WAYWARD AND FANCIFUL: Checking in

Bemused, I walked to the scholarship office to hand in the document that would allow me to renew the grant. Two things: I have never been grade conscious, nor have I ever wanted to be a clinical psychologist. But here I find myself with an institution willing to fund my further studies, and for someone resistant to the subject matter, the expert judgment says I do have aptitude. I don't know how to feel about getting acknowledged at this. I know I worked hard – I work no other way, but still…

Still, it meant being a non-entity most weekends to my daughters. And when a colleague was found to have water in the lungs three weeks before the end of the semester, I became a non-entity during the weekdays, too, as I took over ten units of my co-teacher's teaching load. It got so bad that I would sometimes find myself standing before a sea of expectant faces mentally asking myself what subject I was supposed to be teaching this time. Every night, seven days a week, I would wince at the amount of paper that I had to slough through. Reports, theses, photocopies, psychological tests, research write-ups, journal manuscripts. In my mind would flash the image of a denuded forest with my name written accusingly across it for all to see.

All these papers just for me? I survived with fellow night owls keeping me awake. Joey and her crackpot jokes from Cagayan de Oro. Bel in Uraya and Kuya E in Bulacan. Paddy Bear in Lipa was good till ten, then it was bedtime for the gallant flyer.

Oh, the price I pay to be the good soldier my parents raised me to be. No succession of 1.0 could ever assuage my guilt for the time I lost at the most important job of my life. It doesn't at all make me feel any better to know that my children understand and are proud of a mother who can juggle the load. Hubby juggled right on along, getting the kids breakfast before the sun and keeping my coffee flowing late into the night. I minded that I had to give up Thursday lunches with Sage in the school canteen. I minded that Liane did not have my shoulder to cry on when some mean girls ganged up on her to say, "Hoy, babae – layuan mo si RJ!"

I don't think I mind so much that I had to give up this column, especially in the last seven weeks when we went on early production for the university journal to put it out before Christmas. The editing just about fried my synapses. Someone try working out what MILF peace panel member Michael Mastura is saying, for example. My colleague Bel Actub took one look at his article and slashed "This is beyond my ken!" in red ink on top of the page.

And is it customary now for writers to leave it for the editors to research one's bibliographic sources? The Tambara is an academic journal, for crying out loud.

Ah well. That's over.

I'm here now sitting down to write and I find there's nothing really I can write about. I lost touch. All those issues that kept the nation occupied, I can't make heads and tails enough to write a comment. I did register that our national dailies have gone tabloid, what with innuendo in the headline all the time.  Today, for example, a major daily has a snap of the Erap homecoming and the caption reads that the paper had lost count of the exact number there is to Erap's children and grandchildren. So, you can trust the papers to bitch, but not to be exact about their figures and facts these days.

I guess media entities believe they can't survive if they remain credible and respectable? Even network news programs have gone colloquial. Aaargh. It. is. a. pain. to. listen.

Maybe I'm still on clinical mode trying to sort out disordered thoughts and insane behavior. I automatically tick off instances of delusional reasoning and maladjusted acting out.

He's a drug addict, Luli says. How would she know?

Blood lust on ABC – Pinoy ochlocracy with the strident whine of desperate housewives goes international. ABC is held hostage by the inane clamor on the internet. Here be the mentality of a pack of wolves gone rabid. You want employment? Put a gun to ABC's head. All together now. Sick-sick-sick.

Erap pardoned. Oh, come on. You mean we're supposed to be surprised? My undergrad sociology students – God bless them – did creditable analyses three days after his conviction. Their papers all said that this was where that was headed. Blame the teacher. Logic does rub off.

Big bang at Glorietta. Literally. No crater. Try typing "RDX" on google. Heck, I can't follow. Never mind. Your deodorant is explosive, that what it says.

And as I write this, Mindanao goes on an unscheduled power failure. I don't get it. COMELEC hasn't computerized the barangay elections as yet. What's the frigging point?!!!

Something can come from nothing, said Budget Secretary Andaya. Fr. Panlilio's half a million is proof.

What was that half a million anyway? My bet? Oh, clothing allowance. Cinderella's fairy godmother has a sliding scale: Half a million for governors; Php200k for legislators; Php150k for legislators' spouses; Php50k for the general's ladies? Ho-hum. Look, ma, no source. But people have got to look good for the camera. Viewers expect the view to go with their new plasma TV. Watch the parade on the evening news. Ever tried pricing those togs?

So what the bleep am I doing reprising Daphne Padilla's peasant skirts from the 1980s? I know – I don't have a fairy godmother who gives away clothes money. Money is in putting on or taking off one's clothes for the camera. Crazy world. Hey, maybe I'm in the right classroom after all. Crazy people out there.

Fine way for a future clinical psychologist to talk, huh? Don't give me the credentials then. See if I care. What I know is that I have to know the subject before I can allow myself not to like it.

Ooops. More text messages coming in. Don't let it be from someone asking why he hasn't read me in ages. Or why I'm not reacting to what is being said about my Subic rape case articles, now that the Subic rape is about to have its anniversary. Yeah, people tend to remember only once a year. Nicole, I wish you well.

Roel Pulido? Not interested. Sorry.

Message says: "I salute you, Ma'am."

It's from Maj. Francis dela Fuente, recently of 1001st in Mawab. He's been almost two months in coma. I used to visit him at Davao Medical before he got airlifted to Army General where he finally regained consciousness. Gee, and I thought he was so out of it.

I didn't know what I was doing Kicks, honest. My doctor friends at Davao Medical assured me you'd wake up eventually. All I know is that my heart went out to your sweet Jenny. No wife deserves to suffer that kind of anguish she went through.

I'm glad you're back, Kicks. I'm back, too- for now. The world is all right after all. Sort of. Like, you and I can get off this treadmill called real world and – hey, it'll still be there when we come back. Let's just watch it spinning a bit more – what do you say? (Wayward and Fanciful is Gail Ilagan's column for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews. Ilagan teaches Social Justice, Family Sociology, Theories of Socialization and Psychology at the Ateneo de Davao University where she is also the associate editor of Tambara. You may send comments to [email protected] "Send at the risk of a reply," she says.)

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