A month ago, my best friend raised a brutally frank question while we were in the midst of a drunken stupor: “don’t you ever feel like time has overtaken your moment of glory?” (“hindi mo ba minsan nararamdaman na napag-iwanan ka na ng panahon?”)
To understand why the question jolted me out of the alcohol-induced euphoria of that night spent hopping from one bar to another is to understand the kind of conversations my best friend and I usually engage in: they were never about us. Well, at some point, it would reach a moment when the conversation would draw nearer and nearer to almost being about our individual lives. But it has never really reached that brutally bare and raw moment of confrontation that we found ourselves contemplating (although I must admit we slipped out of it soon enough) that night.
In college, we would spent countless hours on the phone talking about the Church, politics, the sex lives of our common friends, the sex lives of politicians, the sex lives of priests we know. You know, best friend stuff. For us, it seemed like talking about these things delay or at least, hold at bay, conversations that would expose our weakness and struggles to each other. Of course there was always that lingering feeling that one or the other was not feeling alright at some particular point. But we almost had a silent understanding to never appear to each other, other than strong and perfectly happy. Whatever we needed to say or do in order to make that appearance is not just understandable but more imperatively, encouraged.
But at thirty (he’s twenty nine), we allowed ourselves the luxury of vulnerability that night. For some good thirty minutes.
“I do”, I admitted, after some bit of hesitation.
Now to understand that admission is to understand me.
Widely expected by friends and mentors to make it big right after college, I disappointed many by failing to bag doctoral scholarships in foreign universities I applied in. I have repeatedly refused to study in the Philippines because of sheer stubborn pride. The trauma dragged my academic career. Instead of research and publishing, I found solace in student organizing and student formation. But even as I devoted energy and time to students, my lack of academic qualifications and prestige drove them seeking more famous and more widely accepted mentors.
I eventually found myself excluded from the circles I built.
Last May, I decided to quit the academe – bosom of my dreams, land of my promise.
I write about this now while “ruinating” (see previous post) on the storm that has just very recently passed through the Philippines. Every time a typhoon passes the country and wrecks havoc on communities, Filipinos are often described by the media as a highly resilient people. In recent years, however, that notion of resilience has come under fire.
For some, resilience is a poor excuse and a powerful justification for status quo conditions of ill-preparedness, lack of facilities, slow response to recovery and relief, and snail paced rehabilitation.
There is truth in this lamentation.
But I guess, resilience is also a virtue. And it is most especially the virtue of those who have not given up on their dreams. Only scaling them down and adapting to the demands of one’s own relationships.
Like me, my best friend was also once hailed by our peers as a rising figure to watch out for. He was in fact one of the top students of an elite pre-med course in the University of the Philippines. In college we had plans to conquer the fields of politics and medicine and reign like the Pope of Rome on the one end and the Patriarch of Constantinople on the other end.
We were however, sidelined by the limits of our own circumstances. Both are very private issues that I prefer not to write about.
What I can safely claim, however, is that we have come to a beautiful acceptance of where we are at the moment and why we are in this particular stage of our lives and career.
Resilience, now that I think about it, is no other than the creative energy released by the ruins.
Resilience is the ruins performing itself qua itself.
I also write about this because I am at the moment reading on disaster resilience literature for a policy paper I intend to write soon. Most of the studies in this set of literature construct resilience as an act of hardening, of protection, of defense.
But there is also another way, I guess, through which we can view resilience outside the purview of some future or prospective strengthening and instead, write it instead from the critical vantage point of the weak.
Of the postcolony’s turbulent historical self and self-construction.