Saturday, January 03, 2015


THE ANNOUNCEMENT was not welcome but not unexpected.

The plane we were expecting would be delayed because of the air traffic in Manila. There was a collective sigh before passengers went back to staring at their gadget screens or the soundless movie on the airport television screens.

The woman seated to my left observed that she never imagined she would live long enough to find the skies also jammed with airplanes. This wartime image of aircraft pockmarking the heavens jolted me away from watching a Filipino-Australian tot playing with his Australian father.

The sky above the tarmac was clear. No sign of the unimaginable. I murmured to my fellow traveller that changes always surprise. To myself, I wondered if we were just more sensitive about the delays because we were caught in between: in between destinations, in between Christmas and New Year, in between the old and new years.

The lady’s observation about sky jams echoed when we were waiting later in NAIA 3 behind 10 other aircraft to find our berth in the NAIA 4 terminal. The delay had stretched to nearly three hours. The tot who had been screaming in play at the pre-departure lounge in Cebu was now screaming in anger, protesting perhaps the extended incarceration that adults were relieving by checking their gadgets or lining up for the toilet.

“In-between” tries everyone, even children with their unlimited verve for discovery and self-absorption. The days sandwiched between holidays are especially taxing. After bemoaning the deadlines and work pressure hounding us in the year that was, the in-between at yearend reminds us there is such a thing as a surfeit of holidays. Who can eat, shop and indulge without limit? We even need to get away from the ones we love, the sentiments of the season seemingly enforcing and prolonging the proximity that has become abrasive.

In a way, I am glad of two habits that help me get along with this in-between time. One is the newspaper assignment to encapsulate the year’s best, worst and most bizarre stories. The newsroom emails a list of stories editors have chosen as events or personalities shaping the year that was.

The task of synthesizing the year has come to serve as a yearly retreat. Human memory is imperfect, like a device that has always its disk full. Remembrance is aided but also hobbled by sentiment. We remember what we experience; all else, even the epochal, are mere echoes of thunder in some distant sky.

We live though in the age of media. And media love lists. They now call these “bullets”: textual highlighting rendered as visual staccato that capture and pin down attention, our vulnerability in this digital age. When we pick up a newspaper or surf the Net, do we seek what we read or do we read what is handed to us as the “most read,” “most searched,” or “most liked”? Reading, specially online, resembles less and less what I knew it to be. To read these days is to feed or to graze.

The second activity I welcome at yearend is to shift journals. They call these “planners” nowadays. It is a telling choice as life, to some extent, requires scheduling, reconciling commitments, minimizing conflicts in appointments. We plan our days. Do we examine them?

I prefer the word, “journal,” because it is closer to my use for a diary. The daybook or daytimer is a personal record of a day’s events. The same word applies to a newspaper or a magazine, which preserves what a media conglomerate pays attention to, records.

The journals I keep are made of paper, thread or glue. In this in-between time, I write by hand the notes I want to transfer from the old journal. Yet the new journal is not an extension of the old. Looking at the mostly empty pages, I realize I can change what has been. More than 365 pages, a new journal means 365 second chances.

In between destinations, the tot in the airport chased the ball his father whacked with his grandmother’s cane. His amusement quickly wore off when the ball rolled out of his reach. Then he caught on and started grabbing the cane. Give the boy time to catch up with the man. In-betweens bedevil us but our days would meander without them.

( 09173226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s December 28, 2014 issue of the Sunday editorial-page column

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