Over the holidays, I took a break for a few days, away from people and places I know. I’ve been too overwhelmed with everything that has happened in the last few months that I felt I needed to get away from it all to think about whether it’s really happening or not (I checked; it really is).
As cliche as it is, I went to Baguio. During most of the trip, we just ate. But one thing that stood out to me was the butterfly sanctuary in Camp John Hay, and I cannot stop thinking about it until now. To tell you the truth, there was nothing remarkable about the sanctuary. You need to pay Php50 to enter a small enclosure, roughly the size of a small garden with a rather pitiful attempt at landscape gardening–it hardly merits to be called a sanctuary. But the enthusiasm and passion of the “guide” more than makes up for how the sanctuary looks like. Cheerful would be an understatement. He violated our personal space by insisting we pose with the butterflies and hold a water-bottle-turned-vase so that he could take our photos. I said I didn’t want my photo taken, I just wanted to see the butterflies. He wouldn’t take no for an answer and took photos anyway.
After the brief but very awkward photoshoot, he went on to explain the life cycle of the butterflies, starting with the fact that they don’t like the cold temperature of Baguio and that this results with their shortened lifespan. He said this very casually, as if we’re supposed to readily accept the fact that butterflies die prematurely because of the cold. But knowledge doesn’t automatically follow acceptance.
He continued his explanation earnestly, showing us random plants that had butterfly eggs, catterpillars, and cocoons. And then he finished off his spiel by telling us that butterflies typically live for just four weeks, but in Baguio, they last only three weeks. He then gestured us to the rest of the sanctuary and told us to check out the butterflies on our own.
We did, but it was a depressing activity, to tell you honestly. They were so beautiful. They made the sorry excuse for a sanctuary actually look magical. I followed one particular butterfly feed on a flower. I saw two others who looked like they were mating, but I’m not exactly sure how butterflies look when they mate–maybe they’re just glad to see each other.
But amidst all the fluttering, there was one thought that kept nagging at me: in two or three weeks, all of them will be dead. All these complicated, silly creatures only have a few weeks to live, but they look so determined to go about what butterflies normally do. They don’t know that they’ve been robbed of seven, precious days just for being in the wrong place with the wrong climate. They don’t know that whatever it is that they are intent on accomplishing will be for nothing because they are enclosed in a small area and are meant only to be gawked at by paying guests. I wonder how many people have visited the butterfly sanctuary over the years and how many dead butterflies have been immortalized in photos. Thousands. Probably hundreds of thousands. I wonder how many people live the same way.
In the meantime, I’m alive. I’ve been alive for 27 years and still, most days I question my purpose and everyone else’s intent. I am easily overwhelmed by attention. My hands are getting filled with the Kindness other people are giving me, and on days that I don’t know what to do with it, I let it go gently. I smile, and I say I’m fine. I say that I’m okay with Sadness–Sadness I know just what to do with. My hands are calloused but are used with its rough edges.
But today is different. Today, I decide to make space in my hands for Kindness, if only in my fingertips. Today, I decide that it doesn’t matter how long or short I’m going to be alive for. Today, I decide to live.