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How the President gave me a DVD player |

Young Star

How the President gave me a DVD player

- Paula C. Nocon of the Philippine Star’s YS -
There’s a spanking new DVD player sitting in my bedroom now. As it shines in all its chrome glory as the very first appliance I have ever bought with my own money, I’m proud to say that I’ve joined the ranks of thousands of Pinoys who splurged their first petrodollar paychecks on a tangible symbol of "katas ng Saudi": Forego your children’s college education, forego your retirement plan, forego your mortgage! You just gotta have that Betamax in your living room for all the neighbors to see!

Well, in my case, it was about foregoing a girl-bonding/boy-watching trip to Boracay. For which I was called a hopeless flake by my girl friend. Which was a decision inspired by no less than the President of the Philippines. Which later transmogrified into my New Year’s resolution for 2003.

In the beginning, my friend wasn’t very happy when I told her that I was thinking of bailing out on our Boracay New Year extravaganza because I suddenly found an electronic appliance more desirable than tanned men in Quiksilver boardshorts. So it was a choice between having a blast with my friend in Bora for a week, or digitally mastered film viewing for about five pleasurable years (with one year warranty!). I wallowed in guilt as I pondered on this dilemma, and thought that maybe by watching movies like The Beach with my friend on said DVD player I could have a tropical paradise, my friend’s happiness and home entertainment all in one go, and thereby drown out said guilt.

I knew that wouldn’t work so I slept on it, hoping for a sign from heaven to put an end to my dilemma.

And what do you know. When I woke up, there it was, right on TV: President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announcing that she wasn’t going to run for president in the 2004 elections.

It hit me like bolt of lightning. The President has changed her mind; so will I.

Eureka, I had my answer! The message my friend received: "Sorry, sorry, sorry. DVD won. Please forgive me."

My friend did not reply at once. In fact, she did not reply until a week and a half later, back from Bora with a marvelous tan. She later admitted that she contemplated giving the cold (but bronzed!) shoulder treatment to my cold feet syndrome for a much longer time.

But I’m getting ahead of my story. I’ll put in a little cinematic flashback.

In high school religion class my teacher once scrawled on the blackboard: "Commitment is when you give up your right to change your mind." I absolutely abhorred this definition — it reeked of fascism, in my opinion — and yet, like many inane things one learns in religion class propaganda, it somehow stuck. And therein lay the root of my fear of commitment, from which has sprung all sorts of flaky behavior on my part.

The thing is, I’m not a fickle or flighty person — I don’t sift through a hundred outfits before going out, I don’t change dinner plans at the last minute, I don’t make promises I know I can’t keep. What I am is flaky. It’s excruciating for me to make a decision, especially when it involves the happiness of other people, so I choose to remain noncommittal for as long as I can. I never give a firm yes or no until I’m absolutely certain. I cannot be cajoled or bullied into something I’m half-hearted about. I like to keep my options open until the very last minute.

Simply put, I like to reserve the right to change my mind.

Stereotypically, this is what they call a woman’s prerogative. Men are supposedly more ambitious and result-oriented and are therefore more rigid in their decision making. Women, on the other hand, care more about fulfillment than ambition and are thus more flexible. Sadly, this flexibility is often mistaken by men as frivolity — or as feminine weakness and whimsy, instead of strength of character.

But on that day that the President said that she was ready to make the ultimate sacrifice — that of her own personal ambition — even if it meant having to change her mind, well, that was not about fickleness. She exercised her woman’s prerogative, and if anything it showed remarkable strength of character. Country first, before self, she said — in other words, she may have changed her mind, but she did not change her heart.

You could almost hear Billy Joel singing: She never gives out, she never gives in, she just changes her mind... and she’s always a woman to me...

And so I made a decision. I made a sacrifice — "no" to cavorting in Boracay. I made a commitment — "yes" to home entertainment in my bedroom. I made a New Year’s resolution — stop flaking on friends, start making amends, know what you’re committed to. And I made a new definition of commitment — it’s when you give up the right to change your heart.

Thank you, Madame President, for changing your mind, and for changing mine. I certainly hope you won‚’t change it again, as I am certain that I won’t either. You can be happily stuck with just one remaining year of being President, while I’ll be happily stuck with my spanking new DVD player.
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