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.


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?

Night sky

I waited for this night to come, for me to just be doing nothing, to just listen to the variegated and mysterious humming in my room poorly insulated from the noise of the immortal EDSA below, to enjoy the hushed instrumentals emanating from my aging computer, to look for that singular north star undimmed by the lighted billboards that obstruct my vision of the night sky, and not to be frustrated when I don’t find it.

My 6th grade teacher, I remember, told us to look for that constellation that resembles a dipper (Ursa Minor); the star at its tip is called Polaris. This star according to her points to that fixed north and may function like a compass when one orients himself to it. Tonight I tried hard to locate this north star, but it was as elusive as finding a moment of quiet in this city.

I lingered a bit in front of my windows, imagining how the night sky in my province might look like on a night like tonight. For sure, it’s beautiful, rivaled only by flickering subdued lights of fireflies after a heavy rain.

The f-ing phone alarms

We woke up at 11:20 today, cuddled for a few minutes, drank our coffee together, and had peanut butter sandwiches for breakfast. I suffered from a poking headache; my temple was twitching, but it was bearable as I still had enough energy to carry my babe’s bag that contained a week’s worth of laundry across EDSA and to run back to my condo.

I did a shoddy math–if we slept, based on my estimate, at 3am after watching the deeply disturbing movie, Black Swan, then we did have our well-deserved rest of eight hours minus the time I had to stand up countless of times to silence the alarms of the phones in the room.

My sleep was sporadic.

I hated the fact the these phones were equipped with snoozes, and since I was too intoxicated with the decadently pleasurable feeling brought by sleep, I did not have the practical acumen to deactivate the snoozes the first time I turned off the alarms, which forced me to leave the bed three more times. I hated the fact that we both forgot to deactivate the alarms of our phone the night before. Today’s supposed to be a weekend, the only time we can be thankful to the deity of sleep for having finally granted us eight hours of sleep. But the pesky alarms, indispensable on a regular weekday, haunted and distressed us this weekend, disturbing what should have been otherwise a nice and quiet Saturday morning.

Our lives circle around phone alarms and their diaphanous but inextricably painful melody and senseless tones meant to provoke in us misanthropy and hatred for life in general. Not one of us can claim absolute freedom unless you or I allow phone alarms to take control of our lives. Human liberty is  a sham unless we continue forgoing things of more import such as a nice morning embrace or a restful sleep because we have to turn off phone alarms that are blasting off annoying strain of repetitious notes that rival that of a Harpy’s shriek.

Phone alarms are remnants of the previous century’s barbarism, of man’s wanting to inflict harm upon himself (and the people around him) while enjoying it at the same time, of our lack of urbanity, of the triumph of the matrix. All we need to is to become reactionaries and demand for what used to be truly ours–control of our time and personal relations.

However, I need to stop writing now because I have to stand up and respond to reminder in my phone that I am supposed to be heading for gym now, or how that after two hours and thirty minutes from now I should already be on a bus traveling to Makati to get some documents for a consultancy work I’m doing this month.

I should make it explicitly clear, nonetheless, that I hate myself for letting my life be ruled by these endless alarms, reminders, and notes, telling me that I should be doing this or that, at this or that hour, and should be finished doing this or that at this or that time.

A positive post from a perennially negative man

The sunlight, diffused by my dusty glass windows gives my room a provincial feel, only of course it can’t truly be provincial because EDSA is honking and raging  21 floors below, and the screeching sound of cranes lifting slabs of reinforced  concrete for the two condominiums being built just across the street can still be heard, albeit subdued. Thanks to the insulation my room affords me, I can still enjoy the slight silence of this morning.  Quiet Saturday mornings like now remind me of laid-back mornings in Polomolok when I did not have to force myself to leave the bed and to be woken up by our house help’s guttural, “Gusto nimo mag-kape, Kuya?“.

What happened last night was beyond my comprehension. I was left in my room alone; too tired to run after [this and some succeeding sentences will drop the object of the verb], I opted to just sleep it off and let the next day come up with synthesis of what had happened. I woke up today feeling nothing, the incident eight hours ago remains as enigmatic.

I’ve changed. I guess what differentiates my current self from who I was, say, a year ago is that I expect less from my relationships now. Yes I love still, more passionately by the day, and never shall I feign affection, but when things become as blurry as my window, I keep myself from rushing to wipe it clean right after. Now I let things take their own pace. After all, the dust and hardened grime from the heavy rain of last night are now giving my room a beautiful, rustic glow.

The drabness that is my room

Manila, for a lower-middle income single earning between 30-45,000 (about 800-1000 USD) a month, is an expensive city to live in. Roughly a fifth of my monthly salary goes to my rent. I am currently renting a 2m by 4m room in a condominium along EDSA. The monthly payment for rent and utilities is taking a great toll on my budget. Despite this, my attempt to make do with whatever available space this shoebox of a room provides is so far doing well.

I would have wanted a bigger space where I can have a place for a comfortable couch, a small TV, and a shelf for my books, but this additional space will mean shedding off another fifth of my income. For a room I only get to see during the night, 20 thousand pesos is too much.

I am not particularly interested in having a livable room. By livable I mean a room complete with all the appliances one finds in ‘nice’ bachelor’s pad. What is important to me is a bed and probably a small cabinet for my clothes, and I’d be as happy as a fool.

I guess, we all need to have that sense of direction, and this begins with having an organized room that, although small, gives you a sense of a home and security.

Books neatly stacked waiting to be read can also add to that sense of order.

A Fortune plant. Just for the sake.

The view outside is depressing in the morning, but admittedly quite stunning in the evening.

Is back in the game

After my two classes this afternoon that ended at 3:30, I left quickly for home when rain caught up on me as I was about to get on a jeep going to Katipunan LRT Station. I remembered there was a small, white umbrella in my backpack but I decided against using it. Either it was because of my vanity (the umbrella has these lacy frills) or the inconvenience pulling it from the bottom of my big cream-colored North Face bag.

I reached Mandaluyong shivering and drenched in cold rainwater.

I feared getting sick as surely no one is going to take care of me like my mother did when I was still under her care. Sleeping it off was definitely out of the option. So despite the raging thunder that caused some car alarms in the basement of the condominium to go off, I went to the gym and worked out for an hour and fifteen minutes. After, feeling a little perked up by the heavy lifting, I swam 20 laps until I felt nothing but numbness in my shoulders and chests.

I breathed heavily and, at times, was gasping for air. I have gone for too long, I realized, without any form of work out except walking from Shaw MRT station to Libertad in days when I am suffering from stinginess attacks. But it seemed that after those intense physical activities, the sky looked clearer and the air fresher (the complex is approximately 9.5 spits from the notorious EDSA).

Soaked in chlorinated, month-old water, I went back to our unit happy to discover that the stray wifi signal was back. And I hope this time the fickle signal stays for good.