Her story is almost lifted from Greek literature.
Let me begin describing Girlie from the standpoint of mythology.
A certain King and Queen had three daughters. The charms of the two elders were more than common, but the beauty of the youngest was so wonderful that the poverty of language is unable to express its due praise. The fame of her beauty was so great that strangers from neighboring countries came in droves to enjoy the sight, and looked on her with amazement, paying her that homage which is due only to Venus herself. In fact Venus found her altars deserted, while men turned their devotion to this young virgin. As she passed along, the people sang her praises, and strewed her way with chaplets and flowers.
This perversion of homage due only to the immortal powers to the exaltation of a mortal gave great offense to the real Venus. Shaking her ambrosial locks with indignation she exclaimed, “Am I then to be eclipsed in my honor by a mortal girl?”
Thereupon she calls her winged son Cupid, mischievous enough in his own nature and rouses and provokes him yet more by her complaints. She points out Psyche to him and says, “My dear son, punish that contumacious beauty; infuse into the bosom of that haughty girl a passion for some low, mean, unworthy being, so that she may reap a mortification as great as her present exultation and triumph!” (For a pleasurable appreciation of the fable, read Bulfinch Mythology, pages 71-79 on Cupid and Psyche).
That serves as introduction. Indeed, Psyche’s life, the mythological figure, is resurrected in Girlie’s novel-like biography. Like the fable, Girlie is the youngest of three daughters and considered also the fairest among them. She was smart and sociable. She was not only a pretty face but her poise was elegant, her manners majestic. She was the toast in every gathering.
Her parents, on the other hand, were so generous and kind that most of their peers and friends would attribute on them the characteristics of royalty. They were for them a royal couple, a King and Queen in terms of compassion and benevolence. Their attributes would pass on to her eventually.
Her beauty was almost absolute and it attracted several men absolutely. Like that in the fable, she became vulnerable and gullible and had fascinated even the low, mean and unworthy men circling around her. Like her parents, she too had a soft spot for the downtrodden and helpless. And so, for those who wanted to earn her attention, some must have to act with posturing. Only those who excel in fraud would be able to act convincingly. And so Girlie became related to a trickster but was disgusted later, having found the true nature of the man, she became estranged. She was introduced to another and she was dismayed later. Another relationship was founded, only to realize that she was again duped. All along in her entire marital state, she tried to be a perfect partner but she was repaid with ungratefulness and deception. Her life story could only come from a tragic chapter of a sad and a perfidious episode on love; unrequited and unreciprocated.
Her anguish exacted a toll on her health. Like Psyche, she wandered about in search of true and pure happiness, in search of salvation and at times contemplating on ending her travails by plunging headlong into the abyss due to a series of sufferings and misfortunes.
But she is still young, not as young though as she was before, but she has children from failed relationship whom she must devote her entire life. Here lies her deliverance. Here lies the conclusion of her passion. Here lies the almost copious duplicate of her life imitating art, as in a fable unaware of imitating fact, or as if through coincidence, fiction to non-fiction.
True enough Girlie is Psyche, or years before, during the ancient mythological times, Psyche has found Girlie a futuristic existence.
In the Greek fable, although as yet in real life for Girlie, Psyche succeeded in living happily ever after.
I don’t understand women. Not even at an age when sagacity would dictate wisdom and a broader comprehension. Well, probably because I am not one. I have lived in a world of manliness and men have their own idiosyncrasies quite different, if not wide apart, from that of women. Problem arises when man and woman convene and analyze. This is where their respective moods, disposition and biases would come into play. This is where they will be separated if not arguably would be poles apart.
The nearest which I can approximate a woman is through the conduct of my mother. She is the only person whom I looked up to, the manner, the means, the style and even in the mode I must enforce my principles. A woman’s way is the most effective but only if I am a woman. That is where the problem arises. The quickest is to be a woman if one is a man. The hardest however is to replicate awe and subordination in a manly way.
A woman’s strength lays on man’s perception of her weakness. She cries and that to a man is a sign of frailty. But she gets the job done. If a man cries, he is fired from his job! A woman spends a lot of time deliberating as if she wanted to test which powder shade looks good for her. A man on the other hand decides on the spot as if the world is about to end in seconds. Hence, man is greater than his female counterpart in war but a terrible worker during peace time.
Women delight in thoughtfulness. They love everything that has emotional undertones—love letters, light fragrance, even token gadgets. Men on the other side regale in something grand, monumental and at times on something monstrous. Men easily forget details unless it has basis in trauma. They never relish what is considered as trivial and a product of happenstance. For the women, it is the other way around.
I have a lot of friends, men and women. And they represent a different approach to me. Men easily are amused. Women easily get hurt. Although both are quickly offended, the men merely would pose a challenge and thereafter, their pent up feelings are gone. For the women, it is complicated.
Greek literature, the myth, specially is replete with a lot of instances on this great divide. The good book, The Bible, offers numerous and very vivid descriptions also in this regard. Well, even medical science is more direct as far as difference is concerned.
We need not go far, those next to us, be they men or women, can already yield the necessary disparity notwithstanding the fad on unisex and gender liberalism is implored.
My point is this. A woman will always be a woman. A man is always a man. No matter how physics and related discipline would define them as a single specie. They may be related by way of evolutionary cooperation even by way of philosophical harmony but just the same they are to be seen as distinct and separate.
Be that as it may, despite a deluge of explanation, a woman for me is a mystery. She is the only myth in my consciousness that deserves inscrutability. She remains an enigma which could never be comprehended.
As for my being a man, I subscribe that he should forever be in the shadow of his woman. There is no other way; for it is only in darkness when shadows are gone and eventually he loses his way.
It is that element that separate success and failure, victory and defeat, joy and agony.
Topping the Bar exams, being nominated as standard bearer, achieving blockbuster status, winning instantly is everything that characterize and define what a lucky punch is. One need not even factor preparation and hard work. All it takes was to be in the right place and at the right time. It is an expression full of reality. Ask those who are on top and chances are, they landed where they are because of, well, luck. Some ascribe it as fate, a favorable one, hitched on a star as the saying goes.
The debacle of Manny Pacquiao in the fistic blow from his challenger Marquez had all the earmarks of a lucky punch carried in a blistering way. It made the expression a literary one. Not that Pacquiao deserved it, or that Marquez was not capable of it, but it was there for all of us to see. A last second effort, the right hand of Marquez waiting for that instance and for Pacquaio bobbing into the flight course of that mighty shot. It was also the same blow, well, a lucky punch that Pacquiao delivered to his erstwhile opponent, Hatton, sometime ago. This time around it fell on him.
A month ago, NBP was rocked with an explosive issue—granade explosion inside the maximum security camp—and it sent prison administration into a tailspin. Media stoked the flames through incessant reportage until finally; the Department of Justice unleashed a series of orders sending a score of prison officials to the arctic region to be frozen. Tough luck. There was no interesting issue at that time hogging the front pages hence, the usual filler to excite the people—prison trouble.
While prison administration was still licking its institutional wound, another incident of graver proportion exploded. A convicted bank robber escaped from its custody. The notoriety of the offender preceded his record as the law enforcement agency immediately announced and sent alarms to the public. The leader of a dreaded gang accordingly may be preying on malls and banks once again. The dangerous person is once again on the loose.
Almost instantly, the Secretary of Justice announced the relief of several prison guards in charge of manning the security of the gates where the incident transpired.
On that day, a day after the Pacquiao dramatic defeat, the prison service suffered also a lucky punch from an escape incident sending the institution splayed on the canvas of public opinion once again and this time, down on its face.
The recent storm that lashed out in Mindanao literally blew down several hectarage of banana plantation. In Davao del Norte alone where most of the farms are dedicated to banana farms, there is an estimated 10,000 hectares affected.
It was a sudden climate change which old timers never expected. It was another case of a lucky punch for a number of banana growers.
TIDBITS. The predominant variety of banana produced in Davao del Norte is called Cavendish. It is comparatively bigger and longer than its local counterpart. It is less sweet too. But the Japanese market requires its constant exportation because of all varieties of banana, the Cavendish has a greater density of potassium, that mineral which makes muscles healthy and firm.
By now, my dear sister must have been there in the great beyond—specifically in Heaven because she is never bad—- with our parents already. I could only reflect on the time they have spent here, the responsibilities left behind for me to fend and those matters that they intended to realize, but never made it on time. Mother left us when she was barely 59 years old in 1989, still strong although she must have weakened considerably after suffering from three successive strokes. She was gone in an instant not because of ailment but because of treachery of criminals. I vowed to hunt these perpetrators to the end of the earth. Father followed at a ripe age of 86 sometime in 2008.
Nanay was gone when father was only 67 years old and my father, ever the workaholic, was very active in the academe. Tatay was forced to retire though after reaching 70 but would rather seek an active and productive routine after that. Tatay never slowed down even after reaching the 80s. He would find time visiting and helping prisoners. He was still hale and healthy although he had undergone the cruelest medical procedures when he was in his mid and late 50s.
On hindsight, we must have some kind of “signos” after reaching the midlife period. Nanay, Tatay and lately Doris went through a fatal situation. Well, as for Tatay, he breezed it through. Nanay and Doris were not as lucky. And that meant a lot for typical Filipinos who succumbed to a grave ailment after reaching the half-century mark.
Medical science is even more pronounced when it comes to studying this specific age range. Accordingly, eyesight becomes poor, for males the prostate becomes vulnerable, for females it signaled a menopausal stage. Problems with kidneys, lungs, internal organs, blood pressure and the heart are almost automatic as if the period of 50 indicates a warning sign, some kind of a bell ringing before the recess period. Diabetes, arteriosclerosis, emphysema, aneurism, cancer and a host of other fatal diseases are sworn to appear in this period. And why not? There was a frozen fossil of early man discovered in mountains of the Arctic period, which was studied by scientists, and they have concluded that the remains of the man died due to old age. The bones were carbon dated to have existed within the period where Mammoths were not yet extinct. The age of the Stone Age man was 37!
We were still lucky to have transgressed this early period of mankind. But with civilization comes a host of challenges both to health and lifespan. While we have extended a period within which to enjoy life, it comes with a number of challenges to confront and overcome. Firstly, the vices. Secondly, the tensions. Thirdly, the means of sustaining whatever it is that brings forth contentment as against those that promulgates pain and sufferings. There is calamity, viruses, incompetence, war, accident and all forms of life threatening instances in between. Amidst this influx of considerations, there is a small space we call as life. It is there where for a pigment of time we all relish company and share everything that we have. It is this minute detail in man’s life, that which he calls lifespan, where he compresses everything from his education to adventures, enjoying everything to fulfill a dream and at the same time battling every demon that spells pain and agony. This is a period in man’s life when he may be considered a hero or a heel, a protagonist or villain, a leader or a scoundrel—depending on which side of history he may later be categorized.
The Beatle signature song “In my life” had as its chorus “Life is very short…” rang a familiar expression for humanity. While the human specie through generations of evolution may have concluded numerous mind-boggling discoveries, he remains the same. The human specie is almost perpetual except for the individual member. Nothing has changed in man for hundreds of years; hence the Bible has retained its freshness even if it was written eons ago. There was even a non-fiction book that declared that our generation is the 600th already and except for the fashion in terms of clothing, nothing substantially has been altered ever since.
There is one clear advantage of this generation and those that will follow compared with their ancestral past—-it is man’s ability, his expanded and conscious ability to appreciate the reality of his short life. It may comparatively be a shortened one or prolonged for a few summers but it is almost everything there is in one’s theme.
There is one clear attribute which man has today and which eluded his ancestors before which made life not only significant but meaningful—it is man’s absolute capability to immerse himself in wisdom.
Life has never been the same; short it may be, at least for those aware of this.
She was a blazing star, luminescent and full of life. She was born in one sunny afternoon of September 11, 1955, a Sunday, at St. Jude Hospital in Sampaloc, Manila and as soon as she began to walk, a couple of summers later, she was already reading and writing. As soon as she could define colors and numbers, she was into honing up on her reasoning. She was my younger and my only sister, Doris, already showing her genius at an early age. She was never ordinary despite her effort to remain one. She was always outstanding in every way she would turn herself. She was the center whenever challenge had been determined. She was almost a goddess, not only for us, members of her family, but in every organization where she would get involved with.
I remembered when we were in our teens and I was considering seriously entering a bicycle race. She took our bike and gave all the boys in the neighborhood a scary challenge. All of us were using a racing medium and there she was in a simple tool and at the end of the tour, she was almost in the lead. She complained to me later that her legs felt like it was as big as my torso already! We had a good laugh at that time but her girlish ways evolved into a fine lady of the academe. She never relished any activity where she would witness her brother to lose. But age caught up and we were separated not only in school but also in persuasion.
My sister wanted to study, to read books and show her mettle in the classroom. On the other hand, I would get into street corner bantering, read behavior and show my mettle in violence. She never had any occasion to see the streets. She was more at home in the library, accustomed in front of her class, confident in research and used to serious discussions. She was more familiar in theoretical analysis and quite poor in judging reality. She literally grew up appreciating concepts than ascertaining that which goes around her environment.
She accepted that which was always offered to her, she was a bit vulnerable and gullible at times, because everything to her was presumed as honestly and truthfully presented. She had no doubting bones, neither would she exhibit distrust. Every suggestion, every proposition she would deduce as something reliable and worth her faith. It was our mother who would caution her always; to thread the safe side. And worst, it would always fall on my lap when things would go haywire for her. For us, we would always give my sister that wide latitude of advantage and understanding because she was our front runner. She was in charge of winning for us and in school; she was literally always on top. That was indication that she was our leader and as such would demand a lot of support and assistance from us.
Her capability to focus was exemplary. The trouble however was that she would care little about herself whenever her mind was concentrated on something. She had difficulties in determining immediate reality and would always engage in intellectual examination. Everything for her must have to pass through a formula or else she would just ignore. Scholars had that attribute of snobbery and my sister was never an exception. As a matter of fact, she would diplomatically accept something but would rather do what would please her mind.
She was more prepared to live in the academe, preferring mind games and all the boring subjects stacked from one row to another. That was where her excitement manifested, to review, to assess and mentally apply theories. Going home or staying in her room was never in her itinerary. She hated the prospects of holidays and anything that disrupted school routine. She would consider her family and school as one and would interchange her concern and commitment as if there was no difference at all.
She inherited every gene from father, himself a true-blue academician. She loved her school so much that she had redesigned everything about her according to the standards of her organization.
Nothing can unsettle her except one occasion. This was when her school was proposed to be transferred to another country. She was a division head of Colombo Plan Staff College, a UN sponsored school for technician education. The planned relocation would necessitate her dislocation and those of her staff and worst, would send everyone in her organization scouring for employment. Nonetheless, she accepted the inevitable development and would prepare for the succeeding event. She encouraged her staff to take higher education, to complete graduate studies so that they all could have a second wind in another educational institution. My sister enrolled in a doctorate class and was too serious to get across and complete it in due time. Even at the height of her medication after undergoing a series of radiation exposure due to a debilitating ailment, she would listlessly burn the midnight oil so to speak.
She was about to publish all her notes, that which she used as transcript of her lectureships around the world. She was about to wind up her rendezvous with technician education and commence a new field in criminal justice administration when her time was up.
My sister, an extraordinary lady, capped an outstanding career in technology education, a brilliant student, a loving mother, a true friend and a great sibling. Her departure to another dimension had conferred on us a certain degree of prestige in Heaven and in History.
“Armageddon (from Ancient Greek: Ἁρμαγεδών Harmagedōn, Late Latin: Armagedōn) is, according to the Bible, the site of a battle during the end times, variously interpreted as either a literal or symbolic location. The term is also used in a generic sense to refer to any end of the world scenario.” (Reference: Wikipedia)
2012 in the Mayan (The Mayan civilization, it has been said is older than the Egyptian culture and was distinguished further as one civilization which has achieved a higher level of consciousness, much higher than the succeeding generation. It persihed and was wiped out however under conditions which still remained mysterious and unknown under present time) calendar spelled out the end of the world in no uncertain term. Clearly, Mayan astrologers, those priestly leaders and scientists, were convinced in their astrological equation that a year in the future will witness the convergence of different planetary allignment and climate changes that would wreck havoc on earth which would cause cataclismic violence destroying all forms of life and even the destruction of the planet itself. Eons ago, the Mayan projected with their calculations that the year 2012 will be “it.” (A movie was made inspired by this Mayan belief and it became a blockbuster for a time).
Months before 2012 augured, the world in the estimation of some people were miserably anticipating, nervously awaiting, praying, hoping, predicting for this unfortunate projection to fizzle out. 2012 came and it unfolded quite a sad storyline for some.
On a personal note and in my own timeline, 2012 indeed was an end in itself. For a close friend and ally, Romy Chavez, it was the termination of a long career in holding on as my loyal follower. He perished in a vehicular accident which he could have avoided. Then a few weeks later, I was informed that a school mate Atty. Ed Garcia, one who frequents my place, who would always consult me on some conflicts would succumbed to an ailment. Thereafter, I would hear that a childhood playmate,Sonny Miranda, one who would accompany me for years in street gallivanting, who would excite my dreary days with our regular exchanges of amusing antics, would also be claimed quite treacherously by a debilitating heart disease. All of them very important personalities in my lifetime adventure. They lent color, excitement, drama in all the significant episodes in my career, not to mention their influence on the greater environment where they choose to immerse. They were all good characters that do not deserve yet an exit in the drama of life. They chose the simple path of living along the fringes without excess or abuse.
The year 2012 however was no different from previous years as a matter of fact. Just like the periodic stretch that passed, it was also greeted by accidents and deaths. Calamities and mayhem. War and conflicts. Pain and suffering. Successes and failures. There would be no difference if one would use the standard yardstick of determining the rate of incidents in the trial balance of the universe. It was still a regular intrepid period for being born and passing away. Everything pulsated according to the usual paradigm of nature in the entire the galaxy of existence. Until something happens outside of providence.
It did not take long when the year would finally fold up when out of the blue I would receive a message that my only sister crossed over. It was never an accident. She was sick but all those who knew her believed that she would recover. She was a woman of substance, a lady with distinction, careful about everything she would offer to the world. She cared about humanity, she loved her family, she prayed fervently. More so, she was young and at the prime of her life. She was still expected to contribute more to the fullness of humanity. She had more grand plans and she loved every minute sharing what she had accumulated. She was a woman of her times. She will never fade, at least for a time, and she will not perish in an unlikely manner. She should and ought to be around. But for her (and those who love her), the Mayan prediction proved true.
It’s weird that we have to observe annually a day specific for the remembrance of our dearly departed—that is, every November 1. Some with entrepreneurial orientation would even cash in on said day by introducing masks of zombies, rubberized skeletal remains, plastic voodoo instruments and “fearful” props not in honor of the dead though but more on mocking their influence as they are recalled in their imagined state of deterioration.
The day is a mixture of deference and ridicule, on respect and travesty, on reverence and disregard. It is a day for reunion of those left behind, at times made as an occasion for some celebratory gathering. The atmosphere is festive to a certain extent. The point is to recall the presence of a loved one, recollect those deeds and significant influence, a reminiscence of accomplishment, an attempt to establish a kind of legacy which could never be forgotten.
Children were made up to look funny and amusing. The day has been commercialized. It has evolved into a circus where admiration of the person who crossed over has been relegated if not totally ignored in favor of mindless merriment. If at all there remains a memorial for their worthy presence sometime in the past to be recalled at present, it has virtually been erased and commemoration blithely discounted. As the saying goes, “let the dead bury the dead.” For the living, it is business as usual whatever is the date.
I have no argument for this development; neither would I express rancor nor sadness. I would rather throw myself in one corner, in an area where reclusiveness may be expressed, to remember my loved ones—they who made life an exciting journey not only for me but also for those whom they have offered much concern and attention. And it is not on a particular day but on any day their image may be recalled. A song may be played on the radio and I would be reminded on a particular person. My mother when she was still around would always sing a Timi Yuro hit. My father would rejoice whenever he played on our stereo some marching hymns. For every melody, I am reminded of a loved one, a number of close friends, relatives, even acquaintances.
When the Beatles’ songs are played, an array of memories would flow in continuous stream, evoking memoirs of those who have gone to life hereafter. There are also tunes coming from BeeGees, Elvis Presley, Motown hits and even those sang by the Big three Sullivan and Eddie Peregrina. Not to mention those wonderful music rendered by the Hotdogs, VST, Rico Puno, Freddie Aguilar, Ogie Alcasid to name a few. I am still checking whether there are memories hidden whenever the airwaves would play the song of Lady Gaga or the Oppa Gangnam Style!
For me it is not the day but the music that revives, that resurrects my dearly departed back to life. I dare say that it is also everyone’s silent repertoire whenever we wish to be with our loved ones—not missing nor gone to some places unknown but rather are actually residing in our hearts and minds.
There is an old worn out cliché that says “Different folks, different strokes.” Appreciating life depends therefore on where the person is coming from. For a student, it is the completion of a school course. To a prisoner, his day of release. For a government worker, a salary increase and promotion. To a worker in a private firm, security of tenure. For a housewife, a stable domestic life. To children, a continuous supply of toys. So on and so forth.
On a bigger plane, life is appreciated in the context of public safety, on the prevailing peace and order, on the imposition of laws, on the proper application of social justice. This of course belongs to the realm of governance—that harmonious blending of government, private and citizen services towards a common goal. This area aptly is based on the leadership quality of the community and could hardly be contained by individual requirements. This is a collective choice.
On a personal note though, that which animates appreciation in life is basically a question of norms, a question of requirements in achieving happiness. Happiness at times is viewed in the prism of contentment, on basic satisfaction of a specific consideration. By and large, a healthy body promotes a happy disposition for living. Although, oftentimes it is ignored and relegated to a blind corner, health is nonetheless the apex of a person in achieving something worthy for himself. It is a pity that health at times is sacrificed to extract token and temporary happiness by immersing in vices like substance and drug abuse, consuming processed and toxic foods, idling time. Every unwholesome activity is savored until the costs are manifested through ailment and life threatening diseases. The happiness derived in these concerns became the prerequisite for a disillusioned and an unhealthy life. Here, the lesson on appreciating life becomes amplified and repentance or realization brought to the fore.
I recalled an instance in the past when I would pepper my father to buy me a bike. Every kid in the neighborhood had one (and at that time, there were no surpluses yet unlike now where every street corner one finds an ukay-ukay stall featuring every known commodity from furniture to toys, from cars to bikes). My father was an ordinary government worker then and could not as yet provide us such advantage. Peeved by my audacity in pleading for a bicycle, my father finally gave word.
“Ok Ven, dress up and I will take you a place where you can appreciate life better with or without a bike.” He said.
“Yeheyyy!” I was excited to hear father finally responding to my youthful demands even if he made certain comments that would douse my enthusiasm in the event he fails in buying me a bike. For me to get his attention was enough, I still hope I could convince him in the process. I had no idea then what working hard and saving money mean.
We boarded a bus and we alighted near the bus stop adjacent to a public hospital. I was a springy 9 year old tot at that time.
“Ven, let’s go. Let us check first a friend who is confined here before we proceed.” My father seriously instructed.
We went through the admission side of the hospital and went through a bend leading to the emergency room. The air had stench of alcohol, people in white uniforms were almost running side to side, and those in green duster had white gauge on their snouts. I had no idea who was a doctor and who was not.
There were several stretchers and steel beds, all brimming with helpless people, some in bandage, some bloodied, some motionless. It was a terrible sight. I had not seen anything like that. Those people milling along the corridors were crying, some looking like desperate, just like the desperation I pictured myself to be while prodding my father earlier on.
My father whispered. “Ven, have you seen that fellow wrapped in blanket, the face very youthful but grimacing pain?”
“Yes father. He must be hurting.”
“Look at those around him. They are probably members of his family.”
“They must be rich. Look at the them, they have jewelries and their dress must be expensive. Look at the bags and those that they possess, it must be costly.”
“They also look wealthy because they are clean.”
“Now, listen Ven. These are people who can afford to buy several bicycles for their kids, especially for the one on the bed wrapped in blanket. What do you think would the one on the bed wish for, a bike or his health?”
I smiled at the question which father posed to me. “Naturally, his health because he cannot enjoy a bicycle ride if he is that sick.”
“Precisely my son. Who is better? You, a healthy boy without a bike or that wealthy boy who can afford to buy several bikes but are very sick to enjoy even the air in the park. Who is wealthier therefore? Us or them? Or, simply put, who is happier, you or the poor kid agonizing on his bed?”
I know what father wanted me to realize then. I am better off than anyone in the hospital. I am better off even if I have no bike. I am better off because I am healthy.
My father would quip every time I would cast a teary eye on something which I would fancy somewhere along the line, “Health is wealth.” I would hear this almost everywhere, expressed in almost senseless way, but for me it has gained a new meaning, a valuable implication, a significant consideration. That health is everything and on top of every other mundane consideration whether it is material or something intellectual.
I took a leaf from the wisdom of that trip in the hospital with my father.
What is there to appreciate in life? It’s health, nothing more.
First off, employment. Nowadays, it does not pay to be unemployed, or even to be underemployed. If you are married, you have to grab with your smooth palm the proverbial sharp edge of the blade, just to be employed—-in whatever capacity, in whatever way. I you are single, the more you have to be liquid so that you could get the best deal in the world of technology (or gimmickry) —starting with a high end cellular phone. But working in government is a simple proposition if you have the credentials like the Civil Service eligibility. It works wonder if you have it. Passing the eligibility exam is not a breeze though but for those who regularly read the dailies, it is almost like a song. Readers have certain advantages over those who are not. That is one skill which the school ought to impose on its studentry but commercialism dictates that it is not the priority. Hence, most of the graduates have no interest, much more so, any penchant at all to read. In the private firm, it is even more difficult to get through. I am digressing though.
What is really there in the prison service in the first place? For the newcomer, it is the competitive remuneration. The allowances. It has to be that materialistic way since we are dealing with the profession in criminal justice administration specializing in corrections. And professionals, specialists at that, therefore must be paid accordingly. Like in NBA, a league of professional sportsmen, no pay-no play. Prison personnel are given a hazard pay on top of other perquisites, something which no government officer receives from their respective agency. Never mind the hazards and dangers. Never mind the unattractive environment. Never mind the usual indifferent attitude of some bureaucrats in the midst. Never mind the arrogance of the prison climate. Never mind the deceptive condition of the prison population. The professional worker must be there in his most objective and impartial manner. The professional is therefore to be distinguished with the amateur; the latter plays even if there is no pay. They work, even better and more audacious, than their counterpart in the regular outfit, but they, as newbie, are still emotionally and sentimentally attached to the work environment. This is a no-no in the prison service.
A prison worker, like an amateur, who begins to understand the plight of the prison community according to the lens and prism of inmates, signals the end of his neutrality. He becomes one of those he is supposed to govern and assist. He becomes biased and prejudiced. He becomes subjective and dependent. In other words, he becomes, whether he likes it or not, an inmate too. With that kind of immersion, he would just be surprised to find that he has never earned respect in the prison community and worst, even disrespected by his peers.
He should therefore concentrate on his post, in that area where he is posted or assigned. From there he could monitor that which is materializing in his presence without even his active participation. From where he is, he could appreciate the derelicts from the rest. He could verify the habitual from the conventional, the common from special, and the normal from subnormal or abnormal. Prison service is a world different from the rest of government service or even in the stretch of public service. Prison officers cater to the subliminal aspect of security administration. They must know when to react or not to react at all. They must understand character. They must know how to read behavior if only to respond properly.
What is there in the prison service for us therefore? Headaches, broken heart, dissatisfaction, disillusionment, even emphysema, diabetes, heart disease, depression and kidney failure. No, there is no contagion along that line. The prison community is never an infectious village, despite the filth and disorder; it is never given to episodes of epidemics. In prison however vices abound and everything compete with diversion. Oftentimes, the boredom felt by the prisoners get through into the consciousness of the prison worker until the latter gets monotonous, worn down and adopts the feeling of weariness. One gets sick because of this, because there is lack of focus. Employment in prison is more watching, as it should be, than working in the physical sense. Simply put, the work is in watching, in observing, in tailing. Then, at the end of the shift, the usual turn over to the succeeding officer. An important caveat should be noted: It is in mixing prison work with the concern for inmate personal requirements that serves as the mode providing conflict and confusion. It is there where focus is lost, cases at times are eventually brought into the fore, harassment the order of the day and the daunting challenge to survive, wreck havoc upon the health. Accidents and unnatural mishap at times are even heard.
However, for those neutral and are properly posted exuding cold detachment and has taken no sides in the prison community, there is something in the prison service for them. Its good health, confidence, warm peer relations, a healthy pocket full of savings and most of all raw wisdom, a shield against sudden misfortune.
My dear daughter,
I could understand how you felt when you were informed that there is once again, someone, the brother of your best friend, still youthful by today’s standard, in your long list of friends, who crossed over. (Sometime ago, you were there in the burial of your grandmother. And then after a while, attending the internment of your aunt. And as if it is not enough, a few days later, you were even the one who lay to rest your favorite pet dog. And now, as if your grief has as yet to wipe your tears away, you were a recipient of a request to check whether the brother of your best friend died alone in his own pad! You were there on rescue mode but your friend was correct, her brother died almost a day before you reached the place.) That is what life is all about. It is about getting born, having an education, being exposed to the vagaries of reality, competing, struggling, haggling and then the final outcome. It could be a long arduous climb to reach the top, or just to sustain what is there to find but nonetheless the end usually could spell a lot of difference.
It’s a pity that I am not always there to explain philosophy nor interpret for your easy comprehension the meaning of life but it is often shown to us, at times in a morbid way or in less tragic manner, as in witnessing how health deteriorates, how accidents claim a passersby, how pedestrians are hit or mauled, whatever, the termination of the most phenomenal consideration of humanity has always been there with us since the dawn of time—that is, the making and the fulfillment of life.
I tell you what. I have seen a lot of these matters, some before my eyes, as in executing the condemned men during my death penalty days; sometimes helplessly, waiting for time to claim a loved one whose body has been wracked by ailment, painfully at that; there are those who just called up to inform me of the passing of a friend, classmate, relative, neighbor, etc. Deaths are here, deaths are there. Where is it headed? When will be its turn for the rest, me included? Mortality has always been there, even to a busy mind. It reminds us of the end, and what should be done. Of course, we are all powerless when the time comes. No one is prepared anyway. It just arrives. It is a fact of reality which at times makes me envy on those who earn their upkeep in the process like insurance companies.
Let us have an example. An innocent ant on the way to a leftover food, helping itself, barely a dust disturbed while coursing through may be trampled upon, or may be slapped by a disgruntled human being. It may not matter to us, superior beings, but such is also our fate in the bigger picture of the universe. We do not also count if at all size matters compared with the entire galaxy system. Even our planet is just a speck, what more our mortal bodies. We are mere incidents if not accidents in the entire galactic consideration. We merely ascribe importance because we have cognition which can be trained and educated. The same can also be attributed to all living things—be it small or grand. Where we refer to some kind analytical skill as intelligence or even intellectualism, lower animals, those we like to ogle in zoos have similar if not more keen intelligence than man, they call it, or simply put, we assign it as sensitivity or plain instinct.
The problem with man is his ability to weep and be lonely. In the ant world, if one of their kinds is crushed, not one would sympathize. It may cause a little disruption and surprise but after a few seconds, they are off to their next station. The same can be said among elephants. But man is different. He is even given to vengeance if what happened has been deliberately committed against his friend or family, or even against himself, assuming he survives. Man’s sentiment carries him to a higher plane or conversely, brings him down to a dismal abyss of ignorance.
Life comes and it goes. That is how our universe is since the first nucleus of life came into being, what it constituted, what it was made of, and that is precisely what reality is all about. Life exudes consciousness, a certain degree of awareness but that is only a figment, a sudden flash on what is and what existence is all about. The essence is on perception.
Remember this dear child. Life is a celebration. Death is the culmination. That is how it is was, how it is and how it will be. That is one equation which we will always be encountering, as we have encountered and what we will in the near future expect to encounter.
So next time you hear of a loss, just think about history. Or, probably if you wish to be a little off beat once in a while, think about the ant.
Your loving father,