Transformation | Inquirer Opinion
At Large


My current favorite channel on cable TV is HGTV—Home and Garden TV. Not because I’m building a home, or planning to build one, or planning a renovation.

Neither am I the type to continually obsess over the appearance of my surroundings. As I often joke, leave an item on a table top in my home and it’ll stay there for the next 10 years. I’m a firm believer in the “sleeping dogs” philosophy of house décor, as in “let sleeping dogs lie.”


No, I watch HGTV and when I’m home working it plays on a continuous loop practically 24/7, because I love watching transformations. The reason I can spend hours watching home renovation shows is that I love beholding footage showing the contrast between what the room, house, garage or garden looked like before the renovations, and what the renovated, reconstructed, redecorated space looks like after the experts have done their magic.

I enjoy watching the expressions of awe, disbelief and elation playing across the landscape of faces of the homeowners when they finally behold the finished product. With them I share their marvel at the handiwork of the folk brought in to transform their spaces. I may even let out a “wow!” or an “unbelievable!” from time to time. My own personal fantasy these days is to come upon enough money to invite a decorator to see what he/she could do with my ramshackle, over-30-year-old home, to conjure up extra closet space, a bigger kitchen, a terrace and garden in the small lot where our house stands, now steadily falling down on its foundations.


Transformation. Amazing how a touch of color here, an accessory there; a new couch or newly-configured closet could change a room from blah to beautiful, from merely serviceable to spectacular.

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AND that is why I love today’s feast, too.

Strictly speaking, there should be no difference between today and yesterday. Save perhaps for turning to a new page in our calendars. Nay, throwing away the old, used calendar we used for the old, used year, and hanging up in its place the new, shiny calendar, still empty of appointments and events, still holding out the promise of a year filled with possibilities.

So much can happen in a year. A child could be conceived and be born and transform a family. A relationship could lead to the altar, creating a new family entirely. A beloved could leave or pass away, leaving a void that seems difficult if not impossible to fill but which will, in the march of time, soon be filled with new good memories and resolve to move on.

New Year’s Day is scary, too. Not just because the drive home from wherever we had been celebrating is fraught with risk from firecrackers, burning tires and stray bullets. But also because the unknown is always frightful to contemplate. For what awaits us is not just joyful surprise or life-changing experiences; but also heartbreak and loss, failure or frustration.

We stand on the cusp of a new year, awaiting 365 (is it now 364?) new days whose gifts or threats we don’t yet know, even if we do know we will somehow have to survive them.


      * * *     

AND as every Filipino knows, we await a transformation, too this year, as we hold elections for a new set of officials to lead the nation, from Malacañang to every level of governance and public life—Senate, congressional district, province, city, and town.

Already, the cacophony from competing claims for fitness for office, the angry exchange of accusations and denunciations, the self-serving statements of readiness to serve and compassion for the downtrodden is steadily growing to nauseating levels.

How do we discern the genuine from the posturing? How do we tell what is shoveled out for purposes of charming the electorate, and what comes truly from the heart, from the core of the speaker’s being?

Wiser minds have tried to counsel us, serving up guidelines for making our choices, for things we should be on the lookout for, for telling signs and deadly giveaways. But nothing can beat a mind attuned to the truth, smelling out bullsh-t when this is ladled out, but also open to the sound of sincerity. Each of us voting in May needs the gifts of judgment and judiciousness, the ability to set aside our personal values—is the candidate good-looking? a smooth speaker? a natty dresser?—in favor of what will be good for the nation, not just for today but for at least the next six years.

* * *     

AND so we will experience the next 24 hours—perhaps in the fog of a hangover, certainly still reeling from lack of sleep and overindulging during the midnight feast. The first day of 2016 will be spent recovering from the intense revelry not just of the night before but of the season that preceded it, as we staggered from one holiday celebration to the next.

There will be no single moment to tell us that our world, our life, has been transformed. There will be no door opening or curtain parting to reveal the old, shop-worn room suddenly sporting a new look and brighter outlook.

 Maybe we will recognize the shock of the new only when it is already old, when we look back, as we are doing now, and realize that indeed something shifted, unfelt perhaps but certainly tectonic, in the foundations of the life we knew.

The new always comes with the uncomfortable sense of the unfamiliar, of us becoming unmoored from our zones of safety and comfort. But it also augurs adventure and daring, surprise and suspense. May we have these in spades as each of us commences our new, transformed life.

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