June 27, 2011
The rain FINALLY stopped and we had a few great days of SUNSHINE! I love it! We decided to take our neighbor, Bryan, a new intern that served his mission here, with us to explore more of the city around us. He is blonde, thin, and has blue eyes so people at church thought we were brothers. So you can imagine that if we were stared at with just Lady Hiva and I, what it was like to have TWO white guys walking around the streets.
At one point we had turned off the main street and ended up walking down a residential street. Tall cement walls enclosed the walkway, the only break was a few windows and the door to enter the house. Random graffiti and laundry hanging to dry displayed the only colors. The grey walls are a bit intimidating with bars on the windows it feels a bit like walking in a prison. On first glance, you would think that it was dirty--grey walls, back alley, bars, graffiti...yet as we walked through, we saw that there was no trash to be seen, every inch of the place was meticulously swept and laundry was hung in beautiful patterns over our heads. Then it is the people that gives theses walls life. Their happy countenances and diverse faces brighten as we walked by. Children of course could not let some 'Americans' walk by without asking for money, to which we would reply that we did not have any--truly we didn't. Although they most likely thought we were lying because we had two LARGE black cameras hanging around our necks.
The street continued on for half a mile and eventually narrowed into what looked like a dead end. As we walked Bryan was in the lead and Hiva between he and I. He would say hello to the groups of people that we passed, I knew that it was in Tagalog because they would all look at him at chatter in shock as he passed. I would go by and too greet them in Tagalog then they were REALLY in shock. Not just one, but TWO tall Americans can speak our language! Then they look at Lady Hiva and wonder who the Filipina is with them. It did not take long before everyone in the street was coming out to see the white men coming down the street and they all greeted us with smiles and hellos.
Several of them want a photo, at one point an older lady asked for money as we passed, again we told her we did not have any, then as she saw the camera, she pointed to a girl about 18 or 19 years old, I assume is her daughter, in a wheelchair and said, "Picture please?" I went back and told them that I would only take a photo if I could be in it, much to their delight. Hiva snapped a photo and we could tell that this girl in the wheelchair with such a happy demeanor meant the world to those on the street because they all stopped to watch the photo op. One guy joked after, "yes, you need to take picture...she is endangered." The whole group laughed!
It began to get dark and that is when all the "malls" close so there are vendors in the street. We walked down Taft street after the sun went down. It was like a never ending swap meet. Lady Hiva kept saying, I cannot wait to come back! We saw shoes and more shoes, clothing of all kinds, movies (pirated of course I saw one that said it was Pirates of the Caribbean 4, do they even have that yet? Now that is ahead of the game), and foods of all kinds--fried chicken heads, eyeballs and skin included, coagulated blood kabobs, and other meaty things that I did not dare ask about but took a photo of! The vendors were all over the sidewalks and in the streets, actually really smart selling because when the lone car ventured down the street we all had to step into the booths to not get ran over. At one point Hiva said to me, "I want to get a smaller bag to carry at times like this so I don't have to wear my large purse." Within seconds this older lady was at her side, I am still not sure where she came from or how she heard Hiva say that, maybe it was just a coincidence, but she turned and had hundreds of paper bags hanging of her arms she raised them toward Hiva and said in her best English, "Hi Bags!" mixing two long sentences into one: 'Hello, do you want some bags?' Hiva laughed because it sounded more like she was just called "Bags."
At the end of the road there was a HUGE cathedral, made of cement of course, and we wandered inside. Hundreds of people were outside waiting for the next mass to start. I thought there were plenty of people out there, but inside had triple the amount. I would have taken a photo if it did not feel like I was intruding on their spirituality, and even then there were so many people I still would have done it, but Hiva had the camera and refused to give it to me knowing what I was going to do. This place was as long as a softball field and people filled the seats packed and lined the aisles. It was amazing. Outside the cathedral there were dancers and drummers, I guess to entertain people as they waited. It was fun, I could have stayed there all night just people watching.
Taft is a place that you will see for sure when you come visit.