Not a fence to sit on (Part 2)

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Friday, January 31, 2014

THE sights must be strangely familiar to you – the linoleum cover hiding the rickety brittle lumber flooring of the makeshift house, the thick spaghetti wires obstructing your view of the blue sky and the gleaming new towers just over the “bakod.”

There are also the bright colors of the walls that you painted so your children can have a semblance of order and happiness, never mind that underneath the paint is actually old disintegrating plywood from many a “lipat-bahay.” You have the same DVD system bought from Raon and the same pile of Empe Lights bottles in the corner – a remembrance of sing-along sessions for the kumpare’s birthday. And look there is the same “imahe” of the Virgin Mary adorned by moving psychedelic lights.

In fact, if this is not called San Roque, it could very well be Pitogo or West Rembo, your “hood. Especially when you had a whiff of that familiar stench, the unmistakable smell of lived-in humanity that welcomes you home on hot humid nights after a day in barracks. They smell the same everywhere, the “esteros” and narrow dark alleyways.


It is as if all the despair and hopelessness were wringed out of the cramped humanity inhabiting these places and dripping on to the “kanals” is the foul pungent nectar of all that sadness. It is a heady smell now as it mixes with cordite and the acrid smoke of tear gas.

Yes, you go home to such a place. The difference is that there in your ‘hood you are somewhat celebrated. Especially when you began to come home in a spunky new uniform purchased from your first “sweldo” as a member of the Philippine National Police. From the “tambay” that you were, here you are now a newly – minted “parak” who can now occasional afford the “painom” to the barkada who remain trapped because they did not have a “padrino” in the police academy like you had.

Soon you say, you and your family will be moving out to that government housing in Tanay but brush aside the quick accounting of the deductions that it will entail and the gargantuan costs of the “pamasahe.”

There are occasions when you look up and peer through that hole on the ceiling of your CR and wonder when you will able to live in those gleaming condo units towering above you.

You have been on the opposite side of the fence so to speak once upon a time when Fort Bonifacio was sold to the highest bidder. You remember your father, upon knowing the impending eviction, his eyes turned bulging red. It must have been the unarticulated anger borne of the sacrifices that he went through while he was in the service only to be driven away like rats by the generals and developers.

The true veterans they are, your father and his band stood up to them with their undeclared firearms and bullets gathered through savings during military operations of the past. No demolition team dared showed up to drive you and your family away.

All of that is behind you now. After all, he has been long dead and you have your own struggles as a family – the brother who sells shabu, the sister who uses it, and a mother who now takes care of the growing brood of apos, two of which are your own from your “pagkabinata.”

But here you are now in the San Roque demolition, and that woman throwing fits amid the melee, now naked from the waist-up from the manhandling of your fellow policemen, looks strangely like your mother. But you brush the image aside. An order is an order that is what you learned during your police training. Something that you also learned through the stories of your father in their drinking sessions with the old fogeys. There is secret pride in following an order to the letter, you do not want to be the laughing stock in the barracks, right? And the more ruthless you are, the more favorably your superiors will look at you.

Never mind the crying lola holding on to the “haligi” of the house erected solely by her deceased husband many summers ago when the contentious land which is now the cause of their despair was all lush and green from all their labors as vegetable farmers. Never mind the bawling kid made momentary blind by the teargas. Never mind. Just follow orders.

There is no fence to sit on here. It has long been removed by those in power so that they can watch the poor bash one another’s heads from atop their gleaming towers.


(Arnold P. Alamon is an Assistant Professor IV, Sociology Department, Mindanao State University-Iligan Institute of Technology.)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on January 31, 2014.


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