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Love, angst and the stories of 'tol and manang

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Nice picture.... I am so loving the fireworks... tsuzj!
There seems to be a host of things both seen and unseen that are at work in our lives. Right at this moment, we could feel that there are much bigger things happening in this world than our petty angst and anger with how our lives our going. There are quite a number of disappointments that abound in our lives. We could see that the world is not fair; people you like would not like you back. There seems to be an unhappiness that exist in our lives because we think that there is something better, that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence.
Love is an emotion that is as powerful as any tyrant or catastrophe that nature can conjure. Wars are fought, lives wrecked, hearts hardened, nations fold up, and a nation's coffers emptied because of this little thump-thump, this little flush in our faces, this little thing we call love. This intense longing for someone or something can bring about the greatest destruction.
Enough said about love and our petty angst… as a friend remarked, “Angst is cute for a twenty-one year old but at our age; angst is pretty pathetic and might be a mark of immaturity.”
As I read a friend's blog, someone posted that every one of us has a story of our own. A personal story exist that pepper an otherwise ordinary existence, which can beat the heck out of every "Maalaala mo Kaya" or "Magpakailanman" episode with its melodramatic twists and turns.

I just want to tell some of the stories of people that I knew, just two stories for now because these two stories left powerful imprints with my present psyche.

(Story No. 1) Si Tol

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I knew two bachelors working for the same company. They are the "remnants" of the first batch that the company hired. Some of their peers went away to work in another company, in another country, and almost all of their batchmates are now married with kids.

These two have risen from the ranks… from junior analyst to seasoned supervisors. They seem to be the best of friends… calling each other 'Tol with matching slaps to the back. They can enter another's office anytime they needed someone to talk to.

One is a genteel fellow. Very conservative, religious, dedicated to his work, and many ladies a wooing him; he'll be the last to leave the office and during weekends, he's still at the office. I thought then that the office is his home. His life is the office. I think he's happiest taking care of the company's servers. Well, different stroke for different folks…

The other one is a very convivial and articulate guy - "Carson". Rumors abound because of his innate effeminateness… but who cares in this day and age. I like him very much especially when he talks. He is such an animated speaker. He is very dedicated to his family… "A man for all seasons…"

Talking to these two, one can see the longing and that something up to now I cannot pinpoint glistening in their eyes. I don't want to offer an explanation… but there seems to be a different ring in their voices when I hear each of them call the other 'Tol. Maybe, both are waiting… longing.. observing… Waiting for what? A sign? Only time can tell I guess… I just hope it's soon so these two 'Tols can start living….
(Story No. 2) Si Manang

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This woman changed my life forever. I think she was the first crack in my religious wall.

During high school, I was very religious. Yes, believe it or not, I was a devout Catholic, ready to enter the convent. But of course being the dutiful daughter I went to college.

She was my landlady during college. When I first saw her, I smelled trouble. Why? Imagine this, four independent, hormone driven Capampangans (one a double Aries and one a double Scorpio, the other two --- very passive aggressive ladies) to live with this conservative, overly zealous Catholic single woman in one roof. Que horror!

The house was a museum of religious statues, bibles and rosaries. Visits from boys are forbidden so one time we have to sneak in a guy friend so he could tutor us in Math 17 during manang's office hours so she wouldn't see him (well, I don't know about the tutor part but I remembered that I had a deep crush with this guy during high school. I guess we just used Math 17 as an excuse to have him in the house… those three were good friends… hay…)

How did our relationship with manang soured?

You know teenagers, they'll study during the day and go to God knows where and then go home way past curfew (well, the curfew set by Manag anyway). Then, what will Manang do? Is she the true timid, selfless Christian she projects to be? No, she will lock the girls out. Correct! Even if the four ladies have keys they can't enter because she barred the gate from inside. After screaming her name the Nth time (cellphones are not yet in vogue then), we'll climb the gates to go inside.

So, what will an acrophobic, "cannot see in the dark" person to do? Sleeping outside the house was not an option (the dark, the trees…awww… the remembrance still irks me) so I'll just cross my fingers and climb the gate. I don't like to use cuss words but during those days I think my cuss vocabulary grew several miles.

Manang talks to ants, mice and yes, even her hair. How did we know? We were talking and complaining about the ants and some mice that were residing in the kitchen. We were thinking of extreme measures when this precocious woman told us… "Kausapin niyo kasi… para nde kayo tatakutin. Hindi naman kayo sasaktan niyan." She said this with all seriousness and conviction.

Oh my God….I can still remember the silence that followed that statement. The four of us were looking at each other and just nodded politely. We went into our rooms and I tell you, we were not able to sleep a wink that night.

How about the hair? This manang has very long hair… very shiny…very Xan Xi Hi. She might have been a looker in her younger years. I complimented her once and she told me unblinkingly, "Sinasabihan ko kasi sya na uy… mabait yan… nde tutubuan ng split-ends" with matching stroke to her long mane of hair. Ooh..kkkk…and being a peace-loving Libran, I'll just smile.

Sometimes she tells us that she hears voices, that she dreams that God is directly talking to her… and other stuff that you only see at the movies being narrated by a very troubled person.

So what's the connection with how she affected my life and her deep psychiatric problems? There was a time (when I was not yet aware of her "quirks"), that I admired her religiosity. She will pray the rosary every morning and night. She'll read her Bible and go to Church every single day. But when I look into her eyes, there's this deep well of empty balls looking back at me. As if her spirit is not there.

It must be a product of my young imagination but I realized then that there has to be a better way. This is not the way I wanted to live. So constricted, living in absolute truths and finally after living according to the rules… losing every grasp of reality. Hmmmm…

I can't help but wonder how she is doing now. One of my co-boarders lived there again when she was taking her masters. When she told me this, I looked at her as if she's losing her mind. Then, of course I just asked her if it's the same manang. And with a smile and a nod, understanding and remembrances came bubbling from those long forgotten years and we began to laugh.


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