Don’t get me wrong. I hope the first paragraphs would be enough a disclaimer for the experiences that I am about to share.
I am not a sissy or a coward. It was just that the night life does not fit me well. As a college student, I am extremely boring for not being a nocturnal one. Before I went to Baguio to study for college, I lived in a province where I was raised a conservative woman. I was fully equipped with the social etiquettes and graces that I needed. I never asked what those conventions are for, I fully understood and I do not mind behaving in accordance to it. I was trimmed to become a prim and proper lady. I was raised not to laugh with an open mouth or even stare at men for more than 3 seconds. I was told that dancing should be a solemn one and a moderate chance besides performing, especially on crowded dance floors. I never imagined a life where I would go out of this context because I was so used to it. I never imagined a life in Baguio- away from my family and away from the norms that I got used to. I was a sweet darling. I hope I am already making enough illustrations of me being devoid of being caught up in a chaos.
When I moved to Baguio to pursue my tertiary education, I felt isolated and separated from my family. Surprisingly, I also felt responsible for myself and independent. I won’t be in the context where I am used to be right all the time and always being listened to. I won’t be in the safest haven I know. I won’t be in my strongest but I needed to know how to live without it. I am in my way of figuring out on my own how the norms in this new environment and setting works.
For the first two years of my stay here in Baguio, I kept my graces with me. I was struggling to keep and realign the social context that I left behind. I try paralleling my previous environment with the current one. Back in my home province, I was strict on adhering and abiding the curfews that both the town ordinance and my parents are firmly implementing.
When my roommate first asked me to go to the “legendary” Baguio Night Market, it made me cause a huge internal hedging. It took me a lot of deciding to do and arguments to weigh before I agreed. I assumed that the intention of my roommate was not to sell my internal organs to syndicates like how they portray in movies. I was assured that my roommate isn’t a bad person but it did not make me at all feel less vulnerable. It would be a start of me going out.
(Photo by Alvin Llagas Caparros)
The Night Market was my first testing grounds for going outside late at night. It took a lot of trips to night market before I shooed my mean-world syndrome away. I was always told back at home how the nights make people more exposed to crime and violence. My idea was strongly accentuated by the crammed volume of people who went to the night market like me. I was so paranoid somebody might indiscreetly stab something on my back. More probably, somebody might swiftly take my phone or wallet away from the sling bag I carry.
Despite my paranoia and trust issues, I still go home from night market the same way I was-only with more belongings and happier. That calmed me internally. The repetitive chances for my perceived vulnerabilities to happen proved me wrong. Nothing dangerous or alarming happened to me while I was immersed at the pool of people. I was never harassed, intentionally hurt, or even robbed.
The only threat I foresee to happen would be me against somebody because of a rivalry in a commodity. Who wouldn’t love the elegant clothes that are obtainable the price of a budget meal? Sometimes, I also think that I might get into trouble for stepping the shoes of the one in front me or bumping into somebody because of the jammed crowd. I narrowed down my paranoia to having enemies during night market trips.
Baguio is nothing much like how I perceived a pretentiously harsh metropolitan environment would be. I thought that a city would have a colorful and lively front with the increasing crime rates as background. I perceived this reassurance as a signal for me to be at ease with the night setting. This may sound silly to most but it was one of my greatest triumphs to submerge my feet into this water. The night market helped me conquer this scare of a night spent outside my house. It is like breaking free from my comfort zone.
A few months ago, I was with my org mates in a meeting. We were talking about the upcoming activities to be hosted for weeks. That day, we all were exhausted and for the planning alone that we looked forward for a relaxation afterwards. A member suggested that we take some drinks after the event, by drinks I mean the ones with alcohol in it. Like the first night market encounter, I hesitated a lot.
But, guess who realized wanting to get out of their comfort zone after all.