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.

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Fallacy

I had dinner with a college friend the other night with our two other classmates – one who’s visiting Manila for a work-related conference and another who is reviewing for the bar exam – when our conversation over dinner went to the case of Vice President Binay. This classmate who’s writing news for a provincial paper argued that the Binays are wrongfully charged of corruption, or at least his daughter Nancy should be innocent. He hinted so many times that he’s established some sort of friendship with this senator who’s currently being pilloried. Of course, what’s with writing for a paper that proclaims itself to be the biggest daily in the Visayas. I argued that she can’t be that dumb not to know those shady deals made by her father.

This friend of mine with so much ire in his voice said/shouted: ‘Show me anyone who’s innocent.’

I almost fell from my seat.

I assumed his argument ran like this: Only in a country where everyone is innocent can plunderers or corrupt officials be put to jail. No one politician in the Philippines can be deemed innocent. Therefore, any calls for justice against the Binay is just so wrong.

And I kept quiet because it was a dinner not for a debate on politics but for a reunion with college friends that I had not seen for a while. But I cried from the inside because this friend cannot rightfully call himself a journalist, that at some point I felt ashamed for having a friend who thought like a moron. But I kept quiet because it wasn’t the right place to call a friend a moron in his face in front of two former classmates that I had not seen for years.

There is, after all, always a right place and time for everything.

Friends from a long time ago

We all are a member of some sort of groups on Facebook whose members are people we have not seen for ten years or more. Aside from the occasional informally organized reunions that take place once every two years during the Christmas season, we ‘ve never truly caught up with most of these people because we’ve already moved and treaded on with our own individual journeys. Holding on to the past will simply slow down our ply forward.

I’ve recently received notification on Facebook about a photo taken more than eleven years ago of the Delta platoon of my high school CAT program. It was a very old photo taken by our high school’s official photographer scanned for the sole purpose of being uploaded on Facebook. For throwback Thursday said one of the hash tags.

delta

I was not in the picture but was tagged by one of the private cadets on the photo who’s a classmate. He is now working in the Middle East. He’s a family man. His profile picture on Facebook is that of his beautiful daughter, smiling innocently at the camera. Had I taken a similar path as this classmate, I would’ve already had a child of my own, and my Facebook page would be less a celebration of  the self than about my child.

I was my high school CAT corps commander. The conversation about the photo revolved on an incident that happened one Friday afternoon more than eleven years ago. It’s a funny banter about a control freak corps commander who found them hiding in one of the classrooms of first year students, foiling their effort to evade the unforgiving 4pm brigade formation under the still scathing afternoon sun. Of course they never forgot to mention the number of push-up they had to perform as punishment for their act.

I joined the happy exchange. My tone was that of a nostalgic old man looking back with a satisfied smile at a past long gone.

Versions of the story varied a little; some people I couldn’t recall to be there had sworn they were. Our memories being less stable than the ground we tread on shake uncontrollably most of the time. Every time we retrieve data stored in the mildewy recesses of our minds we struggle to recall. But we always allow for so much leeway, for some inconsistencies in details, for contradictions because this is how memory works. We invent, recreate, imagine. However, we seldom care. The past is for all of us to define.

But what bothers me more than the many versions of that incident is the apparent feeling of distance. My participation in the conversation on the page felt forced. My fakeness was so palpable I was ashamed of myself. The language they used, the slang from eleven years ago which they still pepper their sentences with sounded dated. Nothing changed it seemed to most of us.

That classmate who posted the photo said I was furiously shouting at them that afternoon. I was very mad, he wrote.

I laughed. How could I be so passionate about something that my memory has failed to store?

This is what eleven years does to all of us.

The taste

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You know the feeling. That instance of impact of slightly reheated slimy coffee that has gone untouched for three days (or you don’t know how long it has been standing there, really, breeding colonies of bacteria and fungi), on your unsuspecting tongue, well not exactly unsuspecting as you are still able to keep a semblance of a well-kept apartment, so you have an idea what you will get yourself into and probably how long it has been since the last time you brewed coffee; still you go on as it doesn’t matter now.

You have an interesting idea in mind, something unique, life-altering if only it were given an existence that can be grasped by the senses, your computer is on, Michael Buble is filling the place with his velvety singing.  You just need your cup of coffee to complete the feel, so you can finally see in writing that idea gestating in your mind for the past thirteen minutes and is now ready to be C sectioned or be given birth naturally (This metaphor bothers me, but I think it sounds nice. I’ll wait, fifteen minutes, perhaps. If it still sounds interesting to me after reading my final draft, then the metaphor will stay).

But your cup. It is giving you that gnawing awareness, warning you, of a forthcoming melee. Between your stupid self and the radioactive content of your mug.

But you had it before, back when a 3-in-1 would do, back when you didn’t know the difference in taste between a five-peso-per-sachet mixture of sugar and artificially flavored coffee declaring itself “Italian taste perfected” and the overpriced but definitely more decent tasting signature coffee sold in a nearby coffee shop chain which high school students from an exclusive Catholic school located across, wanting to look cool, sip affectedly with a stick of cigarette in between fingers during breaks from their dull afternoon classes.

You know how it tasted. How evil it tasted. That mixture of 3-in-1 dissolved in tap water heated below boiling point gushing from your dorm’s rusty 1950s lead pipes. You know how it tasted after having stood on your study table for two days undisturbed, ants free diving in it, vacationing while their queen lay waiting for her loyal worker ants to bring back the loot.

But like then, you choose to ignore because there are many things in life that simply can’t wait. A great idea is one of them, unfortunately this time. And so, you sit in front of your ailing computer, ready to tackle the mocking-as-it-has-always-been blank, white space. And you begin typing on. It runs smoothly, your mind, that is; writing never felt this good before. The idea comes out as if it is unencumbered by the circuitous organelle-dotted canal that connects it and the bright and brave world outside.

Then you think, “where’s my mug of coffee?” You extend your arm; take hold of the handle of your favorite mug without looking, your rapt attention on the screen. You bring the mug close to your slightly parted lips. The stench gives you some warning, but you opted not to take heed. Your idea is approaching its most crucial leg, you can almost see the head. Then you take a sip. No, a gulp.

Then you know how stupidity tastes.

Throwback Tuesdays

Because I don’t want this post to celebrate one of the most depressing days in a person’s life.

Perhaps the most rational reason people dig their trunks and the dark recesses of their computer memories to look for the most horrendous and dated artifacts of their pasts during Thursdays and have them posted on their virtual walls is because even though the past is ugly, sepia-ed, and moth-infested, it has never abandoned them. It is continually remembered with much fondness, like a 5-week old cereal-and-milk mixture sitting happily inside one’s refrigerator, forming crust on top of desiccated crusts, that can turn into either a sour-tasting granola or an organic charcoal–both wonderful byproducts.

Throwback Thursdays appeal the most to people in their 20s. That stage in one’s life when nothing’s uncertain, and the future looms devoid with kindness, when everyone seems to have moved on, but one still finds himself stuck in one place, silently crying for help, but not wanting to cry too hard lest his Facebook friends think he’s a whiner and a bitter participant in this party called life.

And so he quietly posts reminders of the kinder past, hoping, just hoping, the future will be much better, and for friends to drop him a like or two.

Don’t ask me about that giraffe and its various permutations.

What am I talking about? Today is just Monday.

Sadness

I left UP in the afternoon after a grueling four-hour comprehensive exam. I was tired, drained, exhausted. This, together with all other life exercises, is deemed necessary in the life of a well functioning, sane individual in a sane society. Deemed necessary by whom? I cannot avoid the passive because I have no idea who deems it necessary.

At a certain point, when I was travelling home, I thought of escaping to the beach and watch the setting sun in the horizon turning yellow then orange to fiery red until nothing is left but a sad indigo hue.

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I gulp another mugful of dark coffee.

Suddenly I feel that unmistakable feeling of sadness. For a long time, I almost thought I’d never feel this again. But I do, right now. And the even sadder thing is that I have no one to share this with.

It’s a bummer to be alone.

How I hate it whenever I begin to sound like a whining college student.