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papa osmubal
oscar balajadia I ATTENDED a million parties during my student and seminary days– but I just had to. It was sort of part of my having been a student and seminarian–and, irony of ironies, I was even one of those who would organize parties in the seminary–but I just had to. It was sort of a divine appointment put in force on me–I was with a students' (rather, seminarians') council that did just nothing but to organize parties. Missing those important "parties" would have caused one their scholastic privilege. Figure that out.

My wife knows well enough what kind of a despicable beast I am when it comes to parties. She would not bother asking me to join her to a friend's wedding or some dude's kids' birthdays. I have a million reasons not to attend those and my wife has heard them over and over again: my toe is sore; I don't like cakes; I have lesson plans to prepare; I will give a test tomorrow; I need to check some papers; it might suddenly rain; I am waiting for a colleague's call... till Kingdom come... amen. I am a factory of vomit-inducing asinine alibis.

Sometimes (read: once in a blue moon) I give gentle considerations to special family gatherings, but not without us engaging in habitual bloody arguments. My wife finds these verbal squabbles childish and nonsense, while I find them useful in spoiling her mood to attend a family function.

And yet I just don't know what comes over me that she sometimes succeeds in twisting my arms. As though there is an alien force working on me that, despite those wonted tiffs and my endless counter-arguments (you know, poets don't run out of these because these are the staples on their menu), the next thing I know is that I am on the way to the party with these noisy nestlings (one in clothes fit for Cinderella and the other in pants and shirts graced with Power Rangers and Doraemon) and a frowning lady who nags in the language she alone understands. I walk to the party both alive and dead, or rather more dead than alive. When this happens I tell myself that hypnotism is an exact science. I sometimes try to convince myself that my wife might have clandestinely got a secret power, a voodoo, or something that falls into that category.

Last night (October 4, 2008), I attended this party without anybody coercing me or without any voodoo hypnotizing and siphoning life and consciousness off my being. It was all me, with my own freewill and freedom, at that party that ran until near dawn.

I enjoyed the night with these fine men mostly in their late thirties. I was in the right company as I am still in that age range. We were all professionals–ones that Filipinos in this part of the world would either envy or be proud of, or both. Among us there were engineers, teachers, certified bartenders, community workers, bank employees, telecommunications specialists, real estate agents, etc.

The party did not disappoint. Though a signal number one typhoon mercilessly bashed the city, it was a fine night for all of us in that cozy and funky bar-restaurant hired and prepared for our purpose. And money literally flowed to make the party happen.

It was the 40th anniversary of our fraternity, Tau Gamma Phi, and it was also the formal incorporation of the Tau Gamma Phi alumni group in Macau, which aims at raising funds for scholarships, disaster relief and providing assistance (like shelter and daily provisions) to undocumented and stranded migrants. That sounds good to be true, indeed. But with what we all have, with our professions and positions in this city, and with what we all can do, there is no reason at all why those will never be done. That will be even more possible and feasible if we stop heeding the little devils lingering in our minds, so that we can cut down our consumption of beers and wines (which lays a serendipitous solution to our bulging bellies) and stop our regular weekend visits to expensive pubs so that money can go where it is more needed. Plus, we are all ripe in age now. We are fathers now. We now all have significant tasks and duties in our particular fields of work. I can say we all have our shares, small or big, in building this city. We are not young anymore, and with old age comes responsibility.

Speaking of age, I keep on asking myself, am I not too old for fraternities? Are not fraternities stuff for young people and street bums?

This is how I ended up in my fraternity. I was in a Special Education section–the brightest class in my high school in my hometown. The eventual valedictorian of that class convinced me to join his fraternity (which was Tau Gamma Phi). I am by design a person who can only be convinced or cajoled by intelligent people and it usually needs a lot of miracles and exhausting explanations to soften my steel reasoning.

I trusted my classmate and his come-ons were strengthened by the fact that there were quite a number of our classmates who were members of his fraternity. I told myself these were intelligent individuals, considering that they could memorize Florante at Laura and Noli Me Tangere word for word, line by line and from cover to cover, and they could solve chemical equations in no time at all. I was a witness to their intelligence and precocity, and I was more than glad I belonged to that class. We were the scholarship class–and I was one of those with full-scholarship. To make the long story short, I added one more scholar in their fraternity. I was a boy of 16 then, two years removed from university.

During my younger years in my fraternity I was a total opposite of how people would define an ordinary fraternity member. I never beat up people. I never bullied anybody using my fraternity's name. I never engaged in violence. I was a dispiriting kill-joy to the misinformed and badly educated fraternity members. I was one of those who these misled individuals would love to call sissy and spoilsport. I was (and still am) a pacifist to the bone. That is why my frat brothers (at least those who knew the true meaning of fraternities and the principles behind their founding and adhered to those) treasured my involvement in our fraternity.

Unlike the typical belligerent fraternity man (or rather, boy), I don't have any scars as evidence of my "genuine membership and colorful history" in my fraternity, as I have always been a fierce diplomat. I was hurt and wounded with words and in return I harmed and wounded others with words, but at the end of the day one needs to think and deduce that peace and global fraternity can be achieved. This was perhaps the reason why nobody hurt my fraternity brothers when I was around them. This was perhaps the reason why nobody from other fraternities tried to harm me. It is just nice to be brother to all men. Yes, violence is always the last recourse. I agree with that principle and I will never ever deny that. But I firmly believe that there are a gazillion ways before one gets into that last resort. I have been angry more than a million times in my dealings with various individuals, but my anger has a boundary, it just serves as a warning to both me and the other souls involved. Again, that is perhaps the power of diplomacy and self-restraint, because, in the very first place, the point of getting into all the troubles is to solve the troubles, not to multiply them, not to make them worse. Nobody can deny that diplomacy also has gleaming dogteeth and razor-sharp claws. Growl, roar, and show those savage wares and things will go back in the right track. When a snake hisses, don't approach it. In fact, I am violent with the use of words. I am not a Zen-type of negotiator, but rather I am one that uses violent words. I still remember that once in one of the schools I attended, I was engaged in an argument on tuition fee with a school lawyer. Sensing that he was too adamant in turning the students' plea down, I called him obtuse and I told him it was nonsense talking to him. It is not a perfect world, and I am not a perfect negotiator either, but as I said diplomacy has its gleaming dogteeth and razor-sharp claws. Diplomacy has its own violence, and I have always been in that. But in my entire life I have never physically threatened or hurt any of my fellow human beings.

Ok, now that I am in my late thirties, am I too old for fraternity?

No. I am not too old for fraternity. There are only two kinds of men fraternities need–old men who are responsible and intelligent and young men who are mature (intellectually and emotionally) and wise. Well, as things go nowadays, it is a given fact that fraternities now need a lot of men like these. But sadly enough, we don't see men like these everyday, which is why more often than not fraternities recruit and accept just about any two-legged creatures they can find.

[About the author. Papa Osmubal is Oscar Balajadia of Magalang (Well, don't get fooled by that name), now a Macau resident (Sorry, where?) and married to a Chinese local (How? How come? Why?). He has been a Catholic seminarian (OK, he once opened a book at an exam in Latin and Romance Languages---but who in frigging hell did not?), a Catholic missionary (Oh, the rosary is the answer to our country's economic problems and to your alcoholism and addiction to nicotine!), a bookstore staffer (Yes, sir, listen here, we know it is urgent, so your book is on its way from Guangzhou and will be here in 8 months!), a librarian (Oh, it's Friday the 13th and I am not putting 666 as Dewey call number on this bloody book!), and a teaching assistant (OK, pal, I know you prepared for the exams so I will check and mark them!). He is currently a teacher (yawn) and has an M.A. in English Studies (yawn even more, nod off, and then snore) from the University of Macau (sorry again, where?).]

-Posted: 8:45 AM 10/6/08 | More of this author on eK!