There are moments when a certain episode in life crosses your mind for whatever reason, even when you’re not seriously thinking about it or even when there was no event on that particular day that connected to the previous experience.
I would like to share some of these. I am not sure if it’s because of the upcoming Christmas season, or the thought that 2020 is about to end, or the idea that time is really fleeting that I’m thinking of some conversations I had with people. But through these vignettes, I hope to share some life lessons or reflections:
I had a co-teacher who was obviously gay by the way he talks, the way he moves, and the manner by which he expresses his admiration to males. So, imagine my surprise, when one lunchbreak, in a small restaurant near the university where we were both teaching then, our conversation became serious.
“I hope to get married someday,” he said.
“With whom?” I teased him. “Is there someone in school that you really like?”
“No,” he said. “I meant, I want to get married, have a wife, have kids.”
“Oh?” I replied. “But, it’s possible. Why not? Do you like any girl, then. Tell me. I’ll help you,” I said with a wink.
His reply was a long and sad sigh. He said, “How is that possible? I am sure that no woman will be interested to have me for a husband, let alone take me seriously.”
I reassured him that no, it may still be possible. But he didn’t reply and we lapsed into silence.
Now, it’s been years since we communicated. I wonder how he is and if he was able to find a wife, or probably find a spouse. I hope he’s okay.
One of my friends in college was a philosophy professor. He was married but we were very close intellectually. (He died several years ago due to an illness. May God bless his soul.) In one of our many conversations over lunch, we talked about man’s basic necessities.
He mused, “You know, our society now has an incurable malady. People complain too much.“
“How so? Why do you say that?”
“Well, people are complaining about all things–their job, their spouse, their food. Heck, even about their clothes, their hair, their trips…“
“But it’s human nature. I think, even before the society modernized, people already wanted more than what they currently have.“
“Yes. But look at this. I think it’s because people’s way of living already improved that’s why they have the tendency to complain. Those who barely have anything are pre-occupied with their day-to-day life–what they are going to eat, how they are going to survive the next day and so on. So, they don’t have the time nor the tendency to mull about the path they’re going or whether they are living their life’s purpose. They can only feel the rumbling in their stomach and their children’s stomach.”
“I can’t say I totally agree with you on that. Of course, those who have almost nothing to eat don’t spend much time mulling about their life’s purpose. But don’t you think, wanting more leads to effort to have a better life. Also, the idea that some people are too hungry to care about their life and the society is a very bad situation indeed. No one should have to experience that.”
“Hmmm…I agree. But realistically, we can’t have a perfect society.”
And so our conversation went on in a continuum of friendly disagreements and agreements.
I was riding a jeepney along Commonwealth Avenue (a long stretch of road that almost always has a heavy traffic anytime of the day) going to Fairview. There were two barkers calling passengers, both thin and wearing denim shorts and faded T-shirts, one with longish hair and visibly older than the other.
“Fairview! Fairview! Kasya pa pito!”
After 10 minutes of waiting, and even when the jeepney was not yet full of passengers, the driver called “Hoy!” and proceeded to give one of the men a 5 peso coin. The younger man then turned to the other “barker” and said “Sainyo na po ito” while thrusting his hand forward.
“Hindi, sayo yan. Sayo ibinigay eh.“
“Sayo na nga po. Pandagdag.”
“Hindi sayo na.” Then he jokingly ran away, laughing.
It was both amusing and heartwarming to see and hear their exchange. I didn’t know why, but I almost felt like I wanted to cry that time. It’s like that the five peso coin was even worth more than ten thousand pesos donated by a proudly smiling somebody, to the clicks and flashes of cameras, while the receiver poses with an embarrassed smile.
When I was still doing my graduate studies in Speech Communication, I went beyond the usual number of years because of the delay in finishing my thesis. So, part of the University of the Philippines’ regulation is to require students to enrol in an elective course while they’re finishing their research. In hindsight, this was a good opportunity since I was able to take some courses that I was really interested in although they were not in line with my degree program.
In one of those semesters, I enrolled in an archeology class and my then professor was one of the top archeologists heading the Philippine National Museum. What made it more interesting was that our weekly class, composed of a small group of students with varied graduate degree programs in the University, was held in his office in the museum. While seated around his long wooden table in one corner of his office, we discussed Philippine archeology, archeological excavations in the country, evidences that connect the culture of countries in Asia (particularly Southeast), and many other topics.
One afternoon towards the end of the semester, I had the chance to have a one-on-one chat with my professor. I couldn’t recall exactly now whether I arrived earlier than my classmates or if I stayed a bit longer after class.
“Sir. Uhmm…how did you find your true calling? It must feel really great to be surrounded by all these artifacts, books, stuff that you love,” I began while gesturing around his office.
He smiled. “Yes,” he said while moving his eyes around his big office. “You’ll find yours too. You will know it. There will be days when you will not love your work, but still, you’ll feel it if you are in the right place.”
“I’ll remember that Sir. I am doing my research now. I’m on my third thesis topic and I’m afraid I will lose interest in it again like in the first two. And my work, I love teaching but sometimes…”
I couldn’t exactly recall the rest of our conversation. It was quite abstract but I do remember that I felt light and uplifted afterwards.
The semester went on and finally ended and after submitting several papers (including, among others a review of the exhibits in the National Museum (for this one, I ventured alone around the museum for two hours and took copious notes), our favorite Filipino anthropologist (I chose F. Landa Jocano), archeological evidences of early writing system in the Philippines), my classmates and I finally finished the course. I don’t have any communication with my former professor now but that class was really memorable and worthwhile, and I sincerely thank my teacher and classmates for that experience.
I miss these kinds of conversations.