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We will never be silenced

This is a generation that may have not lived through the Martial Law years or even have been there during the EDSA Revolution. But we have been bestowed with a rich history that may be filled with inconsistencies, lies, and revisionism. But we know what is right and will fight for it as long as we can. We will never be silenced no matter how much this government tries to erase all its atrocities and crimes against humanity. We will scream on the streets, educate through social media, and participate in the liberties afforded to us by those who sacrificed their lives and fought their whole lives just to get to where we are now.

We will fight back, and make sure that this never happens again.

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A Breather

The past three months have been excruciating, frustrating, a rollercoaster ride of so many feelings like never before. Most of it stemmed from frustrations over work, that while having been successful with staging numerous debut events for the organization left me feeling empty and unsatisfied. I still haven’t felt complete at east and at home with them even though it will have been one year already by December. I don’t know why I don’t feel at home, I haven’t made any real friends except being able to confide with my boss. She’s cool, too, but I guess the emptiness I’ve been feeling is stemming from a lot of organizational dissatisfaction by how the senior management team handles a lot of processes and approaches towards workflow and manpower management. They’re not able to maximize time and resources because everything’s so last minute, that you have to condition yourself to just meet the bare minimum because not much thorough planning has been put into it.

Having come from an advertising and marketing background, I am used to have processes that you have to follow because it REALLY HELPS and it contributes to employee satisfaction. I’m not happy, I guess that’s just what I want to say.

I’ve almost had my work dream team, twice, and it slipped away. I guess with career, all you can do is try, and just trust yourself. Anyway, if you know you’re just pretty awesome with it, that should get you through anything, right?

Right?

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This most certainly feels like looking for your old scars and wedging in it the exact same wounds that did you in years ago. It’s like wanting to just escape to a distant universe where you’re sure not to feel them anymore. It most certainly feels like the painstaking catharsis you had to endure for the years that came after were for naught, when the slightest screams and whines trigger a physical and emotional response that you’ve buried deep. Now you don’t know how to deal with it again, and you’re angry and tired because you don’t deserve this. And no one does. And you don’t wish this on anyone at all.

When people like them make things extremely miserable for the rest, you leave them. You leave them and you never look back. You have no mercy for them, because their misery is their choice, and theirs alone. Never mind that they feel like they’ve been robbed of their children, never mind that they feel like alcohol is the only recourse left for honesty, never mind that they try so hard to grip but slip because they’re too intoxicated to even compose themselves.

You know what you want, and after seven years of trying to grow up, you’re right back where you started.

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The Messiah and the Mob

On May 30, 2016, a “mummified” body wrapped in a trash bag and tied with packaging tape was found in the town of San Fernando in Cebu. On top was a message written on bond paper: “Tulisan ako (I am a robber), DU30.” A week before this incident, a walk of shame for drug pushers called “Flores de Pusher” is conducted in the city of Tanauan in Batangas. Eleven suspected drug pushers were paraded with paper taped to their bodies which read: “Ako’y pusher, wag tularan (I am a drug pusher, do not emulate).” The parade is sanctioned by the city mayor.

On May 14, after the Philippines elections, two masked gunmen in Davao, cruising in a motorbike, shot a 47-year old drug user returning from a cockfight. The murder made no headlines in the city of Davao, Duterte’s stronghold.

One would assume that the knee-jerk reaction to such incidents would be anger towards the perpetrators, and mercy towards the “victims”.

However, that is not the case.

An InterAksyon.com article dated May 26, 2016 titled “Beware the Parade of the Little Digongs” emphasized the chilling effect such incidents have on those who witness it or know about it.

“…there are those who are aghast, and there are those who merely shrug, but the loudest camp has decidedly been that of the cheerleaders.”

It’s OK, as long as it’s in Duterte’s name — this is what the people believe, and you will get persecuted if you don’t. Duterte is the leader at the helm, with 16 million Filipinos at his mercy. He is the incoming leader who thinks that Davao Death Squad executions are justifiable, that the rape and murder of a nun is something that a mayor gets first dibs on, that journalists deserved to be killed because they were corrupt, and that prioritizing friendship with the son of a dictator is more important than giving his competent vice president a Cabinet seat.

“Relax, there’s nothing wrong with that!”

***

In 1963, one of the most famous studies on the conflict between obedience to authority and personal conscience was conducted. This was called the “Milgram Experiment,” developed by Stanley Milgram. He wanted to answer the question, “Could it be that Eichmann and his million accomplices in the Holocaust were just following orders? Could we call them all accomplices?”

The experiment procedure was that the teachers (participants) were required to send out an electric shock to the students (ally of the experimenter) every time they get an answer wrong (which the students are required to do on purpose). Whenever the teacher-participant refused to administer a shock, they were prodded by the experimenter to continue. Results showed that two-thirds of participants continued to the highest level of 450 volts. Milgram concluded that ordinary people are likely to follow orders by an authority figure, even to the extent of killing another human being, even someone innocent at that.

Unfortunately, Filipinos are also regarded to be highly fanatic, not only in religion, but also in idolatry of celebrities, political figures, or the latest popular culture craze among others. It is quite notable that “our lands were conquered with the sword, but our hearts were conquered with the cross,” said sociologist Bro. Clifford Sorita.

Filipinos are highly emotional creatures that love moving storylines. We tend to raise such figures to messianic heights, that it manifests itself when an “unqualified candidate wins because he has the best narrative, he has made the people feel good, and he has managed to make majority of the population believe he has their backs,” according to a piece by Shakira Sison.

Does a true, competent leader have the citizens’ best interests at heart if he allows killing without due process?

If the majority thinks he is a true, competent leader, then he must be!

Mob mentality is highly characteristic of the election process. Group behavior tends to be more extreme than the behavior of its individual members. Deindividuation, or the loosening of normal constraints on behavior when people are in a crowd, lead to the high likelihood of more impulsive and deviant acts.

Also, when people think they are operating in anonymity, or even if they aren’t, but they think they’re untouchable, as in social media, they are more encouraged to move in mobs. “One dog may bark at you, but it’s more likely that a pack will attack you.” If the group behavior is headed towards violence, the larger the group, the more magnified the calls for violence will be.

With the incoming administration, there is a moral ground that the president-elect is coming from. To an extent, it is a valid goal — to rid the country of drugs, corruption, and other forms of crime. But this cannot be the end-all and be-all of his agenda for the next six years.

He has to understand that to justify the end, he must correct himself and prove the nation wrong about him. He cannot keep dismissing the questions that the people need answers to, he has to make us believe that he has the moral ascendancy to steer the country in the right direction. We need a leader that will quell the nations’ rabid desire for “change”, lest we are ready for a certain kind of civil war.

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This is what democracy looks like

The election campaign period this year really brought out the worst in people. More than anything, it furthered social divides between even the most important relationships we hold dear. Earlier, I was talking to a co-worker who told me that while she and her husband are OK and they’re definitely not going to let anything like politics create a rift, there are moments of real aggression in reaction to political inclinations — he’s for Santiago and Marcos, and she’s for Roxas and Robredo. Even their kids’ opinions are divided. I have a friend who said that he will be voting for Duterte and Marcos despite the allegations because “he’s no hater and he’s never experienced Martial Law so there’s no reason not to” (to my anger and disappointment). I engaged in a long discussion with my ex in a desperate attempt to convince her to vote for Roxas and Robredo instead of Duterte and Marcos (in which I essentially did not fail, even though she chose Santiago). I can work alongside co-workers despite our dissenting political opinions, as long as we never forget our common objectives of peacebuilding.

This is what democracy looks like.

We may argue, fight, even to the point of cyberbullying and real threats (which are terrifying af). But this is what the battle for democracy in 1986 has afforded us. Netizens online are aggressively campaigning against the return of a Marcos to power, sharing horror stories of atrocities, and even using humor to drive the point home. At the same time, I’ve seen some netizens remark at the high unlikelihood of another Martial Law despite a Marcos in office because of the current political landscape.

Duterte, on the other hand, spews out obscene and discriminatory remarks that reflect cognitive dissonance between what he is and what he has done. Despite this, his charisma trumps everything and you see individuals from all social classes and regions worshiping him as the new savior of the motherland. The leading presidential candidate, however, has said that he will behave once he is formally in office. It seems like 10 of his faults are redeemed with one decent act regardless of the severity of his actions. In the eyes of the people, he can do no wrong. (note: I am not a Duterte supporter, but I have conceded to his victory and I am one of the constantly vigilant, especially in his first 100 days – most importantly, let’s see how he addresses issues of conflict).

Dissent and dissatisfaction, this is what fuels the Filipinos to cry for radical change. At the expense of what, though? Each administration will always be tarnished with corruption down to the stupidest shit that Cabinet members say. We will experience abuse and injustice every second, hour, or day, that there are times when you question what you get up in the morning for, where exactly your taxes go, or why we keep repeating the same mistakes. We will complain, we will feel like giving up. But at the end of the day, all these things we can do, because we are, to an extent, free. We can speak up without the threat of arrest, torture, and death. We can lambast our politicans, make memes out of them, even create short yaoi fic prompts of their sons (which I thoroughly enjoy!!!). All of this because we are free.

What kind of nation will we be if never learn? If we continue to elect and idolize individuals and sons of said individuals who are human rights violators, what does that say about our principles and what we want for this country? I’ve seen posts that have tried to justify why Marcos has the right and the resume to run for public office and why he is not the sins of the father. But is one man’s ambition to regain his family’s reputation worth the loss and death of thousands? Is it worth forgetting that Filipinos have died and he did nothing to stop it?

It should be an amazing time to be a Filipino. This election period facilitated collaborative discussions in various public arenas. When Blengblong Marcos cried electoral fraud, statisticians jumped in for a very nerdy discussion of trends and spurious correlations (which, while I hardly understand, I really admire because it’s a very logic-based take on the elections. And this is why mathematics, science and technology is beautiful). Sure, there are trolls and real threats to our safety, but I’d rather this than perpetuating a culture of violence and silence. I will never submit to a leader who will never acknowledge the sins of the family, who aim at revising history, and who parades around promising a complete understanding of what it means to build peace when his family has celebrated a regime that murdered Muslims and perpetuated stifling silence, a time known now as “that thingy called Martial Law”.

This is what democracy looks like. It’s a beautiful mess, it’s a lesson we have to retake over and over again. But I hope that we learn our lessons soon and that we graduate and shift into a more compassionate and critical state of mind. I hope we take our time to look back and learn from our mistakes and make sure that we don’t take ten steps backward. Let’s learn from this election period and think, never again.

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