Manila Bay sunset rediscovered

By Marfe D. Paluga
YOU contributor

HE asked me what time sunset would be, and I was amused because it sounded like he was asking for the square root of 25, or any question to which there was a clear answer. I said, "I don't know, silly."

Maybe he did not notice my amusement because he suggested, "Ask the driver then.''

Of course, I did not ask the taxi driver. Sunset doesn't come with precision of 5 p.m., when employees rush to punch their time cards. "Here, the sun sets whenever it likes to," I told him with a smile.

Earlier, we thought we would not make it on time, but looking at the sky as we turned toward Roxas Boulevard, he said, "I think we still have one hour."
It was the first time for both of us to see the sunset on Manila Bay. He is from Seattle, and I am from Quezon City, but I had never bothered before to wait for the sun to set on Manila Bay, knowing that it would always be there, available for me when I finally have the time. Now that he insisted, I went along although I had a lot of papers to file at the office. After all, he was my visitor.

I already knew there were "friendly" benches along the boulevard, but I never appreciated them until the time we were there. Aides were sweeping the dirt and collecting trash, and there was a police officer nearby. It didn't look like the same old place that people used to avoid. Now, colorful atom-like lights lent the place a festive air and the eateries, with their music "motifs" helped create a lively yet relaxed feeling. The place seemed to say, "You deserve to take a break from the city. Come and sit down."

I would say everyone should take time to enjoy the Manila Bay sunset. Indeed, as many others have said before, it is beautiful. Amid the noise, the traffic and the notoriety of an overcrowded city, the sunset soothes and strips our watches of their capacity to make us hurry. We count the seconds by the almost unnoticeable descent of the glorious sun into the welcoming line created by the distant waters. We take note of the passing time by the changing of colors of the pastel sky, now fiery orange, now pink, and then a subtle red. To a city person, time can never be as friendly as this.

We were silent for some time, just taking in the scene before us. He tried some angles with the camera, wanting to take back home the glory of the sunset. I let him be, knowing his artistic spirit.

Near me, another man who must have been in his 50s was also trying our different views. He too had a camera, an old model which professional photographers still use. I smiled because I thought only Tony and me were new to the place-and maybe this man, too.

When Tony came, he told me, "It is beautiful."

"Yes," I replied, while looking straight into his eyes, almost seeing there the colors of the sunset and multiplying its grandeur.

I turned my gaze back to the scene and sighed. I wished I could see it every day to temper the worries and weariness of city life.

We sat on the bench for some time after the sun had set. The calm that the sunset left behind clung to us.

People were everywhere: mothers carrying toddlers or pushing baby carts, children running ahead of their parents, old men walking slowly like they were looking for shells in the sand, school girls looking for vacant benches, cigarette and peanut vendors trying to make a sale. What made me smile were the small boys and girls persistently asking my companion to buy me a flower. I told them we were not interested.

I noticed the other women doing the same thing. However, I suspect that they actually wanted to be given a flower, especially in the peaceful and romantic ambience provided by the sunset. But then maybe we were just being practical. After all, being with your guy and watching the sunset was worth more than a rose offering.

Tony reached out for my hand. "You see, honey," he said, "you thought that I was not coming. Now, I am here."

I looked at him and smiled. I could not say anything. But I wished he saw the joy in my smile, and the prayer that came with it. I blew a prayer to the sun that we two would always be together, that we would have sunsets like this to smoothen out the unavoidable arguments and misunderstandings in a relationship.

"I love you, honey," I said. I groped for the most suitable line to express my feelings, but is there such a line? The love that I felt, like a Manila Bay sunset, could not be completely captured in words; it is always growing and going on and on and on.

"I am glad that I met you," he told me. He kissed my fingers, and I felt as if I were the sunset, admired by everyone. I could almost see myself glowing beautifully with all the shades of pink and red and orange.

"Me too, honey, me too," I replied. There can be no other suitable reply than that. It was really what I feel. I wanted to tell him that I was very happy, but I wasn't able to say so. I felt so heavy and so light with love.

When I focused my attention back on the horizon, the sun was no longer there. Only the subtle blowing of the wind and the faint crashing of the waves could be heard. Then slowly, like I was being transported back to earth, I heard the sounds of vehicles, the footsteps of passing people, the voices of the vendors and the casual conversations of other people.

To me it looked as if everyone there had their burdens lifted off their shoulders. The office bags of working women were stuffed with papers, but they didn't seem to be carrying its weight, unlike when you see them waiting for their ride on busy streets. Their make-up may be fading because it's already the end of day, but they looked more beautiful, more open, refreshed.

We stood up and strolled, holding hands, until we reached the food stall. "Let's eat by the bay," he said. Dinner by the bay, with the glow of the sunset still clinging to us, the breeze from the sea, music in the background, colorful lights on the boulevard, an assortment of gay people relaxing at the end of the day, and the two of us, now much strengthened by the rays the powerful sun had left behind, completed our night.


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