WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: My Teachers Day Monday

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 8 Oct) – Monday was weird. I started the day talking about sex for a Teachers’ Day lecture at the Philippine Science High School Southern Mindanao Campus. Many hours later, I said a silent prayer before sitting down for dinner with the holy Jesuit fathers at their new residence on the 10th floor of the Ateneo de Davao University Community Center of the First Companions.

I barely remember the last time I ate with the Jesuits. I do remember it was on Fr. Albert E. Alejo’s invitation. It was at the now demolished Jesuit Residence where the seating arrangement was a lot more dispersed. Last Monday, we were gathered around a huge round dinner table, its lazy Susan loaded with dishes of salad greens (rabbit food, I call it), crouton-stuffed roast chicken, sweet-and-sour fish, and what remained of two birthday cakes for Fr. Charlie.

My favorite Jesuit, Fr. Rene Ocampo, declined the dubious honor of sitting next to me. He offered the seat to Fr. Tony Basilio who had so charmingly crafted the invitation designed to shut out any possibility that I would refuse. Fr. Tony has barely been five months in campus. I suspect he would yet live to regret his rash choice for a dinner companion.

I looked around the table and found the company very much to my liking. Who wouldn’t? The combined intellectual wattage would make for good digestion. I remember sitting at other round tables that felt like being in King Arthur’s court. Monday night did not feel that way. It felt more like October 25 T.A. 3018 in Rivendell.

See, there’s Boromir, and Aragorn. Gimli? Legolas. Gandalf the Grey. Frodo, maybe. So I must be… hmmm… Galadriel.

The men made pleasant conversation as we ate. Come dessert and talk turned to suspending disbelief and space movies. It was a delight to find that to varying degrees the fathers found Star Trek, the original television series, quite commendable. We batted around the merits of different actors portraying James Tiberius Kirk. Fr. Dan insisted William Shatner wins hands down. Of course, he does. Not much of an argument there, so we instead turned to the enduring themes tackled by the series. I latched on multicultural (multi-species) peace.

Fr. Dan laughs at my obsession with imagining a post-conflict world.

“Poverty will always be with us. So long as there is poverty, that will never happen, Gail,” he said excusing himself. He comes back with a beautiful statuette of a sleeping St. Joseph the Worker.

“Here,” he said. “This is for you and COPERS.” When the workers take too long to finish what they were building, take a leaf from St. Joseph. Sleep on it. The Jesuit Jorge Mario Bergoglio does.

There must be a lesson to that parable from the good father. Just right then, it looked like he trusted me to work it out some time later. I was touched that he saw how his words of wisdom had shattered my illusion. The “will never happen” part coming from the astrogeophysicist Fr. Dan was enough to make me question what I’m working for or that I’ll ever see it realized in my lifetime. Fr. Dan parses time in geological cycles, maybe in the eons it would take for a star to be born and gutter out. Will never happen, he said. Not in our lifetime.

And suddenly I am not Galadriel. I am Samwise Gamgee. Hope beyond hope. Hope beyond endurance.

So after dinner, I went back to my office to fetch Blankie Grey. Off we went to see the last run of The Martian at SM Ecoland Cinema 6. Just Blankie Grey and me.

We had a good time.

It felt crazy initially laughing at Mark Watney’s male humor, with no other human person to laugh with me. Blankie Grey was quite okay with it, though. Just the way a security blanket should be for its human. Blankie Grey hugged me and kept me warm, gently muffling the irrepressible laughter that spilled out of my lips.

Catching on big screen snippets of Happy Days and disco music of the ’70s provided the pull of the past to keep me in a movie present that projected an imagined future. I’m glad hubby was okay for me to go watch on my own. The theaters might pull it out before he gets home to watch this with me.

The Martian was a wonderful cap to the weird Monday. It made me miss my brother – he who had the drive to constantly science the s—t out of anything he found needed fixing. Living alone most days, I find I remember with nostalgia bumping into thought-provoking contraptions that were a product of his constant puttering around. He’d been conflicted these past few months on work choices after ending his contract in Sasebo, but today he’s probably on his way to report at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard as Quality Assurance Specialist for shipbuilding. That’ll probably require him doing McGyver stuff to his heart’s delight. And he gets to rejoin his family.

He’s my Mark Watney. Wherever he is, he’ll work at it until together they find a way for him to come home.

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan’s column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches at the Department of Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University. She is head of the Center of Psychological Extension and Research Services. You may send comments to gail.ilagan@gmail.com. “Send at the risk of a reply,” she says.)