The curve of her neck was a dead giveaway to her past life as a ballet dancer. The way she carried herself was evidence of terpsichorean grace still in abundance. All this would be confirmed when she would pull out a pair of castanets much later on. A few years ago, I might have easily pleaded guilty to a schoolboy crush. But the performing arts were furthest from my mind as I hung on her every word:
"What is the relationship of myth and philosophy...? Eastern mythology, just like its philosophy, tends towards the cyclic, whereas Western mythology, just like its philosophy, is linear, with a cataclysmic end.... Why do you think the Greek philosophers distanced themselves from poetry above any of the other arts?"
At the same time, I was quietly asking myself why I was having this experience in Manila and not in Dumaguete. And why only now instead of three years ago when I still held residence in the Big City?
Before I lead you on any further, I should clarify that this isn't about a sudden torrid love affair into which I've entangled myself here in Manila. It might as well be, though.
This afternoon I found myself in De La Salle University, sitting in a graduate class on Philosophy and Myth conducted by Dr. Leni Garcia -- she of the dancer's grace. That was the scene of the very engaging lecture on the various aspects of myth. Earlier in the day, my friend Lola and I were attending Dr. Marj Evasco's book launch in DLSU. It turned out that Lola and Leni were very good friends, and so we got an impromptu invite to sit in her class. I hadn't intended to spend my afternoon this way, but it was time well spent if only for the engaging discourse.
Sitting in on Dr. Garcia's class was a great way to cap the end of my second week in Manila. The past two weeks have not been lacking in social interaction and intellectual activity. My weekdays are spent in a software engineering course in which I'm reacquainting myself with the mainstream of IT; thus far, my weeknights have been spent playing badminton, dinner and conversation with friends, movies with my sister, gatecrashing a TV party, movie marathons with sci-fi geeks, open source conferences, and several detours to bookstores and toy shops.
In short, I've been very happy. And that's why I feel a little guilty. This is my dalliance with temptation.
During my first few days back in Manila, I was thinking of writing about the many inconveniences of the city: squeezing in the jam-packed morning rush MRT, the endless assault of sound and smell on the highway, and the rushing and unfriendly faces of workaday Manilans. I wanted to compare it with the relative peace and quiet and unhurried pace of Dumaguete. No, I don't want to stay in Manila, I said to myself...last week.
To my horror, I've learned to adapt to those little nettles. They don't bother me as much, no, especially not when I find that life is suddenly abloom.
It's not that I have been lacking for things to do in Dumaguete. There are, after all, the biking jaunts to Valencia or the morning jog along the boulevard. There's the pharmacy and the apartments to take care of. There's the occasional community building activity with Jong and the DTI gang, or the invite to a performance at the Luce.
But somehow, my life in Dumaguete seems to pale so much in comparison with what Manila seems to offer now.
It's the range of activities available to me here, whether it's sneaking into class or attending moviethons or book launches or get-togethers over dinner.
It's the bookstores and toy shops with their wide range of selections that I can walk into at any time for hours of endless browsing.
It's the restaurants which, though somewhat pricey, assure me that I won't run out of variety before the middle of the week.
Above all, it's the various friends that I have here, friends with whom I share common interests and tastes in literature and movies and games. Sadly, friends like these are sorely lacking in Dumaguete. Dumaguete folk seem to be narrower, more limited, and -- gasp! -- much more crass and materialistic.
The three hours in Dr. Garcia's philosophy class went by quickly. Lola and I spent another hour chatting away about the mundane and the angelic. And then she was off to her flamenco class.
"If you're free next Saturday, you can sit in again," she offered to Lola. "You, too, Dom."
I am sorely, sorely tempted to come back.