Mar 10, 2010

Memories of the Benches

I'm not from UST but I go there often for inspiration - seeing students express individuality amidst their uniforms, those iconic statues that were witnesses to 400 years of college life, and even just for a change of surroundings.

(my brother's water color painting below)

This entry was written by Julian Marcial (his pen name) and I'd like to share it here (of course with permission) because he was able to see "the world in a grain of sand" or at least college life in the most basic object we can find in the campus - the benches.

After reading this, I wished the Ateneo had some rock benches, able to preserve memories as effective as the one's in UST. It's a bit long, but a very good read.

There was a time before when I looked to my right, as I was sitting at the end of a silent, dim corridor of the right wing of the main building, that I had a compelling vision. There's a row of benches from the main door welcoming every passing stranger or student who happens to yearn for a destination at each wing, at the left is the pharmacy side, and at the right is the science side. At night, both turn into the commanding state of courtroom academe where the civil law students hold their night to night pursuit of reason either to defend or to prosecute with accordance to the blindfolds of the law.

Nighttime has always been a magnificent scene in the main building of UST. Especially when the chandeliers are lit with a radiating glow that seems to permeate to the soul, emanating from the untraveled depths of the firey blaze. The great chandelier that welcomes the common visitor is a perfect ornament before the ancient staircase, a grand staircase that reeks the smell of agelessness and wisdom. The staircase itself is a witness to the many endeavors of the students within the campus. Every agonizing step it takes for us to reach our destination has been made and has been accompanied by the wooden clanks and creaks of the grand staircase. It shines with waxy sheen, a recent renovation that serves to amplify its timeless quality. In that staircase, one could not help but feel a characteristic sense of smallness, a profound humility for all those who traveled the same steps you're making. Do we deserve it? Are the achievements of the era we live in enough to match the unparalleled greatness of the generations before us?

The benches beside it are no different. As I look at them during that time, I felt a tingling sense of wonder. Against the reddish to orange hue of the scene, the empty benches seem to emit a faint whisper of history and story. The mood is a perfect one for the poets. The darkness of the summer's night, the humidity of the windless air, and the controlled glow of the night inside the building's efficascent glow. There I thought of the things that makes those benches special during the night. What I saw there is a slide show of translucent visions of all the people that are present within the vicinity during day time. It seems appropriate, seeing them talking and studying, clutching books and handouts to prepare for their upcoming quiz, recitation, or any requirements of the academe, such a noble cause. I see them moving in a fast-motion sequence, sitting, standing, and another one sitting in place. Some stay longer, some stay for just a short while. Some just sit for the sake of rest, some sit while staring into space, apparently thinking deeply at their problems. Is it about love, the teenage hormonal attractant that rises in the roller coaster age of puberty and adolescence? Is it about studies, the greatest burden of the youth imposed by the generations? Is it about finances, the sinner's haven and breeding ground? Is it about family, the most emotive of all the problems that could ever be? No matter what, they just sat there for the longest time, and they're the most subtle of all the people in the scene.

Some chat, talking with their seatmates. The voices cannot be heard, and the silence is absolute. All you can hear is the small creeping insect beneath the window, buzzing its wings or clicking its pincers, while the visions continue. Neither melody nor rhythm would be appropriate, for the representations and the emanations of day to day life within those benches are mere copies of the originals. They're the power of certain objects to hold memory within their material. It's as if certain acts done with respect to their duties and purpose makes them weary not with use, but with the parts of each individual's soul left behind each contact. How willing are we to give something immaterial to the material? Immaterial as any spiritual doctrine; the immateriality of emotion and passion, left behind those benches. The pursuit of the academic life has been embedded within those benches, and all the students within the University seems to be able to rebound their voices through the subconscious act of giving value to those, initially, meaningless objects. People will someday remember those benches as the locations where events as simple as studying for a difficult exam had transpired without them knowing that the benches play a role in it as much as an actor plays the defining role in the movie's story. They pass by, and then they'll remember how somebody voiced publicly his undying love in those benches. They'll remember it as the good old days when they're still young and find how their former selves have forgotten purpose over their duties.

The things we possess reflect the acts that we do. In a sense, each object holds something from us that pulls us into another world, a world gone with the passing of time. It reminds us of what we were and what we are, the questions that matter not to us but to all, and most of all, the reflections of ourselves and how we developed through out the years. What you hold is already a valuable thing, as much as those benches, together with the dim lighting of the nighttime main building, holds part of the memories of the millions and millions of students that gave their time into sitting with them, or looking at them, as if to contemplate the always-taken-for-granted objects in their everyday life. In those benches are the memories that will never be forgotten.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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