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.

Why have we become like this?

A friend of mine, a young woman of 26, asked me if she could leave before three today to join a protest rally on Katipunan, which if a critical mass is reached, will head to EDSA this evening. I indifferently said yes and told her to just make up for the lost hours next week. I on the other hand had to stay until 6 at the school to work on the evaluation of the French class students. I have papers to check this weekend, a class to prepare for, and cats to take care of. I also have to catch up on my workout as I haven’t gone to the gym for a week now because of work.

The people I see on the street, those my age, show that similar look of resignation, save for some undergraduates in their PE shirts or long tees who seem poised to change history tonight.

For all the rest, this protest on EDSA against the clandestine burying of the remains of Marcos is an annoyance, a cause of this monster traffic. The reason they’re stuck on buses on their way home to Fairview or Bacoor.

This is what has become of us. Work has made us unresponsive to events and happenings that would otherwise scandalize us had we been not rendered docile and satisfied but unthinking by work. I hate this feeling. This is what it means to be an adult; I hate that I am one.

I told myself a long time ago when I was much, much younger, that I would be part of history unfolding. That I will not stay home and let pass that rare opportunity to make a difference in this country. But look at me now. I’m scurrying to go home, cursing the traffic on EDSA just to catch some sleep.

And the saddest thing is that, passing by EDSA shrine, I saw a small crowd, hardly a critical mass enough to send the message that the people are indignant. There were several groups taking selfies while a member is holding a placard.

Everyone is tired. Everyone has gone tired. What with the unfulfilled promises of the past two People Power? The world goes on turning, with Marcos’s body finally subject to the actions of worms and vermins, after years of keeping it almost lifelike inside a tomb his family built for him.

But even rats and roaches won’t touch him. Who would want to gnaw on a dessicated body preserved in formaldehyde for almost three decades?

Life goes on.

And that is the tragedy of the Filipino, myself included, this general quiet and seeming indifference, this lack of rage at the direction this country is heading.

And my train goes to the direction of home, and I’m dying for sleep.

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.

 

 

INC

Iglesia ni Cristo

On Sunday morning, I was on Shaw at 8:30 looking for a place to have breakfast, surprised about the absence of traffic noise and not realizing that a rather sizeable crowd of Iglesia ni Cristo members was gathered in the intersection of EDSA and Shaw.

Some, those looking exhausted with bloodshot eyes, were holding their placards that obviously had only one provenance, mass produced for the occasion. Some of them looked as if they were attempting to keep sleep and fatigue at bay, trying their best not to look as if they’re uncertain about their decision to be there on EDSA. Some of those who have given up keeping the facade standing were sleeping on reflective mats sold to them by a few entrepreneurial members of the neutral public who had seized the moment to earn a little.

A man from Marinduque stood on stage and talked about how he abandoned his fear of public speaking and was with the Iglesia at this very critical moment in the history of the sect.

While walking in my slippers, torn shorts, and an old shirt, the thought of being caught in the maelstrom of history in this garb made me smile. It was a beautiful day; the sun was up, there’s a slight breeze, and the traffic of vehicles that normally gives EDSA its sinister character was absent. It was a nice feeling to be there if not for the giant amplifiers that blew everyone and everything that stood on the path of the sound waves emanating from it away.

A monstrous LED screen was showing the churches built by Iglesia all over the world, while a voice over in that super affected radio announcer pitch was explaining how architects have made sure that these structures are made to withstand any calamity – a super typhoon, a tsunami, even a massive earthquake.

At the back of the screen, placed in the concrete box islands that contain ornamental plants that are meant to make Shaw Boulevard less menacing were unopened boxes upon boxes of bottled water. A few meters away were portable toilets standing next to each other; a young-looking man was covering his nose with his shirt before entering one. The Iglesia was holding its ground and would not withdraw, it appeared.

Any well thinking individual, Iglesia members uncluding, I surmise, who have a little background on critical thinking will realize from the onset that the reason for the protest, framed within the premise of the call for separation of Church and State is but flawed.

The editorial of today’s Inquirer on the issue is written well, and calling the action of Iglesia ‘non-sense,’ is fearless. As the crowd of INC members dissipates today nothing is proved more than the waning relevance of the sect. That more than trying to throw a red herring from the real issue, it is their leaders’ attempt at testing how relevant Iglesia is still in a society moving toward modernity.

Political leaders genuflecting before that Disneyesque temple on Commonwealth months before elections will lose the respect of the rest of the population.

Leaders (Chiz Escudero [this guy is reeking with the stench of political opportunism], Marcos, Binay, and Poe) who support the brandishing of the laughable separation of church and state argument for fear of not getting Iglesia’s bloc vote come May 2016 elections do not deserve my vote (and I will file a leave from work for a day to do my voters’ registration just to make this point).

I found a tapsilogan near the corner of the street, had my fill, and went home, hearing on my way that same man telling his fellow believers that more Iglesia members were coming. Indeed all roads led to Manila yesterday for Iglesia ni Cristo believers. But what for and so what?

Watching plays

Sadly Virgin Labfest is ending today. I watched two sets for two Saturdays; that’s a total of six plays. The plays were definitely worth the almost an hour of queueing for tickets and the long commute from Quezon City all the way to CCP in Manila.

Paying 270 pesos for an escapist Hollywood flick at an SM cinema and be seated next to a really bad audience or paying three hundred for each set and be carried to three different, highly-charged slices of life in a single night is a no brainer comparison. The plays are a runaway winner.

I hope we can have something like the Virgin Labfest all year round.

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Everyday

While browsing an online travel magazine that left me torpid afterward because of the writer’s endless narration of his itinerary donned in a language too sweet and delicious I’m sure it will leave a diabetic’s sugar level shooting to the ceiling, I thought, unless he was high on drugs which made his senses super keen, he must be lying.

Travel writers are a special group of writers. They thrive in the extraordinary and the bizarre. Most of them have a special truckload of word ammunition that often leaves my mouth agape because of  its sophistication and elegance. I often see a mountain, a room with a view, and a meal as they often are–a mountain, a room with a view, and a meal, respectively. For travel writers, however, a mountain is a cascade of boulders and debris swept by the gentle blow of the easterlies, a room with a view is a room flooded in a carefully orchestrated foxtrot of sunlight and cool wind on a tranquil Saturday morning, a meal is a plateful of freshly harvested farm produce perfectly showered with a local concoction of cane vinegar and a hint of muscovado. To a travel writer, everything is a novelty, and so it has to be written in a hyperbolically romanticized way to an extent that a reader who is a local of the place he’s writing about will not recognize, take offense at, and find patronizing.

I seldom trust, if not completely distrust, travel writers. They do not understand the dreariness and the dryness of the everyday and the commonplace. They are passersby who cannot wait to leave the place and catch the next bus, train, or plane because the thought of what is out there, the other side of the mountain, the horizon, the antipode beckon with tempting invitation that the now is expressed in such succulent platitudes.  I gravitate toward the everyday because the everyday does not imagine itself other than what it is. The everyday defies any attempt at making it look rosier than what it truly is. It is only in the everyday that reflection is possible and truthful.

Why I have boycotted the past elections and will definitely boycott this one as well

Most will consider it scandalous to talk about enjoying a cup of freshly brewed coffee in the morning when everyone is supposed to be in his political animal mind these days. Elections are on Monday. And one cannot just write about the pretenses and the superficiality of the bliss of a cup of coffee without being viewed pretentious and shallow. It’s too light a topic. It’s a non-topic, for christsake! Any self-respecting, supposedly responsible citizen of this country must take part in this exercise, must be part of a nation desperately in need for change. But how shall I convince myself that all this be taken seriously? This is laughable, a comedy of basest sort. Comparing elections here in the Philippines to a circus has long gone trite. In fact, they’re expected to be circus-like, that they should be a circus.

Why have I boycotted the past elections and will definitely boycott this one as well?

Boycott is not exactly the most accurate word as there’s no hard line political reason I have not participated in this democratic exercise since I turned 18. I neither feel any compelling need to spectate in this farce nor do I think I can use my one vote to compel these politicians to do what should have been done a long time ago. Participating in this travesty will only add to the delusions of these jokers that I am complicit in their charade. I’d rather close my eyes, cover my ears and let Monday pass.