Tuesday, October 21, 2014

did you miss me?

People who often ask this are most likely to leave you one day or show you the door. They can never wait for you to say you miss them because it is always about them, your attention always for them, that when the minute you look the other way, they can go ahead and wander, having the weapon of assurance that they are those you pine the most, that you would always search for them and return to at the end of the day like bird to its nest. They know you would find it charming, but you should know better. It's a trick, an ace hidden in a sleeve. Now, let me ask you this: Did you miss me?

Saturday, October 18, 2014

ethics #002

Upon Turning To The Last Page

Tuesdays With Morrie, a non-fiction work by Mitch Albom, brings to mind my classes in poetry with renowned writer Myrna-Peña Reyes. Unlike Mitch’s, we met twice a week for an hour each in her home, having one-on-one classes for my final lesson on the craft of building and deconstructing verses. Like Mitch’s, we discussed life, love, death and everything in between.

The book read like an unfinished biography albeit with an arresting conceit which my poetry teacher would surely approve: The author and the subject met every Tuesday, and each Tuesday they had one category for which to wrap around their conversations with. Like there was a Tuesday when it was all about feeling sorry for yourself and another when it was about the fear of aging. It all started when Mitch chanced upon Mr. Morrie Schwartz on national TV, as weak as a broken bird. He was stricken by a strange condition: amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). In Mitch’s words, it is a “brutal, unforgiving illness of the neurological system.” In my words, it is the disease that brought to the internet millions of amateur video clips of people challenging and dousing themselves with buckets of ice.

It turned out Morrie was Mitch’s favorite professor and he was Morrie’s favorite student back in college. Due to the natural (or unnatural, depending on how you view it) course of living, they both took their separate ways, never to communicate again after many decades until that eventful day in the living room where Mitch was absentmindedly channel surfing. Mitch made it a mission to reconnect to Morrie. From then on the rest, as they say, was history.

Morrie was the quintessential professor; eager to learn and more eager to partake what was learned. He made me wish for more teachers like him. I have only encountered a few, and I will cherish each of them until my very last breath. Morrie and the rest of the few I personally know are the kind of teachers that matter inside and outside the academe. They make every peso paid for education worth it.

Sometimes, though, Morrie seemed more like a fictional character than a real person. He was just too good to be true. How can he be so optimistic? How can he be so brave? My doubt would have grown into full disbelief if not for him being grounded on this faith that I am presently starting to agree with: Be fully present. Morrie insisted that you should be entirely with the person you are with and focus on what transpires between the two of you.

I believe I tend to forget being completely present with people I care about due to modern distractions and old temptations. It seems in this age of excessive multitasking—work on a task here, talk to a friend there, Facebook everywhere—we have come to a point of doing more but actually feeling less. Energy abounds but never the empathy. We never really remember the last time we helped a stranger, we never really notice how our mothers smile anymore. If not the people around us, we also have our environment that we always take for granted. Have you ever acknowledged the skies today have fewer birds than ever before? Have you ever stopped someone from throwing his cigarette butt on the sidewalk? It is shameful.

Through Morrie’s mantra, we can claim what needs to be prioritized. This way we put our attention to not only what matters but also to what makes things exquisite and bursting with meaning. That is why I agree with Morrie. Death is irrelevant, especially in our pursuit for life and love. Ironic, isn’t it, we crave to be ahead of the rest but when we come upon the tracks of death we slow down or scamper away from it? Truly, good or bad, rich or poor, young or old, everyone faces death in his and her due time.

In fact, there is a substitute for death that we can think about. It is honesty. In the 26 years that I have been through life, I think this is what I need the most above everything else, maybe even above love. Love always brings remembrances, setting down the anchor that is nostalgia, which consequently rekindles what have been and what could be. That is why love can be painful; it drags along the past. With honesty, it is all about the present and its repercussions. It is the raw emotion that absorbs truth and deflects bullshit. I am still coming into terms with my understanding of honesty in the context of my actions and from those of the people around me. It is a process I have been working on.

If one argues that death should be feared because nobody wants to be forgotten, I must say we must not forget that there are more to look forward to. It is our attitude towards the future that we can be immortalized. We must not also allow ourselves to be tricked by the deceptiveness of youth and perfection even if they are bombarded to us on television with rejuvenating soaps and lotion, on billboards with perfectly sculpted abs and pectorals, or on the internet with penis enlargers and breast enhancers. The ideal cannot always be the ideal. Most of the time you just have to embrace what you have, love those who love you, and dive into the unknown. No instruction manuals, no second chances. Isn’t this the point of living? If things go wrong, just be at the center of chaos and experience every little tremor around you. That is how instinct and learning works.

For a slim book Tuesdays With Morrie did pack a lot of punch. It brimmed with themes that could fill a library, and all this is not enough. It made me wonder more about existence and its peculiarities. I liked it, so to speak. There is a reason why I am drawn into this and philosophy in general: It gives shape to the abstract and the ghostliness of ideas like hands molding clay. It is like poetry itself, the poetry I have learned with Ma’am Myrna many years ago. Albom’s book was like those hands, too. It managed to run over emotions current and long forgotten, and brought forth emotions that may happen as if I had not experienced them yet.

As I was nearing the end of the book, I felt a kind of heaviness inside me. It was not because of the inevitable death that was about to happen but because of a question that slipped into my head and bloomed like a great, magnificent flower: What can I do now? “A lot. A lot can be done,” I said to myself. Upon turning the last page, I basked in the comfort of that discovery.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014


On this day a year has already passed since the 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck our beautiful province of Bohol. It changed everything. Too much has been said about getting up after the fall, “bangon,” and this wanton righteousness to connect everything to resilience. But resilience is not enough. Resilience ignores the fact that humans are in nature capable of getting hurt, being miserable, and at a loss for words. Even up to this very moment. This must be the reason why many do not understand what we are commemorating for today: “Happy anniversary para sa earthquake?” or “Plenty have died, why celebrate?” I get it. There is always the weight of enigma that follows an immense, random tragedy. That is why resilience must be taken in a different context, if not taken out of the picture, since it pays no respect to the process of healing, the pains of progress and normalcy. Rather, it is the collective bravery of Bol-anons that we must remember and be grateful for. Being brave is to acknowledge fear and vulnerability, to confront and conquer them. Resilience does not entirely capture that essence. A year has passed, and I can now truly, thankfully say, “Yes, these Boholanos are brave.”