Wednesday, September 22, 2010

a new umbrella, among other things

The Weekly SillimanianFounders Issue
August 26, 2010

The rain clouds swelled that afternoon. My umbrella had just been turned inside-out, thanks to a strong gust of wind on my way to lunch yesterday. What a drag. For the remaining working hours on the thirty-eighth floor, I studied and verified details of a company’s major event until a realization came up: I never knew one corporate year felt that long.

The epiphany struck a chord. It could only mean that for most of the past 365 days, I had sulked in a cubicle that begged me to sit in a chair for protracted periods of time—or maybe because I had not been able to be in Dumaguete, and of course, Silliman University.

One year may not be a big deal for some, but it is for me. After graduation, I had committed to visit the city at least once a year for both reasonable and unreasonable excuses: catch up with dear acquaintances, tie loose ends (or feign good manners to people once or forever scorned), walk in the safe familiarity of the streets, cleanse the lungs off concrete dust, immerse in vibrant arts and culture like returning to the university’s national writers workshop among many other things.

This time, none of those happened. Yes, opportunities to momentarily get away from work did sprout but they were mere dots in the bigger picture of sanity and practicality. In the end, I had to be back in the office at 8:00 a.m., Mondays to Fridays. “NO ID, NO ENTRANCE” is now the least of my concerns when I have to face the reality of “NO ATTENDANCE, NO PAY.”

Was not visiting Dumaguete something I had to helplessly resign myself to? When each day dragged like a heavy foot, I found my graduation vow broken due to the demands of pedestrian living: the morning traffic, the evening traffic, the unpredictable weather, the next sweldo, the balance dues, the thinning hair.

Whereas in the past all I had been thinking of were my professors, my grades, my extracurricular activities’ extracurricular activities, my confidante’s idle talks, my allowance for my perennially starving Ben. I was now channeling the mind of a browbeaten man who needed to see where his tax money went.

But just as it seemed that the dregs of my ideals had been terribly stirred, I discovered them slowly descending into the bottom, finding peace. There must be more to this life than complaints.

Thankfully, I was right.

If not for the twelve full moons that had drifted along with me whenever I trudged back home from work, I wouldn’t be longing for the city of gentle people that badly and I wouldn’t be thinking of going back. Even though the stronghold of memories would always arrest me in many unexpected times, it allowed me to complete a mosaic of laughter and sorrow that provided a sharp contrast of color to our office building’s solid grey.

The separation is necessary. One must detach from the city in order to relive what makes the place so fascinating, so recognizable yet fresh in every boulevard sunrise. Through this sacrifice, love and longing continue for the city. And when the time to return comes, one will learn that every second of waiting was worth it.

For if there is one thing I will hate for Dumaguete to appear in my eyes, it is jaded familiarity.

Now, it is August. I will soon walk the hallways, the stretch of grass of my college, and see students fresh from the school year’s first midterm exams all giddy for the Founders celebration, unmindful of some teachers still deciphering the relevance of a rock concert and beauty pageant completing the week-long event’s lineup of activities. That’s a fact.

Yes, I can say it will be a homecoming of some sorts for me especially that I know a lot of people who have also weighed and decided the gravity of a much needed break. I am not sure if they have filed for a vacation leave or went AWOL, as I can recall someone doing the latter before, unstoppable despite the most urgent delivery date or deadline, but I guess it was simply the right moment. Trivial as this may read to workaholics or family men and women, but this is among the principles that make up the Silliman Spirit. (I hope the alumni can remember that aside from it being a white and red hibiscus flower). All’s for a good cause.

The rain clouds would swell one afternoon this month. I know they would. I have seen it happen for four years almost becoming a habit. And by the thought of it alone, now that I will be back after a year of absence, I will need a new umbrella.

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