Could I ever be happier than now?

“Write something else,” said her friend. “Everyone knows your field is public governance. Must you continually write about it? Write about something else!”

“All right,” she answered. “I will write about happiness.” And so, while on the plane from Nagoya to Toronto, she wrote by hand on the back of the airline menu.

Happiness. What age is the happiest in one’s life? When she was 17, she was graduating magna cum laude from the university. She was the bunso of her indulgent barkada. She sang in the choir, led the College Quiz Bowl Team and nonchalantly collected straight “A’s.” As a church youth leader, she visited prisons, called on the sick and spoke in youth conferences.

She was bursting with life and promise. Old age was a far-away country. Oh, how distant and how old 20 years seemed to be! Standing on the edge of a glorious tomorrow, she asked herself, “Could I ever be happier than now?”

Then she discovered UP, nationalism and England. What freedom! Demonstrations. All-night discussion groups. And music, always music. This time she sang political songs in lieu of church anthems. Joan Baez, Simon and Garfunkel. “Bayan Ko.” “Bandilang Pula.” The transition to activism was effortless.