And I mean that literally.
It was perhaps one of the weirdest dreams I’ve ever had. From what I can recall, the first scenes were of armed men storming a sleeping me in my house. The next scenes are held in a large complex that seems like a school and mall (in my Dreamscape, two regular areas I dream in is one that looks like the Ateneo, and another that seems to be a mall of some sort). Come to think of it, the layout appears to be similar to Ayala Alabang, although my spatial sense told me its somewhere in QC.
But more than the location, what bothered me, even after waking, was the palpable sense of… fear. Yes, fear. My dream-self was aware of the situation it was in – that of a dictatorship, or at least a regime under suppressed liberties – yet I could feel myself genuinely afraid. This isn’t the common fear of dying (especially a potentially gruesome death) in nightmares. This is no “ordinary” nightmare horror but one that seems to cut deeper than the instinctive fear of the ending of one’s life.
Understand that I have training to what some people might call as Dreamwalking. In most, if not all, my dreams, I am after a time aware that I am dreaming and can then exert a certain level of control over my dreamscape, although most times I let the whole dream be just to see where this latest story the supposed random firing of my synapses has made will lead to. Despite this, I’ve had really horrifying dreams but if anything I consider these nightmares as a “Danger Room” – in reference to the virtual-reality training facility of the X-men – where I can have a bit of training, at least in facing my fears and anxieties, so I let even these nightmares be and try to resolve them. Yet I have rarely been totally afraid in a dream or nightmare, and even rarer are the times when I resort to my training and wake myself up.
This was somehow… different. The… horror in the nightmare that was in the context of what may be Martial Rule stems, in my analysis, in the utter… helplessness in wishing to do or say something and not being able to do it for fear of the tools of a dictatorial state picking you up for transgressing its wishes. I wanted to scream. I wanted to rant at the state, to show my anger… but I couldn’t. Something was holding me back. Something was pressing like a vise at the core of my soul and preventing me, somehow, even with the knowledge that it was a dream, from doing what I wanted to.
I think that is where the horror comes from. I wasn’t born free, my mother having birthed me in 1977, or five years after Marcos declared Martial Law. But I did come of age in an era of democracy. One of my most vivid memories remains that of watching the Wall fall, and knowing at that moment, even as a pre-teen, how it felt, what it symbolized. I was a teenager in the time of the celebration of democracy and freedom, the first generation of Filipinos to know how it feels like to be free, and I became a young adult at a time when democracy and freedom seemed to be the common theme worldwide, despite all the troubles of the early 21st century.
The malls, the clubs, the coffee shops, the burning of our airwaves by celfones, our ubiquitous use of the internet, our generation’s celebrated – and sometimes lamented – outspokenness and nature that abhors limitations and control, even our propensity to come home in the wee hours of the morning… these are all things that we take almost for granted as we do breathing, things that are only possible within the context of the democracy hard won against a two-decade conjugal dictatorship. Generation X and beyond cannot be what it is without these freedoms we enjoy and celebrate, even as some of us have joined official adulthood by having our own kids.
And that, perhaps, is what truly made my nightmare of a land under dictatorial rule frightening: the suppression of something that we have never experienced being without. I participated in the actions before, during and after the Second People Power. I have been with the youth movement at least since 1998. Yet in all this I remained operating within a more-or-less democratic system. We were free to raise our fists against the status quo. We were free to question and even take to task loudly those who rule us. We were even free to call the President of the Republic such horrid names that we wouldn’t even use against our most bitter rivals.
True, for us who are active in the movement, who have the gall to call ourselves youth leaders, we know of those dark days of Martial Rule but we have known no other world except the one we came into consciousness. We were too young to have known the fear and anger and frustration of the dictatorship; all we know was we couldn’t watch Voltes V nor play videogames anymore.
All we’ve ever known is a life where you can party till you drop the next morning (and on the streets, too!), play videogames until your eyes water, and watch all the animation, violent movies and adult flicks you can get your hands on. All we’ve known is a world where the worst we can get for speaking our mind and/or speaking out against our elders is a grounding or a slap on the wrist. Heck, it’s even a world that encourages the young to speak out and challenge authority. Meek, silent and opinionless are just soo… uncool in the post-Martial Law Philippines.
But last night, confronted even with the simulacrum of the specter of despotism in a realm I was fully in control, I was powerless before it in fear despite my loathing and outrage at it. And all I could do, despite my training, despite all my experiences, was to press the mental equivalent of a reset button and wake up. Because I just couldn’t imagine living in such a world where I was not free to do as I wish, when I want to.
I hope this is one nightmare that will not become a reality. For real life does not give you that option of waking up to a better existence, if the current one has become too horrible to live in.