We leave in three days for our Beijing-Tibet duo adventure. Knox lent me Pico Iyers’s Kathmandu Video Nights and Other Stories, prodding me to read the articles on Tibet. I dutifully did so, grateful for a deeper perspective on the land we hope to get a permit to enter, but as soon as I could, I raced to the back pages and settled down to wear a stranger’s perspective of 1980’s Manila.

Iyer painted a harsh reality of squalor, broken dreams, music and the Filipinos’ brilliant smiles.

I was mentally gesturing to myself that he writes about 1980s Manila. I was consoling myself that it’s been twenty years; we’ve grown as a people since then. But this morning, as I drive to work, I was shocked to see a deranged man, standing in the middle of the street, pointing a make-shift wooden rifle to an unknown target. Three other disheveled dirty men were holding up tin cans to solicit coins from the cars driving by. A woman does her laundry by the side of the railroad tracks while a little boy in ragged clothes plays with a starved-looking dog. At the corner is an ambivalent police station.

A few days ago, CCP gives a red carpet treatment to Imelda Marcos. An Aquino is standing again at the foot of Philippine Presidential elections. De ja vu?