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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

entry arrow5:36 PM | Things Change

"Chance is the fool's name for fate."
--Fred Astaire,
The Gay Divorcee

The fact that New Year's Day used to be celebrated on March 1 until the Gregorian reforms of 1582 (and for some countries, even as late as 1752) tells me all that I need to know about the protocols of celebrating the passing of the old year into the new: all things change, even the fixed dates of our rituals and celebrations. So how much more the vagaries we call our lives? But always, because we are such hopeful creatures, we pray for the better end of things. Nevertheless -- in our silent cautionary regard for the murk of the future -- we also prepare for what can prove to be the worst of our lives. This essay is really a short observation on how best to contemplate the changes we command for ourselves come the new year -- noting hopefully that this is not a list of damning resolutions, just wishes for the good end of circumstances.

Things change, and life is short. There goes your theme for the year, for every year.

How does that much-recycled witticism about the singular constancy of death, taxes, and the sheer changeability of our lives go again? I was thinking of that very same thing on the last week of December this year, while I was on a taxi navigating the turtle traffic from Ayala Mall to Lahug's I.T. Park where I was to meet Mark in Bo's Coffee Club. I had spent the day window-shopping and having rich conversation over lunch with a couple of writer-friends, and I was ready to pick up Mark for a late afternoon plan of watching Mulawin in SM City.

In the musty interior of the generic white cab with its generic velvet upholstery, I saw Cebu City's tall buildings and occasional roadside shanties in blurs and snapshots, and thought that there was much about the city that had remained constant for me, ever since my childhood.

I thought: How many Christmases and New Years have I spent here? I was only a kid of seven or nine when I first beheld Cebu's sparkling city lights and humming bustle, always a temptation for a small town boy like me. There was only Cebu's downtown to consider seriously then: what was hip and cosmopolitan was concentrated mostly around what was then a very posh Colon Street (if anyone now can believe that) and the many asphalt tributaries that fed into that commercial river. Uptown was Nowhere Land, and what was considered the epitome of extravagant holiday shopping was the mammoth opulence of White Gold in what was then the new blank wilderness of the reclamation area. I still recall the boyhood shivers of discovering a totally different world. I always associate this memory with the songs of Swing Out Sister, particularly "Break Out" which conveyed to me the appropriate soundtrack of those days when I was riding at the backseat of my brother Rocky's car, him at the wheels, and my mother beside him on the passenger seat asking him about that wonderful dimsum he took us out for dinner to just the other night. I remember the steamed rice as a concoction of utter sublimity -- something that still remains in the vestiges of my tastebud's memories. Smelling dimsum these days always provokes in me a rush of salivary delight.

Today, though the commercial geography has altered, nothing much has changed in the way I still celebrate Christmas holidays in Cebu City: last week, I still found myself in the backseat of a car, albeit a taxi, but I had given the driver an old recording of Swing Out Sister favorites, cued on "Break Out." He found it a strange request, but I had begged of Christmas indulgence, and so I had my soundtrack in sync with memories. And yet... White Gold, of course, is now a burnt out shell, a ruin that has not risen to reclaim past glories. And there are other worthier shopping paradises that now dot the metropolis like a rash: the big malls, of course, which could bear no mention at all in this post. Things have remained the same, but how things have also changed.

All things change. I am older now; and perhaps I can also stake claim to becoming wiser. There are now different desires that go beyond dimsum -- laptops, iPods, digital cameras, sleeker cellphones, Blueberrys, faster Internet connection, the search for constancy in love's negotiations, the fervent hunts for the proverbial green grass at the other side of whatever fences....

It struck me, while I was getting out of that Cebu taxi and paying the indulgent driver the fare (plus tip), that the need -- and the want -- for change is one life force that keeps us alive. That while a significant part of all of us craves for a kind of constancy to tame the relentless inertia of life, its twin of also wanting change is what keeps us from becoming too complacent. It breaks us out -- like the Swing Out Sister song -- from the decay of sameness, from the boredom of knowing only the excruciatingly familiar. Because what has become routine and what has become the tired hallmarks of our lives so far is a kind of prison, a compromise of our childhood aspirations. If we look back to our more innocent days, when we were kids with such gigantic capacity for dreaming, we all wanted to be giant versions of our hopes. "I want to be an astronaut!" "I want to be the President of the Philippines!" "I want to be a movie star!" "I want to build the largest building in the world!" Even, "I want to be Superman!"

But adulthood ossifies us into accepting the false allures (and limitations) of pragmatism, of binding circumstances, of dream-killing abuses of all kinds. And soon we settle for whatever it is that we find ourselves becoming. Most times, it means surrendering most of our dreams.

Instinctively, we find ways of breaking out of that. We make New Year resolutions, for example, even if most of the time, the hold of adult habit and the all-too-human collapse to failure keep us from becoming what we wish to have for ourselves. And yet, we try. And try again. Despite my knowledge of own defeats in these attempts, I like the idea still of constantly trying, because it means I have not given up on myself, and because it means I am still capable of dreaming.

All things change, as they must. Come New Year, I will look forward to that first sunrise. I'll take a deep breath, and I'll....

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