Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Dun sa Divisoria

Its always a busy day at Manila. The hustle and bustle of the city, the struggle and haggle with life, the sweat and soot all around. Glory may have faded, but old habits persist. There are still lives to live, wares to sell, polluted air to breathe and places to go. Such a place exists in the Philippines. Such still is very much part of the Filipino Culture.

Such a place is Divisoria.

Divisoria is a destination for the thrifty Juan with a meager income. Since almost everyone I know says their income is meager, everyone I know wants to go there. It is the center of wholesale, retail and the best sales. But to be there, one must let go of convenience and be one of the crowd. One must be part of the massive circle where everyone walks at Divisoria. Being one of the crowd, one is left without a choice but to blend in. Stand out too much, you get mugged or your wallet and cellphone stolen. One way or another, your money will still be taken from you. Its either the stores or the bad guys will.

The beauty of the system is not on its architecture, nor in its hospitality. It is the convergence of extremes, from all walks of life, all looking for a bargain. From the rich to the very poor, from the ones owning mansions to the pauper sleeping in newspapers, all has a place in Divisoria. But all walk the same roads, step in the same walkway, and haggle in the same manner. All, in a sense, is the same, all is at the mercy of the environment, the heat and the sellers. Especially the sellers.

It is indeed a huge marketplace seemingly disorganized and cluttered, and smells of scum, human scum. It is a a collection of confusion, a system born out of infidelity to order and discipline. There exists different rules. There exists different governance. There exists a power stronger than the municipality.

To be in Divisoria is to be in that system, to be part of what goes on, the heat, the muck, the septic smell and the great bargains. To feel good about Divisoria, one has to be smart and quick. If you are an outsider, the longer you stay, the more it grows on you. You become part of the place. You turn yourself into like the place.