The fourth essay of PMS: Meditations on the Post-Modern Syndrome chronicles an obsession that began innocently enough—as all obsessions do—in my early twenties. I was home in Cebu on Christmas holiday and defragmenting—as always—by frantically spring-cleaning. An idle rummage through the dining room cupboards revealed a treasure trove: my photo albums, dating all the way back to when I was barely sentient.
With characteristic single-mindedness, I harassed my parents into bringing me to the nearest Makro where I promptly bought nearly two dozen matching (of course) photo albums (their entire stock). Then I dragged them with me to National Book Store where I bought a Dymo LetraTAG plus several rolls of the device’s requisite tape.
And that was the last my parents saw of me for the two weeks that remained of my vacation, because when we got home, I locked myself in my room and set about transforming the eclectic photo archives of my whole life into a uniform data set. The finished product: a row of gleaming albums with matching labels on the spine indicating THE CHILDHOOD YEARS, THE GRADE SCHOOL YEARS, THE HIGH SCHOOL YEARS, THE COLLEGE YEARS, and THE WORKING YEARS. If I’d been older and the number of albums subsequently larger, I would have started using the Dewey Decimal system.
And that was the easy part. Subsequent Christmas holidays were spent reorganizing my digital files—hundreds of which were unlabeled. Later on when I purchased my Canon EOS dSLR, this number ballooned to the thousands. Attacking this mass has been my life’s great, unfinished task, and one of my fondest aspirations is to see the day when everything I’ve ever captured or created has been neatly filed, labeled, stored, and of course, backed-up.
(I require at least three of these back-ups: two on portable hard drives and one on DVDs. The paranoia is a result of a bad desktop PC crash in my teens where I lost most of the fruits of my adolescent labor—I grieved for days at the thought that somewhere in there was an unfinished Nobel-Prize-winning work. None of us will ever know.)
This year was the year I intended to see my fondest aspiration realized, but the possibility grows more and more remote. With every single human being on the planet wielding at least two phones and a camera, and taking shots between every other breath, there’s not just my stuff to catalogue, but an entire universe’s as well.
It’s almost enough to make me pray for a crash.