June 2007, Start of First Sem (2007-2008)
The room looked the same when I left it two months ago, except for the tiny shreds of paper a summer resident may have left on my desk. I switched the lights on and opened the windows to let some air in. It was so quiet I could hear my steady breathing.
It was like this, too, when I first came to Yakal. My brother was with me, and we were both tired carrying our luggage. When he left me to get a drink nearby, I sat in a corner, thinking what would happen next. Would I call this place home? Would it be as fun as Kalayaan? Would I meet friends here? Silence has a way of keeping our mouths shut and our minds talking.
I was roommates with my brother for a whole year. It was a mistake, I thought at first, for we would only quarrel like immature brats in front of others. But we did get along, and the only disagreements we had was when he played music while I was solving math equations. He works better with the Media Player turned on; I get distracted so easily. And there was my big, loud mouth, of course, which was always an issue.
There was Art, too, who would still be my roommate for another year—Art who never once failed to bring us food whenever he went to org activities (which was almost nightly), Art whose looks can disarm any woman’s thinking, Art whose cell phone would always ring incessantly for minutes and wake us all up but not him.
Chesson was the fourth resident, but he was always out, always at home in Tondo, so I never got to know him that much. He only came to sleep during times when he had to study, and it was usually with the same clothes he had during the day. But he’s a cool guy, always smiling even at times when it’s least expected. Once I asked him, “Who’s your calculus professor?” and he smiled for two minutes before I got an answer. His gentle voice has always given me the impression that if we were words, we’d be antonyms—I’d be “noisy”; he’d be “quiet.” Chesson’s cool like that.
First Sem, 2006-2007
Manong graduated, Chesson didn’t apply for dorm readmission, so Art and I were the only ones left.
Two roommates moved in with us. This was a hard time for me, especially now that my brother was staying somewhere else and left me to fend for myself and wash my own socks. But when I think of it, we’ve been roommates since the day we were born, so I called it “change for the better.”
Al, the first, took what was originally my space: my bed in the lower deck near the window, my brother’s desk that I had used the summer before, even my favorite sockets. I was mad at first—the unwritten, unspoken dormitory rule of seniority provides that the older resident has the right to choose first. Just when I was about to explode, my mother told me to let him have what he wanted as long as I was comfortable where I was. My angry phase died off quickly, and we lived along happily.
The second was Mac. He never failed to make me laugh with his sarcastic antics. At first he never spoke until asked, never made a noise except when he yawned, but I couldn’t forget the time when he cracked his first joke at me. I couldn’t remember what it was about exactly, but it was good—had me jumping at my seat. Nightly we were visited by many of his friends. It was crazy to have them around. He’s a great kid—Mac—and I miss him.
Second Sem, 2006-2007
Art graduated that sem, so in came Ronnie, a short guy with a pierced right earlobe. He was originally from the noisy area of the corridor and decided to move in with us in hope of a sounder sleep. I’d always remember Ronnie as someone courageous in sharing his life story openly, something I could not do so easily. Until now he still yells at my window to say hello.
It was at this point when dorm life was at its worst. I was in conflict with another roommate. His loud music was unbearable. He wouldn’t listen. He was getting scarier every minute. For weeks I hardly slept at my room and had to rush to good friends to spend the night in silence. I didn’t report him to the authorities—I guess I was too scared, too afraid to be the cause of his probable eviction from the dorm.
It was at this point when I had learned a lot from God. My patience was like a frayed piece of rope carrying a piano from the sixteenth story. But I asked God to help me piece my patience together—to persevere in praying for him instead of biting his back when he wasn’t looking. At that point my friends were with me all the way, always asking me how I was, even taking the courage to face him when I found no strength in me.
Every night I asked, “When will this end, Lord?”
First Sem, 2007-2008
I wasn’t done exploring the room when I heard something stir in the opposite corner. There were already people sleeping. I walked slowly to take a look at the beds, curious who my new roommates were.
In the midst of the investigation, the fact didn’t sink in completely yet: Mac, Ronnie, and Al were no longer admitted because of the new dorm policy. In a way, it was an answered prayer. He was out, finally. For a time I looked forward to more peaceful nights and was actually excited. It was a chance to retrieve my original desk, by bed space, and my favorite sockets. But on the other hand, I was saddened—I’ll definitely miss the others.
I saw the first one sleeping on the bed above mine. Adroel, he’d tell me two days later—his name’s Adroel. Later on I would learn that he sleeps at irregular hours, usually during most of the day, and can withstand hours and hours and hours of watching movies on his newly-acquired laptop. Very polite and respectful, he’d always say sorry whenever he dropped his phone in my bed during times when he did sleep. Plays a great selection of songs, too, and listens to this radio program where people call and talk—live on air—of their love problems. The last topic was, “Did you ever commit suicide because of love?” How corny can you get.
The second is Felix, just as polite as Adroel. There’s always a bright smile on his face the moment he wakes up. He’s the renaissance sports man—plays well in basketball, volleyball, table tennis, badminton, which makes me wonder if he’s good in rhythmic gymnastics, too. I watch a lot of movies on my PC with him, usually after I’m done reviewing for tomorrow’s exam. Before we’d begin, I’d give him instructions: turn the PC off if and when I fall asleep, which happens 20 minutes after the movie has started. Perhaps he’ll never forget me for the things I often tell him, usually during corny movie scenes: enjoy your single-hood before you decide to marry, marry a sweet, bright, godly girl, and don’t iron your future wife’s face when you get angry. Nuggets of wisdom from yours truly—maybe I should right a book?
The third is Clinton. Yes, that Clinton. He used to live in the room beside mine in Kalayaan. A great guy, too, albeit corny. One of his friends told me, “Ibang klase ‘yang si Clint. Gawin lang singkit ang poste at lagyan mo ng skirt, maiinlab na ‘yan.”
As I write this, the rain just keeps falling, without regret nor restraint, washing the dirt and dust and grime of the previous sunny days. The coolness helps in my thinking. All the sounds I hear are the dripping water, the staccato of my keyboard, the electric fan in full blast, but the loudest of them all—the echoing memories of the past three years.