by Kiko Matsing
From Christmas 2005:
My aunt, whom I am staying with, has laid out a rather busy schedule for me: Montreal, Quebuec City, Mont Tremblant, Ottawa, Niagara Falls, Kingston, Toronto… I think have become a jaded traveller, losing that sense of wonder and surprise at entering a new city; sightseeing has become a wearisome parade of old churches, swanky monuments, and kitschy souvenir shops. Even Niagara Falls was lackluster, not so much from the grey winter light, but from the five-star hotel/casino perched beside it. The city has completely incorporated Nature, drained it of any sense of the Kantian sublime, and transposed it into an urban spectacle worthy of Las Vegas.
My aunt lives in the immigrant ghetto of Montreal, where Filipinos come home to roost after caring for the young and the elderly in fancy French/Jewish neighborhoods. It is disorienting to pick up Tagalog, Bisaya, or some other Philippine dialect, dislocated from its sun-drenched origins.
I am at present, New Year’s Day, at my cousins’ appartment in Toronto. Today, we will drive 6 hours back to Montreal, where hopefully I can convalesce during my remaining days in Canada from the grand whirlwind tour of the past couple of weeks. I need a pause, a break, a vacation from my vacation. It’s a lot of work for a solitary person to be travelling with a party of ten. I need the steadying quiet of solitude, the soul-clearing silence and space that an old church provides. Perhaps I’ll go back and just sit at the Notre-Dame de Montrèal, where we heard mass in French during Christmas Day, and just gaze at the ceiling, painted a vivid turquiose-blue to honor Mary and to imitate the sky (cielo)–a formal reproduction reminding one, in winter, that the real sky is out there, high above, beyond the grey.