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THE WORLD OF AN OCTOGENARIAN

lola puric

Purificacion was a beautiful lass from a remote barrio of Mindanao.  Her clan belonged to the minority tribe in a predominantly Muslim area.  In the early 30s, she was the toast of the town, statuesque, with flawless skin and brilliant.  She could easily qualify as a beauty queen and a career woman but in a community where men were virtually at the forefront of everything, she stayed on the sideline.  She would act however as the brains behind every move in her family and would retain the same upbeat disposition even when she married.

 Purificacion had a strong personality.  She could impose her will, apply her resolve and install her wish and choice with reason.  She was the center of her family, the one dictating on everything that should be conducted.  Her family was prosperous with her at the inner helm.  She delighted on her family’s situation.  They had lands, farms and a strategically located residence.  She pushed her husband to be one of the best blacksmith in their town—if not the only blacksmith which the community repairs to when in need of iron craft.

 Years later, she would be widowed and her leadership through her husband would slide down.  In a community where womenfolk are relegated in a corner, she could only muster enough strength to sustain her children up until they would have their respective families.

 Before she reached an advanced age, she still would continue to impose her strong will on her family.  She was no longer Mama Purification.  She was Lola Puric, her hair white as a churchly veil, neatly combed up and coifed at the back.  She had been a tough matriarch and almost in command of everything from the time her husband left the world.  She would require from her grandchildren to undergo a rigorous training.  Those who came from a fledging family would be first in her list.  She would whip every child not to toe the line.  They would pass through an initiation rite under her guidance which is highly physical.  She would drive them into slavery to instill in their bones the meaning of hard work and obedience.  She would impose discipline even if the cost is to break their morale and their perception of learning.  She would never repeat the same treatment she gave to her children, which made them soft and weak.  She would rather have strong grandchildren even if in the process they would fade and crack.  Those who would survive would surely make it.  It was her gamble and it was her way of greeting her advanced years.  She wanted to see herself among those who would survive.  It was her means of getting through and living more.

Finally she surpassed the 60s and 70s and now, she is living in a world as an octogenarian.  A few days ago, she was greeted her in her 88th birthday.  She suffered a leg fracture rendering her immobile for a few days but she has recovered fully except that she could no longer walk.  She was a shadow of her former agile deportment.  On her natal day, she would be able to see once again her children and grandchildren.  It would be another reunion.  This time, it would be the first time she would greet her predecessors in a passive way.  She could no longer stand but she could only embrace her family visually.  Her mind, eyesight and hearing are still as sharp as a youngster.  She has been gifted with such fabulous genes and she was pleased about it.  But she fears that her ailing bones are signals already for her final episode with her loved ones.

She would be nearing the 90s but she has finally seen her brood.  She saw her grandchildren and in particular she saw herself in some on them.  She knew she would still continue to live through them.

 

 

“TILL DEATH DO US PART….”

old couple

This was the response of Aling Elma when I asked her what made her visit her imprisoned husband when the latter was an irresponsible partner.

Aling Elma’s hair, although white as driven snow, was still properly combed and her 70 year old frame could still withstand bureaucratic waiting.  She would outlast those forming a line to pass through the gate into the prison camp.  She was still strong.  She may look snobbish because of the way she carried herself, she was a retired teacher after all and with scholarly bearing, but she was very settled and completely focused with her mission—to visit her ailing prisoner-hubby.

All their children have families already and have been living in provinces far from their community of orientation.  Even if they wanted to visit their incarcerated parent, practicality dictates that the cost of the visit does not equate equal fulfillment.  But not for Aling Elma.  She would scrimp and save, set aside and conserve so that she could travel to visit regularly her better half.

“My husband is a former school principal and he was very strict.  I know because I am a teacher and I oftentimes visit his school which is just a few paces from the school where I was teaching.  I would even confront and advise him not to be too severe on the playfulness of students.  But he had nothing of it.  He would rather whip erring students not to toe the line.”  She explained.

“He would ignore my reminders and would even treat me at home as one of his personnel.  His world was the school and everything else was secondary to him. “She continued.

I asked her, “What was the offense charged on your husband?”

“He was very exacting and harsh on students that was why he was charged for abusing a number of them.  Worst, a case of rape was even brought up to teach him a lesson.  My husband was never a lady’s man.  As a matter of fact he may even be suspected as a homosexual and “matandang binata” because of his attitude and brusque manners. At home, he was literally a spinster in a man’s clothing.   A lot of teachers I personally know hated him actually.  When he was charged of committing a sexual crime, I was surprised.  The whole school was even amused.  Well, but not the judiciary.  He was sentenced accordingly. “

I said, “You must love him very much.”

“Well, yes.  I married him.  And despite his arrogance, despite his high handedness, despite rudeness, vulgarity and boorish disposition, despite his utter disrespect on me, I still understand him.  I have never been remised in telling him, cautioning him that his acts are accumulating collective hatred on him.  But he was that hard headed.    When he was brought to court, nobody from his school ever sympathized with him.  Even our children tried to be distant too.  It is only me whom he could count on.”

“He was probably there always for you despite his behavior.”  I submitted.

“No sir.  He left me for years.  He loved the school so much that he treated it as his world already.  He never even helped me in financing some domestic concerns.  It was a good thing that I came from an affluent family that is why my parents and relatives could still provide me and my children the necessary support.”  She nonchalantly declared.

“I thought that he was always at home after school?”  I asked a bit perplexed.

“It was only when he suffered a nervous breakdown that he was forced to go home for good.  But it was only lately.  He was already battered.  I nursed him to full recovery until he found time to get employment in a nearby school.  He never changed his ways.  He never in my estimation appreciated family life.  But I still understand him.”

“Pardon me for being too investigative, but you have an extra patient attitude which borders on something not normal already.  What made you understand your husband despite all the negative traits he has?”

“That was the vow I took, Sir, and I have never forgotten it.”

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(I always find time interacting with prison visitors and would indulge them with probing discussion to get a better perspective on the tenacity of those persons drawn into the correctional system.)

 

A CRUEL WORLD

insane

Mandy is a 30-year old bachelor, unkempt, almost deprived of sanity, outwardly a homosexual, a beggar and a neighborhood nuisance.  He stands taller than the regular guy in town, erect in his posture and walks with confidence except for the swaying hips.  His being unkempt is almost expected since he evades his mother and escapes her attention by skipping meals and maternal care.  His hair is already gray defying his youthful age.  And he constantly moves around as if it is a sworn task.

One notices his stark departure from reality with his manners and routine.  He would knock aggressively in one house after another while singing a song at the top of his voice.  The homeowners accept his presence and would dole out a wrapped leftover food and he would be off to another house.  It would be a customary part of the neighborhood to see and hear him.  As a matter of fact, his voice could be arraigned along with the cock’s crow at dawn and the early morning pass over of the aerial spray plane.  And for all the households in the area, there is always the usual small pack of provisions for Mandy to reduce the annoying sound he emits.

For newcomers, Mandy’s figure cuts a pathetic sight and his poise is fearsome once he trains his wailing vocal cords.  The songs are the same—a birthday song and it is rendered in several decibels.  His crackling version could be heard several meters, almost a kilometer away.  That strong.  It could even overcome the blasting sound of a firearm.

He lives in a shanty somewhere tucked in the plantation area.  He may have been one of the children relocated sometime ago from one of the calamity struck areas of the province.  From there he must have suffered a debilitating ailment that made his brain impossible to work normally.  Although at close range, he speaks clearly.  He pronounces his words, as in his songs, with patent clarity.  Those completely psychotic would merely utter incomprehensible clatter.  In his case, except for the loud and skewed delivery, the consonants are properly resonated.  His case is not a hopeless one but his condition is.

For me such character is not unworthy of probing.  They are a part of humanity after all.  They may be dismissed as an unproductive sector, a burden even, a bothersome outline, without a numerical value, a useless component, a symbol signifying nothing. Yet, they can be found in street corners, along pedestrian lanes, marketplaces; they dot the urban and rural landscape.  As a matter of fact, there are several Mandy’s everywhere.  A philosopher once opined “God must have loved crazy people.  He made a lot of them!”  They come in different in styles.  They are also described in so many ways.  Some would label them “taong grasa”, “may tama”, “sira-ulo”, “baliw”, “tino-toyo”,  etc.  The vernacular is rich in names to be attributed to this special class of people.

Understandably, they are products of a cruel world.  And since everyone is part of it, I for one, then we must bear in conscience the makings of these persons into what they have become.

There should be a religion to take care of them.

IMPACT OF INCARCERATION ON PRISON GUARDS

prison guard and inmate

Have you heard of an experiment conducted in Stanford University best known as “Obedience Experiment” in 1971 where a psychologist (Philip Zimbardo) wanted to investigate the impact of prison work on human behavior?  Well, there was such a research made.

 

In said experiment, researchers organized a mock detention facility at the basement of Stanford University’s psychology department and organized a group composed of 24 students to play the roles as prisoners and guards.  The group was selected from a bigger list because of their clean record—no mischief background, psychologically and physically fit.

 

The experiment would be conducted in a two week period and each participant will receive $15 a day.

 

The mock prison simulated the exact environment of a detention facility—the size, the climate, the condition.  The participants were then randomly assigned into two—the prisoner group and guard group.  Those assigned as prisoners were to remain “imprisoned” for 24 hours a day while those who were designated as guards were given work assignments in three eight-hour shifts.  The guards were allowed to leave the area until their next shift.  CCTV and microphones were installed to record and observe the behavior of prisoners and guards.

 

The Stanford experiment was expected to be completed in two weeks but it was terminated in just six days.  Something went wrong which if pursued might damaged the behavior of participants irreversibly.  Those playing the roles of guards became rude and abusive; and those who assumed as prisoners showed signs of extreme stress and anxiety.

 

The experiment further revealed that “while the prisoners and guards were allowed to interact in any way they wanted, the interactions were generally hostile or even dehumanizing.  The guards began to behave in ways there were aggressive and abusive toward the prisoners, while the prisoners became passive and depressed.  Five of the prisoners began to experience such severe negative emotions, including crying and acute anxiety, that they had to be released from the study early….even the researchers themselves began to lose sight of the reality of the situation.  The research team leader—psychologist Zimbardo—who acted as the prison administrator, overlooked the abusive behavior of the prison guards and the emotional deterioration of inmates, until a graduate student (Christina Maslash) voiced objections to the conditions in the simulated prison and the morality of continuing the experiment.”

 

The study categorically demonstrated what has been a regular feature of any prison environment, that incarceration is a powerful factor in a situation that can alter human behavior.  It has been noted that “Because the guards were placed in a position of power, they began to behave in ways they would not normally act in their everyday lives or in other situations.  The prisoners, (on the other hand) placed in a situation where they had no real control, became passive and depressed.”

 

While the experiment failed to reached its final conclusion, and was even criticized for neglecting to mimic all of the environmental and situational variables of a real prison life,   it gave an initial understanding on how the situation can influence human behavior.

 

My point in sharing this piece of educational exercise is for prison workers to know what is behind our work environment, the unspeakable and  at times invisible forces that influence  manners and deeds, so that  objectivity will not be lost,  neutral disposition will remain as it is and our minds will be enriched with the thought that prison—our work place—is not a training ground for cruelty but a space to express commitment and understanding on the frailty of the incarcerated humanity.

 

As we gain confidence in strengthening the resolve to be firm and just in prison administration, in turn we are fortified with wisdom and maturity.  No other branch of government service can offer that much advantage.

MAN AND WOMAN

man and woman

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.

 

ARCHITECTURE AND PRISON

prison architecture

Dear Supt Tesoro,

Good day…ako po si Joy Sayangda,BS Architecture-5 from the University of La Salette Santiago City,Isabela.

Kasalukuyan po ang thesis ko: PROPOSED REGIONAL PRISON AND PENAL FARM for Region @ which is to be located in Cordon,Isabela.

I am aiming po for the COMFORT of Inmates through Architectural Approach. Since wala pong Correctional Architecture sa Philippines.

The concept of my proposal sir is “REFORMATION THROUGH THE CONCEPTS OF ARCHITECTURE.” As it was explained to me by the Supervisor of Education in CIW,SECURITY and REFORMATION are the two goals of the correction.Dahil po sa dami ng naresearch ko about our penal institutions Ive learned that it is presently awful living  inside.My term of applying COMFORT is to ease further emotional.psychological and physical effects of imprisonment to inmates whose lives are doomed.That I have learned the fact that being deprived of one’s liberty is already  punitive.

To ease and aflame HUMAN RIGHTS,since it’s what we all respect culturally,is to give the rights and just “ang para kay juan ay para kay juan” is what I want to show in my proposal.That through Architecture we can make the change we deserve to give to these people whoever and whatever made them up.That through Architecture,we can show that a boring and unhappy place can be a nicer place to live life fully even way is inside.

Iniisip ko na po kasi sir kung ako o pamilya ko ang mga makukulong—EVERYBODY DESERVES A FAIR LIFE.hehhehehehe”,)  JOY*

 

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Dear Joy,

Any facility designed for incarceration is never an enjoyable area.  As a matter of fact, the deprivation of liberty, the loss of freedom, the air of regimentation and absolute totalitarian climate makes it indeed an awful if not a traumatic experience.  Even if you install a split type airconditioning system complete with digital television with top of the line food for the prisoner, the experience of imprisonment is still awful and unfortunate.  Prison administrators cannot reduce the psychological and pathological effect of detention even if everything around the prison camp is written in comfort.  Comfort cannot be introduced into the consciousness of inmates unless one is about to be released.  For the prisoners, the promise of integration into the free community is already a inch closer to what we refer to as comfort.

The only way architecture can alleviate the condition of present day correctional facilities is through a design which promotes spatial consideration.  All prisons and jails all over the country are suffering from loss of space, from congestion, from sardine-like situation.  Architectural  concepts dealing with space or designing something that would liberally partake of greater spatial zones makes a great idea in the fulfillment of prison rehabilitation.

Boredom and the state of unhappiness are personal characteristics which cannot be changed through infrastructure.  This is where the trained professional prison worker comes in.  These professionals are the catalyst in behavior modification.  We can have the best basketball court in town, complete with rubberized flooring and glass boards but when the referees are incompetent, there will always be trouble and violence.

Human rights is a borderline issue in correctional administration.  For how can human rights per se be imposed in prison when the fountainhead of human rights is freedom.  Prisoners lost it by way of violating the law.  The courts and the corrections pillar have to clip the right of freedom, thus effectively reducing the offender’s human rights.  Remember that when we say “right” it is something that cannot be taken away, like right to life.  There are basic human rights however and these are mainly referred to as privileges.  In prison, it is privilege more than right that is contemplated.

Kaya kung tayo makukulong, let us not expect a grand area for reception.  Magdala na lang ng madaming libro at sa isang sulok, magbasa ng magbasa na lang.  There is real comfort in reading and in spending time with literature.  Regards.  VJT

 

REFLECTIONS ON LIFE

 

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.

2012: Armageddon Revisited

“Armageddon (from Ancient Greek: Ἁρμαγεδών Harmagedōn,[1][2] Late LatinArmagedōn[3]) 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. 

REMEMBERING OUR DEARLY DEPARTED

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.

WHAT IS THERE TO APPRECIATE IN LIFE

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.”

 

That’s right.”

 

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.

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