• By Diana Mendoza

Our painful goodbyes

Manila— Every time I passed by the dimsum restaurant in my neighborhood, it was being torn down bit by bit, until a few weeks later, it’s gone. Now, there are just iron walls covering the glass windows from where I used to see diners crowding the buffet table during the eat-all-you-can promos.

Before its slow demolition, the owners announced through tarps their garage sale of kitchenware, red lanterns and frozen meat. I gathered then that they were just selling the items because the resto was closed for the duration of the long coronavirus quarantine. But the knocked down, sad structure I see now, without the security guard, means the establishment is out of business for good.

The same scene is repeated in front of a comedy bar further down the street, where workers dismantled its sign, loaded its furniture and sound equipment into a truck, and chipped off its concrete stairs. Then, they just left it there – a lifeless structure where people once laughed as they watched stand-up performers over drinks.

Last time I passed by, some homeless people and their children camped out in front were wrangling with policemen who asked them to wear their face masks they were provided. Another comedy bar, a more colorful one, also closed shop on the opposite direction of the road.

Elsewhere, a popular restaurant that’s a favorite of so many friends and acquaintances has announced its closure a few months ago. Its regulars mourned its passing through online posts, recalling their memories sharing meals at the restaurant. In another place, friends I used to meet in a coffee shop below their broadcast media offices shared in the chat groups that the coffee shop has closed. It said goodbye with a buy one-take one drink promo for the last time.

There’s this corner I love during my walks. There’s a small quaint café in it, a pet shop and a house with a nice driveway. I spent time in the café once. It’s one of those places where you could hide. When I was there I felt the urge to write. It kindled my block. I never had a chance to spend time there again but I love looking at it when I pass by. But a few weeks ago, I found it already closed, even the plants around it looked desolate. What remained is the house, but its driveway is closed too; the flower pots gone. There’s a sign that tells delivery persons to wear their face mask before they are allowed entry. A fence of used tires now stands where the pet shop used to be.

When the lockdown eased up a bit, I visited one of my favorite malls on a weekend. I noticed that the bookstore that occupied a large corner is no longer there; only the closed walls with the name of a global clothing brand on them. It’s too sad when bookstores close down because no one is buying books anymore. I walked around the mall. Only a few shops were open. Gone are the days when I avoid the malls during weekends because they’re too crowded. Now I only shared it with a handful of people, walking and sometimes stopping to stare at dark, closed stalls and empty dining areas.

If I would imagine watching closed circuit TV recordings of myself passing by the places I have frequented, I think I would probably cry. The places that kept the little moments that felt good are gone. Change is constant, but it’s strange when some place you see every day, every month, is gone, without proper goodbyes. People say some goodbyes may be good, but during this difficult time, I have yet to find the courage to know why.

Diana Mendoza is a journalist based in Manila. Send feedback to soltera2044@gmail.com

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