Chungking Express

In China town, I told her she looked like the girl from Chungking Express.

Not the boyish one from the second story but the mysterious smuggler in crazy shades and a trench coat in the first one… But who cares. They kinda look like each other, anyway. There you go–Asian stereotyping. All the Chinese and Koreans and Japanese look the same in your eyes as those Filipinos probably look like they came from the same brown pit of muck to them.

I don’t know. She’s not even Chinese.

Binondo is the oldest China town in the world, simmering and festering in a nook of Manila since 1594. All the lucky charms it has sold every Chinese new year since it sprouted from the damp earth can probably go ’round the world a thousand times if you place them end to end. That would certainly be an interesting trivia if somebody could come up with the numbers. But not more interesting than the fact that the thought of Binondo just suddenly popped in my head in the office on Thursday between reading corp mails and I found myself with her there on Friday.

Sometimes things are so random they feel like a Wong Kar-wai movie. But I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject. I just feel like I probably know Wong Kar-wai’s work because I had seen Chungking Express once upon a time when I had all the reason and time in the world to watch something as superfluous as that. Superfluous–like he made the film and told those stories just because he could. A typical art film shot for people who could get it and won’t ask questions about its purpose when the credits roll. Or they would probably ask questions about it all night long over expensive coffee or wine and never quite get to a definitive answer until they die. So unnecessary. So random and nothing.

Yet it stuck.

And I remembered it years into the future as I looked at her in the cab and along Ongpin Street where the red sea of humanity gushed forth everywhere to god knows where. She’s like a character who leapt out of Wong Kar-wai’s excessive scripts onto the littered streets I was walking on, following her like a dragon’s tail would follow its swerving and bobbing head. Her hair even had the same color of sand as that silent smuggler in the film. Though she was anything but silent. She had many things to say about the world and life and beaches. And asteroids. And love.

Sometimes things are so random…

Firecrackers rended the incessant buzz of noises as smoke crawled its way up to the heavens and the air smelled of gunpowder. She ran away smiling, laughing. Then it’s off to some vegetarian restaurant that sold cold misery in a platter. And then to a popular bakery whose owner went from rags to riches like thousands of Chinamen before him. It’s a swirl of memories now, a moving mass of images in the background with her in the center, holding it all together. There were fire-breathers, inflatable frogs, mechanical puppies, lucky rice grains and ginger crops and glittering plastic charms of every kind, wooden and ceramic horses, elephants, cats, and bracelets you could customize to bring in something you currently lack in life like intelligence, health or love.

We ended up watching the sun set in a different–and amazingly older–part of the city. The walled district of Intramuros slumbered in the darkness like a bedridden old man weary of the world. Or maybe that was me. Maybe I’m weary of the world that’s why I’m always mocking it. But whenever I would look into her almond-shaped eyes–as good as any Chinese–as she’s smiling or chuckling at something I’ve said, I would feel that there’s a lot more to the world than I know. There are worlds within the world begging to be explored. Adventures to go on and experiences that would be a shame not to live as she would always passionately remind me.

Sometimes things are so random but they make sense like they always do when I’m with her.

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