Finding Joy in
A Time of Crisis
Writing about one’s life
could be a struggle if he or she wants to avoid being kitschy, trivial and
too self-absorbed. The task even becomes more daunting if there is an
attempt to make a personal essay socially relevant. At this point, I beg
the reader’s indulgence as I try to explain the historical circumstances
behind my current preoccupation with journalism, politics, economics and
BY DANILO ARAÑA ARAO
I was already
resigned to a life of what Joy jokingly calls “single-blessedness.”
Nothing wrong with being single, I once thought, given the state of low
wages and high cost of living, not to mention the possible distractions of
being married in pursuing one’s advocacies.
At that time, I
honestly cannot picture myself, say, changing a baby’s diaper in the
middle of writing an important article or watching cartoons with the
family on a national day of protest.
of course, when I found Joy. Literally.
Ours is a typical
situation of a man and a woman finding each other – “falling in love” is
too corny, sorry – but the marked difference in the plot is that the twist
is found at the beginning of the story.
In the mid-1980s, we
became iskolars ng bayan (scholars of the people) when we studied
at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman, Quezon City. In her
third and fourth year, she transferred to UP Miag-ao (located in the
Visayas region) where she became chair of the student council. I, on the
other hand, wrote for and later edited the official student publication in
Given that we moved
within the same activist circle, we may have been introduced to each other
especially considering that she would visit UP Diliman from time to time
to coordinate with other student leaders and campus journalists on various
local and national campaigns. To each other at that time, we were just
nameless comrades who had common ideological, political and organizational
Upon our graduation
in the early 1990s, I stayed in Manila to work as a teacher and journalist
while she returned to her home in Tabaco City in Albay, Bicol (located in
the southern part of Luzon, 11-hour bus ride from Manila) to help in the
family business and to work for a government bank. She continued her
commitment to serve the people by helping finance the development projects
of farmers and other basic sectors. I did the same by writing about their
Thanks to the web,
At first glance, the
prospects of meeting were bleak not only due to the physical distance but
also our common disinterest in marriage and having children. In the age of
new media, however, distance is never a factor in communication.
While we earned
different college degrees – hers is Fisheries while mine is Journalism –
and engaged in diverse professions, we had a common interest: the
Internet. We both opened an account in Friendster, an online
community, after being coaxed by our respective circle of relatives,
friends and acquaintances – hers by a well-meaning cousin and mine by some
faculty members and students.
In the second quarter
of 2004, she found my Friendster account by accident when,
out of curiosity, she checked out some profiles in the Gallery section.
Intrigued by what I wrote, she sent me a message asking if we knew each
other. The correspondence started there, and soon enough we used other
forms of communication like SMS, e-mail and landline.
We eventually met in
the first week of May 2004 and unlike the situation in the 1980s, we did
not consider ourselves nameless comrades anymore. It was a typical story
of courting, constant dating and mutual caring. Soon enough, we agreed on
a life-changing decision that reflects the change in our mindset as
regards mutual responsibility and children.
We agreed to end 2004
by saying adieu to our being single!
Indeed, ours is a
friendship that ominously started in “high-tech” Friendster and an
engagement that is appropriately highlighted by the “old-style”
pamanhikan (from the root word mamanhik or “to entreat”).
Guidebook to the Filipino Wedding by Luning Bonifacio Ira (1990),
pamanhikan is the Filipino tradition of “asking for a girl’s
parents’ permission to wed the affianced pair (citing the definition of
the Diksyunaryo ng Wikang Filipino, 1989).” Even in this
modern age, we were forced to comply with this traditional ceremony, as
this was required by her parents. And so, my mother and I traveled to
Bicol to formally meet with her parents in early November.
Ira notes that in the
past, “(t)he courtliness of our Malay forebears seems particularly honed
for the handling of delicate matters, as in the forging of kinships.
During the official call, the elders use metaphorical and indirect
language; or once did. Whatever the language in current use, it is the
form of the ritual that’s still adhered to.”
parents already knew of our plan to get married, their advice being
constantly sought on wedding details. They already had an implicit
approval especially given our age and level of maturity. Consequently, the
pamanhikan mainly focused on what we expect to happen on the
wedding day and the two receptions planned (i.e., one in Manila and
another in Bicol).
notwithstanding, I still went through the phase of the paninilbihan
(service rendered by the man to woo his girl’s family’s regard) during my
stay in Bicol.
Ira states that for
the duration, “the groom-to-be makes every effort to be `in good’ with the
bride-elect’s family, especially her mother. He makes himself available to
drive for them, facilitates errands, and in general initiates the dutiful
stance of a regular family member (that indeed he is about to become). He
may be perfectly unaware of it but in this he is merely following the old
courtship code among the Tagalog.”
My task was easy to
remember: I did not have one as my future in-laws took care of everything.
I helped clean their house and washed all the dishes after every meal.
They did not require much from me, since Joy and I maximized my short stay
by planning our wedding and attending to some details like invitations and
Aside from writing
about politics and economics and teaching Journalism, I am now preoccupied
with wedding preparations but I have no complaints. I have found Joy in a
time of crisis, as well as an excuse to write about it. Bulatlat
BACK TO TOP ■
PRINTER-FRIENDLY VERSION ■
© 2004 Bulatlat
■ Alipato Publications
Permission is granted to reprint or redistribute this article, provided its author/s and Bulatlat are properly credited and notified.