October 04, 2016

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.

(An excerpt from my autobiography "A Prophet's Life".)