Luneta 6

Reading Luneta 5 makes  me understand better why I used a pen name when I printed this novelette on the Internet. Topics like sex trading, wanton prostitution, trafficking of kids, murder, and mayhem were taboo in my old days. Now that I am reading back what I wrote in my twenties, and because this mini novel would never reach a readership, it is proper to recall the context and backdrop upon which this story was created. For some reason I can still see the characters even today, how they looked, how they moved. But I mixed and matched their appearances and characters and settings in the story plot. The reality was, a rich kid would be impossible to roam the streets of Manila at nights during my time, rich people never mingled with the poor. It defied social and class rules and could be very dangerous with kidnappings and political vendettas. Now, a poor kid looking sexy and attractive with a fatal intent against others was possible but very rare. The good thing in those days was the absence of drugs especially among the poor youth, I wasn’t even sure if alcohol abuse became rampant outside the fishermen, farmers and laborers in the barrios as it was their only form of relaxation from toiling under the heat of the sun in farms and construction sites and fishponds and oceans. Despite its poverty, the Philippines was still strongly influenced by the Catholic Church. Still is. I would even venture to say that the topics I wrote abut then, would probably still be banned today. 

So, where did  I get my ideas?

As I said, I was and still am non-existent in Manila society because I grew up on the streets while going to school and creeping inside my relatives’ homes so I could sleep at nights for self-protection. Between the streets and school, I was exposed to different kinds of people.

Better yet (or not), I got accepted into a top and prestigious university after I tried their entrance exam as joke, which I passed. That surprised everyone including myself, and concomitantly, I was awarded a government scholarship for, well, being poor. A logical kid, who was as poor as I was, would probably back out and just attribute everything to the folly of the gods. I would not survive college given my economic and social status.

But I was ambitious and really had nothing to lose because, (I kept on repeating this), I was non-existent. I was the one nobody took a second look at. I looked ordinary; I was not blessed with fair complexion and beefy body; I was thin like a stick which made me less vulnerable, non-threatening, non-challenging, non-whatever. Yet all these gave me undue advantage. Like a feral cat, I could sit by your side and observe you in my quiet way while you mistakenly reveal yourself. I watched the city all the time. So, it didn’t matter whether I got accepted to a top school or not, whether I failed or not, whether I stayed or not. Nobody would care.

Nobody would resent me for being ambitious.

During those days, there was a lot going on in Philippine society. Benigno Aquino was shot at the tarmac and everyday Manileños formed a long queue of mourners paying him their respect at Sto Domingo Church while outside, rebels were voicing their opposition to the current Marcos rule. Meanwhile, the economy was in shambles, and everyone was blindsided by the political upheavals. Until the fall of Marcos.

What swept the nation was the end of the Marcos regime alongside the drama played by prominent politicians, all gearing for future positions which they’d later succeed on taking, only to become no different from the ones they replaced. But that is a story meant for the future of this tale. Not now.

A street person like me watched it all. The yellow flags were brandished while the opposition crowds walked and ran the length of Roxas Boulevard. The millions attending rallies at the Luneta were captured in photos by news agencies around the world. There was a non-stop political and economic crisis which began with the walk out of vote readers who claimed they were coerced to change the counts of the election results they were reading in favor of Marcos. Clearly, the election was being tampered according to news agencies all over the world. It was followed by accusations and counter accusations, people were divided between yellow and red colors, passions became heated. Some of these protagonists’ images are still fresh in my mind even today.

Nowadays those events 40 years ago a mere historical recollection, I am taking no sides anymore, because in the realm of politics, whether it involves the Philippines or the US, there is a disconnect between the illusion of good politics versus the Machiavellian reality. Politics is purely Machiavellian, and the best of politician is not always the best human being, I would even risk saying a good human being cannot be a good politician. The very idea of promoting oneself as better than another is not for the faint of heart. And the one who enjoys politics requires him to play the game better than others or else he will lose. It is a dog-eat-dog world and double-talking wise smart Alec projections and survival of the fittest world. Politics is not my area thankfully. I will never be good at it. I am the silent watcher, the spectator who stays on the sidelines, seeing the event unfolding and making personal assessment of them. I am very good at this. That is my specialty. I am a feral cat.

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