The Smell of ArumaFebruary 11, 2008
Having nothing else to do, I was dragged along with high school schoolmates to Aruma. It was a different world, yet it was something I was not unfamiliar with.
Immaculate white covered everything that was not metal or glass. Bossa nova music streamed across the room. The smell of coffee wafted to our noses, and a few customers lazed about sipping from crystal glasses. It was a coffee shop in a city that seemed like it couldn’t yet afford a coffee shop of Starbucks proportions.
“I’d have the Macadamia froth,” a high school classmate who’s now a Math professor said.
“I’d have the Caramel frapuccino,” said a high school schoolmate who’s also my schoolmate in college, and who’s back in our city to finish her studies.
“I’d have the Caramel frapuccino,” I said.
The price was humongous for our city’s standards. In a place where a filling meal can be bought for P25, P120 for coffee is way overboard. Then there was this strange effect that posh places usually bestow: English came out freely in our conversations.* We were still speaking in Cebuano, yet something in the poshness of the place pulled out quite a lot of English words from our stock vocabulary.
“Do you have WIFI here?” my college schoolmate asked to the barrista.
“Yes,” she answered.
Our conversation then shifted to Starbucks’ WIFI offering and the coffee shops in Manila. We weren’t habitual coffee drinkers. In fact, I don’t even think anyone of us drank coffee except in coffee shops. For my part, I wouldn’t even go to a coffee shop unless if I have org meetings there. Coffee there, while delicious, is also very expensive; which is something our provincial minds must continually come to terms with.
Then we talked about posh places and the uber rich people we’ve met in Manila. People who don’t think it’s a big deal to order 3 cups of large Starbucks coffee and treat others with Doritos chips. People who go to restaurants which serve drinking water pitchers with uprooted plants submerged inside. People who are driven around by chauffeurs just so they can buy drive through meals.
Soon our conversation dwelt on malls, particularly the ones we haven’t visited yet. Trinoma is still a foreign place to us college schoolmates, while the Mall of Asia is commonplace to the Math professor and my college schoolmate.
“I love this place,” my college schoolmate said. “This reminds me of Manila.”
I almost coughed up my coffee as she said those words. The place did remind me of Manila, yet it was not the part of Manila that I will always treasure. I do not miss the glitz of Manila. Its glitz is forgettable at the least.
What I miss about Manila is the people I’ve been there with. Those friends who were with me as we saw its glitz. Those friends also who were there with me in the not so glitzy places there. Those friends whom I came to know in Manila are the ones who remind me of Manila.
* I usually make it a point to speak in Cebuano in my city, even though I am fluent in Filipino and English. I believe that people should speak my language when they are in my city. I do speak English or Filipino to those who really can’t understand Cebuano, but there were times when I got dumbfounded looks when I answered Cebuano to Tagalog speakers.