The cold invasion of night over the dusk was repelled by the smokes rising from various neighborhoods as various households set their respective heaps of dried leaves on fire. The cinders rising from the flames were not blatant disregards to the Clean Air Act but rather innocent upkeep of the people in contributing to the natural processes in nature which they were practicing even before Eurocentric mindset ever came to place. Like the mosquitos being deterred by the smoke, complaints about their combustive practices cannot extinguish the heat not only brought by the hot air emanating from the flames but also brought by the hot air which were expelled from the lungs of my neighbors who were in a heated discussion about their complaints about the government’s slow uptake and response to their worsening condition due to the Enhanced Community Quarantine (Partial Lockdown).
Relief from my further participation to my neighbors’ discussion – which would be like me dousing fuel to the first – was earned due to their worry about the bite wound that I received from the dog earlier. With my neighbors who lit up the agitated flames – that consumed the heap of leaves that I swept earlier – still discussing at the front gate, I closed the gate shut, walking past the dog still nibbling the bread that he snatched earlier, and went straight to the sink to wash my hands and wound off of the possibility of having rabies.
Well, the rabidity of the germs that may have been residing over the wound that I was washing was nothing compared to the vehement suppression over the dissenting and complaining voices – coming from the disadvantaged and those who expressed their concern to the conditions of the disadvantaged – being perpetrated by those who remained ignorant and incognizant of the misgivings brought by the people in power to the point of fanaticism. I may get rabies but the derangement that it may possibly cause would be nothing compared to those….[I am trying to be delicate here]….idiots who disregarded the cries of the marginalized as mere toxic negativity. Those idiots ignored those cries in their attempt to preserve a positive view which, in reality, does not equate to optimism but rather to blindness.
“Magtulungan na lang tayo. [Let’s just help each other.]” Those words are the common statements that are coming out from the mouths of the anchors that I was listening to over the radio. With their voices penetrating even such remote area where I was stranded to, the callousness to the experienced destitution of the people in dire straits reached possibly their peak as those anchors, in their comforts of their sweet abodes as they’re working at home, were constantly beseeching those people to keep their mouths shut, all for the sake of the promotion of what’s now called toxic positivity.
Can that positivity be eaten?
Is it delicious?
Can it cure those infected?
Maybe the radio anchors’ persuasion to their listeners to do gardening might indeed satiate their growing hunger. Or maybe their pretentions on Faith and the Bible verses that they were sharing could alleviate the destitution of those who felt that they were forsaken by the government who instead threatened them.
Appallingly, even their guests – on which some were even doctors [non-frontliners] – had the gall to promote their toxic positivity as they often segued into dissuading their listeners from raising their voices, participating in political discussions, or the expressing their demands to the time-and-again-proven incompetent government in administrating the sought-after aid. Already boasting their expertise in their respective medical fields, they try to hide their consequential mediocrity in getting in touch with reality, the social struggles, politics, and the other necessities – which leads to active nation building – with the extension of their pretentions of authority over other matters, as such revelation with such egoism and pride would emasculate them who thought of themselves to have reached the peak of learning. Imposition of their non-related authority to evade pressing matters, along with the positivity that proved itself to be toxic, totally reeks of their privilege.
A revolting feeling which resulted hearing those people of privilege compelled me to want to turn off the radio. Surprisingly, the radio turned off on its own. Rather, the whole of the second floor of the house lost power. After dozens of futile attempts to fix the circuit breaker, I then realized that I may perhaps lost the privilege that I used to enjoy in staying at the second floor. And at the dead of night, I brought my stuff back to the first floor.
Being seemingly evicted into the lower floors felt like being in Pinoy Big Brother, minus the housemates and upped the isolation. Perhaps, I may be forgetting the bats residing in the first floor and the dog at guard by the back door. But just like Pinoy Big Brother, the stay was full of challenges and twists, some even supernatural. Drifting off to sleep became difficult as the bat hovered just right above me, with batwings fanning winds rich with their pungent stench. Turning off the radio might have spared me from the childish rants and the incoherency coming from the midnight addresses but instead, the I was constantly perturbed by the back door opening and closing on its own.
That night’s events, also with the difficulty of finding a sleeping position over the fragmenting sofa set, I woke up fatigued the next morning. The sun was yet to rise and the growling stomach of mine wanted breakfast. The rice cooker first boiled the hot water that I would be using for my coffee, then cooked the rice that I would be having for breakfast. The masterful utilization of the passive voice in the previous sentence hid the efforts that I’ve been spending on a daily monotonous basis which was running for already 18 days of living alone.
If I were as privileged as the people living the comfort of their homes with enough food storage for a whole month, having access to basic utilities like water supply, electrical supply, phone, and the Internet, I would not be venturing outside every 6 am to sit beside a cliff to get a chance of getting phone and internet connection, with the cold misty air in the mountains strengthening the coverage of the faraway cellsite. But I was not as privileged as those people, and the people here were having lesser privileges than what I was having. The monotone of my daily routine was already taking toll to my tiring soul. I have been counting day after day for the community quarantine to finish. There were times that I would be staring blankly at the ceiling, as I counted minutes into hours and slept wishing that I would wake up when this was over. I tried to consummate myself into writing, however with the loneliness blurring all those yet-to-be-written thoughts as my soul wore down, I wept as I found myself, most of the times, unable to.
Therefore, I asked again whether forcing my state of mind into such falsehood in the name of toxic positivity would reinvigorate my soul. But as the sun rose again from behind the mountains with its rays of sunshine chasing away the darkness, positivity turned out to be just like the sunlight: only present where the sun is over the sky. The same brightness and vibrance can never be attained with artificial lights. Finding no answer in the metaphors that I drew, I just made a mental note in my mind that only eight days remained before I would be liberated from this period of exile. Holding on to that thin line of optimism was what kept me going: that this would be over in just 8 days. For sure, holding on to such slim hopes would ultimately devastate me as the extension of the community quarantine was looming.
For now, I would have to bear through the loneliness as I depressingly ate my breakfast. The dog, sensing the faint odor of the canned tuna that I was having, became agitated behind the back door, making sounds of jumping out and down and scratches on the door. The door behind the mystery of the backdoor opening and closing on its own last night finally opened as it turned out to be that it was the dog that was opening the backdoor all the time.
I was astonished and upset at the same time. Still not forgetting what bite that that dog had inflicted on me, I coaxed the dog into going out on the front gate as usual. Just meters away from the front gate, the alpha dog Digong and his pack were laying wait. In my own way of rendering punishment to the dog for being “pasaway”, I then closed the gate shut and the dog was whimpering, pleading for me to open the gate. I just turned off my empathy, out of irritation for his disobedience. Forsaken to Digong’s mercy, the dog ran away as Digong furiously chased after him, like he was going to maul the dog to his death for not staying indoors.
The chase went on for minutes before Digong relented on his chase. Digong then went back to his old habits of barking to me as I set off to the cellsite which was the only reason that I have been going out in the first place. If I were to complain about the lack of phone signal, perhaps those idiots over the internet would be telling me “sana ikaw na lang ang network provider”.
Even though I was already on the edge of the cliff, the phone signal that I have been getting was still fluctuating and insufficient. So, in the attempt of getting better signal, I descended from the cliff down to the rough road going west, the direction to the cellsite situated at Antipolo.
Walking along that unpaved road reminded me of how remote Pintong Bukawe really was. The houses were tens of meters apart. Bamboos, which were abundant in the area, constituted the houses’ front fences. The rough road carved down the land, exposing the barren subsoil which was yet to be replenished as the peak of the summer deprived the lands of rainfall. The sound of the rustling leaves dominated the scenery as the heat of the afternoon sun was somehow neutralized by the cool mountain air.
Looking far away, the remoteness of the place was felt by the sight of the mountains of Hapunang Banoi, Pamintinan, and Binacayan. Those were the mountains that I accented (minus Binacayan) three years ago. Those mountains made up a gorge on which the Wawa Dam was built to retain some of the water from the Marikina River. That reminded me when I descended to Marikina River from Pintong Bukawe a week ago. It was an act that I really regretted since the road leading to there was unpaved and zigzagged. Although I enjoyed the bicycle trip down, I was unable to take a dip in river as police checkpoints indicated that that portion was already part of the neighboring town of Rodriguez. Having descended an altitude of 200 meters down the road, the return journey proved to be the physically taxing which made me reminisce the nightmarish trip that I had which led me to this place in the first place.
I was just walking along the similar rough road this time. I checked my phone: no signal. I called quits and returned to the main road.
At the main road, a truck full of relief packs finally arrived. As its name suggest, the relief packs brought sighs of reliefs from the residents who were finally witnessing what they were waiting for more than a week. The barangay officials were also relieved that the aid from the national government finally arrived. They were being pressured by the complaints of their residents, so in turn, they pressured the national government. “Ka-ka-reklamo nyo yan!”, exclaimed a barangay councilor.
Empty chairs with print-outs of the identities of households were paraded along the street as I went back to the place that I was staying in.
Before going in, I looked around the property to search for the dog that I condemned earlier to Digong’s mercy. I whistled, hoping that the dog would understand that I was searching for him, to no avail.
Maybe the dog heard me entering through the gate. The back gate was dominated by loud barks. I went to the back gate to check it out. I opened the back gate and the dog hurriedly went in. Surprisingly, the dog continued to bark, this time, to me, as he was seemingly complaining about what I did to him earlier.
Well, in the first place, if the dog didn’t complain, I would not have known that he was there nor about his plight.