The 26th of June 2016. Sunday. UP Amphitheater. The place, along with the nearby Quezon Hall were decorated colorfully, to make sure that the overabundance of colors would make the celebrations more memorable as the University Graduation was taking place. Above the stage, there was a banner, giving a prosaic reminder, a simple command which is the dogma of the university: “Serve the people.”
I wonder on how many people would live up to this dogma. The student activists, the reds, were no exceptions to the question. Even though they claimed themselves to have been serving the people while berating the non-red ones for “inaction” (Actually, for the non-red ones, which includes myself, there are a lot of other ways other than leading the whining and carrying on an outdated ideology), it was apparent that many of them did that for showboating. My initial generalization was that all of them were like that, but a debate with my colleague who is now studying in a law school convinced me that there were exceptions.
Of course, those activists were already irritating the people with their demonstrations on the streets. Although these people, through their demonstrations, actually intended to communicate the perspective of being in a helpless situation which was full of grievances, the lack of connection from both sides, the arrogant I-know-everything red, and the ignorant I-just-don’t-know-what-you’re-saying-therefore-I-make-my-own-definition common man, devolves their efforts into just an everyday nuisance.
Being a former political science student, I understand and respect their ideology. However, theirs was not the only ideology existent within the frameworks that define Philippine politics. What irritated me the most was their assertion that their ideology was the only one deemed correct and absolute. It was an assertion made through ego and not by principle! However, I concede to the fact that their non-conformists stances gave them the charm of being a rebel. But still, it was often downplayed by going too much.
Many of my friends graduated with Latin honors this year. I was congratulating them sincerely while also commending their efforts. They were still treating me like I was academically superior to them. I just don’t have the passion to pursue high grades. They knew that. I lost the appetite for good grades, however, I never at all despised the system of grades being the measuring system of learning. I was close into living a Bohemian life during my college days. I don’t do reviewing for the examinations. It was my Achilles’ heel. I just don’t think that fulfilling and bringing up my endless potentials on the fields that I was deemed potentially excellent is my sole purpose in life.
The reason why I lost that appetite in the first place was my parents’ constant downplaying on my efforts during the earlier years of my life. Their stances as my growth threatens their status, maybe, out of pride, shrouded by a fake gesture of love, compelled them to their anti-intellectual stances. The knowledge that I was obtaining made me see through my parents manipulation. To explain further, it meant that I saw that my parents were forcing down their standards and definitions to me, some which I deemed politically incorrect, therefore I resisted, hence the downplaying. I abandoned my status as a child prodigy as I was fed up and discouraged by their downplaying and nagging.
Spending 5 years within the premier university of the Philippines, I knew exactly how hard it was to pursue Honor and Excellence, which is UP’s motto. I knew how hard it was to get high grades. Therefore, I feel the tribulations experienced by some of my colleagues to achieve and maintain their high grades. That was why I felt very bad in behalf of them when a notorious professor publicly remarked that “those who had bad grades were the ones really serving the people.” The logic of that statement was so fallacious that I wanted to puke on that professor’s face.
If that was the case, then those, mostly from the other universities, who were cutting classes just to do silly things, were doing Philippines a favor.
Those people that that professor were boasting, including himself, who were claiming to have been serving the people were often seen drinking booze at nighttime during school days. Some of the key figures of the UP Student Activists Sector were noted to be party-goers. Those images of them were feeding the ire of the silent majority to the point that their rallying cries were no longer attracting even the patriotic ones (Yes, they were different), and even reduced into mere hypocritical showboating acts. There were few exceptions, of course. But the efforts of their outstanding few were overshadowed by the hypocrisy of their idling majority.
Why do they have to downplay the efforts of those who get high grades? Is there an alternative at hand? Even in the most efficient meritocratic system and even in the society that they were envisioning themselves, their downplaying acts were deemed to be nuisances. Grades reflect to the individual’s performance which served as the key into opening opportunities. Opportunities were given to those deemed worthy. However, upon getting that opportunity, the individual has to prove himself once more at the field, where his/her previous marks were no longer relevant, to seek for higher opportunities.
Of course, I would be receiving backlash if I were to say these to their faces. Words like “who are you to judge?” and “you’re no different” would become the music to my ears as if the freedom of expression, especially when detailing actual observations, were only limited to them. Like I said, I practice Bohemianism. I have many pursuits in life. Grades are not my everything, however, I know that they are important. My lack of appetite for good grades includes the following traits: fast learning curves accompanied with the habit of not reviewing for the examinations (hubris and confidence take their respective roles); and running late, to heighten my senses, in classes and even in exams. That gave me ample time to do other things, in the expense of my academic pride. To remedy this emotional injury, I would stare at the pictures of the UP Summa cum laudes for extended periods of time. Tiffany Uy’s case was an inspiring roll. That was why I was also thankful at that time that the same professor mentioned earlier was receiving backlash for attempting to downplay her efforts (He tried in vain to devise his own measuring stick of assessing credentials, potentials, and performance).
This year, 2016, many of the Summa Cum Laudes were revealed to be some of the people that I’ve known of. A year ago, after Tiffy’s graduation, I received a rumor that a classmate of mine from the PI 100 class was aiming to best Tiffy’s record of achieving the highest GWA, with the standing at that time to be a perfect 1.00. I was a little disappointed of not finding the person that was rumored, because of two reasons: the batch valedictorian this year had a GWA of 1.03, unlike the projected 1.00, and was supposed to be a girl which was the description of the rumored person.
It was until Isaiah Paulo Lee’s speech on the UP College of Science recognition rites that I realized the mix-up of the information that I have gathered. The person that I thought was rumored to be the batch valedictorian was the girlfriend of the batch valedictorian, Mau Leung. Both were my classmates in the PI 100 class of Professor Florentino “Boy” Iniego. Prof. Iniego, who soon became my personal mentor, adviser, and friend. often called Mau by his full name, which I thought was his surname alone, thus the mix-up, and the late realization. That guy is a shy one. I never heard him speak loudly. What got my attention was the girl beside him, his girlfriend. She is of a Chinese descent and wears huge spectacles during class.
She was one of my classmates that I got a tiny crush on, which spurred me to attend Sir Iniego’s PI 100 class, which was one of the classes that I found interesting to listen to. Those encounters with her became the comforting thoughts which consoled me during the wake of the loss of the UP Alumni Center. Nostalgia brings back good memories of the tiny moments that I’ve shared with the Batch Valedictorian’s girlfriend, which I dearly treasured.
I am enjoying the last stretch of my self-imposed break. After the SBE 2016 Manila Conference, I am taking a rest, while hustling occasionally in billiards. I try to make myself a test subject for the effects of indolence in the body. But I guess that living a Bohemian life does not include standing idle. I cannot therefore use myself as a test subject, like a horse being injected with venom to have them produce the anti-venom for the injected venom. Even though I was able to feel and resist the tendencies to indolence, I myself was immune to it, because of my will. Finding the cures through my experiences is futile. It would take countless hours of observation on the behavior on others , for me to devise the cure. Since the cure that I will be proposing will be on the final chapter, which I presume to be the 10th, I don’t feel pressured to think of it or them right away. The 4th chapter of my Indolence of the Filipinos in the 21st century will be a technical paper, for it will be tackling issues about the law, the conflicts that it was causing, and the balance between the convenience and conformity. The 5th chapter will be about the competition, power struggles, and the obsession of the individual towards material wealth. The 6th chapter will be about the culture of gambling. That is what’s in my mind right now.
I was also making computer programs which automatically solve engineering problems. I wanted everything in solving the engineering problems be automated yet instructional. I am starting to appreciate using the binary codes, especially in setting conditions, which replaced the role of macros or any other programming shortcuts that I vowed never to use in this endeavor. I would start from scratch.
I am still obliged to further my studies and researches. Now, I have to do cost analysis on my propositions on the wind speed maps. I have to do also wind resistant designs for the wind speeds that I was forecasting. The additional work just never ends. I thought and was thankful that it was over. But it was still the beginning. I wanted, for the mean time, to take a break to spend a 2-week vacation on my hometown, Concepcion, Tarlac. I have yet to finish that race-to-500 9-ball match with Kuya Edfer, with the scores currently at 50-46 in favor of him.
There were a lot of things that I wanted to do and finish, yet I was constrained into joining the workforce. The backlog has been piling up and my mind was becoming restless. My mind tries to make refuge by thinking of my tiny crushes. The sight of Mt. Makiling while I was relaxing on a private resort last week gives back good memories. It made me remember Ma. Erlyne Santiago, my crush back in 2011. During our camping in the interior of Mt. Makiling, she, being intoxicated, went to the bed that I was sleeping on. She was just still there, staring at me for a long time. Oh, those moments with my tiny crushes! These innocent moments are the ones that I sincerely yearned in a relationship. Another memory flashed. It was with Kimberly Arriola. Those memories of regularly commuting together to UP from España Blvd back in 2012. These were the remaining people that I can look back on in my memories without feeling any pain.
I just wished that these moments should come in bundles and from one person only. I was only given patingi-tingi. The same happened with the batch valedictorian’s girlfriend, which was still fresh from my memories since the events with her transpired just a year ago. The sight of a mountain made me remember her again.
A year ago. Midyear Term – 2015. I took 9 units that term (which is the maximum number of units allowable). I enrolled to Fil 40 under Prof. Wilfreda Legaspi, to PI 100 under Prof. Florentino Iniego, and STS under Dr. Benjamin Vallejo. I thought that that term would be just a breeze and I could just surge through these subjects without being serious or putting much effort. I have never been so wrong, because of that chaotic first week of classes.
The submission of the manuscript of my undergraduate thesis overlapped with the first week of the Midyear 2015 classes. I was among the last ones who submitted their manuscripts. I believed that the last ones who submitted their manuscript were the batch valedictorian of CE in 2015 and her thesis partner. They submitted it a day after I submitted mine. Tsk. That meant that the higher ups of CE were pressuring me more into submitting my manuscript by putting on an earlier date. That caused me to frantically cram my write-up. I knew for certain that they would be finding typographical errors. What I submitted was the third draft of my manuscript. The delays within my submission were caused by the following: the newly-found calibrated data of the pressure points from Region VIII, the commitment in competing my thesis in the 2015 Undergraduate Project Competition of the UP College of Engineering, and finding out that the evidences, upon getting the calibrated data, converged into one concrete conclusion, making the forensic analysis no longer dubious.
The ultimatum was imposed on me, with the ‘deadline’ being on June 15, which was also the first day of classes. I never thought that skipping the first day of classes would bring me much trouble. There was a homework and an announcement already in Fil 40, and Prof. Iniego was looking for me in the PI 100 class. The homework that I lacked was what caused to incur an incomplete (INC) grade in Fil 40, while Prof. Iniego reprimanded me publicly in class for skipping it for the sake of my thesis.
Well, those initial impressions of them would soon be washed away. Prof. Legaspi, although prickly in the outside and most of the times, and had high academic standards, was proven to be an excellent and interesting lecturer, for I learned a lot from her. She piqued my interest into looking further to the culture of the Filipino language. Prof. Iniego found that I have a broad knowledge in history, and became a good friend of mine, even offering his services to advise me and collaborate for the finishing my translation of Antonio Luna’s Impresiones, lending me his fragile 1971 and autographed copy of The Rise and Fall of Antonio Luna of Dr. Vivencio Jose, although those concerted and collective efforts from both of us went down the drain when the UP Faculty Center was destroyed by a fire last April 1, 2016.
Prof. Iniego’s syllabus was an interesting one: full of group reports and projects. He made us read academic sources about Jose Rizal which we never encountered before. His class was a fun experience. He was unexpectedly humorous. He gave us lots of laughs with his jokes, and his cosplaying (He and Sir Nilo Ocampo would cosplay Rizal, Sakay and people who do Zarzuela).
He managed to start healthy discussions and debates about the chapters of Jose Rizal’s life, whether it was controversial or not. His class was a discussion of history that I was looking for, not a mere memorization of events or names, but a question of motives behind every person’s actions. Even though, I just lost the UP Alumni Center, I was able to humorously delivered a report about Jose Rizal’s Sobre La Indolencia de los Filipinos. I coaxed my classmates to do the dance step for the “Ako ay May Lobo” song, which is a children’s song, under the guise of being a Chinese exercise aiming to release the Indolence inside of them, which helped me further discuss the situation back then and the situation right now.
The debate about the Rizal’s retraction was also an interesting one. Out of 40, only I and Eugene Lacadin, believed that Rizal did the retraction. I believed that Rizal knew that nobody would believe even though he retracted. It was his final act of deception to finally marry his dulce extranjera. Rizal believed that his final act would not infringe his insurmountable principles. That movie Jose Rizal(1998) by Marilou Diaz-Abaya also shared the same sentiment. I’ve had so much fun in Prof. Iniego’s class.
It was more fun when I had that tiny crush on the batch valedictorian’s girlfriend, who was my classmate in that class. Sometimes, even though the class was interesting, my body could not provide the focus. At those cases, I would deliberately run on late in those classes, to heighten my senses as I could feel the tension between me and the irritated instructors, or I would stare at my tiny crushes to regain my focus.
I already accepted the fate that I could only look from afar from these crushes of mine. Just catching momentary glimpses of them was enough. That was enough to give me the inspiration. I accepted my fate of not having the chance to interact with them, and so was to her. Heaven and Earth, that was the set-up.
But a miracle came, when we went to Dolores, Quezon to meet with the Rizalistas, the people who worshiped Dr. Jose Rizal. The batch valedictorian’s girlfriend became one of my group-mates. That means that I would get to interact with her! What a stroke of luck in those turns of events!
I would not give specific information about the Rizalistas here. I would only be giving a quick overview. The Rizalistas was not just a single religious sect. There were tons of them, but we could still classify them into three based on their fundamental doctrine: Rizal being the Heavenly Father, Rizal being the Heavenly Son, and Rizal being part of the Holy Spirit. Honestly, these religious sects were well-founded and their doctrines and history were very logical unlike the one along the intersection of Central Ave. and Commonwealth Ave, and another who has an “Appointed son of God”. And the Rizalistas generally worship the name and not the figurines.
The discussions and orientation meeting continued on until suddenly, one of the benches broke in half. Was it a divine intervention as my classmates were persistently asking the pastor of the name of God, derived from the alleged Latin name of Jose Rizal? Nope. It was just the weight of those sitting there doing its science. Engineering stuff.
We set out first on the cold downstream of Mt. Banahaw’s sacred brooks. We took a dip in groups in the water to signify the start of the sacred journey. We formed a circle, and held hands, as Prof. Iniego chanted the prayer. And guess who was beside me? The batch valedictorian’s girlfriend! I was the one who held her hand! My other hand was holding my glasses, which became foggy after they were dipped into the cold waters. It was a strange sensation. Honestly, I’ve already forgotten the feeling of holding hands with a girl. I knew that I felt her silky and cold hand, but there was more to that feeling which I couldn’t describe. I may have touched an angel!
I just couldn’t shake the feeling on my left hand, the hand which held her hand, as we continue on to the journey. We went to the remote churches of some small Rizalista sects deep in the mountains. We went to the counterpart of Jesus’s episode on the crown of thorns, the section of the mountain full of thorny rocks. There we found Prof. Iniego cosplaying a Rizalista hermit, wearing a wig. He was so humorous that we couldn’t maintain the serenity and solemnity of the event, each of us trying desperately to hold our laughter.
The climbing the mountain was relatively easy to me, because of my past experiences in climbing and trekking during my childhood days. I was always waiting for my group-mates and even our guide to catch up. The only one catching up at a commendable rate was Johanna. The rest were three minutes behind. Then came the Husgado, the tricky cave in the mountain which was proven difficult to squeeze through. It was said that sinners would suffer physical wounds after going through it. I was the first one in our group to go through, with the intent of assisting my group-mates inside. The midsection was the hardest part to squeeze through. I still managed to get through unscathed. But then I went back inside to assist the others. I was beginning to doubt the legend about it as I was assisting my group-mates, by giving them the lift to scale a difficult vertical section of the tiny cave. I offered my assistance up to the batch valedictorian’s girlfriend. The guy next to her, who was obviously pathetically trying to look good on her, refused my assistance. And so I climbed ahead of him, who injured his foot as he squeezed through alone, right behind the batch valedictorian’s girlfriend whom I assisted on the final hurdle. I was too focused at her that I failed to see a spiky rock overhang. I banged my head to it, making me believe to the Husgado’s legend once more.
We reached the summit of Mt. Kalabaryo around 4 in the afternoon. There was no wind at the top. It was humid. We were sweating lots. We were feeling soggy. But the unpleasant feeling and exhaustion were compensated by the view of the Tayabas Bay on the south, Mt. Cristobal on the north, and the vast prominent figure of Mt. Banahaw on the East. There a cross mounted on a concrete pedestal stood. Ten meters away, a smaller monument stood, with the following words engraved: “Jove Rex Al” (Jove is the Latin term for Jehovah, Rex is the Latin word for King, and Al is the Latin word which means “Everything”), which is the alleged Latin name of Jose Rizal (Jose Rizal was the “christianized” version of the name as he was baptized).
The injury suffered by the guy mentioned earlier caused problems and our group had to split into two: I leading the leading party and the guide leading the lagging party. I sent my party along with the other groups by the time we reached a familiar check point. I set out alone to look for the lagging party. I have two reasons for setting out alone: first was that the batch valedictorian’s girlfriend was in the lagging party, and the other was that I was the one responsible for splitting the group into two. It was a daunting task: Trekking alone in the darkening dense and presumably enchanted forest of Mt. Banahaw. I have confidence in my navigation skills. I never lost my bearings. After twenty minutes of backtracking, I found the lagging party. Although it was not necessary, I led the way to the waiting shed. That was the time that I let my guard down. I lost my bearings, and almost went over a cliff. Thankfully, the guide was there to warn me about the blunder that I was about to take.
They decided to rest at the familiar mountain shed. But nighttime was approaching. Walking in the dark was perilous to a guy wearing correction glasses. I decided to move swiftly with another guide(who was in the hurry to the toilet) in the mossy and slippery unknown trail. We moved at an alarmingly fast rate. The trail was steep and full of forks. I just believed in my instincts and the familiarity of my company to the mountain. Downhill was the only direction and we managed to reach civilization after 30 minutes.
I immediately took a bath, and took a short rest. The rest, the lagging group came an hour later. We ate our dinner. Some of my group-mates joined the party being held by Prof. Iniego. I managed to finish some of the writings that was pending, like the Filipino adaptation of “One Day More” and “Stars” of Les Miserables musical. Prof. Iniego invited me to join the party. But I was not a party-goer and not into partying, so I declined. I requested instead for permission to play in the only pool hall in the community, which he approved. I played billiards until a hour later when the guide assigned to us told me to stay within my group in the quarters, a repercussion of blunder that I made into splitting the group. Around 10 pm, our group slept to ready ourselves for tomorrow’s activities.
The next morning, around dawn, I was being waken up by somebody. I opened up my eyes. I was flustered to see that the one walking me up was the batch valedictorian’s girlfriend! She was smiling at me! To embellish it more, the light of the rising sun made her face shine brighter. Was I in heaven that time? Honestly, these were the tiny acts that I was yearning on a relationship, like when I and Choco rode a bike together, where she rested her head upon my back, when somebody rested her head against my shoulder, when Ara del Rosario, the girl that my Kalai dormmates were having a crush on, gave me a full hug, after helping her to pass the PE Placement Exam to be able to graduate. Why give it in patingi-tingi? Those tiny wishes of mine became a gloomy sigh as my heart grew bleaker by the day. Am I allowed to be happy?
Those thought ran in my mind as the event progressed and faded. I smiled back at her. Our group took our breakfast. We rode on top of a jeepney towards another community at the foot of Mt. Banahaw. We went through another tight cave, partly submerged in water. It was pitch dark, and no lights were allowed initially, until the section of the cave where an “initiation” started. The person ahead of me had to drop three candle drops on my arm, and I shouted expletives inside the cave, clearly violating the sacredness of the place. I was a bit of a sadist when it was my turn to do the initiation (I somehow understand the mindset of those who do the hazing on fraternities and sororities) on Johanna, the person who’s next to me. We emerged at the exit. There, we went through a baptism ceremony. Then we went to the “College of Saints”, another sacred ground. Then to the falls, where jumping on a 15-foot cliff to the 12-foot deep waters was the final act of the religious journey.
Then there’s this and there’s that. Of course, reality has to sink in, crushing all other romantic hopes. I accepted that in the beginning, but I can’t stop myself from sighing at the sight of her reuniting with her boyfriend, the 2016 Batch Valedictorian, who was in the other group. “What a lucky guy,” I muttered.
No offense was intended to the batch valedictorian for making his girlfriend the subject of this write-up, nor to his girlfriend. All I have to him were praises and wishes of good luck. He deserved his achievement and so was his girlfriend. He is a very lucky guy. He’s gotten the lyre chanting the Holy See, without the Holy. (There goes my clue.) His achievements made me regret of deliberately having bad grades, which cause me to lose my bid to become a member of faculty of the Institute of Civil Engineering of UP Diliman, after finding out that grades were the main basis in their ranking systems, a little more.
If he happened to read this write-up and began trying to remember me from his memories on Sir Iniego’s class, he has to remember that I was the guy who was given the role of Simoun in the class. It was a fateful coincidence for I really might turn into the likes of Simoun in the future. Just imagine me speaking in Joel Torre’s raspy voice.