Tuesday, August 21, 2007

UP Naming Mahal

Getting into the University of the Philippines (UP) was almost a fluke for me. I was running around applying to other schools and didn't know that I had been accepted on the pending list of UP. I almost went to another school! It would have never been the same. At UP, I found my lifelong friends. I found my roots. I found myself and I wrote till it hurt. It was the only school that I stayed in long enough to finish. It was literally the melting pot of your red activists, your braniacs, the most beautiful women, the not so beautiful men (sorry), and greatest of all, it was where we as students were taught that we are not divorced from society and that we should give back to our country.

I had been like that ever since my mom inculcated in us how the Government is sending us to school. This time, it was the people of the Philippines that was sending us to school.

There, I learned to be more "masa", more open to different points of view and more importantly, there I learned that if you try hard enough, you can really make it. On my first year, the dean of the college said, "It's not the smart ones that finish, it's the hard-working ones". I never classified myself in the "smart" category so I sweated blood to do my best. I could have been the average student in my mind. And thank God, I finished alright.

Through the years, a lot has changed at UP. The general education curriculum has been modified and a part of me disagrees because it doesn't mold us any more into the well-rounded UPians we are. Students can now pick and choose their classes. Something tells me that I wouldn't be able to relate to the products of the new system as I could relate to my peers and those older than me that were the product of the old system where we took, humanities, social sciences and P.I. 100 as prerequesites to other courses. We all had the same "shared experience".

One hundred years has passed and many things have changed. The demography is UP is slightly more monied, tuition is higher, parking space is a problem, etc.

For the 1998 centennial, UP has produced a new hymn. Here it is ...

UP naming mahal
Pamantasan ng bayan
Tinig ng masa
Ang siyang lagi nang pakikinggan

Malayong lupain
Di kailangang marating
Dito maglilingkod sa bayan natin
Dito maglilingkod sa bayan natin

Silangang mapula
Sagisag magpakailanman
Ating ipaglaban
Laya ng diwa't kaisipan

Humayo't itanghal
Giting, tapang at dangal
Mabuhay ang lingkod ng taong bayan
Mabuhay ang lingkod ng taong bayan!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Resting on my itsy bitsy laurels

It's not everyday that one could get a compliment at work. If you didn't get any it meant that you were at least doing the job properly. The horror would be if you got a call from the boss - the conclusion would always be: What did I do wrong???

But today, after all the drama of my personal life, a translator came into my office and told me I did a good job with his Conference on Disarmament documents and for taking the time to look up all the names of the ambassadors who spoke at the Conference. I did it automatically because I knew the job was going to come back to us after he made his edits and we would retype the names anyway. But this extra effort I put would be unnoticed or at least not verbally appreciated. So, I feel good that for the rarest of moments, I receive a compliment.

I used to live on compliments but reality told me that one couldn't function like that. If there were none, it's like running on an empty tank. We must be our own fuel and God should be enough to affirm us. As long as we know that we are working to the best of our abilities, it should be enough. But it always makes me feel good to receive a compliment.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Runaway brother

As if the leaving of my mom and brother were not dramatic enough, my brother decided to run away the morning of their departure.

He had been sulking since he found out they were about to go home. You could hardly talk to him let alone bring up the subject.

The past weeks he had drowned himself in his friends, in activies for the Youth for Christ, including a conference here in Geneva and a service trip to Italy for the European Kids Village. In the hope of lessening the pain of the departure, we hoped that all these activities would somehow cushion the news of imminent departure. We were wrong.

We knew he was angry and upset about leaving but we didn't know to what extent he would take it.

To better capture the drama, I will tell the story with a timeline:

6.00 Wake up call
7.00 Departure of Mama for the airport for early check-in
7.40 Shower time for me
8.00 Reminder for my brother to take a shower
8.20 Talked to my brother to help me with luggage - he leaves the house
8.25 Comes back because he forgot something and leaves again
8.30 Mama has checked in her luggage
8.33 Mama calls brother and doesn't say where he is
9.10 Boarding time, brother no where to be found, reported to airport police that brother is missing
9.20 Tells airport ground staff that brother is missing and luggage will be offloaded
9.25 Supposed ETD (estimated time of departure) - no sign of brother
9.30 Baggage offloaded/Mama comes out of arrivals with baggage
10.00 Homebound meanwhile friends were called to inform and watch out for brother
12.30 Search for him at the gare; while other friends check out the airport; non-stop phone calls on how people can help
13.15 Go to church to pray for brother
14.00 Brother is found! His friend's parents told him to come over
22.30 Meeting with brother after he's ready to talk
00.00 Finally sees brother and hugs him

I'm tempted to opt for the cliche "All's well that ends well" BUT this is the reality of diplomatic life or any life that involves moving your loved ones, children especially, when it comes to saying goodbye to established relationships in that place. It was too painful for my brother to leave. He had made his statement that he didn't want to go. It was evident. But staying here was not a choice as he needs parental guidance and male influence to give him a male role model. He can only get that in the Philippines.

I didn't get to talk to him and I thought it would be better that way as I am still beating myself up from the thought that when he wanted to talk I immediately shut him out knowing full well that he would plead his case to stay here. I am sorry for that. But I didn't want to be cornered by a bunch of youths pleading on behalf of my brother. It was not the place nor the time. The time had come on its own after my brother decided to be a prodigal brother/son. And I'm glad that I'll be enjoying my mother and brother's company for a few more days and hopefully, when the dust has settled they will be able to leave peacefully and without much delay this weekend.

It was perfect timing and the best catharsis that lessened the pain of departure on all of us. It seems like a deux ex machina in a film where God's hands really made the plot move.

I am thankful that he has returned and I hope to be more of a sister to him and listen to his problems.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Au revoir, maman

The true transient city of Geneva has become a reality for me. Mama is leaving in a few hours for good en route to the Philippines. But it's not really Geneva that makes her leave, it's her diplomatic life that brings her from country to country and after six years, she is recalled to serve at capital in Manila.

Like every posting, she rushes to pack and leaves everything for the last minute. It came from her and I've never really heard it straight from her: "Maybe I do this to cope"; so she doesn't have to deal with the emotional part of goodbyes. She likes to be so busy that she forgets or is too tired to feel.

Goodbyes are hard for any culture, in any land, for any person. I think it's one of those universal human truths that just comes to haunt you. Sometimes it's welcomed but when it's your loved ones, you hope that day never comes.

For me, for the first time in my life, I will truly be on my own, in a foreign country. I will be left with Tita Minda but it's not really the same as a full house with Mama just there. No matter how old I get, I always miss my mom.

This time, I'm trying not to cry. She's left many times before. It was the hardest time in my life when she left us in the Philippines with our relatives. She didn't come home for almost two years. I thought I was going to have a nervous breakdown. I made it though and by God's grace, she came home just in time.

As she leaves this place, many happy memories come to fore. I still remember when I first came to Geneva and she picked us up in the white Toyota van of the labour office from the airport. I still remember that smell of April spring and the joy I felt to be reunited with my mom who was just plucked out of war-torn Iraq. I said it was truly a beautiful place. All these beautiful places are tied up with my mom's presence. I will now create new ones with other people. It's difficult to be separated. But as she said, we all have our own lives to live. No matter how much we try to be together, we are bound to lead separate lives. She with her diplomatic postings, my work at the UN, my brother's love of French culture, my other brothers' love of staying in one place. And mother's benchmark for good parenting is that we can fly on our own. If she has raised us to be independent and can live without her then she's done a good job. With a benchmark like that, we're bound to really live apart.

I hope I get to home this Christmas so I can be with all of them. I will be a real OFW now sending home monthly. I wonder how it will be.

As Mama leaves, I hope that it will not be so bad and not too sad. And that even if we're miles apart, we will still be together in spirit.

Friday, August 03, 2007


tita minda said "para lang tayong nagbabahay-bahayan". i didn't exactly know what she meant. when she explained it was like we were playing the kid's game when you pretend to put up a house and do chores and the things you do when you're in the house.

i never really thought about it. i guess it's also the first time that we've ever had such a small place - it's a studio with a separate kitchen and bathroom. the room is about 20 square metres. i'm not really sure. we put up an artificial wall thanks to the big cabinet that splits our room into hers and mine. of course, it's but all artificial. we share one light and the space is practically one. so, we can hear everything.

when we've lived in other places before like the "big house" in the philippines, yes, we lived in one room too squashed in to fit all of us but we also had the whole house to explore. we just slept in one room, that's all.

this time around, it's like a make believe house indeed with partitions made of cabinets and other things. but what is a house or any building without its occupants to make it a home. hopefully, we'll feel at home soon.

today, for the first time in a long time, i sat down in my room, fixed my things, read the newspaper and watched a movie. i think it's a good sign of a future that is more relaxed and cozy.

small spaces either brings people closer or drives them apart. i hope it will be the former.