A momentous day, totally not unexpected obviously inevitable but nevertheless something that still brought mix and harried thoughts and emotions.
Bizarre as it may seem as others would have looked at it; I choose to spend my day in solitude, my annual personal retreat and recollection; time to reflect on the time passed, where I stand and where I may possibly be heading. It's not really that peculiar for it has been my tradition to spend my birthday this way even when I was in grade school. Whereas before, seclusion meant getting lost in Quiapo, Luneta, Sampaloc Lake, malls, beach or whatever parks, sometimes unknown and unfamiliar places that my wandering feet happen to chance upon. Uncanny as it may be, but I look forward being alone this time of the year, for my senses become more acute, more expansive that I see and appreciate things differently. This time, my 40th got to be more memorable and the solitude more pronounced for I am in a foreign land, Stockholm, Sweden.
I stepped out of the hotel with no particular destination in mind. The sky is clear and the clime just fine. It's a good day to wander on foot; and tread on I did as I explore the city; charming with the union of the old world and the comfort and convenience of the modern chutzpah. I simply love the charm it brings, but not the expense of living in it; it is certainly the most expensive city even by European standard. My wandering feet brought me to these beautiful parks where I got to spend some time people watching, soaking in its beauty, simply sitting in rumination, enjoying that for a moment I must have been one of the locals basking in the soothing calm that the park brings.
Introspection has made me aware of my mortality. Forty (40) is a milestone for anyone; others would have been simply lucky to even have reached it, Jose Rizal, despite and in spite of his greatness was even a couple of years short of reaching it; others, like my mother who just turned 80 would probably be looking back at it now as their turning point, their halfway to where they probably are now.
As I stand proudly at 40, I have so much to thank for; I look back with so much pride for the path I have walked on. I have indeed come a long way in my journey.
More than 30 years ago, I was in a small, bucolic town at the foot of Mt. Banahaw enjoying the simple pleasure of being one of the martial law kids: playing patintero, piko, siyato, luksong baka, taguan, and other sorts of games our imaginary mind can only dream up and with toys our bare hands can only hammer, shape and built. And I have so much to thank for those early years: I thank our lack of television for my sense of wonder in written words and the boundless expanse it brings. I thank my worn out slippers I used to go to school for I got to appreciate the comfort of the shoes, more than the beauty of the style it brings. I thank that we were wanting in luxury for I got to experience at a very young age the thrill of caring for chicken and pigs not as pet but as livestock that feed us. I thank our lack of household help for the discipline it instilled in me and my full appreciation of the joy of doing simple household chores including whipping out simple but delectable dishes. I have so much, much more to thank for, but most of all I thank those times for the chance of living in that age when simple life is indeed simple.
More than 20 years ago, I was ironically free in the confine of the seminary. Free to explore the limits of reason, sexuality and ties of friendship. I simply thank those unforgettable 4 years for the kinship I have forged with friends and for the great significance of the person that I have become. I thank the years that follow for the time it has allowed me to bond with my siblings, though very short for they got set on with their own married lives one after the other. I thank those years for allowing me the experience of caring for a child, albeit a surrogate father to my nieces and nephews. Though I’m not a father and may not even be a father in this lifetime I thank my nephew and nieces for they have allowed me to experience the sense of fulfilment and unfathomable wonder of cradling a child; feeding and lulling them to sleep; sharing in the glee of their first step, first word, and other firsts of a child of wonders. I may not be a hero to them, but still my heart bursts with pride and joy every time they reminisce of even the simplest things that I got to do with them when they were kids.
More than 10 years ago I was struggling to be a doctor. It was with great pride that I was able to somehow pay back my parents with the joy and pride of walking me up the stage on graduation day having finished with the honor of being among the top 10 of the class. I thank those struggling years of having been trained by the best in the field of medicine in the Philippines. Thankful for the friends I have gained, for the mentors that inspire, and for the wealth of experience I have achieved, that in a way paved the way for opportunities way beyond I have actually studied and trained for.
The last decade has been a whirlwind of experience: spiral tests of wisdom and my fortitude as son and brother; as friend and lover; as doctor and administrator; or simply as a man enduring of all the frailties and triumphs.
I am now 40: I live on my own, in a place of my own but not in a time that I own. I stand proud and happy because of those years and decades of experience of pain and conquest. I am thankful simply for the life I have lived; still standing ready to embrace the opportunities and challenges that life would bring.