Resisting the return

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

While most of the people in the world are praying to be able to go back to “normal” as in their pre-pandemic lives, there are those of us who are “Resisting Return.” Yes, we like our lives the way they are, considering what it took to get here and what we learned to give up during this pandemic and live without, in order to find the true basics in life.

When someone recently suggested the possibility of going back to Metro Manila, driving to work and essentially working in pre-pandemic settings, my first reaction was: Have you people not learned anything? Or are you such creatures of habit or so formed by your old ways that your mind is unable to differentiate and evaluate the real pros and cons of simpler lives, the benefits of work from home settings and peeling off the layers of commercialism and obsession with “Busy”? Just hearing the suggestion of returning to pre-pandemic work mode makes me feel like a union member being issued a court order.

More than anything, I am shocked at how people, businesses and society willingly submitted to quarantine restrictions, lost jobs, lost businesses, lost personal freedoms, made necessary adjustments or sacrifices to those conditions, but have not managed to consider the possibility of discovering and developing an alternative way of life; a life that is not based on clocks but on “when the sun comes up,” when the rooster crows or your tummy growls. A life or what’s left of it, in pursuit of things that should not be listed as dreams but as life goals. Rather than making a wish list, how about actually going after bucket lists or doing the things that you have only talked about but never had the courage to dive into? As the Jedi Master Yoda is often quoted as saying: “Do or Do Not. There is no try.”

When my father Louie Beltran passed away, I had the sad and unpleasant task to help clean up his belongings. Among those things were numerous boxes and items of “stuff” and things related to hobbies and interests that he was interested in, meant to take up or had bought to get started on. Most of them were in old but original boxes with cellophane wrapping intact, some even had price tags. He never got around to open them, or do anything with them because his “busy” schedule did not allow it. Back then one of his great loves was his collection of roosters or game fowls that he thoroughly enjoyed every time he went to the small farm in Lipa. But his time there was often just a few hours, or on rare occasions he would stay overnight. But like always, he would eventually drive back to the city and rejoin the rat race. Being a builder at heart along with my experience in the US and building two resorts in Palawan, I simply decided to build what originally were “shelters” until we managed to build our modest farm house that took four years. We did not have disposable income but we simply scraped up enough to do it, foundation after foundation. Year after year, things got added and all of it, “We” did ourselves.

Life, my friends, is about choice. Dreams, as they say, are a dime a dozen, but those who set out to pursue a goal and not a dream, are not so common. Someone once said that I was quite lucky in life to have the guts to make my own decisions and be so independent minded since college. I corrected that fella by pointing out that every “Independent decision” came with a price. My father may have respected my independence but he also saw it as rebellion or willful disobedience. Others simply wrote me off as the Black Sheep or a Lost Cause. Yes, I habitually walked out on principle, whether it was a job or a relationship, but that had financial consequences or led to being branded negatively. The only time I finally had a discernible career path was after I surrendered my life to Jesus Christ and followed his leading into mainstream media, which was never on my wish list until God put it in there.

Yes, I was a Day Dreamer to many but more than that, I played out scenarios and imaginary strategies on how things or ideas should be, the locations, the look as well as doing some research. It is now referred to as “Visualization.” I don’t know whether I imagined it or it was divinely implanted in my brain, but I always had this image of this white woman who I would eventually marry. I only went wrong with the nationality thinking she would be American, turned out I’d end up marrying a Dutch lady.

But I digress. Like my father, I have always wanted to spend more time in our farm so I would stretch my stays between Friday morning to late afternoon Sunday. When that wasn’t good enough, all I could do was pray and pray and pray. Finally God me told to go build a small broadcast studio instead of an ARK! It took a while and a bit of cash, but once again I get to do what I dreamed of.

When the pandemic struck and we faced months of perpetual lockdowns, I had to make a choice: stay in Metro Manila, or pack up and go to Lipa City. It was not easy and we needed to hire someone to babysit the house. But what we discovered was that our exodus brought down the utilities and maintenance cost of the house and that we were actually saving money. Sometimes, the biggest challenge is simply making the decision and only after that do we discover that the cost was not that high, that hard or that expensive. What follows after is often adventure and fun. Yes, it involves risk, requires courage, but it gets easy with research and a plan. Resist The Return!

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