After being at a rock bar nearly every night for almost a year and being exposed to different kinds of music and different kinds of people, should it come as a surprise if, being back in Manila and just staying at home, I always long for it?

I had loved being around people and being out at night, that is the only possible reason why I stayed that long.

These days, I find myself always longing to come out late at night and look for where the music and the people are. It’s just me looking for me.

My nights last year always started out with a cup of coffee, either at my favorite Starbucks branch in Magsaysay Avenue or a cup my staff made for me, that I quietly enjoyed either by the large windows of Wharf Galley overlooking Magsaysay Avenue or the tables at Kebob downstairs. Starbucks is only my third favorite coffee shop, after Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Bo’s Coffee, but in Naga, I had loved hanging out there because of the big trees outside. I had loved the open air tables, where pieces of flowers and dried leaves blew with the breeze.

In Manila, the nearest shop that afforded me an experience closest to that would be the one in Sta Lucia. I’d sit there, browsing through travel magazines, with my own play list blaring in my ears. I’d sit at the tables outside because it’s dark. I like lurking in the dark corners of shops and bars. Thats how I best appreciate everything else going around me. In the dark, all by myself.

In the middle of an important decision-making process, I seek out experiences that might define why I am here.

I love jeepney rides, with the wind blowing my hair out and about. I like looking at what I pass by. Jeepney rides give out a strange soothing feeling despite the minimum fear.

Last night was a beautiful night to be out. I went to the movies, caught Snow White and the Huntsman, loved Charlize Theron and nothing else. Went to claim my free coffee at Starbucks and stayed a while just listening to music and my thoughts.

I decided I wanted to go to 70s Bistro, to catch Hilera, which i thought would be playing but decided against it when I saw it was Pupil. I always have the schedules wrong. I contemplated coming up to Freedom Bar, just because I was in the jeepney with some band that was going to play there and I thought of them the way I thought of all the young new bands I “mothered” for a time. Yes, I like watching young bloods, because you can see a lot of emotions in the way they play. Music oozing with fire, and all the emotions that they harbor – passion, hopes, frustration, anger. When I watch, more than the technicalities, I listen for their feelings. The younger, newer ones have all of it.

I passed by 70s Bistro and went on to my friends’ apartment near V. Luna, an apartment I used to hang out in all the time, even to the point of nearly living there, with my own keys to the door. I have not been with them for so long it seemed. They were in the middle of playing Monopoly when I arrived, while drinking Jack n Cokes and wine, munching on chips and pizza. I stayed long enough to realize, we’ve all gotten old, and they’re still the same people I knew, but I was not.

I decided it was time to head over to Cubao X, a place I’ve known ever since I was a young teenager, wandering the streets of Cubao while waiting for the bus bound for Bicol to leave. I knew it before it was all this artsy-fartsy with nothing but shop after shop filled with shoes.

When Mogwai came, we found ourselves hanging out there almost all the time. It was our post-college Sarah’s.

I’ve never been afraid of Cubao. To me, it will always be a sanctuary. A place with streets I roam at odd hours of the night, unafraid, in search of what is fleeting, of remnants of memories of childhood, family and home.

I went to Cubao X last night and found friends in the unlikeliest people, people from Pulp magazine. I only knew Levy among them, from our work on a planned Arcadia gig at Wharf, that never materialized, to both our embarrassment.

It was again emphasized on me how different the crowds in Manila and Naga are. In Naga, such a thing cannot happen, someone new blending in with a group of people as if it was not the first time we we’re hanging out. In Naga, cliques can be so cruel, groups can be so clannish. I hated that and everything it represented.

It was nice talking about common friends, food, gigs, music from childhood, tattoos, and even riding a green bike in the middle of a carless street.

It was also nice to see Marcus, of Eraserheads, again. I always, always, always, see him at Cubao X every time I am there. It was nice to be reminded we’ve been friends since 2003 and the things we did back then. He’s still crazy but so am I. It comes with the friendship.

I came home drunk with alcohol and warm feelings. I still have not arrived at a concrete decision, but I suppose, I came a little bit closer – and in the end, only the fates can tell.