Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words 2: Time Travel On the Cheap

So you think the word ‘Filipina’ means maid? Well, think again. For all of you who reached this blog looking for  bargain Filipinas –whether Filipina maids or hot Filipina bodies at bargain basement prices — well, this is for you! You should also know that Filipinas/Filipinos are also among the world’s most efficient people — on the energy from eating really small pieces of fish and a cup of rice, we can spew out great thoughts! Ha!

Speaking of fish, here’s this personal piece, the next installment of a series that, taken together, make up what I like to call Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words.

Today’s piece is from Leandro Romero, who lectures on Geography at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. His own personal journey to get there is the quintessential tale of the Filipino diaspora– poignant, bittersweet and riveting. And in his case, written in installments, like this one:

The Oblation is a concrete statue by Filipino artist Guillermo E. Tolentino which serves as the iconic symbol of the University of the Philippines. It depicts a man facing upward with arms outstretched, symbolizing selfless offering of oneself to his country.

Time Travel on the Cheap

Tuesday night I traveled back in time to 1989 or thereabouts.

The place: Balara behind UP Diliman, near the Narra Residence Hall, then UP’s most liberal dorm for men (and coincidentally, the most dilapidated and the cheapest).

The time: between midnight and three a.m.

Activity: eating ginisang sardinas at the all-night counter frequented by jitney and cab drivers and other vampires prowling the city in those unholy hours.

It is a college night like most nights I had back then: interminable, humid and expectant. Like you are waiting for something important to happen, some epiphany to strike you, some Big Truth to slap you in the face with its simplicity and elegance.

Meanwhile, the night is surprisingly busy in this corner of the university. Cabbies are just going off duty; still others are just about to take over. There is the stink of vehicle exhaust and cigarette smoke and rotting vegetables and the delicious aroma of street food. Some of the carinderia women have begun to prepare the ingredients for next day’s lunches. Kids are selling cigarettes, balut, sampaguita flower leis.

On such nights, you have finished carousing with your friends in one of those infrequent binges where you indulge in your favorite fermented drink and hope other baser instincts follow suit. Or, you have been obliged to stay and babysit some textbooks and notes, write term papers or solve sample problems, and you just need a quick pick-me-up. Or, you just made a connection with some other lonely collegiate soul and you just want to savor the strangeness of the Other, chew on the purity and innocence of it, before morning comes and shines on it the ridiculous light of day.

I assume that this night could have been any of the three, and alternate between options. Obviously, I am sober enough to bring myself this far on public transportation with no major damage to life, limb or property, so it’s all good. Whatever awaits me back at the dorm—math or physics or engineering
texts—they would wait patiently. There is no hurry, and I am where I need to be at this moment.

Meanwhile, the smell of fragrant frying garlic tempts my nostrils and my stomach growls a greeting in return. The chopped onions and tomatoes follow shortly, and soon I am witness to tomatoes melting in  the pan, sizzling and bubbling until you are certain that they have aggregately achieved Tomato Nirvana—that is, being one with the pan, the oil, the onions,  the garlic and the Universe.

The hot sardines make their grand entrance and are allowed a brief honeymoon with the fulfilled tomatoes. Meanwhile, the flame is switched off, and a raw egg, quiet and content until now, jumps in and joins the fun. The bored cook deftly mixes it in with the other ingredients and in a while, serves it in front of
me, hot, with fried rice.

As soon as the sardines cross my lips, I forget that Physics is my Achilles heel, that women (even those in college) are creatures with expectations and  demands that have to be dealt with in the morning, or that in a few short hours, it would be time to join the elaborate waltzes and tangos of university life once again. The combination touches off several centers of taste on my tongue and palate, and my brain registers an explosion of flavor.

I prolong each mouthful into a slow, sticky sojourn into my own personal paradise. Minutes later it seems,  but really more than a dozen years hence, I look up  from my plate and find myself alone in a house in  Sparks, Nevada, with no girls or physics texts waiting  for me in the morning.

Yesterday, I tried it again with some soto ayam  (Indonesian spicy chicken-and-vegetable soup) and I was brought back to Jakarta in 1990 (I think). But that is another story for another day.

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Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words 1: Excerpts from the Diary of a Bargain-Book Addict

So you think the word ‘Filipina’ means maid? Well, think again. For all of you who reached this blog looking for  bargain Filipinas –whether Filipina maids or hot Filipina bodies at bargain basement prices — well, this is for you! You should also know that Filipinas/Filipinos are also among the world’s most efficient people — on the energy from eating really small pieces of fish and a cup of rice, we can spew out great thoughts! Ha!

As proof, starting today I am going to splice into my blog short pieces that together make what I like to call Great Living Filipino Thinkers, In Their Own Words. These are excerpts from, and links to, the personal blogs of Filipino thinkers who are living today.

Today’s thoughts are those of Romel Regalado Bagares, the Executive Director for the Manila-based Center for International Law, a non-profit engaged in strategic human rights litigation. Bagares  is one of the lawyers representing the families of 14 journalists who perished in the Ampatuan Massacre, said to be the worst single attack on press freedom in recorded history. The anniversary of the massacre will be commemorated on Nov. 23. Bagares also lectures on international law at the Lyceum Philippines University College of Law. Romel’s personal blog is at http://sanpedrostreet.wordpress.com/

Excerpts from the Diary of a Bargain-Book Addict.

“But perhaps, I digress. After all, we’re talking of bargain books here.
Still I think just as well of the famed library at the ancient city of
Alexandria which, in the grandeur of its time, was the scale against which
the intellectual wealth of other nations and races was measured. One legend
– almost surely false, notes Harvard Professor Stephen Jay Gould in his book
Eight Little Piggies: Reflections on Natural History (P215) – that the
library was still intact when Muslim invaders captured the city in the
seventh century. The library, built by descendants of Alexander the Great
about 2,000 years ago, housed the largest collection of books in the ancient
world – more than 700,000 volumes – including the works of Homer and the
library of Aristotle. Historians tell us that Euclid and Archimedes studied
there, as did Eratosthenes, the first mathematician to calculate the
diameter of the earth.”

Bust of Aristotle. Marble, Roman copy after a ...

Image via Wikipedia

“Or am I just taking my reading habits too seriously? There are times when,
having finished a book, I fling it to the floor, feeling exhausted and used
up. A certain guilt overwhelms me, indeed, a “complete distaste for words,”
all at the thought that in the end, knowledge becomes puffed up and the
wisdom of this world is mere vanity, “a chasing after the wind,” in the
words of Ecclesiastes. I open my Bible to the New Testament. “Where is the
wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age,” asks
the apostle Paul in his first epistle to the Corinthian Christians. “Has not
God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”

“A certain mawkishness. The computer’s thesaurus lists the following
synonyms: sentimental drivel, mush, sentimentalism, maudlin act, gush,
affectation, exaggerated sentiment, excessive sentiment.
But no sooner had I promised myself not to indulge in yet another buying
spree than I’d find myself inside yet another Booksale outlet, poring over
the books it has to offer, wishing I have all the money in the world to
satisfy my cravings for words. It’s as if my day by day struggle with words
as a newspaper reporter wasn’t enough!”