(The following is the second edited version of an article written for the third issue of the LEAP 36 newsletter Runway. A shorter version, the third edit, appeared in the said newsletter. My gratitude goes to the people behind the said publication, and to the entire team of LEAP 36, my teammates, coaches, and facis, who inspired the love that went with the writing. Thank you.)
“You are floating,” I remember David telling me as he led me to sit down, away from the wine table during ALC 62’s reunion night at swanky Wack-Wack. But he told me to get more wine first, and so I did. And by the time that I was already on my 8th, 9th, or 10th glass, I had no more strength left to argue against what he, Josh, and Coach Marlon had to say about LEAP and me taking it. This is not to say I got enrolled out of drunkenness, on the contrary, I remember most everything, or at least the most striking things they said. Coach Marlon, probably exhausted already from my drawling alibis, ended his enrollment talk with me by saying something like, “You’re right, if you think you’ll just be bringing negative vibes to the team, better not LEAP.” David was a little bit more hardworking, stayed up with me until 5 a.m., along with Josh. While talking with them and while they asked what I’ve been doing to ‘treat’ or ‘love’ myself, I just suddenly found myself bombarding my own self with questions, particularly about ‘the safety net’. What am I keeping myself ‘safe’ from? What am I saving up for? Why must I always anticipate death, illness, accidents, crisis, to happen to the family? Why must I always be the savior of the family?
I can do this thing, this LEAP thing, for me, I thought.
* * *
Everybody looked swell Friday night of the first intensive, except me I guess, who came in my one decent black pencil cut and a shirt I think I just shook a couple of times off the hanger then put on without even ironing.
Benjie announced that we are going to sing. I think he heard me go yikes, because I clearly heard him say something like “O, wag nang mag-inarte, di bale sana kung kasing ganda ni Bea.”
Ehehehe, okay. I spent the next minutes sitting back and just enjoying the general excitement. I remember hearing David sing U2, some girl sing Meredith Brooks’ Bitch, and some guy who must have been a coach go may agimat ang dugo ko.
On my turn I stood up and took my chance at disgracing Nina Simone’s I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free. The team was weirdly quiet. Then I suddenly forgot some of the lyrics and had to go na-na-na-na. The team laughed. I felt relieved. I laughed along with them as I went on with the rest of the song, thereafter stating some personal details, and the reason why I’m LEAPing. Because I want change, I said, and I want to be free.
* * *
I wanted to find the roughest hands. I wanted a commoner, one of my kind (though for a commoner, my hands are quite soft – obviously the hands of one who’d rather just shake off her shirts rather than get them ironed). Rough hands mean industry. My buddy will be a worker. I will be safe with a worker.
Then I take off the blindfold and behold! I end up with the boss, Alvin Tsoi the golden boy!
I dispelled any more apprehensions. Though I remember that he nearly quit ALC to attend to business, I was sure that my buddy Alvin was committed and responsible, a good man with a good heart right from the start. I was just really laughing at myself, seeing how the process has consistently proven my judgments wrong. While holding Alvin’s rough hands, I was even reminded of how I initially resisted my ALC buddy Leslie Rabo, later on discovering what a saint she actually is. God must have led me to a male Leslie here in LEAP, I believed. On that I was proven absolutely right, eventually.
During council formation, seeing them who would later be my council mates, I remember initially thinking they’re young. But later on in the program, as her buddies had fallen off one by one, Suzeth to me and Alvin became the pillar, Miss Logistics, and my own personal dumping ground whenever I had trouble with the coach.
The coach. Jesus, I could not even stomach calling him coach at first. Now I think I’ll be calling him coach ’til doomsday, and will probably even be asking his permission by then if I can finally drink the symbolic San Mig Alvin each gave us but we’re not supposed to drink.
I remember praying while I stood arm-to-arm, eyes closed, in a circle with my council, awaiting that person whom Benjie enjoined us to trust. My solemn petition went something like, Send me a man, oh please, I need some male perspective in sorting out my bullshit about men! I was even quite specific as I added, Send me that one named Dax, come on, he looks good! And kind. And smart. And he’s a teacher, wow. And he looks good.
Then we open our eyes. Jesus, no!, I blasphemed inside me as I beheld the dude who joined us. I asked for the professor, not the jock!, I silently nagged. I was dead scared. The coach even looked like the bully back from college who always threw his crumpled trash at me. A live cut-out from a magazine. He cannot be for real. This one’s a sporto-rockstar-Atenista, I bet. Don Manganar says the nameplate. I googled it soon as we were released. And the net affirmed me, what with those photographs of him either in a recording studio or with a surfboard, and the school as stated, Xavier-Ateneo. To make things worse, he’s only 27 years old, a kid. What would I learn from a kid?, I thought, he looks like he’s never been through any hardship.
Blue-blooded, cono, enemy. I’m in trouble, I thought.
Of course eventually, yet again and fortunately, this bitch was proven wrong. My coach, within those sixty to seventy days, was my stronghold.
* * *
I loved the call times, made sure I never missed any. Even when it’s raining hard and I had to wade through the filth of floodwaters just to make the calls, I still called. How could I afford to miss them? The jock was pretty good at what Oliver Barrett IV would call verbal volleyball, and it’s the only sport I could play. I thought I found a match. But I got beaten most of the time, actually.
If I were in my pre-ALC space I would prove to be the sore loser, but at that point the lessons were just too good, I looked forward to every beating, to my every faulty belief crashing down after our every argument.
I guess the two most memorable lessons would be:
One, trust is not quid-pro-quo – kaya nga trust e. And this I realized after I kept hammering him why he’s even coaching in the first place, hammering him even more as he refused to answer. He went like, “Won’t you be able to trust me unless I answer that?”, and “You have violated my space.”, and “Now I’m hurt.” That last one got me. I got hurt too, having hurt him. I felt ashamed. I never dared ask him anything personal anymore after that.
Two, the proof of love is not solely sacrifice. For the longest time I have believed that the only measure of love is sacrifice, that love must constantly be proven through sacrifice, as with Christ dangling from the cross. But Coach would always insist that I am being loving already by making dance steps for Gary Valenciano ballads that sent my cousins laughing, and loving again when I’d volunteer to collect my co-workers’ lunch money and go out during high noon to buy their lunch, and loving still just by putting a fallen slipper back to the foot of a kid inside the jeep I rode. Love does not always have to come in grand gestures, I began to realize. Little acts of love done with frequency can even weigh more.
I found real comfort in finally seeing that I needn’t suffer to claim love, and that if I could just trust, I’ll be reaping nothing but love.
* * *
During the 2nd intensive, just as I have finally shared before the team, just after I have enrolled my teammates in the Achieve Room with ‘a peace sign’, just as I finally felt zen for the first time, just as I have fallen in love again with Jen and welcomed her home, committing to take care of her from then on, came the parade of the dragons.
Men are my dragons, particularly men I’ve fallen for and have rejected me. These are little dragons, though, compared to the one I overlooked – the great big fat one, the oldest, the scaliest, that one who spawned me, and whom I grew up hating.
Whom I identified for dragon-slaying day was the most recent of the three minor dragons – and even that minor one I decided not to slay. I remember my coach calling me up to check, re-assuring me as always, and reminding me that I must find value in whatever action I decide to take. Before my teammates in the Achieve Room, I was able to defend my choice of not slaying that little dragon. I thought everything was settled by then, until one really difficult call time.
Funny because it all just started with Coach simply being perplexed at how I have yet to ask for support on the dates. One remark led to another. Everything that was spoken of next, from that call time up to our visit with Tita Au, were things I would rather not utter, or remember, but had to confront.
I felt sick at having to expose scars. I felt guilty having dug up mud and staining Coach, my council, and Tita Au with it. “It’s LEAP already, it’s supposed to be about being 100%, results, celebration,” I told Coach back in Road House during a sit-down. Then he says LEAP isn’t about all that. “LEAP is about relationships,” he said.
Coach, and my buddies too, totally ceased from being strangers to me only a little more than two weeks before the 3rd intensive. I barely had time left, only time to be thankful.
* * *
Two weeks was also enough time by the way to go out on four blind dates.
The last three of those four were provided by our ever dependable council leader Super Suzeth. Oddly enough, one of the three she gave me even turned out to be a student of my second minor dragon. The other two dates from her were actually part of a shotgun double date – Suzeth so wanted me to be 100% already she could not wait for my Friday date. She spoke with a couple of her ALC teammates during LEAP night and fixed me up on the spot. Oh God bless Suzeth! All she had left to worry about after that was whether or not to take the god-forsaken castor oil.
What tops that LEAP dating thing though was my date with Nolan Ricardo, my dear friend Althea’s younger brother. Althea is also a LEAPer, and as I have considered my coach to be my guardian angel throughout LEAP, I have regarded Althea as my fairy godmother. She’s been supporting me even way back in FLEX. Along with David, she helped me in my enrollment goals. And as I told her how I was having trouble in asking the team for dates, she set me up with both her brothers, the younger one and the first to agree being Nolan.
The date with Nolan was the first I ever had in my 29 year life, and it was indescribable! I never had so much fun in one night! It was so perfect, I was so content, I actually just considered to speed date my last three remaining dates!
I had so much fun I totally forgot to keep Coach posted, as agreed. I remember making call time to him before I went to the place, just as he was on his way to church. I remember texting him too as I was in the cab, with idiotic messages like, Coach, why do I feel like peeing every five minutes?, and Ipagtirik mo po ako ng kandila.
Nolan – panalo!
I finally gave Coach my giddily ecstatic account of it all during Tere and Lee’s Just Be. I felt like a kid proudly and joyfully showing off her star stamp to her father. So this is how that feels, I thought.
It was quite difficult for me to go into specifics because I just really found everything about the date as perfect – I didn’t know where to start or focus on. So my words to Coach were just along the senseless lines of One time big time, coach! Ang galing-galing nya! Sarap kausap! Cute pa! O, meron na ‘kong significant life achievement before turning 30! –
Pero tang-i**, may gelpren e! Sabi ko na nga ba e! There must be a catch! There’s a catch! Put**! Asar!
I am grateful.
* * *
I must have said, aloud and silently, the most number of thank-you’s-in-two-days of my entire life, during the 3rd intensive. And two days before the start of the last intensive, I caught myself asking me this question: why aren’t you in pain? My old zombie self could never be at peace with parting, I used to hate it, especially as I anticipated how people I’ve come to love would start drifting away from me, forgetting me, shutting me off for good. But I was just so at peace before and right after the 3rd intensive that I could hardly recognize myself. Then I realized that perhaps the answer lies in the fact that I was just simply feeling grateful. I was just so thankful of my 60 something LEAP days, my teammates, the coaches, Benjie, my council, Coach, and my friends Althea, Louie, and Candy who led me to LEAP.
That thankfulness was what enabled me to feel nothing but happiness as I listened to Coach sing for me, as I swayed to his and my teammates’ cradling, as I received every anonymous embrace.
These days at the instance of tears, whenever I feel a longing for that company, I remember Besol saying we can love people from a distance – through prayer. I am then comforted by saying prayers for each one that I miss, that each one may grow in love always, and have their hearts’ desires.
Tied to the Theresian rose given to me by Candy during graduation was a note that says the following: This was given to me on my LEAP graduation as a symbol of my answered prayers. I’m passing this on to you now. Consider your greatest desires granted.
Lately I added a few more pictures to my vision board, mostly of couples in film scenes making out. I bet it would send Suzeth shaking her head, and Alvin and Coach laughing out loud. I’ve added a picture of Gwyneth Paltrow too as Mrs. Hughes, seated in the kitchen with her legs up beside the typewriter, staring at the window, overlooking the sea, conjuring verses while waiting for ‘him’ to come home.
I’ve put it up, high where I can see it, and be thankful for it all.