I like to learn about origins — how a certain thing was created, what is the history of a place, what led to the construction of a building, why a street was given its name, what ran from that person’s mind when he/she started mixing chemicals that would seem to have a peculiar taste yet one can only affirm its marvelousness once appraised.
When I was in middle school, my history teacher asked about prominent names and dates in our quizzes and I used to be good at remembering them. Gradually, forgetting became a disease trying to devour my vigorous memory. It comes with age, they say. Well, I hate aging if that is the case.
If you ask me about the origin of something, it would actually take time for me to narrate as I carefully stitch my memories until the events are consistent in my head.
Then I would either recommend that you look for it on the internet, or read it from this book title or from the works of this author which I consider myself still quite good at recalling.
From the current events in our country, I learned about the power and curse of selective memory: People will only remember what they wish to keep and what stimulates their interest. Amid the fake news, conspiracies, fabricated facts and misleading information, I wouldn’t be surprised if classifying fiction from nonfiction will turn into void soon.
One of the many reasons I took my graduate program is I wanted to practice writing about origins and how essential it is to learn beyond my fascination; so I will begin with an impetuous statement that I remember most of my first and fleeting encounters with people I came in contact with, people who left and those who stayed.
I actually considered ours as one of those hackneyed, transient meetings; like vehicles on parallel parking and you know they won’t stay long. But life had to have its comically distressing way of turning such an abstract origin into a convoluted signpost (at least in my case).
I have a habit of forming imaginary roads and signs in my head that serve as my version of what proper tracks look like, what is my speed limit, what is the perfect flow of transport, and where are the right and accessible ways located.
I held onto this vision along with my idea of an attractive site that I would eventually call home, and as I saw myself on my way, suddenly you were there at the crossroads building what seemed to be an odd cairn.
I quickly pulled my brakes as I watched you concentrate. The stones you used were not just commonly recognized ones. They were all different in shape, size and color — stones with gold hues, some with butterfly shape, rainbow patches and painted traditional patterns.
You were putting one over the other without following any chronological order. My mild obsessive-compulsive self was perturbed. If I were to build one at that moment, my preference would be a pyramid-shaped cairn using stones with precise dimensions following dark to light hues; but after you showed yours I was beguiled.
I never imagined I could reconcile such a structure to my landscape. I wanted to see more of those landmarks you made, so I went on to your left, but I noticed that the signs on this path kept changing as I carried on. I saw a Detour, then a Road Work Ahead, then a Dead End, yet I went on without caution until I almost ran out of gas, experienced brake failure, and nearly hit myself.
Good thing I found a pit stop as there were people I asked for help and directions on how to find my way out. I also stared at the lampposts all through the night until it felt serene.
The dawn was finally breaking as I went on my way again. You and your built-up cairn still crossed my mind, yet I figured I needed to go back and try another direction — this time, to your right.
After my time at the pit stop I was grateful that I had a moment to deliberately ask myself what happened, how I got there. Where am I going now? How did this happen? Where exactly was our point of origin again? What made me choose the road to your left?
I am quite amused that this turned into a story of how I got stuck in a road maze. I remember our origin, but I couldn’t seem to recall at which point an image of your cairn transpired that persistently pushed my original vision at the back of my mind.
The outlandish thing was you didn’t have to give an actual picture for me to remember it; you didn’t have to throw me a stone or ask for me to notice. You were just piling up the uncanny gravel with a smile and said, “Hello, do you also build one?”
I will not call your name out loud because I know I won’t have any trouble remembering it. Aging doesn’t apply here. My speed limit and adamant insistence are entrusting to the forces of nature the task of sending this message across and make its way to you.
In my spoiled attempts to search for a logical answer to your emergence at the crossroads, I learned to accept that you were already in construction without the need for my consent; I knew I was already enthralled regardless of knowing your origin, why you chose those stones, and what made you build your cairn that way.
Boundless journeys will endure as I carry your landmark with me. Keep mounting at your liberty. I leave the doors of my car unlocked as I go forward and discover another point of origin. I will leave it as it is with a sense of security that I’ll meet someone again at the crossroads, this time in hopes of a person holding a sign that says “This Way,” leading me to a home.
Still and all, thank you for unfolding an auroral landmark.
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Ma. Alexandra I. Milan, 23, is working on a master’s degree in Philippine Studies specializing in foreign relations at the University of the Philippines Diliman. She is a junior consultant in UNDP-funded projects and is currently associated with Green Climate Fund Philippines.
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