Love, Unexpectedly: First Date

Afternoon light broke through my room’s unadorned jalousie windows. There was no need to turn on the bulb; it was bright enough as it was. I was rolling on my small bed, my mind in a riot of past, present, and future thoughts. I had been doing that a lot for a month now.

At 21, in 2005, just four months fresh from college graduation, I banged my head over what job I wanted to do. I just wanted to do something, anything, and earn from it. But deep inside, I knew it was a half-hearted decision. It already seemed like a privilege to acquire a job that was related to what I have studied for three years.

I sat up. My feet landed on a book. On the floor, books were scattered, like fancy clothes spread out for a look-over and selection. I smiled. I arranged and rearranged them in a pile and carried them to the wide wooden floor-to-ceiling shelf at the foot of my bed. My practical father, a resourceful maker of all things necessary for the house–from hangers made of wood and wire to ceilings that are plastered with aluminum insulation foil–built my shelf.

Since the shelf was twice as tall as me, I had to balance one foot on a bed post and the other on a lower shelf before depositing the books below the topmost row. I landed back on the floor and stared at the shelves, seeking some sort of inspiration. The bookshelf contains paraphernalia collected over the years: notebooks, essay papers, and news clippings on the bottom shelf, floppy disks, cassette tapes, CDs, and crochet yarns on the second, figurines, trophies, and a big black radio on the third, books on the fourth, and a set of Britannica Encyclopedia and dictionaries on the very top of the shelf.

The comfort I sought in my period of unemployment didn’t come. I went to my study table, which used to be a white drafting board bought when I was a freshman civil engineering student. Now, it was covered with thick Globe load cards pieced together like a big jigsaw puzzle. On the table, bright little holders stood full of ballpens and pencils. They were surrounded by figurines of the odd sort.

I sat down and gazed outside the window. My view used to be coconut and banana trees and a bright blue sky or a pitch black night. But a religious denomination bought my aunt’s land beside ours and erected a small church out of wood. On some days, the change of the peaceful view was accompanied with sounds of crying babies and loud singers with their equally loud musical instruments. Today, it was eerily quiet. My cell phone beeped a message. It was an unregistered number. Continue reading Love, Unexpectedly: First Date

Advertisements

Love, Unexpectedly: First Meeting

I looked up at the steep staircase, small and dimly lighted. Behind me was the rush Sunday activity of vendors eager to call on the churchgoers leaving the Basilica Minore del Sto. Niño de Cebu just across from where I was standing.

I climbed up the stairs and walked the familiar hallway. Obscure lighting from the high ceiling failed to flood every corner of the corridor. The indistinct paint was coming off the old walls. The floor was unswept, with unbundled trash and a couple of cockroaches just off the corner at the top of the stairs. I immediately turned my eyes to the direction I was going, lest I would feel a bile of disgust coming out of my throat.

I entered the office of the review center I enrolled in. It was a bright contrast to the hallway. Almost everything was white—the sofa, table, chairs, and walls—like a comfortable clinic for adults. The air conditioning was working well, a balm to my heat-cloaked skin. I found a corner as I listened to my classmates talking with the teacher, as we all waited for the time to reach one. Most of my classmates were old, more than 35 years old, many of them vying for permanent positions in the government. To them, failing the civil service examination was not an option.

When it was time for the class, we moved to another room, a classroom, passing another section of the dark hallway. The classroom was not what I expected it to be: some windows were broken, the poorly maintained armchairs were scattered across the floor, the blackboard already turned yellowish green, and the wall paint was peeling off badly. The entire area was fit for an emotional video documentary. It was my third time in the room so I wasn’t surprised at the sight anymore.

Continue reading Love, Unexpectedly: First Meeting

Benedict Anderson: A global person

It is impossible to meet Professor Benedict Anderson now. He died in December 2015, around 16 months before I even heard of him.

If he were alive, he would have this languid walk toward the residents of Indonesia, his posture leaning forward to listen as his mind scrambled for the proper Javanese translation of his response. He wouldn’t take notes or carry a voice recorder; his mind would be too sharp and well-trained for that. But when he would reach home or the university or his sponsor’s house, he would pick a pen and notebook and write down all his mental notes in a rush and then carefully. These notes would soon serve him well for his current research and, if not, for his future research whose thesis would be borne out of a single statement made by a fellow instructor who would pass by his opened office door at the university.

At least this is the picture I have gathered from reading Anderson’s memoir, A Life Beyond Boundaries. He died soon after he had finished correcting the proofs of the latest edition of this book. It was originally published in Japanese by NTT Publishing Co., Ltd. in 2009. Then it was published in English for the first time by Verso in 2016. I read the copy published by Anvil Publishing in the same year.

Anderson is successful in pointing out to me, a simple reader, the two major themes of his book. “The first is the importance of translation for individuals and societies,” he says in the Preface.

Continue reading Benedict Anderson: A global person