Hope, and the Multiplication of It

No, this is not a Gloriagate post. Believe me, I’ve tried several times to do some along those lines shortly after it burst into the scene – and, really, there are times I wish I was wrong when the precog is a bad one – but time and circumstance have prevented me from doing so. You should see the drafts…

Instead, I’d like to talk about a little something I went to Friday evening (it being 3 in the morning of Saturday, 2 July 2005, when I write this). Besides, you want more on Gloriagate, go to PCIJ’s blog.

When this person who came by the rather unique nickname of Gang presented Rock Ed Philippines during the June 2005 CORE Session of the UCSC, a lot of thoughts came to my mind, some of them rather not good. I guess I was thinking like some so-called “veteran” of the last four years of intense political warfare and dozens of failed attempts at social engineering: you’ve seen it all, come through it all, and what have you got to show for it? Another political battle. You’ve stared into the abyss so long that you think it’s beginning to wave back and call you friend…

But my curiosity was piqued. Rock Ed. The concepts behind it – alternative education to bring about upliftment – sounded familiar, maybe all too familiar, and you wonder what could be new here. We stood on EDSA in 2001, dammit. We went through the bloody PUNK and the 2002 NAPC Youth Summit. We defended Davide, remember? And am I not UCSC? Did we not coordinate the (supposed) forces of change as the Coordinating Council of KOMPIL II Youth? What was Youth Alliance, then?

But go I did. And glad I was that I did.

Maybe it was the sheer… audacity of it. As Jaime Garchitorena put it, we were as… eclectic a bunch as you can find, coming from such diverse fields and backgrounds. Many NGOs and alternative educators there – the publishers of Adarna were there, alongside the marketing manager of MTV – but there were artists, theater actors, managers and the occassional lawyer and law student. Heck, we weren’t even one-tenth of the forces my groups mobilized in the last four years since the RIO. These weren’t the experienced field operatives and commanders of civil society and the student councils.

Yet somehow… it felt good. Maybe even much better than when Danny Javier announced the one millionth soul on EDSA that fateful January in 2001 when you thought a new dawn was breaking on the Philippines. I think I’ve been too long in the trenches of this War that I’ve forgotten how it is to be with, as the saying goes, “like minded individuals” that could still… dream and act on that dream. Yes, perhaps that’s what’s missing; I’ve contemplated for so long whether I should abandon the War and let it all go hang because… because the realities of life in the front lines of the Movement eventually does takes its toll on you, on the spirit. You get so beaten up badly trying to hold that line you drew on the concrete with your blood that you can’t lift your swollen eyes anymore. And in the last few years it has felt like such a lonely battle, what with the Piraeus scattered, the Union (until this new batch came along) rendered moribund, and the LP becoming more like… government…

The energy in the room was palpable. For the life of me I cannot remember the last time I’ve seen so much… hope, so much enthusiasm in a room full of young adults who were thinking of ways to do the hardest job of all: end poverty. Nationwide. In our lifetimes. Good Lord and a half, but do these guys have any idea of the sheer… scope of their – OUR! – goal? Do they know that we’ve been at the status quo with everything plus the kitchen sink yet it not only stood firm but co-opted so many of us into its staid and decayed structure?

Probably. Those weren’t naive people there, despite their lineage and economic status. But, but…

… there are plans to buy a flatbed truck, paint it all over, turn it into a makeshift stage, and let it go around the country teaching kids in plazas and eskinitas about issues and values…

… Glaxo has agreed to counterpart-fund a vaccination drive, and Batanes is first on the list January 2006…

… how about wrapping three buildings in Makati with white ribbon – the symbol of the Global Action Against Poverty – including, as Jaime added to the idea, Oakwood, to transform it from a symbol of rebellion into one of hope…

… or how about flooding Malacañang with postcards that ask the President to make good her promise to deal with povery…

Personally, I like the roving school idea best, and I’m wracking my brain as to where we can find funding and non-monetary support for it. But the other ideas, some of them even seeming so simple as compared to those bloody “big” projects of ours in the last four years – ah, yes, the PUNK… there are nights I still wonder whether it made a difference or was I just a party to wasting more than P2 million? – yet their probable effects…

And the people themselves… you’d think that everybody has degenerated into versions of the crass politico or me-first entities that either leave the country to earn more or stay here yet waste all their talent in call centers (and, again, let me make it clear that I have absolutely nothing against call centers; they have made the lives of many ordinary young men and women better without the social cost of overseas employment. But to hear so many in my circle who so easily went that way… or went corporate… *sigh*). It was just… great to hear other people ask the questions you’ve been asking for so long, or think and feel the same way about issues like irresponsible wastage disposal or road values.

And – heh, heh – being with the Rock Ed people made me realize just what kind of creature five years of political work has done to me. I actually wanted to stand up and ask for proposals and concept papers of these projects to be given to me so I can show them to funders… It’s a good I’ve gotten a hold of my leap-before-looking mentality, or I would’ve probably embarassed myself… I was actually compartmentalizing my new group’s dreams in the black and white of bureaucracy, and somehow that felt rather… wrong… Oh, sure, there will probably be a time when we have to do that, show a potential donor a proj prop, but… not now…

I don’t know where this will lead; I am still a creature of the World I have lived in and fought (and nearly died so many times) for since the founding of the UCSC in 1998, after all. I did not get my position of Strategic Director because of any other reason save that of my skill as an analyst and gatherer of information. So I can’t help but wonder about all these plans when they start coming up against that wall called the status quo. But that’s the tired, overly-cynical, and near-hopeless person who’s become a casualty of the very forces he tried to harness for the Bright Tomorrow.

But… just how did revolutions start, anyway? With a few men and women who believed in a certain ideal and were willing to fight for their cause. How did the Berlin Wall – and communism – fall? When so many people pushed that no guns or tanks of a repressive regime could cower.

Perhaps that really is what appealed to me: the people. Not too many, yes, not the battalions that we gathered on EDSA… but dedicated all to the ideal of ending poverty, in whatever form it may be from what I can gather from the conversations. And that’s what’s important: knowing that when you light a candle in the dark, you’re not alone. Because so many people lighting their own little candle can banish the darkest of nights… and that wall isn’t so big and tough if more than one person is pushing to bring it down…

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