MY NECK OF THE WOODS: The City, The Boy, and The Barrio (1). By Warlito N. Vicente, Jr.

A light thud awakens you, all round you cell phones are turned on, voices speaking various languages fill the air – and you know your early weekend is off to a rousing start. You put your coat on, wrap your neck in a wool scarf, slip your hands into your leather gloves, put your bonnet on – and you are warmer than a raw lumpiang shanghai dipped into boiling oil. Yeah, yeah, yeah that was overkill – but I know you get the drift right?
 
As is the custom for weekend trips – you travel light so you don't have to wait for your luggage or worse track your luggage as it heads for a flight to anywhere but where you are. A waft of cold air slips through the heated air and carries with it the cacophony of street sounds while you slip your plastic through the MTA card dispenser. Oh that heaven-sent MTA card will take you through the various parallel universes of Manhattan at the fraction of the cost of a car-rental or worse the deranged drivers from hell known as a New York taxicab driver. Those icons of culture have a hefty rate on the taxi meter, but if there's anyone who can take you through the city's streets in hyperspeed those yellow cabs will do the job just fine. However, I was feeling more adventurous that weekend – so with card in tow – I took the M60 bus from La Guardia to downtown. Duck into the subway entrance, swipe my MTA card, fill my lungs with subway air (cough cough cough).
 
First stop – Chinatown! This part of the city is probably more diverse than the General Assembly of the United Nations. Imagine a Chinese restaurant with Spanish-speaking waiters from Bangladesh or Morocco – I wouldn't be surprised if I'd find an extraterrestrial creature shopping for brand name knock offs – name it, Chinatown's got it.
 
However, I settle for the dimsum – it's the nearest thing I have that reminds me of the restaurants that line up Uyanguren. And during that brief moment steaming hot chicken congee takes me home. Yes mom and dad, you can take the boy out of Mindanao, but Mindanao will always be with the boy. The colorful textiles and trinkets that dotted Canal Street reminded me of the mosaic of art and culture that to me — was home. In a New York minute I was transported to Claveria, Legaspi, San Pedro, Magallanes, and Bankerohan – I was home.
 
And as fast as the speed of thought – I find myself smiling as the waiter hands me the check. Now I was ready for the city. Into the subway I went and lo am off to Rockefeller Square, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and my objective for the evening – Andrea Bocelli's Concert in Madison Square Garden. But that story is for another day.
 
(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews' effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Warlito "Bong" Vicente, a Dabawenyo and a volunteer of Move on Philippines [www.moveonphil.org], is now based in Northeast Florida, USA. Email: [email protected])

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