One night in Pobla | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

One night in Pobla

/ 05:05 AM August 04, 2023

Are you from La Salle?” she practically screams into my ear.

For a moment, the lukewarm house mix pummels all senses with a wall of deafening white noise. It might as well have been silent, for all I could make sense of the girl. I barely heard her, though I could feel her breath hot against my cheek.

Funny. I didn’t even think of her as a girl until she asked me the question, any more than I think of myself as one. I am three days 26 and nearly five years removed from any schooling.

“No,” I finally say, still confused. To be fair, I had a few shots of Jäger and about five or six vodka tonics.


“What school do you go to?”

“I don’t. I’m 26.”


She seems floored. So does her friend with the glasses. Was it so unthinkable for a geriatric 26-year-old woman to spend a Saturday in a swank Poblacion club?


They are 21, which on the whole doesn’t seem like much, but all I can think about—I’m surprised I can think at all—is the gulf of five years separating me from the two. As vast a gulf separates me from the fulsome ripeness of my college graduation. That girl who marched triumphantly out of university with a diploma is not the same woman slouching toward ignominy with a highball glass: a crawling line to the bathroom.

It is my old college roommate’s 25th birthday. One of my best friends. She had shuffled, drunk, into one of two unholy doors after a dude had come out of it. Neither bears a trace of the little man nor the little woman, and any and all manner of 20-somethings had passed into and out of either vestibule indiscriminately.


“You could pass for 20,” the 21-year-olds tell me, empathetic.

I make my water under neon lights and escort the birthday girl back to our table. The others in our party wonder rakishly whether she had gotten a “booking.” Fair enough. For how long we spent in line, forget about the booking, she could’ve settled down and had three kids already.

We toast to our inglorious return, and only the Lord knows how many times we’ve jointly knocked liquor back in the last few hours. I down another vodka tonic. Later, I’ll curse myself for it as I curl up on the cold, damp tile of my shower, an old young woman in the seminal posture of regret.

But as the tonic-cut Absolut rips through me, all I can think about is how aged out I am of clubbing. The bottle service is highway robbery. Passable bubbly could be bought for what the bottom-shelf shit cost us. The music is so loud, all speech escalates into screaming matches (and superspreader events). It is so dark, smartphones devolve into point-and-shoot cameras. It’s anyone’s guess whether that photo the hostess just took of you and your friends came out well. You’re too drunk to check.

It is long past midnight. More people stream in and more people get drunk. The floor in front of the DJ going straight back to the line to the pissers by the bar is hopping with yuppies and the odd middle-aged white guy who doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. Up in the mezzanine, the haves dance with a smug eye to their lessers in the bacchanal below.

My friends and I join this commoner’s scrum. Varicolored lights flare out from ambient red like an inducement to anarchy.

Drink enough and even the milk-fed dude fiddling with his setup front can take Berghain. Drink enough and even overly enthused jumping and spasming limbs can pass for dancing. Who cares?

As I bounce up and down the dance floor with a friend’s arm wrapped around me, I don’t feel my knees or the ache in my lower back. The only thing I feel is that 26 is perfect. I am in the perfect place. With the perfect people. Didn’t think a club could be good for de-escalating a quarter-life crisis. Maybe it’s just the liquor.

But even a drunken stupor can’t stifle an “aging” woman’s pushy thoughts. Although I am drunk enough to think taking flash photos of the dance floor is a good idea. Later, after I’ve dragged myself out of my shower and into bed after I sleep off the alcohol, I’ll look at the lousy pictures.

I’ll palpate that bit of my skull where a golf-ball-sized mass of the gray stuff seems to have gone MIA. I’ll know I’m still dumb enough to wind up drunkenly sleeping in the shower after a year of swearing it’ll never happen again. Bad habits make liars of us all.

If nothing else, they’re good for learning that youth isn’t quite so fleeting. Being young is more than just the vitality you feel in your lubed-up kneecaps, although it is that, too. The pregnant promise of youth doesn’t have a sell-by date. And even if it did, 26 ain’t it.

A few of us feel the ebbing tide of stamina and head back to the table where some Germans thought it’s safe to squat. Called there, maybe, by the spent bottle of Jäger. Our party welcomes them with signature Filipino hospitality, the kind that screams even when there’s no music.

The crash I (a true-born lightweight) had been dreading fills me with nausea. One of the German guys was flirting with the birthday girl. Even messy-drunk, she is luminous. I think of offering them some of the pawed-at birthday cake but can’t quite get any words out.

Another German guy says something to me. He doesn’t scream so I miss it.

“What?” I yell.

I can only just hear him, though his breath is hot against my cheek. “I asked if you’re having fun.”

And I tell him, “Yeah.”

I turn back to the birthday girl. I am having fun. It’s a f—ing birthday.

* * *

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Eunice Lei Wu, 26, likes to play it fast and loose with the word writer, which is what she is.

TAGS: Barangay Poblacion, night out, Young Blood

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