Olsim: Another trip

The Eternal Student

I WAS at the JICA Philippines central office in Makati last week for a Project Cycle Management Training when it all came back to me – five years ago, I was a clueless young civil servant rushing to submit my red passport to the same tower, hoping to get a slot for a special study in Japan. That memory gave me an appreciation to the whole experience, and humility perhaps, in the face of mounting pressure to our chosen fields.

Indeed, we have to be thankful for every opportunity in our lives.

I was supposed to write about my PCM learnings, maybe about the urban management of Makati and Ortigas, maybe about Panagbenga, or maybe our La Trinidad Strawberry Festival celebration, but, there is something about going home from Manila that reminds us about the anguish and beauty of time on the road.

Personally, it reminds me about the most important chapters of my life; about the final bus ride with my father, my exciting trips to airports and out of the country, my long depressing trips as a defeated ambitious warrior, my adventures, my life.

On the three-hour struggle in EDSA, I played the phone screen and saw unwanted news of passing away – a colleague at work, an acquaintance, a friend of a friend, a local celebrity, a child at the wrong place and time, a stranger who left a grieving family.

Facebook can really be gloomy sometimes. Still, for the nth time, I contemplated about life and death and the everyday hassle of living. I thought about the meaning of our existence...of what and whys for every passing street light. From the express highway, lechon manok and sisig invited us to a detour, and a momentary pause from the chaos in our minds.

The midnight mental adventure, however, resumed and the convoluted imaginations crept back into the boiling pot of my head. They say that this modern society of depression and anxiety is caused by thoughts of meaninglessness – of looking down deep into the abyss, and into the void.

Scary when the emptiness stares back – “is life all about working, toiling, and dying?” The dark scene is familiar: a resurrection of a defeated monster which has to be vanquished again and again.

The younger soul in me asked: “What keeps us going? What makes our trips meaningful? What makes us wake up to continue the journey they call life?” For the thousandth time I have to remind myself about the following mantra: If we are all made with a purpose according to faith, and spiritual essentialism – “we exist therefore we have a purpose” – perhaps, that is all the comforting words we need to keep going...unless, our maker is wrong. From time to time, some people never wake up to live another day. We are still the lucky ones who are still on the ride to enjoy the views.

After another three hours, I’m in front of the red gate that my late father manually welded on his day off almost a decade ago. I made my way to the back door into the room and I saw my two sleeping boys waiting for their dad – “I’m home”.


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