Lessons from lizards

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

"NAKAKAPIT sa langit,
"Ang Mundo's tiningala,
"Pababa siyang Pumanhik,
"Masundo lang ang lupa."

(Holding firmly on to heaven/He looks up at the earth below/Downward he goes up just so/To bring the world back home again.)

And that is why a lizard is such a fascinating creature to former Davao resident priest now Zamboanga-based Fr. Albert E. Alejo SJ.

The poem he wrote is inspired by Philippians 2: 5-11 (In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father), is framed and forms part of “Piling Butiki”, an exhibit of Fr. Alejo’s lizard collections at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University The Gallery of the Peninsula and the Archipelago. How these verses in Philippians can make anyone think of a lizard requires the muse of this priest. Otherwise, bask in the poetry of looking up in order to look down, a position only lizards can do.

Through the years, Paring Bert, as Fr. Alejo would prefer to be addressed, has collected lizards. Some he personally acquired, many a gifts from friends from all over. Thus, his lizard collections also come from all over the world. Keychains, brooches, rings, even a CDR-King USB shaped like one, t-shirts, and a painting by Davao artist Kublai Millan.

The exhibit opened last November 11 and will end on November 29.

For Paring Bert, the lizard epitomizes everything that a person can aspire to be, to cluck out his presence and thus became the metaphorical sound for Paring Bert’s anti-corruption movement Ehem.

“The bird's eye view is always from the top looking down. The worm's eye view is from below looking up. But the lizard’s point of view can be from eberywhere. Pwedeng nandiyan sa kisame, nakakapit sa kisame tapos nakatingin sa lupa, pwede rin nasa sahig at nakatingala, pwede ring sa dingding nakalingon, at pwede rin siyang sa ilalim ng mesa, kaya yung under the table view niya, sasabihin ng butiki, tsk-tsk-tsk,” Fr. Alejo said during the exhibit opening that had ADZU Academic Vice President Dr. Rebecca Fernandez, and Deputy Speaker Beng Climaco as special guests.

Thus, the “tsk-tsk-tsk” of the lizard can be likened to the “tsk-tsk-tsk” of a person who has witnessed an act of corruption.

“The butiki is the icon of social conscience,” he said.

But most of all, a lizard is a symbol of regeneration. No other animal, except some starfish species, are known to regenerate a part of the body that is lost.

When trapped by its predators, lizards can detach their tails, which will continue to wag and thus distract the predator thinking it got the lizard but instead just got the tail. The lizard will remain without a tail only for a short period of time because from that lost tail another one will grow.

Observe the lizard at the ceiling, he said, and notice how it can stay in one position for so long, and yet, when a prey comes within striking distance, it bursts into action and catches the insect.

“It just means, don’t waste your energy, but don’t stay put,” he said. It might seem like the lizard has zoned out, but it has not. It just doesn’t move around because there is no reason to move around.

Indeed, while the lizard may have found something worth looking up to in the lowly world we live in, as Fr. Alejo said in urgings his guests to ponder on lizards, there is a lot we mortals can look up to at what we once thought was a lowly lizard.

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