April 24, 2005

The Accidental Politician

Law school was both a destiny and a curse. The first appreciable words I heard from my father was "you would be a lawyer when you grow up" and stuck to my mind like mildew on wet rock. If he were a warlock, it would have been the curse from Gods. But since he was not, then it must have been destiny.

The minute I stepped into the halls of the University, there was a realization that every other hour I have spent in classrooms were for the sole purpose of this endeavor, to learn and argue for somebody else's tragedy. Sighing as if a great thorn in my heart had been plucked out and yet sighing, or rather yawning that the specter of boring classrooms would still be there to haunt me. It had become the wildest of my ambition to finally find myself free of blackboards and teachers mimicking textbooks. And in my first year of law school, my patience was gravely questioned; my discipline doubted thinking it would be another four years of classrooms.

To make matters worse, my law years overlapped with Satan's wrathful stranglehold on me, stifling my attention rules and procedures as the scourge of depression sent my emotions into ecstasy, and then sadness, then everything in between. Again, I merely traipse along periodic examinations and semestral breaks and along summers and make-up classes and completion tests. The years in the University would have been mostly plain and sordid, until I got myself entangled in student politics.

I was riding the seaside highway towards school while heavy in my mind was whether to skip the class or not. My decision to attendance led to a lengthy conversation with a classmate that was himself harboring a hard decision to make, that is, whether to run for another term as President or not.

"This is a good proposition," he said. Teng Catong is a miniature national politician who takes his politics so seriously that it pores out of his skin. Elections were his staple, the lifeblood that makes his spirit rise and gain him some shine in his face. If orations were an Olympic sport, he would have represented Philippines.

"Any good proposition is good to hear," I said, pinching in some bravado, upon speaking to one who is full of politics.

"I am sure you could do it," he sort of whispered to me and that was the time I realized that this may be something beyond jest. I felt some sinister.

" If I can do it, then I will do it," I answered with bated breath, somehow recognizing that the proposition would demand so much from me. I thought perhaps this was a business proposition and he needed some capital, which I do not have really.

" We need you run as President for our party" he muttered casually, psychologically assuring me that it would not be so much of a big deal.

I regretted my bravado soon after and smiled so hard I thought I would laugh. He must have been joking I reckoned then and my mind rushed for excuses.

"I do not have the resources"

"We have the resources"

"I won't win. I have no previous reputation."

"You will win."

The following day, I submitted my application with the dean of student Affairs and rode the campaign trail thinking I was merely in a movie and everything was merely an acting job. And most of it were actually acting job for someone who does not have much time in the past speaking in front of crowds. I would scurry to imagine Jose Rizal or Ninoy Aquino. If I had then the proper equipment, I would have studied their movements and actuations every time I prepare to speak, like basketball coaches do. In my mind was a playground, and I was the master of my speech, the director of that movie. I became Gandhi and then Marcos then Pilate, sometimes all of them at the same time. "Lend me your ears.." were words I learned in school; "bring me your votes" was the phrase I learned in the field of political battle.

When the counting came in, the lights went out and Teng was almost shouting at me to make the rounds and guard every vote. He was holding his personal tally sheet as sweat poured all over him. He shouted like he was my master and I was merely a confidant. I did not say anything although I wanted to appease him that losing would not be the end of the world for me. It was then I realized that my defeat would be the world falling down on him. It was much of his election as mine. When the smoke got cleared and every bullet was shot and every cannon fired, I got away with the most minimum of votes and worry overcame me rather than elation. But it was a show all along until the very end that I jumped as Teng and my other teammates hugged to the air. I smiled but did not laugh.

Running for the topmost student post was one thing and winning was another. It was purely bravado that got me embroiled in such very alien endeavor. I would not worry much anyway for winning is not one of my expectation. You see I was a complete nobody then. I had not anticipated governing that my losing would just be another day for me. But I won and worried so much about governing.

The summer after such election, I fell into an abyss and that made everything worse. I have to deal with a major depression while preparing for my reign as the University president.

Depression is like water. You could not get hold of it. You grasped it into your hands and they just melts away. It is also like upon a darkened room that the darkness would be so unkind that you would not know where the chairs and tables are, not even the way out. I bet our soul is like a ship and mine was the Titanic. I hit an iceberg and got sunk into the deepest of the icy Atlantic water. There, in the most desolated of the ocean's bed, nothing lives except some freak creature, staring at you every now and then. The coolness of the water would not support any moss, not even some anemones. I remember again that dream of mine where I repeatedly dived into a pond, where I dove deeper and deeper and had no such temerity to rise up again. My anxieties had gotten so worse that to compare me to a shipwreck was an understatement. Depression was like that, you have worries and could not point out to the source of these worries and you end up just letting go of any resistance and wallow in sadness and general bowing gait that paints the darkness of my life then.

I carried on with routines of governing when there is not much to govern except that you are being expected to make something move and live, like a magician. Student politics is not similar to the usual politics we have where everywhere and everything calls for action and work, work and more work. In that set-up, you have to create work it seems not so unlike of milking a male cow. So I had concerts and essay writing contests and everything in between. If history truly judges the rein of student presidents, then I must have not deserved a single jottings or a blot of ink in the history books.


April 10, 2005

Flying Through The Cliffs

The cherubim ahead of me looked back and screamed towards my direction, urging me to speed up as the winged creature was fast catching up with us. I had burst into the branches of woods in the night forest and I had to cover my face with my arms in order to clear my view, otherwise the branches of the trees would harm my eyes and the feint illumination offered by the moon would not allow me to navigate properly through the dark woodlands, and especially if a winged creature that was blacker than the night was coming at us with full speed.

The night creature was an old woman with wired and mangled gray hair and eyes that was redder than blood. I kept looking into those fiery eyes every time I look behind me, checking out if the creature was already nearing or still farther away, and fear had never been so evident in me. The night creature had wings that were velvety, like they were made of black satin or a kind of a soft garment that are often used for curtains. I thought that perhaps those creatures knew how to sew and made their wings by themselves. I never knew exactly.

When I was a child, I had so many dreams where I was flying with cherubim or child angels. They never spoke to me in spoken words but somehow I could here them speak to me through their eyes, as if they had the power of mental telepathy. They just stared at me all throughout and I were just amazed at how beautiful and handsome they looked. The reason perhaps why I did not initiate conversation with them was mainly because of their foreign appearance. They had rounded faces and wavy blond hairs just like American babies that I saw in television back then. I reckoned that maybe they spoke in a different tongue. They were too young but their gazes seem to pronounce to me a much older and mature mind.

There was that cliff that I kept falling from every time I reach its vicinity, as I arrive at it with bursting speed right out the thick greeneries, and suddenly finding out that below me was a very steep cavity and although I was sort of flying through the air, the sudden change in height always threw me into deep confusion that my fluttering through the air became distraught and discordant. So my glide was often disturbed and my wings wouldn’t work so well that I start falling and I couldn’t stave my fall that I begin to scream so loud while my fall would accelerate. And there I was falling from a steep cliff and I remember that feeling of falling so well even towards this day, that whenever I ride the Ferris’ Wheel in older days, that familiar feeling come speeding back to me like a mirage. In those dreams of falling from cliffs, always I would wake up before I touched the ground but whenever I woke up, I find myself falling from my bed instead that my scream would be heard throughout the household. My grandfather would be awakened by my scream and he would make me drink cool tap water each time.

So in one of those flying dreams, we were again being chased furiously by the winged serpents of the night, and again I was there huffing and puffing through the woods trying to evade those night creatures, and I was scared like hell as usual. But the other cherubim were surer about themselves that they never fell and flew like they were masters of flight and in fact, they were just being playful and seemed to be toying around with the winged creatures, as if knowing that those hideous creatures won’t be catching up with us in any way. But I was so unsure about myself, and I feared the flying serpents like no other that my eyes were so wide-eyed with fright.

In order to lose our pursuers, we would thread into the thick forest and caverns at the side of the mountains and that night, we did the same routine until we finally lose them. There was great relief among our group as we proceeded to glide into the wide-open air and beneath us were great spread of grasslands with some assemblages of trees here and there, like oasis in a broad desert land. We decided to descend into a particular cluster of trees and there we settled on the branches. It was dark but the moon was so illuminating that there was some sort of daytime in the night. I could exactly remember how the branches of the trees would move and bounce as we drifted from one place to another, trying our darnest not to cause any noise as the cherubim which I always conversed with signaled to us to keep silent by putting his forefinger across his tight lips. I immediately wondered why we had to remain still and silent although I reckoned then that it was perhaps for us not to be detected again by our night pursuers. But I was to learn later on that the order to remain silent at that particular juncture in our night venture was mainly because of a group of men and women that was forming a circle around a campfire just nearby, about 20 meters away from us. The trees we hanged on were fairly tall that we could see all of the activities below with the widest of view and there I saw those people chanting some unknown prayers with their hands clasp and turgid. I saw the woman that had been one of our pursuers among the circle below and at that time, she had no wings on her back and was upright just like any human being. She was a shape-shifter I had reckoned then, a human being that could transform itself into a winged serpent when the night comes. I felt some fright again upon seeing the face of the woman who was always pursuing me, like I was her favorite prey. I felt leaving immediately but I could not just disregard the earlier instruction to stay silent. So I stayed and observed the proceedings below and the fire in the middle of the circle was blazing so thoroughly that it was reflected on our faces, while we clung to the branches with bated breath. I thought for a moment there that a male member of the circle had noticed us that he turned his gaze slowly towards our direction. I saw the eyes of the male person and they were so black all over like it has no white in them but all pupils and he looked like a dead person to me with his face pale as talcum powder.

All of a sudden, we heard the ruffling of the leaves just behind our position and we turned abruptly to see what had caused the noise. To our utter dismay and fright, it turned out that some of the winged serpents had found us again and we had to scurry in a jiffy and up we were trying to evade our usual pursuers again. Of course, we had been able to dodge them again by trying to confuse them into trees and caverns---the usual method we apply. Those winged creatures seem to have a weakness when flying into trees and dark crevices of the mountains, as if their guide system is all too flawed and far less superior than ours that it takes them so long to get out of those nooks and caverns.

And I will end this note about flying and falling from cliffs upon a certain dream where me and the other cherubim were slowly approaching the earth from a higher region of the sky, like from the clouds. As the ground became nearer, we softly and gradually descended towards a particular tree. It was nighttime and below us was a carnival that was set up so sparingly in the middle of a barriotic neighborhood. There was only one contraption in the middle of the carnival, or “carnaval” in Filipino common language, and that was a very high Ferris’ Wheel and nothing much else except for tables were men and women trooped into for some joint activity, like gambling perhaps on a dice game. There were a lot of people mingling about, as what would be expected of such event and they were walking about around the main ride while some other played card games and gambling on the wayside. It was sort of a busy scene and I saw a man in short pants carrying a child and some dogs loitering around. Just across the site of the “carnaval” was a busy and well-lighted sari-sari store where a group of men where around a wooden table, seemingly on a drinking binge. Some children where gazing and dawdling around the Ferris’ Wheel, gawking at the giant steel structure as if it was their first time to have witnessed such contraption. Around the “carnaval” where wooden houses of various sizes and style, the kind of shelters one see in a typical Filipino slum, where a few houses tower in height while others were smaller in comparison but more in number.

As I stared meaningfully towards the somewhat animated scene below, I had wondered to myself what place that was and why we came to it with evident purpose. One angel said to me: “ This is the place where you are going to.”

I didn’t responded to the declaration of the angel as if accepting it like a non-negotiable fact of life. But in my mind, I had wanted to ask why I was destined for that place and wondered to myself if there were any other places where I could choose. Like I knew that it wasn’t my call at all, I just shut up.

April 04, 2005

Caragasan Reef

It’s not actually a reef but along its shore, Caragasan Beach felt like one as a great stretch of rock formation lined its coast, among myriad of pebbles that felt like millions of stars in my hands. So you might think it’s not a good beach entirely. Far from that; its actually one place many ZamboangueƱos goes to every time weekend came and that, despite its relatively remote distance from the city proper (about ten to fifteen kilometers away). You might wonder why. Well, once you stepped farther into the middle of the Caragasan Beach, a little farther from the stony sea ground, you would be witnessing a stretch of clear sand that is incomparable anywhere within the city limits, and in fact the sand there softly reminded me of Boracay.

I woke up this morning with a mind on the television, still thinking what already had happened to the Pope since the news yesterday. I turned on the radio and Joe Taruc, or some of his cohorts for that matter, told me that the Pope was finally gone and I went downstairs to seek CNN, and there it was eventually confirmed that he had already sojourned towards the netherworld. I had mixed feelings that moment, suddenly realizing that his death will possibly open up a new era, a new world order for that matter and just gone is perhaps one of the greatest soul to have walked the earth. Pope John Paul II ushered in one of the greatest moments of the Church, one that it could be proud of despite some negativity along the way. The Church and the world only have one man to thank for this, and that is none other than John Paul II or Karol Josef Wojtyla. There is also a sense of comfort thinking that he is more peaceful now, rather than be suffering a long battle against a cruel sickness, one that could not be won. Humanity will surely miss him. So long, great man.

So as midday came, the house was suddenly empty as every one of us jumped into the Jeep and headed for the beach. The kids waddled in the water with apparent glee (oh, how they’ve grown) and even though I hadn’t any earlier plan to get myself wet in the water, I was tempted so thoroughly and finally went half-naked and stepped into the sea. I swam and reminded myself that I still know how to swim. Ha..ha..ha..it was weird how the sea always reminded me of the dream of the pond and wondered if those two guys were there to “disturb” me again, or assist me in my swimming. No, I don’t think I needed them today, for I could swim by my lonesome, and this realization reassured me that I won’t be fearful of venturing into a depth that I couldn’t handle, for I know fairly how to swim. But there was one scary moment. I have always wanted to trek into the deeper part of the sea whenever I went to the beach and this afternoon was not an exception as I went gradually seeking depth, in order to test my swimming prowess. I felt the warmness of the sea as I waddled along but when finally my feet couldn’t reach any ground, I felt some anxiety in my mind, thinking that I haven’t actually swam for nearly a year and my swimming could not be relied upon so entirely. My heart was racing rapidly and immediately I decided to paddle myself towards shallower water but my rusty swimming skill couldn’t seem to propel me towards the shore as much as I wanted to. How I wished those two guys in the dream of the pond were there to help me go ashore while I paddled my hands and feet so furiously. Then suddenly, a big wave appeared from behind me and trusted me towards the shallower part of the water and how I was thankful for that. I thought the sea was alive that it heard my plea and I even thank it for the much needed help. I shook myself up lest some other soul may actually observe me speaking to the sea. The sea---that warm and moving sea---is my friend.