Of studying, dreaming and remembering names

Sensing the quick, unpredictable ebb and flow of a hundred or so college students from the classroom, you begin to wonder why it is always necessary to go to school.

Waking up early has always occurred to you as a challenging and strenuous activity: you realize that solving math equations is more convenient than taking a cold shower in the morning. Your mother almost always jolts you out of Dreamland; and she always succeeds--she has mastered the "art of revival." Sometimes you are tempted to scold her for disturbing the momentum--you had, after all, been dreaming that you were about to enter the gates of Paradise when she slapped you hard. But, on second thought, you'd rather not scold her.

* * *

"Uy, ano'ng next class mo?" Someone, a few meters away, asks you point-blanc. The person's face looks rather familiar, but you cannot recall when or where or how you've met her. She is on her way to where you are. Smiling, you answer her question. Then you both talk about your professors, your organizations, and anything under the sun. For ten minutes, you are with her: she seems nice to be with.

"But where have I seen her?" You ask yourself. Apparently, your brain cannot establish a clear connection.

The person realizes that she has an appointment thirty minutes from now. "I have to leave. Bye," she says. Throughout your conversation, you've never called her by her name. You begin to wonder if she had realized that.

* * *

You are asleep; your head is covered with the Winnie-the-Pooh blanket while your mouth is dripping with drool. Ah, the pleasure of being able to dream.

In your dream, you are now about to enter the gates of Paradise...and then you see the person you've talked to yesterday after class--the one who looked peculiarly familiar.

"Hi. What's your name?" You ask her at last.

She is about to say her name when your mother slaps you hard. You realize you're late for school.

Sick

There comes a time in man's life--once, twice, or many times, depending on the sovereign plans of the Lord--when he feels he cannot do anything useful. The idea I am suggesting is not alien to most of us. When this malady invades our body system, we cannot do anything to stop it immediately. Science has shown us ways of defeating it, but so far, an instantaneous relief from this has not yet been discovered.

I am talking about feeling sick.

It's a bad condition. So here I am, in front of the PC. My eyes are bloodshot and watery--people would ask me, "Did you cry?" My palms are cold as ice; they feel like they've been exposed to a zero-Kelvin type of coldness. In contrast, my skin--especially my neck--feels like it has been cooked in the oven for thirty minutes. So far, I have not gone out of the dormitory without my coat.

Forgive me for this cynicism, but I have to say this anyway: when I wake up early in the morning, I feel like it's snowing in Manila, which is, of course, very unlikely since the place is in the Tropics. However, I was asked once, "Why does it feel so cold?"

The only thing I thought of was that the Philippines has at last been included as one of the states of the US. Hahaha.

As I end this rather brief entry, my throat never ceases to itch. It itches everytime I breathe--it's as if there are pieces of feather combined with the air.

Pardon me. But I have to execute this routine that is very familiar to sick people: coughing.

The Hall

PROLOGUE


My prayer a year ago:

Lord, I trust in You. Give me good
companions, friends who will help me grow in the knowledge of You, and a
comfortable place to stay while I am in the university.





I live in a university dormitory.

It's a great place to live in, but it isn't famous for no apparent reason. These may be intimidating--on second thought, they are actually meant to be that way: you need to produce a lot of earwax to adapt to the noisy atmosphere; a ton--or nine thousand barrels--of guts, too, to survive, and a clean, white set of teeth to flash whenever someone says hello. It's that easy--when you like irony, that is.


There are few moments of
solitude and quietude, too, especially when the clock
strikes twelve, or
when Kuya Myk, our exemplary resident assistant, visits our
room for a
nightly "bed check."

The dorm is the Kalayaan Residence Hall in the University of the Philippines. It caters only to freshmen students, so we, the residents (there are more than 500 of us all over the Philippines), have many things in common: subjects, ideas, friends. It's a great place, so great I wouldn't want to leave it anymore. Kalayaan is a Filipino word which means freedom. It's really a paradox: we are "free" but we are "limited in our freedom." That makes a lot of sense when I think of it... Freedom only comes when you know the limits of your rights. For instance, we have to be in the dormitory premises by 9 pm. Our lives are pretty restricted. Though not all the time.


JASON, MY ROOMMATE, AND LUTHER, THE INHABITANT OF THE ROOM IN FRONT OF OURS. THEY'RE BOTH BS ECE MAJORS.

I live in the great corridor known as the Basement (the Sunken Fortress, as they call it). Right at the foundation of the Hall, it is home to the dormitory's bright minds, exceptional talents and incessant noise.

At night, I would usually visit different rooms. My room is the fire exit of the corridor, so it's situated in the last frontier, if you could call it that. The last place you'll ever set foot on. I share that room with the studious Jason, an Electronics and Communication Engineering major.

Roomhopping is limited (but that's really a relative term.) The noise should be moderate since it is absolutely impossible to stop people from talking. I always visit Jef's room to have a chat. I convinced him to make a blog of his own; you can click on the link if you wish to visit it. I also visit many different people, mostly to ask them about assignments, play charades, debate on nonsense things, and many more. We'd also sing songs.


JEF (MOLECULAR BIOLOGY) , LANCE (THAT'S ME--ENGLISH STUDIES) AND JP (PHILOSOPHY)


It's a great place, so great I
wouldn't want to leave it anymore. Kalayaan
is a Filipino word which means
freedom. It's really a paradox: we are "free" but
we are "limited in our
freedom." That makes a lot of sense when I think of it...
Freedom only comes
when you know the limits of your rights.


No two days are alike. There are always surprises. A co-resident's birthday, a world-class performance of Tara na, Biyahe Tayo, a classic rendition of the Basement's national anthem (or so, we say), Canon No. 4 (the music played in the corridor's favorite movie, My Sassy Girl).


AMIAN (GEOLOGY), LANCE, WELSTER (CIVIL ENGINEERING), REY (COMPUTER ENGINEERING) AND LOISSE (SECONDARY EDUCATION).

The year is about to end, and we all have to part ways. This entry seems rather untimely. But time will come. And it will be difficult.

Uselessness is usefulness

I also experience the same troubles, brother. I know that your context regarding "usefulness" may be different, but let me just write my thoughts...USEFULNESS... I need to learn how it is only God and His power in us who makes us useful. Transform us into useful spirits. I can appear to be totally useful in the eyes of the world, even in the church as a part of the Body, but in reality still be utterly useless for His glory. It's like I'm a bubbling fountain.

My friend, Nissie (dizzynissie.blogspot.com), posted this comment in one of my entries entitled Too bad where I talked of how useless and senseless I can be at times--at least, from my own point of view. Her view, however, is one that I share with most emphatically. Man's idea of usefulness is never compatible with God's. That's the point I'd like to underscore here.
but when you run your hand through me you'll discover that I'm only a hologram. I learn that it is only those times when you're right with Him, with the Lord of the Universe, that you are useful. For the only real work is what He does in the world; history is His Story, and you are truly "working" if and only if you are aligned with what He is doing. Usefulness is first and foremost with reference to Him and is not primarily with what you do for society.

You can be the most useful person on the planet even if you're just inside a little room, doing nothing whatsoever aside from being still and knowing that He is God... isn't that one of the hardest lessons we Christians need to learn...

E-mails: A Series

It is a universally accepted fact (how could it be a fact if it is not universally accepted?) that I always find time and means to open my e-mail, and to write something, no matter what comes into my mind, in this blog. It is also an acknowledged fact, too, that many friends e-mail me everyday. Though I mostly receive individual e-mails from my Yahoo groups, I also receive quite a lot of e-mails sent only to me. It's a joy to see my inbox always full.

You will now read a series of e-mails sent to me by a good friend named Paul V. He's a college freshman, too, and stays in the same dormitory as I do. He's also from the Basement corridor, and his room is not so far away from mine. He loves to eat: he thinks he's obese, but I tell him he's not. He's very obese. Naaaah.. hehehe...

Majoring in BS Hotel, Restaurant, and Institution Management (BS HRIM), he's a pretty clever guy. His e-mails, as you will notice, are very clever, too.He had problems with Math, but his father, a PMA graduate (wow!), gave him lots of Math books to study.

Unlike me, he prefers dogs to cats. Lastly, he always bothers me with this very fundamental question that is as important to him as his very existence, "Maarte ba ako, Lance?"

merry Christmas ang pangalan ng aso namin ay BLUTO, PIOCO at FAKEY. BLUTO
dahil ung unang aso namin ay brutos, tapos diba nag-iba ung sa pop-eye kaya
naging bluto. PIOCO dahil ung frog sa bubu chacha, sinabi lang ng kapatid ko,
tapos yun na. FAKEY dahil half-bred na askal at dalmatian, pero mas mukha siyang
dalmatian maliit nga lang, ung tatay niya ung askal. cge have a nice evening.
Maligayang Pasko. GOD bless

hi, good afternoon lance, kamusta ka na diyan ako walang magawa, nandito
lang, mga kapatid ko umalis may social life sila, ako obviously wala. hehehe. well
diba, i e-mailed you yesterday about that blogspot of yours. i tried it today,
and ayun! nakita ko na! alam mo bakasi hindi ako nag-iingat sa spelling na
nilagay ko angna-i-type ko pala ay BOOTLEDBRAIN, hindi BOTTLEDBRAIN. can write
about my STUPIDITY. just a SUGGESTION. hehehe.i personally enjoyed yung article
tungkol sa pag-uwi ng mgatao at talagang natuwa ako sa GOING BANANAS.well, un
lang. FOR NOW.have a joyous CHRISTMAS, and a blessed 2005!

*p.ssorry kung hindi ako nag-cacapital letter, tsaka pasensya sa wrong
spelling at wrong grammar. [For the record, I no longer make an effort to correct people's grammar unless they want me to. Grammar is secondary to the thought expressed. This outlook can be attributed to the renewing of the Holy Spirit. I no longer judge people according to grammar. I no longer even judge people! Who am I to do that, anyway?]

Too bad

Useless.

That's how I really feel sometimes. I can't do much; I can't enjoy much--it's as if there are always holes, missing pieces, that need to be filled up. For example, I know how to ride a bicycle (unlike my 19-year-old brother Ralph who never tries), but I couldn't ride it as fast as, say, the great Lance Armstrong--my namesake, by the way, who has won six Tour de France championships--or even my younger brother, Sean. I can manipulate the bike such that the motion I'm following is rectilinear; I couldn't, however, take a sharp turn. It's a disability.

My eyes are awefully myopic, too. The only thing I can see in the Snellen chart is the biggest E that's right at the top. I need eyeglasses; though I wear contacts, I find putting them on rather, er, incovenient. But wearing them feels like I have undergone a multi-million laser eye surgery.

Senseless.

That's what I am, too. Times would come when I'd tell nonsense things to everyone: the topics are far-fetched and often very unexpected. I myself do not know where these words coming out of my mouth have come from. When I had arrived from the airport, I asked my friends a question that truly has puzzled me: Why do they always--and I mean always--call the escalator that moves downward an escalator? To escalate means, or implies, something like going up. (Before I continue, the Nescafe commercial comes to my mind: Going up? All the way to the top!--A horrible dialogue; but there's a "good way coming up.")

My roommate, Jason, would testify to the fact that I laugh on my own (it's a creepy and often infectious laugh, too, since he also laughs with me whenever these moments of lunacy hit me), espcially at times when I feel sleepy. I asked my friends while we were eating dinner (or was it lunch?), "Is this insanity? Laughing alone?"

"Do you know why you laugh?," they intuitively ask me.

"Sure. When I think bloody funny thoughts."

"That's OK. As long as you know why you laugh. The fact that you've asked us this question is proof that you have a stable state of mind," they say.

The insane, I was told, laugh for no particular reason at all. Too bad for them.

I am laughing now, so hard that I feel my internal organs are going to be subjected to a horrid process known as disarrangement. My tummy is aching--not the ulcer type of pain. Maybe my diaphragm is exhausted now, too. Fact is, I don't know what I'm laughing at. Too bad for me.

Tragic

The sea that had once looked peaceful, inviting, and interesting has become an object of fear. Tsunamis, once an abstract oceanographic term, is now a word that carries with it memories of death, destruction and doom. The earthquake, once a normal phenomenon in the Philippine archipelago, is now more feared than ever. The Aceh Province, once a remote, unknown place, is now the talk of the town: it is a scary place where dead people are scattered all over the streets, waiting to be buried.

I was shocked and terrified when I learned of the earthquake-cum-tsunami disaster that has affected many countries in South and South East Asia. The death toll is continually rising--the International Committee of the Red Cross even estimates that the number of dead people could rise to 150,000. Many are left homeless, family-less, and hopeless.

I feel blessed more than ever. You see, I could have been one of the thousand victims of this tragedy. My body, floating in the steady, violent overflow of seawater, could have been the one reported by one of CNN's correspondents. My family could have been the one that's mourning by now, had they learned of my tragic fate. I would not have been buried in a decent place; instead, medics would not have been able to distinguish my body from the rest--my flesh would have rotten in one of those horrendous mass graves.

What could I have possible done to save myself? Nothing.