Sunday, March 25, 2012

there's always next time

I actually feared the specters that loomed in that trip. Last Saturday, I brought myself back to Dumaguete City for the graduation rites of some people whose roots of relevance branch within me, inching deeper in each moment of recollection. My excuse would be “I had to be there.” But of course, it was more than an excuse, more than wanderlust.

They were there in the afternoon when I walked the stage in my toga, too, like cheerleaders who had missed a game and went hollering amongst the crowd of beaming parents on commencement day instead. One drummer from the marching band even banged his drum wildly to the ire of his lead conductor. Just a few steps away from them were my mother, my father, and my three sisters. It was a scene plucked out from a sappy movie.

All these were happening with the great peak of Mount Talinis and Silliman Church guarding behind us, the Rizal Boulevard embracing water right in front of us, and the sun slowly dipping into a horizon that forgot it should separate sea and sky.

Who could not remember? Not even Dumaguete’s strongest rhum could not knock it off my memory.

And yes, memory, the purveyor of the specters mentioned earlier. The requisite ghosts. These are those that manifest after we’ve been through anything (if not everything), soon to be forgotten, only to be relived again with the slightest push of remembrance. The impact will be lasting, whether we like it or not.

Suddenly it was my college acquaintances’ and dearest loves’ turn. The graduates were Donna Amethyst Bernardo, Phillippe Antoni Credo, Ian Rosales Casocot, Gabriel Pestelos, Ayla Calumpang, Julian Torralba, Judy Gay Jandayan, Aris Ramiro, Urich Calumpang just to name a few. It was their turn to face the impact.

I knew from the start that the whole four-day break would be one joyful escapade, but something behind that gloss, a little bit more denied than accepted, was the thought that this would also be heartbreaking. Something worse than hangover.

Why does it have to be this way? How will we see this little city in the south without the predictable, familiar faces? When will we ever meet again? What will be the changes? Who are we returning to next time? Will there be even next time?

It was funny finding ourselves treading uncertainty again. After all these years, we remain stumped and in awe at vagueness of reaching another phase. It’s like a blur in our foresight, as if the only clear thing in our heads is the question, “What’s next?”

Following this four-day break, we will venture onto our own separate ways. But after all these years, I stand by what I have said before. Separation is necessary. To the things you love, to the ones you love.

We couldn’t have enjoyed those meals together in new and all-time favorite restaurants, those morning-the-night revelries in watering holes, those marathon conversations, that three-hour stay in Siquijor, those picture-taking sessions that attempt to frame in images what needs to be preserved, that commencement ceremony itself, that hour-long trip to Tanjay, that “Liwayway Pose” that presented itself out of nowhere, that Twitter hashtag “#ReturnOfTheStars,” those small familial reunions, those big spontaneous gatherings, those fleeting smiles and greetings and many more if not for the heightened absence we have felt beforehand.

Though last minute bad news was received before graduation day, though there were ties that remain broken within the circle, though there were places never visited for fear of meeting past loves, though there were past loves that suddenly persisted in the present, though there were personal announcements withheld to prevent changing the courses of other people’s short-term happiness, we just moved on. The acacias and the boulevard are testaments of endurance.

We may be all victims of the consequences of distance, but this is what makes loving and longing flourish in this city. Maybe next time, our laughter would be louder, our smiles wider, our understanding for each other wiser.

For the new graduates? I guess what matters now are the clinks of glasses and bottles, the shared feeling of accomplishment, the galvanic bliss of it all. We cannot deny them this triumph. They deserve it.

So let us worry on another day. For now, we just have to be happy, have faith that everything will be all right. Until next time.

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