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I promise



I have never had a New Year’s resolution. I find them futile and quite frankly, only a moron would make one. It’s like this — why would anyone commit to a line of thought or particular behavior all year and refuse to change plans along the way? Life happens.

Last year, I told myself I should be friendlier, and guess what? The moment I stepped out of the house and into the tricycle line, I got turned down by three drivers in a row. This from a line that supposedly guarantees to get you from the house to where the UV express vans are and on to your final destination. And the driver that got me there got P10 more than his local government-issued schedule of fares indicated. At the UV express station, finding myself near the end of an 18-man queue, I positioned myself at the innermost seat where I thought I would be safe from rude passengers. Promptly, a well-rounded woman of maybe 30 came into the vehicle and sat her plump butt on my right thigh, and it was only 8:30 a.m. And that was before someone, probably Ms. Buttman herself beside me, passed wind that nearly took my breath away.

There isn’t any conscious decision involved. One, mainly me, merely commits to a line of action and swear to high heavens to go ahead and do a particular thing, like buying a book and reading it through. Most of what I read are from a particular discount outlet popular among college kids and penny-pinching journalists like myself. I get to visit at least once a week and browse long enough to make an actual purchase on a book or two, mostly paperbacks, that I actually get to read the first page before making up my mind. Some of them are purchases from overseas bookstores that I actually got to visit, as in Hong Kong, for instance. Once I had two titles from this bookstore near the Philippine Consulate in Washington DC that I read on the plane on the way back to Manila. I remember this the most because these were purchases that I actually got to read through before I deplaned at the NAIA. Those others from New York and Singapore, for instance, were read no further than the second or third chapter and promptly forgotten. I have a stack of them by the bedside, dogeared at the page where I last had them. I cannot remember the many times I promised to pick them up again and read through like one should before fatigue sets in and one falls asleep.

Every year, I also promise to take more care of the canines at home by giving them a bath at least once or twice a week. Well, Happy had been with us more or less 15 human years making him well past his prime in dog years. He got his first Frisbee yesterday when he could hardly jump more than a couple of inches from the ground and negotiate the 10 steps to the second floor. He would jump from the top of the aparador to my arms on some mornings as a young pup, but these days he would merely look at me sideways whenever I ask him to run with me on Saturday morning to the clubhouse for some exercise. He’s too heavy for the early morning bike rides we had all those many years ago when I would rest him on my left thigh and pedal around Loma de Gato with one hand on the handle bar and he would just take on the morning breeze, tongue hanging out and eyes wide open.

Maybe five or six years back, I would promise to call home and speak to my parents who in their 80s were still ambulant and not quite senile as some of my relatives were. Father loved to get a massage from me because I was born suhi, or in breech position, and that we supposedly are good at soothing aching muscles and sinew. I found it funny then because I wasn’t his favorite growing up because I was often in trouble with the school authorities. But he would fall asleep after 10 or 15 minutes of rubbing and kneading his arm, back and leg muscles any way I can and he would request one whenever I got home from school early on and from work much later. He died just maybe two years after my mother did. He would call out my name, rather surprised, from inside the house at 3 in the morning as I got off the early morning ferry from Cebu to make a quick visit. Those are one- or two-day trips to the place of my birth happening every three or five years and taken without prior planning. My mom, who always serves me sticky rice and sikwate (hot chocolate) on such visits, would then haul me to church at First Mass where we would commune wordlessly for the next hour. Years later, when it was time for me to take her to her final resting place, I held the casket for a few minutes and with a light heart I told her to go. I wasn’t sad but I wasn’t happy either. I guess I was just empty. I felt the same at my father’s funeral, this person who refused to buy me a single handkerchief so long as I was out of college and collecting beer bottles with friends. He would restore that allowance upon enrolment.

Now I have my own kids. Often, we would all be at home for the holidays and stare at mobile phone screens together. I have lost count of the times I swore to unplug the router.
We would eat separately, like we were board mates and unrelated to one another in a stranger’s house. I would open the TV for some news and when I’m done, they take over and surf the channels looking for cooking shows and Korean dramas. I was in Grade Six when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon and told my visiting paternal grandma from Bohol how excited I was that a man actually walked on the moon. She would gently tell me what canard I was telling her, the old woman she has become and hearing not even once of anyone landing on the moon: “Pag puyo di uy (Hush, and behave yourself boy).”