Existential Breakthrough Part II

//Author’s Note: To make it more relatable to non-UP students and foreigners, jargons will be explained and tagalog words will be translated and written in italics//

If you are interested to read about my first Existential Breakthrough, see here. I had almost the exact same feeling. The feeling of having a mess of random memories spin webs around my head, and seeing it all form one concrete thought, as if it was my destiny to realize it after all this time.

Oct 28 2015.
– Kas 1 (history class)

We discussed the different changes and reforms that were happening in the 19th century Philippines, and how each one paved the way to the creation of the Ilustrados – a middle-class society of scholars who formed the Philippine revolution against the Spanish colonizers.

– UP ALYANSA GFO (an orientation on one of the political parties in campus)

After class, I went straight to UP ALYANSA’s GFO along with my coursemate. I listened to the alumni of UP ALYANSA talk about their real-life experiences in fighting the good fight, in their daily struggles of being seen as activists. One of them told us the story of how he sheepishly admitted to his parents that he was joining rallies and delving deep into the politics of his campus, and his parents’ reply was, “Baka pagkatapos nyan ay lumipat ka na sa bundok”. And everyone laughed.

– Manilakbayan’s Lumad Camp

Straight after this, I went to the Lumad camp with my dormmate. To know more about the Lumad camp, click here. I observed the camp, the amount of students, teachers and lumads mingling and walking around. I saw orgmates, classmates and a handful of acquaintances. I silently read the poems written about the Lumads’ suffering. I slowly walked around the museum they have set up, showing brief glimpses of their culture.

I met with Alay Sining, another cause-oriented organization, and I listened once again to them lay out their principles, this time to my dormmate. Then, I followed them to Kalayaan Residence Hall, a dorm for freshmen students, to give an educational discussion about the situation of the lumads. While I was there, I met with my coursemate, who was listening in to the discussion. When she saw me, she asked if I knew what the media was saying about the lumads’ situation.

Then, I returned back to my dorm, and opened, once again, the topic of the Lumads. My roommate told me that she went there, and she was able to talk to the cousin of one of the tribal leaders who were killed.

Then, I went to Twitter, and tweeted about the lumads. My high school batchmate messaged me, and asked me if I knew any more events regarding the Manilakbayan happening in the next few days. He said he was interested in meeting the Lumads, and talking to them, too.

Oct 29 2015.
– Soc Sci 3

Right after our class, our professor asked us if we wanted to follow her to the Lumad camp.

After classes, I went back to the camp with my dormmates. I wanted to talk to them, and know more about them. Unfortunately, it was late when we arrived, and most of them were already sleeping. As it was their last day on campus tomorrow, we promised to return tomorrow.

Oct 30 2015.

Our class was dismissed early, and I was with my coursemates. We decided to go to Area 2 (a place in campus with a whole street lined up with food stalls) and buy merienda (snacks). While we were there, the topic of the Lumads, once again, came up. Majority of them haven’t visited the camp, so we decided to drop by for a while before going our separate ways.

Existential Breakthrough #1

From my coursemates, dormmates, blockmates, roommates, orgmates, and high school batchmates, all the way to my teachers, acquaintances, and vaguely familiar Facebook friends, I experienced seeing all these familiar faces in one place, and experienced listening to all these people talk about one topic. All in a matter of three days.

This is the power of collective action. This is student empowerment. No matter what religion. No matter what political party you’re a part of. No matter your beliefs. No matter how long or how short your stay in UP. No matter if you’re a freshman, or a graduate. When a victim of abuse, oppression and injustice cries for help, it is inevitably in our nature as human beings to listen to them.

Talking with the Lumads…

We were able to talk to one of the Lumads’ tribal leaders, Datu Jimboy. I learned more about the culture of these indigenous people, about how differently they lived life, how they’ve been fighting to preserve this way of living, and how our country’s own military was threatening their culture, their community, their own people.

Lumads have this tradition wherein they offer food to whoever will walk upon their land, be it a friend, or an enemy. And that was exactly what they did when the NPA (New People’s Army) came. The AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) were against the NPA, and so when they saw the offering, they immediately concluded that the Lumads were siding with them. They beated them up for it, despite the fact that Datu Jimboy’s tribe offered the AFP a whole pig as a peace offering on the first few days of their stay.

Lumads believe that people came from the earth, and that the land they walk upon is sacred. They have rituals and offerings, musical instruments with symbolic dances and a tradition that has only ever been passed down orally.

He encouraged us to use social media as a tool to spread awareness about their issue. His own words were, “Nagpapasalamat kami sa inyo, mga kabataan na nandito, at magagamit ninyo ang mga laptop para tulungan kami. (I am thankful for the youth who have visited us, for they are the ones who can use their laptops to help us)“. I did not expect this from him. I always thought, based on the western movies and stereotypes about tribal and traditional people, that since they do not use modern technology, they must be against it. But instead, they were all for it.

He even said that the Lumads are actually open to mining in their lands, so long as they don’t kill their people, so long as they stop burning their schools. So long as they are not taken for granted, abused, and beaten.

But if our president will not listen to their pleas, they will have no choice, he said, but to fight fire with fire. They are planning to use APEC as a way for other world leaders to see the true situation of our country, and of our people.

On a personal note…

If you have reached this point of this extremely long essay, I think it’s safe to assume that most of you care about me. To those who barely know me, let this be our little secret.

The effect of my academic life has started weighing me down. And combined with the unstable stirrings of my heart, and it shattering to pieces just weeks later, to say that the past few days have been emotional is an understatement.

But I am thankful for the weight of it all, for it was because of them that I knew how much I could carry. I am thankful for the professors who have broken my mind, and the boys who have broken my heart. It was because of them that I learned how to fix myself back again on my own.

Existential Breakthrough #2

I love – sometimes, admittedly, too much, too fast, too deeply. I daresay I have a heart big enough to love a whole nation. And at the end of this week, I realized, “so why shouldn’t I?”

I realized, once again, just how selfish I’ve been the past few months – thinking of nothing but that one boy. Or my next class. Or how well I’ve been doing in my acads. Or how long it has been since I’ve seen so and so. Always, always about me.

Visiting the Pambansang Museo ng Pilipinas (National Museum of the Filipino People), watching a play – Mga Buhay na Apoy (The Living Fire?) – that talked about cultural preservation and listening to an indigenous people tribe leader, I started thinking on a macro level. And so, my love for my country has been discovered.

And as I am a pantheist, an admirer of nature and its old ways, knowing that the people of Palawan believed that people came from fire, and that the Lumads believed that people came from the earth, the diversity of my people made me fall for my country even more.

Why should just one boy merit from all this love I’ve kept in my heart? Love that is enough to fill a nation to the brim?

Kas 1 taught me that the problems that were faced by the people from the 19th century are still the same problems we are facing today – feudalism, colonial mentality, corruption, poverty, abuse… And it seems like there’s no end to our suffering.

Like it’s hopeless to even fight in the first place when you know you’re going to die losing.

And, yes, these problems in our nation may never die. We have had them long before we were even born, and we may have them even long after we are dead and gone. But guess what?

When these problems came up in the 19th century, we had the Ilustrados to fight for our freedom, and they are the reason why are here today.

Now, in our day, in our time, our country has me – a scholar who is willingly opening up her arms as sacrifice, a sign that I am freeing herself from the fear of judgement, a scholar who is embracing the joy of serving others.

And I hope our country will have you, too.

Existential Breakthrough Part II

The Tragedy of the Self-Entitled Girl with the Flames

I can hear the whispers from a mile away
As I post my advocacies online
I can see them shaking their heads in disappointment
and scrolling away my fire.

They say I’ve changed into something flammable,
something dangerous. I should tone it down.
They say I should stop lest I burn myself
Can’t they see that their words make me drown?

I was never afraid to burn myself
For I knew I was going to be the light
But I was a fool. The flames have blinded me
And now I kill the fire to return my sight

I promised myself I won’t be a droplet in the ocean
I would let my flames lick people’s eyes open wide
But their words burned hotter than my passion
So, like everyone else, I shall stop asking the “why”s

Never will you see another advocacy
Never will you hear another battle cry
I cannot war with others’ demons
When I can barely stay alive defeating mine

So say farewell to that girl on fire
She has long gone turned into ash
What’s left of her now is her teardrops
Going with the flow of the sea

Is this not what you have wanted?
Well for once, you get what you wished
Say farewell to that girl on fire
Your spit has died down her flames

I say farewell to dreams of making a legacy
I should’ve known even statues of heroes would rot
All I have now is a written tragedy
And now my heroic efforts are for naught

This is the last you’ll hear from me
The self-entitled girl with the flames
Fire was never to be played by children
Once burnt, now sworn – never again.

The Tragedy of the Self-Entitled Girl with the Flames