Sunday, September 23, 2007

talk is cheap

Please Read!
If You Are a Non-staffer
Please Step Outside this Room.
You Have No Businees Here!
- tWS Office Manager (2006-2007)

The Staffers
Are Trying to Work!
- tWS Office Manager (2007-2008)

A major part of my student life is devoted to the Weekly Sillimanian (tWS). I stepped into the office two years ago, wide-eyed and slightly ignorant, filled with raw ideas for a good article. But now, instead of writing in white heat, I give the deadlines. My name is on the masthead of a 104 year-old student publication with the title “Features Editor.”

Because I am in control of the feature writers this year, power is in my hands. But just when I think everything is under control—with the click-click-click of the keyboards, the swish-swish-swish of newspapers, and the constant talk-talk-talk between a writer and an editor the only sounds filling every corner of the office—I find out I am dreadfully wrong. Debaters have infiltrated our territory. These are the kind of people who either enjoy daily bouts on Plato’s or Aristotle’s philosophy or the silly smile of Ronald McDonald. At this point, I have doubts concerning my so-called power.

Actually, it is no secret that our editor-in-chief, the circulation manager, one senior writer, one feature writer, and two news writers are debaters. And they are enough.

Though I don’t debate through the Oxford format and the likes—I must admit I blow up and argue whenever lost projects and viruses keep sprouting in our computers due to the absence of an anti-virus program. The description that would best describe my idealism is that I consider plain talk as the simplest solution to a problem. No need for theories, no need for Marxist conceptualizations. No matter how I inoculate myself with such thoughts of disregard, the debaters just keep breaking in.

Yes, I believe that we human beings are considered the most intelligent species present on Earth due to our capability of thinking, feeling, and communicating. We take pride in the gift of speech, for this sets us apart from other creatures. But going beyond the basic chit-chat is just too much—especially if the “talk” disrupts the serenity of tWS office where we use most of our spare time to do what we are supposed to do (I am stressing “we” here because I am not the only one who is irritated). Total observance of silence in our work area is the least we could ask for.

Obviously, incessant highly-intellectual far-out discussions make my meter of impatience reach to the extremes. The line, “I have opinions, too, that are worth some listening, but can you please go somewhere else?” will escape from my mouth someday. The problem is, will they ever consider my kind of talk reputable and fulfilling? It’s as if they’ve fully exclude themselves from showbiz, problems on zits, and dormitory curfew—topics that may enlighten the most uneducated layman. That is why it is unquestionable that, aside from blabbermouths and disruptors, these debaters are often called geeks.

It is peculiar that whenever these debaters come, there’s this atmosphere of uneasiness. We, the staffers, know we have the authority but then their presence makes us uncomfortable in our own office. One concrete example was the day a person paid us a visit who wore a black shirt with these white words printed on the front:

Talk is Cheap

And on his back is the single word:


Insulting? Yes. And at that point, we all fell silent as more of his comrades entered our domain and did their thing.

On the first place, why do these debaters suddenly come into our territory? No one really knows the truth. Up to now, it remains to be a mystery how most of their kind is drawn into our dusty and musky office, shouting philosophies and ideals. But here are some hypotheses formulated by our group, who sometimes, in one way or another, oppose to their company:

1) These people are drawn by a debater-magnet about the size of our famous Portals, buried under the office years ago by a maniac who was a die-hard fan of Nietzsche.
2) These people continually search for The Book that could answer all their questions and finally put to an end their disputes. They must find it before it falls into the wrong hands. They received a tip that it was hidden by tWS Editor-in-Chief of school year 1990-1991.
3) These people just love to strut their stuff.
4) These people are proud of their fluent English and will never miss a chance to power-up their vocal volumes for the news and feature writers’ “benefit.”
5) These people’s peers are part this school year’s staff.

And the list of guesses continues. I can’t put them all here. I am not stating that our office is unsuitable for discussions (for that’s the purpose of an office, a place for discussions!) but what I just want to point out is there are matters worth discussing in a more conducive place. Well, those two office managers who posted notices to hush up cannot be blamed—because it was not only the writers that were seriously affected with boisterous ‘symposiums.’ As student writers, of which clarity, brevity, and factuality must be second nature to us, we need a time of silence. Even despite the fact that the Weekly Sillimanian has glorious historical evolvement through the years, it is embarrassing that its weekly outputs are tarnished by some hangers-on’s superfluous disturbance. One might easily say the publication’s foundation is getting weak.

For we have this one main goal as of now: we hope the weekly publication would never circulate a lampoon-like issue to all students and faculty who love to critique, or worse, criticize.

And remembering the guy who wore that silly black t-shirt and broke the serenity of the office, what I can think of is just to oppose the “talk is cheap” assumption. I know a debater would defend his/her point in this matter but I remain on my stand—I do not believe it. Planning with friends on what should be done on a weekend, chatting about the latest flick, or conversing with family members on a lazy Sunday afternoon—these are the most beautiful yet simple talks that will surely complete a person’s day. And that kind of talk is never cheap. It is priceless.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

days of no rain

Western wind when will thou blow
the small rain down can rain?
Christ, if my love were in my arms
and I in my bed again!

— Oh Western Wind, a ballad (author unknown)

It had been a founder’s tradition but it never rained hard that week. Actually, for some unknown reason, rain didn’t come. Almost everything was so parched, well, except for one night when three rock bands from the Tagalog north seemed to have brought, along with them, a drizzle that finally quenched the thirst of the drying grounds. But a drizzle doesn’t count as rain for me.

I finally made up my mind that August 27, Monday, was a wet day—though it was only slightly wet. The state of major dryness was an exact metaphor to my condition. During the 8-day Hibalag celebration I moped to my only sanctuary, the P11,000 booth. Though I had honestly dreamed of other structures that went well beyond the common style and, also, went beyond our own budget, I eventually settled that what I had managed to come up with for the fest was enough.

And before I went to sleep, past a hard day of entrusting tasks to each and every faithful member, I dutifully sent “meaningful” text messages to those kabsis listed in my phonebook who I thought were important:

August 22, Wednesday
Salamat Lord sa tabang!

August 23, Thursday
It was painful hearing your words
when you are silent.

August 24, Friday
The moon you served
on a silver plate dazzled my liking.

August 25, Saturday
Ang kapit-os sa hubog, sa gakatawa, ug sa gila-inan.

August 26, Sunday
Vines may have been planted above our heads
but something more dangerous grew within

August 27, Monday
A revelation must accompany three things:
trust, understanding, and a cut tongue.

August 28, Tuesday
It was fun seeing your face
touch the cold bamboo stilts. It was.

August 29, Wednesday
The harvest of the moon’s last phase
will be much rejoiced if there were more
bleeding sowers than stoic reapers.

Probably, it was a matter of affection that I sent messages so vague that even I, myself—reading the text days later in my phone’s Sent Folder—could not exactly comprehend them.

For all eight nights (or should I say, dawns) before I closed my eyes, I thought of rain. Way before the preparations for the event, I already assumed that rain was an all-time cohort of Hibalag. This assumption was backed up by experiences ever since I stood in awestruck wonder at Silliman’s founder’s week celebration back in 2005: It rained when I was a freshman, which made me hide under one of the many cottages of the booth area with a terrible headache. And when I was a sophomore, our organization’s booth was flooded because of the heavy downpour, day and night. But this year, I only witnessed a drizzle, light rain, spit! There was no rain that could soak one’s shirt, shoes, and pants like before. “Peculiar,” I said to myself one night and then continually yearned for the angels to cry.

I didn’t know if anyone had noticed but most of my messages had a spirit of something calm, green, or an earthly force dedicated to nature. Why dedicate? Well, I thought that the simple gesture of mentioning nature’s beauty through text messaging might bring about a pour of rain from the heavens. Think of me as someone who had just cracked a pot, but that was indeed my intention: for rain to come down. I missed the rain.

A person close to me commented that it did rain one day—a day about which he was not really specific. I then responded that I didn’t feel it. I must admit that I drowsily sensed rain pitter-pattering on the tin roof but I wanted something more intimate: rain that would touch my skin.

The longing was almost identical to obsession; I just kept thinking about rain. There were projects, assignments, and exams, too, that didn’t help my misery. And there I was, almost every hour of the day, partly-seeing a picture of the surroundings from where I stood: the student nurses bleached in all-white ensembles, the Hibalag main stage that looked like it would collapse any minute, the many vacant booths that seemed to cry for attention. Other than such sight-seeing, I enjoyed the leisure of being unproductive.

Rain, rain, rain.

As I constantly sulked in the bamboo hut until the final night of the Hibalag celebration, I sensed that the atmosphere shifted a bit more different from the past nights. Suddenly, a stirring sensation inside revived me. Was it because of the burger I ate from KT’s? The Café Antonio coffee drink that I took a sip from my friend? Or the numerous attempts of beating my kabsis in a game of ungoy-ungoy, only to lose? Ah, maybe the rain was finally coming! For the first time in eight days and nights, I smiled. I was like growing back from a semi-dead situation—it was an awakening! Rooted on my spot at the second floor of our booth, finally, the announcement of the Hibalag booth awards winners were one-by-one revealed by an emcee I knew so well.

“Best Gimmick under the Academic Organizations category…”
“Best Booth Design under the Frat/Sor Category…”
“Sigh. Nothing’s new. What can we expect?” I told the person beside me.
“Now, let’s proceed to Regional Organizations category!”

No rain. Null. I must be waiting for something good to satisfy my self-inflicted depressing state. I stood up when my ears caught words that immediately loosened the strings that had snared my heart for the past few days:

“Silliman University Kadugong Bol-anon won both awards for Best Regional Booth and Best Regional Booth Exhibit! Congratulations! Let’s call the president…”

Wow. I was overwhelmed; thrilled by the thought that I stood planted firmly on the floor, unmoving. The thought then became reality when people patted my back, pushed me forward to the main stage to get the awards. Back to my proper senses, I ran and suddenly, I felt something wet that softly touched my right arms… Rain! No. it was not rain. It must be the sweat that trickled down from my forehead, sweat that constituted all the work that I had done, and exactly the same sweat that might have waited to get noticed unlike the rain that only promised nothing.

I went back to my boarding house with two plaques. These two objects of honor became testimonies to the fact that, after all, I did the right thing, planned the right plan, and flowed with the cycle of our lives’ cycle without presumptions and expectations. Everything was laid out. I gained the blessing from God that no tiny rivulets of water falling from the skies can reward. I looked up above the dark blanket that loomed over us all with only a few stars that flickered, yet I became happy. I forgot about rain.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

momentarily leaving

Consider that the things you love most are beside you, and now, feel the wrath present above your temples and beneath your toes.
-Sept 8 / 07 (10:21am)

You were made to answer the calling from within but what you sought were the distant echoes that filled your hallowed aches.
-Sept 8 / 07 (12:45am)

The old man longs for sea-scented air and salt-encrusted rocks but the child continues to run, run till the old man's breathing only reminds him of the wooden boat's coming.
-Sept 7 / 07 (1:53pm)

Inside the basket are your three lavish pickings: greed, pride, and disregard.
-Sept 7 / 07 (9:21am)

With your sallow hands you threw his solace in the depths of your secret pain. And you swayed and smiled, unmindful, as he swam in eternal sorrow.
-Sept 7 / 07 (12:13am)