‘Carpe diem,’ a phrase that must have been used millions and millions of times, by so many different people. But what does it ‘really’ mean? And, does it mean the same thing for everybody?

Of course, the latter question could immediately be answered by a simple ‘no’. To begin with, carpe diem’s popular translation in the modern lingua franca is ‘seize the day’. In the sense that there might not be a tomorrow, and you have to live your life right now, this moment.

In my experience seizing the day means so many things. It is a variety of activities, things to do, and things to see. The world out there is full of surprises, just to be discovered at an instant moment if possible.

But then again, one is blessed with such an opportunity to be able to seize the day. Many are simply deprived from living the moment as one might see fit, due to sheer personal circumstances. Raised in a loving and caring environment, I was given the opportunity to explore the world in several ways while growing up. Having a Filipino upbringing in a very Dutch society, makes me able to blend the two worlds, feeling both Pinoy and Dutch. In addition, I was raised to have a mind of my own, to be a critical thinking Filipino. I do not take things for granted, or merely as a given fact. If necessary, I question issues and ventilate my thoughts without being bastos (impolite).

And yes, I did all those crappy part-time jobs during high school and college, just to be able to afford stuff. I worked for years as an assistant in the local supermarket, did cleaning jobs, worked in the summer in public parks and was a paper boy for a week. But, in return I gained life experience, met different kinds of people and learned the value of money. All these experiences and traits have served me well, as board member in the Dutch United Nations Student Association (DUNSA), while playing in my own band, and being part of a karate team.

Another way of expressing myself and seizing the day is traveling. When I am traveling around or going to a particular destination, I feel totally free, appreciating the environment, culture, and the people I meet along the way, especially during my last trip to England.

It is generally known that many Filipinos work abroad, including on (cruise) ships. They make up most of the crew, in this case about eighty of a total hundred crew members. By speaking Tagalog with some of the Filipino crew members, I was immediately kababayan, by name. For me it was the first time to encounter Filipino crew members in a European ship. But then again, this was the second time I was ever on a ship. I guess for them, it was one of the rare moments to meet a kababayan among the European passengers. Somehow, you instantly notice the connection as a kababayan, and recognize the Filipino hospitality and kindness. Talking with the crew I also heard about the hard life they experience as Filipino crew. They work long hours and many times are deprived from a normal night of sleep due to their long work shifts. For instance, they are only able to eat their own almusal (breakfast) after serving breakfast to passengers starting 6:00 am and cleaning up afterwards. In addition, unlike their fellow European crew, the Filipinos merely have a temporary contract and are therefore not entitled to standard work benefits.

Hearing their stories and knowing that they could be working on a ship only six to eight months in a year, make me realize that they are in less convenient circumstances to be able to seize the day as they see fit.

Therefore, once again I realize how fortunate I am. Others might experience seizing the day in a totally different manner. I am happy to be able to say, I have learned how to appreciate my life, and the way I am able to experience it…..CARPE DIEM!

About Ged

"Ged" is a Filipino who grew up in the Netherlands. He writes about every day life from a Pinoy and Dutch perspective.
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