Sunday, April 27, 2008

Walking Along the Brighter Side of Life

Raul Agner 4/20/08

Where I live is only two long blocks away from the university I work in and where my daughter, Marielle, goes to first year secondary. In very rare instances, such as when we see that she’d be late for the school’s 6:45 flag raising or when the skies threaten a downpour, we take the pedal-powered or motorized trike. Most days though, it’s a sole-powered 200-meter walk that we do, a ready-made form of physical exercise or a coin-saving scheme or both.
The stretch of San Marcelino St. that we negotiate from Padre Faura down to Adamson University may not be a postcard-pretty promenade but we have taught ourselves to appreciate what it has by making the most out of what we see along the way. If Joey Ayala in his light and playful song “Maglakad” encourages people to refresh their minds by taking a stroll, my daughter and I try to make the walk fruitful and enjoyable instead of just doing it as a passive performance of an almost requisite act.
Since we began, we decided to look at the benefits of walking, instead of complaining about the way it exacted a toll on our shoes and legs and dwelling on its negative side. Indeed we wouldn’t be able to experience or enjoy many things if we opt to ride.
One is safety. With walking, we are perfectly in control of where we’re headed and we have a full unobstructed view of the vehicles whizzing by in the opposite direction. By their rider-unfriendly design, trikes deny their passengers these simple but convenient privileges. With a sidecar that is nearly fully wrapped in tarp, including the part where a windshield is supposed to be, you’d feel like Jun Lozada being given a scary joyride to nowhere by someone whose identity you have no inkling of.
Another is the chance to engage in fruitful conversation while walking. We literally walk the talk, stride after stride, telling stories, learning some words or expressions or making observations of people and things that we see along the way. Once she asked what the expression “looking for greener pastures” means. In simple terms, I told her that it means moving from one situation to a better one, like the walk to school every day being actually a protracted effort at moving to a better quality of life in the future especially for her.
Still another is the serendipitous discovery of lessons that people would normally ignore or dismiss as insignificant. Every day, for instance, we pass by a regular huddle of homeless denizens along the perimeter wall of the Philippine Presidents’ Line (PPL) property engaged in various domestic chores in a house that has no hope of becoming. Some are cooking a simple meal kindled by bits of wooden scraps salvaged from everywhere. Others are sorting out trash not to be thrown away but as a stateless currency that the money changer they know best accepts and converts into pesos: the nearest scrap buyer or junk shop. One middle-aged man I saw was squatting against the cement fence contentedly puffing a cheap cigar, fully enjoying an after-meal piece of heaven in what passes for a long veranda otherwise known as a sidewalk. What’s there for us in this quotidian sight? In the cul-de-sac that we live in, that has the euphemistic name of studio-type apartment, we can call ourselves lucky. It is our family’s comfort zone, a home where we are able to bond and hug each other and carve out our cherished dreams. I therefore cringe at the thought that if we were in their place, God forbid, it would really be a horrible life. My daughter has developed a deeper appreciation of the word blessing.
Sometimes we while away the time by looking for something inspiring or amusing. Two people we always see are a married couple on a bicycle who we assume are on their way to work. With the man driving and the woman sitting sideways and cosily up his front, we conclude that they must be a sweet loving pair. They are also a lesson in punctuality because we gauge our own by where we meet them. Seeing them halfway from our starting point means we are on time; to see them just a minute after we left off means we better hurry; and if we don’t see them at all, not even a taxi ride will bail us out of tardiness. Hate late? Beat the couple, we kid ourselves.
Just like any other place, San Marcelino has its own downside. These are givens and we refuse to be discouraged. After all how can you avoid pollution, discourteous drivers, smelly beggars, impassable sidewalks and even unsightly and dilapidated old houses and buildings anyway? You can’t. They are an inextricable part of the territory. Only one’s political will to see the brighter side of the street will do the trick.
My daughter agrees that if we extend that mindset to the bigger reality called life, then we are in I guess for a rewarding journey.

No comments: