Every morning, I yank myself out of bed trying to make sense of my crazy life in a room inside the dormitory near the juncture where Esteban Abada meets Katipunan in barangay Loyola Heights in Quezon city. Oftentimes, Pratish, my roommate from Nepal, would still be asleep as I grope my way to the bathroom to glance at my groggy face in the mirror. There, I could make out above the din of the tricycles the voice of the man calling out “atini yeow” “atini yeow!”
He was the dark man in a white shirt, calling out to students lining for a ride at the tricycle terminal outside the MiniStop. He was the man with the belly, Pratish pointed out. Pratish said he was so cute she wanted to bring him to Nepal as a souvenir.
It used to be so hot when we arrived here mid-April; so hot that we could actually feel the entire Metro Manila simmer, but then, the rain (and the floods) started to come leaving some remnants of mud in the otherwise clean brick pavement of the Ateneo.
Some time in between, typhoon Emong came and went out of Luzon while we were deep into a trance (in Fr. Bulatao’s hypnosis class) or we were having an agitated discussion of the phenomenon of the digital age with Cheryl, our professor in the new media culture. Or, was I inside the Filipino department faculty office on the third floor of Costa Hall building, where the poet Allan Popa (who reminds me of Nico) patiently opened our soul to the art of poetry?
Just the other night, Bryant asked me why I kept staying too long in the library. I didn’t tell him that the library, named after the Ateneo famous alumnus Jose Rizal, is one big Borgesian labyrinth. I didn’t tell Bry I discovered Apocrypha in one of the shelves and I got lost among the lives of saints--full of torture, gore and violence. Or, that I chanced upon this crumbly English translation of St. Augustine’s "Confessions," which I would have loved except for the outrageous things that St. Augustine said about women. I only told Wawan that when I made my way to the third floor of the general circulation section, I saw the new copy of J. Thomas Moore’s “Spinoza’s Ethics” so that I had to spend the next 30-minutes or so reading about the philosopher that had obsessed the leading Jewish character of Bernard Malamud’s “The Fixer.”
Wawan knew that Spinoza was a Portuguese whose Jewish parents escaped Spanish Inquisition in their country to live in exile to The Netherlands, where the Jews who escaped persecution ostracized Spinoza because of his wild ideas about God and religion. So, when Bryant asked why I’d been spending most of my time in the library, I told him I’d been researching for a difficult assignment on the “knowledge economy.” I didn’t tell him I found Fr. Albert Alejo’s “Sanayan lang ang Pagpatay” next to such titles as “Ang sarap Mabuhay” while looking for Lamberto Antonio’s “Hagkis ng Talahib.”
Inside the room I share with Pratish, I always look up at the big jalousie windows just above our bathroom mirror to see a row of windows in the upstairs room of the next house. It’s here where I see the first rays of sunlight but in the mornings of the M-W-Fs, there usually is no time left to think as we rush to the SS building (pronounce that as Soc Sci so that the tricycle driver would know where to drop you); we’d be huffing and puffing as we take the twisted stairway up to the third floor of the Department of Communication building for our “new media culture” class at the studio! Then, after the in-depth discussions on the digital age, we’d be so hungry for lunch at the cafeteria--just turn left past the Faura hall (the Rizal library to your right), where Yuri would eat bowlful of pancit Malabon (no pork please!) and fried chicken. Pratish would be looking for vegetables, as usual, and I’d be craving for eggs while Bryant would be talking about the competing freedoms—of the citizens and the state on the issue of freedom of expression and the so-called "national security." (I told him he talked like Luis Teodoro now and he nodded.) But then, as everybody finished her meal and was about to start another round of discussion, I’d leave for the building across the Rizal Library, where the white streamer marked “mula piedras platas hanggang payatas” in red hung near the wall entrance.
Later in the afternoon, Fr. Bulatao with his trademark stick he nicknamed as “tongkat ali” would walk inside the Psychology Lab on the ground floor of the SS Building; and will put the whole class in a trance. Bryant and me will struggle to get our spirits out of our body while Pratish would wonder what the hell is going on…