Going home

Davao has never succeeded in charming me. I left the city without any feeling of attachment to it. I’m now on a Yellow Bus to General Santos. Anyone who spent his growing up years in this part of the country will always have fond memories of this bus company. For us, these yellow buses are so much a part of our lives that we generically call all buses Yellow Bus.

The trip will take roughly three to four hours, depending on whom one asks. From there I will take another bus to Polomolok and then a bumpy tricycle ride from poblacion to our barangay, which I have not seen for more than two years. If I get lucky later, the tricycle driver may be a schoolmate in high school, or, if our memories will not betray us, in elementary school, and I will have my fare for free. Or if not, we can catch up on what has happened to each other in the past ten years, oblivious of the coughing noise coming from the engine of his tricycle.

Going home has always given me this odd feeling. I feel more like a visitor, a guest at my parents’ house rather than a homecoming son. I itch to fly back to Manila after spending a week home. Two weeks down my supposed vacation, I’m imagining going insane. The slowness of life in Cannery will drive anyone to the edge. It has never happened to my parents and some of my high school classmates who decided to stay, though. But I am sure it will to me. The longest time I spent home since leaving for college ten years ago was two weeks. It’s unimaginable staying longer.

But I’m thinking of doing it differently this time. I will wake up tomorrow to a breakfast of rice and fish I imagine my mother will cook for us. Then I will walk to the pineapple plantation of Dole Phils. nearby to have a good view of the beautiful Mt Matutum. And I’ll leaf through those dated volumes of New Standard Encyclopedia our parents bought twenty years ago and will reread those entries that comprised my early memories of reading.

I want to enjoy the days with my parents this Christmas. I miss them. I will give home another look, and perhaps doing this will let me reconsider staying longer next time. Or maybe, it will help me remember how nostalgia feels.

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Because black’s good for somebody who’s aging a little

I brewed three tablespoonfuls of ground coffee, waited for it to soak the whole room in that comforting aroma that reminded me of my bare room when I was in college so many years ago. (It wasn’t that long ago, but it felt so long a time ago only a handful of murky memories are left for me to hold on to whenever the present proves too thorny to deal with.) When I was certain nothing more can be extracted from that sad-looking mulch, I took my black cup from the top drawer and poured into it smoking black enough to keep me wide awake for the next one hour. Sugarless.

Flooding one’s bloodstream with a healthy dose of caffeine has gone out of fashion for somebody my age. (There was something naively chic about gulping three-in-ones from those cheap giant mugs when I was in the university, but I am having difficulty comprehending it now.) It felt counterintuitive to rob oneself of sleep when sleep has long become a precious commodity, so precious I have long given up Saturday night outs all for the sake of those beautiful 6 hours of peace and paralysis.

But caffeine circulating in my body often feels delicious.

Papers

And it comes to a point when marginal returns begin to diminish, and papers begin to feel like goo framed within an ‘epistemic phenomenological completeness,’ wading in their own vanity and, of course, their accompanying uselessness sans aesthetic abhorrent-ness.

34: Ruminating on death and true love on a Sunday noon

A human lifetime is 80 years long on average. A person imagines and organizes his life with that span in mind. What I have just said everyone knows, but only rarely do we realize that the number of years granted us is not merely a quantitative fact, an external feature (like nose length or eye color), but is part of the very definition of the human. A person who might live, with all his faculties, twice as long, say 160 years, would not belong to our species. Nothing about his life would be like ours–not love, or ambitions, or feelings, or nostalgia; nothing. If after 20 years abroad an emigre were to come back to his native land with another hundred years of life ahead of him, he would have little sense of a Great Return, for him it would probably not be a return at all, just one of many byways in the long journey of his life.

For the very notion of homeland, with all its emotional power, is bound up with the relative brevity of our life, which allows us too little time to become attached to some other country, to other countries, to other languages.

Sexual relations can take up the whole of adult life. But if life were a lot longer, might not staleness stifle the capacity for arousal well before one’s physical powers declined? For there is enormous difference between the first and the tenth, the hundredth, the thousandth, or the ten thousandth coitus. Where lies the boundary line beyond which repetition becomes stereotyped, if not comical or even impossible? and once that boundary is crossed, what would become of the erotic relationship between a man and a woman? Would it vanish? Or, on the contrary, would lovers consider the sexual phase of their lives to be the barbaric prehistory of real love? Answering these questions is as easy as imagining the psychology of the inhabitant of an unknown planet.

The notion of love (of great love, of one-and-only love) itself also derives, probably, from the narrow bounds of the time we are granted. If that time were boundless, would Josef be so attached to his deceased wife? We who must die so soon, we just don’t know.

Kundera, Milan. Ignorance. Linda Asher (trans). New York: Harper. 2000. 120-2.