Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

Ways of Life

Ways of Life

By Isabelita Orlina Reyes

I don’t think about them, to be honest.
Unless someone tweets or posts really loud:

another mall or logger or miner
pulled them out, moved them around, cut them down.

They’re there, these trees, doing their thing, breathing
in and out, drinking water, weathering

the weather. In Manila’s life—ugly
megalopolis, by the way, teeming

with vermin and traffic and poverty,
men claiming corners with so much urine,

clogged waterways flooding the streets after
casual rain, because we killed our trees,

we’ve too much trash—in my city, they’re out
of place, or when they are, they’re token grass

here, plants there, some tame shrubs: landscaping fills
the islands, blocks the glare of headlights, stops

the careless crossing. Some kind of grey shade,
they are, and when we park, we seek them out.

Even the thin birches that dot the lot
are better than nothing. Impervious

though we are, none of us wants to bake in
a car. We’re too set in our city ways

of life, no matter how hot, no matter
how our streets crumble and we burn or drown.

But sometimes, the trees trigger memory:
we know we’re like them, water and matter,

connected, cyclical, though we don’t care
enough to understand. Sometimes, something—

the heat – gets through our thick brown hides. We sweat
and darken. We’re thankful for the shadows,

wind, and light. Maybe they serve a purpose,
other than our cool convenience: perhaps,

a last gasp before our romance with this
air-conditioned urban thing kills us good.


Isabelita Orlina Reyes

Isabelita Orlina Reyes has published two collections of poetry, Stories from the City and In Transitives. She is the editor of the University of the Philippines’s centennial coffee table book, Our University After 100 Years, and she is a freelance editor and writer. Along with Caroline S. Hau and Katrina Tuvera-Quimbo, she co-edited the anthology of Philippine literature Querida

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