Essay

Day of my Avatar: The road to Sixtyhood

The road to sixtyhood is never easy. Though it must have been paved with good intention in the early beginning, the road is long and winding, full of ruts, dusts and muddy trails and before you know it the thrill of the walk or the journey of your day has long gone past its prime and you find yourself at some end like this particular road to sixtyhood. But to sound hip and celebratory that you have reached this far, seemingly a milestone of your life, you call it the ‘Day of my Avatar’.

You have nothing else to do much of this day but engage in some slow-mo recollection, in remembering of the days gone by, and of some quiet nights drinking alone somewhere, nursing some beer or raising unsteady a mug of your favorite coffee to your quivering lips while the time ticks by and the night goes on, goes cold and digs deeper and deeper and your thoughts—dark and depressing—swirl down along with it.

Here, you tell yourself, is what it is all about and all you only have is yourself, with your good old unreliable memories and your dark and depressing thoughts. Ah to write like this in the very day of your avatar about trying to take stock and get some sense of the road you have taken to sixtyhood. Or to sound hip, light and flippant, the road to “sextyhood.”

Sixtyhood, who knows, can also pave the way to “sextyhood”, you are hoping, even if there is the little likelihood of its connect whatsoever. ‘Coz, though of course, you have experienced a heapful of the young kind of, ehem, sextripping, in your callow untamed years, who knows what kind of joyful experience is the old taste of it in your tamed years of sixtyhood and beyond? Others don’t have to take your word for it but as you have heard tales about its possibility, of getting enough dose of it in their sixtyhood, here is your looking up to it with, uhmm, eager anticipation, barring any ill health, ill luck or nasty misfortune, God forbid.

Here, for lack of something definite to write, for lack of anything really of consequence to write in the day of your avatar you decide to take some leaf from the past, particularly of your past life as a journo, a journo journeyman just churning out news story after another and beating the deadline, or donning your hat once a week as a local opinion columnist writing about a journalist’s meditation….

Being a journalist, being a chronicler of events along with personalities who help shape those events, could either make or break you at the seams. Being a witness to the changes or sameness, the monotony or speed of the shifting events, the meanness or boorishness of people in the corridors of power, and of course, those power-hungry and ego-tripping politicians who have an eye always and forever, for the next vote if not the media mileage of it all, cannot but reduce the poor journalist to a jaded and cynical guy and before he knows it, can make him a smart ass, almost rotten to the core.

Being a journalist is risky if he is soft to the core, if he is not careful, if he easily blends or kowtows to the blandishment of power or money, if in short, he has not enough moral backbone to say no, for himself or his integrity—or whatever is left of it. Being a journalist is to know the pervasiveness of ignorance, mendacity and mediocrity all around and the dehumanizing effect of these all to his inner and professional growth. Being a journalist is to come face to face finally with yourself and to ask the terrifying question, have I sunk this low with myself?

Take that, when those lines of about 10 years ago perhaps in your ‘Bystander’ column of a local weekly newspaper now sadly vanished into thin air, when you were still brimming with high-minded ideas and grand emotions and not yet seemingly saturated with corrosive cynicism as you are now.

And here, to continue with that particular piece of your opinionated self, these concluding lines that sound like a bang or a sob softly heard like a whimper but still resonate until today, even today.

Now, after a fairly long enough time of hounding the news, of chasing headlines and beating deadlines, of hobnobbing with the mighty and bearing up with the petty, what do all these add up to? Nothing, perhaps. Experience, maybe. Or the sheer joy of saying, ‘Been there, done that, buddy.’ Just that, nothing big or spectacular.

Nowadays, every time you get your good wretched self into a real fix you get to recall a fallen character soliloquizing in the popular novel of the American writer Lawrence Sanders titled The Case of Lucy B:

“Life was a pisser. You could start out with the best intentions in the world, but sooner or later they all turned to shit. Then you ended up with a couple of freaky dames pounding on your skull while you ran for your life, trying to hold up your pants.”

Ah, the ingrained wit and bitter wisdom of those lines never fail to elicit a chuckle from you and yet they shock into recognition about the fickleness of fate and the imperfection of human beings such as you and your twin Tumbas Manipis persona that happens to be me.

Fast forward to today and what this manner of taking up this quiet persona of Tumbas Manipis has really gotten of me, of my whole goddamn writing life and what it is all about.

Here, for whatever, let me engage in quiet soliloquy, for whatever this is worth:

I reckon it is not for nothing that I write, even if I get to write some trash, sometimes. I write perhaps so I can get lost with myself, so that perhaps, I can spit out some of my venom that have collected in my innards about the many senseless things that forever weigh me down, and finally, perhaps just to have my quiet vengeance on the dullness and arbitrariness of the hour that oppress and possessed me despite all my efforts to make myself free and somehow, writing about it enables me to get even or allows me the sheer folly to act nonchalant and undaunted of it all.


John Abaincia Bello has written as news correspondent for Quezon province in Philippine Daily Inquirer, Today, and Business Mirror. He dishes out opinion column (Tumbas Manipis) in local weekly newspaper Quezon Chronos based in Lucena City. He also writes literary pieces both in Filipino and English and has published three short stories and a number of poems in Liwayway magazine and also in Philippines Graphic. He has self-published three books: “Tumbas Manipis na Ulat Mula sa Quezon at Iba Pang Kalatas ng Aking Panahon” (2011), “Tumbas Manipis: A Journo’s Life and Literary Jottings in Cocolandia” (2014) and “Tumbas Manipis: Kronikol sa Panahon ng Tokhang” (2017). Bello is wrapping up his latest manuscript titled “Pastilan, Bes: Mga Pesteng Tala ng Aking Letseng Pagsinta.”

4 comments

    1. Thanks for having read my piece and somehow being touched by what I have written. Perhaps you are a kindred spirit and we trudge the same trail in life.

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  1. A few years ago, I was a down and out college graduate. I did not know what to do with my degree. If I were somebody who takes to drink, I would be sitting next to you, John, in a bar. We would try to get something out of each other. Perhaps, I would like some of your thoughts on why life is unbearable. You might want to try to get me drunk. I am glad we got acquainted at a time in my life when I have found a bit of myself not needing to be in a dark place like a bar or some other nasty place. I wrote a book instead.

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  2. Thank you, Steph. Perhaps life gets a little less unbearable because someone like you gets to write the way you do. Please write for Revolt mag, unleash whatever that bedevils you to make it unbearable for readers not to have read you.

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