Saturday, April 21, 2007

Green Paint

It was time to paint the roof as rust was beginning to form, and the rainy season was approaching. As I repetitively spread and brushed the green paint onto the tin roof, a past memory was recalled in my mind, which had me thinking about how my life had changed.

Green paint was smothered all over my body, and a few red streaks were placed in my hair. It was not very long ago at all, only a couple of years. I was getting introduced into Rice University, and the smile was only a facade. I was only beginning then, not yet tattered by the crashing waves to come. The reason I looked like an alien was because of college initiation, but perhaps the green paint should have remained on because I felt like an alien.

During my college days, I toiled away doing schoolwork during the day and worked two jobs in the afternoons. Evenings were spent recuperating from the day and trying to muster enough energy to do homework and review for tests. My inability to socialize with my classmates and my teachers only made the grave hole deeper as I was left alone to tackle the class courses and daily college life. Soon, as stress began to build, my health began to fall as I spent all my hours in classrooms, office rooms, and my dorm room / bedroom. The doctor didn't know any better so he pumped me with all sorts of antibiotics. Back then, I didn't know any better either, so I thought doctors knew what they were doing. School and work affected my health, and now with my health only worsening, my health began to affect my school and work. It was a vicious cycle, and my grave deepened.

I shook my head unconsciously as I remembered the pitiful situation. As I brushed on another row of paint, I thought to myself, should I feel guilty about withdrawing from college and that lifestyle? Now I look at myself and I am performing such a simple task in painting a roof. The difference between the Philippine provinces and the modernized world is that, in the Philippine provinces life comes first and responsibilities to modern civilization comes second, while it is of course vice versa in modern areas. In the provinces, one lives in their own domain and not according to civilization's agenda. If one would like to merely subsist and perform the bare minimum tasks in order to survive, they can certainly do so in the provinces. But try to do that in the modern world, with all the responsibilities to modern civilization, with all the indebtedness to modern civilization, and with all the bills and strings attached, one would end up either dead or in jail. One cannot just subsist in modern civilization, doing so would have one committing all sorts of violations. With all the strings attached, one is merely a puppet being pulled here and there where modern civilization beckons, that is until one is ripped apart.

Should I have stayed in college and gotten a sophisticated job like the doctor did? Does this mean I have no care for knowledge since I withdrew? Certainly not. I am all for the pursuit of knowledge. And actually, people who are really just in pursuit of knowledge due to intrinsic motivation could do so on their own, like on the internet for example. So what does a degree even mean? The doctor has a degree, but does that mean a mastery of his field? Does that mean he knows what he is doing? It would have been nice if he did, but he certainly did not know a thing when he pumped me with antibiotics and caused my health to become worse.

I'm sure the doctor would have told me, as other people say today, that I left college and that lifestyle due to “failure to adapt.” But I think I left in order to find an environment where I could heal and thrive, which I found in the Philippine provinces. I tried to remember what the doctor looked like. I recall that his hair was gray and his figure frail, and there was a weary tone in his voice and a lack of vigor in his movements and expressions. He even had a facial twitch, which was probably caused from stress. It seemed that the doctor himself was tattered and worn out by the crashing waves of modern civilization. Perhaps I could say that it was because of a “failure to thrive.” Perhaps it is also time for him to heal himself and find his refuge in order to thrive.

Rice University, Houston, Texas, Barangay Mangan Vaca / Mangahan, Subic, Zambales Pictures / Photos:


PEACEtalker: said...

I get a hitch of your line, I quote, "The difference between the Philippine provinces and the modernized world is that, in the Philippine provinces life comes first and responsibilities to modern civilization comes second, while it is of course vice versa in modern areas." In a very superficial context, I agree with you, but when you get into the realm of Filipinos' historical existence, you'll say that Filipinos are just individuals who thrive, mainly, for SURVIVAL. The family, as the basic unit of society, is Philippines' anti-social component. (Perchance, the family will have the opportunity to motivate one member to get a good education that someday, somehow he can, in return, help oust the whole family from crisis. With this premise, in the long run the second, modernizaton, will eventually effect.) If Philippines could have been as prosperous or as progressive as the US, you'd never see Philippines as it exists today.

the philosphical bastard said...

although i cant say that i understand you fully. i do see the truth in your realizations. though, i have my own thoughts about it..

1. i do not think you're completely transparent. i do not know that for sure but i think there is more to this story than we now know. (which is of course, not my business...)

2. If I read it right, in this post you say that your detachment soon led you to return to the Philippines. i'd like to know though, how much of your detachment was caused by this "philosophy."

That's all..

i hope you understand my line of thought here. my mind is not quick to write what goes inside it. And with those ginormous brains of yours, it would be easy for you to make me look like the narrow-minded fool.

anyway, i think you're self exile is 'astig.' people on both sides learn from it.

carmi said...

that encounter with the doctor seemed to have such a big impact on your decision on going here in the philipppines.. am i right??

btw, do you really have a friendster account or was that just a poser i tried to add??

Jezer said...

For me, college is fun but it could be stressful too. Keeping everything in balance can help avoid too much stress and having good friends around could really help too.

Who's roof is that? Are you having a job at a construction site?

Anonymous said...

I am following your Blog while I remain anonymous for the moment.

I was broken you omitted the two comments I sent earlier after the Sagrada Familia article. However, upon reading this "Green Paint" new blog, you pretty much gave your reasons for the un-welcomed suggestions I made.

We make choices in our lives and you have made an admirable one.

Wishing you success in this endeavor.

siopaw said...


theres nothing else to say about your blog except, people now would understand you more,thanks to this entry. :)

and to those who would say that it was failure to cope with things THATS the reason why you are here,i tell them this. (its time for them to go start their healing journey befor its to late)

what matters in these world is for one to be able to say at the end of it all that at least you have tried,than to have never tried at all.
what makes a person great is not the reward he gets at the end of the battle but the process that led him to achieve such glory in the end...

take care brother....


Lalon said...

i definitely believe that we should search for what's gonna make us happy, inspired and fulfilled.. for if we are.. then we can show our best in this world.

life shouldn't be about belonging to a certain set of standards dictated by the society that surrounds you.. life should be finding what you really are and being able to comfortably express your individualism.

by the way.. regarding your "initiation" picture.. you're like the thin version of "Hulk" hehe.. have a good day ahead Coconuter. (^^,)

this blog keeps me coming back for more. ^__^

bertN said...

I am now beginning to understand why you decided to walked away from a college life that so many will die for to experience. I honestly thought you lost your mind when you decided to do what you did. As they say, "Follow your dream." You will need more than luck to succeed but I think you have it in you.

omegaflip said...

With your line of thinking, you could be a refreshing air to wash off some of the staleness in university classrooms. Do consider becoming a part-time lecturer in a school nearby. You can definitely influence for the better many young and impressionable students.

All the best!

Anonymous said...

i think this was god has planned for you. sometimes, we should find the things that's really for us.

just find yourself ok? im sure someday you'll find the real coconut in your life =) god bless.


Anonymous said...

I feel your pain, man. At first I really thought your story was bogus because you had all the credentials and abilities, all laid on a silver platter, but your revelation has made sense of it all and tied up loose ends.

Like you, my studies suffered and also my health (maybe mental and social). With the failures and crises I've faced, I've long for meaning of life, and over time I realized that there IS hope. Just hold on and don't give up. Things DO change for the better.

I'm actually proud of what you did by choosing a sort of exile to the Phils. that will allow you to sort things out. Other people would have just exploded, causing harm to themselves and others, like the Virginia Tech Massacre (not that I'm comparing you to the guy; no offense).

If you feel what you did is right, then "panindigan mo." That will answer your doubts about your choices. And as long as you learn from your mistakes, then your choice isn't that bad after all.

Olive Jopia-Abarquez said...

I can't help but agree with you.

Yes, the doctor who gave you antibiotics needs healing himself.

And what you're doing is no far off from what brought wisdom and nirvana to Gautama Buddha.

Anonymous said...


Btw, green doesn't look good on you.

You chose the right path -- Some people wait for a tragedy or a health scare before they make changes because they're used to their comfortable existence and they're too scared to get out of their comfort zone. Even then, the trappings of wealth with the debt used to accumulate them prevent them from actually making permanent changes.

Seems like we accumulate money in the developed world only to use it later in life to pay for sub-standard care by strangers in a nursing home, who may only end up abusing you anyway. I think you got out of that rut before you even started (which was just in time).

How about keeping us informed on the progress of your house? Update the pics on it from time to time.

Anonymous said...

Hi David,
The Ongkings should pay you for putting up a picture of their can of paint in your blog. Talk about a free advert.

Nom de Plume

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I agree with the passage you said about health, work and education. "School and work affected my health, and now with my health only worsening, my health began to affect my school and work. It was a vicious cycle, and my grave deepened" We were still young and weak when we start studying. We study just to get a job someday and of course to earn money. We tend to loose our good health just to gain wealth and several years after, we tend to lose wealth just to restore our health. Is that the life that we want? Is that really the purpose of human life? said...

I share the same sentiment and ideology regarding degrees and the professionals it produces. I've had the same experience where a doctor prescribed me antibiotics which made my situation worse. I've had my share of doctors who didn't know what the hell they were doing. I've had my share of being turned away because I didn't have the degree although my years of experience are very strong. I know that I can perform a much better job than a kid fresh out of college with a degree in my field. The Military is the same as well, a kid with a degree will walk in as an officer while a soldier who started as a dirtbag with the years of experience will eat all those years and salute the young inexperience officer. Education is only as good as the person gaining it, knowledge is only good as the person learning it. Our Filipino heroes with the exception of Jose Rizal are mostly uneducated common people, but they are not ignorants as how their oppressors wanted them to be. They possesed the knowledge and the spirit that no oppressor can suppress. Life is not all about modernization and technology there are those who choose to live life just like the way it should be lived ... Simple.

Anonymous said...

mark says...

david, i really agree with you in this "The difference between the Philippine provinces and the modernized world is ......."

we choose to live lyf in our own choice, for david hope you will never give up, try to get some strength to those who believed and continue's to believe in you...take care david and god bless

Anonymous said...

My brother went to RICE university for two years. He then went on to get a chemical engineering degree, and an MBA at another college. Rice full time is very tough since almost every student made nearly straight A's in high school, and most students have a hard time not getting A's at RICE. To compete well in that environment requires full time attention. I would not try to hold down part time job at the same time. Burn out is very common at RICE, but recovery is also very doable. Most other schools have much less stress about good grades than Rice.


Manny said...

I agree with you about the stressful life in the modern world - USA in particular. Whenever I visit the US, I find it hard to decide whether to call my friends who I want to see or not because whenever i meet up with them, all I could see in their faces and bodies are that of tiredness and fatigue. I'm "naaawa" with them seing how old they look. Plus, they don't look happy no matter how big their houses are compared to when they were living here.

Anonymous said...

Living in the States is really stressful. I was young when I came in the US and I joined the military when I reach the right age. I really like to finished college, so while serving in the Military I took some college courses. Right now I'm halfway done on getting my degree in Business Administration, but with all the stress from work I stopped going to school. You know sometimes, I just want to give up everything and be in a place where I don't have to worry about anything, like bills, insurance. Sometimes while driving my car, I think about my childhood memories in the Philippines like riding the carabao and horses. Now, I maybe driving the finest car that I've ever wanted but I have to think when is my next car payment and when is my insurance due. I miss the simple lifestyle. They may say that I'm already Americanized, but still in my heart I'm proud Filipino.

ardee sean said...

i like the way you write, the way you share. thanks for bits of advices..

Anonymous said...

Hi David, got into your blogsite courtesy of The Philippines Star Oct.13 (sat) edition. Your story is amazing one, considering your choices, struggles, decisions, realizations and wisdom at your young age. Though I'm already like your Kuya, pretty old enough to be your contemporary, your short stay in the Philippines and the whole experience returning to your roots, and the idealism and search for meaning with you, has made you mature. You stand for what you believe in. Saludo ako sa'yo! Your life is worth already a novel or autobiographical writing. Hope you will scribe your lifestory into a published book. The core of what I'm seeing in you is your zest for life, the real one, which flows along the rhythm of nature and not dictated by human preoccupations unworthy of living. I wish and I pray to the Almighty that your return to your land of birth teaches you a lot day after day. With your courage, faith, determination, search for meaning and life, you made me and many more readers around the globe reflect our own lives and motivations and goals. In your unique way, you show us again that indeed life is worth-living when our choice comes from the HEART. That's admirable. I will share your story with my high school students. More power to you, God bless you and your young family. Always remember a gracious God is always guiding and making you strong.



You are absolutely right! Three years ago, my physician put me on prescription to supposedly cure my hypertension.Two years later I was in worst medical condition, with all the side effects caused by such medication. Nothing about proper eating habit, physical fitness exercise and taking personal responsibility was ever discussed. I finally decided to take my medical health into my own hands.I started my own physical fitness routine, eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, fish, reduce my stress level,taking time to rest and relax and shed 28 lbs. Since then, I've been off such "stupid" medication for more than a year now and feel healthier that ever!

I remember that doctor being so overweight and "sickly looking" and can't even manage to smile a little(I'm sure because of stress!)

Anyways, no wonder these guys carry a "Doctor of Medicine (MD)" Degree. They're "in business" prescribing medicine to treat the symptoms, not to cure disease, better yet prevent it!

You're right on target Mr. Coconuter!

Kuya Willy

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