So it’s Maundy Thursday, the capital is empty, and I can switch across three lanes on C5 without risking a massive heart attack (entirely possible despite the fact that I suffer from hypotension due to the utter imbecility of the jeepney/taxi/truck/lorry/cement mixer drivers normally infesting the highway). Most of the parking lots in my condominium block are vacant, and the domestic help—freed from the Orwellian gaze of underpaying employers—are flirting with the security guards in a most unholy defiance of the restraint appropriate to Holy Week.
It is, hands down, my most favorite time of the year to be in Manila.
Depopulated and deserted, the capital assumes the slightly more attractive mien of a developed country that hasn’t quite outgrown the ’80s. Bereft of the impoverishing effect created by the sights and sounds of crowds, hordes and mobs, it’s almost possible to believe that the city is actually a pretty decent place in which to live.
And it’s only like this for a handful of days a year.
Which is why I don’t particularly understand why people would want to get away at precisely this time. But then again, I’m not complaining, because it’s people’s insistence on this annual diaspora that actually permits me to believe, at least for the space of four days, that the entire metropolis is my personal playground, that EDSA can sport tumbleweed, that malls can be navigated without ricocheting between human bodies, and that buses aren’t permanent sidewalk fixtures. There’s actually space—lots of it, in fact—and it makes a profound difference.
And this is why I will resist all invitations to leave the capital during the breathless pause that passes for Holy Week in this country. Because when all is said and done, the quiet hush of a city temporarily abandoned provides a much better opportunity for an encounter with the holy.