After taking a jeep, squeezing in the MRT, riding a bus and finally taking another jeep, I am where I like to call Home: Alabang Town Center. It is one of the distinct establisments that make the South, well, the South. While it isn't exactly at the heart of Muntinlupa, its location is conveniently located near the intersection of Alabang, Paranaque and Las Pinas.
As I settled down in Mount Mcdo (infamously named such because it's a Mcdonald's perched on a hill that angers many car-owners), I munched on my French fries and relaxed from my long commute. This was where I always stayed in, especially when I was a loner. Unluckily for me, this is also a favorite meeting place for Southerners, which means a lot of uneasy awkward greetings to and from an anti-social such a myself. It didn't help that I was alone.
But I wasn't always alone. Being the unanimous meeting place that it was, Mt. Mcdo was also the place where I would wait for my friends, but it's usually vice-versa. I wish I was waiting for my friends then, because a group of familiar high school-mates flocked straight in to the line. I didn't want to be there, naturally.
So I left the scene, awkwardly bumping into tables and children, before any of my school-mates recognized me. I paced to the back of Mt. Mcdo and into the entrance of the mall itself. I embraced the rush of cold artificial wind and breezed through the bomb detector. I didn't even stop to get my bag "checked" (a.k.a. poking a stick into people's bags) by the mall security, who probably figured I wasn't carrying explosives.
It was a Friday, so the mall wasn't as empty as it is on Mondays, nor as crowded as it is on Saturdays. I lugged my backpack around after attempting to leave it in the supermarket baggage counter (note to self: they know people do that now).
Funny how, after years of going around the same mall over and over until I've memorized practically every shop in Town, I still had the lingering question that almost everyone with no agenda had: "Where do I go?"
I was in the mood to eat, but considering my student budget and my vegetarian diet, I was lost in a sea of restaurant chains. I carefully considered the pro's and con's of each restaurant I passed. Burger King has internet (with power sockets!) and TV, but it was always full. Mcdonald's was the same, except with no sockets and free massage. The KFC branch there has got to be the worst (once, I ordered four differrrent meals, none of which were available). Jollibee felt too damp. There was no place to go, except...
The Food Choices in ATC was a blackhole of indecisiveness. This is where people go when they don't know where to eat, and even when they choose to eat in the food court, they still don't know what to eat. In this case, I am "they." I'm pretty sure I've eaten at least one thing from every restaurant there, and I'm pretty sure I didn't like them. My last resort was always siomai or chicken. Since I couldn't have any (being vegetarian makes me cry), I just ate corn with butter. All that travelling for corn. With butter.
So, the bored loner I was, I took out my math notebook and started studying for an exam I had the next day. And then the introvert's nightmare came: one second, I was reading up on techniques of differentiationn, and the next second, BAM!! An invasion of familiar people. This is the part where I am forced to awkwardly say hi.
This is one of the things I love/hate about the South (particularly ATC): people I love/hate all go to the same place. The South is so tiny that it's impossible not to bump into at least two people I knew. This place was too familiar for me, and it was comforting, but uneasy. I've done everything there is to do in this mall, and yet I still go here by choice. When I'm bored at home, I go to ATC to be bored while spending. It's definitely not as crowded nor as huge and exciting as MOA, Greenbelt, Trinoma or the Fort, but I guess this is where I always settled. The boredom became a familiar comfort.
It was exactly like Home.
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