“How did it feel like to be 30?”
I anxiously asked so many friends especially at the beginning of the year. Perhaps if I had a child, I would not be too conscious as children tend to set the life’s direction of parents. Perhaps if I had someone to share my bed and stories with at the end of the day, I would not have been used to the two big pillows on my right side and probably, would not stay up too late. Perhaps if I had finished my MA or published a book, I would not be insecure for they could have been a shield against those who were too sure because of their age. Perhaps if I had a house of my own, I would not feel so wanting.
Nonetheless I did not freak out today as I initially feared. Instead what have dominantly surfaced are gratitude and excitement. This is not to say that all anger, frustration and doubts have disappeared. But there seems to be more acceptance now, more than at any other time.
I am one of the lucky few who have found a sense of purpose in what practically sustains me. I will never forget how much I pined for the company of books at the Main Library and the cool canopy of acacia trees that line the UP academic oval, immediately after graduating. I knew what I wanted to do but did not know where to go. Fortunately, some spaces opened up and nurtured my aspirations and hopes, even though many colleagues and friends first found them to be too idealistic and for some, fantastic.
No matter how my political perspectives have evolved with finer nuances, I still hold on to some of my imagination years ago. About one day winning consecutive lottery draws amounting to billions. And in a vast expanse consisting of farmland, coastland and forests, I would build modest houses with gardens, schools with the most diverse and secular curriculum and where classes are held under the trees. And once the basics are there, invite women and girls who want to run away from home where honor killing awaits them, whose parents would sell them off to marriage, whose fathers and brothers raped them or who simply want to leave a society that treats them less than the most hated dog. We would heal ourselves and even the land, raise our daughters and sons, grow our own healthy food, unwind and rest after a long day of work within or outside this community and join other communities during fiestas, and many more.
But however good and strategic many of my intentions and plans were, many times my decisions took me to different turns and trajectories. Fortunately many of them were manageable but some were truly a shocker - all of them testing my character, bringing out the best and the worst in me. And throughout my changing fortunes, there are have been a few special people who constantly stayed with me, accepting my weaknesses, lecturing me for my stubbornness, if affectionate chiding would not work, sharing my pain and fears, shattering my anxieties and celebrating my moments of pure joy. And then many more people with whom I had more than the casual hellos, readings, analyses and tasks. They have made learning more fun and working more worthwhile.
Margie and Lyn have been my foster sisters since high school. Jenssen, who seems to have never aged nor changed, is still the cheerful and straightforward chum I met when was nine years old. The only bruhildas I know, Helen and Ginger and the “dry skin” guru, Ate Ester. Cesar, with whom I share the long struggle to pursue that elusive diploma while we slave for food on the table. Jessica, whose coolness under pressure never fails to amaze me. Mary, who may not so keen with all my sales pitch on sexual and reproductive self-determination but asked for a copy of my first WIA, Abortion Battles anyway. Pangging and Vim, who have educated my taste buds to a new level and more importantly have no qualms in setting the stage to the younger ones. Cheerleaders led by Jojo and Joey, whom I have come be afraid of displeasing with mediocre notes and Vichael, whose inspiring words years ago “sige ka, sasara yan” still reverberates in my memory. And wherever we are now, I will always be grateful to Vincent.
Then there is Mayang, my constant companion whenever I passed by a street that we eventually dubbed “Beautiful,” noting the manicured lawns of the houses the line it, before we both reach the carinderia where we always had lunch. I often forget our different political leanings for what stands out in my mind is a woman who remains graceful, generous and uncompromising, despite the painful losses and unfair judgments. However tight the purse and the huge community that looks up to her, she would never make a safety net out of any institution that she has come to love. And so when she made a crucial decision, I just thought that it was the end of an era.
At the same time, I love Yiping. Despite everything, her heart just swells with kindness, calmness and generosity that urge the spirit to think again, whenever its wings were clipped and help them soar upwards until it finds a better environment.
There are also people I consider my mentors. Alcuin, Vichael, Tony and Herbert helped me move beyond the rule of the thumb. Edel, who trained me to think more critically, questioning the “Great Tradition” and its reincarnation in various places and times while Mida, Preachy and Neil have made me enjoy literature while sifting it like flour to be pure, so as to explore the depth and breadth of its meanings and worth.
Meanwhile, Al has been more of a father figure and together with Joy, Cel, Mang Nards, Ruth, Randy, Dodo and Corinna supported me during one of those most trying times. And how can I forget, Annie, who was always bursting with energy and ideas the moment she came in, Tesa, who believed in the thoughts inside my head and urged me to give them a voice? I just wish that I had more opportunities to work with Marilee, whose sharpness and erudition are just simply inspiring and Red, who has been very encouraging to mix work with fun.
Though I still hold on to certain expectations and aspirations, Mama, Papa, Jajing and Gelic have always been there. And in moments of uncertainty, I just have to look up and find among the stars Lola Pit, Lola Anita and Lola Mila.
Then there is Marx who is becoming quite a handful. While we have long accepted how difficult it would be to live with his disability, we did not expect his power, agility and will that would make our bigger dogs bow to him. There are time when I just get irritated by his temper and when he, in turn, would not give me a good night kiss not until I make the first move. But what joy it is to be welcomed by his barking as I walk down the stairs every morning and his charming playfulness when I come home from work in the evening.
Finally, the great force, who has always been there, even as I challenge the idea of destiny and remain determined not to simply settle. And in the midst of anger and desperation, would lead me to the answers, but always with another set of questions. Sometimes I would like to think of him as a goddess, that in exchange for all the roller-coaster kind of surprises, would gift me or rather tease me with moments when I surprised myself, like a child that tugs at my skirt, knowing that inside the pockets are more gem-like candies of creativity, playfulness, desire and love:
The first time I asked for a number of a nice boy I met at the airport and made Ka Elvie smile like a proud fairy godmother. When I introduced myself through my underwear to my classmates, who in turn, gave me perfect scores. The first time I said “I think I fell in love you” in a romantic sense and then cried buckets the next day in the presence of a kind stranger. When I stripped naked to bathe under a full moon to make a wish. The first time the snow touched my cheek.
So what else can I say? Beautiful!