Early this evening, I learned that the 4:30 lecture would be held at the Escaler Hall, not at the Social Science AVR. So I waited there for a while, eyeing the people around me. A middle-aged man looked a bit more out of place than I did. It would turn out that the gentleman was from the University of the East and we were both aliens in the Ateneo under the same misconception. We were a case of the blind leading the blind. We still got to the Hall in time, thanks to the helpful guards who corrected our bearings.
The public lecture was entitled Rethinking Southeast Asian Cities: The Peculiar Case of Manila. It was delivered by Dr. Trevor Hogan, a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology and Anthropology Program, School of Social Sciences, La Trobe University, Australia. Along with numerous occupations abroad, he remains a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Melbourne in Australia and in our own Far Eastern University and Ateneo de Manila University.
He looked disturbingly familiar. I couldn't place it at first until I got a glance from a different angle and ascertained that he looked much like Dennis Quaid, albeit a younger and lankier version. He wore a plain Barong Tagalog and carried himself with ease. He breezed through the open forum with affability and wit.
The lecture was one of the better ways of telling the native about her locale, the spatial extension of the selves in her community. It was a very courteous speech and we all appreciated the trimmings. It was difficult to deliver such a topic without at least raising an eyebrow from the post-modern learned. With or without the courtesy, it was still an Other in the peculiar position of telling somebody about her Self.
However, I will tell you what he told me about me in another discussion. I will tell you about me first, i.e. how I spent the rest of the night.
I shook hands with my gentleman seatmate before and we said our goodbyes. I met my proper companion at around 6:30 and we talked about the lecture. She highlighted some differences between the UP and Ateneo audience which I would rather not write here. You fill in the blanks if you can. I don't think I am qualified to judge the Ateneo listeners at the strength of one lecture, especially one in which I paid more attention to the lecture than to the lectured. So I tried to shelve the side-topic and focus on the matter we met for. We had a Japanese dinner nearby and crafted plans for a larger meeting.
After dinner, I told her about my plans for the night. She was gracious enough to drop me off at my next stop, the booklaunch at nearby Balay Kalinaw. She asked me to buy her a copy before waving off.
Mr. Pete Lacaba was in the middle of lumpia when I asked for his signature. He asked me where I came from and I was at a temporary loss. Cainta? Pasig? Pateros? Rizal? Makati? Or how about Katipunan? For some reason, I opted for Pateros and it so happened that he was raised there. So we launched into that kind of small talk that he must have engaged a hundred times before and I gave him enough small stuff to forget. I promised myself that I will tell him the exact same things when I attend another booklaunching of his, probably for another version of Days of Disquiet, Nights of Rage. Just for fun.
As I said, he was already deep in food when I came in and I couldn't draw a profile of him as I did of Trevor Hogan. Aside from the time constraints, I was eager to return and catch up with more familiar faces. Alex of Tinig stood tall in one corner with Mechajol, that loud and raging inductee of The Machine. To the left, Jessel of the muti-colored dream headgear was with Gwen, the night's surprise. Farther to the left, Astrid of the classic black shirt was sitting with Pepper. Arlyn was lounging somewhere outside. I know because I saw her earlier while I was on the phone with Monica.
Some of us left early and the rest repaired to Likha-Diwa sa Gulod for our respective cups. It was a nice round of news, updates, puns, and laughs. Mystics and poets warn against trying to trap the nice and happy moment, that bird on the wing that suddenly alights and sits singing on your shoulder one second and leaves without ritual or formality the next.
I am no literary sophisticate to definitely tell if they also meant that a piece like this is such a cage. Intention-wise though, I do not seek to detain any winged moment. Yet I must write to mark things I ought to do and ought to remember.
I also must write to say that I will look forward to more such nights, plentiful in insight, abundant in laughter, and shared with good company.