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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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Friday, December 21, 2007

entry arrow8:24 AM | In the Morning Clear

My favorite Christmas songs—“Silent Night,” “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” and “The Christmas Song,” all of them sang in that meditative and beautifully poignant renditions a la Mel Torme or Karen Carpenter—have something in common: they are earnest in their soft rendering of the sentiments of the season, their musical registers approaching a beautiful placidity. I love them because they have taught me the beauty of silence. Sing them now, and perhaps you will also realize, as I have, that their melodies somehow draw you into a celebration of serenity. I sing these songs, and I am immediately transported into a fantasy of wintry wonderland where snow blankets everything into muteness, with only the clear skies and stars for company.

Peace on earth, so goes the slogan for the season. Peace, quiet, placidity, serenity, stillness—these synonyms consist of the virtual summary of my holiday longings, which is a respite from the vexations of an old year coming to a much-awaited close. These songs, in giving me a fantasy for silence, allow me room to breathe. I know I am not alone in this wish.

I haven’t had beautiful silence in a long time. I used to have it every single day, when I knew how to wake up in the early morning. Think about it: there is something soft and tender about the way we wake up on a beautiful day, in the early morning—the kind unaided by the shrill and sudden reminders of alarm clocks and ringing phones and the unbearable under-your-skin noise that make up so much of our everyday lives. To wake into stillness is a thing of beauty, one that is easily missed in the feverish rush we have made of living.

It has become a kind of rarity, this unbidden waking, when we slowly slip away from the landscape of dreams (or, more often, dreamlessness), our body easing into a soft tingling, gradually becoming aware of the dawn filtering into our windows. In our slow wakening, the soft light of the magic hour—that time of day when the sun has just peeked out of the horizon and bathes everything in radiant orange—becomes rosy with the promise that things have not started yet, and the city is still asleep.

The city is still asleep. I like Dumaguete in that all too quick changing of the light. When I used to do my morning jogs, the first pleasure of the day came in the immersion of our consciousness into the pervasive silence of the streets outside, the quiet grandness of which was ironically underscored by the occasional whirring of the lone and distant tricycle, or the sound of an A.M. radio from some nearby kitchen blaring out the day’s early news or comedy. Sometimes, there would be snippets of bacon frying; sometimes I would hear, from the pier, the tooting of a passenger boat’s horns, three times, signaling arrival. If I think hard about mornings past, I realize that most of these dawn sounds had rang through the air with a certain crispness to them. (I also realize that it has been a while since I last heard a boat’s horn in the early morning. Where have these old sounds gone to?)

When I would finally emerge from my house into the outside, my feet slowly going into jogging cadence, the blast of cool wind kissing my face would be the first thing that would make me smile. Into the still-dark city I would run, the dawn tinting everything with that bluish iridescence of sky. I would jog through Tubod and hear from around me the scrapings of walis tingting on soil as housewives go about the early tasks of housekeeping. I would jog through the Silliman University campus, around the bend that would take me past the dorms and past the Luce Auditorium, and then into the parabola of the amphitheater, towards the gate that opened into Alfonso Trese Street (I refuse to call it Perdices Street), and then into the Boulevard.

There would be kindred spirits there, each one keeping his or her own mark by running (or brisk walking) the entire length of the seaside promenade, one count for the fulfillment of each lap—with one’s regard for fitness doubling by our faith on our body’s possibility of keeping count by several laps. I would last for five or six. By then, the silence and the bluish tint of the early morning would give way to the sudden brightening in the horizon: sunrise would come, and another day would begin for Dumaguete. And then we all would go home, knowing there would be another tomorrow when we could commune again with the rituals of quiet mornings.

I am now nostalgic for such mornings because I have realized, as this year draws to a close, that I have not had one for a very long time, hostaged as I have become to late nights keeping up with the demands of our waking existence. Suddenly, early mornings have become a luxury I have almost willingly set to the wayside of priorities, in favor of snatching a few more snores before the day could begin.

Then again, it is never too late to reclaim these quiet mornings again. It is never too late to restore a little bit of serene moments into our cluttered lives. Because above all, all of us want a kind of stillness to counteract the kinetic chaos of our waking lives.

And so, this is what I wish for everybody this Christmas—stretches of beautiful, fulfilling stillness for every day of our coming days, a stillness such as the one on that blessed night two thousand years ago, when there was only the midnight clear to greet a certain baby born into a manger, with only the star of Bethlehem above left to its quiet humming.

Advanced Merry Christmas to one and all.

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