After almost two years, I met him again three afternoons ago. I just finished with my writing class when I saw him waiting for something or somebody outside the library. He seemed not to have changed a bit. He was wearing the same black plastic rimmed eye glasses I remember he has been wearing six years ago when I first met him at UP.
He was then a senior BS Bio student; I was at that time a confused BS Bio freshman who was about to quit college because of another Math 17 (Algebra and Trigonometry) exam of which I failed, twice in a row. Instead of studying and doing practice tests, I was at the library that time reading the Diary of Franz Kafka edited by Max Brod. He approached me and asked about the multi-colored tubao I was wearing around my neck. He pointed out, in our first meeting, how I was so desperate in differentiating myself from the rest of the crowd by donning that dreadful piece of fabric like a noose. His nerve intimidated me. However, it did not occur to me to question why he was wearing a hat made from nipa grass which also looked funny on him. I saw him around the campus indifferently walking as if it was but natural to wear that strange-looking hat. And there he was, commenting on my tubao which I must admit, imbued on me a character of a jokester.
For me then, he was the most radical, the weirdest, and the most original student at UP. He set the highest bar on how far one can get in order to separate oneself from the brain-deadening crowd. He introduced me to the philosophies of Marx without him being a Marxist; to the value of a revolution that will change the entire Filipino mindset, but mind you, this revolution is mired with ironies as, according to him, the only necessary participant in this revolution is himself.
He is three years my senior but finished his bachelor’s degree in 2009 after changing his thesis several times, from the behavior of drones during mating, to some experiments on mud crab, and finally settling with something which he dubbed as groundbreaking—salinity tolerance of the larval stage of two species of crabs.
And three afternoons, after not having seen each other for almost two years, instead of the perfunctory questions about what adventures each has gone through during those years, we opted to forgo this part and decided to dive head on and tackle issues of import. We had a very long unplanned, almost meandering conversation about my angst and but mostly about his compulsion, no obsession, in transforming this world into a place for intellectuals. It has always been how he wanted it to become.
He’s considering the ‘public clamor’ for him to run for the highest office in the land; after all he is qualified, he said. He was so fiery while delivering his speeches. I felt like an insignificant mortal walking beside the next president of the country. Only to realize rather late that he’s only 27.
He ran for Barangay Captain in his hometown of Bugasong, Antique. Not counting the votes he got from himself (of course), his parent, and two siblings, he got two additional votes, which gave him seven votes, out of the 470 total population of his barangay. He did not view this defeat a failure. In fact he was happy because had he won in that election, he wouldn’t have finished university. Aside from being the most radical, the weirdest, and the most original, he’s also the most disposed to take the most favorable view of things. A true-blue optimist.
We walked under the intense afternoon sun to my favorite place famous for its batchoy and coconut water, where my best friend and I used to frequent during college. Unfortunately, it closed a year ago and in its place now stands a furniture shop. So in lieu, I invited him to drink softdrinks at OMPs, a local bar that faces the university entrance. But a bottle of cold Redhorse beer was more tempting than anything. He only gave me a smile when I asked the woman at the counter to pour the contents into plastic bags and asked for plastic straws.
Nothing beats a carefree afternoon spent conversing with an old friend, walking our way to an undetermined direction, and drinking cold beer from plastic bags and sipped the alcoholic content using plastic straws. This while the sun is radiating heat in full glory overhead.
Rodelo’s one of those few people I’ve met who has remained faithful to his identity, who has held on to what he has believed when he was younger, who has truly gone against the current of general hysteria and calming boredom.
Making me so envious, because I can never be like him.