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This November 2007 photo shows the sun shining brightly in the sky. (Caleb Knott/CC BY-ND 2.0)

Mixed emotions on summer

PEREGRINE NOTES“Not a season for me, summer in Manila and almost everywhere in the Philippines—with its relentless heat—has turned into a reason to whine instead,” I would say unguarded among friends here in Vancouver.  While no one has barked a response yet at my insensitivity, silence would swarm around me like burst balloons. It’s unimaginable, you see, for them, who have known only maybe a month, rarely more, of hot summer all their lives—the rest being before-and-after-winter chilly gray days—to hear anyone degrade summer.

These days, as well, if asked by relatives when my sister and I would go back for a visit since our last two years ago, we stammer through indefinite responses.

Recalling how the humid heat had left us prostrate on the wicker recliner and day bed in my uncle’s once breezy house, and of late, barraged by The Filipino Channel news of power/train/security breakdown, as well as a dark circus of growing government ineptitude to grapple with problems like the onset of drought, rising prices and horrifying street crimes, any of our future plans begins to stall.

And so, talks of summer, which predominate even mere banter on the street, in the bus or train, would take me on a rollercoaster of mixed emotions, recently leaning more to adoring phrases for the much longed-for heat blast. I would throw in my images during such exchanges of days just sauntering on the beach of the brilliant English Bay, or by the Fraser River’s silken tide-marked banks, and braving through the brambles to pick blackberries. Am I turning into a Vancouverite?

The almost ferocious energy to pack a picnic at Locarno beach and join overjoyed crowds of families or young lovers, when thinking aloud by our own selves would somehow catch up with my sister and me. We would revisit how once with a friend from New York, we lunched on a wooded incline overlooking the lake on Bowen Island and in Agassiz, sampled all the homemade cheese. In Sechelt on the Sunshine Coast, we couldn’t resist picking oysters beached at low tide, and in Harrison Springs, dipped though withdrew in a second when stung by the icy mountain water.

Quite a change it would seem, from our early years as immigrant, but especially for me, when I would rather cocoon myself and turn down invitations to trace ribbons of the city’s paved walks by the water, hop on a ferry to nearby Lonsdale Quay or revel in dappled shades of forests on the Vancouver Islands. I used to say then, with a tinge of arrogance, “Where I’ve been in my country, none could match.”

I’ve stood by this with pride and how. The family next door has ventured to Palawan, entranced by my magical memories of the island’s uncanny luminosity, apparently my unique perception owing to its angle in the archipelago’s geographic splatter. A newly wed couple right below our apartment felt compelled, so they revealed, to knock on our door after their honeymoon in the Visayas, which I conjured up as paradise-like, to tell me, “We made a special trip to Anini-y to capture the coral sunset you had described.”

Indeed, when alone like now, as I suffer through the drastic shifts from bright to hazy of a yet chilly Vancouver spring, my heart hurts from thoughts of Philippine summer—strange how one forgets the actual sting of its heat.

But truly, there’s always a cool breeze from the giant mango tree, and a tall glass of ice-beaded halo-halo from a stand in the Village mini-market, I would rock myself with the thought.

Also, with the heat no matter, days in the Philippines flow in a forgivably timeless pace, so unlike here, where clocks any season like martinets push with every crisp beat to march on.

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