Sunday, April 24, 2005

My Quick Weekend in UPLB

I intended to go back to UPLB early Friday morning but as usual, I failed. My alibi would have to be lack of sleep.

My alibi is always lack of sleep.

This time however I did not get enough sleep for a noble reason. I was finishing 12 surprise graduation gifts/cards for 12 of my closest friends who were scheduled to graduate Saturday afternoon. I desperately wanted to join them for the Department Testimonial, but I opted to prioritize my little project thereby sacrificing my ability to wake up before dawn.

I slept before dawn and gained consciousness one hour before the Department Testimonial. Sure I can get myself ready in 15 minutes but traveling from Pasig to UP Los Baños in 45 minutes is impossible since teleportation is not something I can avail of just yet.

Three hours after my target arrival time, I found myself zapped back into the place I called home for four and a half years. Contrary to my fear, I didn’t feel like I was an outsider. If it were not for the grocery store standing on what-used-to-be-a-vacant-lot and KFC occupying the spot which used to be Burger King’s, I would say Los Baños remained just as how I left it nine months ago.

The sun is hot in Los Baños—not that it isn’t hot elsewhere but there’s something about LB which makes one realize that there is indeed a sun. Of course I abhorred heat, the same way I hated dust and sweat, but I didn’t mind if my skin got toasted for a while just as long as I got another look around my old university.

Two of my friends, Nikka and Kistna, escorted me around. I had to see the third floor of the NCAS building. It wasn’t there when I left. And as history would have it now, my first photo for my return to UPLB was taken inside the newest ladies room at NCAS. We then proceeded to the Humanities building. After seeing NCAS, I had to see the Humanities. After all, the Humanities was the one that welcomed me in Los Baños back in 1998—at that time NCAS was probably just a blueprint inside some architect’s bag.

My UPLB tour had to be cut short because of the incessant way the sun is making his presence felt. Nostalgia would have kept me from minding the impending threat of skin cancer but it was not enough for me not to anticipate heat stroke. Kistna, Nikka and I surrendered to KFC for sanctuary. Later we were joined by Leng. There were only four of us (we were supposed to be 13) but we almost invaded the whole second floor with our reverberating laughter. One set of which was brought about by the idea that some people take acetone to get high. By virtue of reductio ad absurdum, we came up with the hypothetical possibility (Is there such a thing?) of people taking water just to get high. In that case, everyone can afford to go on a laughing trip without worrying about the adverse effects of what they’re taking. But wait, maybe when that time comes water will be toxic and taking it will automatically kill you—no laughing trip there.

A few more laughs later, we were in front of the S.U. building surrounded by almost all of this year’s graduates. Of course, I took pictures. And even if I already have my puny diploma and pink transcript of records at home, I’d still say I blended well with the crowd. I know many of the people that comprised the pack and many of them remember me, although not all of them recall clearly that I’ve been there and I’ve done that last year—graduating, that is.

To further my point regarding “blending” allow me to relay how I joined this year’s graduates during their practice.

Probably I didn’t get enough of last year’s pre-graduation cacophony that’s why I subjected myself to the same chaos this year. Then again all of my friends were required to join the practice. Since I wanted to be with them and I didn’t have anyone else to hang out with, I went with them as they fell in line, and as they entered the field where the graduates were supposed to sit, and as they established an obscure bond with the event’s marshal (the one who signaled when they were supposed to sit and stand), and as they marched on stage—the highlight of tomorrow’s ceremony.

The question is, what would you do if you were given another chance to walk on stage as if you were really a fresh graduate? Well I couldn’t sing or dance on stage —that would be too much and at the same time irrelevant. But I can capture the moment. I was debating on whether to take pictures while I’m on stage or to take a crude video with my cellphone. I ended up doing the latter for it was more convenient considering that I only had 10 seconds to implement my plan. Well I did it. I captured the moment and I can replay the feel of it anytime I like. Of course the event’s organizer reprimanded me but who cares? She can’t put my diploma on hold. I already have it!

Dinner was the only means by which my friends and I could spend what was left of our time together. We were only nine and we didn’t really talk but each other’s presence was enough to fill out the times we didn’t see each other.

The next day was shorter than the previous one. This time I was able to attend the College Testimonial for graduates. I took pictures of my friends and chatted with my past professors. Then I took some more pictures, bought my first UP shirt, ate brunch—the pancit distributed during the College Testimonial, freshened up, and assembled in front of the S.U. building. Then I handed out my little cards/gifts for my friends and kissed them goodbye and congratulations.

I saw my friends through the entrance march and took as much pictures of them as I could. I knew how much elation they were feeling at that point no matter how effective they were at concealing it. I expected to see all 12 of them walk but one of my friends seemed to have come late and another didn’t make it at all. To tell the truth, I hated not seeing all 12 of them there in the field with the other 900+ graduates. I knew that all of my friends deserved this once in a lifetime experience. And I hated knowing that my friend who didn’t make the event didn’t make it because the company where she now works did not make what would have been a great thing possible for her. It sucks but sometimes companies aren’t really what they claim to be.

Then I felt dehydrated and bought 500 ml of iced tea which I gulped in 5 seconds. I picked up a white flower which fell off its tree at the same moment I was passing by. I took a last look at my old university and took a picture of it, this time without the aid of a camera. I stored this image into my brain. I knew I would not be coming back anytime soon so I made sure I had the memory of a vital part of my past in a safe place. I walked as far as my feet and my ability to resist the heat would allow me. I got my humongous purple bag and rode a bus home, not looking back but with a genuine smile planted on my face.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Second Encounter with the Zafra-kind

A Zafra fan goes to the book launching of TW7STED. She brings 6 Zafra books with her (her three other books are already signed). She had to buy another one to be allowed to go near her idol. She thinks, “I have completed the Twisted Cycle; another Zafra book is too much. The organizers of this event are taking advantage of my Zafraism. But what the heck…” She proceeds on buying J. Zafra’s collection of short stories. With seven books at hand, she gathers herself together as she faces her Twistedness.

Jessica Zafra: all these books are for you?

Fan: Yes mam.

JZ: 'You still studying?

F: No, I'm already working. (Oh, please don't ask where...)

JZ: Where?

F: (Shit!) At Hallmark (the makers of the thing you refer to as “insipid greeting cards”)

JZ: Did you know that Hallmark is the sister company of Anvil?

F: (and of Woman Today and of National Bookstore and of Powerbooks and of Tower Records…. One thing we have in common is that we are pawns of one Chinese family) Yes, I just learned about it.

J: I hope you're not the one writing those greeting cards.

F: No ma'am. I just edit them. (and plan them. I can't write them--I am not gifted with sufficient mush to write them!)

JZ: Do you still have greeting cards in Filipino?

F: Yes. We are the ones who translate them.

JZ: Do you have cards written in different dialects like Cebuano...

F: No.

JZ: You should come out with those...

F: (Ano daw? Tama ba pagkakarinig ko?!?)

JZ: ...even in small...

JZ & F: ...quantities.

F: (Big deal. We both know what the word “quantity”)

***While I’m at it, I’d like to thank Ara for informing me of this event; Charlene for sharing my anxiousness from the office to Powerbooks and all the way through the line; and finally, Leng for telling me what to do when my brain was on idle mode—brought about by fanaticism—and for capturing it all in photos.