The epic cure, they say, is to taste wine.

The one with a neat bottom, saved from dregs.

Dregs don’t cure.

Dregs impurify.



There are marks of oppression,

in the sweaty backs of workers, sunburnt, bent.

Marks teach us that workers are damned.

And only they can get their selves out of

the same damnation.

Marks are red.

We have red dreams.



There’s a wrist to tell.

A peak to reach.

An end to seek.

A life to live.

Philosophy to save.



I lack an…

I lack what the ellipsis replaces.

I don’t know the world.

All I have is lack.

Words, with sorrow, also lack.



Schools are not buildings, nor are they structures.

Schools are points of reference.

Schools are power.

Schools are battles.





The story of stories: from Kennedy to Kurosawa

John F. Kennedy is dead, that is how Denis Johnson commenced his thick story, “Tree of Smoke” which is perhaps one of the few books who dared to traverse through the heart of the Vietnam War and how it propelled history after. I should credit Listverse for meeting the book, which I thoughtlessly purchased in Booksale for 75 pesos, just a little over 10 centavos per page.

Then my current online writing occupation impelled me to look through David Lubin’s Shooting Kennedy: JFK and the Culture of Images, albeit only through reviews and commentaries since there seems to be no way that I could have an online access to the entire book. I am blindly tasked (who did the order, but someone, perhaps a lazy, perhaps an insipid, or perhaps someone just goddamn rich kid who badly needs to find ways to spend his money) to write a ten-page paper on how pop culture contributes in the making of the “star.” A very old idea, so I am seeing myself blabbering and stretching my special lexicon for two hours or so to supply a stranger with a final requirement that could make or break his standing in one of his subjects.

But back to Kennedy, JFK – as if he already owns those three letters, like Fernando Poe has FPJ. Incidentally, in abrupt mental drifts, I find it cute that Karl Marx could have KM. JFK. I do not know him, and it would be pointless to argue about the semantics of “knowing.” But I know him only through written texts, interviews about him, magazine articles about him, movies about him, testimonies about him. These are all stories, varied one. Everything can definitely have claims to truth, perhaps they really have some truth to offer, but most definitely only partially. No one needs to hark back to elaborate gibberish on the pliability of truth here.

Ironically, and cutely perhaps, for me, Denis Johnson begun with JFK but did not exactly focused on him. Rather, he focused on the things that succeeded that eventful moment in American history, in the process working on how a singular incident can be mythologized by the people to whom its repercussions are most significant, if not most dramatized. How did the assassination relate to the Vietnam War? Can we compared Kennedy’s death to a gasoline sparking the fire of Communism, and eventually, leading to its so-called death, lest one argues that some fire can be eternal? We can have a lot of answers here; and every answer is a story. It seems like all we have left now are stories.

In Saramago’s Blindness, we were told, or at least, I read how stories are so ironically powerful:

“…that all stories are like those about the creation of the universe, no one was there, no one witnessed anything, yet everyone knows what happened” (265).

There are no witnesses but there is credibility, there are patches of belief. There are no first-hand experiences, no unmediated first-hand experience, but people are talking about the stories being told, and all of them have something to say. Some are even moved enough to raise a gun, to slap someone in the face, to reclaim a claimed loss.

In Kurosawa’s classic “Rashomon,” Foucault talks: on how narratives are not exactly deceptive, but not exactly purely truthful either; on how truths are claimed but only half-truths, perhaps three-fourths truths. Every story has every little bit of everything, but how do you quantify truth, is there a 100% truth? Why 100% is the yardstick of fullness? Why not 101%?

John F. Kennedy had died. And people have a lot to say. Just like when man bites dog and Obama was elected President and when education budget in the Philippines is slashed by millions. Listen to the stories, believe afterwards, subscribe much afterwards.

The “more popular” story: (

Bret Easton Ellis’ “The Rules of Attraction” and the pathology of sicklessness

Is Bret Easton Ellis sympathizing with his “lost” generation? Perhaps – because he was showing their lamentable situation, purposeless, spontaneous, divorced from the ground, from the outer skins of life. In “The Rules of Attraction,” Ellis showed us the nature of the American youth of the late 80s – gratifying itself with temporary things: one-night stands, drug binges, several puffs of smoke. This is a generation of youth that has perhaps lost interest in participating with issues their predecessors have fervently engaged with, the Vietnam War, most notably. All throughout the novel, I saw how Lauren, Paul and Sean tried to find purpose, tried to find activity in sex, drugs amidst perhaps the perceived boredom surrounding them, or the impinging issues, albeit more personal, asking for serious responses, actions from them. For instance, there was the divorce of Paul’s parents which he took lightly, pretentiously or otherwise. Are Ellis’ characters rebelling? If yes, against what? Against boredom? Against the miseries of life? Against loneliness?

Overrated things. But all of the above could be valid. The much storied late-teenage to early twenties phase that teems with drama and sophomoric philosophizing, adventurism and forced maturation, coupled with a social atmosphere that succeeded in placating everyone but those from the lower class by keeping the pressing social issues from erupting – this is their upshot. A bunch of college students hovering in mid-air, detached from anyone but themselves, calculating tomorrows, searching for places to spend (or splurge) their moneys on, searching for disco bars to dance nights away and places to fuck. And what rules Ellis took a hell of a book to talk about? Precisely the rulelessness of things, the classic negation that paradoxically satisfies a wanting. The rule is waywardness, aimlessness. The rule is not merely to break the rules, but to not be governed by rules. Lauren would “have four overdue art books from the library” (40) Tony would “come back from a student council meeting, stoned” (45). Paul would smoke in front of his mother. And Sean, obsessed with Lauren, would tell her, out of paranoia, to wear sweater before they visit her old Poetry teacher, because he thinks the old teacher likes Lauren and he “didn’t like the idea of Vittorio (poetry teacher) staring at her tits (189). There is no commitment here, no perspiration, no diligence. All I saw here is indolence, appetite, obsession – these kids seem to need to hark back to the world. But what if what the world has become has inspired them to be those? Trouble.

They call this bourgeois-decadence

For those who are too clingy with terms, this term would be fit for the lifestyle depicted in Ellis’ work: bourgeois-decadence. Middle-class up to rich kids getting into the cusp of life through what they deem most pleasurable, most gratifying. And perhaps there is the factor of peer pressure as well, of conformism, of wanting to be trendy. And what was trendy is for the boys to get laid before he finishes college, for girls to get a free beer or two from a guy who would screw her in the morning, for students to leave their book for their pots. These behaviors, as they would say, need discipline. And we know whims and discipline are not like yin and yang, not the same but obversive; neither just like chivalry and the modern world, for these can be still fashioned as a bricolage, an un-match that still works, even still pretty (like in the French comedy “Les Visiteurs”); but simply just oppositions, hardly workable.

Everything they wanted were just those

Because everything they want now is not what they wanted then; worse, what is now is far imaginable from what is then. The whims of these kids make them hard to guess, calculate. But as I read through, the characters’ sudden wishes become unsurprising. Where could we put the blame for this undecidedness, for this lack of commitment? Perhaps they were hearing too much, getting exposed to too many voices (Ayn Rand, Talking Heads, The Smiths, Rebel Without a Cause, One Hundred Days of Solitude, The Supremes, A Clockwork Orange, and the hippies too) that they first implode and when already uncontainable and unbearably meaningless, had to part with, had to be expressed outwardly. And so the turning to the temporarily meaningful. This generation is not sick; this generation was claimed to be shielded from any malaise. But everything was a pretense. They were lulled into dormancy, severed from the similar, bigger miseries that haunt their world and which roused the consciousness and earned the commitment of their older sisters and brothers, perhaps parents. That is why that is where we locate them, in mid-air, hallucinating, not asking, even immaturely, “Who am I?” “Where am I going?” “What is my purpose in life?” not asking even anything, because for the hell of the world, they do not care, they were not made to care, or: the things to care about were veiled, and veiled masterfully from them.

I won’t say Ellis is a genius because of this. But I can definitely say he was something for bringing this silently horrifying temper into print. And that cinches a future read from him for me.


This is a charming lot of peace

Right now, that man owns no

pressure, nor sense of urgency

no uncalled-for call for haste.

When one recedes to solitude,

What’s the point of slowing down

but everything?

In these white lines, with all

scooters and trains and

smoke-belchers taken by the afternoon

slumber, pre-rush hour harmony,

All footsteps are for inklings

Of thought.

Solitude is rare on the streets,

much more in highways with

their claimed order of red, green and yellow,

paralyzing the restless, quieting the excited.

At once, now, all we have is peace,

not fleeting order.

An ambulant rephrases the view in his eyes,

redefines space and concrete pavements.

What astonishing joy, to be alone

in the expansive streets – usually agog with turning heads and jostling arms.

No one else but the wide sky,

perhaps smiling at a rare find.

Pedestrian ni Jesa

Certain losses in the “lost feminist utopian novel,” Herland

I have never read a utopian novel and Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s Herland was my first exploration of the genre. I had sort of high hopes when I bought this one because of Gilman, whose The Yellow Wallpaper, I have read, and sort of liked before. Her feminism is prominent and in The Yellow Wallpaper, at least in my initial reading, this feminism is pictured as something that is yet to envision a better alternative for women and is just confined to depicting the far-reaching impacts of their difficult situation. More than the political statements made in the story, I somewhat joined in raving about the story primarily because of its literary characteristics which totally extirpated impressions of blandness and bluntness that might be found in work obviously carrying a politic. The rich symbolisms in the story seem to multiply the layers by which one can feel, sense, comprehend the plight depicted in the story. In purchasing Herland, these were some of my motivations: Gilman’s feminism and her literary strength. On the first chapters of the novel (it has twelve), I was still drawn to it, finishing the first eight in a jiffy, marked by flipping the page with anticipation to see the unfolding of the next events, the next sharp-witted exchanges. However, this slowed down on the last four chapters, until all zeal has seemed to vanish and to finish the novel looked like a chore. Still, it merits something like this.

What happened?

“Three American male explorers stumble onto an all-female society somewhere in the distant reaches of the earth. Unable to believe their eyes, they promptly set out to find some men, convinced that, since ‘this is a civilized country…there must be men.’” So the synopsis goes, but needing extension: Herland also shows the change in consciousness and worldview of the male explorers: Jeff, poet and botanist; Terry was more of the explorer and into engineering; and Van, our “guide” as we followed through their rare voyage, a sociologist.

As they accidentally found themselves in Herland, they saw a unique civilization where an all-population of women thrive and has devised arguably efficient and effective means to sustain their living. In Herland, the highest call is to become a mother, but one that is unique to them. Here, every child is a daughter to all the mothers, and every mother is the same for every child. What used to be a bisexual race ceased to be in the coming of war and a volcanic eruption. In a key moment in their history, all the males and the old women died or were killed, and in the face of such lowliness, the young virgins carried on and thus begun the formation of Herland. This was only punctuated by a “miracle” happening one day – one of the women bore a child, which is surprising because of the absence of any man in the land. This was not the last and the same woman bore four other children and with exultation, the women thought that this miracle was a gift from their Goddess of Motherhood, Maaia. Soon, while they keep close guidance and rearing of the five newborns, all the other women deeply yearned to be mothers too. But the trick was made by the five newborns. When they reached the age of 25, they begun bearing daughters as well and this exponential growth continued to the delight of everyone in Herland. In sum, the people of Herland originated from one woman and she likewise inspired a “national hoping” for motherhood, pushing it beyond the realm of a “personal joy.” Tacitly working under the framework of collective mothering (as an action, not just an occupation), these women has worked together towards the improvement of their civilization, one that stirred the envy of the three men (which I think is most glaring point of a utopia: the uncovering of the flaks of an existing presence by showing better possibilities, perhaps more aptly, alternatives, which by playing through connotations, could mean that they can be proactively forged.)

Their kind of feminism: seemingly commonsensical offered in abstractions today

Regarding the feminist stance found in this novel, what I made sense of are nothing novel.  But that should not be taken against Gilman’s statements here; in fact it was meant to be on the upside; that is, Gilman’s implications in the novel predate some of the more dominant, “new” conceptions and claims about the female and the overall gender issue nowadays. For instance, while chatting among themselves, Terry, the most macho among the three, asserted, perhaps with disgust, that “these women aren’t womanly.” Coming from the kind of woman from their world he is familiar with, the woman whose image and presentation is already influenced, if not shaped by male-centered norms and lenses, Terry sees no duplication in the women of Herland. As if furthering Terry’s initial reaction, Van thought to himself: “…to the conviction that those ‘feminine charms’ we are so fond of are not feminine at all, but mere reflected masculinity (emphasis mine) – developed to please us because us they had to please us” (59). Here, Van is not only speaking for himself as a man, not just for all the other men, but for the entire system whose value judgments are, to repeat, male-centric, male-made. Notable also is the consciousness Gilman imbued to the women of Herland: while talking about marriage and the wife’s taking of the husband’s surname to show everyone that she is his wife, as if a possession, Alima, supposedly Terry’s partner, retorted: “What is a ‘wife’ exactly?” (118).

At the heart of all of this is their religious regard of motherhood and their utmost treatment of their children: their religion is focused not on doing things for their gods but from their gods. This is because “god” to them is not a person, but a “Pervading Power, an Indwelling Spirit” (112-13). This is where all (good) actions springs forth and not done for. Interestingly, the idea of eternal life Van passionately shared to Ellador confounded her, perhaps, made her laugh had she been less courteous, less innocent. As much as it is possibly ridiculous, an eternal life is out of the mind of the women of Herland because they want their children to go on with living, to continue nurturing the civilization they have started and developed. We can see this as closely linked to their earnest efforts in raising and educating their children. Asked by Van why would they not want it, why would they want to die like a candle, and why would not they want to experience “Heaven,” Ellador again evinced a surprising wit and sensibility: “That’s what we all want, of course –Peace and Beauty, and Comfort and Love –with God! And Progress too, remember… but that is here” (117). At this point, the distinctions not just between the world where Van came from and Herland but also the consciousnesses it ingrained on its people is becoming more marked, supporting the idea that the way we think and act is largely influenced by the world we live in.

However, aside from, and more important than this brand of feminism are undertones of a proposition that clearly is not limited to one’s gender: collective action, collective life.


In her introduction of this novel, Ann Lane claimed Gilman’s “integrated body of thought that combined feminism and socialism, (ix)” albeit “opposed as she was, temperamentally and ideologically, to violence or force…from Marx’s revolutionary ideology. (x-xi)” Also, for Gilman “the peaceful collective action of women replaced Marx’s class struggle. (xi)” Here, we can see that Gilman puts the highest premium on gender and the need to resolve the problems posed by such meaningful differentiation. Coupled with social Darwinism that puts emphasis on the adaptive potentials and more importantly, the human potential to utilize her environment to her advantage, Gilman set forth in her utopia.

We can see all throughout her novel, particularly in the statements of the women of Herland, how Gilman envisions the harmonious joining of collectivism and complete eradication of violence. After natural and man-made cataclysms that nearly wiped out their race, the women found themselves with one another and then by some miracle was inspired to forge ahead together. They treated and nurtured knowledge collectively, “that what one knew, all knew…” (64), child-rearing, “we each have a million children to love and serve –our children” (71). Also, with the collectivization and active community life, the idea of “home” has been expanded to the entire community and the distinction between the public and the private is likewise put off. Strangely also, this remark about the budding romance between the male visitors and some of the girls seems to resemble, albeit vaguely, the policies of the Communist Party of the Philippines on the relationship of sexes: “this new wonderful love between you. The whole country is interested, you know, how can we help it! (104)”

However, this emphasis on gender and how the “rule of the woman” emerged with the emergence of Herland is undermined by the fact that it was primarily caused by natural forces, i.e. the volcanic eruptions, if not by man-made disasters, i.e. wars whose aims are not really to extinguish the male population and the kind of society they bring. Hence, however Herland depicts a utopia for the female, it does not show how concretely this can be achieved in the present, actual circumstances. Definitely, contemporary feminists do not expect that some catastrophe would just eradicate all the males in the world so they could just begin a life of their own. And perhaps more pointedly, there is no certitude that getting rid of the men will result to a better life for ALL of the women.


Gilman in circles

In sum, what Gilman is showing us in Herland is her beautiful vision of a peaceful and prosperous community composed of and run by women, with collective action defining their general routine and motherhood, the specific call they most desirously respond to. With this, they seek to collectively build together for the future, for the sustenance of a civilization that is nearly unblemished. With the eyes of a male outsider who accidentally landed on Herland with two companions, we saw how putrid our present civilization is compared to theirs, and perhaps silently longing for that kind of society, without us admitting this. Making us see these narrations through the eyes of a male person, Gilman implicitly proved she’s still in control by using this to make the sense of transformation more pointed and self-evincing. The novel ended, with an awaiting sequel, with Van and Ellador, together with Terry, heading back to Van’s origin, with her excitement over what she would see. Jeff chose to stay in Herland, with Celis, his own apple of the eye. Thus was the completion of Gilman’s rounding about on the beauty of her vision: peace and prosperity in a land of women, working together, mothering the future generation together, all in the goal of perpetuating, more aptly, improving their civilization.

So for the verdict, I hate to say that my initial expectations were drastically not met by this feminist utopia by Gilman. I think the utopian genre caused her literary style to be a bit distended and flavorless. For most of the latter parts of the novel, I felt like I’m reading a scripture than literature. Then aside from these comments on the literary value is my own questions of what Gilman is trying to say, where she is coming from. Although I recognize the plight of the women, I am still unconvinced that the primary root of this and the primary motivation to struggle for change is not gender. They hate not the entire male people, I believe, but the society that privileges male over female, big corporations that privilege male over female employees for certain qualities they feel more desirable. And restricting the potentials of change on a strict gender bias will ignore the other oppressed people in this social set-up, i.e. the farmers in the country, the workers in factories, the young professionals who mainly contribute in the perpetuation of the capital-profit cycle. These are not all female people, obviously. And in the last note, by falling into this kind of feminism that ends in the domain of the gender, Gilman’s ideology and her literary output brandishing this did not leave any particularly good taste.

What do we see?: On Saramago’s Blindness

Jose Saramago’s Blindness, which I surprisingly finished in barely a week, is an engaging read, less because of what it is saying than the way by which these rather clichés were rendered.

“A city is hit by an epidemic of ‘white blindness’ that spares no one,” and from there, we saw how literal blindness has made humans grapple with their humanity until they regain their sight while Saramago uses one character spared from the ‘white blindness’ to comment on the tragedy that befell the majority and what exactly they have lost.

What does it mean to be able to “see”?

While the affliction that prodded this narrative forward is one that is physical and literal blindness, it is easy to think that for Saramago, this is just the tip of the tragedy, for what does the sense of sight provides that we should accord it with much premium? Although life had been difficult for the people who had been “blinded white,” they were able to carry for quite a time and as the soldiers once remarked in the story, it would just take some time get used to this situation. For instance, in collecting their lunch, the blind had devised a way to facilitate the act without their eyes: putting a rope from their ward to the end of the corridor where the food is left. It would be enough to take hold of this rope; eyes not entirely indispensable. Saramago is undervaluing the literal sight, for even without it, the blind can still feel sexually aroused (as in the case of the car thief who was aroused by the girl with the dark glasses), they can still taste their food, smell the reeking human excrement that gradually engulfed them as their stay in the ward extended among others. Notably, the man who stole the fist man’s car, before he died, was able to know that the doctor’s wife can actually see. That is to say, the absence of sight does not negate the ability to conceive, to know, to feel.


What the doctor’s wife sees

An interesting perspective is always provided by the doctor’s wife, the only known case of being unharmed by the epidemic. While we see how the blind had first fumbled in the face of their new-found situation and eventually get wont to it and evading paralysis by finding new ways of coping, we also see how the doctor’s wife not only guide them through the situation but actually perceive what is happening around her. Being able to retain her sight, unlike the people around her, how did she went through the whole thing? Did the virtue of differentiation give her a sense of being in a better place, having the ability to see? She was saying no. For what is the beauty in seeing if what you are seeing is a downright chaos, utter worldliness in men indulging themselves in the bodies of women, seemingly petty dishonesties in food rations. “Only the doctor’s wife knew the hideous state of the dead man’s body” (77). She was the only one to “see this horror, both feel and see it” (276). Her companions can feel it, but she feels and sees it.

And so through her eyes, we see how sight can vanish but nothing else. Because despite the blindness, the people would still want material things (when one ward demanded that the other wards have to “pay” for what they eat); and in a somewhat beautiful converse, how some of the people would still show benevolence and kindness, and love. When the group of the doctor’s wife already broke out of the ward and almost the entire population is afflicted by the white blindness and they were travelling through the city to locate each other’s house, they encountered this old woman near the girl with the dark glasses’ house. She was grumpy and sort of mean at first and the group scarcely liked her. But when they returned to the girl with the dark glasses’ house and knew that the old lady was dead and that she left the key to the girl with the dark glasses’ house, the group had a change of impression and that prompted them to bury the old lady’s dead body whereas they can just leave right where it was, as no one can see it anyway. As much as evil has remained, kindness, goodness also stick inside.


Saramago’s tacit indictment

In a key incident in the story, when the doctor’s wife had to return to the grocery to get more food for their group, she found dead bodies in the storage area, shocking her and sapping her strength she had to find a place to rest. And where did she head, together with her husband and the dog of tears? – in a church. And there, a more vital shock is waiting: the doctor’s wife saw all the statues, human or otherwise, with a white cloth covering their eyes. The sacred images were blind, god had gone blind. What was happening? What is Saramago telling here? Perhaps this: that in the face of humanity’s tragedy, gods are rendered most futile because the tragic won’t call on them, won’t invoke them for mercy, salvation. That is, if they believe these gods are responsible for the tragedy that befell them. But no. It appears they don’t. Although this one could be valid too: that the people have lost faith; that they have been too fascinated with the worldly (sex, car, food) that they forgot to focus on and believe on the more lasting pursuits (love, God, Change).

What have we lost, that pales in comparison to the loss of our eyesight — our vision, our pining against the momentary, pining for the more lasting, the more genuine, hope in the worsening crises of the times? – which we had to experience if we want to regain what was initially gone.

Saramago seems to be trying to mourn at what has happened to humanity, and he had to divest most of the remaining humanness in us, before making us regain it – through virtue, through love, through faith. He was commenting on everything he thought bad and detrimental about what humans have made, and made us concentrate on what he thinks we should be making instead. Or perhaps, this would be more apt: the impairment of what we see, what we choose to look at and how we look at them and how our superficial, if not selfish, evil-oriented sight, shall be replaced with a more enduring, selfless vision.


*scattered. I will write something about Saramago’s style and what that did to me in the future.

Distance is these

Victory is to the lips when it puffs a smoke

Only partially in the case of

Itunes playing Interpol’s PDA
(It’s a grim rite, to sleep, because

We are alone, and far away)

What is distance?

When you were sixteen, you were

reading Haruki, I was

meeting Ernest and James.

When you were spending lunch in the library,

I was finding bones

for my thesis.

Distance is hardly a

Facebook post away;

Not my relation to the air,

or the pen; is sometimes

a bus ride away; is death

and all of us, is the other side

of understanding.

That is, I can only understand you

If you were once away.

And that is, further, the potential for understanding

Is unending, because you are always away.


Distance is because

Holden’s smile I cannot see.

It is because spaces are

needed in sentences;

(again: why understanding

is the obverse)

Sundays are needed in a week;

Halftimes in basketball games (earlier, the Bulls trail the Pacers)

Tracking shots in Truffaut’s films;

“others” in us.


But these:

Distance shies away

When hitting the keys someone wears

When almost crying about loaf breads dogs eat

When smelling smokes someone smokes

When what exist are the dark and talk

When there’s a bottle of Gatorade and a can of beer

And palm geographies not meant for palm readers

Victory is to the lips when it puffs a smoke

When Kopiko powder turns to liquid and I drink

When pens create letters like these

When I fuck waters and I don’t sink

When all our hesitations are at the least.


Distance is a foe. And there is winning.

On campus repression and how a lanky man in pink was mistaken to be a Fratman!

And this is the story on how a lanky man wearing sort of fitted, sort of swanky, bright pink polo shirt and skinny jeans was mistaken as a frat man. (wow!)

As the local Chair of a national alliance of tertiary publications, I constantly make visit (pub hop, we call it) to campus publication’ offices mostly in Baguio-Benguet but also in other Cordillera provinces as well if there is urgent purpose and a bit of funds. Earlier today, as I was about to make my pub hop on The Buttress, the official student publication of the students of the Saint Louis University School of Engineering and Architecture, I was met with a surprising stringency from the security guards. As I approached their post and prepared to undergo the usual routine for outsiders who wish to enter the campus, (tell them what is your purpose, who are you meeting, show and leave them your ID, get this sheet of paper where the person you are visiting is supposed to sign and then – Ok na Kuya? Oo, ading.) there was an interrogation that I encountered for the first time in this school:

Saan ang punta mo, ading?

Sa Buttress po, SEA. Otto Hahn.

Anong gagawin mo dun, ading?

Maghahop lang po sa kanila, maga-update ng activities ng organization.

Faculty ba yang pupuntahan mo?

Ah, hindi po, estudyante po. Student publication po.

Ay bawal ading, may permit ka? (ahem, unfriendliness here, which is not common among SLU’s security personnel, at least in my recent visits)

Po? Ah, wala po. Ka-org ko po sila.

Hindi kasi, ah, hindi yan official transaction. Kung sa faculty, yun yung official transaction. Kailangan mo ng permit.

Ah, hindi po, kasi dati pa po ako pumupunta dito, hindi naman po ako hinihingahan ng permit…

Hindi kasi ading, kung wala kang official transaction, kelangan mong humingi ng permit from SAO….

Eh dati naman po, nakakapasok ako, ID lang….

San ka ba galing?

Ah, sa CEGP po, org ng pubs, ka-org ko po yung pupuntahan ko.

Saang school?

Graduate po ako ng UP…

Ano yan, may frat ka ba…. Bawal ang frat dito…. (WHAT?!)

Hindi po ako fratman. Tsaka graduate na po ako ng UP, so pumupunta po ako dito as CEGP, hindi po as UP student….

(discussion nang unti, eventually papayag si Kuya. Ibibigay yung papel, O papirmahan mo na lang yun dun sa pupuntahan mo. Sa susunod kelangan mo na ng permit from SAO.)

Strolling, with tempered annoyance, What the hell, permit? What the hell, fratman?! Ako, fratman, seriously?! I have been doing this thing for months…

Then, arriving at the Buttress’ rather small office, but one that never lacks with life and an atmosphere of joviality (just last Monday when I last went here, the office was almost full with people, mostly laughing, teasing one another) . I saw only two people there, although thankfully including Crystal, Buttress’ Editor-in-Chief who always gave me this impression of seriousness, of steady-headedness, of almost poetically rhythmic composure; who I once saw holding onto her calculator and facing a math notebook with figures a Literature major like me finds sort of eerie, looking flustered when I arrived and greeted them because perhaps she sensed that she had to pause from her work for a time to talk to me or something, who, earlier, was preparing for a “major quiz,” as she put it, making me miss, and miss terribly, my college life which has ended almost a year ago.

As expected, she was playing hospitable to a guest, the local chair of the organization where their publication is a member of (although I am doing my best to downplay this title and sort of deny that air of respect publication members accord me – i.e. telling them to be not too formal or something since I want a more personal, more attached relationship with the publication members), eagerly putting off her math notebook lying atop a thick book.

I asked her what she is up to, yes, that major quiz. What time? 4pm po. I checked my phone; it said 15 minutes before 4pm. Oh no, you are a tad off-timing, Ivan.

So I decided to put off the organizational and chummy talks, tomorrow, I asked her, when will be your vacant time tomorrow? Ahm… 11:30-2pm po, mas mahaba po vacant ko ‘pag TTH, 1-4pm, I know that in mind. This is what regular hopping has served me: memorizing the vacant time of some of the members of the publication, particularly the ones I usually talk to, and then tacitly reminding me of the best time and day to drop by their offices. She responded, even amidst snatching glances at her notebook, perhaps reviewing, or finalizing answers to a given activity. I was ending the conversation, Sige, Crystal, bukas na lang. Mga 12-1pm, punta na lang ako. Something like that. And then say, thank you, and said something encouraging for her quiz, Go sa exam, something like that. Not for the sake of it, but for something else. Certainly not for the sake of saying it, like a custom.

So I went back to the gate where I entered, show them the sheet of paper where Crystal signed as proof that I really went to their office. Manong guard is still sort of in bad mood, reiterating, as if automatically, next time, sir, kelangan na ng permit ah. I opted to keep silent. He called me “Sir” and I wonder how he would treat me if I happened to ride out of a car and told him I’m going to meet the Dean of this college, and not a student publication whose office allotted to is visibly not conducive for press works.

I left, proceeded to my next stop. Managing the irritation the security encounter caused me, keeping it from naming itself “rage,” or “anger.”

So what happened?

That was annoying, not because Kuya Guard was “unfriendly” but because of that administration policy or something he just have to execute lest he wants to lose his job. If you are a visitor, you must show a permit or something signed by the Students’ Affairs Office which must be accomplished by the office you are going to visit. What a process! Mangungumusta lang naman po sa member pubs namin…

And it is even more annoying when what I usually encounter in powerpoint presentations, in educational discussions, i.e. the repressive nature of the education system, haunt me right in the face, not manifested by Kuya guard, but by the policies “from above” which he had to enforce as a subordinate. Of course one can easily argue for policies like this: it is for security purposes – ideally, supposedly. But in practice, those policies are being executed primarily to limit the freedom of movement of students and visitors alike in the campus premises. Notably, it is also in SLU where laptops used to be not allowed to be entered in the campus unless one secures a permit (AGAIN). Closer to the campus press, student publications here need to undergo recognition every year with a long list of paper works required to be submitted. Standing as student institutions, the campus publication and the student council need not undergo this rigorous process just to be “recognized” (by the Admin) in the university and execute their plan of action.

While I usually talk about this issue with the publication members in SLU, they would often show a tacit resignation, as if: Ganun talaga dito Kuya eh, mahigpit talaga. Doing certain actions to oppose this set-up is hardly considered as perhaps it is deemed too strenuous but without high degree of assurance of success. And I think it is precisely in the face of these issues that the campus publication members, together with their publisher, the students, must unite for a concerted action. Imagine: if a school publication (what is called “College” in most universities is called a “School” in SLU) is not recognized, it won’t get funds and hence, would hardly be able to operate for a school term. For the students, this only means a thing: a drought in information and critical insights that can be provided by the school publications for the benefit of the students.

And I’ll end with this: my somewhat temperamental response to Kuya Guard was only fleeting. The problem is not his “unfriendliness” or lack of consideration. They are just obeying orders. And we ought not to ask where the orders are coming from; we know this very well. The more critical question I believe is this: why such orders? Why such stringency? Is that merely for security blah blah? I think not; no, I believe not. In the usual set-up of schools in the country, where the administration often dictates and controls, mostly subtly, rather than just administer, and the students are rarely given the chance to speak up unless they tap alternative avenues for such right, i.e. to express opinions (in other words, asserting their rights despite the present set-up), the power play should be obvious. And in the face of such monster, the students, the ones usually disadvantaged, shall not be meek and timid. In the face of such monster, the best reaction is unity, boldness – defiance. Unless we all want to be under the command of a few people who do not even know what exactly we are going through.

On what I fear

What I fear is this:

When we lose our insanity;

And when we refuse to bite;

The cakeness of, and — in life;

When we halt from bathing,

In the wind and smelling

The grand dances of the leaves;

When we stay put in bed

And not color our diaries

With seeing people’s miseries

And asking them what happened,

How do you think can we help?

When our oxygen circulates,

Inside our smelly rooms

And not busy pavements,

Or quiet museums;

When our pens lose sharpness,

And our hearts turn into a piece

Of Oblation in every UP campus;

When we stop dancing

Below the skies

Heralding a storm;

When our shoes are clean,

And our clothes are not soaked

With sweat.

And what I fear most:

When poetries turned dead,

And I found myself cleaning a knife.

February 17, 2012, there is poetry in this growing Kitma room.