Wednesday, October 12, 2005

A Turtle Named Benito, Biking in the Rain, and Letting Yourself be Loved...

The following is a piece I wrote as I lived in the Alingal Subcommunity of Loyola House of Studies. This was at Barangka, Marikina. I was studying and teaching Philosophy then as a Jesuit Scholastic. The Ateneo campus offered much space for comfort amidst my own human struggles.

Benito, our default mascot in Alingal House, is a turtle whose age one can only guess. Legend has it that a member of the house brought him when he was smaller, and because of neglect, was left to the back-area where clothes are dried. Fortunately, this small enclave had enough supply of growing plants to feed the hungry reptile, enough to have allowed it to grow so much through the years. Many times, he remains hidden beneath foliage. Many times, you wouldn’t even notice he’s there.

But the rains bring out something magical in Benito. As the first pitter-patter of rain hit the roofs, he extends his long neck anticipating what is to follow. Soon, the shower comes, and a once immobile shell suddenly has legs taking it out from the shade and into heavy downpour. This is Benito’s dance. A dance of life. A dance to life. With his long neck wagging from side to side, he raises opposing legs high—one pair after the other—as he crisscrosses the little space that has become his own little playground. Above broken pots and old wooden stakes. Over the cistern cover. Through the rags and mops left behind. He continues his dance as the rain continues to wash over him.

The Magic of Rain

The last time I did this was around a month and a half ago. I think August was about to end then. As the clouds overhead started to rumble, I walked out into the garden anticipating the heavy rains that were about to come. Almost immediately, Gil and I struck on the idea of biking in the rain through the campus. It was so spontaneous for me. Gil was the veteran in these things. It was going to be fun.

As the first drops hit the roof, we rushed to get our bikes and rallied to get to the ramp quickly. We didn’t want to miss the part when the rain suddenly gets really heavy. Just in time, as we biked up Paseo de Reilly, all of it came down heavily on us. We continued our biking spree. Through Masterson. Around the Jesuit Residence. Down to the High School. Even around the grass oval several times. Back to Masterson. Right alongside the ISO Complex. Through the SS Parking Lot. Parallel to Katipunan. Up to the Grade School. Down Masterson again. We went around in circles through the campus, again and again, drenched wet in the rain and utterly enjoying this little escapade. Somewhere through this, someone shouted, “Hoy! Nakakainggit naman niyan!” He looked liked he really wanted to join us. I could only reply, “Ang sarap!” And indeed it was.

The rain fizzled out into a drizzle. We ended up in the middle of the flooded football field near Gate Two. There, we could see the tiny figures of students taking exams and listening to lectures in CTC as Gil tried to catch dragonflies as he did when he was a child.

The rain poured just as hard today. And as the first heavy drops hit the earth, a rush came from inside of me to go, go, go! Gil was nowhere to be found this time. But I went on ahead anyway. Down the ramp. Up Paseo de Reilly. Through Masterson. Down to the High School. As I went round and round the campus, a kind of peace settled in me. It made me feel good to be alive. I could only utter thanks. Thank you for this life. Thank you for allowing me to enjoy this. Nothing spectacular, yes. But thank you just the same.

Somewhere near the flooded football field, a little thought came to me. It’s nice to let yourself feel loved, ‘no? I could only smile.

Love Yourself

As I biked back home to get a quick bath and get back to work, a little memory surfaced. Sometimes, I text myself on the cellphone, as a way to express the negative things I’m feeling. For example, I texted myself past midnight towards the end of July how wretched and needy I was feeling. Or even as recent as a week or two ago, I texted myself how frustrated and upset I was over someone. These text messages lay together with the nice text messages from friends and people who care. Scrolling up and down the message menu shows how both positive and negative movements in me simply live side by side with each other. And I’m okay with that. I accept it.

But I remembered how my birthday came along, and people started texting me nice birthday greetings. Some were poetic. Others were corny. Still others were straightforward and simple. But they were all heartfelt and beautiful. Then came an alert on my phone. No more space for new messages. And so the dilemma was quite simple: Do I hold on to these text messages from myself, proclaiming how upset and bitter I have been? Or do I let little tokens of love and kindness in? There is a price, true. Would I be willing to give up the space?

Sometimes, it’s nice to let yourself feel loved, ‘no? I can only smile.