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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Likes

The much, too much a cacophony of noise on my Facebook page brought me back here on my blog to write again. To do the quieter act of writing that I miss a lot. A writing that’s less angry and bitter. I have gone sick of what seems to be a pressing need for everyone on my Facebook news feeds in expressing his thoughts on almost everything.

Nowadays, one’s silence is considered scandalous, the highest and the worst form of apathy. No one has the right to be quiet anymore lest this silence be interpreted as complicity. Of not doing anything to correct the wrong. I suggest we stop or slow down a little, and ask ourselves where this loquacity has led us. It has made us too busy to listen, too self-conscious, too full of ourselves; oh how we enjoy staring at ourselves being reflected in our witty Facebook status. Our Facebook status has become the quickest way for us to be heard, perhaps the only one thing that empowers us in this space that functions best at deadening our senses. Our only pathetic agency. And the likes are concrete indicators that somehow, somebody’s listening, reducing us all to likes, reducing all existentialist questions to questions of likes.

This ephemerality of our chosen medium, of posts being covered, superseded by other posts supposedly more important than the ones before, not necessarily contending against each other but definitely competing for our fleeting attention, has been a bane to us. This ephemerality has brought us nowhere. Although we have this comforting feeling that as a species we’ve made giant progress, in truth we’re deeper into the void we’re made to feel we have escaped.

We’re still lost, maybe even more lost this time. We’ve lost touch of what we truly value. Reflectiveness is a forgotten value of our time. We’ve all fallen victims to the medium. We fret about concerns of deciduous significance. The present is the only thing that really matters to us. We’ve lost hold of our past. And how we dread the uncertain future. The only thing that’s real is this invented present.

All this because of our grinding desire to be heard now, of a want to express what’s currently in our mind lest it obsolesces the next minute, where we are currently at lest time steals it away from us, who we are currently with lest this person abandons us, what we currently eat. Now this is truly sad. Everything is too important, too important we cannot entrust them to our memories.

Perhaps, this is why I am back here now. I want to relish this page and its beautiful silence that I missed so badly.

Cynic

My long absence from my blog allowed me time to reflect about the entire idea of cynicism, and why people in this part of the world are so adept at cloaking their mistrust of their fellows by feigning happiness and careless abandon. Now I have a clearer understanding why the guy seated next to me on a train straddles his backpack in front of him, choosing to look ridiculous than having his possession snatched from him by me or that guy with a suspect stare standing right in front of him, clutching the bacteria-strewn stainless bar.

My optimism about anything and everything that this city stands for has been totally demolished, confronting me with a cold reality of my insignificance and of everyone else’s who lives in this place. I want to spray sharp invectives at the first, second, third, and so on person I meet every time I leave my room darkened by the shadow of gloom of the building beside it.

It used to be easier to steer myself away from this cynicism before, but as I age, I found it more and more difficult to keep myself unconsumed by it, unscathed by it.

I’m back to writing now.

But I am not the same man.

The Facebook monster

While almost everyone, those individuals who wanted to be seen as erudite, passionate, un-apathetic, a rebel-with-a-definite-cause, or those who are genuinely involved and are wanting to voice their opinions out on this divisive debate, rants about the perceived lack of insight the Catholic Church in the Philippines is making rather too obvious as regards its stand on the RH Bill, although not a few are inundating the site with remarks that border from the harmlessly banausic to the noxiously annoying.

But all of us being, members of this free virtual site, are left with no option but to ignore the refuse some people mindlessly spew on the walls, or because we have relations with these people that is beyond the virtual, connections that bleed to the real, we obligate ourselves to click ‘like’ button even though we know in our greenest gut that this is an act as horrendous as devouring somebody’s puke.

While these social networking sites, facebook and its countless copies are giving us ‘choices’, these are as artificial as artificial can be, a consolation for our being subject to their surreptitious manipulation, artificial choices that they can easily take a way at a whim. And we, being too accustomed to their presence, would rather make do with what they provide than to wallow haplessly like heroin addicts deprived of its paradisaical kick.

First, it was television that I slowly, steadily, and successfully eliminated from my routine, but with some symptoms of difficult withdrawal syndrome. Now, this facebook thing, an entity that initially presented itself as a benign diversion, is now turning into a malevolent monster eating anyone it has lodged itself in from the inside out, including me.

Tell me, how do I get out of here?

Evaluation

My class was observed twice this semester—first by the chair of the department, and last Wednesday, by the head of my cluster. The first time, if I may be very blunt about it, was a class I bombed. My ‘performance’ was below par, the students were unruly (I probably overdid my laissez faire-type of classroom management), I appeared unready with my lecture, and probably I was. But the one two days ago was different—I was confident. I felt unprepared ten minutes before my second class, panicking and finding incoherent the text I was reading at the eighth minute, and knew I was a centimeter close to totally blacking out at the fifth minute, and by the time the bell rang signaling the start of my 2:30 class, I was all perked up to commence.

Class evaluation by another more senior faculty was a controversial proposition back when I was still teaching at UP as most senior members of the faculty signified their lack of desire to be evaluated in their teaching by anyone from a different field of expertise. Junior faculty members followed the line of argument of the older faculty and also refused evaluation. As a result, compulsory classroom evaluation at UP did not materialize, but was, however, agreed upon to be done on a voluntary basis. My teaching style and skills in managing the classroom did not go through any form of evaluation except through a teaching appraisal system where students tick numerical values gauging the different aspects of an instructor’s teaching and a part where they are asked to write a short comment to include those that were not covered by the previous instrument. This helped me a little as results come out a year after, and by then I’d be least interested to care.

Ateneo on the other hand is rather proactive in terms of evaluating its faculty. I’d get the result of my evaluation by my student at the middle and end of the semester.

I was happy with the result of the second evaluation. I know the room for improvement is still unremittingly spacious, but having been told by a senior colleague, ‘If I were a college student I’d love to be in your class,’ was more than enough for now.

The f-ing phone alarms

We woke up at 11:20 today, cuddled for a few minutes, drank our coffee together, and had peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. I suffered from a poking headache; my temple was twitching, but it was bearable as I still had enough energy to carry my babe’s bag that contained a week’s worth of laundry across EDSA and to run back to my condo.

I did a shoddy math–if we slept, based on my estimate, at 3am after watching the deeply disturbing movie, Black Swan, then we did have our well-deserved rest of eight hours minus the time I had to stand up countless of times to silence the alarms of the phones in the room.

My sleep was sporadic.

I hated the fact the these phones were equipped with snoozes, and since I was too intoxicated with the decadently pleasurable feeling brought by sleep, I did not have the practical acumen to deactivate the snoozes the first time I turned off the alarms, which forced me to leave the bed three more times. I hated the fact that we both forgot to deactivate the alarms of our phone the night before. Today’s supposed to be a weekend, the only time we can be thankful to the deity of sleep for having finally granted us eight hours of sleep. But the pesky alarms, indispensable on a regular weekday, haunted and distressed us this weekend, disturbing what should have been otherwise a nice and quiet Saturday morning.

Our lives circle around phone alarms and their diaphanous but inextricably painful melody and senseless tones meant to provoke in us misanthropy and hatred for life in general. Not one of us can claim absolute freedom unless you or I allow phone alarms to take control of our lives. Human liberty is  a sham unless we continue forgoing things of more import such as a nice morning embrace or a restful sleep because we have to turn off phone alarms that are blasting off annoying strain of repetitious notes that rival that of a Harpy’s shriek.

Phone alarms are remnants of the previous century’s barbarism, of man’s wanting to inflict harm upon himself (and the people around him) while enjoying it at the same time, of our lack of urbanity, of the triumph of the matrix. All we need to is to become reactionaries and demand for what used to be truly ours–control of our time and personal relations.

However, I need to stop writing now because I have to stand up and respond to reminder in my phone that I am supposed to be heading for gym now, or how that after two hours and thirty minutes from now I should already be on a bus traveling to Makati to get some documents for a consultancy work I’m doing this month.

I should make it explicitly clear, nonetheless, that I hate myself for letting my life be ruled by these endless alarms, reminders, and notes, telling me that I should be doing this or that, at this or that hour, and should be finished doing this or that at this or that time.

Half-way done with my quarterlife crisis

http://www.stratejoy.com/

I turned 25 four days ago. I’m now exactly in my mid-20s; not a very consoling idea considering that I only intend to live until my 40s or 50s. That means I am already suffering from my mid-life crises, which is way grimmer.

I always believe that the 20s is the best time for somebody to commit as many mistakes as he can because when he is in his teens he’s not mature enough to reflect on and learn from his mistakes, and it’s already quite late and a bit shameful when he’s in his 30s and still keeps on committing major gaffes. The 20s gives one both a just-right level of maturity and an excuse for being a fool.

I still have five more years until I run out of reasons for being less of what I should be, for being profligate, for being too smart that I rejected so many opportunities to become somebody, for being carefree and irresponsible  about so many things, for loving very passionately and falling out of love just as quickly.

But until I reach my 30s, I would never stop living this life to its brim, until it overflows. I would cherish the daredevilry, the risque attitude I have cultivated after nine years of living by myself. For sure, I would remember this part of my life as the most exciting, the most colorful, and a major turning point in my going-to-be short life.

Writing a synopsis of one’s life this early a stage is a formidable task. I am smacked in the face with a blank page; I got nothing much to write because nothing much has happened to me. Except for some occasional minor storms, my life is dotted with negligible doldrums that fail to develop into full-fledged hurricanes; I would consider my life just a few notches above boring. I have lived a fairly comfortable, untested existence.

The supposed daredevilry and risque I was referring to above were nothing but an empty rhetorical device called hyperbole that a man in his 20s has a penchant of using and abusing; his grandiloquence unbridled. I have hopelessly projected, using this blog, divergent images of myself and the life I live from what is truly real.

I’ve been employed in not less than ten different jobs since I left the university, changed careers paths in not less than five times, and I am currently holding more or less four jobs. I spend most of my time working more than anything else. I work for plus-minus 16 hours every day, leaving me with a measly 8 hours for sleeping, eating, bathing, reading, writing, studying, traveling to work, but still being able to maintain a beautiful relationship with one of the most interesting and lovable persons I have met. I get exhausted at times, but I am far from being burned out.

I’ve been involved in more or less five serious relationships, had taken part in more than a hundred-and-one flings (more or less, as I already lost count), but in all these five serious relationships, I profess that I loved as passionately and burned red-hot I got singed from the inside. And from these mistakes, I learned a lot, in fact.

And gladly, I’ve begun quite recently to take everything, especially when it’s a matter concerning love, at a more even pace. This allows me and my partner to relish those simple moments of having simple dinners together, looking at each other’s faces while eating home-cooked Kare-kare, sitting by the beach, watching a movie about witches and the Devil, exchanging sweet-nothings, or simply cuddling at 5 in the morning (two hours before work starts, painfully reminding us that we’re adults ergo we have to work no matter how hard we dupe ourselves that we’re apathetic Frenchmen).

At this point, I’d say I am a happy man, though I know happiness is on a never-ending flux. Being a ‘happy man’ is as dynamic a phrase as the images inside the kaleidoscope you’ll find in the header of this blog. If there’s one thing experience has imparted on me that I will never outgrow, it’s being able to remain hopeful and eternally starry-eyed about what many surprises tomorrow will shower me with. Though this does not figure in my generally cynical posts and jaded thoughts, I am a believer of beautiful tomorrows. Probably this is the reason why I remain a happy man despite the hurts, frustrations, disappointments, heavy traffic, oily fast food, fake people, skyrocketing rent, demanding graduate school, and sleepless nights.

I am happy to celebrate this phase of my life and look forward to many more years of writing, working, yes loving, and living.