A woman is a lot like an art exhibit

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A woman is a lot like an art exhibit.

Silent. Static. Unmoving. Reserved. A crowd of people pass by without even a second glance. Mostly apathetic, they continue their daily routine. No one dares to listen to what they have to say because it’s ‘always just the same thing all over again’. The similarities unnerved me.

Unlike with a forum, a performance, a conference, or a debate, an art exhibit says nothing direct. Everything up to interpretation.

A woman is a lot like an art exhibit.

Full of subtleties. Hidden meanings. Untold stories. All of which could only be revealed when one dared enough to step closer.

A woman is a lot like an art exhibit.

Judged at, looked at, spat on in disgust. Their skins vandalized, dignity sacrificed, parts stolen, voices still unheard.

I thought commands such as “Please don’t touch” was common sense.

A woman is so so much like an art exhibit.

Appreciated by some, seen by many. Some stand by in awe to understand their meaning, others step on them with no regret.

We, as artists, can shape them.

A woman is a lot like an art exhibit

#KwentongLakbayan 2016

October 19, 2016. The day the police rammed over our own people, I was with my Philo 10 class, visiting the camps of the indigenous people in the new CAL building. It was my first time this year to see them.

We were listening to the story of the Dumagat tribe leader, when an Anakbayan member showed us pictures of the incident on his phone. Pictures of a foot under a police van. I was there when he showed it to them.

It was… as if… time had slowed down. From the moment I saw their reaction… to the moment we were dismissed. The anger and grief in their eyes. It was like molten lava pooling in their eyes – wanting the people they hated to burn, and yet feeling momentous sadness as the hatred coursed through them.

Seeing them, I could feel a hundred thoughts running through their mind. They say a picture says a thousand words, and as we saw that picture, this was mine:

“Why would they do this to us?- Protecting the people who once violated our same ancestors… -What if it’s my friend? Are they okay? Who went to the Embassy? Think, think! – Wait, where are they now? What’s happening there?- Why is this happening to us?! Putang ina! Wait…Will they be safe? ….Will we?”

I called a friend from UP Manila, and he said that his friends were detained, and so were those who were badly injured, and so were the doctors who tried to help them. The police were still watching over them like vultures, waiting for their dead carcasses, excited to bring it to their boss, and feast on their triumphant battle.

I cried in the parking lot.

October 20, 2016. I did not let any insensitive sentiments pass by without them knowing this simple fact: with the freedom of speech comes an acceptance of criticism. I tried to educate as many people as I could, hoping that my voice could be heard in a void full of people who are always just full of themselves.

And I kept going, even if I had faced a handful of criticisms that had gone below the belt more than once, because the voice of the Dumagat tribe leader was echoing deep inside my mind, “You don’t need a college degree to know if you’re in the right. And if you are, then always, always choose to fight.”

October 21, 2016. I used to tell myself that I was a girl on fire, and the spit I received from strangers have doused my flame, but when human rights get trampled on with no care, I promised that I would fight. I don’t give a fuck who would stare.

As I raise my statements to the sky, hoping to attract and catch as many eyes. The broken bones my own people have had to endure had become my dried wood, and the police’s denial of the incident has become my gasoline. The friction between the police van’s tire against asphalt became the match that sparked my anger. I am so sorry. Blood had to spilled, just so eyes could be opened.

How many more gallons should be splattered on the ground before we finally receive what you’ve already had since the day you were born?

October 26, 2016. I didn’t know they were about to leave so soon. I went as soon as I could, and talked to a member of the Southern Mindanao tribe. He talked about the mining in his land, and most of all, he talked about how thankful he was to be here. Here, in UP Diliman.

That night, we had the Hugpungan, a cultural performance by the different national minority groups. I had chills the whole night, watching children talk of battle stories in front of us, amazed at the bursts of yellow, blue, red, and black all over their traditional clothes. These are children that are deprived of what we call a childhood full of innocence and Disney movies, and instead were given the battleground as their theatre stage.

After their performances, our Chancellor, Michael Tan, and the male and female leaders of the national minorities gave some closing remarks. They said, “We hope that next year, when we come back, we will no longer tell stories of our hardships, of war, and of tragedy. Hopefully, next year, we will bring with us stories of triumph.”

The host announced the different national minority groups for a curtain call. They danced in a circular motion around the stage. She invited our Chancellor to come up with them, along with other respectable leaders. The others started to invited the audience. Slowly, more and more people filled up the stage, dancing freely, chanting, “Ayan na. Ayan na. Ayan na ang sambayanan.” They mingled and merged as one uniting force – senior teachers, people of authority, students, indigenous people, children… All moving in one direction.

I was left astounded as I watched this spontaneous scenario unfold onstage. People of all ages, of different backgrounds, smiling, interacting, despite all odds – because their one goal was finally accomplished. A hopeful ending to this journey full of pain.

October, 2016. I cannot pinpoint the exact date, but this month was the month I found my purpose. This Lakbayan has changed my collegiate experience. The montage of martyrs showed every Iskolar ng Bayan who had not only dedicated their lives to the national minorities, but also died for them. I knew, then, that I wanted to be one of them.

As someone who is determined to become a psychologist, people forget that mental health is not just an issue of the proletariat or the peti-bourgeoise, but also of our national minorities. That we voice out our concerns for the health of the middle class, than the health of the children who have witnessed the burning of their schools, and other unthinkable tragedies, says a lot. I am not saying that we should disregard people who face monsters under their beds, just because other people face monsters with guns.

What I imply is this: do what you must to ensure that the people you believe should have what they must have WILL have what they must have, and I will do the same.

The indigenous people believed that UP Diliman was the safest place for them to stay, and they have stayed in many, many places. In their whole year, we have guranteed them 2 weeks away from military forces.

14 days of peace and shelter for them, in the rest of their 365 days.

14 days of enlightenment for me, in the rest of mine.

And I will not stop fighting until that 14 days of peace, turns into a three hundred and sixty-five.

#KwentongLakbayan 2016

The Academic Oval

It is the last day of my first month as a freshman in the University of the Philippines Diliman, and I cannot help but honor such a day with an essay about the infamous Academic Oval.

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It was the 7th of July, 2015, when I enrolled to UP Diliman. I experienced what every freshie from UP experienced – the utterly exhausting, sloth-like line. Nonetheless, I managed to survive. My mom had errands to do, and due to the traffic in EDSA, she wasn’t going to return in an hour. So I did what many of our predecessors did when they had nothing to do in a foreign land – I explored.

I walked around the infamous Academic Oval.

from [http://upd.edu.ph/images/visitupd/Academic%20Oval%20and%20Acacia%20Lane.jpg]
The Acad Oval consists of two lanes: a one-way road for vehicles, and another one for joggers/cyclists.
As I walked silently, I reminisced the first time we went to UP. It was third year High School, and we were visiting our relatives, and my parents decided, “Why don’t we show them the state university?” And so we drove our car around that Acad Oval.

I had 0 knowledge about UP, or its culture, then. All I knew was that it was hard to get in that college compared to others. Back then, I had no idea what “college life” consisted of. All I had were the western films about college, and that was it.

So you can imagine my enthusiasm and surprise, as a jogger and a tree-lover, when I saw the Acad Oval. I fell in love with a 2.2km slab of asphalt. Of all the things you can love about UP, am I right? But it was the Acad Oval that won my heart when I had to choose between the three top campuses I passed in. So, yes, friends. I’m not kidding. When I passed in Ateneo, La Salle and UP, I chose UP.

“Well, of course she’d choose UP. It’s cheaper! It’s the state university! And all her friends are there pfft-”

No, friends. I chose UP, because I knew I’d get to walk around the Acad Oval.

Here is a picture of me finally reaching my dream - finally got to night jog around the Acad Oval
Here is a picture of me finally reaching my dream – finally got to night jog around the Acad Oval

So why do I love it so much? Do I have a fetish for roads now? Haha, very funny, but no.

“Through the years, the oval has stood as a silent witness to the various marches of students, faculty and staff, in exercise of their cherished freedom of oppression.” [x]

It has felt its students put their feet down against tyranny and abuse, and the calm footsteps of both old and young couples in love. It has been a witness to hundreds of amateur joggers turn into avid marathon runners. It has comforted the feet of depressed students as they dragged their body around trying to forget their careless mistakes, and encouraged the soles of scholars trying to think of a new idea.

Beta Epsilon Way
Beta Epsilon Way

It is where people can literally run away from their heartbreaks, and exhale the negativity brought by stress. It is where students and teachers alike reflect on their academic life, and mentally organize their priorities. It is where people get to appreciate the life they were given, by repeating the mantra of “I am here. I am studying. In UP Diliman. And these acacia trees growing at the sidewalks are a proof of that. I am blessed.” 

It is where people are reminded that mankind was made for one basic responsibility: to take care of other species, and of their environment. It is where people learn to be humble, and to forget selfish cravings, because you know what?

The Academic Oval has witnessed millions of isko and iska come and go. It will witness a million more. We are but a speck in its timeline. Our one mistake as human beings is believing that anything that we have is truly ours. Everything that we have will soon be scattered to our children or grandchildren (if we will be lucky enough to have any), or our relatives, close friends, or sold off to junkyard sales or bookstores or antique shops. To know that life goes on with or without you is terrifying – it makes you slowly let go of the materialistic things you have fought so hard to hold on tight to.

It is where people forget their troubles, because when you are reminded of how small you are, and how much smaller your problems are, you will learn to crush your worries into small crumbs, and scatter the remains into the wind.

It is where people think bigger than themselves and their own wants and desires. It’s when people see the beggars and actually stop to think how they are faring. It’s where people go when they need to let off a little steam. It’s where people go to have picnics. It’s where people laugh, and cry, and fall in love, and release their pain and anger and hurt and bliss and it’s also where people learn to know each other and grow into each other’s skins.

That is why I love the Academic Oval. That is why I love UP – in all its vastness and variety, all its big events and small memories.

Such is what goes on in the mind of a fellow wanderer of an ancient elliptical campus road.

The Academic Oval