or lack thereof. We dream deliciously about sitting in a cubic vortex of freon (a 'first-world' addict's tropic nectar, shame's erasure), and that vortex comes in a lace-curtained indoor reservoir of cold air, artificially generated, engineered for preserving sanity.

One imagines having the ability to colonize a simmering air with ambient demands. The eyes change shape, change function, when such things are going on behind them. Everything has become heat and the absence of heat. The landscape seems to be speaking about itself, describing, defining itself in terms of heat and the absence of heat. The polluted air of the Metropolis encroaches on once provincial dwellings, pressed downward by the heat, coating everything with circumstance.

These few days of the Festival weigh powerfully upon us; they seem to have transcended weeks, weeks that never happened, weeks in which we disappeared again and again beneath curtains of blazing air. Each moment brings a squalid sort of summation of all the previous moments. The body is in constant dialogue with its surroundings, with the elements and the inexplicables of every present tense, every renewal, every inevitable recurrence of prior motifs.

And there is no end to the recurrence of prior motifs. This is the place for nostalgia. My life passes constantly before my eyes. I suddenly remember all the people, the faces, voices, I have known. Place matters. Place descends from above, arises from underneath, emerges from within me. I debate dwelling in a multiple place. I debate the geography of heat.

A labyrinth of human voices, erasure of probability, a hot place in the shade. The resonance of moto-trikes. Thunder with no rain. Breeze with no cooling. You can smell the streets wafting any which way. It is not hard to hear the rustling of leaves as the sizzling of lechón, somewhere in the depths of a hazy afternoon.

ABANICO: Philippine Impressions

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© 2000 Joseph Robertson
Photos © 2001,02 Joseph Robertson

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