I am having breakfast outside Tacloban’s largest mall on a Sunday morning, half an hour before the building opens its doors. I am sitting outdoors at a restaurant next to the malls entrance. A line of about 10 people have been patiently facing the doors, talking to one another, and scanning through their cellphones since I arrived. Every five minutes seems to bring a handful more shoppers, until the line has extended through the parking lot and almost to the street by the time the mall is scheduled to open at 10:00 AM. Now, a clear voice rings through the area. It is a prayer spoken in English, a man inviting the lord to be here “in this place.” There are unseen speakers projecting the message all through the parking lot and inside the building. After the prayer ends, an announcers voice calls: “Ladies and gentlemen, the Philippine national anthem.” A choral version of Lupang Hinirang is played. All in line are silent facing forward toward the doors. Some have hands on hearts, not singing. Some are singing. I see an elder women singing, her mouth moving quite punctuated, and her expression calm and serious. In fact, no one looks bored to me in the same way we do in the US when the anthem is played at inconsequential events, like before a high school baseball game. Many people look reflective. A janitor behind me is facing the doors/line too and has his hand over his heart. I wonder why everyone has chosen to face this way. There is no flag I can see. My impression is that they are facing to the center of the place of gathering. When the song ends, people edge forward a bit in anticipation of the doors opening. The volume has been lowered, and I can barely hear the announcers voice say: “…this is Robinsons radio.”
Now that I’m looking for things of mas media, like radio, I am finding it in peculiar ways.
A generic gameboy type dance music plays on the speakers now, and the line has shuffled forward, narrowing to single file so that the guards may glance through purses and backpacks for half a second before the shoppers hurry on. The entire mall is activated now somehow, like the operator of a ferris wheel has flipped the switch. Now, the machine’s lights and sounds and whimsical images are awake.