How were you discriminated or cast aside as a child during your elementary days? Would you care to share?
We attribute so much power to experience. The more trials and hardships hurdled, the wiser we are. I guess that’s why we are respectful of wrinkly people whose hair has grown white, whose irises have become lighter, as if the light and color they came upon have siphoned life from their very eyes.
I sit on this lonely metal swing. I begin to scan my surroundings. The sky is slowly losing light. I notice that after every five minutes or so, the peculiar shade of periwinkle becomes darker. I kick the ground and soon the squeaking of the swing echoes through the empty playground.
This is not our subdivision, though for a significant period of my youth I believed otherwise. Four houses away from where I am is my grandparents’ home. When I was a child, I spent hot summer days here with my cousins.
My reverie is interrupted by two children running toward the vacant basketball court in front of my swing set. The sound of their rubber flip-flops hitting the hard cement is familiar. I remember how my cousins and I would also run here together, tossing a frisbee, sometimes playing tag. That seems to be ages ago. It is ages ago, I remind myself. The monkey bars set in the far corner is still the same, though I know for a fact that if I approach it, I would remember it as being bigger.
Now more kids are running toward the basketball court. They come equipped with a ball. The kid in a yellow jersey takes off his slippers and immediately attempts to shoot from the three-point line. He misses by a mile. Their laughter blends with the wind that combs through the tree branches and the continuous squeaking of my swing set. The kids in the basketball court become a flurry of zooming bodies, a display of kinetic energy that has become unfamiliar to me. I feel ancient.
I look back at the sky and try to imagine how much time has gone by since I sat here as a child, how things were easier back then, how easy it was to be happy. A while ago, I was talking to a family member whom I’ve witnessed grow into a young lady. She was contemplating on going to medical school. I wasn’t coy about anything. I told her I think it’d be great to try getting a job first, to see how it feels to actually earn her own money. I remember how it felt for me then. It was such a revelation, and I suddenly felt the weight of what was once, to me, just a platitude: “It’s hard to earn money.”
It really is.
When I was a child, I was constantly told that I was part of the future generation. That made me feel like I was part of this army, as if I held in my hand a fulfillment of a great foretold promise. I was the possibility.
Four years after graduating from college, and I have yet to see my bank account grow sufficiently to let me buy a second-hand car. If I add up the total amount of taxes I have paid since my inclusion in the workforce and keep it for myself, I can very well be able to afford a brand-new car. But laws are laws, right? And you have to give your country what you owe it. I only echo the cries of my fellowmen when I say it would be infinitely easier if I knew where the money all goes. The glaring truth, though, is that it’s never just me. It’s my colleagues, my parents, my friends—everyone who’s working pays taxes. Again, where does it all go?
The other day I was in the MRT and I noticed a man wearing what seemed to be a janitor’s uniform. It was in a tacky green color that, I imagine, would make him stand out in a crowd, whether he meant to or not. I wondered how it would feel like to be him, to wake up in the morning knowing that the day would be all about bleach, mopping the floors, and cleaning the toilets. No matter, I thought, this man does an honest day’s work. And in that moment, I felt for him. I was proud of him. He’s exactly the kind of man who puts corrupt, greedy, thieving government officials to shame, to hell and then back to hell again.
After that thought came this sinking feeling: It’s all fleeting, though, for how can the world reward this man for his honest work and put behind bars those who gobble up billions of taxpayer money like so many cookies in a jar? And I don’t smell justice, not with how slow justice is served in this country, not even if the whole nation knows what the real score is, which it does.
This is now the part where we put our faith in the system, where we leave it to due process. But isn’t this the same faith I give along with my taxes? The hope and trust we now give to the system, isn’t it the same hope and trust we’ve given to those who decide how to spend taxpayer money? And don’t we just fall into this cycle of trusting and being disappointed, and trusting yet again?
Maybe for some, enough is enough. Maybe they are the ones who’d rather not pay taxes, the ones we taxpayers can’t blame at all for not wanting to hope and trust, only to be disappointed once more. It’s their experience that has taught them that it’s better to leave the cycle altogether. But what about us left in the cycle? Us who continue to churn out faith, hope, and trust—as if we were innocent children with dreams that have yet to be broken? We give so much power to experience, but what about innocence?
When I sat on this lonely metal swing, instinctively I trusted it to carry my weight. I trusted its rusty hinges and chains and took the leap of faith that I wouldn’t hit the ground butt first. So far, it has not disappointed.
The squeaking of my metal swing is drowned once more by the children’s laughter. The same kid in the yellow jersey is in possession of the ball again. I watch him as he zooms to the three-point line and shoots the ball. There is a moment of silence, and then screams of joy. And in the air, the sense of triumph is palpable.
“Please know there are much better things in life than being lonely or liked or bitter or mean or self-conscious.
We are all full of shit.
Go love someone just because, I know your heart may be badly bruised, or even the victim of numerous knifings, but it will always heal, even if you don’t want it to; it keeps going. There are the most fantastic, beautiful things and people out there, I promise.
It is up to you to find them.”
If I were only to borrow all the words that exist, I will borrow the most ordinary, the ones that the great poets ignore and pass their skillful eyes over. I will pull them together, create a song for you that can be played day in, day out. It would be so ordinary, so bland, that no one else would take notice or pay attention. It would play as the sun rises, as it sinks underneath the darkened horizon. It would play as a child learns to walk, as a marriage ends, as a kite rises into the sky, as waves touch shore of an uncharted island, as the light of a dead star finally reaches the end of its travel. It’d be so ordinary, it will fail to resound. It’d be so ordinary, mundane things will be infinitely repeated to its tune.
But it will linger. It will linger in your consciousness, stay dormant until you find yourself walking alone in the dead of the night and it is then that it will come. You will suddenly hear it, reverberating in your ears, as if you’ve been hearing it all your life. You will mouth the words and then you will know—a song could only be as real.
Lord make me, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love
Where there is injury, pardon
Where there is doubt, faith
Where there’s despair, hope
Where there is darkness, light
Where there is sadness, joy
Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled, as to console
To be understood, as to understand
To be loved, as to love
For it is in giving, that we receive,
It is in pardoning, that we are pardoned
It is in dying, that we are born again to eternal life
Lord make me, make me an instrument of your peace
He offered his hand and I took it in mine. We looked at how our hands fit together. Pleased, we began.
I plunge into thoughts of you
as the night sky envelopes
the continent of my longing,
the rivers of my hopes.
In the vast ocean,
I wait for the wind
to push your sails nearer, closer
carrying the breath I need.
So I calm the waters
to reflect the stars,
surely it would not hurt—
having two maps
that both lead to me.
The ending! T.T
So proud of your work, baby P! As always.
This is one of the more adventurous shoots I’ve done. In this photograph, everything seems to be calm and tranquil. Actually, there were a lot of red ants on the ground and the grasses were awfully itchy. I had rashes on my legs before the shoot finally wrapped up.
Yes, this is a throwback to 2 years ago! :)
EXTRAMURAL CLASSES will start this month! Yes! Anybody here interested in learning Spanish with me? It’s open to everyone. The classes will be every Saturday, 9 am to 12 pm at UPD!
Also, does anybody here have a good Spanish workbook I can borrow? :))