The smells here are the most unique of any city I’ve ever been to. There is no pattern to the myriad of smells. They are interchangeable, overlapping and equally powerful. The exhaust from motorbikes working overtime because they have been transformed into trikes – carrying a basket of people. The under current of durian that sneaks its attack on anything good and wholesome. Its like a wet beach towel dipped in sour milk left in the sun to burn. The smell is so pungent that it makes me gag every time. Which is rather unfortunate, because it is the most common fruit in Mindanao. Sold at every street market and rolling fruit cart. It is the pride of the city, molded into statues and key chains. So strong is my disdain for this fruit that I may have personally offended many a durian-lover in my quest to remain as far removed from this wretched fruit at all times possible. It does not help, of course, that people are constantly offering it to me. The air sometimes hangs with the stench of trash cluttering in the streets and ditches. Rotting garbage and open sewage combining in overwhelming odors.
But there are good smells too. The calming smell of salt water, smells like home, from the ocean that encompasses this island. And of fresh cut, ripe coconuts. Fruit vendors lop off the top and pop is a straw for a mere dollar. The sizzling smells of grilling meats. And of fresh baked bread. The Filipinos know how to do bread. Sweet, warm, soft. There are bakeries on every corner, their enticing smells welcoming you in.
As I ride through the neighborhoods in the basket on a tric, these smells follow me.