Words that need no pictures

This is an incomplete list of memorable words and conversations from the past decade. I figured it would be good to write these things down, while I’m still young and only selectively forgetful.

1. Louie Aguinaldo, as I introduced myself to him before an interview about his food photography two years ago: “So you’re a law student. Why do you look happy?”

2. In 2004, after giving me a lecture on the legislative history of the Anti-Terrorism Bill and pointing out what were lacking in my policy paper, Ms. Ma. Socorro Diokno of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) asked me: “Naiiyak ka na ba? (Do you feel like crying already?)

Ada: “No, Ma’am. Thank you. I’m learning a lot.”
Ms. Diokno: “Good. The one who came before you, she cried.”

3. “Miss Angeles, I’m sorry I can’t allow you to attend class intermittently.” –Professor Clarita Carlos, through e-mail, after my failed attempt at attending both my masters and law classes in 2005

4. “Beautiful.” In 2009, during our class on Evidence and Trial Techniques, Justice Romeo Callejo, Sr. used the word to describe a court trial. He said the word several times, emphasizing it in an animated way his students are familiar with. I haven’t heard anyone else describe a trial that way.

5. Stories Inay Deling told me as we sat down inside her store. Before she died, the stories were just repeated over and over but everyone in the family listened, if only to help her retain the memories that were dearest to her. Every time I came to visit, she would tell me, “Magpahinga ka naman. (Get some rest.)She was one of the few people who could really convince me to stop and rest.

6. Attorney Remigio Saladero, Jr., on an article I was writing right after his release from prison: “I hope you don’t write an article about me. Make it more about human rights, so that the students will know about the issues.”

7. “Sige, ipagpatuloy n’yo ‘yan. Mabuti ‘yan na tumutulong kayo. Kami noon, hindi namin alam kung saan kami tatakbo kasi pati relief goods kinukurakot. (Continue helping, it’s good. Back then, we didn’t know where to turn to because even relief goods were subject to corruption.) These came from a cab driver who took me to San Beda College on the first day of our Typhoon Ondoy relief operations. On the way to Mendiola, he told me how the floating logs destroyed his home during the flash flood in Quezon province and how his kids still suffer trauma from the tragedy.

8. My friend Precious Baldo, inviting me to a group she was forming back in the early part of the decade: “Sama ka. (Join us.) Free discussion over coffee.Coffee was not yet a big hit in the country that time. She would have had a great time if she were still alive now.

9. “Nasasaktan ka na, nagla-Latin maxim ka pa (You’re already hurting, and you’re still reciting Latin maxims),” said Jovito Coderis, Jr., on my first heartache in law school. I couldn’t imagine how I’d have turned out if I didn’t meet him and the rest of BATO. Our friendship dates back to those days when I could still pass through the school gate wearing my abaca slippers. (Jovito brought them from Bicol during our first semestral break.) Good times. There’s a story behind the name BATO, but it’s certainly not about getting stoned. I can say they really are addicts though, the fun type of studyholics. And they taught me the value of working together and trusting people.   

10. “The harder you fall, the higher you bounce.” My cousin Marichu wrote this on a card she sent me back in the early part of my college days. She’s one of the most patient people I know, especially tolerant of my strange habits and ideas. Her film collection rocks.

11. Late night pep talks with high school friends, who have stayed through all these years. And even new friends who were my batchmates but I was only able to get to know during last year’s reunion. It was great to see how most of them have matured into people who are willing to lend a hand and work out solutions instead of just waiting for the chance to criticize. Those conversations taught me that there’s always something new and wonderful to discover about people. And yeah, that there’s hope for our town.

12. In 2003, I visited a place near Mt. Banahaw. A group of Rizalistas was celebrating what they called a time of cleansing the soul. I wanted to know why a broom was displayed at the altar, so I asked the leader if that symbolized anything. She answered: “Ano pa nga ba ang ginagamit sa paglilinis? Hindi ba’t walis? (What else do we use for cleaning? A broom, right?)

13. “You should know when to stop.”  Professor Cristina Bejar-Gallardo told me this as she watched me paint during our class in UP Baguio, where I cross-enrolled in 2000. Surely I was messing up my own work that time. I miss Baguio. And I can never really forget Ma’am Tina. You do not forget a professor who required you to read To Kill A Mockingbird and The Foghorn.

14. “Hindi masarap ang sandwich na manipis ang palaman. (A sandwich with thin spread does not taste good.)” This was written on my friend Jenny Hernandez’ bio at the end of the freshie kit we worked on our last school year at the UP College of Social Sciences and Philosophy.

15. “They say money is not the measure of success. But it is a good indication that you have succeeded in making life easier for people important to you, so that they’d have more options in defining what success is.” A mentor reminded me about this just recently.

I’m looking forward to more learning this new decade, maybe from books but, I hope, more from other people just thinking out loud. Perhaps, I could teach them something, too.

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