When I was younger, I took to the streets in the kind of way we all associate rallies with. The lines of a rally always found me with a megaphone, a burning torch, a flag, a banner, or placards printed in red paint. That was years ago, when I would willingly step into the paths of oncoming vehicles to prove a point. Traffic is a minor inconvenience for conviction and beliefs. If need be, I would face police officers, or the indignation of passers-by who tell us to go home as loudly as we chanted.
Sunday afternoon found me in the streets of Manila, riding the pedicab from Pedro Gil to Malate Church. I should have disembarked from Quirino, but there are things you forget when you’re lost in thought. The yellow canvas cover of the padyak wasn’t helping, either; it made me a bit self-conscious. I could have walked the left-turn right-turn corners to take a good, long look at the streets of Manila, and if any afternoon inuman session would have been punctuated by discussions of Con-Ass.
You’re expecting too much, I thought, as the pedicab went through the laborious lefts and rights. I was reminded of that Mar Roxas commercial; if I’m going to save the world before bedtime today, I would have had compassion on the old man taking me on a “tour” to a short distance to Malate Church. I would have pedaled the rickety vehicle on my own all the way to Aristocrat, where Sparks, Dementia, and Phoebe were waiting.
We were soon joined by Juned, Jayvee, Sha, and Karla. The small group of silent protesters at Baywalk wasn’t the massive movement we were expecting. We weren’t more than 30, I think. Save for that police officer Sparks managed to talk with while she was buying ice cream, me and the guys were having the time of the week just being sprayed by the stink of Manila Bay.
“Explain Yourselves.” “No to Con-Ass.” Thirty people at RockEd’s protest, demanding an explanation from the House of Representatives for railroading HR 1109. Thirty people reminded to go to Ayala on Wednesday, if they can, to protest Con-Ass. No megaphones, no sloganeering, no willing intent to cause traffic; just that sincere conviction in good citizenship. Pshaw and tush to “protest fatigue,” the obsolescence of indignation, and how resistance is futile.
I don’t know if the pedicab driver who took me to Baywalk knew anything about Con-Ass, or if the passers-by who watched us there with handmade placards understood what we meant to say and what we believed in. I wouldn’t know if we did anything particularly grand or world-changing that afternoon. Somehow, I have the feeling it wasn’t, and it didn’t.
I sort of realized – and understood – why indignation cannot be obsolete, and resistance can never be futile. For so long as people fight for what they believe is right and true, there will always be indignation on the streets. There will always be those who will fight. There will always be people who will take on the minor inconvenience of a Sunday afternoon to go to a place peacefully, and express their dissent and disapproval of something that violates them. It’s not pogi points to a pretty girl somewhere in that rally, or tsamba points to while away boredom. The basic tenets of citizenship cannot be marred by the idea that the little silent protest in Baywalk was probably less than what we all expected it to be.
There are moments that I wish a spirit of EDSA existed, or that people would just care more about what’s going on in the society that they’re in. There are moments that I wish people would just stop being cynics in a perpetual state of surrender, and move from the sidelines to act within the bounds of conscience and what they believe in. The frustration builds, but yeah, it’s always tempered when you know you’re not alone. That if you’re going to a rally or a protest, someone will always be there with you.
I made my way back home, to more familiar routes and the familiar sounds of tricycles and novelty songs blared over giant speakers. As I write this entry to lull myself to sleep, I realized one thing, at the very least.
The minor inconvenience of a Sunday afternoon wasn’t that bad. Yup, not bad at all.