Sunday, March 09, 2008


Saturn's moon Rhea has rings

When a finger points to the moon, the imbecile looks at the finger. --- Chinese proverb

Bruce Lee makes a similar point to his young student in the prologue of his smash movie, "Enter the Dragon." It was this movie, plus Jacky Chan's "Snake in the Eagle's Shadow," both of which I watched together with my father, that really got me hooked with kung fu movies. The occasions were made all the more special because it was just my brother and me watching with him, back in the day when the Recto cinemas were really "theaters" in the old sense of the word and yes (and I'm dating myself here), they were still the places to go to. The vertical signs of the moviehouses blared out their names while the elaborate hand-painted billboards (replicas of the movie posters) provided a splash of color.

Fernando Poe, Jr. was THE movie star, with a strange aura of invincibility, and seeing him 20 feet tall bedecked with six-shooters was a sight to behold. I wonder if this trade, which would be a major piece of Filipino folk art, has survived, now that printed billboards are more or less du jour in Metro Manila.

Old downtown Manila, and those moments with my parents, remain powerful memories. There were those afternoons in Binondo when we would go to the old Ma Mon Luk - the delightful pungent smell is almost inexplicable but it would tell you whether the restaurant was "authentic" or not. Divisoria was a virtual warren of stores where any bargain can be found. I didn't appreciate going there, really (I was, or rather still am, hateful of long waits during shopping.) But it always paid off to pester my mother after she was finished with shopping - there's a quick reward of hopia somewhere or better yet, ice cream.

Speaking of which, the old Magnolia plant along Aurora Boulevard and its diner-style ice cream house was a great place to bring the kids or to have a date. I almost always ordered an "Ernie & Bert" sundae even though as a child I hated strawberry ice cream. I was always Ernie, and my brother was Bert. (I wouldn't even want to think about the rumor of them being gay.) Broadway Centrum was chic, if a bit small, and the sight of trees along Gilmore and Hemady, or even along Ortigas, almost always conveyed a sense of tranquility and stateliness. I rather envied those people who had their homes there -not because their houses were big, mind you, but that they were surrounded by nature.

.... And on and on and on and on. And on.

Seeing the world with wonder is a privilege for children ... one of my pet fascinations then was space (finally, a relation to our link!). I loved everything about space. I had my share of playing with spiders and mucking about in the dirt like other kids, but I would rather have laid down beside the glossy pictures of planets, astronauts or whatnot. I read up on Cassini, Herschel, Galileo, even bothered memorizing the history of Pluto's name (from Percival Lowell, the scientist who predicted its existence).

I even dreamed one day that I would join NASA. Or perhaps find a way to communicate with alien races.

Well, life has progressed in its own fashion, and I am nowhere near being a space agency, much less the scientifice profession - what I loved about science was the romance of discovery but not so much the discipline of achieving the result (my artistic temparament getting the better of me). But there is still that romantic notion that OUT THERE the delicious, unlimited UNKNOWN would defy any sort of explanation of what we have here in daily life, on dreary perfunctory Earth.

Space has a way of humbling one - that one's existence is but a nanoportion of the iota of the infinitesimal space our solar system occupies in the Milky Way, which is again one of many galaxies in the universe. Of which we know.

New discoveries here in what is virtually in our neighborhood in the galaxy serve up a reminder that all is not lost, that perhaps all those hours devoted to telescopes and sending probes to space would give us a clue to the machina, to the design of the symmetry/asymmetry of what we know is life. This one in particular just touched another space within my heart --- that of the younger me still floundering about, enraptured by the wonder of life.

There is of course, the current me, all worn out in some places and finding it convenient to be cynical and jaded, though I have no right to be. Not when I have a decent living, eat three squares (sometimes, ehem, oft-times more) a day, and manage to have a peaceful sleep at night.

Out there, there are answers to questions we yet have to phrase. If we keep that sense of wonder, of hope, of joy in unlimited possibility, maybe there is hope for us after all.

No comments: