In Memory, Ding Gagelonia

When we write, we are called to something higher than making opinions or insights; we are asked to be chroniclers of history.  Whether we’re journalists, bloggers, PR practicioners, advertisers, or just people with a pen in hand, we add to the tome of history whenever we write.  We are outlived by the text; in a way, words possess a certain power far stronger than the body that commits them into relative permanence.

A few days ago, the Filipino blogging community lost a blogger.  The media lost a journalist, the industry lost a PR practicioner.  The Gagelonia family lost a father, a brother, a husband.  A few days ago, I lost a friend in Fernando “Ding” Gagelonia.

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My grandmother always enjoyed oranges.  Her room smelled like orange peelings, the segments of dried-out fruit littered the wide plastic table that was her nightstand.  As long as her arthritic hands were willing to, she always peeled her oranges herself.  She dug her aged thumbnail into the center of the fruit as she peeled off the skin.  The tangy, tart fruit brought a quiet smile to her face.  It was as if the fruits were a calming presence in her life.

Well into her seventies, Lola was still very strong and able.  She was 73 when I was born, and her quaint figure was instrumental in raising me.  When my parents worked, she assumed a lot of roles: she cooked our food, she cleaned up after us, and kept us clean and healthy.  Well into high school she made sure we hit the books, steered us far and away from trouble, and into her eighties, even tucked me in from the top bunk that is my bed.  Carefully, at that: the two blankets and the comforter had to be perfectly aligned before she trudged out of the room, and into hers.

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When I Was Young, I Knew Everything*

When I was young, I knew everything.

When I was young, I argued with theories.  I thought that my intelligence was the weight of the argument.  There was the compulsion to drop name after name, theoretical concept after theoretical concept.  I argued with the contempt and impunity that can only come from someone not old enough to be proven wrong.  I was on a mission to prove to the world that I am right, and everything in it is wrong, stupid, and idiotic.  Big words, too; words that, from the perspective of a youthful version of me, can summarize – and solve – the problems of the national Gessellschaft.

Then I grew old enough to take up a job.  After three or so years of writing copy and etching a name for myself in the glass walls of multinationals and transnationals – from newspapers to BPO to advertising – I realized that I only “knew everything” when I was young.  In the brave new world, beyond the shelter of the Geisteswissenschaften and the arguments of privilege that came with a chair in the classroom and a book from the library, there are some things I realized.

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Wall Boy

A size-36 waistline and a beer belly should be enough reason for anyone – yes, including myself – to take up a sport.

Fritz and Eloisa suggested wall-climbing, which me and my girlfriend Jam were more than eager to take.  She’s much more fit than I am (if you take up vice, you’re anything but “physically fit” no matter how many exercises you take up), and she took up climbing lessons before, so I was pretty much the group’s beginner.  With a pair of uncomfortable climbing shoes, I was all set.

“We really don’t have any need for wall-climbing in modern society,” I told Jam.

“Just think of it as a way for you to lose weight,” Jam replied.

There began my journey into physical fitness… or at least, the wall that stood between me and the rest of the afternoon.

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