New People in an Old City

Dear Manila,

I meant to visit sooner or maybe that's not entirely true. I'm a little scared of you these days but I'm glad I caught you on a Sunday when the roads are open the way my grandmother's arms are always welcoming. Oh how I have missed her, and our old house in New Manila, my old room still smelling of college textbooks and dreams of living near the ocean one day. 

I hope this letter, half-written while dodging people in Robinson's Magnolia and finished while riding the third cab of the day, can make up for almost three years of absence. How are you? I counted 22 cctv's on the way here and it sure feels like someone's always watching you, but no one's really watching over you. I yearn for quieter corners. I've forgotten how to cross all these streets. I'm scared of getting lost in your city but this feeling has always been familiar. Perhaps I know it a little too well. 

Looking back, I was always lost in your city. Living here was like being the right piece to the wrong puzzle, and I never knew the words for that feeling until now. 

But let me tell you this: I've grown so forgetful of names but I remember all the people I've met here, in Manila. All the people who matter the most to me are from here, or were from here once, because you bring together the best of people like that. Sometimes, also the worst, but we need those people to highlight the good. 

Manila, everything I know about being brave, I learned from you. So I learned how to leave you, and I will always love you for that. 

Yours once, somehow still,

Photos by Henrick Crisostomo