{21/03/2012}   Manila, blue people and 12-lane traffic

12 years ago I visited a friend in Manila. I had an I’m-going-to-die moment there and I often think about it, not that my life flashed before me or anything, just that it was all very surreal.

It was a year after my dad had died and I was still living in Japan. I decided that I wanted to go away somewhere at this time, so I spoke to my friend in Manila and arranged to stay with her for the week. She had to work a few days so I easily entertained myself, aided by having her driver at times. I went to the cinema a few times. One film I saw around this emotionally charged time was a film with Julian Sands in it. It wasn’t a Hollywood happy ending type of film, actually it was quite a depressing film. Not ideal. Anyway, I watched it. I don’t remember much about it but I don’t want to look it up as I want this to be how I remember it, with all its possible inaccuracies.

Some Americans and Brits were in Africa somewhere. They had a 4×4. There were love interests and rivalries, I believe Kristin Scott Thomas was the main female lead. A few of them were driving in the desert in an area where the mysterious local tribes people wore bright blue head to toe cloaks. As the group of white people were driving on a sort of track through the sand, they somehow hit a blue-dressed person. They got out and either took the body to some blue people or other blue people appeared. The white people and the blue people could not communicate but the white people gestured that they would get help. The blue people gestured that someone should stay behind. They decided that Kristin’s character would stay, possibly because she had some limited medical training, but either way there was good reason why she decided to stay. The others turned round and drove off. Some time later one of the two men in love with her realised that they had probably left her to be killed as a life-for-life deal. They rushed back. She had been killed.

Cheery stuff. The next day, I wanted to visit a particular place in Manila so the driver dropped me off and we agreed where he would pick me up at an agreed time. To get to this place, I had to cross a free-for-all maybe 12 lane width road, no traffic lights, no pedestrian lights and just a vague nod at being a direction divider in the middle of the lanes of traffic. I use the word “lanes” very loosely, there were no road markings. The driving was chaotic, unpredictable, relentless and all imaginable modes of road transport were noisily whizzing by. I genuinely thought I’d never get across the road. But as it was near a crossroads of sorts, sometimes the stream of traffic would be stopped by traffic from another direction trying to turn. I figured that such an occasion would be my window of opportunity. The moment came, I knew I’d have to run, but I froze by the side of the road when I saw the leader of a new chunk of traffic seemingly riding his moped straight at me as he turned towards me. He was wearing the same blue as the blue people. As far as I could tell, he locked eyes with me, reached into his blue cloak and pulled a gun … I de-paused and ran very close in front of him to the middle of the road and, miraculously, took the opportunity at a break in traffic on the other side to get across. I actually remember patting my chest to check I hadn’t been shot. By this time, the traffic was in full flow, the blue moped gun man had gone and I was unharmed. I didn’t see a gun, but that’s exactly what I thought was about to happen. Maybe it was. But the combination of it being an emotional time, having just seen that disturbing film and seeing someone in that distinctive blue pelting towards me on a clapped out moped was just too much for me. Now I think about it, I suppose this is why I have a strong aversion to that kind of almost peacock blue!


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