Saturday, March 22, 2014
1:53 PM |
The Season of Goodbyes
I wonder what it must be like to say goodbye to this city as hundreds do every March. To say goodbye while your plane taxis down Sibulan’s runway and finally flies from the familiar greens of Dumaguete; or while your boat eases off those familiar moorings you call the Rizal Boulevard, the city’s streetlamps edging slowly away until they become pinpricks of light soon to be swallowed by the darkness of sea and sky.
And then you behold the certainty that Dumaguete is finally gone, that life finally ended.
How does that feel like?
I wonder what it must be like to say goodbye, that is
, with the tacit knowledge that one might not ever return.
Or maybe to return, some day, but with the knowledge, buried deep in the denial of the sly turning of days, that one never comes back to the same place again. All places are rivers in time, you see, and like how the popular saying goes, you can never step into the same spot of water twice.
I wonder what that must be like, to say goodbye.
Every year, in the middle of March, I become witness to a ritual they call a “beginning of things.” A commencement. I teach. I have been teaching for more than a decade now. And what has become constant in this life of the classroom is the fact that I have been allowed to bear witness to the growth of young men and women, to see their various comings and goings. I always remember how they first come in, perhaps four or five years ago (perhaps more), stout with the innocence and gullibility and the cocky self-assurance of youth. You see soon how they fare with the succeeding years, most of them increasingly cognizant of the one certainty of growing up: that the more you know, the more you know that you don’t know anything. College can be such a humbling experience. And for those who know how to navigate it well—learning, for example, that grades are not all that matter, and that having a life that takes in the vast promises of experience is equal to a good mark—they will come off the whole experience of tertiary learning becoming better human beings. If they allow it to, of course.
And when all is said and done, here comes one final March day where all that scrambling for grades, and all that experimenting with life, comes to some form of an end. The celebration comes complete with the uniforms of ritual—black robes, black caps, golden tassels—and the occasion is taken to a solemnity that commemorates those who have weathered the academic rigors. With that, of coure, comes a feathery hope that some future opens up, perhaps concretized by the diploma. There’s also relief, of course, because the weeks past have been backbreaking, the nights sleepless, the running around to complete things brutal. This day—this commencement—tells you you have reached the finish line, that it was worth all that pain and all that heartache.
But also this day soon becomes, tentatively at first, an occasion for farewells. College has been the grand experiment in becoming who one could possibly be, and graduation is the time for goodbyes to those who have helped shape that possibility. Goodbyes are heartbreaking things.
For this year, I know many who have been my students, and many who have become my friends. I can only hope that I have helped shape the course of their lives for the better—the way I know that they have shaped mine in places they had no idea made sizable impacts. There’s Andrew Alvarez, there’s Ron Jacob Calumpang, there’s Arvin Tarroza, there’s Kim Cabahug. There’s Jocille Morito, there’s Zara Dy, there’s Bethel Abigail Almirol, there’s Natalie Curran. Bright young kids, and good friends, too. There are more, of course. What makes me happy is how, with them, I have managed to extend the limiting experience of the classroom to other adventures that called for the creative. I’ve made plays with these people, I’ve made books with these people, I’ve done an assortment of projects with these people. They weren’t just names in my record book; they became colleagues as well. And I have learned a lot from them. And they are not the only ones. Every year, I say goodbye to a similar batch I have also come to know as friends. And if you ask me, I may be glad that they are graduating—for all that commencement stands for—but a part of me begrudges the farewells. But you learn to live with these things. In Dumaguete, a university town, goodbyes are the dynamics with which we have learned to breathe by.
I wonder what it must be like to say goodbye, with finality, to all that.
I have also left before—and often for long stretches of time, too—but it has always been with the knowledge that my departure is temporary. I have enjoyed long spells in other places where there is snow, in places where skyscrapers dwarfed you in canyons of concrete and traffic, in places where they know the colors of autumn, in places where the vastness of the land—stretching like a brown empire of soil and spice—imperil your idea of green dots of islands as home. But I have always somehow come back to Dumaguete, to its familiar small streets, and little shops, and a seaside boulevard that overlooks a horizon that seems to promise both the spokes of a golden cage and a passport to the lands unseen beyond dip of that blue line where sky and sea meet. Many of my friends will venture out to those borderlands, and some I will never see again.
After graduation, summer time begins, and with it a new beginning. I like that time in the summer day at dusk when I’m in some outdoor café near the Rizal Boulevard drinking coffee, and the sky outside does its ballet of changing light. For a moment, there are swaths of purple and red and traces of yellow—but often it is just an overwhelming blue, various shades of it. I like how the horizon becomes all shades of blue at dusk, and then, right before evening comes with its velvet darkness, just a deep deep blue that recalls the purest of sadness.
All sunsets are distillations of the goodbyes I have known. Watching one such sunset, with a cup of coffee on hand, while I stare out at the horizon from my little café, I think I have learned to say goodbye fully to the light. But it comes with knowing full well that another summer day comes again soon.
For now, what I see waning is the remains of a good light, wavering goodbye, and I will always be glad to have known it.
Labels: life, silliman, teaching
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