Mar 18, 2010

The Art of Restraint: An Ode

My parents brought my siblings and I to operate on the context of this line I directly quote from them: “Just because we have better jobs than some or most of the parents of the kids in your school, it doesn’t mean that we’re rich”. Every morning, before the hired carpool arrives and just after the family morning prayer, Pa and Ma would tell us this. And of course, as kids, we couldn’t really understand what they meant.

It was a puzzle to us that we were deprived of material things. Back then, I suffered from the constant haranguing questions some of my classmates and schoolmates would throw at me. “Why don’t you ask your Papa to buy it? He’s a doctor isn’t he?” — quizzical brows would be drawn when my answer was a mere shrug. My siblings and I would ask Papa why he wouldn’t buy us the latest gadgets that were “in” those days, and his answer was always, “We’re not rich” or “We can’t afford to be luxurious now, you will need a lot in the years to come”. As expected, we did not understand.

Although we lived in a city, my hometown was not as big as Cebu or Manila. At that time, there was not one mall that boasted of a variety of boutiques where people could shop what they really needed, and wanted. The family’s solution to this was to travel to the nearest highly urbanized — Cebu, to buy clothes, school supplies and etc. However, our trips were scheduled: 1) just before opening of classes (for our shoes, bags, and other school supplies), and 2) a few weeks before the Christmas season (for our party and holiday clothes, Christmas decor, etc). Unscheduled trips were exclusively for emergency purposes.

At home, we were never allowed to watch television. It was only during Sundays that we were able to gaze at the entertainment box. But only for a few hours. What did we do? We were all obliged to do our assignments and study our day’s lessons before supper, and to be continued after. Then we were sent off to bed.

During summer breaks, Papa would enroll us to summer schools and workshops to keep us busy. Piano school, art school, calligraphy lessons — we did that and many more! Then, he would urge us to read books of fiction and literature. Still no TV. On semestral and holiday breaks, the parents would encourage us to play musical instruments — the piano, the guitar, and the flute. Reading was always soldered, but still, TV wasn’t allowed. Until our interest in the little box diminished and went *poof*.

When we were all in High School, everyone had cellphones. I only got mine when I was in my senior year, a gift from an uncle.

College — I was dispatched to live in a dormitory managed by nuns. The rules were not so much different from my parents’. I didn’t find it hard to adjust with the dorm life. Most of all, I danced through College easily, and with flying colors. Modesty aside, I daresay, that it was funny that I didn’t have a hard time, considering I had to balance my studies with being the Editor-in-Chief of my college publication and Vice-President for the biggest inter-school organization for my course.

Now that I am 22 and earning a doctorate degree; my sister being a debater in one of the best debating teams in the country, and due for Law school; and my brother almost done with his Pre-Med degree being a Vice-Governor in the College of Nursing, we finally understand what my parents have, all these years, inculcated in us, encapsulated in one word: restraint.

If we were not dispossessed and had full access to the world’s luxury and caprice, maybe we would have grown as spoiled braggadocios wasting away time, money and our lives. Who knows, I might have been out of school and with child if not for that minute piece of order that symbolized my parents’ authority.

We were taught and showed to live simply, and not want for much. We were pushed to explore and develop our skills, especially that of reading, writing, critiquing, and public speaking. We were forced to be content with what worldly items we had, until being self-effacing has become part of us. But we were not constantly nagged about these virtues. The values that grew in us came from a tiny seed, manifested by a single phrase that started with “Just because …” and continued with “… it doesn’t mean”. We were taught, showed, and encouraged, and we learned.

What we have achieved, and all that we are, we owe to that one line that screwed our heads firmly on our shoulders. And that, we owe to our parents, who really had a hard time raising and molding us into the leaders and champions that we are in our own right.

From that small seed of restraint, of being deprived from lavishness, grew a tree of discipline. At this point, it may not be as tall nor as sturdy as a sycamore, but it exists, and continues to grow.

They say that children go into the world as tabula rasa — blank slates. It is up to their stewards to feed them with the values and morals they will need to survive through life. I am overjoyed — beyond words — that my siblings and I fell into the life of a couple who may not be perfect, but fitting embodiments of God’s ideal masterpiece