Someone’s knocking, but I’m not afraid to answer the door. There’s a tea party in a garden, and I put my cloak on with a flourish, swirling it out. The fabric gleams.
It’s sunny outside, and I think my grandfather is nearby. The party feels lively, but old-fashioned. There’s a record player, and a frosted white buttercream cake with yellow sponge and pretty sugar flowers. I’m wearing a long dress under the cloak. My hands are not my hands — they are someone else’s fine-boned fingers and oval-shaped manicured nails. This fazes me not. I feel, as I step through the door, very loved.
“We will not stop until the last drug lord, the last financier and the last pusher have surrendered or are put, either behind bars or below the ground, if they so wish.” – Philippine President Duterte, on drug enforcement.
A partial transcript of the speech is here if you want to read it, but it doesn’t contain his adlibs. It was vague, meandered up and away so he could score some comedic points and left me wondering. It feels like populist propaganda to me. But he is the populist Dirty Harry president everybody loves. So why not.
The good points included a nicely scaled down event, no mega-fashion show as with previous years. It’s funny that all it took was a short statement banning it. PNoy must be shocked. I guess vague economic promises, a “ceasefire” and basically a whole of it “it will be like this” without actual statements on what they will do count kind of counts.
Nothing about the China Sea ruling, which for me is a pertinent issue since they are building on the contested land. Nothing regarding the Marcos burial.
Scapegoats are nice. Drugs have always been a nice scapegoat for governments. Nixon knows this too. After all, he was the original “war on drugs” president. A declared war on drugs feels a lot like state-sanctioned propaganda.
Drugs are a pervasive societal issue that affects people at all levels. There’s no one-off solution to “solving” drug smuggling, use and abuse. But it’s easy to please people through a show of force. And it’s easy to please people who are all to happy to hand it over to a president who has a reputation for taking action.
In this context, I can’t help but think of Richter Baykin, the 16-year old student killed in a buy-bust in Baguio. (Buy-busts in Baguio are a laugh and a half, let me tell you.)
What about Jefferson Bunuan, the young scholar shot dead in his sleep next to his cousin. Police say they started a gunfight, so they shot them. Witnesses say they were asleep. Maybe people hide guns under their mattresses these days. In a country where a gun costs more than a month’s salary. (Legally, of course!) Illegally, well.
Do we have a concept of reasonable force in this country? Or is force reasonable because you have the authority to wield it?
Not all cops. Not all pushers? Do we have that kind of hashtag? #druggielivesmatter Every life matters? Or they only matter if they make national news, but if you classify them as no-lives, worthless lives that don’t deserve the basic things other people do, because “human rights cannot be used a shield or an excuse to destroy the country–your country and my country. (Duterte, again in the same speech”.
If so, what other reason can be used? 400 estimated dead due to extrajudicial killings. Of course, some of them were committed by vigilantes in the name of justice.But you have the dubious blessing of The Man in Power.
It’s easier to kill than to prove guilt. He does talk about rehabilitation later on. You can’t put the dead in rehab, though.
In third grade, we moved to Manila from our little city perched on the mountain. It was the middle of summer and I had never realized how hot a city could be before. As an added insult to injury, my sisters and I somehow managed to contract lice at the same time. After a couple of Kwell baths and extensive hair-combing, my mom had had enough and decided to simply cut off my waist-length hair. (As an adult I somehow got lice from a public bus, and Kwell made a reappearance in my life. But later, I had more patience, and I didn’t lop all my hair off.). Manila also had minimal trees, like some non-tree lover had made an executive decision in the past to simply not let them exist.
School was horrid, especially at first. I was used to smaller, Montessori-style classes where I could freely leave my classroom to go play Chinese Checkers with this blind kid who would also leave his classes to played guitar in the principal’s office. This didn’t fly well at my new, strict, Catholic school.
I was also a probinsyano, which is kind of the equivalent of a redneck from Redneckville moving to New York. Like most Baguio kids, I spoke too much English and mixed it with a local dialect, Ilocano (a social faux pas, to always say kwan, which is more of a punctuation, than an expression if anything else). I could barely speak Tagalog. I had short hair, which wasn’t allowed. I was too nerdy, too eager, too something. I was also, and still am, gullible as all hell.
I felt bad because everyone was listening to Ace of Base and Wooden Heart and songs I had no idea existed. My music education was almost entirely composed of Disney and my parent’s extensive CD collection. I had just discovered the Cranberries, and I loved them. I remember bringing the CD to a school show and tell and a classmate, derisively asking, “Ano yan? Baduy.”
I did not like Zombie, which would later be the hit that they would be remembered for. The music video made me uncomfortable, but the album itself is still quite a classic. I’ve grown to like the song, but anyone who sings it during karaoke sessions instantly loses cred.
This album (which I recently listened to again) revealed sadder songs like Everything I said and Twenty-One. During long trips home to Baguio, we would sing it in the car with my parents, For this reason, I occasionally like to play it on when I travel alone.
A falafel from Beni’s. Scarypet once gave me a hot, paper-wrapped falafel out of a bag like I won a prize. Did I ever! I felt like I ran this food race and crossed the finish line while still chewing. Super spicy sauce + perfectly chickpeas with just the right everything even after 15 or so minutes in someone’s backpack. So good.
A lengua (read: ox tongue) taco from El Chupacabra. It’s rarely available (their carne asada is nothing to scoff at either) but when it is you stand on a smoky street for a bit with your friends, drink a beer, eat a taco and think, yes life is good, and thank God for really good Mexican food. Lengua and I are good friends as long as I don’t have to prepare it. While we’re on the subject of lengua, My Kitchen’s lengua risotto is a dream. It’s really really rich, so share.
Girls by Emma Cline – I rarely trust reviews and am naturally suspicious of new authors, but the sneak peek I read on Amazon is arresting. I’m still thinking about it, and I haven’t even bought the book yet.(Look, something on my list that isn’t food)!
A pair of ballerina shoes, or flat shoes. I just destroyed my latest pair. They were so comfortable that I kept wearing them and now they’re dead and I wish I could afford a high-end Chanel pair but I can’t, so there’s that.
A really really good beer. I take recommendations.
A Midoro Traveller’s Notebook. I’m not sold on how slim it is, but the leather cover and custom paper options have me drooling. My current handwritten journal is ending (meaning it’s got a few pages left near the end so now I can justify purchasing a brand new journal and am now going through the selection process). For the record, I love lined Moleskine notebooks. I like the unlined ones too, it’s just my handwriting is horrid.
A swim. A nice long one where you don’t particular do anything except flounder around.
I used to make lists like this on the back of my journal/notebook/detritus thought keeper. In high school, it always used to be albums I really wanted! Because music was so expensive, and going to Tower Records (!) would cost me two weeks worth of my allowance. I feel like we have come far in the world and that streaming is a gift to audiophiles like me.That’s all.
Full of faraways and farewells, because for you it’s true. People change. If they don’t, the circumstances they face make them change. You know this now because you are old enough to know that it’s the truth.
It’s weird how easy it feels now. People move away, come back. They come back different, thinner, older, with different interests. The girl who used to hate motion now loves yoga. The boy you knew in college tells you, quietly, he really really likes boys and maybe he always did. You’ve changed, but you don’t admit it. You move quietly. You don’t feel that young urge to make people like you. But you don’t laugh as much as you did.
You try to make it better by thinking, oh, I’m not the only one in the world saying goodbye, or hello again. Or asking how someone is over miles and miles.
“Hold still, I’m taking a screenshot.”
“Okay. Do you know the sun sets at 9 pm over here? It’s crazy!”
You spent a part of your life submerged, thinking maybe this is it for you. There’s nothing else, because you can’t imagine anything else. You’ve ended too. It feels like you cast paper into the water and when you made a grab for it, it disintegrated. You can’t put anything back together. You feel like you barely remember it. But it’s not true.