THE year was 2006 and I had just rekindled my friendship with JC. Now JC and I were fast friends since we met at a theater production in college but we hadn’t exactly kept in touch through the years. But one day, JC called and asked “would you like to build a boat?”
Foolishly I said, “yes.”
JC had come into possession of an old, decrepit, abandoned boat from a relative in Batangas. With a few other friends, we decided to put the little extra money we had into getting the boat seaworthy again. It really wasn’t much but we hoped it would be enough to impress the girls if we had dropped the line “oh my boat is docked in Batangas.”
That started a ritual of sorts for us. JC and I would make weekly long drives to Nasugbu just to look at the little patches of progress the boat would make. Sometimes we would drive the entire distance just to share a beer and a smoke with the mysterious Tunisian man whom we had contracted to refurbish the boat and had begun to regard as a friend. We traveled hundreds of kilometers, ate a lot of humus and gyros at the roadside Greek taverna in Tagaytay, and talked about the most useless, the most mundane, the most embarrassing, and the most heart-wrenching things on those trips.
Finally after two years, and after taking months to find that perfect reconditioned surplus outboard engine, the boat was complete. We christened her the Hippocritter. The boat after all was a strange animal – slow and plodding just like the African river creature. We also thought that it was hypocritical of us to tell people we had a boat docked in Batangas when really we didn’t want anyone to ride the boat since that old reconditioned surplus outboard engine had this nasty habit of conking out in the middle of the sea. Finally, the name paid homage to Hippocrates – the father of Western medicine because truly the long journey into getting the boat out to sea was a healing journey for all who were involved in it – and it was certainly for me as I was struggling with the reality of unexpectedly becoming a single parent.
The boat took a grand total of five rides out to sea before we decided it wasn’t worth the risk of being set adrift off the coastline of Nasugbu. We abandoned ship and somewhere along the coastline of Nasugbu still lies that boat until today – old, decrepit, and abandoned – just as we found it in 2006.
At a quick glance, it seems like it was all a waste of time and resources and much ado about nothing. But I learned a lot about the voyage of life and friendship.
As something of a comic, I pride myself on making people laugh. But JC not only can make people laugh with the best of them, but he also is one of the most generous when it comes to giving laughter. And the older I get, the more I realize that the ability to laugh is perhaps more important than the ability to make others laugh. It’s what we lose as we progress in age – kids laugh all the time and for old people, the cheerful smiling one is often considered the exception. Laughter is socialized out of us by school and society then life and death and work and government and taxes can take the joy out of living. Not everyone can make others laugh, but everyone has access to laughter, we just need to have the right mindset for it and permit ourselves to laugh heartily.
And laughter is possible with a healthy sense of wonder – the truly contagious joy of appreciating that even the curveballs thrown by life at us are all part of a giant tapestry with complicated warps and wefts that we can only appreciate with time and patience.
JC and I are still good friends, even with my relocating to Baguio from Manila and both of us having kids of our own now. I’m glad I said “yes” to that foolish project decades ago. We might not have the boat anymore, but the whole voyage is something that can never get old.