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papa osmubal
oscar balajadia I TOLD a folk—one of those I seriously call friends (and boy, they are quite a few, less than the total number of fingers I have on my two hands, because friendship to me is not about what jeans one wears, it is about what is encased in one's braincase and what ticks in one's ticker)—that I bought a camera. And not just a camera—it was one of the latest models that Canon had been bragging about. In pious communion with the children of God, I did not buy the tripod and other gadgets that went with the camera that would have anyway blown my mind in figuring out how to use them. Nonetheless, the salesman was glorious, once more proving that capitalism works just fine. And I saw my friend's eyes become deep, endless oceans of question marks and exclamation marks of various colors, origins, sizes and designs.

My friend was suddenly out of his mind. Shocked, puzzled, petrified, like life abruptly became total fiction to him. He could not at first figure out what he had just heard, like the grey-bearded Father Moses before a blabbering burning bush. It took him (my friend, not old Moses) a while and some precious sips of ice-cold beer to get back to his wits and be aware that it was still a millennium before the next April Fools' Day (which we don't really celebrate and those who do don't know why they do). He could not believe it, for reasons obvious in the character of the man that I am—

One, I am not a buyer, in the general public's definition of the term. Not because I strongly oppose capitalism, believing that it dehumanizes humanity. And not because I am one of those old, grumpy uncles who keep their treasures at the ends of unknown rainbows in the dark recesses of their abodes which they guard and defend to the bitter end. Rather because I am (and will forever be) your classic caveman. I have a clear definition of "buying" and it is "survival." I just have to buy things that are extremely necessary for me to get on in life, things like Playboy magazine and pirated porno DVDs. I just have to spend my hard-earned money on things that are essential for me to guard and protect myself from the brutalities of life, things like San Miguel beer and condoms.

And two, I am primitive for hi-tech machines. I can settle for simple tools used by ancient peoples in building empires and civilizations. I can use a simple nib (homemade—not because I want to demonstrate my abhorrence of the much-dreaded capitalism for polarizing humanity into the poor and the rich, but because I can make one out of a plain bamboo stick or a piece of cardboard, and don't need to buy one of those that Speedball and Rotring popularized and made billions of dollars from) to make "flourishes"—the technical term of the old non-techies like me for "artistic handwriting." I can make a piece of artwork just by using a paper cutter. I am one of the very few remaining flesh-and-blood human artists out there, and we are in grave danger of soon partying with the proverbial dead dodo, to be replaced by robots and computers. I cannot bring myself to believe that man has totally lost faith in his primitive, natural talents and skills, proving me right that capitalism has really dehumanized humanity.

"Is that handmade?" one would blurt out in disbelief. "It is like made by a computer!"

You see, we have stopped believing that we can do what computers can do. We stopped believing that we are a creative and resourceful species. We undermined and negated our humanity by showing that the machines we made and make are more intelligent and more dexterous than we are, machines such as the computer and the remote control.

Bearing those reasons in mind, one can justify my friend's shock upon knowing I bought a camera. What would an old-school uncle like me do with a bang-up camera like the one I bought? As if I was not comfortable with my nibs, quills, pens, pencils, brushes, and cutters that I almost robbed a bank just to get myself a bloody camera. Why? One may ask.

Well, for medical purpose.

I know that didn't quite make sense. Buying a camera for medical purpose? A topping camera plus a caveman equals medical reason? It didn't sum up well. It was a total nonsense.

Something must have gone wrong. It must have just been the hormones.

No, not exactly. Not the hormones. It was the knees and the ankles—my knees and ankles.

Okay, but a camera is not a cast, not a band, not a plaster, not a brace, and definitely not a prosthetic. Folks know a camera has nothing to do with ones knees and/or ankles.

I bought a camera per my doctor's advice. He said a camera is alleviant to my tendonitis. Now, what doctor would tell his patient that a camera is palliative to tendonitis? He must be a shame to the university he graduated from, a disgrace to his profession, and a sick joke to the medical community in which he belongs.

My doctor told me I need regular, light exercises to keep my tendonitis from flaring back and if it ever does flare back it should not hit big-time as to slump me senseless into the sofa for agonizing days. He suggested outdoor exercises that won't strain my joints and bones, like walking and bending. The latter he said I could do while pausing from walking and resting. Which puzzled me a bit, because how would you call it 'resting' and 'pausing' if you are "bending"? Well, that must be a medical stuff that can't be expressed in words. He said I need to get that badly needed vitamin D, especially from natural sources. He suggested outdoor activities, like, again, walking at a park. I asked how I could possibly get vitamin D by just walking at a park. He said it would come from behind the clouds. And the gullible unscientific soul in me believed in him, and walking I did.

I tried walking for some months, and it impressively kept the tendonitis at bay. Plus, it was initially beneficial for the poet in me. Walking is meditative and great poetic materials just pop up while doing it. Health-wise, walking proved to be helpful, but my vagrant poetic mind slowly got sick and tired of it, and my muse, I suspect, got its own tendonitis that it seemed to have stopped keeping me company. Walking became boring and tedious, and eventually it did not yield as many poems as it briefly did before.

Patients are crybabies and doctors earn their living by listening to their patients petty peeves and kvetches. So, I decided to do what a patient loves doing to his doctor—bug him, tell him I am dying, tell him I had a vision of some dead relatives pointing at my knees and ankles. I grabbed a pen and a piece of paper, making sure my list of complaints was complete. I came up with three big complaints: bored, bored, and bored.

Upon hearing my case, the doc scrutinized my knees and ankles. Then he took his pen and notebook and started jotting something. He paused, stared at a small medical gadget in front of him that looked to me like a small lamp shade attached to an odd-looking primitive computer, returned to his writing, and then slowly shook his head after supplying that last full-stop to what he was writing. He lifted his head after closing his notebook, and looked at me. He was speechless for a while. Then he took a deep breath before divulging his point. He grinned—that usual grin you get from a doctor or from an annoyed (or annoying) person. I knew something was really wrong when he said I could solve the problem if I was willing to spend for something effective.

The blood in my face ebbed, flooding back down into my torso. Well, an individual can stretch the budget just to buy more time. I told him whatever the price was, as long as it would just be a simple injection (at which I cringe) or some pills that may taste like old rug dipped in a sewer, and not slicing my body in pieces and sewing them back together a la Frankenstein.

Again he grinned. And I don't really like my doctor grinning at me. The treatment room turned eerily silent like a cathedral that I seemed to have heard a host of angels sing hosannas in my head, the ominous sound one hears when one is about to be called home.

"Do you have a camera?" the doc asked.

My jaw dropped. I could not hide a smile, although I managed to suppress a guffaw, not without extremely difficult physical, emotional and mental efforts. The intense physician-patient conversation thence turned comic.

"No, I haven't got no camera," I said.

"Well, if you got some extra bucks there and can afford a camera, grab one," said the doc. "You walk around with your camera. It will help you see the world in so many different ways like you have never seen it before. The camera will give purpose to your walking."

Doc is darn right. Photography helps me see the world in different perspectives. Photography helps me enjoy my walking. Walking has become fun. Every step presents myriads of surprises, staple to all artists and poets. And the tendonitis is put under control. Photography helps me forget about the tendonitis that I can say it has perhaps been cured. Well, it must purely be a mental game. Mind over matter, as what Chairman Mao preached. That dictum and with the little help from my camera, we seem to be winning this mind game against the tendonitis.

Photography, the remedy to my tendonitis, is also my newly found medium of artistic expression. Photography compounded and enriched my writing of late. I can say my camera was a big help in gathering data and materials that were useful in the writing of my most recent book, Pan Chai— The Filipino Boy in Macau. Now, I admit a caveman needs a tool to enhance his abilities, his talents, his skills, his work, his humanity. But a tool is just a tool to a caveman. A caveman uses a tool, not the other way around. That is why to a caveman the computer and the DLSR camera are mere flints.

[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: 2:22 PM 8/2/11 | More of this author on eK!