This day of night and arrogant orange skies, possessed the amalgamation of human emotions. In Malate, Manila, Philippines March 16, 2014 a narrow alleyway with houses one upon another - so many memories - my barkada - my best friends family and his eight children held Sunday mass in form - as the communion of so many fought the barangay fire.
Hands held high - praying in tongues - standing in 3 inches of water and weeping a woman stood surrounded by the chaos of flashing lights, smoke, debris. Her voice was in tempo and time the beat provided by the crowd as they prayed the rosary. Firetrucks flashed lights, everything smelled acrid, I could barely speak through my burned throat, as my tongue swelling swallowing sweetness in gulps from the haze of smoke and human tragedy.
I kept pulling on the freshest arterial addition firehose. We had to get each firehose as far down as we could - to get past the other firehoses - that lay down - already on the line before - the water pressure came and whipped them into alien like snakes jumping in the air wounding the unaware.
Each second hung in the air, as I was there, before, during and after the pressure took that made each impotent cloth a living being and metal way.
This memory stands in time is all time, I remember it as being here-today and present. I really mean this moment and somehow ready and alive.
Sunday hot afternoon turned into a very dark night, I awoke from my nap with silence and screams Quirino Street was empty of cars in its place - a mass of people - running everywhere - across the street they kept pointing at me - me - they kept pointing at me. This night became the darkest of any of them weirdly and brightly lit by Fire.
I was covered in sweat, present, aware and every fiber in me calm and ready. I stood shoulder to shoulder pantay pantay lahat - my barkada was the voices and determination to fight for each other and their families this narrow alley way was for a moment sacred. When the Firetrucks finally came - we grabbed the limp heavy fire hoses and ran towards the heat. I wish I could have fought the pain, loss and destruction like any street fight in my past that I won despite the injury, bruises and broken bones. I did not - not this time. Mostly I stood helplessly - watched and at times I pulled and held the firehoses.
The Barangay Captain - a Woman stood shouting orders - others helped grabbed children raced them across Quirino street who stood in the shadows as the others who with the flow of human ants Women sobbing others the pentecostal type with hands outstretched to the orange night sky praying in tongues. All I can remember - its like I was asleep and yet awake,
On the streets of Manila, I can add fighting a fire that destroyed the homes of ten people- my friend and his eight children and others lost everything. Barefoot He stood there- barechested and wearing only board shorts - with a 3000 meter war veteran battlescarred stare - he looked at me - looking through me:
‘Kevin I lost everything, I have nothing left, just this (pointing to his shorts) - I have nothing- gone - lahat- its all gone- I am 38 - with my kids what am I going to do- my house Kevin- How they going to eat or sleepthree stories - its all gone- all I have is these shorts …
-this is all he said.
'I am here man, I don’t know what to do- but I am here ok. I am here.' I replied