14 February 2012


There was love in the Manila air, as evidenced by the scene at Manila's most popular fresh flower market, Dangwa. At the intersection of Dos Castillas and Laong-Laan Streets, close to where the Hospital of the Infant Jesus stands, cars crawled, horns honked, romantics roamed, and the Valentine's Day crowd—a crowd of vendors, shoppers, tourists, journalists, cameramen, policemen, condom-distributing health department volunteers, and anti-condom Catholic priests—thickened. Also, colors bloomed, bloomed marvelously around this place that smelt of La Trinidad, Davao, Tagaytay, Cotabato, Laguna, Thailand, Holland, and Ecuador, of the buds, petals, twigs, and pleasantnesses of elsewhere. On any other day, Dangwa serves merely as the matrons and maids' favorite pit stop. Today was not any other day. At some other time, love means a happy or sorrowful entanglement of body parts and hearts. But this is not some other time. Surely, hours before sunrise, the vendors must have awoken, rolled up their roll-down gates to have an early start, and resolved to ply their trades in loud, unguarded superlatives under those tarpaulin canopies: the reddest roses, the loveliest lilies, the creamiest carnations, the tenderest tulips, the lowest prices. Some bundled these with chocolates, or cards, or wine. Others offered nice vases and baskets and bags. Still others banked on the sheer bigness of their bouquets, or on the strength of their reputation. Whatever the proposition, whatever the gimmick, love here was a word used to sell a flower, and perhaps nothing more.