Paper Boats and Tragedies

This is a piece I’ve written a year ago for our feature writing exercise in Journalism. I think that this is the only decent article that I’ve written for that class.

I used to like class suspensions when I was I kid, because to me, a class suspension is synonymous to a day of fun and play. But, as I get older, these class suspensions become atrocious to me. Watching the furious winds beat down the trees or roofs struggling to pull away from the beaten-down houses, is depressing. It is even more depressing to hear or watch news about landfalls, floods, evacuation centers, and casualties. A class suspension is really synonymous to tragedy. But, there is one important day when I temporarily disregarded this horrible truth.

We are mildly surprised that the mayor announced class suspension when there is actually no rain. There may be rain, but it falls then it stops falling again. Because of this, even after protests from my father, my mother and I went to the mall to accompany a relative. It was 2 in the afternoon when it started to rain really hard. We decided to stay near the gate of the mall and wait hopefully for the storm to stop. It was windy and unpleasant, and it seemed to be so determined to keep pouring more acidity.

I was unmindful of anything and I kept staring at the pouring of raindrops while my mother and the relative kept chattering behind me. I noticed a waterway at the edge of the steps, like a small river. I reached for a paper from my backpack and folded a paper boat. I placed it on the water and watched it sail away. I followed it with another one, then next. I stopped when I sailed six.

When I was young, I used to play that with my friends whenever it rains, whenever announcements say that kindergarten classes are suspended. We were innocent and oblivious. We did not know tragedies and landfalls. We just knew about play, curiosities and fun.

Maybe I had a temporary fun sailing the boats, back at the mall. Maybe I even temporarily forgot about shipwrecks, because of storms. One thing I am certain about is that there is a thick line between fantasies and realities. There is a thick line between paper boats and tragedies.

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#LoveWins in David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing

David Levithan’s Two Boys Kissing is one of the most honest books I’ve ever read so far and it is definitely one of the best. Showcasing a unique narration by the past generation for and about the present generation,  Two Boys Kissing sincerely and evenly explores recurring YA themes on love,  life,  sexuality,  gender, family, equality, and depression,  without deviating from its key binding points. Many other fiction books (YA or not) have delved into these similar themes and have attempted to hitch them collectively but, I can’t quite remember any books that may compete with such vast emotional intensity and honesty this book has triggered. When Levithan yoked these themes together, it was real magic and perfection. He touched cruelty, delusion, deviation, liberation, hope, love and isolation with equal fragility and sadism that effectively captures both the quotidian and the extraordinary lives of this generation’s homosexual young adults.

Everyone should read this book. The LGBT community will embrace the gentleness and sincerity of this book that is truly reflective of the experiences that LGBT individuals might be going through while growing up. Non-members of the LGBT community will be exposed to a nonetheless unique and realistic world, which is not quite different from the conventional. It genuinely depicts the struggles of being a gay teenager living in a world that “moves like an arrow” with the hovering hope that it “will get less stupid, less arbitrary, as time goes on.” Teenagers will appreciate the resemblance of the joys and struggles of the main characters of this book, with their own. Adults will be carefully guided into a new generation of an often stigmatized community by narrators whose generation might be more relatable to them.

Two Boys Kissing is an ingenious, poignant, romantic, and honest read that will introduce its readers into a place that remains hopeful and gay in spite of a largely cruel, unaccepting, and dismissively prejudiced society that blankets it.

My Rating: 4.00

Here are the most memorable lines I grabbed from Mr. Levithan’s book that lingered with me because they revealed often unexplored and dismissed truths about life and love that are worthy of contemplation.

On True Love

  1. Love is so painful, how can you ever wish it on anybody? And love is essential, how can you ever stand in its way?
  1. Avery considers his inner world to be a scary, convoluted place. It is one thing to show someone your best, cleanest version. It’s quite another to make him aware of your deeper, jagged self.
  1. We rarely recognize our own beauty unless someone else was recognizing it for us.
  1. For the past year, Neil has assumed that love was like a liquid pouring into a vessel, and that the longer you loved, the more full the vessel became, until it was entirely full. The truth is that over time, the vessel expands as well. You grow. Your life widens. And you can’t expect your partner’s love alone to fill you. There will always be space for other things.

On Depression and the Beauty of Vitality

  1. This is the problem with having a barrier between you and everyone else – you see it, but they don’t. They talk to you, but you can’t talk back to them. They care about things like the weather and what you’re shopping for, and you don’t care about a single thing.
  1. Death is hard, and facing death is painful. But even more painful is the feeling that no one cares. To not have a friend in the world. Some of us died surrounded by loved ones… But there are also those who can tell you what it’s like to have no one who you love, no one who loves you. It is very hard to be alive just for your own sake.
  1. Lives were short, and we never would have wanted to have them be shorter. Sometimes perspective comes far too late. You cannot trust yourself. You think you can but you can’t. Not because you’re selfish. You cannot live for anyone else’s sake. As much as you may want to, you can’t stay alive just because other people want you alive… you have no responsibility to stay alive for them. You have no responsibility to anyone but yourself to live.
  1. You have a responsibility to your future self, who is someone you might not even know, might not even understand yet. Because until you die, that future self has as much of a life as you do.
  1. He realizes: He is doing it for himself. Not for glory. Not for popularity. Not even for admiration. He is doing it because he feels alive. There are so many minutes and hours and days we spend taking life for granted, not feeling it so much as going along with it. But there are moments like this, when the aliveness of life is crystalline, palpable, undeniable. It is the ultimate buoy against drowning. It is the ever-saving grace.
  1. We saw our friends die. But we also see our friends live. So many of them live, and we often toast their long and full lives… We do not start as dust. We do not end as dust. We make more than dust. That’s all we ask of you. Make more than dust.

 

On Discrimination and Equality

  1.  There is no reason that we should ever be ashamed of our bodies or ashamed of our love. We are told to cover ourselves up, hide ourselves away, so that other people can have control over us, can make us follow their rules. It is a bastardization of the concept of morality, this rule of shame.
  1. “My hair can be pink because I’m a boy. Yours can be blue because you’re a girl. If you free yourself from all the stupid arbitrary shit that society controls us with, you feel more free, and if you feel more free, you can be happier.
  1. We did not choose our identity, but we were chosen to die by it. For stupid arbitrary reasons instilled by people who refused to see how arbitrary they were. We believe in the golden rule, but we also believe that people fail to live up to it, time and again. Because they fall prey to differences. Because some use the arbitrary very deliberately to keep their own power.
  1. He is almost used to it, but will never truly get used to it. The feeling that he’s trespassing. The feeling that the world is full of people who think different is synonymous with wrong.
  1. From all the camera crews, he knows the story is going to spread, and he hopes that maybe it’ll make people a little less scared of two boys kissing than they were before, and a little more welcoming to the idea that all people are, in fact, born equal, no matter what dreams they have or love they give.

 

Between Borrowed Time And Goodbye

In the middle of the slightly ecstatic night, the indie band, Peryodiko chanted, Tayo lang nakakaalam, nandoon sa pagitan ng paalam at pahiram. Those lyrics swiftly bludgeoned my giddy mind of something deeply philosophical and rhetorical, that I did not quite grasp easily and quickly at that time. It was too profound, too grievous, for a supposedly light-hearted and fun night. But, for some reason, even after the song has died down, the melancholic verse sauntered around my head. What lies between borrowed and goodbye?

UP is indeed deserving of its wacky nickname, the University of Pila, because even at the Sunken Garden, on a UP Fair week, another queue awaited us, already jammed with mostly young adults, adults, and maybe there are also elders who still felt young at heart. Of course there are couples, but too bad for most, because the queue was split into a male and a female queue. But then, there are the annoyingly lucky couples, like the lesbian couple behind my friends and I, who seemed to mock us with their constant sweet displays of affection. My friends and I, on the other hand, huddled and reacted with hushed, bitter comments, like, “Walang ”forever” or “Shet, ano ba? Magbebreak din kayo.” I think they probably didn’t hear us, but some part of me hoped that they did. Nonetheless, we wished them all the best. Kidding.  Wala ngang forever e.

            Although I was beyond excited with was coming, there’s still that queasy feeling inside me, because the GC card rule kept flashing before me. Acads before Lakads.  Acads before Lakads.  Acads before Lakads. But, there I am, a quasi-GC, anticipating a great UP Fair experience, there at Sunken Garden, on a Tuesday evening, joyfully prioritizing the “Lakads” before the “Acads.”

            The band, Bisakol, was already playing their groovy tunes when we entered. My friends and I seemed to be quite unsure of where to go and what to do, or maybe I was the only one who did. Everywhere we go, we would bump into couples. Couples here. Couples there, Couple everywhere. Near the main stage, food stalls, book stalls, game stalls, advertisements stalls and condom stalls lined up. Fair rides were also scattered around the area. We decided to eat first. There are amazingly so much delicious food to choose from. And then we played on a couple of stalls, where the prizes were slightly disappointing. I could still remember Ate’s face, who was operating at the Toy Gun stall, who awarded my friend a Pillows snack and a lollipop after perfectly hitting down 12 balloons, grinning somewhat evilly and then claiming, “Just for fuuun.”

We strolled around the area, and then marched down near the stage to listen to the tunes of the bands performing. Most of them were pretty good. Midnight Meetings and Peryodiko are my favorites. We observed that the people pretty much are enjoying the experience, even the ones in solitude, or the ones without partners. And then we rode the massive boat, the Vikings, that swings like a pendulum. It seemed simple at first look, but when we actually rode in there, the experience was extraordinary. We were all shouts and screams and grips and curses.

We decided to sit on the grass eventually, mostly because of exhaustion and the Vikings’ hangover. There are also groups of people sitting around us. We listened to the songs, sometimes shouting replies at some vocalists. My thoughts too, are quite exhausted, that there’s no room anymore for anything else, but feeling the music and well, looking for attractive men. I even forgot to worry about the next day. So this is borrowed time. In the middle of the slightly ecstatic night, the indie band, Peryodiko chanted, Tayo lang nakakaalam nandoon sa pagitan ng paalam at pahiram.

            There is a continuum,where the borrowed time and goodbye lie at opposite ends. All time really, is borrowed time. Then there’s this other side of the road that says, “Dead End!” It is not goodbye when that Tuesday night at the UP Fair ended. Borrowed time continues even after the last song of the last band to play has died away. Borrowed time continues. What’s in the middle?

Sexy Sunken Garden is Eyeing the Gorgeous Malcolm Hall

I’ve heard a bunch of fabulous, wacky, eccentric, inspiring, rip-roaring, stirring, romantic, astonishing and breathtakingly sexy stories about UP. Some of them reached my pristine ears through classmates’ hearsay, uncle jokes, and mommy gossips, while most parts of that incredible world succeeded in spoiling my unspoiled and absolutely untouched 15-yrs.-old-high-school-girl-hormonal mind, through the flood of late night secret confessions spilling throughout social media. Those stories did not just undressed and ripped me off my innocence, they also raped my mind to deviate from the safe and unconventional and transition into the dangerous and liberating. Because the stories, which are palpably frequently frowned down by society, while they did bombed my virgin thinking, did not hurt me at all. Rather, it was a sweet feeling. I convinced myself that I should really study in UP, if I wanted more of this “it’s-uncomfortable-at-first-but-it-gets-sweeter-later” feeling. I remembered praying to God, Allah, Buddha, Loki, Freddie Mercury, Thor, John Lennon, Han Solo, Fernando Poe, Jr., and friends, in desperation to pass UPCAT.

From what I’ve already read, so far, most stories and confessions take place in the Sunken Garden – the holy ground, the arcane soil, the second sexiest place in UP (next to Lagoon) where every kinds of sessions take place. I was beyond elated when a friend called and invited me to their group’s play rehearsal for their final project on the dearest UP Sunken Garden. I was finally going to behold that pretty place!

The UP Sunken Garden is a wide, sparsely, verdant ground and the soil is, well, really sunken, as its name suggests. All around us were trees, standing tall and luxuriant. My friend’s rehearsing group and I were at the end of the Academic Oval. At our left was the Vinzons Hall and in front of us was the College of Education. I distanced myself from the group to take all of UP in, to breath in all of its glory. I breathe in its fresh and pure atmosphere, slightly mixed with a nuance of human sweat.

I put my earplugs on and clicked Bon Jovi’s Living On A Prayer.

“We’ve got to hold on, to what we’ve got. It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not.” Dear Lord Bon Jovi. Please, please, make me pass the UPCAT.

Soon I was tapping my feet on the faintly lush soil, like an idiotic boy band fan girl. And then I saw it, gracefully standing there, just at the opposite side – UP Malcolm Hall, College of Law. It was quite far, but it doesn’t matter. I raised the volume up.

“Ohh! We’re halfway there!” Bon Jovi screamed. “Ohh! Livin’ on a prayer!”

Malcolm Hall was even more gorgeous up close. I was star stricken. She was even lovelier than the pictures I’ve been obsessing with for months. I was even more determined to get into this school.

Bon Jovi asserted again, “Ohh! Living on a prayer!”

I came back to my exhausted friend’s rehearsing group in high spirits, high hopes, and high expectations.

                Now that I’m in UP for 6 months, (Yay! Thank you God, Allah, Buddha, Loki, Freddie Mercury, Thor, John Lennon, Han Solo, Fernando Poe, Jr., and friends), I’ve already witnessed some of the fabulous, wacky, eccentric, inspiring, rip-roaring, stirring, and astonishing moments around UP and most of them are thankfully immortalized through pictures and journal entries. I’m yet to witness the romantic and breathtakingly sexy ones. For now, I’m just enjoying the moment (We all should). And every once and a while, for every 2 or 5 hours of vacant time, I would always find myself sitting on the lush grass of the dearest, ever arcane Sunken Garden, observing people, drawing in feelings of insecurity, anxiety, and solitude, and then having to embrace and accept all of them, all at once. I would gaze at the ever stunning Malcolm Hall, sparkling with thoughts of Law School. And then my eyes would wander back to the Sunken people, undressing themselves, ripping, and throwing everything off on that holy, eccentric and incredibly sexy ground.

 

A Debacle of Us All

Hailed as the “Mamasapano Debacle”, the death of 44 Philippine National Police-Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) police officers who were killed in action during an encounter with the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in Mamasapano, Maguindanao last Jan. 25 was truly a tragedy. They rushed into mission to capture the Jemaah Islamiyah terrorist infamously known as “Marwan,” with a $6-million bounty and the mastermind of bombings in the country and other parts of the world, and another terrorist, Abdul Basit Usman. Marwan was killed but Usman escaped. Why, really did it cost 44 lives to capture one? How could a simple operation turn into a deadly exchange of gun fires?

The SAF commandos are brave enough to conquer an arena where the odds were clearly not in their favor. Mar Roxas explained that the failed mission was an isolated case, which is by far the closest reason to explain the tragedy that happened. There was no coordination between PNP-SAF, the military and the MILF due to the ceasefire following the signing of a peace agreement. The MILF’s 105th, 106th and 118th base commands are in Mamasapano. Usman was a member of the MILF before he joined BIFF. The SAF commandos, in raiding the hideout of Marwan and Usman, were greeting a deadly pit.

Aside from that, government forces on standby that could have helped the SAF troopers who were pinned down by the enemies is also lacking. Many fingers point to SAF head Director Getulio Napeñas, and his flimsy plan of the operation which is unquestionably full of lapses. Like Miriam Defensor-Santiago said, there are no quick reaction forces, air-force strike assets no armored assets ready to move on the pre-planned lanes to support the troops, and no forward observers who could have advised the Fire Direction Center to adjust the fire.
The fallen SAF commandos showed their commitment to peace and order, which all of us must respect and honor. Along with this, the war against terrorism resurfaced. Islamic religious leaders and followers have spoken out of being victimized by extremist and terrorist groups. Commit acts of hatred against Muslims and fellow Filipinos is to promote the cause of terrorism which is to compromise safety.
Many citizens of Maguindanao cower in fear that another bloody incident may happen, with comrades of MArwan seeking revenge. With civilians abandoning their homes and residing in evacuation centers, there is hardly any economic activities in Mamasapano. If the MILF official cannot do something about this, death will constantly stalk the town residents.
Justice should be immediately given to the 44 heroes who fell during their mission, and it would just be achieved if the authorities would be quick enough to capture the ones at fault and accountable.

Inadequacy of the Anti-Hazing Law

 

Fraternities are supposed to be grounds of brotherhood and support, but after numerous hazing incidents, including the recent case of Guillo Cesar Servando, a De La Salle University-College of St. Benilde student killed in fraternity initiation rites, these ‘comradeship’ grounds are gradually becoming deadly entities.

Initiation rites are traditional ceremonies established by most fraternities in accepting new members. In the early years, initiation rites are even deadlier and were in a massive scale, because of a form of initiation called hazing. Several fraternities are selectively picking only those who could pass and survive their physical, violent tests. Deaths and injuries caused by hazing are only slightly minimized because of the established laws opposing the practice of hazing. However, despite of the laws, violence in fraternities is still ongoing.
The Philippines itself has a law called RA 8049 or Anti-Hazing Law which penalizes offender ranging from life imprisonment to a minimum of four years in prison depending on the participation.However, many local fraternities still practice this atrocious form of initiation. This should be an outright indication that the penalties constituted by our Anti-Hazing law are not grave enough to frighten offenders.

As opposed to its name, RA 8049 Anti Hazing Law actually allows hazing activities under certain conditions, such as having the presence of two school representatives during the initiation, or having a written notice to school authorities a week before it is to be held. The mere idea of it is genuinely ridiculous. There is a great difference between hazing and initiation rite. Hazing is entirely dehumanizing, because it violates our right to be safe, and it inflicts direct physical injury or harm. An ‘initiation rite’ covers a much broader scope. Fraternities could choose or create a variety of ways to perform an initiation rite, and it does not generally need to be physically or psychologically harmful.Hazing is a form of initiation rite. Even under certain conditions, it is still generally wrong to allow hazing, and the Anti-Hazing Law ironically permits it to happen.

The Anti-Hazing Law should be broader, and penalties imposed upon offenders should be of massive gravity.Laws become insignificant if not established properly. There are too many holes in this law, and offenders could easily crawl into it, even escape from it.

The government could not just ban fraternities because it will violate the right of association. Instead, they should completely ban hazing. And if they ban, they have to make sure that it is quick, wide-ranging, less flimsy and effective. Hazing is depraved, and this practice should really be immediately stopped.

A Person Who’s More Than a Person

 

“What a treacherous thing it is to believe that a person is more than a person.”

This is one of my favorite quotations from my favorite writer, John Green who also happens to have written two of my favorite books, Looking for Alaska and The Fault in Our Stars.

The first book that I’ve read by John Green was the Fault in Our Stars and unintentionally, I fell in love with it. I am always the likes of someone who tastes every word when reading. And according to my demanding tastes, that book was perfectly sweet. I truly
believe that Mr. Green didn’t waste any single word in that book, just like Harper Lee did with her genius book, To Kill a Mockingbird.The Fault in Our Stars, although tragic, was stuck in my head for almost 3 weeks. And I still couldn’t get enough with it.The book is going to be adapted into a movie this year.
In the Fault in Our Stars, he stated that he’s one-half of the Vlog Brothers, a quick-followed video blog on Youtube with his brother, Hank Green. They’re not like other people on Youtube who only posts for fun. Vlog Brothers videos were fun and entertaining, but at the same time helpful, for they run several video sessions for a cause, donating proceeds to charities. Thankfully, he’s also active with social media and has Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr accounts that’s why most fans are updated and questions about his books goes answered.

He attended Indian Springs School, which inspired the setting for Looking For Alaska and graduated from Kenyon College with a double major in English and Religious Studies.I was surprised when I found out that he intended to become a Episcopal Priest. He changed his track after spending five months working as a student chaplain in a children’s hospital. His experiences there inspired him to write the Fault in Our Stars.

Mr.Green lived for several years in Chicago, where he worked for the book review journal “Booklist” as a publishing assistant and production editor while writing Looking for Alaska.While there, he reviewed hundreds of books, particularly literary fiction and books about Islam or conjoined twins. He has also critiqued books for The New York Times Book Review and written for NPR’s All Things Considered and WBEZ, Chicago’s public radio station.Green later lived in New York City for two years while his wife attended graduate school.His wife, Sarah is an artist and worked as a curator of Contemporary Art at Indianapolis Museum of Art.

In a desperate chase for more emotional enticement, I looked for Mr.Green’s earlier works and struggled to find copies. Because he was only 36 of age, I’m not surprised to find a short list of his works which include: Looking for Alaska (2005), An Abundance of Katherines (2006), Let it Snow, with Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle (2008), Paper Towns (2008), Will Grayson, Will Grayson, with David Levithan (2010) and The Fault in Our Stars (2012).Although few, almost all of this books were critically acclaimed and already won several awards including Michael L. Printz, Edgar Allan Poe, Indiana Authors and Children’s Choice Books awards. Even though I was obsessed with The Fault in Our Stars, I think Looking For Alaska was the best book he had written so far. Looking For Alaska was banned multiple times for its contents, but I still admire it for its theme, structure and genuity of the characters.I also loved how John Green extracted different emotions from me, that I didn’t know what is appropriate to feel anymore. LFA was equally funny, tragic, mysterious, sincere and witty.It’s overall theme was undeniably praise-worthy.

Often, I tend to compare his works to other books. So far, it’s only Markus Zusak (author of the Book Thief and I am Messenger) who managed to nearly equal him in terms of writing beautiful prose.

I love his genius and the talent he exerts to his works, but most importantly I love his the uniqueness of his personality.I always pictured John Green like his own fictional character Peter Van Houten or maybe someone who love being mysterious and never give answers to questions thrown by desperate people.Peter Van Houten is talented, but a drunkard and loves to yell and break the hearts of his fans.But, after I saw Vlog Brothers on Youtube, it turned out that I was wrong.John Green is a very humorous man and vain(the selfie way). He promotes equality and pays obvious respect to the LGBT community (this is palpable in Will Grayson, Will Grayson). He is also very intellectual and comments carefully and respectfully in religion.He also freely answers questions and criticism in the right way.

I can’t imagine anyone ever surpassing his genius or any other writer who can make me cry the way he did.Is it really treacherous if I say that John Green is a person who’s more than a person?