BY: Rachel Ann B. Pedroso

     The brilliant lights in this festive season are not the Christmas lights and fireworks, it is the stars in one’s eyes. And from the distant memory of December against the blinking lights from the Christmas tree, I peeked through Señor Delfin Buensuceso’s eyes; chilling from the gush of the cold Pacific’s air, it shone the brightest.
    I don’t spend enough time looking into people’s eye. I fear to see both the emotions and unfeelingness in them. I grow up scared of looking back at my mother’s angry stare whenever I spilled my milk. I cringed at my Kindergarten teacher’s stern expression whenever I pulled a classmate’s hair. I cowered when a bully glowered at me for a little mistake at work.  I have to look down and faced solid ground than to look up and see the sullen annoyance and fury in them. I was a coward and I grew up invested in listening. For me, spoken word is less personal and allows a person some grace period to think, speak and act accordingly. Staring is impolite and an eye to eye contact is rather disconcerting.
    As I grow up, though, I realized that no matter how pitched-perfect a voice may get, the sincerity and rawness of every being are central to the eyes. My curiosity was triggered by a peek-a-boo under the Christmas tree. When he said “peek-a…”, I drowned in his cranky, old and tired eyes. They have dark circles from sleepless nights of reminiscence but for me, it looked endearing with laughing crow lines and when I made an eye contact, I saw the brightest of eyes. His eyes were shining and instantly, I felt a magnetic pull towards his mystery. I became curious of his happiness, fears, longing, and weaknesses. I want to see his strength and learn his history through the silent laughter of his twinkling eyes. And because of him, I started looking into unsolicited eyeballs. With every eye contact, I feel closer to their souls. I can hear their heartbeats.
    He was famous for his cackle. Children run towards him whenever his old baritone voice filled the sala. But it was his kind eyes that pulled me in. His good old Joe stories of war and redemption were filled with emotion. And I silently observe every reaction or even a slight change of sentiment from his avid listeners. His eyes hid all his torments and revealed all his victories. Maybe he doesn’t want to taint a child’s fairy tale and all his “once-upon-a-time” ends with a happily ever after. As always, we cheered after listening and walked away with a palm full of candies.
    My parents called him “Santa Claus” behind his back but I preferred calling him Lolo Fin. Being born on the 25th of December might have influenced his generous personality, but I know more than enough. I will look at his eyes and all the answers are there. He used to walk me to places – sari-sari store, a neighbor’s parlor, an orchid garden, or through the street. We debate diligently: arguments from an experienced old man versus a fifth grader’s stubborn belief. And in between our verbal cross-fire, his frail, rheumatic and cakey finger will point to strangers.
    “You can recognize who people are by looking straight into their eyes.” With pursed lip, I will glance at those unsuspecting person with disinterest.  Some had stressful and anxious eyes while others were composed and confident. They speak in volumes and the gravity of each look dawned on me when I became an adult.
    I saw hurt and hungered look from street-children playing patintero with jeepneys, cars and buses along the pedestrian. They cast begging eyes like puppies, crying for shelters, decent clothes, clean food, and parental love. But instead of understanding and sympathy, some high heeled personas will look down at them with disgust and fear. And we are not exempted either, one time in our lives, we cast them with an irritating look and repugnance. How they see us, we will never know. I do pray that we appear as an emblem of hope to them rather than grim reapers of dreams.
    I noticed honesty and deceitfulness from store owners. The rolling off of their eyeballs, the shift in its direction, the clouding of the lashes says it all. They are observant and studious as a microscope. They know their products well and can see through their customers. Some will offer with a fair price while others will sell at a lower price but with lower quality and quantity unbeknownst to the buyer – all happening between the conversation of undaunted and skillful looks.
    I discerned sorrow and agony from a grieving wife.From her moist lashes, I pray that all her hardships will turn into tears to water the arid soil. I will never know the severity of her anguish from her downcast look to the alienation in her beautiful eyes, but I will watch her with respect and understanding. I hope that one day, those eyes will sparkle again.
    I witnessed malice and lust from the calculating glare of a thief. His eyes were scariest when they show a glare of maddening hatred. The mere sight can kill you on the spot without pulling the trigger of the gun.
    I gazed at the father who looked worried when he sends off his son to school for the first time. The wife patted his shoulder and gave him a reassuring smile while their hesitant toddler walks with a mixture of fear, excitement, and wonder in his innocent eyes.
    I beheld the most romantic rendezvous in the meeting of the eyes of two lovers. It is like looking through reason and love with beckoning glances or seductive long gazes. I saw them though the naughty glances of my parents and their unspoken language of love were inspiring.
    I witnessed the poignant moment when a baby was  born after a difficult normal delivery. All the crushing pain due to the uterine contraction that was endured by the mother was gone when I showed her the baby. Her eyes were glowing with unconditional love.
    I laid eyes to a pleading sinner who gazed intently at the crucifix. Whether he has atoned for his misgivings and is praying intently for forgiveness, I do hope that he will have peace of mind.
   The eyes with all its deceit and innocence merit wonder.  It is possible to observe a mismatch between the words of a person and what he or she really means. And yet it is also feasible to discern the emotions just by looking through them. With all the advances in science, still, we can never master or comprehend its complex magic.
    God created eyes for a good purpose. It is to gather, focus and transmit light to the brain so the information can be deciphered into an image. And in that very same image, we can see through every person’s intention.
    The eyes are the driving force for our greatest achievements. What we see will always bring us the wonder of boundless creativity. But we also have to be careful because sometimes in our quest for truth, what we see is not what we are looking for. It is dangerous to assume from the first impression “because people have learned the art of eye theatrics”.
    The eyes is a mystery. The longer you stared at it, the more puzzling it becomes. It looks back at you like a mirror, a wonder but forever wondering. It is the window to the soul and at the same time the gates to heaven and hell. Everything is reflected in it because it speaks for what our heart feels.
    Ah, I missed looking at his eyes. And I regret not seeing those eyes when he drew his last breath. Sometimes during midnight, I heard an old man’s cackle, whether its hallucination or not, I close my eyes and remember through the gossamer of blinking lights under the Christmas tree the brightest eyes I have ever seen. He said peek-a-boo and his eyes shine with wisdom, kindness, and depth that will forever inspire my curiosity.
Rachel Ann Pedroso, 29, is a Labor and Delivery Nurse at Almana General Hospital- Dammam, KSA.