Meet Jan. He is a geneticist and entomologist by profession but he spends most of his days passionately collecting and documenting butterflies. He travels extensively to find them and take note of their behavior. In this little room alone, he houses 60,000 butterflies and moths from all over the world. He has lived in all the countries I’ve ever wanted to see and he doesn’t just work as a scientist. He’s army-trained under special units but he claims only a talent for cooking and carpentry. The entire set of drawers which he uses to store the creatures are of his own hands. He also put up a makeshift tripod, lightbox and camera to document his collection. He also painted bugs and perfected the skill by the time he was fourteen. Everything here is a DIY maven’s dream. Yet, what amazes me more than anything is his immense love for the natural history of the Philippines. Of those in his collection, more than three-fourths of the species were found here and are endemic to the country. This year he will turn 70 and by then he will have seen more of the Philippines than most of us who live here. Jan was trained by monks as well so he knows his masses in Latin and can sing his Gregorian chant. You haven’t seen his workplace yet.
Every adult who was once a wide-eyed child has dreams of becoming something special. Astronauts, paleontologists, archeologists, pirates and rocket scientists always fit the bill somehow. These professions map every child’s love for the stars, dinosaurs and random things worth finding (like treasure!). I wanted to be all of those things when I was little and it had a lot to with National Geographic. At some point, the dream was compromised in lieu of other matters of consequence. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s ever had to do this. There are many of us who would kill to banish our day jobs in exchange for what we really want to do. Others have simply forgotten what it means to have these dreams. And that is why today was surreal and re-invigorating.