Our office building is in front of Ayala Ave and on some hot days after sundown, between 6 to 8pm, the smell of Manila Bay wafts towards Ayala Ave. The smell is actually somewhat unpleasant, my officemates do not like it. But for some reason, I like the smell. The smell brings nostalgia of the my childhood, my youth and my home town. It reminds me that beyond the tall skycrapers, horrendous traffic and throngs of people, is the sea. Albeit dirty by human standards, it is still Manila Bay.
I grew up in a small town where anywhere is just 5 minutes from the beach. From my house, you can see the blue of the ocean. Idealic really. My city-bred cousins and I loved spending summers in my home town - we had the whole, clean, beach to ourselves. We spent unending days in the beach, only coming out if we've turned raisin-like. Our mothers weren't happy of course coz we'd be nognog when school starts but we couldn't care less.
When I went into adulthood, the same beach became witness to time spent with my first love. Since the relationship wasn't "legal", we had to find ways to meet up, hence the beach. It was an amazing set-up, we'd have our friends there with us always so suspicions of just "us" are eliminated.
The beach was not just a place of fun. The major livelihood of our town was fishing. Men of the households would go out to sea every night on their bangkas to fish. At night, the sea horizon would be lit by the hundreds of gas-lamps from the fishermen's bangkas. It was an amazing sight, looked like there's a city right smack in the middle of the sea.
Whenever I get a chance, I try to go down our office building after sun set and try to smell the sea. The smell doesn't get to Ayala everyday. In fact, for this year, I only caught it twice. But whenever I get lucky and catch it, I smile and send a prayer of thanks to God for the gift of the sea.