Monday, August 28, 2017

Airport Encounter

My flight going home got delayed due to inclement weather. I was already at the airport when the airline announced this blaringly on the paging system. While waiting for flight updates, my phone's battery squealed begging for it to be plugged to a charging station. Around thirty minutes later in the charging area, I heard another passenger to my back let out a sigh of exasperation while softly mumbling "Paano na to?!" (What will I do now?). Apparently, she couldn't charge her battery-dead phone because her charger had prongs incompatible with what we have in the Philippines.

I heard the gears of my mind screeching to a halt and I could hear the Dalai Lama whispering the words "compassion for others". You see, just this morning, I was a reading a book on happiness that he co-authored. In my mind, I replied to the Dalai Lama, "Why not?" When I turned back, she was already nowhere to be found. Decided to turn this opportunity into an act of compassion, I waved my adapter in the air making sure that people nearby see it. True enough, she saw it and approached me with a mixture of smile and teary eyes.

We talked for a while while we were both waiting for our phones to charge. From that brief conversation, I learned that she is an OFW in Saudi Arabia and has not been back to the Philippines for two straight years out of a need to adequately support her family. That explains why her phone's charger is incompatible with Philippine power outlets; she bought her phone abroad. She desperately needed to charge her phone so that she could talk to her welcoming party in Davao. When I asked her who were waiting for her at her airport of destination, she looked away as she answered that her two kids were waiting for her. She hasn't seen them since she left for Saudi. Clearly, she veered her eyes away from me as an attempt to hide her misty eyes. She failed because an emotion as honest and raw as that could not be easily concealed. To lighten up the mood, I asked her if she is excited to see her kids. Her face immediately lit up and she replied "Sobrang excited ko na hindi ko na nararamdaman ang gutom!" (I'm so excited to see my kids that I don't even feel hungry at all!)

Stories like this make me well up with emotions. Stories of sacrifices borne out of love, of hopes, and dreams.

I read from Dalai Lama's book that in order to feel compassion for others, we need to look at other people as individuals who are just like us. And to strengthen our compassion for others, we must try to know their background. I guess my experience is what he meant when he said that we all need to be more compassionate to one another.

After a while, it was announced that my flight was already boarding. I offered to give her my adapter but she said she was okay. I did my best to keep the conversation as long as I could so she could continue charging her phone. When I saw from afar that the queue for boarding was gone, I knew I had to run to the gate to catch my flight. I didn't mind the running. Every step of that sprint from the charging station to the boarding gate was worth it. Compassion is priceless.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Friendship on Time Limit

Out of a lack of better things to do and too much time on our hands, my friends and I took the long route from Melbourne to Sydney then to Newcastle. By long I meant a 14-hour train ride instead of the more convenient hour and a half trip by plane. We reckoned that it would be a good idea to experience our first long train ride. Surprisingly, I found the trip to be much less boring than I imagined it to be. The route was scenic and it was a chance to keep the mind free and rested from the worries of daily life.

What got my attention for the most part of the trip were two old men just one row before us and across the opposite side of the train. When the train left Melbourne, one of these old men was by himself. He was minding his business drinking coffee from his big stainless steel thermal mug while reading a book whose title I couldn't quite figure out from afar. An hour and several train stations later, the train was almost full. The seat beside the old man was still empty though. Thirty minutes more into the trip, the train halted at a station where an old man in brown parka embarked. He was looking for his seat and found himself beside the other old man.

I could tell that it was their first time to meet each other because there was the exchange of usual
niceties. They talked casually and then my eyes decided to shut down on me as I dozed off for
half an hour or so. I was awakened by the same two old men laughing and sharing stories in a
very engaged manner. You could tell how much fun they were having judging by their body language. Their bodies were angled toward each other, eye contact established, smiles natural, and arms flailing when they were about to express something important. Oh and when they laughed, you could never tell that they just met on the train . Had I not known that fact, I would have thought of them as close friends, best friends even. And they just kept talking and talking for hours. They talked about riding horses, their kids, and a lot of other topics. The only time they kept quiet was when one of them had to buy food from the train cafĂ©. And the conversation ended only when the second old man had to go down the train. And that was 5 hours after they first said hello to each other. They bid each other goodbye, exchanged cards, and said they'd keep in touch.

To be candidly honest, while I was observing them, I couldn't wrap my mind over how two people can become so engaged in an open and sincere conversation knowing that in a few hours, they might never see each other again. And then it struck me that this train ride was trying to teach me a lesson about my current situation in Australia. I asked myself why I went through the trouble of making good friends here in Australia knowing that in a year's time, we would have to say goodbye. Some of them I've even been friends for just a couple of months. My friendship with these people, similar to that of the two old men, is on a time limit. I felt that time was being stolen from me and my friends. That each day brought us closer to the end.

Amidst this lingering melancholy, I'm glad that I found my answer to this question. I chose to be friends with these people despite the time limit because friendship is a beautiful thing and should not be encumbered with worries or anxiety that we might no longer be friends in the future. By itself, friendship is beautiful and should be treasured the moment it arises. It should be enjoyed here, now. If it does develop into stronger bonds in the future, then that's beautiful! But if not, it doesn't make the current friendship any less beautiful.

So while I have been whiling away my time in Australia for the past months, I made a conscious choice to treasure the limited time that I had left with my friends. Because each and every single moment, whether short or relatively long, is beautiful in itself. I miss those who have left. I am already missing those who will be leaving and those whom I'll be leaving behind. But hey, just like the two old men on that train, we have the choice to keep in touch.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Limang-Minutong Kumposisyon

Minsan may mga sugat na hindi gumagaling. Sadyang ngingatngat ng mahapding alaala. At kahit pilitin nating gumaling, hindi na. Kahit anong pagsisikap ang gawin para makaahon mula sa matulis na pangil ng masaklap na pag-ibig, hindi na. Wala ng pag-asa. At kung makaahon ka man, hindi na ikaw yun. Ibang tao ka na.

Pero ang maganda nito, pwede kang magsimula. Ibang tao ka na eh. Punong-puno ng posibilidad na pwedeng mangyari. And dami-daming pagkatao na pwede mong pagpilian. Kailangan mo lang pumili. Gusto mo bang maging sugatan habang-buhay? O gusto mo bang salubungin ang hinaharap kasama ang umaapaw na pag-asa. Pumili ka. Pumili ka nang mabuti.

Friday, January 1, 2016

2016: This Too Shall Pass

Before you pass any judgment on this article based solely on the title, hear me out.

The first time I heard the counsel of the line "This too shall pass" was when I watched the movie My Bestfriend's Wedding. It came at a time when I needed consolation from all the pain and spiritual confusion that I was going through in high school. And the adage did provide comforting strokes everytime I used it on my then unhappy soul.

Fast forward to 2010s. I am a different person. Probably a better way of saying it would be that I am the same person with a wider range of experiences and a healthier perspective in life. Don't get me wrong; I look at my old self with fondness and gratitude for the wisdom that it has taught the "me-now". This same wisdom has led me to rethink the profoundness of the "This too shall pass" motto.

You see, if I use this line to assure myself that all bad things that happen in my life will eventually end, then it also goes to say that all good things will eventually come to pass too. I cannot use this adage and turn it into a double-standard blanket of comfort that only holds true for bad things but not for good ones. At first thought, this sound scary and worrisome. Imagine all your happy moments ending. But it actually doesn't need an ounce of imagination because it IS true. A happy moment will end just like a bad moment. It is the same with a good day. A good year will end just like a bad year does.

What did I make out of this new-found realization? It is that every moment, good or bad, will end. Does this make our lives futile because it is bound to end anyway? Of course not. Ironically, this is what makes our lives precious. The fact that every single moment, whether good or bad, will eventually end reminds us to savor each moment because sooner or later, that moment will pass and fade into a memory. And no matter how we relive the memory, all you have is the memory and not the actual experience. It will never be the same. The only time that you have control on how that memory turns out to be is when you are still living that moment.

So how do I want 2016 to be before it fades into memory? I want it to be good. I expect a few bad moments here and there. But I don't worry anymore. It doesn't matter whether the moments are good or bad because they will all end. What matters more is that I will make each moment in 2016 count. I will soak myself in the bad moments and unhinge as soon as I learn the lessons. I will inundate myself with good moments but not get drunk in them that I no longer appreciate the next string of moments. I will live and experience 2016 before it too shall pass.

Image from

Monday, August 17, 2015

Waiting for Goodbye

Hope is a tricky thing especially when it comes to waiting. It's like throwing a die. Five sides tell you that the person you are waiting for will come. You feel confident about the winning odds after the wait.

It's the sixth side that does the painful trick because even after all the odds were in your favor, that even with all the five sides that you have been rooting for, you got that one miserable side.

You throw the dice. You wait, patiently. But nothing comes. No one comes.

You realize you have been waiting for nothing. And then it strikes you. The last goodnight that person sent to you was, in fact, a goodbye. And then you know it's over.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Chicken Soup for the Sick Teacher

Image result for sick teacher

While on the brink of wallowing and self-pity because I got sick when I'm in the most relaxed schedule I've had in six months, I decided to apply the emotional intelligence skill of creating positive emotions by going through the teacher evaluation done by my students for the past school year. Trust me, you read some hilarious ones in there.

Take the next line for example. It started out okay, then I got scared.

"You are my most respected teacher… I want to make you proud... I will kill for you... You are the wind beneath my wings."

Good thing the last sentence was there. It made me realize that it really is just a joke. I thought I had an assassin under my command.

There's this one that said:

"You look like Thranduil in the movie the Hobbit!"

I know I'm not that tall but a hobbit, really? Good thing Google told me Thranduil is an elf. Phew!

There are also prophetic ones like

"I consider you as a good mentor and someday I know you will be a good father mehehe I am serious."

The 'mehehe' and the 'I am serious' part got me confused. Haha

And there are the crazy ones. Crazy because you have a strong feeling they were written by your adorably annoying (aka kulit) students.

"Hi sir and to your… laptop."
"The fact that he's not mine. Please marry me."
"The instructor's out of town trips. He breaks my heart a little bit every time he leaves. But distance makes the heart grow fonder, and I grow fonder of him each passing minute."

Really, now?

And then there are those that melt the heart because even though I had to be strict with them sometimes, they understood the reason behind that facade.

"Your class made this semester seem worth the tuition fee."
"Keep up the good work sir and continue inspiring people."
"He's not just a teacher. He's an inspiration."

Finally, there's this one that comes in very timely because in June 4, 2011 --- 4 years ago --- I quit my career in the industry to go into the academe. A big chunk of me was asking if I made the right decision. And here comes the answer from one of the students four years later:

"Thank you for sacrificing your managerial work. Without that sacrifice we will never have known you."

I know I am far from being a perfect teacher. In fact that is the reason why I read the evaluations and look first at the areas for improvement. But there are comments like the last one that comes out as innocent but ends up profoundly affirming a life decision that I have made in the past. I'll be going away for 3 semesters to pursue a scholarship grant and I am going to miss teaching terribly. But I'll be back. And I'm eagerly looking forward to be back in the classroom.

I feel better now despite the occasional sneezing. Thank you, my dear students.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Much Ado About a Dog Named Odie

"Ma, I'll get his green squeaky toy," I said as I was about to get out from the car.

"No," replied my mother, "just leave it in the house so we can have something to remind us of him."

"He has other toys. Let's have the the green one, his very first toy, buried with him," I insisted.

My mother agreed, "Okay."

It's still 6AM and there's already much ado about our dog named Odie. My mother and I are in the car. We are discussing, with tears in our eyes, how we will bury our much-loved family member.

While on our way, we reminisced our days with Odie. The times he would sniff our scent and hear the sound of our gate keys even if it's far from where he is inside the house and joyfully welcome us when we get inside. The times he would poke our knees during meals to ask us for table food. The times he, with puppy eyes and his adorable-tongue-out expression, would ask us to play with him.

Digging his grave was not an easy task. At first it was. But when I placed his body down into the grave and covered him with earth, I sobbed. My mother and niece sobbed. As if the tears we shed last night after Odie's car accident weren't enough.

Five years ago, I would never have imagined that I would actually have a dog. Yes, I wanted one but it was just up there in my mind. And then a year and a half ago, a colleague asked if I wanted a dog since her dog was about to give birth.
Our first day together.

My face lit up with an excited smile. There were apprehensions while I was waiting for the dog to be given to me. Would I be able to take care of him? Will my mother like him considering that she's not a dog person? But then I decided to push through with the adoption. I can still recall the details of the day I first met Odie. As much as I know every detail on the palm of my hand. When I carried him, he didn't resist. When we were in the car, I knew that he was sad but he just laid his head on my hand as if asking me "Take care of me." For the most part of the drive, I had one hand on the steering wheel and the other hand supporting Odie's head. The moment I arrived home and my mom saw Odie, there was an instant connection between the two of them. We took Odie to trips, to the mall, brought him with me while biking, and felt the pang of pain and worry on occasions that we had to leave him shortly for a dinner outside the house or when he was sick. He would follow us all around the house and play with my niece and nephews when we visited them. And he played as if there was no tomorrow.

Five years ago, I never imagined how painful it is to lose a dog. Now, it's like a brick smacked in our hearts. I never thought we could go this emotional for a pet. But, you see, he was not our pet. He was like a member of our family.

On the way back to our house after laying Odie to rest, there was an unbearable silence disrupted by short exchanges of our memories of Odie. The very moment we went inside the house, my mom and I cried again. There was no more Odie. No more of the jumping and tongue-out Odie. My mom and I have been through tough times together but we have never cried hard together. Only Odie has done this.

There are still a lot of things I want to write about Odie but I'll just keep them close to my heart. I didn't want to write this but I figured I had to as part of the grieving process.

All the tears I shed yesterday, today, and even tomorrow and in the future has been and will be a lot. But I force myself to take refuge in the thought that these tears are nothing compared to the happy moments we shared with you, Odie.

Odie, the house is awfully empty without you. I've been wanting to clean my room but now I don't want to because your loose fur on the carpet makes me think you are still with us.

Odie, we miss you. A lot. And it's breaking our hearts.