I remember all the slumbooks I used to answer when I was in elementary – they all asked for your most embarrassing moment. I believe another category should be added – your bravest moment. But this would be I know quite vague – so many moment call for bravery and one can get lost and confused as to which tale or event would be the bravest.
But I must say that I found myself very, very brave when I went to Binondo – the Philippines’ Chinatown, last Saturday. I went there alone and without any idea where I was going. Oh I had a general picture of what Binondo was like based on internet sites and the instructions of friends. I knew I had to go to Ongpin St. to find the things I needed. But I had no actual experience of what the place would be like.
My planner entry for that day was Binondo adventure. It was an adventure because I was going there exploring. And explore was what I did.
From LRT2 Recto Station I began walking to the general direction I knew would take me to the streets of Binondo. I did not bother riding any jeepneys or other public transport because I had been informed that I place I’d like to go to was near. So I just walked my way around – a walk that had to be masked. I had to pretend I knew where I was going (which was true) and I knew how to get there (which was only half true). I had to project an aura of confidence and urgency – to deflect any malicious individuals.
Oh I was not exempt from maliciousness. Every once in a while I would pass some guy who would have some snide comment about me. But I paid no heed to them and continued on walking amidst the light drizzle. I finally saw the street I was supposed to turn left to and I turned – only to get lost. I wasn’t really lost I reasoned to myself – I knew the general direction – where south and north was, where the Recto station which I cam from was. I had a general idea of my location. But I cannot find Ongpin St. and I keep turning up in streets which I knew where not where I was suppose to go.
But still bravely, I walked on. Never daring to stop for directions or show any signs of being lost. I just walked and followed my instincts. And lo and behold I found myself in Ongpin St. and a few more blocks I found myself right at the smack of Binondo – in front of the famous Binondo Church.
I walked towards the church – a haven where I could sit down and collect my thoughts. Along the way I had passed several shops which supposedly contained what I needed but unfortunately didn’t. I used to sanctuary of the church to collect my thoughts, calm my emotions, and let my adrenalin levels stabilize.
After some time, off I went again for further exploring. I pursued street corners, walking the whole length of Ongpin in pursuit of what I needed. I even tried entering side streets and I even managed to get lost in them – ending up in the same streets I had already passed and thought of as way behind me. Eventually I found myself going in circles around the many streets – they were after all interconnected. But this has served to give me a more concrete idea of where I was.
Eventually I found myself back at CM Recto St. – along the sidewalks that would lead me to the Recto Station. I recognized this as the end of my adventure – a signal that I had already combed the streets and seen as much as I could. And though I had wanted to go back and make sure, I felt a resignation that for now my adventure is over. Adrenalin could only flow in your body for a limited time. I had to stop at two quiet shops – a cozy bakery and a busy mami house just to collect my thoughts and get some quiet atmosphere.
I relented to my body and mind’s whim. I was not infinitely brave. If I tried a second time that day to enter the crisscross of streets in Binondo I knew my courage would falter me. So I mustered up the last bits of courage I had as I made my way to the Recto Station. I had to walk a couple of blocks still – blocks filled with both kind and malicious people. I know I still drew stares and snide remarks – all of which I noticed but ignored. I guess the sight of a strange lovely young lady walking the streets of Recto and Binondo was an unfamiliar one. I guess they expect me to at least be with someone.
But I managed alone – and I must admit quite excellently. I didn’t exactly found what I was looking for – maybe I was supposed to look for it in Quiapo. But I did have quite an adventure, a good grip of Binondo, and a tale to tell.