Sunday, November 3, 2013

Keeping the light burning clear (2003-13)

Nothing like an old friend who is himself in the midst of a transition--from publisher to illustrator-media commentator--to capture the marks of time on this blogger's face. Another friend, probably a sister from another mother in another lifetime, once warned me about shifts in paradigms and mindsets in order to adjust to the new millennium, "but at all times, keep the light burning clear." Pen and ink portrait of a nearly 60-year-old freelance writer-painter by Vergel O. Santos

Ten years ago, sometime in the last half of the year, I attended a workshop after I had just quit my nth regular job where I lasted, oh, three months. Before that I had walked out on another job at another office which I had served, although at various times so there are gap years, from 1983 to 2003.

Unbelievable record for me, but in between I found jobs as an office administrator, newspaper copy editor, corporate communications office hack, magazine staff member, politician's go-to person during a re-election campaign (he won, by the way, by the skin of his teeth, 12th place in the senatorial race of '92), full-time mom and housewife (don't ever let anyone fool you into calling these roles a vocation; it is work, and hard work at that), then back to the same office with which I had a love-hate relationship until I had it up to here and quit again (that's enough material for a manuscript gently passed off as fiction).

Back to the workshop. A few nights ago while packing for another trip North of Metro Manila, I found a handwritten note (to myself) on the subject of "life changes." I think it's a product of one of many workshops I attended as I proceeded to heal myself from burnout from the many roles and many jobs I had to do.

Before the workshop happened, I had taken up freelance writer-occasional concert organizer Pablo Tariman's invitation to join the musical (and adventure) outreach of pianist Cecile Licad to Muñoz City in Nueva Ecija, Pinto Art Gallery in Antipolo, St. Paul University in Tuguegarao, Cagayan.

The long journey ended in Banaue, Ifugao, after we zipped through Isabela to visit a jail where Pablo's daughter Kerima was once held as a political prisoner.

Banaue was just a side trip (Ms. Licad and son hadn't been there yet), an overnight's stay, on our way back to Manila, but as I like to put it, life has a way of happening. We were nearly trapped in a knee-, almost thigh-high mudslide that we had to wade through for more than a kilometer on bare feet to get to a safer side where a van sent right away by then Muñoz City Mayor Nestor Alvarez waited for us to whisk us off to a smaller airport in Nueva Vizcaya.

There Licad, son and director Marilou Diaz-Abaya (who was like an older sis to the pianist) piled into a helicopter that took them home to warmth and safety. Pablo and I chose to remain behind and chuckled all the way to Muñoz where we washed the remains of the mud off our feet, had a light supper, then went home with unforgettable memories.

As I packed for this recent trip, I also found the negatives of photos I took from that provincial classical music gig. My partner went to town recently to have these contact prints made before I decide to have any photo enlarged. It took him more than an hour to find a photo store that still did contact prints and developed photos from negatives. Within 10 years, how technology has changed, indeed.

The contact prints show Ms. Licad in some solo shots; others show her with her son Otavio Meneses, now the late Ms. Diaz-Abaya, Pablo, Mrs. Rosario Licad, Dr. Joven Cuanang. There is one shot of now the late Behn Cervantes, then directing a play at the Central Luzon State University. There are village elders from Ifugao and cultural dancers from the Banaue Hotel, and now and then, the blogger can be seen.

These photos I took with a point-and-shoot, or what others call, idiot-proof camera. Guess who's an idiot? Definitely not the photographer who had enough sense to keep these keepsakes of a time gone by.

Draft essay on life changes from 2003:

In 22 days, I'll turn 48. But I'm not going to wait to hula to the music of "Hawaii 5-0" before I initiate certain things that I have put aside because I have been busy getting and spending and laying waste my powers.

I've had my hair shorn by a barber--the Gupit Dos or Number 2 cut--and have been going around town since May 17, feeling like a bloated version of Sinead O'Connor.

In a couple of days, the man I've chosen to spend part of the time of my life with will send my UP Diliman transcript of records so I can enroll in a fine arts program and not have to pay a peso for my units. I said to myself that I've got to finish the course before he's put to pasture by the university we love in a few years.

This means living more frugally since I'll have to go on leave from the company I've worked in for a total of nine years. Ah, story of my life--broken service record because in the firm's first years, I took a leave of absence that stretched to 12 years.

My eldest daughter, now a college sophomore, turns 18 next week. I told her over the weekend, as I was shaping plans for myself, "Kimi, let's race. Let's graduate together in 2007."

Two daughters and my mate wondered what course I'd take.

"Oh, probably what I intended to major in originally which was AB Humanities until my parents brought me to a psychologist cousin so I could be talked out of it."

How tentative I was about going to journalism school!

When Dean Armando J. Malay gave me an "Inc." for not following instructions during the finals in his Introduction to Journalism class, I vowed that I would shift my major if I didn't get a decent grade after my removals.

I took another test in his Vinzons Hall office. He barely glanced at my copy and said, "Okay, maybe I'll give you a grade of 2.75."

"Huh?" I looked at him.

As usual, his eyes were turned upwards. In my mind I was rehearsing how I'd tell my parents about my decision to shift to the AB Humanities program or even to Social Work and Community Development until Malay grunted and, continuing his guessing game without thoroughly going over my copy, said, "You get a 2.0."

Looking back, I find it funny how a measly figure can put you on a certain path. And after 27 years on that road, I finally see a chance to do a leap of faith to try another.
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