Walk into the Sunset

Quezon City, the Philippines

September 2011

Only those who take leisurely what the people of the world are busy about can be busy about what the people of the world take leisurely.

Twilight @ Quezon Memorial Circle

I echoed Zhang Chao’s philosophy. Amidst the hectic demands of life, I would feel the need to disconnect from the world, both the real and the virtual, and reconnect with my center. This usually involved good ole-fashioned afternoon walks with my mother. The exercise was good for the heart – in more sense than one. On a few occasions, we were joined by my friend Ki.

A short distance from home was Quezon Memorial Circle, a shrine honoring Manuel L. Quezon, the country’s first president and the city’s namesake, marked by a three-pylon marble monument. Each of its 66 meters represented a year of his life. It was completed in the late 70s. My family would move into the city a few years later, making the landmark a daily sight for much of my life.

Mom @ Quezon Memorial Circle

Walk, Don’t Sit! Mom and Ki @ Quezon Memorial Circle

The park was previously isolated by a whirling orbit of careening vehicles around the Elliptical Road. It was accessible only by playing Russian roulette with oncoming traffic. Now with a pedestrian underpass in place, it did not require death-defying stunts to reach the park.

The monument base was both a mausoleum and a museum. Although we always missed the museum hours, the bas-relief panels on the exterior walls were succinctly informative, a kaleidoscopic depiction of historical events in the country. Our afternoon walk became a walk through time, though it soon detoured into family lore. My dad had claimed (I could not be sure how seriously) he was descended from 16th-century Chinese pirate Limahong. In honor of Dad, we had our photo-op with the image of Limahong, seemingly carved out of Dad’s – and my -features: bulging eyelids and rounded face. There must have been some gene of truth to Dad’s fantastic claim!

Quezon Memorial Shrine Museum

Homage to my Ancestor, Limahong @ Quezon Memorial Circle

Walking Through Philippine History @ Quezon Memorial Circle

In the 80s and 90s, the park was unkempt and unlighted, perfect for turning tricks. How could I forget a vertically-challenged guy-for-hire who had become a sidewalk fixture every evening? My high school friends and I used to look out for “man-child” (as we named him) when we drove by. Who knew Circle could live its raunchy reputation down? These days, the park had become a playground for families. Even the restrooms were named after family members.

Still, there were downsides to this development: too much paving (What was wrong with grass cover?) and an out-of-place amusement park. Mom would rather try her hand at the jungle gym equipment installed on the quieter side of the park.

Family-Oriented Restroom @ Quezon Memorial Circle

Steer Crazy: Mom and Ki Enjoying the Fitness & Play Equipment @ Quezon Memorial Circle

Work It, Mom! @ Quezon Memorial Circle

Our feet did not follow the throngs, which was how we found the Japanese World Peace Bell. It still looked decrepit with its finish flaking off, but at least the vandalism had been erased. Was it symbolic of how people regarded peace? Good thing the Peace Wall had not been spray painted over with militant slogans or cusswords.

Japanese World Peace Bell @ Quezon Memorial Circle

Peace Wall @ Quezon Memorial Circle

The Only Red Among the Greens @ Quezon Memorial Circle

Just as we had worked up a sweat, we found ourselves basking in the golden glow of the fleeting twilight. And what better way to wind down from an afternoon walk than by sipping fresh coconut juice straight from the fruit?

Fresh Coconut Juice to Go

Picnic Tables and Trees Bathed in Golden Light @ Quezon Memorial Circle

Even closer to home was Mom’s alma mater, the University of the Philippines. The Diliman campus was established after the Liberation when universities traditionally occupied hectares of open fields and woodland. Despite the construction of more buildings, the central master plan of the campus had not changed since Mom studied there in the 50s.

Defining the campus landscape was the Academic Oval, a circumferential road around the Sunken Garden, a green (brown during the dry months) natural basin used for sports and military training. As a public space, the Oval usually had a lane closed off to vehicular traffic in the late afternoon, not only for students, but for joggers, cyclists, dog walkers, and, yes, for mom walkers.

U.P. Sunken Garden

Mom @ U.P. Palma Hall

Militant Mom @ U.P. Academic Oval

Mom used to sprint from one end of the Acad Oval to the other as a hyperactive freshman. After her swimming lesson, she would run to her next class, dripping hair flying in the wind, and race up the steps of the College of Education. I could not imagine my relatively frail mother to be that same sprightly girl! Our parents had lives we could barely start to know before they had us. The charm in having our afternoon walks here was in retracing her running route more than 50 years ago, albeit decidedly more slowly and gingerly.

Our walk started at the famous AS steps (AS – Arts & Sciences) of Palma Hall. It was on these steps where Dad would wait for her at the end of the day. The famous steps had witnessed student demonstrations year in and year out, but more tenderly, they bore witness to my parents’ blossoming love story.

Walk This Way @ U.P. Academic Oval

Mom @ U.P. Sunken Garden

Happy Mommy @ U.P. Sunken Garden and Main Library Building

Lovers and Dreamers @ U.P. Sunken Garden

Bike Lane @ U.P. Sunken Garden

I didn’t have any memories to draw from this place; I had never taken any classes in this campus, except for one P.E. subject. I learned to play soccer at the Track and Field Oval. The tree-lined streets around it were just as conducive for walks as the Acad Oval, and for meeting new friends, even those of different species.

Our afternoon walk ended at Malcolm Hall of the College of Law, where Dad had graduated from. By then, street lamps had been lit, crickets had begun singing their chorus, and sparkling rays had trickled through the canopy of acacia trees. And what better way to end this afternoon walk with Mom than to have the memory of Dad with us? A College of Law tarpaulin announced a significant date: It was a day before Dad passed away.

TTT Meets Nike the Beagle @ U.P. Track and Field Oval

Mom’s Answer: A Day Before Dad Passed Away

Afternoon Walk’s Finish Line @ U.P. Diliman

The tree desires repose, but the wind will not stop;

The son desires to serve, but his parents are already gone.

I never echoed this Chinese proverb. My heart had been full for the chance of taking care of my parents.

Filial piety required no reciprocation, still I wondered. With no children of my own, would I be walking into the sunset alone in my twilight years? I would have a lifetime of memories to keep me company. Still, it would be nice to hold someone’s hand.

Alone (Overlooking U.P. Track and Field Oval)

15 thoughts on “Walk into the Sunset

  1. A soulful post, I must say. You mom was quite an individual and still is. It’s wonderful that she has preserved her vitality and zest for life and is still game for adventures. You are one lucky man to have someone like her as your mom. I salute her energy and enthusiasm.

    It’s wonderful that you can walk in the afternoons unlike in India where the afternoons are very hot and dusty. I can only think of a siesta in the hot afternoons. Moreover the places here are not very pedestrian friendly and one has to always look out for a speeding vehicle. You are blessed to live in a beautiful place.

    Take care.

    Joy always,
    Susan

    • I guess Mom still has her inner sprightly girl. She has recently survived a delayed long-haul flight, a cancelled connecting flight, and having lost luggage. Then she went out of town the next day!

      Btw, your description of India sounds like my country too. I’d feel at home there! Hope to see you in Goa soon.

  2. QC Circle is such a nice place now. I’m glad I stayed away.🙂 hihihihi. I’m not a big fan of “mother-daughter/father-son” bathroom signs though. It’s very anti-modern family. I can imagine the stress a kid has to go through if she is being raised by her older sister. “Now Virginia, we can’t pee in there. You’re not really my daughter and I’m not your real mother. Let’s pee on the grass instead.”🙂 Kidding aside, as always AJ, your post is excellent. I love it.

    • Hahaha and I’ve seen some kids DO that! Oh well, what can you expect from the government? This is not Obamaland.🙂 At Virginia talaga. Ikaw ba yan Virginia P?

    • I asked a relative about this and she semi-confirmed it. Some oldies from my paternal grandmother’s branch had the same claim. So it was not just Dad’s imagination after all! But considering Limahong’s notoriety in history, I’m not sure if I should be proud, hahaha!

  3. UP Diliman, dream campus ko when I was in high school. I especially love the sunken garden. It reminds me of Silliman University’s amphitheater in front of their church. I’ve neither studied in these universities but I guess schools have spots that we will recall when we turn old and gray. The best part is that they’re free.

    • Awww don’t get me started with Silliman, Soloflighter. I enjoyed my visit there last year, but the post is still languishing in my backlog list!😀 My dad studied both in Diliman and in Silliman. So like you, one of my biggest regrets is not studying any of these universities. Aside from their literary traditions, I missed out on the sprawling campus experience, hehe.

  4. Very inspiring. Too bad I don’t have my mom with me now, but reading your posts and seeing your mom’s photos makes me feel good. She’s lucky to have you, sir. I can feel the heart from your writings. Keep it up! =)

  5. I just saw this post. Nice and very inspiring. I can relate as I have my grandma that I always look forward to. 🙂 Your mum is lucky to have you!

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