A sense of time

Are we helpless in the eternal slippery march of time from present to past?

If one is feeling philosophical, one might be inclined to ponder the most basic features of our reality: space and time, the dimensions, for instance. One might then discover that these fundamental things, or objects or constructs, could be blamed for the struggles of people—the human condition, as they say.

Let us look at space. Distance is the backbone of so much human drama. It is the element present in conflicts of various genres: in romance, lovers yearn for closeness; in adventures, man attempts to overcome nature by reaching for the stars; in war, kings and generals win battles through the brilliant use of territories.

But between space and time, it is clearly the latter that is the subject of greater mystery, and deeper struggles.

While in space we are free to move forward, backward, higher, lower, and so on, under time we are in a tyranny. The future is always out of reach, the present is fleeting, and moments are always slipping into the past. Given unlimited time we could conquer any imaginable amount of space; but even with the seemingly boundless space that we have on earth and beyond, time remains invincible, unsurmountable.

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‘Christmas Morning’ by Eraserheads

“Wake up little darling, it’s Christmas morning,” begins the quiet track by Eraserheads at the end of their special Fruitcake album.

“Wake up little darling, it’s Christmas morning,” begins the quiet track by Eraserheads at the end of their special Fruitcake album. It is idyllic, serene, peaceful; it is the perfect melody for a cool December morning, for decked halls and sleepy wishes, for children looking forward to opening presents.

But behind the earnest, hopeful melody, we soon see an outlook that is world-weary. Ely Buendia sings to the beloved child,

You had been dreaming
Angels are singing
But now they’ve gone and once again
It’s time to go on with our lives

Christmas Morning, a deceptively sentimental tune, speaks not just of Christmas season’s occasional sorrow (which comes from its serenity), but also of its despair. Despair, as a holiday that merely holds harsh realities at bay, postponing their pain for a later time.

Maybe the time will come when we won’t need to pretend to be happy for just a while

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Ninoy for our times

One of the things I have learned while working at a multinational company is that the Philippines have so many holidays compared to other countries. Aside from the regular holidays, such as New Year’s Day and Christmas, the national government has made it a tradition to declare special non-working holidays for all kinds of events. Some of these have been declared as such for so many years already that many people, myself included, confuse them for regular holidays. For example, All Saints’ Day.

But other holidays appear whimsical, almost as if the government is only too happy to save Filipinos from working: count in this category the additional non-working days adjacent to the regular holidays, such as January 2 and December 26. And then there are the many local government holidays. This year, three holidays have been declared for Metro Manila on the occasion of the Pope’s visit. Two more days in November will be observed as non-working holidays for an APEC meeting (seen by many as a drastic solution to ease traffic in the metropolis while the world leaders meet).

Most tragic, however, is the realization that the original intention of these special days—to commemorate special events in the nation’s life—are lost on many Filipinos. Some of those who do remember the significance are overcome with cynicism. “Wala namang nangyayari,” they would say, drawing from the spirit of hopelessness that possesses so many Filipino citizens. For others, especially many of the youth, the holidays are just another opportunity to ‘enjoy life’. Better is the holiday that creates a long weekend than the one that does not, because it allows us to spend longer trips to the beach, or abroad.

It is imperative though, for idealistic but heartfelt reasons, that we restore the honor of our holidays by properly reflecting on their stories. We can start with today’s holiday: Ninoy Aquino Day.

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