I will be celebrating my 30th birthday feverish, alone. Call me deviant, but I am not used to celebrating birthdays, anniversaries or whatever with “significance”. It will just be another birthday, though a historic one. In these times of global recession and mass lay-offs, war and famine, beyond imagination tragedies and calamities, and state fascism, terrorism and poverty, not many will reach the age of 30.
While each is unique, my three decades of existence, perhaps, eludes the rest because I am its sole star.
Almost half of it, I became politicized and deeply proud. My exposure to intellectual discourse and how to actualize it is beyond compare. I was 16 when I first read the Philippine Society and Revolution by Amado Guerrero and 23 when I spent several months in the Philippine countryside, particularly in the beautiful and enigmatic Eastern Visayas region. Most of my college friends are living a luxurious life then, as in now. They are traversing the world and conversing with one’s psyche.
There I found out what living is all about. What it is like to be human and be treated differently. What it is like to work with life and limb only to be hungry again. Such experience touched my heart and contributed with deep significance as to where I am going and what to do with the roads I passed-by.
To reach my destination, I travelled almost barefoot for four days and slept for only few hours. I climbed the steepest hill and cliffs, crossed the dangerous rivers and streams, and ate newly sprouted coconut palms just so I can still walk an extra mile while the heavy rain is poking at me and the swollen rivers and muddy mountainside provided a 50-50 chance to survive. Not to mention the paper tigers who wish to destroy the scientific souls marching at the beat of the whirlwind.
But that was seven long years ago.
And then not all in the mountains and hills are century’s old trees, lengthy and wild rivers and streams, endemic and endangered animals, and paper tigers but also people, real people. That makes the trip truly heartwarming and breathtaking. You see, it is not just the natural landscape that provides life it is the living itself you met as you walk along.
When you look at the people “disregarded by time” you will realize how important time is.
The wrinkles in their faces, the tired voice and their eagerness to listen to a good-news-bearing visitor provide hope. I am no idealist, but when you look and talk to them, you will feel how important life is. Their day-to-day struggle to survive provides a protracted hope that someday they will be taken seriously by society and they will take society seriously.
Living with them is heartening. Learning from them is truly inspiring.
Indeed, I learned to value every minute detail of their history and struggle to survive. I internalized their hopes, dreams and aspirations as mine. I also learned to appreciate nature more as something that cannot just provide shelter for me but can heal my sickness. No aspirin and alaxan in the countryside, only alugbati and wild weeds.
I became scientific in the process and this is the greatest lesson I learned from them not found in the engineering laboratory during my college years.
Being scientific is not always political but also physical. When one is disturbed emotionally and physically, one tends to take refuge in whatever left in his own morass. Take it from me, I dig my own soul. I realized that my body is my temple whom shall I fear.
I also began to internalize how important my temple is in the realization of my and other people’s dreams, hopes, and aspirations. I begun to value every breath that I take, every movements of my lips and the gawp of my enigmatic eyes should speak of and for other people.
A sickly body can’t think clearly. However applicable your thoughts are, it will remain insignificant.
For the past four years, I end up with several physical regimens to compensate and balance my body and mind. In a week, I end up swimming a minimum of 1500 meters. I walk at least three kilometers daily and weightlifting guarantees a twice weekly schedule for three hours. Vegetarian diet is also in the menu but not as often as I can. Two-thousand ml of water provides a steady stream in my body and yellow fruits keeps me look fit and young. Smoking is strictly prohibited and drinking wine occasionally is a must.
But whose lung can escape the pollutions in our midst? Whose body can’t be penetrated by toxic in the air?
Primarily, it is only in the countryside, and not somewhere else, that I appreciate the value of nature in my advocacies and commitment. It is not just what I read that brought me to realize and appreciate all these. It is what I see, my actual involvement and my daily linkages with ordinary people that brought me to realize the importance of my body, which undoubtedly keeps me young in spirit.
The endless walking of the mind and body cannot be compensated by countless books and information materials available in the cities. I am surrounded with much greater and vast materials waiting to be unearthed and documented in the vast countryside where poetry and song, war and peace takes time to unite.
Firm but vulnerable
“What can I tell you of my past, gentleman (he is saying) I was born in a land where the idea of freedom, the notion of right, the habit of human kindness were things coldly despised and brutally outlawed. Now and then, in the course of history, a hypocrite government would paint the walls of the nation’s prison a comelier shade of yellow and loudly proclaim the granting of rights familiar with happier states; but either these rights were solely enjoyed by the jailers or else they contained some secret flaw which made them even more bitter than the decrees of frank tyranny…Every man in the land was a slave, if he was not a bully; since the soul and everything pertaining to it were denied to man, the infliction of physical pain came to be considered as sufficient to govern and guide human nature…From time to time a thing called revolution would occur…”
I could have dreamed of writing it, but I can’t, Vladimir Nabokov did in his book, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight.
And then there is almost a decade old threat from paper-tigers. That makes my three decades of living and being truly wonderful and remarkable, politically, spiritually and physically. That makes my 30 years of living faithfully firm and my being exceptionally vulnerable.