Coming of Age

December 16, 2017

The Monday after I turned twenty years old was a dreary one.

Days prior, she had made overtures of seeing the new Blade Runner film together in Cubao, to which I agreed happily. The day of, we met over lunch, and pored over the agonizing, occasionally tedious details of our respective commitments. She told me she had just returned from Zamboanga Del Sur, to witness her mother be given a master’s degree in public administration, which made her happy. I told her I had been flirting with the deadline for my thesis’ draft, which in turn made me delirious. We would laugh here and there but, intermittently, there would be a quiet that would linger. I made no mention of my age. We were, after all, still practically strangers.

The meal had barely concluded when she asked me if I’d care to tag along with her to the strike.

She had to jog my memory. “Um...what?”

“Kaya walang klase ‘di ba? Nagwewelga ‘yung mga transport groups.”

Of course, I was taken aback. Hell, the day had been reserved to drool over Ryan Gosling. But nonetheless, she was unrelenting. (Gusto kong makiisa!)

It was a strange feeling. For one thing, I am not often confronted with the fact of these drivers’ struggle so dramatically. I have, neither, been urged so strongly to take action, organize, and demand there be something done to remedy the plight of others.

(If I may, dear reader, trouble you with the facts a bit, the reason behind the strike was that transport groups, such as the Pinagkaisang Samahan ng mga Tsuper at Operator Nationwide (Piston) and Stop and Go Coalition, have reacted to supposed anti-poor plans to “modernize” jeepneys with a nationwide strike, lasting for two days mid-October, subsequently forcing Malacanang’s hand to suspend government work and classes at all levels for the two-day duration. The call of the two groups was simple: jeepney modernization would render us jobless.)

I relented, and we got up and slogged through the Cubao grime to locate the picketers, and to join them in their call.

Walking. A Cloudburst. A drizzle began to pour. She checked her phone to ask one of her NatDem companions their whereabouts. Apparently, the picketers had gone off for lunch as well.

Despondently, I reminded her of the movie, and we went up and saw a 3:00 pm screening of Blade Runner 2049.

It was gorgeous visually; picturesque, and a visual treat much like its 1982 predecessor. However, the story-telling, I felt, left much to be admired. For one thing, the picture was a behemoth, falling just a hair short of three entire hours long. I guess it didn’t help that my mind at the time was in several different places at once.

Abruptly, you see, questions began to abound. For instance, how could I condemn the spate of killings under Duterte (see August column), but unwittingly turn a blind eye to the plight of the working class?

I had begun suddenly to mull over a bevy of concepts: Privilege. Bourgeois sensibilities. Apathy. Yadda-yadda-yadda.

These things, of course, were all of my own. It was peculiar, if only for the fact that a light had shone on all these things a day after I’d turned twenty. And my companion didn’t even have a clue.

Our evening together concluded, coming after a reminder that the strike would last only two days long. There were, of course, other monsters to fight, and I had barely touched my thesis. Before she boarded the Philcoa-bound clunker of a jeepney (oddly enough), I thanked her, which led to a bemused smirk.

But we missed the strike! Sayang kaya, she cried.

It was lost on her that she’d caused an awakening, of sorts. I kept my gratitude in a silence, and she was whisked away back to her home in Krus na Ligas.

It was an awkward end to what had been an eventful day, and Ryan Gosling barely had a hand in any of it.