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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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Saturday, January 31, 2015

entry arrow10:31 AM | Races to Finish, Mountains to Demolish, Days to Persevere



One time, not so long ago, Saturday morning felt fallow and unremarkable. This happens. Everyone’s lives have days that feel like lead. It had been raining the entire evening before this unremarkable Saturday, and when the daylight finally broke, there was still no let up in the miserable cold and wetness, which soon extended to what would eventually become a whole day affair.

Normally, this would not have been a problem for me: I am built for wet days. For some reason, my personality perks up on stormy days and my body tends to rebel against the return of the sun. When it feels the promise of sunshine in the air, my body breaks down into a variety of malaise that sometimes I am convinced I am allergic to solar brightness and must therefore be a vampire.

So I woke up feeling very tired, and found that I couldn’t move a muscle. This is a dramatic exaggeration, of course. What I felt was not physical paralysis; it felt very much like a spiritual, even an existential, immobility. I was not sure whether it was the familiar black dog of my constant bouts with depression—but there was no dark fog hugging my brain, and it didn’t feel like despair. It just felt like a numbness that consumed and the only recourse was to succumb to the hug of the bed and sleep it off.

I had just survived a most trying year in 2014, I told myself, and one day of numbness like the Saturday I was experiencing was nothing. I had entered 2015 with a resolve I had not seen myself undertake in years—consumed with the belief that one’s happiness can actually become a matter of shrewd negotiations with willpower and undertaking a routine of good things that becomes habit. Good begets good. I learned this well in the murky bottom that was 2014.

So I’ve learned to do certain things guaranteed to make the going feel worthwhile. Striving to stay fit, for example, became a matter-of-course. Staying positive became a must, even with the direst of days. I’ve learned to do a daily extraction of good things written down on slips of paper and deposited in a glass vase—to remind me at the end of the year that while the bad are most remembered for the emotional dent they deliver, the good—softer in their impact—must not be so easily forgotten.

And what of the previous year? Have I easily forgotten the best moments of it? In popular culture alone, there was Julianne Moore moving me with her depiction of despair against early onset Alzheimer’s in Still Alice. There was the surprising ending of The Legend of Korra, where the couple that rides off into the brilliant radiance of a spiritual portal are of the variety that rarely gets depicted in children’s television. (All right, Korra ended up with Asami—much to the delighted squeal of many who have shipped them for eternity.) There was the strange melee of How to Get Away with Murder.

In a more local context, there was the unbelievable beauty of the photographs in exhibition for the South Pacific Photowalk. There was the raw power of J Marie Maxino’s Pechakucha talk on being queer. And speaking of queer, there was iSpec’s approval as an official organization in the university I work for—the first LGBT and straight alliance ever allowed in this part of the world. That’s progress. There’s Hersley-Ven Casero’s new collection of firefly paintings. There’s Romeo Ariniego’s collection of art—many of them by Filipino masters—that he has donated to his alma mater.

There was the explosive climate change march in Dumaguete. And there was the initial offerings in Razceljan Salvarita’s upcycling products. There was Jack Wigley’s revealing talk in the summer of writers. And there was the release of Belltower Project Dos album—which brought Dumaguete music to a higher rung, creating a community and consolidating a sound. There was Dok Timbancaya’s big Founders Day EDM party—a series of parties, in fact—that was a celebration of how youthful and dynamic this city can be, if it really wanted to. And then there was that enormous feeling of vindication that I felt when I sold the last ticket for Lav Diaz’s Norte, Hangganan ng Kasaysayan, which had a special screening—spectacularly sold-out—at Robinson’s Movieworld, proving once and for a while there was an engaged audience for these kinds of films in this city.

I’d forgotten these, and many other good things, from 2014, convinced only of the consuming darkness of that year. In proper and more inclusive retrospective, it wasn’t that bad.

And so it was that, near the tail-end of that miserable Saturday, I knew I had to salvage it somehow. Because shit does happen—and the ultimate measure of our humanity is our response to it. Like with this guy I’ve read about named Micke Ekvall. For him, shit did happen, literally. He was running a marathon when he suddenly developed a case of the stomach cramps in the middle of it. Post-race, Micke Ekvall, who finished that 2008 race in 21st place, was asked if he ever considered stopping to clean off. “No, I’d lose time,” he said. “If you quit once, it’s easy to do it again and again and again. It becomes a habit.”

There’s no quitting.

Let shit happen.

Finish anyway.

Here’s the story of another man like Ekvall. His name was Dashrath Manjhi, whose wife died because they were unable to get medical care from the nearest hospital, which was 50 km away from their village in India. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Dashrath Manjhi proceeded to singlehandedly cut down a path through a small mountain that blocked the way and made travel long and difficult.

In 1959, he sold his goats to purchase a chisel, a rope, and a hammer. No one helped him, but every day he moved pieces of that mountain for what must have seemed like an impossible and foolish dream.

In 1981, he finally stepped into the other side of that mountain. It took 22 years. But now only 10 km separate his town and the hospital. I didn’t have an excuse not to demolish my own metaphorical mountains, including murky Saturdays in the doldrums. And so, with some finality, I got up. And felt so much better.

What’s your excuse?

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