Friday, September 16, 2016

The Manila Experience

I am seated right now (02 February 2015,  7:30 A.M.) in a cozy sofa where I slept last night, here at the condo of my former student John Joseph Sangutan or we simply call him Otep.

I’m overlooking an urban scenery outside; tall buildings rising side by side with almost no trees in between them. Manila is so polluted that the concrete walls are stained by smog. LRT train just passed by and it feels like you’re really in a big city. Big Metropolis it is, but Manila has different faces: from sleek, modern, and impressive buildings at the business district of Bonifacio Global City to the to the disturbing mega slums in almost vacant (not properly owned) lots. From brilliant, sophisticated and very rich people at Forbes Park to the abandoned homeless children roaming around in almost all streets of Manila. All these contradicting sights live side by side to the extremes here in this monstrous city.

Nevertheless, it is still a very exciting and totally upbeat metro. I just hope that a century from now or even lesser than that, we can minimize this huge gap between the ways of living of the people here.

Well, that is just an introduction to my awesome experience here for the past two days. Though I have been here for so many times, yet there is always new, exciting and fun experience I have here. A couple of nights ago, I caught myself in the middle of the crowd at the Sunken Garden of UP Diliman. Peter and I just dropped by there to see my former students who were partying at the UP Fair. It was so nice to see all of them again. The beat of the live band plus the smoking food around, I missed college days that night. And just last night, we strolled around BGC and it feels like you’re in a shopping district in LA, or in Singapore where the streets are so clean, green and very refreshing. We dined at SM Aura, and yeah, it was OK.

Then unexpectedly, a gathering of Davao Christian Alumni who are studying here in Manila just happened in one call at Otep’s place.  They were wondering “Sir, bakit hindi ka nagsabi na magpunta ka dito?” While it’s a bit weird, it’s heartwarming on the other hand. We’re so happy seeing each other. It feels like an invisible force which attracts metals and magnets, the connection was unspoken. They never interact that much back in DCHS but when they arrived in the condo, they immediately feel at home without even recognizing who is the owner or who are the people around. And the conversations started and it was a sight to behold.

And we played the game of Mao. It is one of the best card games I’ve ever played. You don’t know the rules and you have to figure it out along the way. It is exciting because you have to be attentive and you need to analyze the rules of the game. We were all awaken by its intriguing rules. So many brilliant people in the room and all had a great time playing. Though we all figured it out, Peter won the first game and we’re like “uuggghhhh…” And we decided to have second round. This time the players were more cautious. I already had three Mao’s where only one card was left,.. almost there… but the luck was not on me.

The pizza just arrived and the aroma was so tempting but yet we waited until the game would be over and not long enough, Migs won. And that means it’s time to have pizza party.

What a trip indeed!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Bouncing Back

Just a couple of weeks ago (July 19, 2015), I was lying in the hospital bed, helpless as I endure the severe pain which struck my head. I was hit by typhoid fever. That moment I felt like the world was laughing at me because just for the past few months, I have been to so many exciting places, dined at fancy restaurants, slept in hotels, met interesting people, and I could even afford to crack a good laugh, like laughing out loud. And yet at the time in the hospital, I succumb to the pain I can hardly bear. I was feeling helpless.      

And I prayed, like real talk to God. I never have done that kind of prayer for a very long time. I was begging Him to help me because I can’t do it alone anymore. I totally humbled myself to God. I surrendered to Him. Though it might seem to be unfair but I think that what God wants us to do; not to lean on our own understanding but to fully trust Him instead. And definitely He really knows what’s best for us beyond what we can comprehend. 

                I only stayed in the hospital for 48 hours because I really wanted to get out. And thankfully I only paid P30.00 as excess fee. The meds to take after my hospitalization were not that expensive too. After that incident, I have a clearer understanding of the phrase “slowing down.” It was a great reminder and an eye-opener for me. I was taking life so seriously. I think a lot over things which are actually unnecessary. 

                Life is so delicate and we humans are so vulnerable to the irregularities of it. I can see it in the male ward where I was confined. There was a man in his 60’s being amputated because of diabetes. The other older man (or probably he just look old because of his sickness) has rotten feet because of diabetes. He was even undergoing dialysis. The other guy of my age is fighting dengue fever and the platelet count has just dropped at 22. And there’s a “lolo” who was rushed in the hospital because of being drunk at the age of 78. He was the most severe one with lungs being infected by bacteria because of drinking liquors and he has diabetes too.  We were all men in that room and probably feeling so invincible with the might of our body and of course with our thoughts. But there we were, lying helpless, fighting for our own very lives.

                In my two days stay in the hospital, I can totally see the amazing positivity of the Filipinos. The spirit of “bayanihan” was still there as one mother would help other patient rise to enable to urinate. The visiting “forces” of family members and friends did an amazing job in making you feel better. There is an instant connection among yourselves in the room probably because the feeling is mutual – you are all struggling and needed comfort from somebody. And there’s that attitude of making a good laugh despite all the odds. We Filipinos can certainly afford that.

                But sometimes, those light moments are short-lived because the bitter reality kicks in. It will start to sink in that you are in a very uncomfortable situation. The pain will just bite your body unpredictably. The odor in the room is very unpleasant, and not to mention that every minute you spend in the hospital there’s an equivalent drop of peso in your piggybank-like bill. So you really want to get out. And that excitement of being free can be best seen in a patient’s face who is going out of the hospital and even to their loved ones who are there for them along the way.

                I deeply thank my mother before I left home and go back to work. I kissed her. I visited my father’s grave before heading back to the city and face the real world again. I watched the movie that I really longed to watch alone and I enjoyed very much. I did not rush to get things done but still able to beat the deadline at school. I did not entertain the “stressful thoughts” that are boggling my mind. Instead, I learn to cherish the moment where I am into. In the classroom, I acknowledged more the presence of my students. We even went out watching movies and having karaoke together.  I attended the sendoff party of my former student who will be studying in Manila. I finished the book which was long overdue and it gave me sense of accomplishment.  I have a better appreciation of a good weather as I go to work every morning. 

And that’s life. We just need to bounce back after our fall and we will have another and better view of life when we are on the top again.