May 16th was my last weekday at the Grain Quality and Nutrition Center (as post-doctoral fellow). That week was such an emotionally difficult time for me because there were a lot of things to let go, to clean up, to pass on. As I was hauling my things into the car on my last day, I realized that the things I was bringing home from my entire stay in that lab could be thrown in into two 50-liter dry boxes, one 10-liter plastic bag, and a cloth shopping bag.
However, the camaraderie that I have developed with the people in GQNC and the personal growth I've gone through with them all those years... these are intangible and priceless. They will not fit into any container.
While some good things have to end, I also recognize that it's time to move on to new adventures. But before those happened, a number of us from GQNC opted to take a few minutes of downtime in the afternoon to have group photos taken. The photo below happens to be my favorite shot because I was still included in it, sort of. They are the people who saw and supported me as I fumbled with my first field experiments, dealt with leadership issues, and went on the road with me to see waterfalls.
And then the whole lab (sans my current supervisor and some of the technicians) took me out for my last dinner with them as fellow. We ate to our hearts' content (because the food was all healthy) at the Herb Republic.
There were no video messages, no photo slideshows, no phone patches... a marked difference from the other celebrations we used to have. But they did have speeches. It was very heartwarming to hear kind words from Vito, Tita Lily, Tita Dory, and Roslen. Words that helped me realize that in my little way, I contributed to helping form the GQNC team that now is.
And they were successful in making me tear up when it was my turn to speak. After all, they taught me many of the things I know about rice quality. I could operate most of the instruments because they kindly took the time to teach me. Some of us even made a deal that there won't be anyone left behind (in Filipino: walang iwanan). That was nine years ago, back when I was a graduate student... and I turned out to be the one to break that promise.
So, on my last day, there were no good-byes. At least not yet.
I will not say farewell until it's definite that my road with them has reached a dead end and that I have to take a new one. For now, I'm treating this current block as a stop sign.