De La Salle University is an oasis of calm in a city of movement. We allow two hours to cross this part of town from Bonifacio where I am staying, but it takes only thirty-five minutes. Such is the unpredictability of traffic in Manila. The lecture hall seats about two hundred, but seven minutes before we are due to start, only twelve seats are filled. I am assured the audience will arrive. I assume we are on Filipino Local Time again. But no, students have classes some distance away. There are fifteen thousand students at De La Salle. They will get here when they get here – not all of them, of course! We start on time to the usual prayer and national anthem, after which young people continue to file in –and will do so for the next forty minutes. There is an air of academic formality about the room. Teared seats, AV system, fixed placed microphones, all contribute to the message that this is a place of formal learning. I am about to shatter the formality. Once introduced, I unwind the cable to free the microphone from its cradle and launch into the Land of Risk, pacing the room as I speak, often at volume.
The audience is restrained. I get the sense that whilst these guys know what metaphor is, they don’t ‘get’ metaphor, at least not emotionally. Eye contact is certainly made, but there is a reluctance to connect emotionally. They have been taught, as I once was, to evaluate critically, to maintain emotional distance. It’s a methodology that applies well to gaining an intellectual understanding of a subject, but it is not an approach that engages the whole personality – not one that sets the spirit free and lets the heart soar to become the very most we are capable of being. If we do not engage with intellect, emotion and spirit, we grow lopsided. We can become intellectual giants, yet remain spiritual pigmies, our emotional intelligence stunted.
Yet by the end, it is clear that something has resonated. Questions are deep and incisive, with no reluctance to step forward to engage. This is a hungry audience. And amongst them are young people whose hearts are set on walking this path. One young man in particular asks repeated questions, even approaching me afterwards to explore our respective journeys in more depth. Later, in the University foyer, he will approach again, accompanied by a young lady. There appears to be an attachment. She has a different question. She has to make presentations but repeatedly freezes when doing so. So there in the foyer, whilst awaiting the arrival of the taxi, we throw down the NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming) Circle of Excellence and practice accessing resources she already has. She can engender in herself the same comfort she feels in reading, when making presentations. Learning how to apply this single tool from NLP was a pivotal point in my life. I have taught it and seen it employed with dramatic success time after time. This young lady remains unconvinced of the power of what she has learned. If she utilises it when next presenting, she will be in for a pleasant surprise. Returning to Bonifacio takes more than two hours. Such is the unpredictability of the Manila traffic.
So now my last presentation, for this visit, is done. I have lost count of the number of events I have attended, the number of people I have connected with, the number of miles I have flown and travelled by bus. But numbers are only numbers. All they can do is calibrate. That calibration can offer a false sense of satisfaction, leading only to ego-building. ‘I have sold x number of books. I have spoken to x number of people. I have made x number of foreign tours. And that must mean…’ That must mean what? That I am a success? Success is a hollow nominalisation. That I am esteemed? Esteem evaporates in a blink. Let x remain the unknown quantity of algebra. I am not here for enumeration and ego-building. I am here to shed light, such light as I have, to further journeys of others. As the quote on the wall of the teachers room at UMAK said, ‘Teachers are like candles. They are consumed lighting the way of others.’ In my turn, my journey has been lit by others, and to these I shall always remain more grateful than I can express. I will be a teacher for those who would learn of the journey from the land of Comfort Zone where we sink into indolence, to the Land of Risk, where we become what were always meant to be, by discovering the divine spirit that lives in each of us. The only number, the only calibration, that matters is how many days I have left in which to do it before I, too, return to my real home. And I am not speaking of the UK.
Tamaraw Beach Resort
But it has been almost four weeks. My body is tired. The lovely people from the University Circle of Professional Educators, who have organised my visit here, have arranged two days’ recuperation at the beach. Tomorrow we will head off to the Tameraw Beach Resort at Puerto Galera on Mindoro Island. There’s just one catch: I have to be up at 4.00 am for the bus!
That bus deposits us at the port for a one-hour sea crossing to Mindoro. As we file out of the terminal on the waterside, I assume we are making for the large sea cat docked just up ahead. But, no, we veer off to something rather smaller. In fact, if you were feeling uncharitable, you mightit reminiscent of a canoe, though covered, motorised and seating fifty. I seem to be the only westerner on board. This might be a good sign. But then again, it might not. The gangplank is hauled aboard, itself an intriguing omen, and we depart. An hour later, the same gangplank is lowered and we descend direct onto the beach.
So this is what paradise looks like. I had always wondered. The sand is warm to the touch and stretches up to a line of palm-shaded chalets, behind which is a large hotel building. The waves lap the shingle, as a cool breeze stirs the air. I am, at this moment, typing these words on a raised thatched podium, looking out onto a deep blue sea. It is the perfect place for restoration. This has to be among the Philippines’ best kept secrets. Long may that remain the case. Calibration numbs paradise.
In two days I will take the thirteen-hour flight to the UK, equalling the longest I have ever yet taken. Once through the terminal at Heathrow, I will be confronted by an icy wind and weary, eyes that do not want to connect. I will smile and whisper to myself, “This is the UK. Back in the Philippines, we do things differently.”