(September 20, 2011)
Fives years ago, I wrote an award-winning (but it’s a recognition, a blessing from God, so why not share about it) essay entitled “Balanse sa Lipunan: Isang Tanaw sa Sama-samang Pag-unlad at Pagkakapantay-pantay.” The essay’s title implies that it is about (the need for) social equality and equitability to achieve development and sustainable progress. The first paragraph runs, “Tuwing ako’y napapadaan sa mga lugar na may matataas na gusali at magagandang tanggapan tulad ng sa Makati o sa Ortigas, aking nasasabi sa sarili, “Umuunlad na nga ang Pilipinas, umaahon na ang bansa.”
I had a great time yesterdey. Going back to special places brings back good memories. And in this places, we often get to reflect on things that may seem ordinary for some, special for others, but priceless to someone who had undergone those things. Now, looking back at “some of these things” reminds me of a past, long gone, but whose related stories linger and continue to touch me.
So here’s my lone-Aaroboy adventure yesterday, on a sunny-windy-and-mild day. As usual, when I wake up late, I often feel lethargic, lacking energy to go with the day. But I had to fight any lassitude, any indolent attitude of the mind and body in order to accomplish things and simply be productive. God hates laziness. 🙂
So alright! Thank God it was not super hot when I left the house. Even I could already drive, I wouldn’t bring the car just just so I could feel that old routine I used to do every single day for almost a year in 2007. (Anyway, even now, I don’t know how to drive, haha). So yeah, I got to walk on the noisy and very busy streets of downtown Nova, about 2 kilometers from where we live. Nice to have immersed myself again, though twas really challenging, and always on guard of my wallet. Good thing I didn’t bring any bag which would only add weight as I travel. So ok, I was supposed to ride an ordinary bus to my destination, just to feel the discomfort of heat and pollution when commuting in the metro. But of course, I have to be more practical now – and consider the fact that there are aircon busses in Novaliches unlike 4 years ago. So there, I sat very comfortably and read a few pages of a book on research methods (haha, geek I know, I’d rather spend my time wisely). It took an hour before we reached the corner of EDSA-Annapolis. Praise God it was not very hot. So even if there are already jeeps that will bring you to the OB area (drop-off point, if I’m not mistaken), I chose to walk down this 500m long Annapolis – passing through chick condos and restaurants adjacent or near modest carinderias catering to manong drivers and yayas waiting for their bosses or alagas. Wow, the same old Annapolis where I would walk, stop at 7-11 or Mini-stop to buy siopao or stuff, or stop at National Bookstore which by the way has been transferred to that building beside OB Montessori. Burger Machine where I used to eat often is gone. And OB is being renovated. So I reached Gloria Maris and Vira Mall. I dropped by Goodwill Bookstore and bought a bargain book. Went to the CR, a part of my routine, to wash my face and tell my reflection in the mirror “God is good to you, Aaron” and begin with my part-time work as a tutor. In between hours, I would stroll through the mall and window-shop at Greenhills. Those were the days, I was still a fresh grad. So no pressure yet, well… kinda. 😛 Of course, I was still adjusting then – my first year as a graduate student. I could’ve begun teaching at UPIS but I believe God put me there first – in Greenhills as a tutor to see that world of contrasts, of reality, and of learnings….
So there, I strolled along the narrow stolls inside Greenhills. Though this place and its circuits should’ve been familiar to me, I still get a bit lost. Found my way out and I reached Theater Mall which used to be Music Museum. Walked… and finally found Booksale, though I couldn’t find a good title, so I left to eat at KFC. It was already past 2 I guess so I decided to leave for Galleria. There was this excitement in me to be feeling that feeling again, riding the jeep to Galleria from Greenhills. It may be ordinary for some, but it was kinda special to me. I saw they’re already preparing Christmas decors on the roof of GH, for the annual Christmas show.
I rode a jeep to POEA, and walked to Galleria. Being the booklover guy, the first place where I dropped by was National Bookstore. Searched for bargain books, but I didn’t like any titles. So I left again… strolling…. window-shopping and reminiscing, just reminiscing the old days. The old Cinnabon stoll is still there… I left the Galleria using the exit near TGIF, where I used to always pass by to and from Ortigas and GH. It was very windy… Walked to Emerald, passing by GCF and that small Ortigas Park. I just stared at the Emerald where I taught for almost 5 months, I guess. Then I went back to Ortigas mini-park and sat on the bench. Stayed there for almost 20 minutes, reminiscing the old days, reflecting on why God wanted me to experience all those things, and thanking God for all those experiences – that me strive to do more, and excel. To dream more! I left with a happy heart. Going to Mega Mall, I passed by this nice building. God whispered to me, “Mararanasan mo rin yan. At higit pa diyan ang ibibigay Ko sa’yo.” Wow. I do not lose hope. His time for my life’s adventure continues to become more exciting. Megamall, searched for Powerbooks and Booksale again. Hehehe… and when i got tired and hungry, went to the Food Court and ordered at Bodhi. While eating, I noticed peeps selling taho, salad and stuff…. I realized how blessed I am. There I was. Eating plenty meal – 2 viands, double rice, and ice tea at an affordable price, and just relaxing. And there they were, selling stuff at the food court. Yeah, I know that these are noble jobs but how much do they get for that job? I feel very blessed. Charged again, I decided to leave for Rustan’s. I saw aircon busses as if they’re inviting me to ride already and go home but I opted to stay and explore Rustan’s. I was kinda curious. Honestly, i can’t remember if I had been there when I was young. I don’t think so. And if I had naman, I must be very young, too young not to remember tiny details. I didn’t even know where the entrance was. Hehehe..
So there, wow. I reached Shangri-la Plaza. Funny I had been…… for so long a time, I thought Rustan’s is a mall for the rich and famous only. And when I got in, I proved to myself that it really is not exclusive for the rich. Ordinary folks stroll through this so called high class mall. And well, there are boutique shops and luxury stores but I find them in SM and Trinoma too. But oh, the escalators were high. Beautiful. Beautiful. The only difference perhaps, compared to other malls, is that Shang has less folks. Not crowded. Very spacious. From the third or fourth floor, I went down using the escalator and had a full view of the mall. Wow. It was really big and grand and luxurious… and I realized, wow, here I am, an ordinary folk – not so rich, not destitute, so-so average, but still somewhere up there hahaha… crazy…. but yeah, I am very blessed. I can afford to buy all these and those… eat here and there. And just be free. Others do not have this opportunity. I may not be as rich as the owner of Rustan’s, and whose heir was once my student (hi dude, you’re so humble dude, inspite of being the scion of this luxurious mall. Very good, keep it up), yeah, I may not as rich as my former students are, I feel free… very free and still privileged and have access to the best education at the best university in the country, and just do what I want without bodyguards, without fans, no worries somebody might kidnap me or something hahahaha… coz I’m just an “ordinary guy” with an extra-ordinary Father, a King. Yeah, I may not be having the grandest luxuries of the world but I still am a co-heir of Jesus, hence, I am a prince too. 🙂
Time to leave. It was already 7pm. I wanted to ride an aircon bus but none… I still waited for almost 30 minutes, I even reached EDSA Central Mall? (can’t remember the mall’s name). This bus came, not aircon, but God told me, “Sakay ka na dyan.” So ok, sat beside the window as usual. But I realized, wow, Aaron be ready to absorb the pollution ha. And the noise. I planned to read while on the busride going home but how could I read when it was too noisy? So I just stared by the bus window… There, I realized why God made me ride this ordinary bus. To feel the discomfort that ordinary folks experience every single day – the konduktor, the mamang drayber who absorbs air pollutions plus all day driving….. near Munoz, I saw a makeshift abode under the bridge… And the contrast flashed on me: Shangri-la luxuries and the iskwater sa ilalim ng tulay…… All day malling and all day driving…. Best school and others can’t even attend a public school…. A life of relative comfort and a life of relative difficulty…… It so happened the book I bought is also about Social Inequality…
The second sentence in the first paragraph of the essay I wrote five years ago runs, “Pero matapos dumaan ang bus dito, makikita ko mula sa bintana ang mga batang gusgusin na namamalimos at ang batang nanay na nagpapasuso sa kanyang sanggol habang umiiyak ang isa pang anak sa tabi (at marahil walang padre de pamilya).
It was a day full of new experiences, new things to reflect on to become a better “me” and contribute something to close the gap in this society… I aspire to contribute to that elusive “change” in my country. No, it’s not elusive. We just have to act on it. Do someting to make it a reality. I will do my part as God compels me. 🙂
For God and my country.