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.

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