My Christmas gift to myself was a family trip to my hometown, Cebu City. A lot has changed. It felt like staring at a familiar friend’s new nose lift.
The city now has a subway. Although the sandwich of the same name seems longer in comparison, the tunnel did give the momentary feel of getting plopped into a high speed car chase movie sequence.
Then there’s the bigger, better Ayala mall and The Terraces. Standing at the center of Ayala Park with four floors of restaurants on one side and two more floors of eating establishments on the other can push your salivary glands into overdrive. Depending on your financial capacity, the experience might be akin to dying and preparing to enter the gates of food heaven or getting stuck in the lowest pit of hell, staring up at happiness you can never have.
Other structures have sprouted too around the city as if Jack made a career out of planting magical beans for infrastructure. Years ago when I left, the IT Park only had NEC and East West. Now it’s packed with towering steel and granite.
Of course, depending on your perspective, Jack doesn’t seem to always have a knack for recognizing perfect seeds. There’s the Crown Regency which my brother says looks like a façade for a giant videoke bar at night. One of its main claims to fame is its roof deck which holds the Sky Experience Adventure where they ask you for P550 to scare the heebie jeebies out of you.
With all the growth everywhere, there’s a flipside to everything. For three nights, my mother, without fail told us bedtime stories of how you could lose your life, limb and mobile phone in the city. Walking the streets solo is no longer recommended even in broad daylight because armed thugs, descended from those Twilight vampires no doubt, have developed some immunity for sunlight. Incidentally, my husband’s phone was stolen at twilight on our way to church.
Homes offer no guarantee of protection if you live in open, unguarded villages like my mom. My brother says our once peaceful village is now the shopping mall of thieves who have lost their manners and plunder even at noon.
You could also lose more than worldly possessions. My old Catholic school now surrounded by blinking neon lights and bars looks like an old, faded memory of quieter times buried deep in the subconscious.
As if to punctuate the whole mixed experience, my husband asked The Book of Answers at Fully Booked, “What should I do with my life?”
It answered, “No.”
When I make sense of that answer, I’ll make sense of what it felt like to come home to Cebu.