A/N: Submitted this as an entry to World Nomads’ travel scholarship competition. I didn’t win, but it felt like a piece of travel writing worth sharing.
It’s June. The night is humid, glowing amber in the lights of Armenian Street. I’m twenty-three, and girls much younger than me have done this before—wandered off at night in search of adventure—but I’d always been the “tame” one. At home, they call me tita (aunty), lola (grandma). The girl whose idea of partying is having tea in bed after work.
Certainly not the girl who’d be rounding the corner of a graffiti-covered alley at half-ten at night, the remnants of a sangria buzzing in her blood. But it was my last day in Singapore, and I’d found myself wanting to live a little.
Emphasis on a little. There would be no shared drinks with strangers. Instead, I was looking for new music, and Timbre at The Substation was supposedly the best place to find it.
Back home in Manila, I balanced a responsible, serious job as an agency strat planner with a self-proclaimed “career”—profitability be hanged—as a singer/songwriter for a rock band. When my bandmates heard I was traveling to Singapore, they’d filled my head with stories of underground gigs with inspiring acts. It was this promise that got me to wander a foreign city at the oddest hours of night. I’d tried to find it in Clarke Quay, but the bands there sounded professional when I was looking for raw. A quick Google search for “indie music gigs Singapore” pointed me in the direction of Timbre.
Several attempts at a cab ride later, I’m elbowing my way into the dark, open-air club, dodging a bunch of finance-looking bros nursing beers. I grab a stool near the bar and, just as I catch my balance, there’s that familiar screech of an electric guitar being sound-checked. Then, the mics crackle to life as a raspy mezzo-soprano (just like me) launches into the familiar first line of The Killers’ hit, Mr. Brightside.
Soon, it’s midnight. Though the sangria’s worn off, I might as well be drunk. I’m dancing in my seat, shout-singing along with those finance bros through a series of pop-rock hits. Later, I’ll notice my phone battery is dead. Later, I’ll catch my first ever bus. Later, I’ll huddle, scared, at a deserted taxi stand in a different part of town (How did I get here?!) until an off-duty cab takes pity on me and brings me back to my hotel.
Later, I’ll wonder what possessed me to wander around at night, in an unfamiliar city. But, with rock music blasting from crackling amplifiers, later hardly matters.
For the first time, I’m coming out of my cage, and right now, it feels fine.