YOU are where you live.
I met Celia when an afternoon shower prevented me from leaving the Sidlakan Center in Piapi, Dumaguete.
Even after retiring as a public school teacher in Bayawan, Negros Oriental and raising four children, who now have families of their own, Celia has not yet tired of life and is working as a consultant for this privately initiated center promoting craftwork made by various people’s organizations in Negros.
By any employer’s standard, this handsome lady with deep-set eyes has few equals. She daily reports to work despite a bureaucracy holding up her salary.
The gigantic and velvety mayanas I was admiring turned out to be planted by Celia, one consultant not content with just dispensing advice.
After chatting about children (mine), grandchildren (hers) and other people’s children (our students), Celia invited me to buy a lot somewhere in Valencia. We could be neighbors, she coaxed.
Her home faces the east. We want to see the sun rise even while ours’ set, she said.
The openness to change is something I associate not just with youth but with agelessness. It’s one thing to defy life because one has yet to be brought to one’s knees.
It’s another to earn experience and grace, appreciating that while both are desirable, only one is deserved.
I wonder if circumstances were different and I had met Celia in Cebu. Would I tempt her to retire in Cebu?
Celia has a sister residing in Talamban. Oh, I say. The place has transformed since the late 1970s, when bodies were dumped there, defaced and amputated to delay identification.
Development in the Banilad-Talamban artery has reached such an apex, a million signatures were recently gathered for a petition submitted to the Cebu City Government.
The Ban-Tal petitioners ask City Hall to postpone developments in the area until solutions can be found for congestion, traffic, air quality, garbage, drainage and flooding.
Celia’s sister, also a retired public school teacher, receives regular financial aid from the local government. I nod but don’t ask if Celia’s sister had to line up for hours, under the sun, on different occasions: to register as a senior citizen (and a destitute one at that), then later to vote, and for the third time, to present proof of exercising this civic duty so politicians can reward them with a pittance for celebrating their birthdays.
Why do we set grants and discounts as the ceiling for appreciating those who have not just earned but deserve the best in their twilight years?
Celia begins each day watching the sky outside her home change from purple to lilac to tangerine, lemon and ethereal blue. Valencia is 10 minutes’ away from Piapi. As a reflex of her decades in teaching, she comes early, not to beat traffic that is not existent but to water and turn the soil around the mayanas.
I wake three hours early to cross a bridge and make two or three transfers to commute to a 7:30 a.m. class. I hurdle a road modernization project in Lapu-Lapu City; traffic proceeds at a medieval pace, I sleep on my way to and coming home from work. With any luck, if the government installs two flyovers in uptown Cebu, I will have a longer doze as I will have to wake six hours early to make it for my first class.
Who has time to watch sunrise? It’s just an interval between travelling to go home and travelling to go to work.
Cebu’s future looks so good—flyovers maybe snaking around to cover up the smog-blotted horizon, high-rises mushrooming in oblivion of building and zoning codes, traffic turning us all into people of the streets—we might as well put up a gigantic billboard and paint a sun eternally rising over us.
My friend Celia will have to excuse me if I don’t invite her to Cebu; I’m not sure I’m staying around for retirement.
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*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Sept. 11, 2011 issue of the “Matamata” Sunday column