Traversing the streets of the capital, I started to observe my surroundings. Once again, I was in awe of the old jewel of a city. Across the road was the Manila City Hall, its bell tower visible in the afternoon sun. Cars and jeepneys honked at each other as the traffic built up. The heat and humidity of summer’s end caused me to perspire — nothing unusual, same old news.
Suddenly, a droplet or two fell on my face. In the few seconds that followed, a light shower engulfed the cityscape. The unusual phenomenon was strangely beautiful against the backdrop of the urban scenery, with the sunshine making the droplets dance and sparkle. I stopped on my tracks and admired the strangeness, as people too preoccupied or too busy walked past me.
When I was a child, I was amazed by the “strange things” I encountered. But I was also taught by my parents to be wary of strangers or these things I did not know about. As a teenager, I became anxious of the unknown that I did not understand yet as I underwent the inevitable changes in my life. As a young adult, it was always a concern for me whenever I had to deal with developments and I was annoyed of things that did not go as planned.
Most of us are not the biggest fans of the strange and the unusual, and it is understandable. Anything that disrupts the “normal” is always an unwelcome affair at first. The less information we have about this “change,” the warier we are of it.
We always think that if it’s not the usual, it’s usually not good.
When we are put on a situation we are unfamiliar with, we tend to hesitate. Our brains either go blank and we freeze up, or it goes into overdrive and our flight responses kick in. If you successfully surprise a person on their birthday, for example, their first response is shock — not delight. You put them on a situation where they are not prepared, yet when they realize what you have done for them, a smile is usually the next thing you’ll see.
Later in life, I came into the realization that the strange things in this world are not always bad things. I certainly did not think of these as bad things when I was younger. In fact, these moments — like the moment in the rain — are delightful surprises for me.
Humans are designed to change and to adapt to changes in our environment — whether we created these changes or not. Curiosity is a human trait that we naturally have, and this helps us overcome the fear of the unknown.
Inventors created things that some of us might’ve only imagined or never even thought of. Not all these inventions were well received, but some of these have benefited mankind for generations. Fantasy writers always aspire to give us stories that will have us imagining worlds very different from our own. Some of these stories are stranger than the rest, but all are appreciated in their own time and in their own unique way. Scientists explore the limitations of the mind and the physical world to help develop our lives and enrich our knowledge even further. Some, like Galileo and Einstein, were considered strange even by their own peers, but their greatness lasts lifetimes.
Even the world itself still gives us moments of wonder that leaves us in awe: from the little, everyday things to the most radical of changes.
When I first came to Manila to officially live here, I was anxious and excited at the same time. I had been here several times before, but only to visit my cousins. The life I was leaving behind in the province and the one I was trading it off for in the big city could not be more in contrast from one another. It was strange for a young boy, but it was also exciting.
The ship that came from a far-off land finally docked at the port. As its anchor was weighed down, its passengers started to pour in, and its crew members became busier by the second. The small boy held his mother’s hand firmly as his father and older brother lugged their suitcases and bags down to the docks. To his eyes, everything seemed to be wonderful. The air smelled of sea and oil, its atmosphere was full of energy and endless possibilities. He welcomed the strange city with a big smile and a warm heart.
Nowadays, I always aspire to be that young boy again: wary and curious, but open to change and “the strange.”
So, the next time you’ll find yourself in a strange situation, take a deep breath and stop on your tracks. Acknowledge it, assess it and appreciate it. You might find yourself in a rain shower with the afternoon sunshine sparkling on its droplets: it can be unusual but definitely not old news —
Strange but beautiful.
This is the sixth of eight essays written by PUP journalism students for their Intercultural/Intercommunication subject, revolving around the theme “the feeling of being a stranger.”
TEXT AND PHOTO BY KYLE PASAPORTE, BACHELOR OF ARTS IN JOURNALISM 2-1N
POLYTECHNIC UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES-MANILA