Pick me up love / From the bottom / Up to the top love / Everyday…
My computer—my most loyal companion for the past couple of weeks since my last term in college ended—is playing the Dave Matthews Band track Everyday, which has been playing daily, promptly, at exactly 7:00 AM, the time I am programming my insomniac self to wake up so I can get my much-needed regular exercise. Only today, I set it at 5:30AM, and it’s not because I missed three days worth of early morning jogging (another habit I would like to make regular). I set it early because at 8:00AM today, I am expected to attend my graduation.
So yes Dave, I am up, only after three hours of sleep; it doesn’t even feel like I’ve had any. To tell you honestly, I don’t even feel the excitement one ought to feel at the impending end of one’s scholastic experience. I don’t feel the usual graduate-to-be’s anxiety over the fact that after today, she will be another member of the growing population of the unemployed. I am not sure what the reason really is, but one thing’s for sure…if there is anything that is supposed to hit me today, right at this moment, the moment I wake up to a day marking yet another accomplishment, it has not made its rightful kaboom yet.
I trudge towards the bathroom, splash cold water on my face, take a quick cold shower (they are the best in this heat), get in my white-polka-dotted-with-black dress and 4-inch pumps (they can kill people, and my feet too!), make my face up (which sounds really weird, now that I have typed it), grab a few chocolate chip granola bars and took two sachets of 3-in-1 coffee, empty it into my Starbucks tumbler, put in an inch of hot water to dissolve the powder first before pouring in cold water and ice, to complete my wake-me-upper drink. Kia texts and tells me that there is virtually no traffic and that she will meet me at the graduation venue.
In the car, I try to play an mp3 CD I burned earlier of a couple of songs from my Up And At ‘Em Playlist, but the car radio fails miserably, and we are forced to listen to early morning radio. Stephen Bishop’s It Might Be You plays and I cringe while I try to remember why I hated that song in the first place. I think it has something to do with it being the theme song of a guy best friend in high school and his then-girlfriend. I also remember that I sort of had a crush on him, and my gal pals Danii, Iris and Jomai (who are still three of my best-est friends to this day) could not understand why. I also remember that we used to do spit shakes (yeah, in high school…how juvenile and disgusting) and he once dared me to wear his retainer, and I did.
As our car was making a U into the driveway of the venue, my dad asks me if I want a corsage for my chest, and I say I didn’t mind. As if on cue, a strange man comes up to me as I was getting off the vehicle, with two corsages: one for me, one for mom. I find it weird that my mom had to have a corsage, too. As he pins the flower onto the toga I am hurriedly wearing, he mumbles, “Ma’am, 200 pesos for the two flowers.” Oh, right. Nothing in Manila is ever free. I see Kia approaching us with her dad in tow, and like a mommy she reminds me that according to the grad invite, we are not allowed to wear flowers on our togas. And the photographers outside are NOT official photo takers, so don’t get fooled (at this moment I feel immense gladness that I have her whenever I can’t bring myself to be a hard-ass.) Mom scans the crowd for the strange man to return the flower we were fooled into buying.
My mom and dad document our walk to the entrance with their digicams and camera phones. Kia and I make the best of it and pull Tyra faces while I help her get made up and while we fix each other’s togas. We separate from our parental units and hurriedly go inside to find our classmates in Multimedia Arts already lined up for the grand entrance. We have about five minutes to kill before it starts, during which JM shows me his grape-flavored cigar (Kia says EEEWW) and I show them my iShuffle ingeniously hidden underneath my garb, in case the 3-hour name-calling got too boring.
The graduation march plays, and we are asked to start walking to our seats. The person in front of me tells me to be careful going down the stairs, or we might do a domino effect and topple over like black tiles (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGnNlQ-KNv4). I try to look for my folks in the sea of supporters. I remember that I failed to tell them to choose seats on the right side so they were near my batch. I hope they figure it out.
The professors do their entrance. I find it sort of amazing that our teachers are required to wear the togas from the respective colleges they’ve graduated from. Some are in black with red trim, blue trim, gold trim, some with weird-shaped hats, some with just sashes over formal wear. The winner is an old math professor that had a pure gold toga and a cap that resembles a chef’s hat with gold tassel trimmings around the perimeter, making him look like a lampshade.
After everyone gets into place, the baccalaureate mass begins. I think to myself, even if I am a non-practicing Catholic, I still have the mass responses pretty much memorized and it peeves me that they chose really weird mass songs for the choir to sing, ones the crowd can barely sing along with (I try to remember one of my more favorite mass songs, but I pull a huge blank). Then I remember that I almost never attend mass anyway, only during occasions like this. I start to think about religion, and I remember this OKCupid question I answered previously: Would you be willing to change your religion for your significant other? Yes, No, Maybe/I Don’t Know? Then I remember the movie Fools Rush In starring Salma Hayek and Matthew Perry wherein Salma’s character says that if they were to have kids, she would like to raise them Catholic (since she was Catholic). Then that got me thinking really, really hard….what is Matthew Perry up to now? Is it true that the whole gang agreed to film a Friends movie in 2011? How much will they get paid if they used to be paid 1 million per episode before?
Another break, then the graduation proper begins. Our college, School of Design and Arts, is the first to get called. There is only one graduate under the Music Production course, and he is not in his seat. He probably didn’t bother attending. The whole walk to the edge of the stage, I was chanting…don’t trip, don’t trip, damn I am hungry, don’t trip… They call my complete name, which is 26 letters long, including my surname. I walk towards Brother Vic, the school’s president, and I see a familiar smile on his face. “Jam!” He knows me by my nickname and he seems mighty glad to hand me my fake diploma. I grin my usual Jam grin, the ear-to-ear variety, and communicate this message with my eyes: Yes, Brother, I am graduating today. With grace and with joy. I walk a couple more steps towards the x mark in the middle of the stage, face the crowd, and do a little bow. I get off the stage and walk back to my seat. 30 minutes into the program and my Kodak moment is over. My poor parents have to sit through a few more hours of random names being called before we can leave for our celebratory lunch. My seatmate Gab nudges me with his elbow and laughs when finally, our favorite person on the grad list gets called (Jacky A. Chen). Finally the last girl on the list gets called. She has the best deal if she decided to sign up for the video coverage; she got the most applause.
In the middle of the Magna Cum Laude’s speech while she recounts how she got to where she is and thanks her parents for sacrificing a lot to send her to this school, it hit me: IT IS FINISHED. We sang the Benildean hymn, and I realize that after three years in this institution, I still have not memorized it. The more general Lasallian alma matter hymn, I do know by heart. This reminds me of the reggae version someone made: http://bit.ly/aKIH7Z
Everybody now wants to have a picture with anybody they know. Kia and I start looking for our two favorite professors who decided to attend our graduation so we can say thanks, but we get sidetracked for photo ops multiple times along the way. I am probably going to get tagged in X number of Facebook images, X being a gazillion.
After a few more minutes of camwhoring, I slowly walk, inch by inch, to our car. My high heels are killing my toes off one by one. In the car, mom nags me that now that I am officially done with school, I ought to do my pending projects for them, like her website, the layout of the new book she is writing, my aunt’s brochures, and all these things she thinks I ought to do on a “family discount”.
We go into a Japanese restaurant and order plates of spicy tuna salad, ebi tempura, maguro and salmon sashimi. Spicy tuna makes me happy somehow. I am glad my dad chose this restaurant for lunch. Few more photos are taken; among my parents’ four children, I am the only one who actually went through graduation. My older siblings just waited for their diploma in the mail and did not march.
My sister-in-law Gel and I go to the bookstore to get a few art supplies she needs while my sister and niece go to the pet store to get chew toys for their dog Twitch. We agree to rendezvous at the frozen yogurt shop. People in my immediate circle seem to love the stuff; personally, I’m more of a chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream kinda gal. Gel and I walk over to Fully Booked. While she looks over sketchpads and acrylic paints, I walk over to the sci-fi section to see if they had the book Cryptonomicon, a recommendation made by a new friend. On our way back to the fro-yo shop, we ponder on this question: can people actually be born gay or do certain events in our lives trigger the inherent switch in all of us? I think about the way that sometimes I find girl-on-girl kissing in movies hot (provided that one is Megan Fox and the other is Amanda Seyfried), but I cannot, for the life of me, imagine myself getting physically intimate with a woman. Gel says, “If you can’t see yourself muff-dive, then you’re straight FOR SURE.” I can pretty much claim that, thank you.
We get to the fro-yo shop. Gel gets plain with mango, almonds and choco chips as toppings. I, on the other hand, get choco chips, cocoa pebbles and choco syrup. Yes, I completely ice creamed it up with all that chocolate, just the way I like it. After a few more photos, mom inquires quietly, “Jam, how do I recover deleted photos?” I ask her to hand it over and discover that my camera’s memory card is COMPLETELY WIPED OUT.
I spend most of the afternoon trying not to get too upset about that. I even go with Gel to the front of the restaurant where we ate lunch to try and re-take some photos. I keep her company and let my folks go ahead home. We spend a hot day in traffic taking half-assed pictures in her Volkswagen Beetle to replace my deleted ones. I still have a bit of hope that something can be done to recover them, though.
A few more hours are spent at the mall. We walk around and look at stores. I remember a guy once telling me that I would look really pretty and sexy with a flower in my hair, so I buy a headband that had one. Jiki, Gel’s friend, comes to meet us and we hang out at one of our favorite restaurants, Cibo. We order nothing, Jiki orders an iced tea. More photos.
At this point in the story, I feel the fatigue set upon my abused body. I have not been sleeping particularly well, you see. 8-10 kilometers away, my bed in my bedroom is giving me signals for me to come home and take refuge. After a few more rounds in the mall, looking for a parlor that had vacancy for a mani-pedi or a spa for a massage, I call my mom to come pick up her favoritegraduate. I need to go home.
She picks me up fifteen minutes later. I get home, go straight to my bed, and fall into it face first. Sigh, what an incredibly relaxing feeling, having 5 fluffy pillows cushion and cradle my tired body. I look over to my inspiration wall and spot the post-it I put up around three months ago: Feb. 27, 2010.
It is finished.