02 July 2007

My Grandfather

(Antonio Olalia Manguerra 11 May 1924-27 June 2007) Yesterday we buried my grandfather. I think the reason they have open caskets is to encourage one more wave of tears when it's finally time to close it. The strange thing is, all we're saying goodbye to is a mortal body, the lifeless shell. His spirit left us already almost a week ago. But I still cried. It's hard to rationalize things like that. You know: love, loss, the vacuum that remains in your heart. Even when you know that the afterlife is a better place for him, you also think about how much sadder this corner of the world would be without him. (I mostly think about my grandmother, who has never spent a night without him since marriage.)

The funny thing is, we didn't speak the same language. I think in English and have passable Tagalog, he thinks in Kapampangan and has passable Tagalog. When he had a stroke a few years back (before the mudslides devastated our area), though I thank God he did not become debilitated, for a while he must have forgotten either Tagalog or that I only understood Tagalog. Fortunately we got through that and we were able to communicate again with our bare minimums. But I'm glad I got to know him even with the barriers.

My grandfather was a pious man. Even when his arthritis got so bad, he still made time to watch the mass on TV even when my grandmother wasn't. I like to think I take after him in a way.

He loved the simple life. He worked as a serviceman in Clark Air Base (I have to ask my dad about that someday) when he was younger, but when he retired, he was a farmer of his own land. The story was that he even wanted my father not to go to college and instead inherit the land, but my grandmother insisted that he go to college (he became an Architecture major). When I was much younger, he didn't shave; instead, he plucked out his beard hair by hair. When we'd go to the provinces every few weeks, I'd pluck out the beard for him while he rested in the Pampanga breeze, both of us in meditation. I soon discovered it was a nice feeling, till I realized that if I ever decided to grow a beard, doing so would mess up its shape in the long term. Anyway, when I'd come over as a kid, he really enjoyed it. He loved posing for these newfangled camera phones. Funny guy.

My grandfather was a sensitive man. When my aunt, his daughter, left for Canada, aside from my cousin (who was only 10 or 11 at the time), he was the only one to cry in his old age. My stone-faced grandmother hilariously enough didn't even shed a tear. In a way I guess that's why he wanted my dad to be a farmer, so his family would always be together. I guess I somehow take after him in that respect too. Maybe during the funeral, his spirit somehow made us all cry.

The picture above is one of the rubber shoes I wore for all 5 years of medical school. Those are the shoes that stepped through blood, spit, feces, pus, and vomit. Without even tying the laces, I slip my feet in and out of them and they're perfectly molded to them. These shoes were originally for my grandfather but he gave them to me. You could say he kept my feet from falling apart during all those seatless, sleepless nights. He supported me then, and now more than ever I feel that he is still supporting me.

And probably this time he can understand what I'm writing.

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10 June 2007

Above It All

This is a highly stylized video made by Sally Cruikshank in 1989 for Sesame Street. Even as a kind of older boy, the style and design of her videos (not to mention the insanely catchy tune of "In and Out Crowd") just got to me. This video is really to illustrate spatial relationships (prepositions) to children, but some people interpret it as man's Babel-ish tendency to keep building himself up over everything, but there's always a supreme being above us.
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01 June 2007


There you have it. I just graduated from medical school so naturally, my father told me that since I was no longer concentrating on studying, I could already find a mate (loosely translated). Irritated, I told him sarcastically that yes, that's the best reason to find a girl. My time is running out. Granted, he probably meant well by his statement, but I'm starting to wonder how many relationships out there have materialized from fear of ending up alone. Probably not a lot of them if they're young, then directly correlated with age.

There are so many reasons for a these pairings to form. First of all, she looks good. Guilty. Second, she finds me attractive. Guilty, and this one is particularly dangerous: it's like I'm satisfying some deep-seated narcissism. Third, we're both pretty old (at 25? You've got a good 5 years before your eggs start to deteriorate!). In my mind, correctly or incorrectly, they're all the wrong reasons.

One of my closest friends told me in a rare moment of my indulgent anguish that everyone has their time, which I really want to agree with. However, my mathematically-inclined mind has seen the patterns, and unless I break it somehow, things are not going to change for me. I told one of my friends as a joke that I wanted to practice in another country because I wanted to break the monotony of life here, even for a little while, although "my loneliness might be even more crushing there." And if I do decide to settle there, a fourth "wrong" reason for a relationship might materialize: you're both Filipinos in a foreign land.

The truth is, nothing is crushing me at all. I remember those dark days when it seemed like I wasn't deserving of any love-- THAT was truly crushing. I'm not a fool any longer. I don't thrive on false dependency, social acceptance, or sex. I know it may sound corny to the non-spiritual ones out there but somehow, I shut up, paid attention, and realized that God's love is enough. And I owe it to myself to search for something true. A true relationship with true love. Sounds like a dream, huh.

Meanwhile, when I want to design, I take a pen or sit in front of the PC. If I want to fly, I put on my ice skates. If I want to bake, I take my pans out. If I want music, I put my fingers on the piano. If I want to study, I take my books out. If I want a comic book, I buy one. If I want to write, I write. If I want to help someone, then I'll try as hard as I can to be the best physician out there. Doesn't sound crushing at all to me. Sure, in there, there's no holding hands, phone calls, or narration of my day (though I subject you to it, my dear reader), but it sounds like a normal life, and a normal life is nothing to be ashamed of.
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30 May 2007

Christmas and Return of the King

I suppose I’m not skilled enough in the humanities to be able to appreciate everything in a piece of literature on the first go. The first time I watched Return of the King I was busy appreciating the story (since I hadn’t read it of course), and the visuals and the dialogue. The second time (thank you Ads) was an opportunity to be able to link the experiences of the characters to my own. But it looks like I’ll need a third time for that. You see, instead I was busy linking it to Christianity, a popular topic for Tolkien enthusiasts (though I am not one of them).
One of the climaxes of the film shows Sam reaching for Frodo, telling him not to let go. I hear in the books this never had to happen; Gollum dances badly and lands in a stinkin’ pool of his own death. I believe the change was a service to good film-making. Remember the first movie? Well, here’s two important points (1) Gandalf instructs Sam not to lose/ leave Frodo (sadly, the scriptwriters used those two different words, bad continuity) and (2) Frodo saves Sam in the Anduin banks. There is “reaching and not letting go” there.
These two themes are explored in the ending of the last movie, and done quite well. Sadly, not many people remember the first film very well. Some people even complain that there wasn’t much character development, when it’s really their fault for not paying attention. Anyway. Take note that the ring doesn’t melt immediately. There is a definite longing from Frodo to hang on to the ring, like Gollum did as he plunged. But what kept him hanging on was his love for his own life, the world, and of course Sam. However, he was also “torn in two” (a phrase used later in the movie) and was willing to risk it all for possession of the ring.
Then, he chooses Sam. Then, the ring is destroyed. Not that the two events are linked, but the order is important. He chose Sam even if the ring was still calling to him, and it saved him. Now many scholars choose Frodo as the model of Christ carrying the burden of our sins and making the ultimate sacrifice, but for the movie I’d like to play around a bit and choose Sam as the model. Why? (1) He carried Frodo on his back. This isn’t really the same, as Christ did carry the weight of our sins, but it more of signifies for me the fact that we carry our own sin, guilt, and death as a burden, and Christ is there to help us destroy it, to ease the load by showing us a great love. (2) In the end, we make a choice out of our own free will whether to accept the love or to hang on to the sin the we put so much of ourselves into.
That’s right. Most of the time, when commit a fault, we put effort into making it. And that’s what keeps us holding on. Let’s take a moment to redefine Frodo as the true hero of the story by establishing that he chose his friend (love), to save the Shire (home, paradise), and ultimately his own life instead of giving in to the part of his life that corrupted him but took too much of his soul in the process. “If your right hand causes you to sin…” sound familiar? And look at that, his finger got amputated.
And then, the Ring was destroyed. He could see the Shire again.
Merry Christmas to all!!! If you want to find the meaning in something, here’s the best time to look.
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Words That Exclude

Remember that line in Jerry Maguire? Something about not having the license to use a word. (The “kwan” or whatever the heck that was.) You see, it’s been used on me. That’s right, believe it or not, I was once not cool enough to use a particular word. And difficult to make a sarcastic emoticon after that statement.
A friend telling me (without my asking) that I couldn’t use a word that they (some particular group) were using actually hurt at the time. I knew I wasn’t really the same as everybody else and maybe didn’t have the appropriate amount of coolness or whatever it is in the world that determines who matters and who doesn’t, but that was tantamount to saying that I didn’t belong with my own friends.
“So what?” You might say. “They’re only words.” Well, words are pretty powerful things. In my case, it was used to clearly delineate where our boundaries on the friendship stood. If I couldn’t even speak my friends’ language, how do I even begin talking to them in a manner that is natural and effortless?
So I became rebellious. I hated words that belonged to groups. People were calling each other “chief.” The stigma was engraved in my mind so deeply that the mere mention of the word disgusted me. So now, my meanings don’t reside in the individual words. They belong to the whole sentence. No flash, no special effects, no lingo.
Maybe it’s all for the best. I know that there is absolutely no way I can make anyone feel excluded or included by the way I talk. It feels good to be the buffer between a person who the group doesn’t know, and the people who have developed their own language. The people who know me know through my feelings and my personality, not my culture.
And the feeling of belonging? I don’t even miss it anymore. I may or may not, I don’t even know. But at least the person who knows he doesn’t has someone who speaks his language.
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New Life, New Site

“But today of all days, it is brought home to me: It is no bad thing to celebrate a simple life.”
Is Flights to Fantasy dead? Not quite. You see, I started that title about seven years ago, when I was a complete Final Fantasy nut. Now, barring the fact that I can’t afford to play Final Fantasy any longer, I’m still a fan. Also a casual fan of the fantasy genre. Notice all the Lord of the Rings crap I keep talking about?
But I decided I can’t keep the title any longer. I started with that beautiful quote I got from Fellowship of the Ring. I wanted to keep that thought with me.
Too often in the past I was preoccupied with the way I thought things ought to be. And, in the process, I would say and do things not only to please people, but to keep everything in life perfect. However, in doing so, I tended to lose a lot of things, and started to forget fundamental truths in life.
You can’t program everything to be perfect. And if you tried, you’d stop being free. Plus, you’d be curtailing others of their freedom. If you tried, you’d stop being honest. Sooner or later, you would lose appreciation for how beautiful things are as they are. You don’t need a fantasy life for your life to become fantastic.
Okay, it’s not fantastic. But mine’s pretty damn good. For the first time in so many years (gosh, those years in high school seem so ancient) I feel sober, I feel like I can own who I am, and I am comfortable in the fact that I’m still growing into somebody I know I’ll still like. You see, to live a simple life means to accomplish everything you have to, and at the end of the day have some peace of mind. So enjoy the site! And may God bless you with peace and quiet.
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