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Terminal

I was soaking wet one early afternoon as I stood waiting for a jeepney going back to Los Baños. The rain was heavy, and yet everything felt so hot. This was undoubtedly the consequence of forgetting to bring an umbrella in Laguna, where the weather changes faster than the arrival of another jeepney.

“How long do I have to be stuck here?” I repeatedly asked myself the same question while my patience wore down. Am I stuck? I have always been stuck, haven’t I?

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Since the pandemic started, I never took the chance to go home to Pangasinan simply because I couldn’t seem to escape the town of Los Baños.

Home is not the only thing that the pandemic has isolated me away from. But, if you have ever tried living alone far from home, you know that you are responsible for yourself.

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I navigated the new learning setup of my university, which is still difficult for me to handle. As a freshman and until the semester before lockdown, I was a good student. I managed every requirement, meticulously planned all my activities, and always aced my exams. But since classes shifted online, I have been missing my deadlines. My nights and days looped into one. Every day, I’d wake up at five in the afternoon, wipe dried-out tears from last night’s breakdown, stare at my computer or a wall for hours, and sit in silence—not always in that order. As a result, I have failed to get a numerical grade in any subject during the first semester of 2020.

I blame myself for all these things. I no longer know that part of me who was determined to graduate in three and a half years with a Latin honor. I hate myself for not trying my best. My depression has overtaken my mind and body. The joy I found in studying, learning, and reading has been replaced by anguish, hatred, and demotivation.

This is why I stayed in Los Baños—I feel like I am supposed to stay here until I finish what I am supposed to get—a degree. My friends, blockmates, and familiar faces are about to finish their degrees while I am still here—stuck in the same position that 2020 had left me in. Miles and miles away from wearing that sablay, I feel envious and guilty about feeling left out. I was supposed to be there with them.

A few moments have passed, and the sun is finally peeking through the clouds; I can feel the humidity on my skin scorching with the heat around me. Then, finally, the jeepney I had been waiting for arrived. I stood up from the bench I was sitting on and followed the line of people getting on the jeep.

I sat at the driver’s side, stared at my reflection in the side-view mirror, and thought hard about the people I was sharing the ride with. Are they stuck, too? Are they in the same position that I am? Not the waiting for a ride, but the type like me. Do they also want to move past things but simply can’t? Are they also repetitively waiting for something they desperately wish to do at the same place? Finally, I abandoned my series of questions. “Maybe, maybe not,” I whispered to myself.

I experienced many things during the pandemic: loss, depression, and being stuck. It changed a lot of things about me that I know I can never take back. But I am still here, trying my best to recover and move forward. Thus, whenever I lose my grip and patience, I remind myself of this jeepney—that although it took a lot of waiting to get a ride, I know it will somehow come along. Maybe I share the same experiences with others, which makes me feel not truly alone. I will keep holding on to the things I want because I saw a glimpse of the great possibilities that may happen for me, and because I saw this glimmer, I will continue to choose what is good for me and the world.

The jeepney left the terminal, but my heart will always carry these realizations. I will go back to my apartment with thoughts of self-forgiveness and healing. Maybe this is what it feels like to finally move toward the destination meant for me—like a passenger leaving a terminal after hours of waiting.

Dranreb D. Mariano, 22, is a senior biology student at the University of the Philippines Los Baños. When he is not doing his thesis, he dabbles in the arts.

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