Leaving the University of the Philippines

It was a decision that did not take me long to finalize; one day, while on a bus, as I am wont to do, I made up my mind. I am leaving the University of the Philippines this semester and there is no turning back, barring legal actions from UP. Although this seems hardly possible.

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I dreamed of going UP to study when I was a starry-eyed, young boy in the province. I studied hard in high school to study in UP, nailed the UPCAT and became one of the top 50 male entrants. I went to college, proved myself, and realized I had to prove myself over and over again, so I did, and I did it in as many times as the challenges manifested themselves. I graduated with honors, and with no second thoughts, vowed to dedicate my life to this university, ignoring offers from multinationals. I love teaching and cannot imagine myself doing a job other than teaching.

UP is a big institution and like big institutions, its tortuous bureaucracy dehumanized and made it impersonal along the way, including the people that run it. I had to fight my every way. I sent letters of complaint after letters of complaint, whose tones ranged from pleading to mocking, to the administration. But I felt not listened to.

I felt alone and lonely.

If only there was enough reason for me to hold on and stay.

I am young. Too young to deserve UP. Probably someday, I’ll go back and serve again this prestigious institution. But for now, I have to move on and see what’s in store for a still-starry-eyed young man like me.

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On a crossroad, again

My summer is about to end. After two months of moving around Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog working until I dropped of exhaustion and grew tired of endless talking, what’s left of me are a sunburnt skin, dark circles around my eyes, ruptured tonsils a battered pair of Chucks that I wear every day, a tired soul, and a new Dell laptop that replaced my aging Compaq.

This summer will also determine my next destination. I’m going back to Iloilo City on Tuesday, this I am sure of, but if events change, I may have to come back here in Manila and begin anew.

But wherever Fate is going to take me, the experiences will surely be written here. At least that’s something constant.

A minor glitch

Due to some issues regarding an old post, I was barred by WordPress.com to add new posts for two days. I am still awaiting for details of the complaint lodged against this blog. I must admit that I almost came close to panicking, even hysteria, brought by a realization that I do not have real control of my site. Not posting anything in Going against the current or closing my blog altogether are both bleak scenarios that send shiver down my spine, (forgive the cliche).

But I am truly happy to be back.

An interview

From the summer class I was conducting in Las Pinas in the southern-most part of the metro, I went straight to Ateneo de Manila University, north of Metro Manila, for an interview in the university’s English Department. The trip to Katipunan took me more than two hours and a half, the interview less than fifteen minutes.

The chair of the Department was one of the nicest persons I’ve met who was not found wanting in reassuring me that my responses to her questions were not as dumb as I thought they were. One part of me told me that I did well. My other self-effacing part told me that I made a fool of my self. My maniacal ego incessantly told me ‘You were great’.

The score 2-1, in favor of me.

I’m scheduled for a demonstration teaching on Thursday with the members of the department pretending to be my students. I cannot wait.

Finally canceling my Friendster account

It was a spur of the moment decision, a split-second resolve to finally sever old ties. It was less painful this way. Disallowing hesitations and options to have second thoughts made the entire exercise akin to the clinical, impersonal approach of axing ruptured appendix or bulldozing gall stones, numbing and anesthetic.

Like all vestigial organs that will have to go, wholesale or in a rapid succession, Friendster has gone past its serviceability therefore it’s damned.

I now have one fewer online presence that will incriminate me in the inevitable day of reckoning. Thoughts of eradicating my Facebook account is looming.

A romance with public toilets

My job this summer requires me to travel to different places every day. It means waking up before five in the morning if I have to go as far as Batangas or just before six if my destination is to the nearby province of Cavite or Quezon City. Although traveling to these places puts on me an unimaginable level of stress, the pay compensates for all the hassles so much so that I am willing to give up little comforts such as having extra hours of sleep, eating my breakfast of corned beef and sunny side-up eggs, and a nice time spent sitting on that ceramic throne while reading yesterday’s paper.

The first two I am willing to let go. But my affinity to the third morning habit in the list has become too strong that I felt evolution had hard-wired it to me with such exaggerated gusto that it is impossible for me to vary the routine.

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I wake up every day with a hope that my body has finally coped with my changed schedule of two months, that it will rid itself of harmful waste bound to poison it, and that it will do this fifteen minutes after I wake up, but to no avail. I’ve already done everything my resources can allow like increasing my fiber intake, drinking lots of fluids, even meditation, but none seems to work.

So I leave for work downtrodden and distraught at the feeling that I have not been successful in taking full control of my own body. But what is more distressful is the idea that my body mocks me and plays with my vulnerability.

Right after the first gush of frigid blows from the bus air-con hit my skin, the world begins to take a different hue and a more sinister character. I automatically become a different man oblivious of anything but the odd feeling in my mid-section. Coupled with my rich imagination I conjure images in my mind that are too vulgar to be written here.

That evolutionary mechanism I’ve been hopelessly summoning an hour ago while in the bathroom makes its presence felt right when I need it the least.

Modern societies do not think of this bodily process an apt topic for writing much less for a meaningful conversation unless the involved parties are doctors of internal medicine or philosophers in search of the best analogy for life. In fact, in some cultures, this subject is taboo that members have to devise euphemism if only to cover up for the ‘unmentionable’, which explains the overuse of pronouns to take the place of this unwanted antecedent.

Because of the torturous feeling and indescribable angst, these moments of helplessness might have given the world’s most notorious terrorists and suicide bombers the most ingenious plans and ideas in materializing their plans to change the world in however they deemed appropriate when they were right in the middle of the endeavor. Any normal human being will think of the worst things about mankind in general if confronted with this dire situation.

As in all things, succumbing to the powerful pull of gravity can be the only way to go. With no choice left but to find the nearest encampment, I would pretend to be an innocent customer of a diner, eat my breakfast meal as fast as I can, and head to the safest place, my enclave.

There I passionately evacuate all my fears, hopes, aspiration, shame, pride, lust, (you may complete the list of the seven deadly sins here) down the sucking vortex of nothingness. There I feel that I am indeed a free individual who can do whatever he wants, uninhibited by any external force that will curtail his much valued liberty and pursuit of his personal happiness.

However the fragility of the supposed freedom disturbs me. The fact that I have to conduct my search in such clandestine a manner makes me question the fundamental grounds where this freedom rests.

If I look at defecation and public toilets in the perspective of romance, of love, then things are bound to change. Liberty is a shaky business, but romance isn’t.

I am beginning to love public toilets because they may not give me a clean welcome but they allow me to trust them.

Clandestine or not, they willingly open themselves to me. There is no challenge so big and so insurmountable that they cannot handle. Had I been a philosopher, it wouldn’t have taken me long to find the perfect analogy for existence, love, and life. I would have easily found this comparison in the whiteness and coldness of the porcelain seats in public toilets. They are perpetually forgiving  and do not keep grudges. They unconditionally forget the shortcomings done to them. And they love as unconditionally.

Plying Pasig River

These photos taken using my phone would have remained untouched on my desktop had I not fortuitously ran into them this morning while I was attempting to clean my computer and rid it of unnecessary and incriminating files.

Two weeks ago, a friend and I went to Manila for lunch and finally proceeded with our long-stalled plan of riding a passenger ferry that plies Pasig River from Manila to Taguig City.

I must say that the idea of the project–using the navigable portion of the river as a passenger route to ease the traffic in the metro–is an excellent one, only that the government arm who is tasked to do this has been missing on a lot of details.

The ferries are not properly maintained, the air-conditioning units not working, and the security is, to say the least, very lax. The stench of the river seeps through the interior of the ferry. Despite the commendable effort of both local and national government to rehabilitate Pasig River, undeniably, the river still gives off noxious odor. If they intend to use the river for the purpose of making it a commuters’ highway, and if they want the people to patronize this alternative, then something has to be done regarding the minor discomfort the system brings to the riding public.

In spite of this, the experience had a tourist-y feel in it similar to riding a Ferris wheel or walking through a House of Horror for the first time, we ignored the inconvenience because of the novelty of the experience; it’s not as if we ride the ferries in Pasig River every day.

From Escolta, several meters from Chinatown, is the second station south of the route. I imagined Elias (was it he?) throwing the improvised bomb to Pasig River thwarting Simon’s plan to seek vengeance against the corrupt friars in Jose Rizal’s novel El Filibusterismo.

The trip, which took more than 40 minutes, had lull moments. So to let time pass, I folded my ticket into a paper boat.

One will notice that people keep on moving from one side of the ferry to another to avoid the sun. With this, one can see the narrow line that separates death (that is, dying from ingesting murky water that has in it God-knows-what species of bacteria and viruses million times more potent than HIV or Ebola virus)  and life, all because of the vanity subliminally imposed on the Filipino psyche by ads for skin-whitening lotions.

The back of the Post Office building that faces the Escolta station and the building being reflected in the nearly black water. If there is something beautiful about the waters of Pasig it’s the fact that their reflections of buildings and objects along banks of the river are comparatively clearer and definitely more beautiful than in the waters of cleaner and more pristine rivers.

For unknown reasons, probably security, it is forbidden to take photos of the Malacanang palace. The moment it dawn on us that the magnificent white building to our right is the center of power in the country, we passengers started snapping pictures of the president’s palace. The uniformed men in the ferry hurriedly ordered us to delete the pictures in our phones which we promptly did, and these men made sure we did. But out of sheer luck, I was able to keep this one. This, I believe, will hardly pose any security concern to the incumbent president, Gloria Arroyo.

(But if somebody has the audacity enough to go past her legion of security personnel and, say, put poison in her cup of coffee, plant a bomb in her bathroom, or simply bludgeon her to death, it’s an act some of us would gladly welcome.)

And after the long trip, we saw this imposing silhouette of Guadalupe Bridge right in front of the breathtaking Pasig sunset. Relishing the unforgettable sight before us but more concerned with the stench that got stuck to our clothes, we caught a bus home to Makati.