Saturday, April 29, 2006

Dream: And Then I Died

I just knew.

Don't ask me how I knew in my dream, I just did. You know the expression "Your life flashes before your eyes"? In my dream, it supposedly did.
Significant people were there : close friends, him, him, him, my family, and a number of teachers. I didn't expect them to be there. And they weren't there to say goodbye, they were just there. They didn't know. Only I knew.
It was night in my dream and the night didn't seem to end. Not surprisingly, I don't quite remember how it started.

The "house" looked more like a dorm. I had my own room. I remember going back there and changing my clothes in there before going out. The hallway to the room was dark and narrow and the doors were small. There were a lot of familiar people living in the rooms. My room was two doors down Dr. Villagonzalo's and right beside Dr. Esguerra's. I remember one of my "housemates" coming in, asking if he could use my bathroom. I had agreed and changed quickly while he was in the loo.

One of the first scenes I remember was fighting with my brother over something trivial. The dishes, I think. The family was supposed to go to church. I think I asked my brother to come, but he declined. I felt a whole heap of regret when we left the "house".

Before we left, there was a party at the house. I was with a lot of friends. The Katipips, M13, and UPPA were there. I knew that there were a number of high school and elementary friends, but for some reason, they blended in with the buzz of the dream's background. There was videoke and drinking, I knew that much. I couldn't find Ivan in the party.

Here's a strange scene. Right when I was about to leave, I saw Erika, Loren, and Rene talking by the bar. I went over, looked Rene in the eye and said "Ako si chuva girl", then left.

I don't remember going to church, but I do remember that in my dream, the late pope John Paul II was just about to die. Strangely enough, everyone knew who would take his place. There was a large crowd in the university ampitheatre where people were praying. I remember the heavy traffic and the sight of what looks like a flood of candles. There were about as many people spreading peculiar rumors about the then dying pope as there were devotees praying.

I was supposed to be with my parents here, right? Instead, I was with Ralph (I'm not entirely sure if Patrick was in the back seat). We were talking about something. I think it was gossip. At that point, I knew that I had a very small amount of time left.

I drove over to a place that was supposed to be a hospital. I was alone. My room was tiny and had a narrow white gurney for a bed. There was a large one-way mirror beside the bed. Apparently, I wouldn't be needing an actual room as I would be dying soon.

When I got to my room, Ivan was there.

I was happy that he was there, I had been searching the entire dream for him. There was a laminated card by the door. It was some kind of manual to the person who would be with the dying. It gave instructions on how to treat the person before he/she died and what to do after. I don't know what kind of sadistic pleasure Ivan felt when he read that to me. I think he was as clueless about what was going to happen as I was.
The card said "Let the person lie down on the bed". Ivan told me to follow and I did. He tickled me first. After a while, his tickling became a gentle massage. He massaged my back to help me relax. I was nervous and sad about having to go so soon, but really glad to have him beside me during such a difficult time. He sat by my bedside and took my hand. His hands were, as usual, warm.
I wanted to tell him that I was afraid of what was going to happen after I die. I was afraid that there was going to be emptiness. I was afraid of the dark. I was afraid of what I was going to miss. But I couldn't tell Ivan any of those things. I knew he was just going to tell me to keep my faith and trust in God. I knew he would be right if he said that. I didn't want to say anything because if I said what I was feeling out loud, my doubts would completely take over and I might die as an unfaithful.

We were quiet and I looked at myself on the silvered side of the one-way mirror.

I would make a beautiful corpse. I was still so young.

I woke up at the same moment I died in my dream. It was a peaceful death. It was something expected.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I woke up. The first sensation I had was my phone vibrating beside my right leg. I looked at it. It was a message Donna sent me at around 2:30 AM. Motorola phones tend to keep making some kind of noise or vibrate periodically when there's an unread message. I read Donna's message and replied.

There are some mornings where you're more grateful that you're still alive than usual.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Ramblings : About stars and surviving

Some of the first words of motivation that I received when I first entered university went something like:

“Physics has a high mortality rate. Every year, only twenty percent will survive.”

Not exactly the most encouraging words to say to a BS Physics/Applied Physics freshman, I imagine, but they do make their mark quite well. Now, I’m not sure how accurate those words would be if you applied them. Let’s make a simple computation:

There were three and a half Physics/Applied Physics blocks (M13, M14, M15, and G22). Let’s say there are twenty-five students per block.

25 x 3.5 = 87.5

87.5 x 0.2 x 0.2 x 0.2 x 0.2 x 0.2 = 0.028

Okay... that’s closer to zero than to one. I’m assuming that the statement was a gross exaggeration, seeing as NIP does have its share of graduates and students. Well, I actually knew that it was just an odd hyperbole used to tell us that we weren’t going down easy street; I’m just debunking the myth (the twenty percent rule applies more accurately to the number of people passing one of Dr. So-and-So’s exams).

Anyway, there were about 30 BS Physics and BS Applied Physics graduates last April 23rd. I had the great pleasure of watching their final march as undergraduates. I couldn’t help the giddiness inside, despite my outward reaction of playful bitterness. Seeing my friends and classmates, in their white dresses or barongs and elegant sablays, I realized what the twenty percent myth should have meant to me. Graduating from BS Physics or BS Applied Physics is not impossible, though it’s as difficult as passing through a needle’s eye or putting a needle through your eye (whichever you prefer). This is coming from someone who has the perfect credentials to make such a claim.

It’s alright to hear the speeches of the fortunate ones who were gifted with innate talent in their chosen field and the vision, sense of responsibility and industry to match. The class valedictorian, the most outstanding student, and the commencement speaker, there is little doubt about how much they deserve to speak in front of the graduating class as honored men and women. Their greatness should inspire others to move mountains as they had, right?

Excellence is excellence; I have no problem with displaying that.

But, even though the stars inspire many of us to look up at the night sky, the fact is there are very few who will be inspired to find a way to climb up and shine among them. Some will be satisfied with dreaming and watching the twinkling constellations from the ground. Others will reach up, but once they realize that the stars are beyond the length of their arms, they will give up and perhaps settle for a dream. Still, others will not even attempt at the dream, seeing the impossibility and foolishness of the matter.

There is really no point in addressing those who are already with the stars and those who have been inspired to find a way to climb up and shine among them. I will not try to talk the others to be like them, either. Free will gives us the right to choose our path while the laws of nature make it blatantly clear that it is not possible that everyone succeed the way these people do. Just as students can excel in a small unknown college with very little facilities and funding, students can also fail in a university as large and prestigious as UP.

This is the reality of life.

Because, fact is, the people who become stars are, more often than not, already closer to the sky than others. Whether the advantage is monetary, intellectual, physical, or emotional, it is often there. Find your personal advantage, a self-help book would probably say. The concept of comparative advantage tells us that we should develop what we are good at. That’s logical. I don’t contest that. It’s a relatively fair battlefield; we should all have some form of advantage. In my opinion, though, success should not be complicated by norms and society imposed standards. It should be as simple as overcoming a personal goal. This said personal goal should be reasonable and just within or on the limit of possibility.

“Every year, only twenty percent will survive.”

Yes, only the fittest will survive. So the best question to ask right now is, “What are you fit to be?”

Can’t reach the sky? Be like a firefly, twinkling like fairy dust near the earth. Can’t produce your own light? Reflect it like the water or the glassy grains of sand. You can even capture its creators like the trees that attract fireflies or hold the light itself like a well-cut diamond’s glimmering embrace.

Stars are not the only things that glitter and the surviving twenty percent are not the only people who can shine.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Ramblings : The Most Significant Numbers

I've been stressing these past few days about the weight that I gained this summer. I know, it's summer and its unavoidable, but I really want to look good for the PSHS alumni homecoming. In the words of my dear friend :

"Gusto kong paglawayan nila ang beauty ko."

Bwahahahah... whatever! As if!

Anyway, I attended the CS and University recognitions today (Crap! I have a killer backache from standing up all day!) and noticed how the college deans read the GWA of the summa cum laudes. The highest I heard was 1.04 (from MBB). The next thing I noticed was how, in the university graduation, after the announcement of the names of the honors, the other graduates were presented as :

"Ang mga kasamang nagsipagtapos."

In my opinion, they should have removed the word "kasama". It's like they're saying that the batch of graduates will only be distinguished by the honor graduates. It doesn't really make sense to me, since all 3963 graduates have an opportunity to rise up and make a distinguishing mark on their batch. Sure, the GWA and the words "summa cum laude" on the resume would make a difference when it comes to the number of opportunities given, but in reality, we're all given a chance to make our mark in history.

Look at these numbers : 2.2944 3963 69 717 3177 12 1.04

They don't really mean anything unless I tell you that...

2.2944 is my current GWA.

3963 is the number of UPD graduates this academic year 2005-2006.

69 is the number of PhD's granted , 717 is the number of MS and MA graduates, and 3177 is the number of BS and BA degrees and certifications given today at UPD.

Would it really matter if 12 is the number of students who graduated summa cum laude and the highest GWA for this year is 1.04?

Next year--unless I really take note of these things--I would be hardpressed to remember these numbers. They are, after all, just statistics. They're numbers that don't really count (such a weird thing to say... numbers not counting... ahh whatever!). I'm not saying that they're insignificant, by all means, they are. I just don't think they're that important.

Now, look at these numbers : 1 2 3 4 7 10

The numbers are pretty small. But, these are the numbers I will remember, probably for the rest of my life.

1 is the number of boyfriends I've had up to this point.

2 is the number of people I ended up getting mad at in my college life. It is also the number of people that courted me during college. This is also the number of organizations I joined in college.

counts the number of times I've fallen in love up to this point in my life. And 4 not only counts the number of times I've had my heart broken, but also counts the number of years I've spent with my dearest love. This will also be the number of years I will spend in UPPA and the UPPA Secretariat (Waaaaaah!!! Di na ako nakaalis!!!). 7 was the number of UPPA applicants when I joined.

There are 10 members in the Katipips.

the number of friends, best friends, close friends I gathered throughout my lifetime; the number of people who "came out" to me; the number of times I got into major car accidents are also statistics, but these are statistics that are important to me and forever will be.
My GWA is important to me right now, but once I finish studying, it will be just another number. I remember the CS recognition commencement speaker Paco Sandejas say something sensible : (allow me to paraphrase) the only time we can truly begin learning is when we're not worrying about our grades. The GWA will only be significant to me while I can do something about it, while my actions determine how it is "updated" or while it's being "updated" at all. After college, it will become just another number. I should be looking at the number of years of my life I've enjoyed instead.
The number of people that come and go in my life will be constantly updated. The number of people dear to me, the number of people I encounter, my actions will forever influence these numbers. Circumstance and my own life decisions will continuously "update" these numbers. These will be significant until the day I die. And, in any case, when I'm old and dying, can I console myself with "I had a 1.04 GWA when I graduated from college"?

Now, hopefully, I won't have to update the number of boyfriends that I've had.

So, back to my issues about my weight and my waist line. I figured that the first thing my friends from high school would probably ask is "Kamusta ka na?" So why stress? And even if they do point out that I've gained weight, so what?

I've more significant numbers to look at.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

PdLR's Thought for the Day

Sometimes you have to look to realize that you've lost something.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

PdLR's Thought for the Day

If you keep reading between the lines, you might miss the meaning of the actual text.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Randomness : Goodbye

“Ingat kayo mamaya! Bye-bye! See you tomorrow.

People probably don’t notice because my voice is usually soft, but like Bei, I say this almost automatically before I close the door of the tambayan or the lab on my way home. Automatic. Reflex. Easily done with little thought or burden. Saying goodbye every afternoon to people you’re with everyday makes saying goodbye to people you’re with everyday seem so easy.

But it isn’t.

Saying goodbye when the goodbye really matters is one of the most difficult things to do. When my favorite cousin visited from Canada two years ago, it was one of the hardest things to do in the world: to hug him and tell him to take care and keep in touch. I wanted our time together to last longer. But, in the end, he had to go.

Eventually, we had to say goodbye.

I suppose saying goodbye to him is a lot easier than saying goodbye to friends who are moving on. Geographical distance is a lot easier to conquer than the distance between worlds that do not meet and understand each other. When we graduated from high school, I didn’t know how great the distances between UST, UPLB, Ateneo, the Math Building, and NIP were until I woke up one day with the realization that I could no longer reach my closest friends. We are all from within and around Metro Manila. We didn’t need area codes to call one another. It would be easy to keep in touch. It’s no big deal that we’re from different universities. I had this mentality before we parted ways. Now, I see how far apart we really are. Sure, I could call them, text them, and email them through our Yahoo! group, but whenever I am given a glimpse of the world they’re in, I feel like an alien.

I’m happy for them. I’m sad for them. I sympathize with them. I try to understand and appreciate the world they live in. I try to give them the time of day. I read their blogs and their emails. I generally know what’s going on in their lives.

But we’re no longer part of each other’s everyday worlds. Whenever we’re together, we go back to the high school world we lived in together—a more insightful and pragmatic version of a world that will always dwell in our memories. But this world will only be in our memories. It cannot be melded with the world that we live in right now. Strange twists of Fate or our own efforts could unite my present world with my world in high school, but not without great difficulty. I was not the person I was in high school and I cannot go back the same way I cannot turn back the hands of time.

We’re all in a new crossroad right now, a crossroad that will take many of the people I have gotten used to seeing everyday to worlds that I may never be able to reach. With my cousin, I knew that he would not always be there. That he would have to go away soon. I was fully equipped when he left. I had already come to terms that he was only visiting. And, besides, close as we were, we never really shared a common world in which we were used to living in. With my friends, I didn’t realize how soon “soon” really was. For some time, I had an illusion that they would always be there. It’s selfish, I know, but when you see a person every single day for five years, that person’s presence becomes ingrained in you. The day isn’t complete without that person.

“Goodbye” would always seem so far away.

But, I would imagine that we can’t stay in these crossroads forever. They’ll take that turn that takes them to an entirely new world while I continue to walk down the path we once took together, take care of the world we once shared.

At some point, I would come to another crossroad, but that time, I will be the one taking the turn. I will be the one leaving the path I have gotten to know and used to. I will be the one leaving.

I think I know what I want to hear when that time comes, so I guess that's what I'm going to say to those who are moving on with their lives ahead of me.

"Ingat. God speed. I'll see you sometime, ok? Bye-bye."