2004/01/03

View of Elley Hill from my Window

On my final year in IHMS in 1984, I was occupying room #3 in Dorm A. It was a narrow and elongated room on the second floor formed by the angle of the protruding fa├žade of the main building. It was the only room with two sets of windows, the front window facing the residence of Nong Banong and the side window facing the wooded area leading to the grotto. The front window extends right down to the floor.

And where the floor almost touches the glass panel there was a space enough for my hand to pop in. It was a good hiding place underneath the floor. I even found a ball pen inscribed with the word, “Doblas”. I placed it back, for the future occupants to discover and wonder. I wonder if it is still there.

Below the window was the road that led to the main gates. There was a steel light post near the mushroom-shaped waiting shed. It was in my line of sight, and in fact served as a good shooting target whenever I wanted to unwind with my tirador or slingshot. A sharp clang would echo on direct hit. I was not a bad shooter, I remember.

Also from my window, I had a good, unobstructed view of Elley Hill in Ubujan district. I used to set my bed right beside the window so that I could see the stars when I closed my eyes at night. And I swear several dreams were formed during those moments when “lights off” forced everyone to bed.

I enjoyed sitting on the window sill. I remember that day, October 16, 1983. It was a Sunday, the start of semesteral break. The seminarians were excited to leave for home. I wasn’t. It was past 1:00 PM when everything was calm and quiet, except for the sound of a tricycle and the shouting of some kids from a distance. Most seminarians had already left. Tomasito and Stephen would not be coming back next semester. I felt bad for Stephen. He was advised to take regency. An innocent juvenile prank must have led the administration to decide against him. I felt sorry for Tomasito. A different future seemed to unravel in front of him that day. It would be different from what he had hoped.

That evening, only Soc, Val, MarJals and I were left in Dorm A. Around 9:45 PM, everything was still. A piano could be heard from Nong Banong’s place across the street. There was a social gathering going on I supposed. There was occasional laughter. I listened to the music as I watched the stars from my window.

Room #2, which was a lot bigger, was occupied by McAbs. It used to be occupied by Jones who meticulously spun the available space with silvery cobwebs and even experimented with giant mosquitoes. What took Jones months of painstaking work took seconds for Ping to destroy using only a tukog. McAbs was a lot more conventional compared to the other occupants of that room. But I cannot forget that time when I received a huge analog clock with two external bells. It ticked so loudly at night when everything else outside was quiet. McAbs had nightmares hearing the ticking of my clock He was imagining strange Hitchcockian creatures and at one point was even frightened by his own hand that rested on his neck. He wanted me to get rid of that clock. But I didn’t want to since it had an air of antiquity attached to it. And I liked things old. Besides I didn’t have another clock to use. The compromise we reached was for me to keep that clock literally under wraps--under my clothes!--at night.

A thin ply wood separated our rooms. I used to climb the wall whenever I was almost finished with my can of San Miguel Beer. And McAbs would laugh and rant, “Lauga kayo o. Di pa gyud manghatag. Aku na na ‘na bi! Aku na!” And I would let him curse the night away as I quaffed the last drop of warm beer.

On the other side of my room was MarJals. He was eternally quiet. With his sloth-like movement, I wouldn’t know if he was present in his room or not. I would only be jolted by his own sudden interruption of his deep thought, “Gents, naa ka bay notes sa Philosophy? Wa ko makakopya ganiha. Pahuwam.” Ingents who occupied the room opposite MarJalswould simply answer in his usual somewhat-Cebuano-like accent, “Wala sad gani ko.”

Ingents seems to have acquired MarJals' penchant for talking aloud in the middle of his musings. And I recall that incident in the Dorm A lavatory. It was sometime in December of 1983--the air was cool and the scent of the season was in the air. Ingents was quietly washing his clothes that early afternoon during siesta time. I was carrying a guitar, nagging Ingents to stop what he was doing so that we could start practicing Christmas carols. He wanted to finish just a couple of clothes. So I waited for him, strumming and humming a few notes, and once in a while nagging him, while he nonchalantly meditated on his dirty clothes.

Then all of a sudden, the big burly Fr Migs appeared in the lavatory doorway, frowning. I froze. Ingents went about his task, not knowing what was happening. “Wala pa gani time. Gipukaw mo na ba sila?” he blurted out in the middle of his thought.

Fr Migs looked stern and angry, having caught me red handed breaking silence during siesta time. “Unsang orasa naman?” he asked. But I couldn’t answer him. I was shocked. I also wanted to tell Ingents to keep his mouth shut, “Gents, Gents …” But he didn’t hear me, “Lawgaw man sad ka kayo, Nox. Nganong ako man lang intawon ang imong gisamuksamuk?

Then from out of nowhere, McAbs appeared squinting and with a towel around his neck. He just woke up from siesta. Since Fr Migs was blocking the way, he said, “Excuse me”, and proceeded to squeeze in between Fr Migs and the doorway jamb. The right side of his face hit the side of the door jamb in the process, creating a sound that seemed to reverberate in the lavatory. I laughed so loudly and uncontrollably. Ingents not knowing what was happening tried to reprimand me for it was siesta time, “Hilum diha masakpan ka gain ni Fr Migs”. McAbs, not knowing what hit him, was apologetic,”Ay, sorry”.

The eternally-stoic Fr Migs was trying to suppress a laughter as he turned away not bothering to wait for my reply. I was laughing out loud as I explained what had just happened. McAbs saved the afternoon for us. We would have been reprimanded and punished had he not appeared at the right McAbs! Ha…ha…ha…

Room #1, which was directly in front of Dorm A’s main entrance, was occupied by Soc who, if I remember it correctly, served as the beadle. But my recollection of Soc’s room cannot take away the image of Jeffrey lying on the bed--laughing his heart out at a joke while rubbing the corner of his nose.

It was a wonderful time of my life. I didn’t know stress. There was no pressure from school.

That was how I recalled those days when I used to look out long and hard from my window and I would see the solitary mound of Elley Hill. It was so beautiful, so majestic, smooth and quiet. But I knew it was only from a distance. I was aware that it was steep, grassy, and full of rocks and crags. I should know for Jeffrey and I did scaled that hill in search of a hermit. (But that’s another story.)

Strangely though, that was how I perceived my future. It looked so exciting, so beautiful, and so full of possibilities. But deep inside, I was intimidated by imperial Manila. I knew then that it wouldn’t be an easy journey from thereon.

I spent much time brooding on those hills. I guess I made my decision there on the window sill to take the Jesuit entrance test in Banawa Retreat House. God knows how many times my resolve was strengthened when I quieted myself down and looked out through that window. That view had always reassured me that life is a continuum, that its final goal is not in this world, and that everything is ephemeral, including failure and sadness. I guess I still carry that window with me, long after I had left IHMS. (nox arcamo)