Published on page A11 of the September 26, 2006 issue of the Philippine Daily Inquirer
MY FRIEND, Rei Mon "Rambo" Guran, was killed last July 31006. Armed men aboard a bus shot him to death in Sorsogon province the day after his birthday. He was a student leader who spoke out against injustices not just in his home province but even as a freshman at the University of the Philippines in Los Baños.
Twenty years earlier, another man, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr., was shot on the tarmac of the Manila International Airport, and his death sparked a peaceful, so-called bloodless revolution that has become the stuff that legends and democratic exercises are made of.
While my mind is spinning with thoughts of how the blindfolded Themis, goddess of law and justice, should tilt her scale and wield her sword regarding the unjustified deaths of Rambo and Ninoy as well as other victims of extrajudicial killings and wondering about the state of the nation and the correlations of events, I am also wondering how to motivate myself to study amid these thoughts. As the clock ticks a 27-hour countdown to my Constitutional Law exam, my brain transforms into a labyrinth of procrastination, with my inability to focus on thick books and cases. Still, I can't help but get lost in the numerous, winding passageways littered with the remains of other thoughts.
These other thoughts include what to do with my hair, which has grown to an almost "goddessly" length (although in mornings when I'm too lazy to comb, it resembles Medusa's snakes, sans the scales). An aunt suggested that I sell it to research laboratories to help defray my exorbitant tuition fee. Another friend suggested we shoot a short film while cutting it, in true cinematic Filipino indie fashion. A cousin mentioned donating it to Locks for Love to be turned into wigs for kids stricken with cancer. Then, I read somewhere that human hair is effective in mopping up oil spills and, as if in fulfillment of a Delphic oracle's prophecy, a bunker fuel tanker sank off the coast of Guimaras a few weeks later. Now, it has become a question of exchanging $500 worth of virgin hair for a chance to help alleviate one of the worst environmental disasters in our country. Where, then, should I send my hair? Would it really make a difference in cleaning up the mess created by the biggest petroleum refinery in the Philippines?
Another chamber in my mental labyrinth is filled with my constantly growing anxiety over each day at my new school, which employs a modified Socratic method that brings out the best (or the worst) in every legal-combatant-in-training. Every day, I stand in front of the statue of Ignatius de Loyola genuflecting with a sword, trying to muster the courage to deal with a different culture after years of study in state-subsidized educational institutions. The first question I uttered under my breath on the first day of school was about my doubt if this iBook toting, Youtube-watching, speed-dating, consumerist generation was really going to be the embodiment of the Jesuit tradition of breeding Men (and women) for Others. Are the concepts of intellectual discourse, nationalist consciousness and social awareness among young people as meaningless as the dead gods of ancient mythology?
I asked a member of an organization in my school about their stand on the political killings. Off the cuff, he mentioned something about their partner organization doing something about it. What exactly? He couldn't elaborate.
I asked my seatmate if he knew why we had no classes. He mumbled something about an excuse to party.
I replied to an off-topic thread in an Internet forum and got woven into a tapestry of apolitical sentiments worthy of Arachne's loom. I posted a comment in my block's online group about that catastrophic oil spill and only one person replied.
I remember all too well the question posed to the applicants to one of the best law schools in the country, "Equality before the law: Myth or reality?" At that time, with all my idealism and youthful exuberance, I wrote down a reply justifying my belief that it was a reality -- delayed, yes, but a reality nevertheless. Now, even if we're repeatedly told that "those who have more in life should have less in law," I can't help but suspect that the Fates have forced us to observe how the opposite is true. This is the part of my mental labyrinth that makes me emerge out of class both challenged and bewildered.
At the end of the day, I believe we should all just fight our tendencies to be a complacent, apathetic and lethargic generation whose modern-day gods are all things consumable and self-indulgent. For every online multitude that refuses to address human rights violations, there will be someone like Rambo Guran who'll give up his life in pursuit of his principles. For every electoral scoundrel and corporate henchman who makes equality before the law a mere myth, there will rise someone like Ninoy Aquino who'll defy the dictatorship and rouse a whole nation to a collective expression of dissent. And for every anxious law student who's trapped in the labyrinth of her mind, built by thoughts of things mundane and magnificent, there will be a metaphorical Theseus who will slay the Minotaur and make freedom a reality.
Now, if only I could start studying for that exam...
Vida Soraya Verzosa, 24, is studying at the Ateneo School of Law.
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