Locus Focus: Take Ninety-Seven!
So where are we in the Philippines today? Let's start near the beginning of the Annual Giveaway to get a clearer view of our route . . . We started with a haunting rural setting that calls to mind both the Fall and the earliest history of the Philippines, then moved on to a messy religious setting in the capital which typifies the country's strange mix of fervent Catholicism and pagan folk memory. Today, we're still in the big city, but on more newly developed ground. We have moved from pre-colonial history to the the present day, and it only took us . . . three weeks!
Case 2: "Rules of the Race"
by Budjette Tan, illustrated by Kajo Baldisimo
3:13 AM. Somewhere along the national highway designated C-5. A boy named Albert has found himself racing for his life.
"I'm wearing my lucky shoes. I can't lose!" is one of Albert's last thoughts.
But he's racing against someone who's never lost a race in his life.
Albert smiles as he goes past the driver of the black car . . . curses as his opponent suddenly leaps forward and gets past him.
The adversary doesn't even look at him. He's looking at the finish line up ahead. The adversary smiles. Once again he wins.
This setting is very close to home for me, literally--though it might be more accurate to say that it is very close to work. My office is located very near the C-5 national highway, if not quite in the section of it which features in this story. Yet I hadn't known, until very recently, that it was the new hotspot for illegal drag racing.
Heck, I hadn't known that illegal drag racing was even still a thing. Everyone I know who took part in one did so before I was born, and I saw the sport as something retro: a remnant from a decade when you could fill up your car's tank for only P20 and there weren't enough cars to cause a decent traffic jam. Today, a litre of petrol is over double that amount, and in bad weather, rush hour can sometimes last until midnight: even if you could afford such an expensive pastime, you'd have a hard time finding a decent place in which to do it. Or so I thought . . .
Last night, I asked a few questions and learned that illegal drag racing (and the gambling that goes with it) are still quite popular among university students of means . . . and that, yes, these often happen after midnight on the Carlos P. Garcia Avenue. Give Budjette Tan and Kajo Baldisimo points for gritty accuracy! Then triple the points for their use of Philippine fantasy. For in this excellent short in the first Trese collection, it is a creature of ancient lore who has been challenging the cocky city boys in street races . . . and what he demands as his winnings is a forfeit no less than human life.
Drag racing is totally not my scene, but I think I'd show up for something like that. =)
Question of the Week: How does your city become a different place after midnight?
Image Source: Trese: Murder on Balete Drive