Dream­ing Edsa


TAKE time and smell the bill­boards. For four con­sec­u­tive days, I re­cently com­muted from Silang, Cavite to Dil­i­man, Que­zon City to take ex­ams. Daily, that was ap­prox­i­mately six hours of travel by car, bus, jeep­ney, and MRT trains to sit for an exam tak­ing four hour s.

I sur­vive Manila by com­mut­ing via the Manila Metro Rail Tran­sit (MRT) Sys­tem, which feeds the Epi­fanio de los San­tos Av­enue (Edsa) with about 650,000 pas­sen­gers ev­ery day, ac­cord­ing to 2012-2013 data.

More than half a mil­lion peo­ple “cap­tured” like live­stock trans­ported from the farm to the abat­toir makes the Abenida ir­re­sistible for ev­ery street hawker, from the mer­chants of everlasting youth to the po­lit­i­cal chameleons of utopia.

I am not one of the cat­tle plugged in to their smart phones dur­ing th­ese Edsa “flights.” I am more bovine, nap­ping even while stand­ing. My fa­vorite MRT ac­tiv­ity, though, is to ur­ban-gaze. Even whizzing past, the gi­ant bill­boards of Edsa ex­ude a po­tency more mind-bend­ing than a hal­lu­cino­gen.

This week, the bill­boards have nearly suc­ceeded at con­vinc­ing me to buy an over­priced set of tri­an­gles (“It’s SUM­MER. LiberYAYte your­self!”), as well as use my vote to put the pub­lic at the mercy of a mass mur­derer and bald-faced liar (“TRUST me. LiberYAYte the na­tion!”).

Trust­ing a bikini and a politi­cian marks a deficit of san­ity, I shout to my­self with a bull­horn. But ev­ery time I pass their bill­boards, Na­dine winks at me and Bato smiles as if we both share the pri­vate joke be­hind the War on Drugs.

This week, if my brain wasn’t stand­ing-room-only (yeah, Gram­sci, Fou­cault, and Fraser, get your butts off poor Haber­mas; step out, Hei­deg­ger, and bring Na­tional So­cial­ism with you), I might have suc­cumbed to a buy-in of th­ese bikini dreams.

Edsa knocks sense in me. Not the Abenida but the great Filipino af­ter which it is named. Don Pany­ong was a mul­ti­fac­eted ge­nius who de­fied the con­ven­tions of his time to serve Filipinos, in­clud­ing fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. The First Filipino Aca­demi­cian was a gi­ant of the Golden Age of FilHis­panic lit­er­a­ture but as the jour­nal­ist us­ing the pen­name of “G. Solon,” he co-founded and edited news­pa­pers op­pos­ing the Span­ish col­o­niz­ers.

Gregorio Zaide wrote that Don Pany­ong’s Filip­ini­ana col­lec­tion was un­ri­valled, the fruit of the scholar’s in­de­fati­ga­ble search across many na­tions. Af­ter he died, his heirs sold the col­lec­tion to the gov­ern­ment for P19,250, an act of pa­tri­o­tism ben­e­fit­ing schol­ar­ship re-imag­in­ing the nar­ra­tives con­sti­tut­ing the Filipino.

More than an ur­ban night­mare, to­day’s Edsa re­minds us that the strug­gle to lib­er­ate the Filipino con­tin­ues to sat­u­rate our worlds, the ev­ery­day as well as the imag­i­nary.

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