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Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Sia: I get by with a little help from my friend

Riding the Tiger

ONE unwritten rule for life that I haven't realized for the longest time was that you should always consider it an honor and a privilege to be welcomed into the home of another. After all, the home is a person's castle, and that very same home is where the heart is. Those sayings are trite and cheesy, I know, but that doesn't make them any less true.

I remember fondly the times I got invited into other people's houses; whether it was for a lavish party complete with wine and high-brow conversation or just shooting the breeze over some coffee and bread, it makes no difference to me – today, I cherish them all, and though a good deal of time may have passed, I still feel a sharp twinge of pain and regret over relationships that were lost and homes I might not see the insides of ever again. I hope it doesn't have to stay that way, though. One day, things will be all right again.

If you've read my previous column, you're probably thinking it's Harold I'm referring to, that we're not friends anymore. Well, we still are friends and very much so in spite of the time and distance (thank you, Facebook!). So forgive me for waxing sentimental a while back, and please understand that being the writer of a newspaper column comes with the license to share with readers how I think life ought to be.

Back to our story. Harold and I are alike in some ways and different in some ways. We're alike because we both major in engineering, we both did work for student publications – Harold was a graphic artist with the Guilds publication of BPSU, while I honed my craft writing for XU's Crusader Publication – and we both have “James” as part of our full names. We're different because he majors in mechanical while I study chemical, he's gregarious while I'm taciturn (these days not so much, I promise), and he has “James” as his second name and as for me... well, you already know.

Harold and his family call home a one-floor, regular-sized house in the backwoods of Pilar, Bataan, a comfy little municipality that's about an hour and a half's drive away from both Balanga to the north and Limay to the south. After Harold's father graciously drove us to D'Samat to pick up my stuff later in the evening, that same house was to be my home for the next two months, too.

But more than just a house, it's a homestead: behind the house was a vast garden where Harold's mother grew crops and raised farm animals too. That's why we always had the freshest food every mealtime. They kept some dogs and cats too, the cats are fat and pacified because they're well-fed and neutered, respectively. “I wish my cats were like yours,” I told Harold, “but I just don't have the heart to take them to the vet for THAT kind of operation.”

As Limay was far from where we lived, we had to wake up early every morning; good thing the house has got two bathrooms! By 5:30 AM we'd be done with breakfast and already on the long, long road to the tricycle stop, where we'd catch a ride to the bus stop along the highway. We had to be early – Bataan was studded with a lot of industrial facilities so even at dawn the buses would be packed with workers from all over the province. There were few houses and lots of trees and fields of grass between home and the tricycle stop, so practically we were hiking every morning – not bad! Besides, how can it not be hiking for me, especially since I really do have to wear steel-toe boots to work?

Speaking of which, in the previous column I've already given you an idea of what work was like for me. As for Harold, the management decided to assign him to a department where graphic skills were needed now that PBR had a lot of mechanical engineering students to work with. He'd help the engineers out by creating power point presentations that dazzled and internal posters for the company that were both informative and artful.

Depending on what they majored in, the other students got assignments like clerical work, inventory, and security. I'm sure they didn't mind as Petron really did make it a point to be the best workplace in the country as part of their agenda, but Harold was lucky in that he got to do what he really loved to do anyway for the rest of the summer.

I know I said that this was to be the last part, but there's really more that needs to be said and we need more space for that. Well, we've talked about life in Pilar and what the other students did... In the next column we'll head back to Balanga for a bit, make a few stops around the province, then it'll be time to say goodbye to Bataan.


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