Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Relishing Time

Written in: Poblacion, Sta. Maria, Bulacan, PHILIPPINES
Composition: Impromptu
Previous post: The Little Things

I thought it would diminish after a week or so.

My first few days in the Philippines felt a lot like my first few hours. They were both marked by an overwhelming sense of excitement at the thought that I was seeing my motherland again for the first time in nearly a decade. Every scenery I saw, each person I met, everything I did, and the settings I did them in, somehow all seemed very special. No surprise - many things have changed, and those that didn't, I haven't seen in a long time. After ten years, all of them were novel once again.

Even the most mundane.

Jeepney rides, that I used to curse for being so hot, cramped, loud, and nauseating, I now relish. Nowhere else in the world, I would think everytime I ride, does this kind of popular transportation exist. The quirky side of Philippine culture that I used to criticize, I now view in a humorous light. These are the little details that makes Filipinos, FILIPINOS, I would say. The loud, crowded, somewhat unsanitary wet markets I was glad did not exist in North America, I was actually delighted to see and experience once again. The foods and snacks that as a kid, I thought I could willingly trade for western style cooking, I actually could not wait to taste. I even ate the street foods that everyone tells me I should be avoiding due to potentially unsanitary preparation. You only live once, I thought.

Enjoying some fried 'Fish Balls' from a mobile vendor that my cousin Jojo flagged down so I could have a taste.

These and everything else I encountered seemed to be cast by a strange light during my adjustment period. Everything just seemed so cool - even the bad things. Heck, ESPECIALLY the bad things. Traffic congestion, pollution, bad roads, beggars and street urchins, and such a disparity between the rich and the poor; you just don't get these in Canada. At least not to this extent. That I was witnessing the conditions of the developing world, no matter how deplorable they may be, gave me a generalized feeling that I, as a westerner, was privy to something that few people where I came from would ever get see - let alone understand and try to live with. Taking in the whole locale, good and bad, was a challenge I accepted and even enjoyed.

And then there too was the routine that I got into.

"Hindi ka ba naiinip?" ("Aren't you bored?") my friends and relatives would often ask when they see me repeating a pattern of lounging around the ancestral orchard, playing with the dogs (1, 2, 3, 4, 5), practicing my (basketball) shooting, writing in a notebook, and then going to the bayan (town centre) to access the internet.

"Hindi naman" ("Naw"), I would reply to this question.

"Sigurado ka? ("You sure?")

"Ay, o-o"("Of course!"), I would say honestly and matter-of-factly.

In another setting it would have driven me to near madness to realize that I had fallen into a lazy pattern. I would have called it a 'rut'. I like my routine, but only the personal rituals concerning the morning , grooming, and going to sleep. My automotive hobby can perhaps be included in this, but that would be about it.

Like a form of Adult ADD, I find it hard to follow a pattern of consistency and repeatability. Relationships, career paths, and obligations - I've gone from one to the next; unable to maintain one for very long.

Yet, being here right now in the Philippines, I can do things I wasn't able to do before and then some:

Watch the night sky go from one horizon to the other... Count the shooting stars in an hour... Notice the trees almost change shape as the changing shadows of the day hit them... Notice which plants like the high ammonia content of my morning urine and which ones die from it... Observe the individual eccentricities and quirks of every guard dog - in order make friends with them...

Such is the wonder of being here only for a VISIT.

My time here is finite and I am relishing each and every moment of it. I am aware of this both consciously and subconsciously. In a few months time I may be gone from this place and if I don't soak up as much as I can during my stay here, I will have forever lost the chance.

And isn't life in general like that anyway? When your time's up, will you regret not having done certain things? Will you wish you had taken more time to pause, reflect, and look deeper into the subtle beauty of the things around us?

So it goes.

Related Flickr Photoset 1

Related Flickr Photoset 2

Next Post: My Uncle The Kapitan


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