Sunday, May 23, 2010


That proud naked man, spreading his well-sculpted arms, standing tall and proud as ever in a platform of solid gray stones! He never ceases to impress me every time I pass by him. You see, it is so noble of him to stand unclothed, offer himself to the world, and signify relevant importance to this struggling country. Ah! The wonders of the oblation – such honor and dignity!
While passing by the University Avenue one burning summer day, I noticed something strange about the oblation. So, I took some time to stop and observe him. For some weird reasons, I felt something wrong while my eyes wandered his full nakedness. I felt something strong while observing his head help high and his arms widely spread. He was holding on to something – something of great importance for some but a source of grudge for mine. The feeling was just overpowering that water started filling up my eyes. While the hot summer wind blew over my face, shivers delivered the coldness I wasn’t expecting. That moment, I felt my knees trembling and my heart crushing into a million piercing pieces. Though I felt the blinding sunlight burn my skin, everything else around me turned black. Except for one; and I stood there, face to face with the oblation, still yet damaged, firm yet fading. I turned my back from him and silently walked away to the acad oval.
After that compelling day, I tried everything just to avoid passing by his statue. My usual jeepney ride from Quezon Ave. to Palma Hall became so excruciating that I willingly spent some extra cash to take taxi rides and traverse CP Garcia to KNL to Benitez Hall. When I thought I am spending too much money on taxis, I decided to stick to riding jeeps but I would take off by the check-point and take an Ikot ride. Paying extra to avoid the oblation, I thought, would be good for me then. I am really sure if I could see him and not feel bad and act as nonchalantly as always. I’m not as sure though if I could control myself and hide my tears. I told myself, I have to avoid him in every way possible. So I stuck through these painful routines for days.
But avoidance couldn’t help me either. I was not getting better. For in every time I would open my Facebook account, I would see my batch mates upload their graduation pictures, proudly wearing their togas and sablays. I tried masking my emotions by saying my congratulations to those graduates, as if I am extremely happy and fine about their graduation, as if it’s not a big deal for me to be delayed for my own graduation. Deep inside, I am envious, frustrated, angry, bitter and disappointed.
I am envious because my friends already got what I have been wanting the most – a college diploma. I am frustrated because I should have graduated with those people but I failed. I failed myself in doing so. I am angry, more at my own department, for they could have been more considerate about my case and they should have let me finish my degree with them but they just don’t have the heart to give me that chance. I am bitter because I could have marched with them, wore my sablay and walked the stage and get my hard-earned diploma. I am extremely disappointed at myself, especially when I saw my mom discreetly wept a tear and my dad stared blankly outside the house upon learning that I would not graduate on time. I let down once more, I did it again. I am disappointed more because my high school graduation picture will still hang on our wall for a little longer, along with my sisters’ black toga college pictures, with my mom’s graduation picture, and my dad’s military graduation picture. I felt bad for my dad because he had to postpone his retirement just for me to finish my studies. And I couldn’t forgive myself for doing so. I cried for days. I cried whenever I am alone. I cried as if I’m going to drown this whole world. I cried until I could not produce a tear anymore.
Tears are just strange for me. I can’t even remember shedding a tear for any of my graduation rites. I managed to be as composed and firm as I always do even when I graduated at the top of my batch both in elementary and high school. I delivered heartfelt speeches on both occasions and left some of my teachers teary-eyed. I got the most number of medals than any of my batch mates and my parents proudly hang them in my neck. But I never cried on all of these moments. Not even the thought of my friends’ leaving me and all those cheesy stuffs could not make me cry. Not until this year, my supposedly graduation year. I never cried this much in my life to think that it’s not even my graduation I am crying about. It’s just that the moments will never be the same again. No medals, no speeches, no top honors, nothing. Call me dense and lame, but my graduation would be empty and gibberish, I guess. But as always, I have to move on and forge ahead.
When I grow old, look back and reflect on how my life has been, I would list down my fondest memories I would like to remember. And my stay in UP would not be in my favorites, nor even a logical choice. But somehow, my experiences in this university would definitely one of my most memorable ones. I learned a lot of valuable life lessons I need in my life. The experiences brought me to a lot of realizations I could not infer had I not been on a helpless situation. They made me stronger and shaped me to be better, mentally and emotionally. I learned to not give up and fight ‘til the end. I learned to stand up with dignity after a terrible tumble. As they say, when you’re down, there’s no way but up.
Now, you may see me inside this class, wearing a smile and being perky and all. But I am still in the process of accepting my fate and moving on. I guess, I am a good faker for pretending to be fine when I am not. But I’ll get through this, in one way or another. Besides, being delayed in UP is not that a big issue. What matters is that you graduate, earn a degree and fulfill your dreams, right?
It’s not the first time I saw the oblation holding a sablay in his arms. It’s not the first time I saw the sunflowers bloomed along the university either. Hopefully, it would not be my last. I know I will be in that platform, taking my UP diploma. May it be next year or so, I am preparing myself for it. I guess I just have to wait for my turn. I’ll wait for that moment when I’ll get to wear a sablay and sunflowers bloom for my graduation. Life goes on. For now, I’ll just pass by the oblation and adore his utmost honor and excellence, with no bitter feelings, whatsoever.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Generation XYZ

Generation XYZ
“First we are children to our parents, then parents to our children, then parents to our parents, then children to our children.”
~Milton Greenblatt

One fine day, while I’m surfing the net, devotedly playing Happy Aquarium in Facebook, my mom called my name out to help her sort the stuffs she bought from the supermarket. But since I’m so busy feeding and training my beloved fishes (they are about 200, of different kinds and sorts), I told her to wait and let me finish my “noble” work. After five minutes, he called my name once more, this time, louder and firmer, but I just can’t leave my fishes hungry and sick so again, I told her to wait for me. After I finished playing, I got out of the room and saw every grocery bag was already in their place and every grocery item was on their cabinet. And that meant only one thing for me – trouble!
Trouble inside our house generally meant my mom being upset and would get frustrated on us, her children and nag about how irresponsible we are getting. She would tell us how lazy we are and that we really don’t care if she gets tired doing chores inside the house. She would nag about how different her life was when she was still a child and now that she had four overly tiring kids. She would tell us how she would ask herself at night what she had done wrong to be punished with such predicaments. She would talk and talk and talk - a lot. But that’s only when she gets really, really upset.
That moment when she caught me playing Happy Aquarium instead of helping her was a traumatic one for me. That night, she told my dad how disappointed she was on me because her favorite son doesn’t care about her anymore. She told me that since I started attending UP, I became an overly-proud and arrogant son who doesn’t care about his parents. My dad, being the quiet and reserved one, would tell me that I should do something about it. If not, he would cut my allowance, send me in a remote island and then abandon me there. Though I thought it was just a joke, my dad managed to put up a straight face, meaning he really meant that. Oops, I went.
I didn’t realize that playing Happy Aquarium would be such a dreadful act. So I reasoned out that I was just doing my assignment and I’m going to pass it as soon as possible. But of course, it was just a lame excuse. My mom saw me playing with those fishes so she simply talked more and more. She told me how dumb of me to play such fish game when I myself couldn’t manage my own aquarium at home. I had one before, and it didn’t last for long when my fish died. She told me why could I just go outside and fish somewhere so that I can become more active and all. Fishing in Pampanga? How serious could she get, I told myself! She saw that puzzled look in my face so she talked once more. She told me how could I even manage such fishes when I don’t eat seafood (I’m allergic to seafood!) and I don’t even know how do these fishes differ. I couldn’t argue with her since I really hate fishes and seafood and I would fail in identifying which fish is which. She then proceeded to her favorite part – recalling her past. She told me when she was still a child, my grandparents would accompany the market and teach them which stuffs are better and all. Of course, my mom grew up in Ilocos Sur so I would not be surprised if she knew probinsiya stuffs. My dad grew up in Zambales so he would recall more probinsiya stuffs. And the series continued until they noticed that I’m no longer listening.
Basically, that’s what happens whenever I’m in trouble. My mom would compare her generation with mine and tell me, how lucky she was to grow up in the province and experience everything she had experienced. I secretly envied her sometimes, when she would tell how laidback their life used to be and how she would enjoy climbing trees and taking dips in a nearby river. I envied her when she told me about the quiet life she had then, stress-free, happy and contented. She would tell me about how strict her parents were but they were very helpful and generous to their children. She would tell me about how respectful she was then because she feared her parents. She would tell me how religious they were; attending mass with her lolas dressed in Filipiniana with their Rosario in their hands. I envied her childhood stories that somehow I wished I was born in their generation
It doesn’t mean that I really hate our generation. But with all the stress and problems I had gone through, I felt a little bummed up. As if I couldn’t handle anything anymore, as if I’m giving up on everything I wanted to achieve. Basta, our generation now is not as delightful, enjoyable as our parents may had. They enjoyed their childhood more; they ran freely in the streets without their parents worrying much; they had contentment all around them. And I just couldn’t feel it with our generation. Perhaps maybe, I am just an old-soul who got trapped in a body living this generation, just an old-soul who thinks simplicity and peace is everything, an old-soul who prefers the quiet sound of the barrio than the hustle and bustle of the city. Perhaps, I am just an old-soul who lived together with my mom and my dad in the province, reincarnated to be their son.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Walking through the streets of the Science complex in Diliman has never been this hard. The long gray road seems to be never-ending. The blinding glare of the sun made it even harder for me to push through. I never knew the road back to that building would be so compelling, so hard, and so emotional. I have been avoiding that place for the last two years. And most of the time, I managed to succeed in doing so. Not until now, now that I think I need to do this, now that I am most ready to face my UP past.
That familiar bleak atmosphere surrounded me while I am striding alone in the “Teletubby Land”. Isn’t it ironic that a plain bumpy road as gloomy as this would get such a happy and cheerful name? Well, I guess everything in UP is just ironic so, people don’t care anymore. A funny feeling kicked in to me as I am traversing this path. I remembered exactly how my block mate fell into the water pit while he was trying to run as fast as he could. We were looking for him to catch up but he disappeared in a jiffy, only to find out he was “swimming” in that murky “river”. I wanted to laugh hard as I was recalling that “unfortunate” incident but I managed to control myself. And my balloon of fun popped out upon realizing I am almost there. I am so uncomfortably near the building, near enough to spot that lone entrance, near enough to glimpse some familiar faces I wouldn’t want to see.
As I was walking towards the entrance of the Math building, I saw some papers in the bulletin board. As if by instinct, I looked for my name in those papers like I used to do before when I still belong here. My name didn’t appear in any of those papers but all other names are quite familiar. I felt a sudden throb while walking through the entrance. I have not been here for quite a long time and my voluntary absence made it all worse. I could have visited this place and re-acquainted with the people I used to hang out with. I could have been here to see my former professors and catch up with them. I could have been here, but I chose not to. The burden of tracking back and facing my issues is unbearable then.
Just when I thought it would not get any darker, the first floor appealed to me as so. The shadows of those tall walls prevented the light from easing through. Most classrooms are locked up as if the place has been deserted. The plants in the center piece garden are in no way blooming and inspiring. Also, there are unusually few students in this part of the building this summer. We used to sit into the long tables while waiting for our teachers. We used to review and compare assignments in those hard corner seats. We used to make fun of the non-Math majors while complaining how their Math 1 exams are so difficult. Though my grades were not getting any better then, I used to have fun here in this floor. But everything’s not quite as good as they were before. It will never be, I guess.
I managed to sneak in into an open classroom in the far end of the floor. I observed how little these rooms have changed since I last saw them. The common half-chalkboard-half-whiteboard still remained the same. The dysfunctional air conditioners which go into extremes when turned on remained the same. The usual green seats are still the same – all are still heavily abused with vandalisms. I sat into one of the chairs and tried to be as comfortable as I was before. I was hoping to get the same feeling as I used to but it just wasn’t coming. I asked myself why? I left the floor blank-minded.
The second floor wasn’t any better. The faculty of the kings and queens - as I would usually call it hasn’t changed a bit. It still homes the royalties of this building, the people we would usually run after and asked for mercy just to pass our majors. Except for some unfamiliar, new faculty members, everything’s quite the same. I still saw some students doing the same thing we did before, begging for mercy. I felt bad for them, the same way I felt bad for myself then. How could these teachers be so insensitive of these students’ feelings when they themselves became students? Had they been a little more considerate, I would still pursue a degree in this college. But they just couldn’t do so. So I packed my things then, picked up what’s left on my shattered dignity and promised myself that I would be a better teacher than they were, to not come back here again and not to beg for their elusive mercy once more. And just a mere visit of this floor made all of these emotions flourished once more. And this time, I couldn’t control my feelings, water poured down my cheeks and it just couldn’t stop. I thought I am ready to face these things, but I am still not.
After a while, I managed to gather my thoughts and proceeded in the third and final floor. This floor is not really that familiar to me. Our majors classes are mostly in the first floor and all other math subjects are in this floor. Besides, this floor brought back some more sad memories. It is here when I considered committing suicide and jumping off the building after a failed exam. It was here I received the news that I am in a probationary status and should do something more to pass. It was here when I almost cried out “foul!” and shout at the teacher when she accused us of cheating in her exams. It was here where I would secretly pour my heart out after such a stressful and traumatic day. It was all here. The saddest part of my UP life was probably staged here. And once again, I felt ashamed of myself and what I had become then. I sat on one of the corner seats and reflected on what could have my life be had I stayed in this building. If I have really lost my sanity then, probably, I could have blown this building up to get back at those abusive teachers. Or if I forced myself to like math, I would have graduated this year probably with an award or two. And it just made me feel worse. I cried once more. This time, silently, more subdued, more hurtful than ever.
The trip to the Math building made me realize things I should have known back then. One, that I am not really a Math person, that I am naturally good at this but I just can’t enjoy doing it. Second that I should stand by my decisions and not be regretful about it. I made bad decisions when I was a lot younger and I would not add more by staying in to this place where I don’t truly belong. Lastly, to move on, move forward and face what the future holds. I had been extremely hard on myself especially now that I think I am a complete mess. I might need some help to fulfill my dreams for now, but I am slowly anchoring myself to the direction I think I should pursue. I would get my UP diploma with the help of the people who trusts in me. I would fulfill my parent’s dream and help them in every way possible. I used to feel that gargantuan hate and bitterness against the Math Department, but I can’t dwell on that and I should finally let go of that grudge. Because of all these hurts and rejections, I am a completely different person now than that of the boy who first walked in the streets of Diliman. Now, I realize that I am boundless, limitless and with infinite potential. As for me and my love for Math, I think that our relationship for now would be undefined and indeterminate. The pieces don’t fit the puzzle anymore, but the picture it paints remains the same. Failure is a part of our everyday life, but giving up is just not, so I will never give up.