22 September 2007

the funny road to dissent

While in university in the Philippines, I was, as always, the marginal one. I had another tag to my identity. I was an 'elitist' person (meaning belonging to a family with feudal and oligarchic history). So, in a defensive mood, I had to prove that I was not 'elitist' nor 'oligarchic' in deeds and character. One of the tests was to dissent against the established opinions, even to the fashion of the day - must wear those tattered jeans and sneakers to fit in.

The university I went to was the beacon of liberalism, hotbed of activism, but has a history of producing the country's leaders (who, by the way, belonged to the elite).

On one Labor Day, we, the Muslim Youths, a group linked by cultural-religious dimensions, joined ranks with the labourers, human rights groups, animal lovers, the Reds, the Greens, and the Yellows (no Blues - they were the establishment). We were to march from Campus to Malacanang. With new found convictions, I trodded on unfamiliar waters and burned my bridges. I also recruited my kid brother, who was happily feudal, into the ranks. He did join in, albeit unwillingly, to protect me if something untoward happens. And so, I, the car-riding elitist was now walking tens of kilometers along with my comrades and my hesitating brother yelling slogans (seems to me now like expletives), waving banners and placards. I could see my brother's eyes lurking here and there looking out for jeering friends. We arrived at the destination and quickly were asked to lie down on the dirty streets and pavements to barricade the police planks wanting to cross over to us. At my angry prodding, my brother dismayed and red-faced, lay down too. Then, came the water rockets drowning us, testing our limits, extricating us from our positions. With water in our ears, eyes and noses, my brother and I ran for the life of us because we knew that the next probability was us being herded to the police trucks and our worst nightmare, facing the angry tirades of Omar, our dad.

That was the end of my living dangerously.

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