WAITING for a “habal-habal” to ride to the uplands a day after the start of the year is like waiting for lost love: the best, if it ever existed, happened in the past.
The motorcycles for hire that usually whiz up and down these mountain roads like iridescent dragonflies on a nectar binge are predictably scarce on Jan. 2.
Do the drivers refrain from their roadside wait because people usually make it home before the year ends?
Or do travellers take their cue from a near shave in the past, deciding not to entrust their luck on a driver with a hangover?
The discrepancy between the mad rush for home as the old year waned and the desultory trickle trailing after the ushering of the next year makes it always easy to answer the two questions everyone seems to ask at this time:
Where was I when the year came to an end?
Where was I when the year began?
If one stays in place, the answer can be easily found at the end of a countdown: the 60 seconds it takes to separate one set of 360 or so days from the subsequent one.
Tradition also dictates making a racket to drive away ill fortune, eating special dishes to sweeten the start, coming together with other families to continue a shared history, filling to the brim every household container to drive away want, collecting at least 13 round-shaped fruits to summon wealth, hearing mass in thanksgiving and as promise.
My partner and I like to take our chance, loitering in a near empty rural market, waiting for a “habal-habal” driver who might or might not show up.
This year, the season’s blues went on overdrive by sending sheets of rain through the open windows of the bus, distressing several infants with demonstrably powerful lungs and a box of chickens who were, against the trend, returning to the uplands with their heads still connected to their necks.
This year, we left our boys in the city, to their virtual worlds.
“Virtual” sounds so much like “viral,” my choice for the word of the year, if not for this generation.
The contagious spreading of communication among portals, chiefly through the Internet, hooks us to a pastime of keeping lists.
Anticipating the holidays, we list the presents and intentions we can’t afford to forget.
Wrapping up the year that was, we list the best, or the worst, that distinguishes this from the rest of the increasingly featureless past.
While the city around us exploded into a frenzy of counting on the eve of Jan. 1, I followed the lists sprouting on every TV channel, in websites that prided in following every shimmy of popular taste.
Newsmakers were so populous as to be common. One or two resurrected the original meaning and intent of the word when he or she was set up as the person defining the year, for better or worse.
But due to differing news judgments, one can actually form an informal club whose membership ticket could be to hold a “Person of the Year” title.
Many portals pushed on us other choices, masquerading as “The Year’s Losers and Winners.” Can a person be made or unmade by a single event? Apparently, yes.
What about second chances? What about changes made after a list is made and spread?
That’s cause for another list. It’s viral, thanks to the social networks defining what we talk about, what we remember.
The bus that took us away from the city and its hook-ups parked beside a roadside stopover.
Glancing at a bus parked across the highway, heading to where we came from, I saw a woman bury her face in the stomach of an infant she was holding aloft. The child, about a hundred pounds or so lighter and minus a head full of hair, could have been the woman’s twin. Did the woman see where she came from? Did the child see where it was going?
After the usual interval, our fellow passengers returned to their seats.
The bus across rolled forward as we moved on. Someone could very well imagine a looking-glass mirror, from which we sprang, twin reflections headed for opposing ends: they to theirs and we to our yearly appointment with the “habal-habal” that may or may not come to a deserted market a day after the world was again renewed.
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* First published in Sun.Star Cebu's Jan. 3, 2010 issue of "Matamata"