When I Wake Up Before September Ends (In Memory of Manila’s ‘Sky Room’)

I opened my eyes and saw myself lying in the middle of ruins beneath the angry sun. That was one Saturday morning in the month of July. I woke up with hundreds of workers holding concrete hammers and drills in their hands. They were instructed by a gray-haired statesman to end my era to make way for development. I am no good for this society, they said. They kept on yelling each other to break my legs, hit my face and cut my throat immediately. I was speechless, helpless and felt worthless. They were butchering me. They were harassing me. The city I love is killing me.

I closed my eyes again and saw a familiar scene happened fifty five years ago, I was six years old when the city’s most devastated destruction almost killed me. I survived the war, revived my splendor and continued what I have to do for a living. I never knew my worth back then. I didn’t care about it for as long as my patrons needed me and they’re happy with me. I was every gambler’s precious prostitute and I was enjoying that kind of attention they gave to me. I didn’t mind about how they see me until the time when those who benefited from me were all gone. They all left me. Suddenly, I realized that I am a victim of my own fate. I endured thousands of bullets from foreign mortar just to be raped by my beloved locals. I was extremely abused, but I have no right to complain because this is my destiny. The city I love is persecuting me.

I opened my eyes once more fourteen years later, a day before September ends. For the longest time, I realized my own value when the guardians of our country already recognized my worth and beauty. But unfortunately, it’s too late. I no longer exist. However, my death brought immense faith to my enchanting old colleagues, hoping that they will be salvaged from politicians and capitalists whose interpretation of progress is obliterating the monuments of our magnificent past. They’re hanging on that piece of optimism very tight, waiting for their right moment and be recovered from a near-death state. They try not to give up. They try not to be like me. I thought it will not happen again. Sadly, their hopes ended in tragedy and their existence ended in misery. The city I love is murdering those aged treasures in a way they slaughtered me.

I closed my eyes in perpetuity. I don’t want to see my city changes its identity by destroying living testaments of her former glory. I hate to witness my city while losing her memory. One by one, day after day, they attempt to eradicate the city’s history akin to Nero when he burned Rome. They never listen to our sufferings, so might as well sleep and pretend to hear no cranes, no bulldozers and no tractors destroying those remaining historic edifices. The city of today is no longer the city that I used to love and the city that used to love me.

The Manila Jai Alai Building (1939) before its demolition in 2000.

The Manila Jai Alai Building (1939) before its demolition in 2000.