LOLA GOT’S LUTONG BAHAY IN AMERICA: Time in New York City

The month of April spent in NYC has been fruitful, in so many ways. Living with our Aunt in her 19th floor apartment, in the heart of Manhattan has called in so many memories of our other, younger life’s experience living in an apartment in Quezon City, after Father passed away. Where we learned how to survive, and be a part of what the real world was really all about. In some sense, we gather, because we cannot assume our reality is the same as others’.

For example, every night, when we turn our lights off, put away our tech thingies to wind down to catch those zzzz-s, we notice the shadows cast on the wall and ceiling of the room, against the light of the streets illuminating traffic and lampposts below, the same dark lines (carved and stark and skewed) that we recalled seeing in the little cubicle we occupied in the apartment in Quezon City. We are, for that brief moment, seemingly transported back to the heat of the night we were trying catch the same zzzz-s – only this time, the heat, we realize (as we come back from that zipline of time) is from the heater below the open window. We try to recall, too, what we were thinking then, looking up at the long shadows. But, our memory can only be sure of what our situation was, at the time.

Or, like the city noises that do not seem to be as bothersome as we thought they’d be. The constant whoosh of traffic, the bus hissing when it stops, the intermittent sirens of fire engines or ambulances passing through a street a block away, honking cars, even people talking (yes, all the way up to the 19th floor). The sounds all bouncing back and forth against the other buildings, some taller than the one we are in. Funneling an auditory cacophony of sensations, competing with the bird calls that still insist on being heard amidst the constant hum of this brick and mortar jungle.

As we near the end of our stay in the this city, we cannot help the feeling that we have to make sure we come back. That there are still things undone. Things yet to be seen, and experienced. There is that need to make it so that we will have a reason to come back.

The show’s over. We realize that, even if the gallery is wanting to extend the run. We have brought ourselves to this point of no turning back. Our canvasses in the future, if they have the privilege of being put out again, will inevitably be always with some stroke or two of our time in the big city. We know because we are no longer the same as when we first came.

We know too, that our art must move forward (“padayon lang, Igsoon,” as Ben says), but leaving the month behind is also a little sad. We never imagined the thirty days was going to replace years of morning habits and meal routines, or physical activity. But, as we settle back into our usual patterns of life in our world in Nevada, there are times when we wish we were back in that apartment in Manhattan.

We also realize, with some shock, that we had not been keeping up with the political scene in any way while we were in that NYC art bubble. We escaped the constant panic of the US president’s tweet storms, and even the Philippines’ news-worthy leader, President Rodrigo Duterte.

Before the month is over, we find our island (Mindanao) is under martial law for sixty days. Trump is in the thick of his travels, and we are busy packing the five years’ worth of stuff we accumulated in the only real home we had in America.

Change is not something we like, especially at sixty-one. It has become less an adventure of the unknown, than a simple acknowledgement of a pragmatic nature, in that, we must make our move soon lest we find ourselves homeless!

Our search for another place to set down the next chapter of our lives has not been easy. There has not been responses so far, from the various inquiries we have been sending out, except for one who preferred to communicate through text. And, we wonder if this is the new kind of professionalism in the new generation. Texting our inquiries and responding in the same way. Our thumbs and fingers, not as fast as theirs, seem to also give them the advantage of knowing we belong to another age.

We can only pray that while one chapter draws to an end, another one opens well enough for us to move to a beat we want to dance in.

(PS: If you live around New York, or, better yet, Brooklyn, an exhibit, LIFE ON EARTH, is ongoing till June 11 at the Williamsburg Art and Historical Center, corner of Broadway and Bedford. One of our paintings is there too. This is curated by Cornelia Jensen.)

(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Margot Marfori is an author and visual artist from Davao City. She is currently based in Henderson, Nevada.)

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