Pugad Soho

Pugad Soho, one of the nests from where I do my musings. Here, in the midst of the the madding crowd, in the heart of this Motherland.

Why here? My friend said, "You're fluggin' crazy. You'll get tired of it." Why not at the Fort? Blueprinted to become the next megapolis, already a sprawling development of condos and signature places of commerce for the burgis, with its essential coffee houses and fine-dining and western-styled dawdling spaces, new ones sprouting up as quick as you can blink your consumer eyes.

At one end, this enclave of Promise Land abuts the proletarian traffic of Taguig that beehives into Market Market, a mall that's filled up with mostly the C and D crowd and a sprinkling of Bs, so alive with the decibels of unpretentious glee, brimming with the bustle-and-hustle of the masa. A few curious souls may venture across to this un-gated burgis-land of the Ayala strip of neon-lit commerce and western-styled world class lingering places, where a small snack and drink could take in a good part of their day's wage. But no-worry, they'd much prefer the air-conditioned sanctuary of MarketMarket, among their kindred class.

So I chose Pugad Soho. Maybe, the Fort is too sterile, too benign. And don't get me wrong. This isn't a slouch of a place, no clapboard and yero. Burgisin rin. High up on 28 fluggin' square meters of confining space with a great picture window that looks out into a skyline of Fort Bonifacio mushrooming on the left and Makati skyscraping on the right, while I tipple on a glass of a '97 Cabernet, Merlot or 20-year old Tawny Port.

It's right smack on Makati's red light district. Denizens with Draculan sleeping habits. Where the nights bristle with life and pulse with neon, and sellers of sin and purveyors of pleasure spill into the sidewalks. It is difficult to take twenty steps without being accosted with an offer of some carnal nature: a "massage," a "trick", a great price on a box of "genuine" Made-in-China Viagra or Cialis to pharmaceutically fuel the night, or at the least, XXX or pirate DVDs. Women of the night, ambling to-and-fro, skimpily clad, confidently strutting, seeking out men with rabid needs. While the men sit in sidewalk cafes, lingering on their beers, the froths long gone, ogling at the women endlessly parading the sidewalk ramps— the young men anxiously designing their sexual fantasies, the aging men patiently carving out visions for their last testosterone tangoes with a Lolita or two. . . or three. Who is prey? Who is predator?

A scream slices into the thick of night. For a few seconds, I am paralyzed with indecision. Sometimes, a slamming force causes the wall to shudder. Should I call 'security?' . . . Often, a laugh, a giggle, follows an uncertain stretch of silence. . . .And I have learned to be deaf to the screams.

Met this California guy on the elevator. He's seriously thinking of buying a place here. Yeah, I said: The babes, right? OH, THAT? NAAAHH, MAN. THAT GETS OLD FAST. But all the nights I catch a glimpse of him, he always has a babe or two in tow. Guess it takes some time for some things to get old.
At three in the morning, the women weary from their night of commerce, return home. A few still throw their last desperate sale or deal:
Sir! 300 na lang, pang pasahe lang

So here I found a nesting box, to rest weary wings, to write the stories gathered from fluttering the wastelands of the unending countrysides of the severely marginalized rural poor to the pockets of urban ghettoes with its veneers of painted concrete walls hiding the sorry sights of squatters and slums that form collars of concentrated clapboard houses around the walled sanctuaries of burgisland.

I watched, listened and marveled. At the incredible culture of dishonesty. At the malignant and metastasized corruption. At the stories of day-to-day survival of the "happiest people on earth." At the incredible apathy that turns the other cheek, and then the other, again and again. At the recurrent stories of hopelessness and helplessness that seems to have pounded the collective psyche into submission and resignation. And in the background, the recurrent chorus blaming the hundreds of years of colonization for whatever societal maladies that afflict us.

But then, there are the other stories that tell a different tale. Angst and anger disseminated into countless blog spaces and email boxes of cyberspace. A desperate search for hope. A desperate hope for change. Letters, stories and blogs that ask:
When, the change? Where, the heroes?

So here from Pugad Soho, these stories from the sidewalks, the promdi, the last dreamers, the hero-searchers, the could-be heroes. Mga kuwento at istorya na balot sa kabalastugan o buntong-hininga.

Friends and kin tell me I am a fool, a dreamer. Fuckin' artist kasi. Silly romantic. Perhaps, all that. A hopeless fool, part-time artist and silly romantic, hopeless dreamer, part-time curmudgeon. What else. . .

And better to do that from here, than from the Fort. And my friend who used to shake his head because I chose a place at the heart of this red light area? Sometimes we'd hang around the condo sidewalk or walk the blocks, watch the pulsating commerce of the pimps and the streetwalkers, the pushcart cuisine, the fruitmongers, the transvestites and blatantly gay, the palm-vendors with their rolex watches or Made-In-India viagra, cialis and levitra, predators profiling prey, ready to offer you paradise, and a dream or fantasy of choice.

One thing I am sure of. . . Wala nito sa Fort, these stories from the fringe.

Lady Boy


Godofredo Umali Stuart

Godofredo Umali Stuart
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The Edsa Shrine
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Intrepid Traveler
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The Return of the Naytib
a work in progress