Why have we become like this?

A friend of mine, a young woman of 26, asked me if she could leave before three today to join a protest rally on Katipunan, which if a critical mass is reached, will head to EDSA this evening. I indifferently said yes and told her to just make up for the lost hours next week. I on the other hand had to stay until 6 at the school to work on the evaluation of the French class students. I have papers to check this weekend, a class to prepare for, and cats to take care of. I also have to catch up on my workout as I haven’t gone to the gym for a week now because of work.

The people I see on the street, those my age, show that similar look of resignation, save for some undergraduates in their PE shirts or long tees who seem poised to change history tonight.

For all the rest, this protest on EDSA against the clandestine burying of the remains of Marcos is an annoyance, a cause of this monster traffic. The reason they’re stuck on buses on their way home to Fairview or Bacoor.

This is what has become of us. Work has made us unresponsive to events and happenings that would otherwise scandalize us had we been not rendered docile and satisfied but unthinking by work. I hate this feeling. This is what it means to be an adult; I hate that I am one.

I told myself a long time ago when I was much, much younger, that I would be part of history unfolding. That I will not stay home and let pass that rare opportunity to make a difference in this country. But look at me now. I’m scurrying to go home, cursing the traffic on EDSA just to catch some sleep.

And the saddest thing is that, passing by EDSA shrine, I saw a small crowd, hardly a critical mass enough to send the message that the people are indignant. There were several groups taking selfies while a member is holding a placard.

Everyone is tired. Everyone has gone tired. What with the unfulfilled promises of the past two People Power? The world goes on turning, with Marcos’s body finally subject to the actions of worms and vermins, after years of keeping it almost lifelike inside a tomb his family built for him.

But even rats and roaches won’t touch him. Who would want to gnaw on a dessicated body preserved in formaldehyde for almost three decades?

Life goes on.

And that is the tragedy of the Filipino, myself included, this general quiet and seeming indifference, this lack of rage at the direction this country is heading.

And my train goes to the direction of home, and I’m dying for sleep.

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Another train ride

I dread the thought of being mercilessly hurled back to the daily grind, of being pathetically celebratory at every precious moment I am able to save for rest and for those short but sweet moments I spend with babe. But while I still have remaining time, a minutiae, to be happy about being a free man, I decided to might as well live the remaining time as if the next minute were to be the end of the world.

Though, I admit I miss running toward train doors about to close in on me, cursing inconsiderate people who simply stand and hum a tune at the right side of the escalator on a rush hour, rehearsing in my mind the lines I will deliver in front of my class, looking sweaty and disheveled at 7:30 am, and using a bunch of photocopies to wipe the perspiration on my forehead. There’s something about the morning rush that heightens all my sensory perceptions, except two. All these running and chasing after the wind imbue in me bionic eyes, ears, nose, while they blunt my taste buds and sense of touch. I am good at dodging people walking and running against my direction, I can hear hushed conversations full of intrigues between strangers, or smell the stink of fellow commuters, but my taste buds do not discriminate between bland and tasty and having been exposed to the very tight proximity of other people who are as rough and acrimonious as I, feeling the pain or discomfort, physical or otherwise, has been completely shut off from my system.

This afternoon, on my way to Katipunan, that comfortable train ride reminded me of the more exciting ones I’ve had and piqued my desires for more. I am looking forward to new experiences.

I am excited. Always.

I hope to employ irony, impeccably, in my blogging soon.

Dinner for one

After I said good-bye to two of my students who did their final presentations this afternoon, I left consultation room number eight of the English Department feeling and relishing that freedom. I am at last unbounded by deadlines, deliverable, and to-dos. The sunset was strikingly beautiful and the leaves of eucalyptus trees along the path to Leong Hall were very graceful as they swayed with the cool late afternoon wind. I walked with insouciance, unhurried for the first time in ten months.

From Katipunan, I made an unplanned trip to the grocery for dinner. I bought a kilo of fresh salmon belly, some greens, and fresh spices. I waited for Babe’s text, but it seemed that the SMS wasn’t anymore coming so I went on with my plan and cooked dinner for one at eight.

I am considerably adept now in the kitchen, able to move around quickly minus the spills, burns, and splatters, unlike before when I would take out all the content of the fridge and the cupboard before I can produce a turd-looking, mangled sunny-side-up egg. Since I bought my pans and cooking utensils, I make sure I cook daily. I’ve been doing this for almost two weeks now.

The evil of fast food has never been more emphatically pilloried as when I compare it to my cooking. (I am not in any way trying to imply that I am excellent at it. No one, though, has expressed abhorrence to my cooking yet. My brother enjoys free meals and has not said any word about it.)

In a matter of 30 minutes, or less, I came up with salmon cooked in butter and a lot of garlic and a gorgeous-looking salad in olive and toasted basil dressing.

I have gotten so used to always having dinner with somebody that I thought I already forgot how it feels to dine alone. But like anything that we have grown up having and eventually ‘losing’, we still often catch ourselves surprised whenever we find out that there are things that tenaciously glued themselves to us, things we can never fully let go of or live without even though we thought all along that they’ve been long gone, deserted us for forever.

For how can a man so used to solitude all of a sudden declare his inability to have dinner by himself?

I must have gotten scared of being alone again, thinking it was impossible to revert to those dinners where I faced a blank wall while eating my plate of unpalatable unknowns, being seated next to a stranger while I was toying an overdone beef with my fork, or unsuccessfully keeping myself from hearing garrulous undergrads while I force-fed myself with pork swimming in its despicable grease.

It’s impossible to tell whether this is mere routine or a vestige of some pre-human instinct biologically wired in us through evolution. This recently learned (conditioned) desire to eat with somebody felt oddly good, not better than eating alone, though, as they each exists on different planes of pleasure.

While I was having dinner this evening, I knew I was my old self again–enjoying a simple meal, but this time I cooked the dinner myself, not feeling any remorse, as I should have been spending this time with somebody too special I’d ask a random customer questions as unimaginable as ‘Is salmon better than cream dory?‘.

To some, loneliness means eating alone. If I were younger, if it were three years ago, then I would agree with them. But I guess, years of living alone and spending countless dinners with so many somebodies and even more dinners by myself taught me that however you look at it, a good dinner is a good dinner regardless of whom you’re eating it with, or whether you’re having it quietly in a room where the only sound you hear is the sound created by your tongue smacking your upper palate as you masticate that delicate pink salmon or with somebody while whispering sweet nothings to each other.

And of course, how can I forget, a good meal is never complete without a nice cup of tea after.

Lost phone

I just lost my phone.

It feels like half of myself  had been forcibly taken away from me; but for some reason of supernatural sort, I feel liberated at the same time. I do not know from what, but it just feels good in a way quite difficult to explain.

I’d gone too dependent to it, from sounding the alarm every six in the morning, listing  the schedule of my daily work that I juggled quite well these days thanks to my phone, and in times when I was down, it was from it that I took strength to go on each day as it had become the medium for the inspiring words sent to me by my family and some friends or calls from my mother that never failed to calm my often distraught spirit. That blue Sony Ericsson had been an efficient extension of myself while remaining inconspicuous throughout.

At 7:30 this morning, while I was in my usual hurry to leave after a quick breakfast, because of its unobtrusiveness, I forgot it on top of the table at McDonald’s. I was already in Katipunan when I realized that I left it there. I did not anymore bother to go back and killed any hope that I can still retrieve it. It’s forever gone.

Losing something as indispensable as one’s mobile can expose one to the many vulnerabilities of not being connected to the rest of one’s circle or to the rest of the world, if one wants to heighten the role he plays in the universe. However, it can also mean freeing oneself from the shackles of the modern world and its insistence on materialism. And finally appreciating life for what it truly is–beautifully simple.

Losing one’s mobile is the nearest one can get to the ascetic lifestyle, like that of a hermit, when nothing matters but the mind and the possibilities it can contain, unbefuddled by the pressures of modern living. It’s finally realizing that happiness is not a result of accumulating and possessing material wealth but that it emanates from something bigger, more sublime than our very corporeal existence.

Then I remember I was waiting last night for a message from a friend about her comment on the write-up I did for her boss. I remember I had this very chummy correspondence with a high school ex. I remember I was expecting for a call from an organization I submitted an application to more than a week ago.

And the truth hit me coldly in the forehead. I JUST LOST MY PHONE!

http://gridd.posterous.com

Convincing myself

I was already done with my class in Ateneo that afternoon. I hurriedly left the classroom but was ambushed by some students from that class for a quick consultation and questions about the scores I gave their papers. I quickly explained the reasons for the C pluses and the Bs or how to express their thought more clearly in writing. After that, I passed by the department to gather the books I left on my table that afternoon before I went to my class at 1:30. At exactly 4:00 after browsing the pages of a newly bought book by Neil Gaiman referred to me by one of my students, I prepared to go home. I crossed Leong Building, the road that opens to the third gate, and said hello to the old guard who always mistakes me for a delinquent student whenever I am in my torn pants or when I don’t wear my ID (I have never worn it, I probably have a phobia of being strangled to death by somebody with the lanyard of my ID card).

After struggling my way ascending that overpass that crosses Katipunan Ave, I found myself breathing heavily on the other side of the road waiting for jeeps from UP. I boarded a rusty Sarao-model jeepney, paid seven pesos, alighted at the terminal under the massive concrete flyover in the corner of Tandang Sora and Katipunan, and braced myself for two train rides home. It usually takes me an hour to reach the gloomy condominium complex I am staying in Mandaluyong. Although I think that the route I take every day is difficult as it is, relatively, this is normal for most residents of Manila; I’ve known of some who work in Quezon City but live as far as Las Pinas or Cavite. And I have nothing to complain about because I am living comfortably from what I am receiving every end of the month. What more can I ask from a job I really love doing? Calling it work is even inappropriate.

(Bitter smile.)

500th post

Last night, after a tiring strings of travels using a combination all imaginable modes of land transportation in a modern metropolis — tricycle, MRT, LRT, jeepney, bus, and several hundred meters by foot from Shaw in Mandaluyong to Katipunan in Quezon City for my class in Ateneo to my part time teaching job in Makati — I arrived home nearly exhausting all my reserved energy, using up all my arsenal of reserved hope that I thought to be inexhaustible.

After an endless litany that went to nowhere, a monologue that lacked clarity and coherence, whose absence of a thesis statement boggled even me, and which despite it being endless, it ended because I got no energy to continue. And I was at a lost for the right words to describe what I felt. My brain came to a sudden halt, ceased to work, and surrendered everything to the comforts of a deep sleep.

This morning while attempting to put my thoughts to writing, I was surprised to learn that this one I am writing now is my 500th post. I’ve posted in this blog 500 articles! Some articles that made sense, some that didn’t, some that reflected nothing but my narcissistic tendencies as a writer and a person, some that shamelessly exposed my darkest insecurities, and some that defy rational categorization.

And some more to come.

And it just felt good posting this 500th one.