We were discussing about earthquakes in class so naturally, I showed a documentary to my students. As the geologist narrated about the most destructive earthquakes the world has ever faced, one of my students mumbled to himself, “So where is God in all of these?”
It was not meant to be answered, based on the way it was said, yet this has been the most difficult question I had to answer as a teacher.
Many have claimed that in the beauty of nature, we see the face of God. But face to face with nature’s wrath, where is God?
Always, I have staunchly upheld my faith. Despite strongly disagreeing with the Church’s comments on reproductive health and same sex marriage, I have remained a Roman Catholic. Despite my science education opening a world of truth for me, I still believe in God. But never have I found an evidence of God’s existence. You may think, how can I, a made scientist, believe in an entity whose existence I can never physically prove?
I can only sigh. I do not really know where God is in all of these. But there is comfort in trusting that somewhere, he must be there.
Finally, an unpopular — and therefore, empty — cafe.
As I slurp my iced latte, I wonder how many Filipino words are not translatable into English. For instance, the word tulala. To be tulala, in the usual context, is to stare blankly ahead, mind wandering aimlessly in a different time and place, real or fictional. Sometimes, as in my case, it is simply thinking quietly. It annoys me that I cannot think of an English world that perfectly encapsulates this.
Just then, the barista (that’s what you call a person working in a cafe, right?) arrives with my bacon and eggs. He introduces himself and told me to look for him if I need anything. I heard him but I do not catch his name. Whatever. I never ask for anything extra, anyway.
I pick on my bacon and swirled the undone yolk of my sunny-side up with my spoon, wondering this time why people often ask me why I am tulala. I mean, why do they care? What’s so wrong about thinking? Apparently, for some people, thinking in virtual solitude is a crime.
My yolk-swirling is interrupted by the same guy, this time asking if the food is okay. I gave him half a smile and flashed him a thumbs-up. Honestly though, cafe food anywhere tastes the same to me. Whatever. Anyway, I am just here because I need a deserted place and some time to be tulala.
Being tulala keeps me sane, just as writing a ramble does.
The last occupants of this table have left a stub of cigarette on an ash tray, along with two empty cups of iced coffee and a paper bag with a half-eaten donut inside (Yes, I’m such a snoop I actually opened the paper bag to look). Normally, cigarette smoke gets me all weird and maarte, covering my nose as if I am some very important person too sensitive to smoke. But this time, I take it all in, remembering the lingering smell of nicotine in my father’s clothes. For a moment I wanted to try it to understand my father who has long passed on, taking the smell of nicotine with him. It has been four years since I last lived with that smell. I still miss it.
Note: I have been writing sketches of interesting characters I happen to chance upon during my wanderings. Here is one.
15 July 2016
“Hmph. Trapik na naman. Change is coming daw. Utot nilang mga ha*** sila.“
I had to bite my lower lip to keep myself from laughing as the scruffy old man sitting beside me continued his tirade peppered liberally with Tagalog expletives. Half the jeepney was giving him irked glances, disturbed by his unsolicited commentary about the country’s public transportation woes while half was watching delightfully, definitely pleased to have someone amuse them.
Soon he got tired — I know because he yawned mid-sentence — and took out a tiny portable speaker. White and hot pink. Hello Kitty. Was it really his or, perhaps, his daughter? I wondered.
He stuck a blue flash drive on the mini speaker (it looked weird — the flash drive was as almost as big as the white and hot pink Hello Kitty speaker) and Lady Gaga started singing Poker Face. Then she sang Just Dance. That went on four times — Poker Face and Just Dance on loop. The old guy was rocking his head, his eyes closed. I honestly think he wasn’t stoned, just really eccentric. I wondered if those were the only songs in his flash drive or if he really just liked 2008 Lady Gaga.
He got down at Araneta. Lady Gaga was still singing, “I’ll get him hot, show him what I’ve got.” I wondered if the old guy knew what the song meant.