♠ OBLATION ♠
MA PSYCHOLOGY. November 2005
PHAN 201. UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES, DILIMAN
Every student in UP is greeted by the statue of a naked man that guards the entrance to the campus in Diliman. This best represents UP’s approach to all education and the respect for students that is the center of its educational philosophy. Apparently, all who come to this University, regardless of origin, bring themselves naked, carrying nothing but their thirst; like the proverbial empty teacup, making an offering of self, waiting to be filled.
Yes. Exactly, waiting to be filled.
I am Gabriele Ang, a graduate student with no plan to graduate. How ironic isn’t it? I entered graduate school for the right reason of just being pre-occupied because I am empty, broken and lambasted. It is also a chastisement for being stubborn, dull and most of all for wearing my heart on my sleeve.
As I passed through the naked man, I can’t help but roll my eyes.
Men and that thing between their thighs; I thought to myself. They think that by being superior they all have permission to do whatever they wish and get away just like that.
No. Do not misinterpret me. I am not a man-hater but I am so close to it.
You see my life was perfect. I have my life planned out and created a road map of my future plan in major life areas such as family, work and lifelong learning. I have fleshed out ideas and charted the successful patterns of my life and use them as a tool for future decisions. Right on track after graduation, I got a job as a writer in one of the biggest consulting company in the Philippines. Not amiable but I got the chance to meet big players in the business industry. These big players play a significant role in the society because they hold enormous power and money. Some of them are normal. A lot are eccentric and others are I don’t know- unidentifiable and indescribable.
My job as a resume writer is to reshape them and make them more interesting in papers. I make them look amazing if they are not. I make them remarkable if they are not. While I was working on a bunch of resume, I happened to meet this cool guy.
He is a doctor with an impressive resume and a knack to sweep off the feet of any woman living on earth. He is so beautiful that I often wondered if he is genetically engineered.
He is six feet tall, olive skinned with deep set light brown eyes, aquiline straight nose, perfect bow lips, chiselled jaw and jet-black hair. He is eight years my senior and apparently the nephew of the company’s president.
One morning, he came to the office looking for me. He needed his resume to be rewritten though in my opinion there is no work to be done. Dealing with him and his resume, I told myself, will be the hardest task assigned to me. Aside from I can’t see the point of rewriting it. My client is staring at me like a wolf ready to devour his prey.
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t able to introduce myself, I..” without me finishing the last word of my sentence, the cool guy abruptly cuts in and finished the sentence for me.
“You are Gabriele!” said the cool guy in a matter-of-fact-tone.
“The smart- beautiful resume writer” he quickly added.
There was a moment of silence. I just don’t know where to pick-up the conversation. I’m startled.
He broke the silence by saying, “Sorry ha. I just wanted you to smile. Feeling ko nasa principal’s office ako. For a pretty girl like you, you needed to smile. Let me greet you goodmorning. I am..” I snap back without him finishing the last word of his sentence.
“You are Emmanuel Ma Cupps, the doctor” I said nonchalantly.
“It says in your resume” I added quickly.
He paused for a while and commented, ‘You are good. I like that”.
I smiled and continue with the interview.
His answers were impressive like my interview questions were pre-empted. He knows exactly what I wanted to hear and how to get away with all the loop holes his resume has.
“ Okay, it says here in your resume that you worked for Makati Medical Center as a Quality Control Officer and at the same time an OPD doctor at East Avenue and an ER doctor at National Kidney and Transplant Institute, how come you are holding too many positions at a time” I bluntly asked like what any detective would do.
“Ummmm… moonlighting. Alam mo ba yung moonlighting?” He said while grinning.
Moonlighting. What the hell is moonlighting? All I know is that there is a demi-god in front of me who resembles like the beautiful moonlight in a pitch black night. The way he looks at me makes me melt giving me a hard time concentrating.
“Oh yeah right… ummm… moonlighting” taking his sarcasm lightly. “This is none of my business but I wanted to ask you a rather personal question, hope you don’t mind” I smiled coyly.
“Go ahead, anong tanong mo?” he said
“Why.. ah.. ummm.. would like to go to Canada, live there for good; when you… ahh.. ummm.. a promising career in the Philippines” I stutter.
He looked away, stared at the window and when he looked back at me. His expression brightens as he blurted the words, “Can I answer that with a mug of coffee?”
Surprisingly, I answered “Yes”.
Our coffee hang-outs became lunch dates. From lunch dates it progressed to lovely dinner to invitation of meeting the parents.
It was Christmas Eve when I met his parents. They have a large beautiful house in Alabang with enormous garage and swimming pool. They have an orchid garden and a fountain at their door opening. His dad was standing near it when we arrived. As soon as I stepped out of the car, Eman’s dad hugged me tight.
“Finally, I was able to meet my son’s girl, welcome!” He was warm and very accommodating.
“Come in. I want you to meet my wife and my daughter,” he continued.
As Eman’s dad ushered me inside their house to their dining area, I saw a funny childhood picture of him at the console. He was doing hula-hoops while wearing a red mid-rib shirt that looks like he borrowed from his sister. Eman saw me starring at it and was quick to comment.
“My mom has a very good fashion sense; she made me wear that crazy outfit for the United Nations Day.”
Puzzled. Mid-rib shirt and tight pants. What country represents that costume? I thought to myself.
When we made it to the dining area, Eman’s dad immediately introduces me to the rest of the family and beacons me to sit while he passed the roasted chicken.
“San kayo nagkakilala? At gaano na katagal?” Eman’s mom asks me.
“Sa… office po” I replied
“Ah alam ko na kung sino ang match maker” as she gently shakes her head.
Our dinner was not enjoyable as I pictured it in my dreams. Aside from the uncomfortable questions Eman’s mom is throwing. His sister is looking at me like some kind of a whore.
Eman drove me home after dinner. We made a stop at a coffee shop to grab some coffee and dessert.
“Eman, di ako type ng mom mo no?” I ask.
“Nah, she likes you. She’s just afraid that I might get married soon. Look… Gabriele, you are the first girl na dinala ko sa bahay so it is a natural reaction I supposed… like separation anxiety? Relax okey.” he assured me and I believed him.
We were a couple for good four years not until Eman’s immigrant visa came in the picture. The immigrant lawyer advice us to let Eman established his residency in Canada. Once established, he could file a fiancé visa for easy processing of application.
Just as planned, he flew to Canada. Everything was smooth not until I received an e-mail that he met someone else and his name is Paul. I couldn’t believe what I am reading at that moment that I have to read it aloud 10 times.
Sorry Gabriele… I met Paul.
What?! I kept on reading it. This can’t be happening I told to myself. He can’t be serious of breaking up with me a day before my interview at the Canadian Embassy. I am his fiancé; there must be some mistake.
I kept on calling and e-mailing him every second to seek for some answer about what went wrong, what happened and how to go about the application. But there was no response; not even a call nor a reply to my e-mails. He left me just like that. No goodbyes; just a simple heartbreaking note that he met someone named Paul. Apparently, his simple e-mail sends hundred of interpretations; that Eman is gay, I am gullible, I am a fool to fall in love, his going to Canada is his scapegoat, his mom and sister wanted me to pick-up the clues and that I am his perfect cover-up.
Literally, figuratively I’m broken.
He took my heart, my future and my plans.
After a week, the president of our company called me in his office and handed a check from Eman. I didn’t want to get the check but his uncle insisted and gently explained that it was gift from his nephew and his family though I didn’t hear from his family. I accepted the check, thinking that it is my consolation prize for being stupid and gullible.
The most annoying part of breaking is that it leaves you in a vulnerable and defenseless state. There are no concrete guidelines on how to sew yourself back up. Everything is shattered, broken and lambasted. My family didn’t say a word but I could feel their unconditional love and unwavering support to help me get through the pain by putting up family retreats, out of town travels and night out together.
Attending social events are like attending funerals where friends greet you with “okey ka lang? Iiyak mo lang yan Gabriele” and “I’m sorry about what happened to you”. There are also numerous unsolicited advices on how to cope up and move on. Suddenly, LIFE is not beautiful.
After a year I decided to stand up and pick up the broken pieces. I spun changes in my life in the best way possible and become my own internal PR department. I promised myself to thrive and never to fall in love again. With the handsome pay check Eman gave me, I resigned from his uncle’s company, took a freelance job and a Master’s degree. I took MA Psychology.
“58 units; 18 units of Math and Statistics and 20 units of core subjects, field work and thesis! eto na syllabus and registration mo, iha” said Amy, the college secretary.
“Oh, wow! That’s a lot of work” I mumbled.
“Post Graduate kinuha mo, iha. Isipin mo muna bago ka mag-enroll. Dami ninyong di gumagraduate!” Amy added.
“Ate, sino dito ’yung mabait na professor,” I asked.
“Lahat naman yan mabait at may saltik din. UP ito kaya wala yung bait-bait! Alam mo na dapat iyan bago ka pumasok!” Amy wryly answered.
My few weeks as a Psychology post graduate student are uneventful. We introduced ourselves and did class briefings. My classmates are the typical nerdy-geeky type with thick glasses, baggy clothes and old-fashioned hairstyles. Our classrooms are like convents where you could hear the sound of a gentle fart.
Odd as it may seem, I loved the deafening silence and intellectual inclined discussion where zeitgeist of modern psychology are being discussed and scrutinized like a showbiz gossip. Psychology contemporaries like Sigmund Freud, Karen Horney and Abraham Maslow were also among the popular discussion of graduate students in MA Psychology.
My class standing was quite impressive for a Communication Arts graduate. I got an average of 1.5 for my major subjects and 1.75 for my pre-requisites.
Second semester came in. All graduate students are required to take at least 2-3 subjects of Math and Statistics.
Brave enough, I took 2 out of the required 6 major statistics subjects.
Statistics was like a therapy to the broken hearted. In an instant I forgot everything I went through just by being at the class of Dr. Dela Rosa, who perfectly resembles a monk. He is pale, thin and likes to do weird chants before the class starts to eliminate the negative vibes. He also has this habit of calling me every so often to solve statistical problems in front of the class.
“In a school, 60% of pupils have access to the internet at home. A group of 8 students is chosen at random. Find the probability that letter a… exactly 5 have access to the internet and letter b…at least 6 students have access to the internet. Let’s hear it from Ms. Ang”
“Sir, If ummm… a pupil is selected ummm at random and asked if he/she has an internet connection at home, the answer would be yes? Ahhh… ummm.. sorry no? ummmm… therefore it is ahhhh binomial experiment? The probability of the student answering yes is 60% = 0.6.?”
“Will someone help, Ms Ang, Yes Mr. Iwa.”
“Let X be the number of students answering yes when 8 students are selected at random and asked the same question. The probability that X = 5 is given by the binomial probability formula as follows”
Then my nerdy classmate flashed a grin at the whole class as if he is mocking me then proceeded in writing the formula at the board
P(X = 5) = 8C5 (0.6)5 (1-0.6)3 = 0.278691
b) P(X ≥ 6) = P(X = 6 or X = 7 or X = 8)
Since all the events X = 6, X = 7 and X = 8 are mutually exclusive, then
P(X ≥ 6) = P(X = 6) + P(x = 7) + P(X = 8)
= 8C6 (0.6)6 (1-0.6)2 + 8C7 (0.6)7 (1-0.6)1 + 8C8 (0.6)8 (1-0.6)0
A day before the mid-term exams, Dr. Dela Rosa asked me to see him at his office at 8pm. He wanted to discuss my class standing. Just as the clock strikes 8, I knock at the door of Dr. Dela Rosa’s office.
“Goodevening Dr. Dela Rosa, I believe you wanted to discuss something” I asked politely.
“Come in, Ms. Ang” he said flatly.
“Yes, please sit down.. I will be direct to the point. I think magaling ka naman at masipag but I don’t think that this graduate course is for you. Reflecting on your exercises.. You only got 1 out of 10. Your solutions are almost correct but your answers are disturbingly wrong…. And yesterday’s quiz… you just got it all wrong…” as Dr. Dela Rosa shook his head in dismay and continued talking. I am motionless struggling to inhale, to exhale, to do anything; unable to speak and totally stunned.
“Ms. Ang, I think you better drop the subject because I have no way of passing you, I’m sorry” said Dr. Dela Rosa with pained expression on his face.
The moment of truth I have been waiting. After he explained the procedure in dropping major subjects, he handed out the signed form 26 or the dropping slip and opened the door for me.
Without a word, I rise to my seat and walk towards the door.
I tried my hardest. Still, I flunked. Flunked. The word bounces around the inside of my skull until I heard someone saying, “Try applying for graduate studies in College of Arts and Letters. I have read your application essay and heard your speech during the interview. It is good” Dr. Dela Rosa gave a pat on my back as he slowly walked down the dim hallway to the AS Building.
Next day, I found myself at the graduate office of College of Arts and Letters, submitting my records for transfer.
♠ SP 201 ♠
MA SPEECH COMMUNICATION. NOVEMBER 2007
AS 132. UNIVERSITY OF THE PHILIPPINES, DILIMAN
I arrived 30 minutes early for my first class in Speech Communication. As I wait for my classmates and professor to come in, I scribble down my goals on my planner “to thrive and finish this semester unscathed”.
Because I am anal-retentive, I wrote the step by step plan on how to excel and ace my way through the top while mentally taking notes of the details.
One, I would get the syllabus and requirements.
Two, I would get the list of the books and do advance reading.
Three, I wouldn’t come to class unprepared.
Four, take note of the expectations and do advance research.
Fifth, always be at class 30 minutes early.
Sixth, meditate and focus.
Seventh, do not fall in love. Never ever fall in love. Tell thy heart that its function is to pump blood only.
I was about to write my eighth goal, when a man who seems to be in his mid-50’s came in.
“Good morning graduate students” he warbles as he attempts to save his last cigarette which has fallen before he was able to light it. “I’m Dr. Lazatin, this is SP 201, Introduction to Speech Communication. As I call your name please introduce yourself to the class and hand over your registration cards. Let’s start with Kristine Cruz” he continued.
My classmates are mostly professors and teachers. I am the only writer and Freelance PR practitioner in the class. Half way through the introduction, Dr Lazatin called the second male specie in the class.
“Next. May we have Mr. Re… Remington P. Banez” Dr. Lazatin said.
“Mr. Remington Banez” Dr. Lazatin repeated.
There was silence and exchange of look to each other trying to locate the second male species.
“Mr. Banez, Remington” Dr. Lazatin called again. “Is he around?” he continues.
Dr. Lazatin was about to mark his attendance when a lanky man came rushing in like a bolt of lightning. I watched him as he makes his way toward the stage of the classroom. Medium height, skinny build, baggy clothes; distressed is registering on his face. You can see his struggle to remain calm as he was 45 minutes late.
“Okey class, let’s give it up to the late Mr. Remington Banez” Dr. Lazatin exclaimed with sarcasm.
There was a wild laughter at the audience that Dr. Lazatin must stand up to signal that much needed ‘silence’.
“Good morning, I am Remington Banez, a professor … residing at Malolos Bulacan” while the lanky guy introduce himself. I was interrupted by my seatmate, who donned 90’s high waist pants and boxy shirt with subtle incorporation of butch- femme dualities — the tradition poles of lesbian sartorial identity.
“Gabriele, right?” she said.
“Yep,” I reluctantly answered.
“Hi!” She quickly offered her hand.
Puzzled, I looked at her deciphering if she is a lesbian.
“Sorry, I’m Jhen… straight” she quickly explained.
“Your name is Jhen Straight?” I teased her.
“Sira ulo ka talaga, Gabriele,” She let out a sigh of relief as I smiled at her.
Remington was about to finished his long introduction, when Dr. Lazatin ask him about his nickname.
“So what are we going to call you?” Dr Lazatin asked.
“You could call me RR” he snaps.
Unexpectedly I laugh.
“RR! Kaloka! Pangalan ng aso ko yun nung 10 years old ako.”
“Ulol, bold star! RR Enriquez, yung nasa FHM. Idol siguro ni kuya ” Jhen explained.
“Pustahan tayo, bading yan!” laughing uncontrollably.
“What the hell!” Jhen laughed.
As Jhen and I laughed uncontrollably, Dr. Lazatin called our attention.
“What is so funny Ms. Ang?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I chuckled.
The whole class turned silent as they turned their attention to me.
“Mayday Mayday” Jhen whispered.
Dr. Lazatin was still waiting for my explanation. I decided to straighten up and answer in a serious tone “Nothing serious Dr. Lazatin” I explained further.
“What is not serious in this University Ms. Ang? We are all serious, aren’t we? That is why you are taking post graduate degree.” says Dr. Lazatin.
“I understand… Believe me it is nothing serious,” I lamely explained, hoping the professor would let me off the hook.
“Ok, just this once, Ms. Ang….This is Speech Communications and you are supposed to articulate your thoughts,” Dr. Lazatin reiterates.
Feeling the blood drained in my face. I darted a glance to our laughing stock, Remington Banez and found him staring back at me. I quickly lowered my gaze and pretended like nothing happened. I reminded myself that the class will be over soon. As I look up again, I found Remington’s eyes still trained on mine.
Is he reading my thoughts? Has he heard our conversation; about him being gay and his odd name that reminds me of my dog?
“Okey, let’s do groupings… ” As Dr. Lazatin announced how to go about the groupings and report requirements, we wrote our name at a piece of paper and drop it at the fish bowl for draw lots.
“Sana Gabriele magkagroup tayo” Jhen beamed with excitement.
“First group to report ‘Intrapersonal Communication’ will be Ms. Bayang and Ms. Reyes.. Second Group to report ‘Interpersonal Communication’ will be Ms. Panes and Ms. Maida Fox..” as Dr. Lazatin calls the name of the reporters, I kept on thinking whether to ask for an apology to Remington for laughing loud while he is introducing himself or to let the issue dissipate into thin air.
“Last group to report ‘Intercultural communication’ will be Mr. Banez and Ms. Ang” says Dr. Lazatin.
Is Dr. Lazatin playing god? I thought to myself. He must be joking to partner me with my new found enemy?
“Oh my God girl! Sineryoso ang pagiging man’s bestfriend mo?” Jhen shouted in high pitch.
After class I decided to approach Remington to make peace and work on our reporting. He was sitting at the extreme right end of the classroom near the AVP door, filling up his class card for SP 201.
“Hi RR, about the reporting, how do we go about it?” I heard my voice cracked as I was lil bit nervous.
“Matagal pa naman yun, ‘di ba?” He casually commented.
“Oo pero baka gusto mong simulan na ngayon, para we would not cram?” I politely asked.
He stops writing and shot a look at me like a warning to never to mess up with him.
I smiled coyly, “Ummm…”
He took hold of my gaze for a while and nod. Like an unspoken command, I wrote my number in a piece of paper from my notebook and handed it over to him.
“Sige sa library na lang, Saturday 10 am” he said dryly as he pick up his back pack and storm out of the room leaving me puzzled.
It crosses my mind that Remington’s calm and normal demeanor masks a complete madman. He must have a terrible childhood.
I misjudged him. He must be gay.
Because Dr. Lazatin understands that all of us are working professionals and the class is 7:30 in the morning, he gave us leeway for group collaboration, research and report preparation.
UP CAL library opens eight in the morning on weekends and closes 12 noon. With a simple text message, Remington reminded me to meet him at 10 in the morning at the general reference section.
On my way to the library, I decided to drop by the nearby cafeteria to grab freshly baked cupcakes. I plan to give it to my report partner, hoping that it will be a sign of goodwill.
CAL Library is the newest library in UP. It is always jam packed with students though it is large. It holds all of the references for Communication Students including the new limited edition books of which should be given a week reservation prior to borrowing. As, I head to the general reference section, I saw Remington with a bunch of books neatly piled in front of him. Before I opened my mouth to say something, he handed my papers.
“Eto na readings mo… Tapos na… o paano kailangan ko na umalis may gagawin kasi ako” he picked up the books and in a flash was gone.
As I sift through the pages of the readings, I have noticed that Remington had taken out the first few chapters leaving me clueless on what has been discussed on the earlier readings. I decided to ask the Librarian regarding the references that Remington used.
“Ay sorry, nakuha na yung libro. Isa lang kasi yun”
“Ate, wala na talagang copy nun? Isa lang talaga yung libro?”
“Oo isa lang talaga,” said the librarian
Furious, I called up Jhen to vent out.
“You would not believe this, my dog just set me up”
“Kagroup ko si Remington, di ba? Kanina nagkita kami sa Library para pag-usapan yung report. Pinazerox niya ‘yung report ko .. but the problem was he took the first few chapters. Sympre interrelated yun… How could I get the history, eh, isa lang yung libro?… Hiniram pa niya”
“Gumaganti sa iyo girl… Sinabi mo kasi na aso siya”
“Sabi ko, kapangalan niya aso ko… ‘Di ko sinabing aso siya!”
“Gan’un na rin ‘yun, Nasaan ka na ba?”
“I’m near the bahay ng alumni”
“Malapit na rin ako…Alam mo, dyan nagumpisa ang lolo’t lola ko… wala kang bf ‘di ba? Baka iyan na hinihintay mo?”
Days became weeks. I didn’t bother to talk to Remington about the report. I decided to have it my way and look for alternative references. Every Saturday after our class in SP 201, I would see Remington on the same spot in the library working on his part of our report and I, on the other hand, would go on the opposite aisle to look for references.
While looking and digging on books, I caught his eyes trained on me, only to quickly flit away. He must be guilty I thought.
A week before the reporting, Remington approached me and asked me if I am all set.
I nod and gave him a fake smile.
“So see you next Saturday?” Remington politely asked.
Without looking at him, I answered flatly “Yeah, sure”.
My week before the reporting was filled with deadlines and reports. I spent sleepless nights reading and writing research papers for my other subjects. In between breaks, I do my presentation for SP 201.
Saturday came and the bad news broke: I woke up at the wrong side of the bed and was late for class.
“The foundation of Intercultural Communication Competence is the capacity to avoid Ethnocentrism. When we say Ethnocentrism…” hearing Remington reporting my part was enough to scare the hell out of me. I am an hour late! I can’t suppress my disappointment in myself for the lack of discipline.
For a moment, I didn’t know what to do. Should I come in and apologize? I thought to myself. Should I call in sick or better yet- should I get in and take over?
Gaining confidence, I decided to do the latter. I counted one, two …. three..
I swung the door opened and blurted “Thank you Mr. Remington Banez for that nice introduction. Good morning everyone!”
I could see how stunned my professor and classmates were when I took over just the way I did.
So brave. So stupid.
Even Remington was appalled that his mouth was left opened and could not utter a word.
I decided to continue with my stupidity. I talked swiftly and pretended to be confident. Remington was still standing near the stage when I finished my report.
“You have taken us by surprise, Ms. Ang” Dr. Lazatin commented.
I half smiled.
“I just have some few questions here.. actually .. ummm.. a lot I suppose.. When you said Ethnocentrism..what.. do…” while Dr. Lazatin was formulating his questions. I froze. I feel my insides contracting with anxiety. All I could hear is the beating and pounding of my heart slamming at my rib cage. I stared at Dr. Lazatin as he opens his mouth to utter words. I was hoping to figure out and read what he is saying but I couldn’t hear it.
“Ms. Ang… Ms. Ang”
I can hear my name being called by Dr. Lazatin but could not utter a word. It’s not until Remington decided to answer in my behalf that I realize I must have completely stopped the circulation in his hand. That I have been tightly holding to it all throughout the reporting.
“Okay… though I am not satisfied with your group’s reporting… I guess there is a team work there as implied by the tightly gripped hands” Dr. Lazatin sarcastically commented.
“Okay class,” Dr. Lazatin continued “will be using the same groupings; your final requirement will be three research papers on….” As Dr. Lazatin discussed our final requirement, I keep on replaying the scenes during the reporting. Am I too fast, too slow- I just couldn’t point out what went wrong?
“Those who didn’t do well in the reporting must do well in the three research papers or else I don’t have any choice but to fail you” Dr. Lazatin reiterates.
Fail you. The phrase bounces back and forth in my ears. Not again I told myself.
“And, Ms. Ang, you may let go of Mr. Banez’s hand. You may also take your seat,” Dr. Lazatin smiled.
Dr. Lazatin’s words sent shivers in my spine because I am half failing and I realize that I am still glued to Remington. Holding his hand so tight. As I force my stiff fingers to open, Remington massages his hand and looked up to me with concern.
“Are you okay? Thank you for showing up… You actually discussed things in my report that I wasn’t able to tackle well,” Remington gives me a smile that seems so genuinely sweet with a touch of shyness that unexpectedly warm my heart.
“Care for a walk? Let’s discuss our final requirement” Remington says with a faint smile.
♠VARGAS MUSEUM ♠
Jorge B. Vargas Museum is few blocks away from the AS Building. It houses the collection of art, stamps and coins, personal papers and several memorabilia that provide students an important narrative of the Philippine modern art history from the realism of the European salon to post-impressionism. The museum also includes the painting of the masters of Philippine art such as Fernando Amorsolo, Juan Luna, and Felix Resurrección Hidalgo to name a few.
Right past the steps of the building is a little café meant to serve students as well as the university’s visitors. I saw several Koreans dining and sipping their cups of coffee as Remington head to the café bar.
Disoriented. I sat near the entrance of the museum and let my thoughts wander while I wait for Remington. Inside the museum were students mostly foreigners surveying some of the artworks currently displayed in the vast exhibition halls of the Vargas. It was a Saturday, and yet, the museum was so alive. Though my surroundings are very much alive, in my mind, the images wedged itself in a wash of beiges, cast in sepia, as if forever trapped in the half-light of either dusk or dawn.
“Binili kita” Remington handed out the Iced Frappuccino to me as I stared at him with no response.
“Alam ko yung mga katulad mo mahilig sa mga frappuccino ‘di ba?.. Sandali lang ha? nakalimutan ko humingi ng kutsara.”
Returning back, Remington asks me, “Gusto mo?”
I shake my head sideways and wondered what the spoon is for.
“Tara na” Remington smiled as he paced down the stairs.
♠SUNKEN GARDEN ♠
There was silence as we walk together aimlessly for an hour at the most famous landmark of the campus, the sunken garden.
I watched the jeepneys, cars and joggers passed by. Not until I got distracted by the crashing sound of ice in Remington’s cup.
“Chak! Chak! Chak! Chak!”
He apparently has an odd way of drinking or should I say eating Frappuccino. He would crash the ice first using a spoon and mix it thoroughly until there is no lump. Then he will eat it like that of ‘halo-halo’ dessert. I find it weird that he ditches the straw and use spoon instead.
Remington caught me watching him intently. He turned red. I decided to break awkward silence by asking him.
“Whose idea was the hand holding anyway?”
Remington smiled and relax a bit.
“Mine, I guess?” he teases.
Remington quickly picks up with comment “Walang babaeng humawak ng kamay ko ng ganun kahigpit… maliban sa nanay ko nung bata ako.. pag tumatawid ng kalye.” He laughs.
There was silence again. This time it was Remington who broke the silence.
“Teka, Bakit ka nagmasters?” He asks
I let out a sigh “Para tumalino.” I answered.
Unsatisfied with the answer, he follows up with a question “Ito ba talaga and gusto mo Speech Communications?”
“Hindi. Nag-psychology ako”
He asks again, “Ummm… Bakit ka nag psychology?”
“Para gamutin sarili ko,” I say, observing him carefully
“Bakit? Baliw ka ba?” He teases.
Remington laughs and asks the question right on cue, “Ang baliw di niya alam na baliw siya. So, good news ‘yun dahil ibig sabihin ‘di ka baliw.. ‘di ba?”
I decided not to answer.
“May problema ka ba?.. Masama ba ang childhood mo?”
Again, I decided not to respond to his question.
“May bf ka?” He asks again.
I nod, unreadable.
“Gaano na katagal?”
Void of emotion, I answered “Mag-four sana”
“Sige, kwento mo sa akin… but first, let’s get something to eat…gutom na ko.. puro inom tayo eh okey lang ba? My treat.. beach house tayo?” Remington suggests.
I grin at him and realize that I’m starving and the coffee is not enough. I accepted his offer of goodwill.
♠ FINAL REQUIREMENTS ♠
Remington was surprisingly likeable. His companionship replaced my long solitary hours in the coffee shop and library trying to decipher what went wrong to my almost-perfect life. He turned into so much more than a report partner. He became my confidante- someone with whom I could share my deepest thoughts. In exchange, he trusted me with his.
Remington is the eldest child with three younger siblings. His dad is a church preacher and his mom is a teacher. He grew up in the province of Bulacan. Most of his childhood memories are spent in attending to his three younger siblings. He is a hard worker who is fiercely devoted in protecting his family and providing support for them. He loves film, poetry and nature. He loves taking pictures of strange things and seeing beauty in it. As he would always say in the words of late poet Edgar Allan Poe, “There is no exquisite beauty-without some strangeness in the proportion”.
He enjoys viewing photographs in black and white. In his opinion, black and white photos evoke a different set of emotions. Pictures become more alive, more dramatic and convincing simply because other elements like lighting, contrast, texture, tonal qualities and composition take on a bigger role in telling the story. The part of stripping away the vibrancy of color, allow him to get down to the real essence of the image, to re-think and to have better eye for its true meaning. He also has this habit of taking snap pictures of me and right after pressing the camera button he would ask me the question “What are you thinking Gabriele?”
He is also a traveller and by nature a nomad. I love hearing his adventure and compelling stories about his travels; the peculiar culture, and the people he met as well as the cuisine he has tasted to how he got food poisoned from an exotic food he tried in the mountain province of Benguet and how lucky he was to get out alive when fell from what looks like a gorge.
His kind, gentle and caring nature draws me closer to him. Unknowingly, I always packed extra spoons with me for his Frappuccino. I would do the crashing of ice and mixing until his Frapuccino resembles a melted ice cream while he, on the other hand, took pictures of me. Doing little favours for him make me happy.
We were inseparable. Our social hours were well spent on long walks at the sunken garden, photo shoots of places in UP and at the library where we exchange readings, write our term papers, and brain storm to probe on circumstances that nobody else has thought or at least in our opinion.
One time while we were walking at the sunken garden, Remington asks me:
“What impressed you most since you studied here?”
I racked my brain for an answer.
“I guess it is the educational freedom. Oh! And me holding your hand when I froze? Your turn… What impressed you most since you studied here?”
There was a moment of silence. Then he looked at me and locked his gaze while he uttered the answer.
“The readings… Because it is hard to find that perfect readings and once you find it, its beauty unfolds each time you read it… like there are new revelations and information to love”
I sighed. That was deep, I thought to myself. I couldn’t even fathom what he meant by that phrase.
♠ SEMESTRAL BREAK ♠
Final week came in and we were able to pass our requirements just on time. I agreed to meet Remington at the coffee shop of Vargas Museum for a mini celebration.
It has been a week and a half since I last saw Remington. I have to admit that I missed him. There was also mixed emotions going on inside of me. I am both sad and happy at the same time. I’m sad because the semester ended up quickly and happy because I was able to finish unscathed.
Remington was sitting in the coffee shop when I spotted him. He was wearing denim long sleeves, fitted jeans and suede boots that gave him just the right amount of ‘swag’.
“Whoa! Someone has that ‘swag’ tonight! San ang date?” I commented in conversational tone.
“Wala para maiba naman tingin mo sa akin. Sabi mo kasi dugyot ako,” He teases.
We decided to take that long walk to chocolate kiss so we could catch up with our plans and other post graduate happenings.
“So, tell me, Mr. Swag… Who is your date tonight that you look, oh, so beautiful?” I tease him.
Remington gives an unconvincing shake of his head.
“Okay… I’m serious. Do you already have a girlfriend back home?” I ask.
Remington gives another unconvincing shake of his head.
“Come on… Remington, I am really serious… What’s her name and what is she like?” I insisted.
“Well… ummmm…Meron akong babaeng nagustuhan… It was love at first sight. I guess… She is beautiful and she is not aware of it…Actually, the more I look at her the more she blooms. She is not the ordinary girl you would encounter… Smart, unpredictably interesting… like she is very opinionated, at times animated and fussy. I fell in love with her beautiful mind, her passion, the way her eyes light up when she talks about the thing she loves. She also loves to travel like me. She is a visionary. Pero ‘di ko alam kung alam niya na interesado ako sa kanya… She’s not likable but she’s unforgettable”
“Wow! What a description. Then, why don’t you tell her?”
There was a poignant look at Remington’s face, “I am not what she wants. I am not what she is looking for.”
“I guess, she has a name right?”
“Yeah… May pangalan yun… Tao naman siya… hindi statwa..she’s someone close to you”
“She is my …” before Remington could even blurt out the name, my phone rings hysterically.
It was my mom. She called to say my dad died.
Our mini celebration was cancelled. I said goodbye to Remington.
♠ AWOL ♠
When I learned the news that my dad passed away without me by his side, I was devastated. It was like everything was taken away from me. I lost all my hope and my plans to succeed in life.
I am a daddy’s girl. My dad was a talented microbiologist, a loving husband, and caring father to three girls. He was my inspiration and my hero simply because he believes in me. My dad has his special way of loving, motivating and disciplining the ‘stubborn mule’ in me. When I was little, my teacher asked us to color the leaves green, because I am an experiential learner; I decided to color it black-brown and even suggested it to the whole class while my teacher took bathroom break. When my teacher returns, she was furious because I orchestrate the whole thing of not following instructions. I was immediately sent at the principal’s office for some serious reprimand.
My dad came later that afternoon to see the principal and my teacher. They explained my uncontrollable conduct and how I am getting to their nerves by my opposing behaviour. After visiting the principal, he talked to me at the corner of the room.
“Why did you color the leaves brown and black?”
“Because it is November?”
“And…go ahead I’m listening…”
“It is cold”
“It is fall! I read it in a book that leaves turn into brown when it is fall”
My dad let out a loud laugh.
“Just as I suspected… then why did you instructed your classmates to color it brown?”
“because I don’t want to be different and I don’t want them to laugh at me… are you angry?”
My dad hugged me and said “No, I think you are a born leader. You want a Jollibee ice cream?” This was the most vivid memory of my dad. He was my epitome of success, of love and of hope. His passing away inflicted a severe blow in my life; like everything was ruin.
My mom and I immediately schedule our flight to United States of America to arrange the funeral rites of my father. While waiting for our flight, I received a call from Remington.
“ Hello” I answered.
“Gabriele, alam ko paalis ka na ngayon… just wanted to say ummm ‘ingat’ and have a safe flight. I am sorry to hear about your dad”
“ Ummm.. Thanks…RR…Hey thanks for everything… I wasn’t able to tell you that I appreciate your help”
“Sus!… Wala ‘yun… It was my pleasure… ummmm…ah…”
“Well, It is not a good timing… but, I may ahh.. ummm”
“Oh sorry…. I have to cut you… We have to go on board now… E-mail me, okay? Bye RR…Gonna miss you!”
I cut the call and turn off my cellphone.
Life in America was different. Days were quick and nights were short. Because the cost of living is high in New York, I have to juggle 3 to 4 jobs to be able to pay bills, rent and other miscellaneous. In the morning, I would work as a copywriter, then hotel receptionist in the evening. My weekend job entails running errands and doing personal shopping for the rich and famous. Occasionally, I walk dogs and clean houses of A-list artists. Living abroad is not a bed of roses. Contrary to what most Filipinos claim.
Of course, my fascination to learning has not changed. In my free days, I would visit museums and spend hours in the library reading. I would usually open my e-mail at the library because internet connection is free. This is the time when I check Remington’s messages. His e-mails make me feel I’m back home. He often shares his researches, how his day went, and his writing about gender communication of which was inspired by me. He sent his initial draft with a title “Initial Exploration of Maloleños’ Verbal Patterns in romantic relationships”. Suddenly, I missed going back to school.
Before Remington’s graduation, he e-mailed me a couple of invitations for his panel defense in CAL auditorium and kept me posted on his whereabouts. Apparently, he was nominated for best thesis for Masters of Arts.
I could not be happier after learning through his e-mail that he received the award for best thesis of the year for Masters of Arts. After his graduation, I received several e-mails of his pictures and snippets of the video taken while he is doing his speech. Later that night, he e-mailed me again and asked if I am going back to the Philippines.
I replied “NO”
Then a few minutes later, I received an e-mail saying “Goodbye.”
That was his last e-mail. It broke my heart that I would not hear from him again but I guess, everything happens for a reason. That reason is the thing I need to find out and accept.
Eight years later, America was struck by bad recession. The economy in the US was doing poorly that my family was forced to go back to the Philippines.
♠ MAXIMUM RESIDENCY ♠
As soon as we arrived, I decided to go back to UP to finish what I started. I went to the places Remington and I used to go and spend hours hanging out. They were not the same. A lot of things changed.
My favourite Beach House was closed and relocated. The spot where I used to hang out was replaced by a large bookshelf. The card catalog was replaced by computers. Everything has changed in a span of ten years.
I went to the graduate office, which was at the ground floor before, but was relocated at the 4th floor. I filed for a Maximum Residency and re-applied for post graduate studies.
“Ms. Ang, welcome back!” The graduate secretary hugged me.
“Ang tagal mo nawala. Are you still single o nag-asawa ka na?”
“Ay single pa po.”
“Yang ganda mo na yan… Single ka pa rin? Anong nangyari at napauwi ka?”
“Tapusin ko lang ito, ate, para wala na ‘kong iisipin ‘pag bumalik ako sa America”
“Oo, mahirap ‘yung may unfinished business. Eto, iha… ‘punta ka sa VP for academic affairs… Submit your letter of intent to re-apply”
“Okay, salamat po.”
“Tapusin mo na yan. Lahat ng kasabayan mo tapos na.”
After completing my re-application, I enrolled for second semester and thought of RR.
♠ SP 204 ♠
Days turned into months and months progressed into year. I was down to my last core subject while writing my thesis. I took qualitative research, my last subject before I graduate.
Staying true to my goals, I came to class 30 minutes early. I was happy to see that Room AS 132 is still the same; the stage was still there, though the blackboard was replaced by white board. Chairs are still rustic. The feeling was still the same when I first entered the room ten years ago.
My classmates came in. They are all young and fresh. They talked about selfies, instagrams and social media happenings of which I could not relate to. I decided to put my earphones on and focus on writing my thoughts in my journal.
Few minutes more, someone came in and introduced himself very briefly. I didn’t bother to look at him as I was paying close attention to what I am writing.
“Welcome to SP 204 class. This is qualitative research … please hand over your registration forms and introduce yourselves staring from the left”
While my classmates introduce themselves, I am busy writing my plans on how to go about my thesis. I enumerated my objectives and how to accomplish them. I calculate the days, hours and minutes on how to finish my thesis. Literally, I wasn’t paying attention to our class because I was numbering my days. I was so engrossed with my planning that I forgot it is my turn to introduce myself.
“Next please,” the professor repeated.
As soon as I stood up and look at our professor. I was stunned- it was Remington. For a minute or two, I was just standing staring at him. He, on the other hand, was appalled that he could not even utter a word.
As I got back to my senses, I quickly head to the stage of the classroom to introduce myself.
“Hi, everyone, I am a returning MA student” as I continue introducing myself I looked at Remington and saw his eyes was still fix on me.
“I’m almost done with my thesis right now about Organ Donation. My thesis is very personal to me because my dad died without an organ donor. I came back in the Philippines to finish my post graduate degree….. Because you know… no one wants an unfinished business”
My classmates began to chuckle at my statement. But it’s true I return to finish what I started.
“Moving on, I am a PR Practitioner and a Freelance Writer. I am Gabriele Ang”
The professor still holds my gaze and his face turned pale like seeing a ghost from his past.
After class, he approached me while I am talking to my group mates.
“Could I excuse us for a second?” He told my group mates as he ushers me outside towards the hallway.
Outside, the air gone cold suddenly it feels like Christmas.
“I don’t know where to start… You still haven’t change. Ikaw pa rin yung babaeng ‘full of surprises’… One moment you are gone and the next thing …You are here”
I pretended to be lost in thoughts that his words make no sense.
“You don’t remember me, do you?” He asks.
I shake my head sideways. Then he animatedly tells the story of how we met.
The truth is I know who he is. I just don’t want to complicate things. It has been more than eight years and he might have been married or probably engage. How could I forget the man who has done me favours and who made me believe that life is beautiful.
“I guess… I am sorry… You could go back to your group mates. I have to go then” He said with a pain look in his eyes.
When he is about to walk away, I got hold of his hand.
“So how’s your hand, is it still working?” I said sheepishly.
He turned with a smile “Well, I have to say I did miss your sarcasm. Wow! Look at you. You look so different. I would not recognize you at all if you hadn’t say your name back there… Just kidding.. I know who you are from the moment I entered the room. I was actually glancing – You were so busy writing stuff on your journal- as usual.”
“You know me well. You changed too.” I replied. “You got that swag and you’re bit buff. I could see muscles in there. I mean you’re not the lil boy I used to mock inside the classroom. You have grown up… I like your wrinkles and you are no longer my puppy” I laughed.
He turned serious.
“I wasn’t expecting to see you again. I’m happy to see you. By the way, I wasn’t able to introduce myself. I’m Remington P. Banez, your report partner”
I smiled and replied, “Glad to meet you, Dr. Banez, I am Gabriele Ang your student in SP 204. Hope I would be able to meet you expectations.”
“You already did.Coffee?”
“Sure. Dr. Banez.”
♠ THESIS ♠
Remington and I would go for a long walk along the Academic Oval every after class. He has not changed. He is still the interesting guy I knew way back then though I feel a bit uneasy calling him Dr. Banez. Perhaps the title gives me a cringe. His point of view is deep. His kindness never falters. He also seems to have this unending source of willpower and passion. He is no doubt a talented professor and an engaging lecturer who helps even students who have no interest in research enjoy the subject.
Students universally enjoy his teaching because he tries hard to connect with them on an individual level, and is incredibly accessible if students need help or mentoring. His impact on the campus has been nothing if not positive. Students praise him for not only his knowledge of the subject, but also his genuine desire to help his students improve as researchers.
“Congratulations. You passed the defense. I was watching you while you were defending your thesis. You did great.”
“Thank you for coaching me, Dr. Banez. Never would have made it without you.”
“So, this is the reason why you came back right?”
“Oo… para magtapos… Matatapos na rin kasi”
“Alin ang matatapos?”
“Ummm… ‘yung MA ko.”
“ Ah okey… Naweirduhan ako sa sagot mo… Weird ka talaga. So how does it feel to finished the unfinished business?”
“Malungkot? O, bakit naman malungkot?”
“Because everything is coming to an end”
Remington stared at me, trying to fathom what I meant by my last statement. Before he could open his mouth to say something, I stop his lips with a kiss and he returns my kiss.
This could be my last day in UP. Last day to see Remington.
♠ READINGS ♠
I woke up with a delicious feeling of happiness. This feeling is eternal it feeds me more than any nourishment. I couldn’t stop thinking about Gabriele. Today, I would tell her how I feel. That I have been waiting for her all these years just to say the complicated phrase ‘I love you’.
I arm myself with courage and strength and head out to attend to my SP 204 class.
“Good afternoon class, let’s continue with the report…” my eyes search for Gabriele. I slowly scanned the four corners of the classroom and found that she is not in her seat. I felt a sudden sadness and jolt of pain.
Gabriele. I can’t bear the idea of her leaving me again. All I have right now is a memory of her. I began to hold on to those memories; for fear that if I should ever loosen my grip on them the memories will escape me and never come back … that it will vanish in the same way she did ten years ago, with no promise of return.
“Sir? Sir? Finish na po”
“Okay class dismissed. Don’t forget to pass your requirements. See you on next meeting”
Days passed by and there was no sight of Gabriele in class. I checked my class record and she has a total of 3 absences. There was no e-mail. No text message. No. Nothing. Anxiety filled me with restless dreams at night and remained with me the next following days. I could not comprehend the existential anguish of Gabriele leaving me that I couldn’t sleep and even eat. She was very much a part of me. How could someone so amazing, so loving and so caring turn so cold? How can two hearts so closely welded together come apart so easily? How could I ever possibly say good bye when the only words that seem to escape my lips are “I love you. Please come back.”
I feel very angry at myself for letting down the walls and entertaining that feeling. I should have repressed my feelings for Gabriele a long time ago. After my class, I decided to look up at the CRS of UP. It is the Computerized Registration System of the University that details the student information. As soon as I have seen her student profile, I immediately scribble her address. She lives in an apartment in Leviste Street, Salcedo Village in Makati. I took a cab and rush, hoping to see her again.
While at the cab, I replay our last conversation.
“ Ah okey… Naweirduhan ako sa sagot mo… Weird ka talaga. So how does it feel to finish the unfinished business”
“Malungkot? O bakit naman malungkot?”
“Because everything is coming to an end”
Her last phrase bothers me. What does she meant by that phrase? Because everything is coming to an end. I remember her face. There was a long pause when she answered my last question. Could she be in love with someone else or worst could she be marrying someone else?
I knocked at the door of her house. It was 4 in the afternoon. I could hear from the inside that someone is ready to move out. There was a sound of packaging tape being torn from the roll.
“ Tao po… Gab? Gabriele?.. Tao po”
The front door opened and a bald man in late 60s answered.
“Sino po sila?”
“Ah manong, Kaibigan po ako ni Gabriele. Tanong ko lang po kung nandyan siya. Di po kasi siya pumasok ng ilang araw sa klase.”
“Naku! Wala na siya! Di mo ba alam?”
“Wala na po siya?”
“Oo nasa America na. Kinuha na siya ng mommy niya at kapatid niya”
“Talaga po? Kailan pa?”
“Ummm… n’ung isang linggo pa.. Naospital kasi siya.. ‘tapos ‘ayun di na niya nakayanan… ‘eto nga inaayos ko na yung mga karton at iba pang naiwang gamit niya… kasi darating na yung magrerenta ng apartment”
“Meron po ba kayong number niya sa America?”
“Wala eh…’Teka iho… di yata tayo nagkakaintindihan… namatay na siya nung isang linggo… biglaan yung pagkamatay niya… pero ang sabi ng mga doktor matagal na raw na may sakit yun. Sayang nga kasi ang bata bata pa… Napakabait ng batang ‘yun…” While the landlord talks, his words make no sense to me as my heart literally stops.
She died. I can’t believe what I am hearing right now. A sharp pain stabs my heart. I was completely unprepared.
Memories flashed back; our first meeting, the way she held my hand tight, our long walks and the kiss. It flashed so fast in my mind that I could not hold any longer, my heart bleeds. She’s gone.
“ Okey ka lang? ‘Nga pala parang may naiwan siya na mga papel sa taas.. nakasuksok sa kama yun… baka kailangan mo yun, kunin mo na lang sa taas”
Immediately I went upstairs and found two papers that were neatly bound.
First bound, was over 400 pages, it was the final draft of her Master’s degree thesis. In the first page was a dedication that says.
Every event that has taken place in this universe has led me to you. Every star exploded, every planet colliding, every molecule combining, every quantum occurrence, every life that arises, every adaptation, every evolution of every species, every birth, every death, every thought, every realization, and every action taken by anyone who has ever lived. You are the perfect reading. You have shown me that life can go on, no matter how bad our losses.
Thank you Remington Banez
The second bound has 50 worn pages. It is the readings of our first report in SP 201. Sifting through the pages, I found the untidy scribble that says
I came to see you again. One last time.
My eyes started to well up in tears. She loved me.