Turning a bad thing into a good thing was a classic Mao Zedong guidepost for surmounting difficulties that became an applied principle in Shanghai in the evening of the third day of our visit. That was the day scheduled for our meeting with executives of the Liwayway Corporation, Limited. After a briefing on the company’s multi-faceted operations in the Philippines, China, Southeast Asia and Africa, Larry Chan, the company’s soft-spoken, amiable and youthful-looking top man in Shanghai, and his group, who included a number of Tagalog-speaking officials, treated us to a sumptuous lunch, again in the elegant lauriat tradition, which could have, in me specifically, contributed intake one too much of cholesterol that accounted for a bout with hypertension.
During our tour of the Old Town that immediately followed, Virgilio “Boy” Galvez, formerly of the Philippine Information Agency, and I chose to separate from the group who had their snacks at Starbucks (why Starbucks when we have it in the Philippines?). Boy and I preferred the Korean dessert parlor on the other side of the street. The place boasted a concoction that looked similar to our native halo-halo. Boy and I ordered one each of the stuff. Turned out, it was served in a bowl whose large size was belied by the illustration on the menu: too big, too much for comfort. Since I have the habit of finishing anything I order in a restaurant, I tried my damn best to gobble up the halo-halo of ice cream and cheese with toppings of cherry and same-size fruits and nuts.
That must have done me in, for on the way to the hotel aboard our bus, I was experiencing a dizziness that I knew was symptom of high blood and vertigo: the scenery along the highway was like a stream of blurred paintings in my eyes. I kept my health condition to myself, not wanting, contrary to someone’s allegation, to worry anyone in the group. I kept fidgeting in bed as I tried to get sleep in the evening. I had not taken any of my maintenance medicines since arriving in Shanghai, for the simple reason that I forgot to bring them. And I would rue the day I get another stroke. I had one in 2013 but survived; according to statistics, the second stroke is always fatal. It was around nine o’clock when I bothered Ming, asking him to help me around town to look for a drugstore where to buy my medicines. He promptly attended to me.
That was the bad thing that turned into a good thing.
In searching for a drugstore, Ming and I walked the street where Park Hotel is, a designated walking street where no vehicles are allowed to pass. On this street at night, folks do their things: women dancing the Chinese version of the zumba; a Chinese guy with a professional-sounding singing voice crooning while a lady, garbed in old Chinese costume, interpreting the song in the manner of a ballerina’s adagio; a rock band belting out a bouncy tune to which a number of young promenaders shuffled and shook; youth in a variety of nighttime capers reminiscent of those done by similar teenagers on Roxas Boulevard when evening fell.
That walking street seemed to be a melting pot of all sorts of people giving release to a high level of freedom of pleasure and clean fun. Somebody once wrote that the moon doesn’t shine in America because America itself is heaven. Let her walk that street in Shanghai and say that again. Shanghai at night is one where you would not find any need to see the moon at all.
We had a graphic illustration of this hyperbole the night before. After dinner at the revolving restaurant midway in the People’s Television Tower, we were treated to a cruise of Huangpu River, which divides Shanghai into the east and the west. In the cruise, in which we were joined by scores of sightseeing tourists of all race and color, we were dazzled by the multi-colored lights shining from the structures all around, including the Shanghai Tower, a high-race structure done in an intriguing design (I liken it to a rolled coupon bond paper, with the seams rising in a semi-spiral to the tip) which rises to more than 600 meters, the second tallest in the world. With all those high-rise structures lighted, providing what struck me as a fairy-tale setting, the cruise was one many-splendored spectacle. The last time I saw the likes of it was in 2000, when I brought the family to the Fort
in Taguig City to witness the fireworks display that greeted the advent of the new millennium.
That was how scintillating Shanghai was during the cruise.
By comparison, the revelry on Walking Street was less spectacular than the lights of the Huangpu River cruise. But what made the former shine was its wealth in humanity. Here were ordinary folks giving vent to a wide variety of freedom in music, dance, fun and pleasure.
I didn’t take much time enjoying the moment though. After finding a 24/7 drugstore in which I finally bought all but one of the medicines I needed, I had to rush back to the hotel, take the medicines and rest. I knew my blood pressure was a bit too high for comfort.
Those had been three busy days, and all of us must have been, one way or another, in search of something to treasure from Shanghai and bring home as a most treasured memento of that visit. In those past three days, the group had always been together, engaged in activities scheduled in our itinerary. Out my desperation for a medicine to ease my discomfort, only two of us from that group were in the effort to find a cure. Ming, being a Chinese and no longer a stranger in the city, surely must have witnessed the nightly happenings on Walking Street a number of times. Except for him, therefore, I alone had the luck among our group to go through the revelry on Shanghai Walking Street.
So, for all that infirmity, I took comfort in the fact that I found the cure for it in people reveling in pure camaraderie, in simple pursuit of joy and happiness.