Stations of the cross at BGC

There’s something unsettling about the exercise. People move from one station to the next and do the suggested activities ranging from as simple as reflecting on a Gospel verse, inserting written ‘wails’ in crevices, to as back breaking as carrying a wooden cross (to simulate the carrying of the cross by Jesus as he’s being whipped by Roman guards and sneered at by the spectating public).

Each station is sponsored by a group of stores, an organization, or a commercial web page and all of these sponsors must have suggested to the organizers to tailor fit each according to the line of business of the sponsors.

The shadiest part of this Holy Week extravaganza at BGC is that people take every station very seriously, leaving behind their sense of the ridiculous on the pavement 50 meters away. 

It’s a commercial exercise whose sole purpose is to lure people into thinking that what they’re doing makes them close to God by taking part in His passion right before they hit Starbucks and after their dinner at nearby Cajun prawn bar, and while they take selfies to be posted on Instagram using hashtags that betray their self awareness. That the Holy Week isn’t about Jesus’s death and resurrection but about the celebration of the self.

I’m not close to getting it. BGC wants everything in. And the people willingly do their role in the performance. The business enterprise, without a sense of irony, coopts the betrayal of Jesus by Judas for thirty pieces of silver into a profit maximization bonanza and the people willingly dig in. 

I can feel gastric juice from my gut rush toward my throat.

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On the virtue of nonparticipation

Three months back, before a friend of mine left for China, the two of us had a light talk like we always had been doing after we finished a day’s worth of work. We were walking on the cobblestones of Ateneo talking about the sorry state of the country and how the May-9 election would impact the lives of Filipinos, the poor most especially. Our sector [we’re both teaching in that university] doesn’t stand much to gain nor lose from the result of the election, I thought.

We both agreed that the vision of a Philippines under Duterte was bleak. That time, however, Grace Poe was still leading the surveys rather comfortably, and the odds of Duterte’s win weren’t that great. It was obvious there wasn’t much choice from among the five vying for the position. If I could vote, I would have voted for Mar Roxas. But I was a nonparticipant in this democratic process. And I defended so vehemently my choice of not participating. I found the whole process unnecessary and ineffectual. One vote fewer would not rock the boat.

Seeing and reading about Duterte on TV and on online news these days, I felt for the first time regret for not having cast my vote. Duterte is often seen and heard foaming with vice in the mouth. Although he hasn’t yet been sworn in, he’s already begun sowing a culture of anger.

He’s presently enjoying a high level of popularity because after many years of hypocrisy, seeing a president-elect cuss, drop putang ina instinctively, catcall a TV reporter without showing remorse is a novel experience for most of us. Most take it as a sign of sincerity and truthfulness to oneself, Duterte the polar opposite of politicians we’ve come to detest for their duplicity and avarice.

But one accepted fact of our time is that novelties tend to lose their newness rather quickly. It’s a wonder now how Duterte has continued to remain popular. Although the consuming public is beginning to show sign of fatigue seeing his face, his unrelenting braggadocio, and unapologetic tirade against anyone he feels like shaming only to declare the next day he was just kidding. Kidding my ass!

He’s a dangerous man on the cusp of sitting in the most powerful position in this land. My friend was right. There’s no virtue in nonparticipation.

 

 

A PROCLIVITY FOR THE MUNDANE

Because I want to be ironic, here’s something I wrote two years ago.

One is often left to wonder what has become of our world today. We are all parts of a system that goads us to look at the ‘bigger picture’ but often we end up nitpicking about the most banausic of topics and non-issue. Most of the time, our nonchalance in the face of most events occurring before us is rivaled only by our passion for the least germane aspects of the issue at hand. What is worse is that more often than not, the issues we chose to get ourselves involved in are those that matter to no one, not even to us, but which we chose to get involved in still because in this age not being a part of a fight, not being a member of an advocacy group, not being driven by something, not having an opinion on something are tantamount to letting go to waste the freedom we are supposed to be enjoying, for not doing so is an unforgivable ingratitude.

And so we’ll fill any space imaginable with all the refuse our minds happen to contain. The internet has become an open dump site for all the trash we cannot afford to bleed into our reality, but, as is inevitable, this bloody business we are a part of is hemorrhaging freely into the material world, all for the sake of the ‘freedom (of speech)’ which we all feel we’re entitled to. It’s not whether what we say is inspired by some noble motive or that it’s a product of careful thinking, the more pressing question for us is whether we have something to say right at this moment. And there is where the peril lies.

This is how we cope with the gnawing insignificance the world is making all of us feel, but which none of us will whole-heartedly admit; this is a very human response to something as dehumanizing as living in this point of our present. It is perfectly human.

When we’re confronted with the uncertain, we talk endlessly, in gibberish, to drown any suspicion that this reality is a mirage. And so, to remind us of our corporeality, we talk, using a language only we can decipher. And the others, yes, they’re our conspirators. Of course, they also talk using a language, theirs, but certainly not our language. And, we talk, mimetically. What is interesting, however, is that there is a semblance of comprehension, a constructed reality existing in a vacuum, a phantasm perhaps, deluding us into thinking that communication has occurred when in fact what has only transpired is a useless exchange of meaningless but intelligent-sounding, grammatically correct, syntactically appropriate arrangement of words we all refer to as our opinion. Verbalizing this is the be-all and end-all of talk. After all, this is a time of unbridled liberty, where one man’s rubbish is as significant and as worthy of our precious little time as the other man’s puke.

Vacuum

I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for two hours now waiting for something to happen. Occasionally I would check mails, read some Facebook statuses of friends and other ‘friends’ I got no idea how we became friends, and browse random sites that eat up much of my time. I originally planned to spend this morning recording papers of my students, computing grades, and fixing drafts of grad school requirements due next week. But the web beckons with so much promise and invitation the little control I thought I have is of no match to this beautiful hole that sucks everything in, as it feeds on my time like a flesh-eating bacteria lurking on this part of my living room.

It’s a battle that’s waged in many fronts; in fact, I am currently thinking of the best strategy on how to escape this vacuum whose suction is too powerful I predict that I shall waste another precious hour staring at a broken pixel of my screen. Behind me is a stack of dirty dishes waiting to be washed and a bagful of a three-week worth of laundry waiting to be taken downstairs. And how stupid can I be for having allowed it to slip me that the laundry service will be closed until Monday next week? And, I need to mop the floor, dust the furniture, arrange my books, and drop by the library this afternoon to return 10 overdue books.

I have not done this for a long time–staring in front of my computer aware of the the fact that if I stayed here longer than necessary, I shall need to readjust all the other things, miss other appointments, and sacrifice the already little sleeping time I have doing those things I could have already finished had I been not too weak to resist this idleness.

But isn’t time only an abstraction? It’s not something that can be ‘wasted,’ is it? If I sit idly here for the whole day, it’s immaterial because I shall be given another set of inexhaustible time tomorrow (but isn’t the word tomorrow an admission that time is culturally material?). Can time  be given away? Funny how we view time this way as if it’s something that can be saved like money or a broken relationship. Funny how we view our time as a precious entity (so long as it’s our time), as if it’s a currency that can be exchanged. We all feel terrible when we “waste” time. But when we simplify all these abstractions, time will then be all about, in its most fundamental, being here and being dead the next moment.

Should we decide to use it on inconsequential matters–say doing what I mentioned a while ago, writing this post, or reading this post–have we really wasted time? I looked around and saw the rest of the day.

I cannot stay here.

Why Manny Pacquiao’s defeat wasn’t that painful

For a nation obsessively in need of a hero, Manny’s defeat yesterday, had it occurred two or three years ago would have been catastrophic and irreversibly traumatic for us whose national psyche is too fragile it rests on one man’s ability to throw punches and draw blood from an opponent whose background is as sorry as ours.

The fewer number of Facebook status expressing dismay, hopelessness, and bitterness due to Manny’s loss to Bradley (at least on my page), compared to what I imagined it would be, had been glaring (at least for me). Have we become less sore of a loser? I have proofs to say that as a nation we still are.

Have the Filipinos become less interested in the legend of Manny? Have the Filipinos thought Manny has already become too moneyed they failed to see their hungry faces reflected in his?

Has his story gone too magically realistic it was rendered unbelievable and felt too scripted in a country were people  eat magic realism for breakfast, lunch, and dinner? Have we as a nation shifted our search for a hero to something else? Or have we realized we did not need a hero after all?

Have we thought maybe Manny is just too much of an outlier he can’t be a Filipino? Or has his career like the careers of our many local movie stars’, after having burst into a bright supernova, is now on a road to becoming nothing but a black hole, the star a has-been?

We seem to have cared less now because we realized it is not wise to gamble our national sanity on a champion who, vicissitude they call, will sooner or later face defeat, and that it is far wiser to gamble on our institutions, on our future together as one nation, on a shared belief that this nation is on its road to greatness.

Maybe having a hero was important. But as in all epics, it’s the members of the army who carry out and win the war.

Two questions: negative capability

From a rumination while drinking beer on a hot afternoon:

It often comes rather late to an artist, writer, or to anyone who sees himself to be either or both, that the decision to be any (or both) is a disconcerting choice. In the end, consumers of an artistic production matter less because the production of a piece of art or writing anchors less on what the reader thinks than the artist’s. After all, the reader has long considered him dead, so might as well return the favor and do a piece of art or write as if the reader is as dead.

This graphic story by Linda Barry aptly captures this problem.

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Intent

Let’s break the ice all over again. I have been absent here for a time that I do not know how to begin a post anymore. Shall I begin by posing a question, posting a picture, quoting a famous person, or writing a sentence or two of gibberish?

Most of the time I get by simply by doing the last of the options, but this is of course the most ineffective. Now it’s a wonder how I have accumulated 700++ posts. I seldom have been able to write a 500-word string of sentences without resorting to gibberish.

I enjoy reading gibberish because I do not have to exert too much mentally in reading them as they are usually written with a particular purpose, that is, they’re meant to be purposeless.

Gibberish writings, though common, however, are difficult to compose. They are more difficult to write than to read because any piece of writing, no matter how hard the writer tries, tends to have a specific purpose other than purposelessness. Purpose is a necessary aspect of writing and writing in gibberish is obviously something of an anomaly.

Like this writing, for instance. I may digress from my initial purpose but any reader will eventually figure out a sense of pattern independent of my intent.

And that reader will eventually sense that my purpose for writing is to confuse. She will close this page feeling good about the fact that she at least knew why I wrote this piece.

Realizing the writing might not be  gibberish but her reading definitely was.