Love Versus Politics by Wendy S. VerdaderoLOVE VERSUS POLITICSWendy S. VerdaderoThe stabbing heat of the sun was painfully scorching through my flesh. The dusty air had beenblurring everything so nothing could be seen clearly. The crowd’s bellows ware penetratingthrough my ears. And now, my crocodiles have been complaining with my fully-emptiedstomach. For the nth time, I gazed at the placard which I blamed responsible for this whole thing.It reads: PABAGSAKIN!!I was unfortunately born in a place where people think more stupid than a fool; on timeswhen people trust tinhorn politicians; elites has the authority, poor people enjoys poverty. Toononsense, aren’t we?In the place where I grew, wrong deeds are made up with much wrong doings. Gooddeeds are kept in secrecy, while those which are made neither with heart nor acuity are beingbragged about. Most of the people don’t have a heart for those who are being abused. Money isloved while people are being foolishly used. Filthy politicians are washing their hands whilethose who are really genuine are being blamed with their leader’s faults.I grew up in a place where it is normal to walk barefoot. It is normal to see nude childrenscattered on the roads. It is normal not to eat three times a day; to not study when we badlyneeded to. Even broken future has become a norm. What used to be abnormal to a lot of peopleseemed to be normal with us.Are you still wondering why I am here now? Holding this numb placard whiledeliberately enjoying the stabbing heat of the sun? I also wonder why—in my half emptiedbrain—I still can’t see myself complaining with the martyrdom I am willingly suffering. Idiot, Itold myself.Regretting why I have involved myself with such a dumb society must be of no help for me.Hating the Philippines is much more like hating myself.“Are we not going home yet?” Carlo whispered. His voice brought me back to my senses.I looked around: same place, same old nagging faces. I found myself sharing bellows again withthe crowd; holding placards and roaming around town, ignoring the heat of the sun. The dusty airhave grown an inch over our heads, our bodies exhausted, our minds poisoned of hunger, ourpockets emptied with none.Have we been out for too long now?” I asked back.“It’s already past six.”“Well, let’s go then. Let’s just get back early tomorrow.”
Love Versus Politics by Wendy S. Verdadero“What did you just say?” I heard sarcasm rather than a question in his voice. He must be tootired, I told myself. I shut my mouth up. I know Carlo heard me and I won ‘t be too generous torepeat for him what I have just said.“Tell me now Miguel. Have you been fooled like these people?!” There he goes again with histraditional ‘litany.’ I heard him alright, but I’m too exhausted to listen so I did not pay too muchattention with him.Since birth, I have been taught that Philippines have already had its own freedom. You are freeto express yourself—in writing, public speaking, among others. It is with the way you would notdegrade your fellowmen. Freedom? Oh c’mon! There are people who are afraid to speak. Thosewho remain valiant have been hacked to death. Why would you not be afraid? Should the lettersyou’ll write will cause you death, would you not be aghast? Should the voice you express willtrigger threats, would you be still brave enough to speak? Should the wage of your stillundefined democracy will be your safety, you better forget all about it. Nevertheless, I still won’tbuy practicality—the sense of letting the government work adeptly with your future, and stealyour freedom.“We must go now,” I told Carlo. He just disapprovingly walked behind me.“We don’t actually have to do this, Miguel,” he said.“Do what?” I asked, vexed.“These—you know, the rally stuff. We don’t have to fight for our rights this way. Why, weshould not put our people’s lives at stake, you know. We would still have other plans thanrallying here and gambling our lives.”“And so we’ll shut up? We’ll be tamed and just ignore these political dumbness around? Whatabout us now, Carlo? We’ll let these braggart leaders manipulate us?! They would implementlaws so they would earn more. While we have scarcities in employment, laborers are rapidlydoubled—making a lot of families at stake. There would be a lot of VAT increases—amongother taxes—and a lot of price hikes, while we can’t even have a pint of salary increase!! Andthen what are we? They have been cheating us but we are subsequently behind them all theway!”“It this whole process of fighting for that so-called freedom will require innocent lives assacrificial lambs, we better think not just twice. After all, it’s not just the leaders that should beblamed here. It’s our faults as well. We put them in the position to manipulate us.”“That’s exactly the reason why we’re here, isn’t it Carlo? We have been vexed with reality! Wehave learned to fight for our rights!”“Do you think that would solve the problem?”
Love Versus Politics by Wendy S. Verdadero“Are we going to be silent forever? They would surely do everything they want. They would besuperb. Then we, baffling Filipinos will remain stagnant. We cannot do anything inasmuch as wecan’t dispute our holy leaders! The point here is that, to tell you, Juan Carlo Concepcion, we arehere to make them let go of their position. What we need is an unselfish and strong leader.”“And then what? After the president resigned, the VP will take charge of his position. And if thenew president made a decision that doesn’t meet your expectations, what? You’ll want himimpeached again? It’s a never ending cycle, Miguel Tuazon. There’s never going to be a goodleader in the eyes of the critics.”We never cared about anything. We just want justice. We just want to have what used to be ours.Who can blame us? Especially me? People on my place used to curse each other for food.Children are forced to labor; parents’ common hobby is to multiply the population. People atearly twenties sell themselves to worldly businessperson, politicians, or whoever that can buythem at high price. It’s been a filthy town I grew with. As other’s would say, ‘basura’.The point is, I just prayed for changes. I just prayed that maybe, somehow, we can still live thelife we all wanted—the life that the government had been spitting with their holy tongues.I tried to speak up to depend myself but words seemed to be difficult to control. They all run outof me.“Bravery hasn’t always done us good, Miguel. Think about it. Sometimes, it is better tocontemplate where the stream will lead you before you entrust yourself to be carried away by thecurrent.”I remained silent. I was contemplating everything he said, and I realized—yes. Perhaps, Carlo’sright. Maybe I’m just pretending to be strong. I must be too weak—too afraid for another loss.It took us almost an hour to reach Carlo’s house. It’s almost past seven.“Would you not stop by first?” he asked me.“I would’ve want to, but—”“C’mon! Paula has just arrived yesterday. She would be glad to see a childhood best friend, youknow,” he insisted.Paula? Ah, yes. As what Carlo says, Paula and I were best of friends. We think almost the sameway. We understand each other. We share almost the same points of view about almost everyissue that has been raised. We have always been mistaken to be having some love affair. I justlaugh at it since we have been treating each other as brothers and sisters.We haven’t seen each other for quite long years now. She pursued her studies in Manila. Shesaid it’s better to study there. You will have a better view of the Philippines. I don’t actually
Love Versus Politics by Wendy S. Verdaderobelieve with her reasons, but I neither have myself in contrast with her. Why not? Who wouldever choose a place filthy enough for you to curse it? Who would ever be stupid enough toimprison himself in a place where you will be hoping for a vague future? Who would ever be tooheroic to rather choose this place of nonsensical folks?“Well, let’s go then,” I said.In their threshold Paula saw me and meet me by their front gate. I was stunned with her beauty.She’s still as beautiful as she was four years ago. She remained gleeful. Manila really can’tchange her, I told myself.“Miguel!” I was shocked when she suddenly hugged me. I just laughed and hugged her straightaway. “Come in, come in!” she said excitedly.I went inside timidly. I looked around as if it was my first time to enter their house—which hadalmost been my house. I tried to speak to her but it’s weird—I can’t open a conversation withher.“How’s Manila? How’re your studies?” I asked absent-mindedly.“Great as it is. It’s still pregnant with rotting systems. I had been expelled out of the universitytwice by our university president. I was also tried to be dismissed thrice. But look, I am stillhere!” she answered with sarcasm.“Why? What have you done to make your president too resentful with you?”“I was the one who discovered that the administration was corrupt. They impetuously resortstudent funds and make the students pay for more.”“It’s a good thing you’re still alive!” I jested.“They impended of killing me if I’ll speak up. I just poke fun at them. I was not afraid to die, Itold them. I would be much afraid should my conscience bother me if I’ll just put what I knowunder my feet.”“Bow to that.” I have nothing more to say.“As yet they even say no one would listen to me. My fellow students would be afraid to listen;the professors would not believe me; media would surely just mock me. They say no one wouldbelieve me for I have not the authority to lead them around.” In her voice, I could feel bitternessin Paula’s laments. Well, who could blame her? I can’t blame her anyways.“Then, what have you done?”“Why, I have slammed every door in every department and colleges in the university. I perturbedall the student activists. The opposition came out of their caves! My professor then gave me a
Love Versus Politics by Wendy S. Verdaderofailing grade. And so they gave me a good reason to inveigh them. Bribe of course, that it did notcame out to the media.”Manila cannot be strong enough to tame someone like Paula Conception. I guess I don’t needany other proof for that.“What about you Miguel, how are you? I had been away too long. I haven’t heard anything aboutyou for almost four years now.”“Well, we still share some things in common—I am still an activist and I suffer the sameproblem as you do. I was dismissed and given a failing grade twice. I kicked our president out ofthe administration. It so happened that my holy professor was under our president’s shadow.There he is, steamed with the systems!”“Systems! This system of self interests really breeds corrupt leaders. Whosoever has contactswith the sovereignty was being prioritized; being warded. If you know no one in the jurisdiction,you’re loss. How pitiful it is to live in such a wanton society!”“Perhaps, we should also blame the leaders in that sense, Paula. Why, leaders work with theirown system. If a leader is sensible, systems would inevitably be sensible too. Only those leadersare always venal; more often than not, leaders think of self interests, that’s why systems are moreoften putrid.”“I think we must also blame ourselves. It’s our fault. We can easily be compensated with money.We bow for them as they come across us—without even knowing that the small change theyprice for us don’t even reach the bottom of their purse.”“You can’t blame the people, Paula. It’s hard to make a living nowadays. This small amountmeans a lot for those people who don’t even have a coin.”“You say so.”“Well, it’s now normal with us, people. Bribery. Systems. Corrupt leaders. Is there any politicianwho’s yet no to use power during the polls? Is there anyone who still does not accept vote buyingin their systems? If there could only be a leader—even just one—who thinks not of self interests,who is not filthy, who is not pervert and not corrupt… he must surely be not a Filipino!”We both laughed.They invited me for dinner that night. That’s not new. My parents migrated to Canada six yearsago while I decided to live here alone. Carlo and Paula’s parents died of car accident a couple ofyears ago so we’ve been treating each others as family.
Love Versus Politics by Wendy S. Verdadero“Miguel, Kuya told me you don’t have a girlfriend yet?” she asked seriously. I nearly chokedand I found no words to say. I knew enough Paula’s serious—I just don’t know how to answerher seriously.“Ha? Ah… s-sort of…” I answered uncertainly. She seemed more shocked than I was. “I haven’tthought of that yet. I’m still too young, see?” I said—and I opt to say, I am pleading secretly forthem to believe me.Unfortunately with me, they were not inveigled with what I have said. Paula raised an eyebrowwhile Carlo was grinning widely.I was busy thinking of a way out of that conversation when Paula spoke.“Love is just like politics, you know. It disregards time, it does not care of the season, it wasn’taware of the era. Love is love. It has been talked anytime three times a day—just like politics,” Iheard her mouthed.“But then just like in politics, people won’t talk about a certain issue especially when they don’tknow anything about it,” I interrupted.“Waiting for someone to teach you about the issues you don’t know is such a big waste oftime—nothings’ going to happen to you, for sure. You should seek for things yourself and learnfrom them. Try to explore.”“Not everybody is quite bold enough to talk ‘bout issues they aren’t prepared enough to talkwith. Just like in politics—timeliness still counts sometimes, you know.”Paula had shut her mouth up just when I have nothing more to say. Maybe she felt I wasobviously keeping out of the way.No one talked until we finished eating. Carlo and I walked to the veranda. I noticed he wasserious, but I didn’t try asking him about that.Carlo opened up the topic Paula had started. “Really, you have grown up as a man now, my littlebrother Miguel,” he smiled to me calmly. “I remembered when you were just a child—a rascalyou are, you remember?” he remained smiling.“What are you trying to say?” I asked.“I knew enough what you’re going through, Miguel. You see, I have been through all thatbefore.”I laughed huskily. This man really knew too much of me.“Honest, Carlo… I still don’t know. I feel like things won’t be the same if I let people knowwhat I have been going through.”
Love Versus Politics by Wendy S. Verdadero“You always take risks for your principles. Don’t you think it’s about time that you risk thingsfor yourself?”“I don’t think so.” I sighed.I know Carlo was staring at me but I did not try looking at him. I’m afraid that he might find outI have just been a liar.“I thought you’re brave,” Carlo intervened with my thoughts. There was sarcasm in his voice. Hewas almost scorning me. I thought you’re brave. It was echoing in my mind. It was penetratingthrough my whole system.“You might try to close your eyes Miguel, or even your mind to not understand and look atthings without prejudice. But things really happen this way, you know? You see, things really gobeyond your control.” He again started with his laments. “It’s a social norm. It flows with yourblood, with the polluted air you breathe, with all the noise you make. It is as normal as the peoplecursing the administration, as the administration corrupting with impunity, as the impunity thathas been an exemption to the corrupt men in the society. You have already wakened up Miguel.Would you go back to your bed and turn your back to the rising sun?”I let go of another sigh.Why is it that I always find no words to say when talking about this aspect of life?I found no words to utter in the moment. He’s right—he had always been right. I laughed againhoarsely. Why would I speak up anyway? I knew enough I could not win with Carlo.“I’ll go ahead,” I said. I know that staying away from Carlo is my last resort. He laughedcoarsely. Repeatedly. It’s rhythm was perfectly echoing in my ears. As if it was sayingsomething. Enticing my being. Alluring my soul.As soon as I get home, I went straight to the bathroom. I took a long bath. The water from theshower was cold—it was biting deeply against my body—but not cold enough to wash away allthe stress I have encountered the whole day; the sting of the scorching sun which still pierce mywhole body; my grudge with the government; the fear… and all the principles I have beenadeptly deceiving myself with.After my long bath, I slumped myself in my bed. I contemplated over the reasons of my disgustwith life.I have slept over my thoughts. The sun was already up when I wake up the next morning. I wentto my bathroom and again drowned myself with my century long bath. The water was still coldas ever. It still stings against my body—as if trying to give me comfort because he knows I badlyneeded to be comforted. But not again… it wasn’t cold enough for me to forget everything—andto ignore the call of my conscience. Taking this long bath for me is a ritual. It makes me feel theeuphoria of being temporarily comforted—just to be neglected forever.
Love Versus Politics by Wendy S. VerdaderoI was half-surprised to see Carlo lying on my bed as I went out of my bathroom.“I think I know what made you went here this early,” I said.“I have always been telling you this Miguel—I know you. I know you’d be going back.” Hewas, again, full of sarcasm.Silence again solaced between us. There was an earsplitting silence slumbering in our midst. Fora moment, neither of us wanted to talk. We seemed out of our consciousness—totally unaware ofeach other. I just stared blankly at him. I don’t have plans of being suppressed after all.“Please don’t go back.” Now he was pleading—as if he was a friend stopping a soldier tocontinue a battle. The sarcasm in his voice just a while ago was replaced by humility, intosubmission.“I am not asking you to go with me Carlo!” I said with much disgust.He remained silent and it suddenly made me feel uneasy. For the first time since we startedjoining the rally, I felt the need of hearing him speak.“C-carlo… I-I’m… so—” I hesitated. He just smiled at me and then he started talking.“When you know someone you care for is in trouble, would you just sit there and watch himuntil he call you for help? When someone close to your heart needs rescuing, would you not tryto do something to rescue him because he hadn’t asked you yet?”He paused for a moment and stared directly at me. He was like searching something from insideof me. When he felt I have no words to say, he continued speaking.“No, Miguel. It’s not like that. Even when he has not asked for your help, you would help himbecause you care for him. Even if he has not called you yet for rescuing, you would still be therebecause you love him. And even when he said he does not need you, you would stay with himbecause deep inside, you know that he needs too much of you, and your presence is enough tomake him feel better; because you know there are things that he is incapable of doing alone.” Hesmiled again. I was speechless. “That’s love. Miguel,” he added.He must be right. Everything has its limitations. Sometimes, I wonder why things have to meettheir consequence of being bound. Maybe, I thought, because we have to realize that we are justhuman beings—we are still tied to making mistakes and looking for someone who would help usbe corrected. It is in our nature as human beings to commit mistakes, and to admit it’s our fault.After all, people are still bound of seeking help from other people, or even from within himself.Maybe, Carlo’s right. It’s really better to be lost anywhere in this world where you can ask fordirections back, than to be lost inside your soul where redemption lies in your hands alone.
Love Versus Politics by Wendy S. VerdaderoThere was a total blankness surrounding the room, and we are in total darkness—so does mymind.“I was just concerned with the people; with our country that has been subjugated for so long; Iam just too concerned of—”“Why don’t you try to be concerned of yourself?”“Shall I think of myself first? Will I pass off our country’s cargo’s if I’ll think of my own?!” Iasked him sarcastically.Again we are encompassed with severe silence. It’s shrilling—as if it is upbraiding my wholepersonality. The silence which makes me listen more to the euphony of the news of my earlydeath. The silence whose eyes were biting my flesh—as if I were a criminal sentenced to die.“You know, Miguel, you can’t hide with your pretending to be brave the truth of what you aregoing through right now.”“What are you saying?”“Why, I’m saying that you were afraid of facing the truth—of facing the reality you have beenlooking for your entire life; that you were just pretending to be strong when in fact, you havebeen too weak to conquer your problems alone. You were afraid that the society you havedamned will soon hate you too!” My system can’t practically accept what he says not becauseit’s not true but because it’s true enough that it disgusts me too much. I haven’t spoken for quitelong time. I know any moment then that my tears will fall freely from me.“You don’t actually have to suppress whatever it is that’s bugging you right now, you know,” hesaid.“Haven’t you told me things have their limitations?” I said softly.“Are we still talking about politics here, Miguel?” he sounds still calm but firm.“Is it only in politics that we talk about limitations, Carlo? Well, I guess not! Life has limitations.Love has limitations. And I have my own limitations!”“So you’re going to keep that with yourself?”“I see no reason not to.”“Is that what you cal democracy? Is that your definition of freedom?”I tried so hard to laugh with what he said, but the bite of reality stings harder. Its fangs pricksdeeper than I thought it would—the reality which slaps on my face—as if it was waking me up
Love Versus Politics by Wendy S. Verdaderofrom my century long sleep; as if it was forcing me to face what has to be faced and to talk whathas to be talked about.I really do not want to be selfish, but then… selflessness is beyond me.I haven’t realized my tears were flowing freely from me. I tried to wipe my tears before Carlocould see it, but he did saw me crying.“So that’s what you cal bravery? Hiding behind your mask?” His voice was full of mockery. Hewas again scourging me.For the nth time, Carlo has managed to shut my stubborn mouth up. My tears continued to flowemancipated. There was no vain in me to refuse my tears to feel the freedom I long wanted totaste. I did not even try hiding it from Carlo. I can’t really go too far from what I know just toplayact strong. I can’t anymore pretend to fill up the cracks of reality—the reality which nowburn my soul; the reality whose voice was even louder than the call of my conscience; the realitywho breaks the principles I long have believed. I can’t defer the dismay reigning within me. I amweak, and so what? And yes, I can’t really face the bite of reality… and of life… and of love—alone.“I don’t ever want to be selfish Carlo.” I was now fighting myself with my silenced hysteria.“Living with the way you want to live your life has never been called selfishness Miguel—selfishness is when you let people manipulate you and when you let them teach you how to liveagainst your convictions,” he said sympathetically. “Live your life and think of not what peoplewould say, but of what your heart tells you to. Life is life, as I tell you, and it really goes beyondour control.”In an instant my tears were racing down my cheeks. It was cascading through my eyes freely. Ican’t really explain what I felt at that moment. It’s like I was talking to someone I never know,but knew me well enough. It was like I finally went out of the box I long have stayed on. I can’twear the mask that has been bared to the crowd I long have deceived. It seemed hard for me tohide the feelings I long have suppressed.“I don’t understand,” I said as my tears flow continuously.“Maybe not now.” I felt grasp of understanding in his voice. Again, we were enveloped intosilence. I don’t know how to escape from being imprisoned in that dungeon of quietnessmurdering my whole being. I felt hopeless.“Give yourself freedom, Miguel. You were fighting for freedom yourself for the crowd, for theretinue, for the country that has been damned. I think, you should as well think of giving yourselfthe freedom you have been fighting for.”