By Jing Villamil
IF you studied, post-studied, lived thereabout, visited or were here confined – you would know . . .
This place, her place. Which she has in common with her grandfather, a few aunts, a fewer cousins. If I happened to spend regular motherly days with her, so rare (as in every weekend!), she would clasp tight my hand and lead me to . . .
Enter this gate, just one of the many gates to this place. We walk through paths that had withstood ages of pounding, withering. Of thick but soft-soled shoes, of scooters, of cars, of ambulances. Of wheeled beds and fast-rolling stretchers. Past the cream-colored walls which, decades and decades ago, were originally chalk white. We would catch our breath as . . .
We share again, with our eyes with our minds, pieces of this nation’s history. These buildings had been built long before the Japanese had thought to crater the roofs, walls and grounds with whacks and thumps of their bullets and the whomps of their bombs. The walls were so sturdy, the shells were shrugged and shedded off. Seventy years later, to maybe shrug or shed off their guilt in turn, the invaders would build the most stunning, blinding structure to heal the critical historical eye. The Ophthalmology Department stands tall, proud, yet apologetically humble. With mirrors for walls, the best eye specialists within to cure, to instruct. There will be no spy lurking beyond its corners, behind its doors. Next to this building is where . . .
They rolled in the bodies tightly wrapped in gray but sometimes surprisingly bright-colored blankets. The Unclaimed. Unwrapped, stark-naked, they float thereafter in vats and pools until they float no more, sunk down by the weight of other as cold bodies. Nameless and so very out of this world, yet they help tutor the healers. Their bones, veins and flesh so very useful. To the last eyelash.
Sometimes though, their souls wander. And oftentimes they end up tailing the interns’ white coats to their houses, where they loom wonderingly lost at the foot of the bed. But again, that is another terrifying story waiting to be told.
We pass by the houses of fraternities and sororities. The need to belong does not spare even the most gifted, here where they most belonged.
And now, at last, before you cross from college to hospital, a patch of heaven on earth. Under the shades of ancient trees that had taken root at the same time as the ancient masonry of the library alongside – rough wooden slabs of tables and benches so thick as to defy anay. Here they swarm! Not flies, but dreamers in white pants and scrub suits, the more outrageous color or design the better. They buzz, they crowd around – interns, clerks, resident doctors. They too have heard of a number of them immortalized by Feelings. Children not my children but how I wish they were! They hug, they pat, they rub my back, they squeeze. I hug, I pat, I rub their backs, I squeeze back. They have little time for love in their busy young lives. They do have time for tears and giggly laughter after seconds of speedreading their own true stories.
Library at the right, canteen at the left; one has research and rich dessert just steps away. Need one wish for more?
Then we cross another gate to the other side. Where doctors, near-doctors, nurses, attendants lord over all germs mean and mighty. Here . . .
We shhh! Here, we walk softly. Here, where viruses and bacteria do not sleep.
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