Words by John Althani Famador
Language and communication have always confused me until I started to make my statements. I grew up in a uniquely English-speaking household in a southern municipality of Cebu – so I thought I was special.
My step-grandfather was Welsh, and my “Mama Mia-type” personality grandmother thought it was best for me to learn English exclusively. This had its consequences since I struggled to understand my teachers and peers. English was used at home and in the classroom, with a mix of Cebuano and Filipino subjects that I have never gotten a grade of higher than 70. Since I almost did not understand anything other than English, I was for the longest time convinced that, like my grandad, I was a foreigner. We had to find radio frequencies and tv channels that had the most English so that we could understand. And so RJ100.3 was our go-to radio channel.
Typhoon Ondoy had just destroyed the National Capital Region. The Ramon Jacinto radio station was, fortunately, able to withstand the storm and continued broadcasting, with news updates and reports in between the Classic and Hard Rock. I remember this was in the afternoon because my grandparents had switched on the TV Set for the evening news. The first images of Metro Manila: Hundreds of people stuck on a bridge surrounded by 2-story high floods. This also became the first time I heard a socio-political statement from my grandmother. Something she picked up from her circle of friends who I view as elitist and spend too much time in detached social clubs. My grandmother said that there were “too many squatters in Manila” and that “they deserved it”. And I thought she was right.
High school came and was much like a Tale of Two Cities, the best of times and the worst of times. Because I enrolled in Philippine Science High School, the premiere state high school, 12-year old me thought I was better than everyone else. Only to be gutted by the reality that I did not excel as much as I expected. That there were resemblances of discrimination, bias, and incompetence as anywhere else. That there were facilities and ambitious buildings in a campus found at the top of a mountain, only to crumble like a house of cards when a magnitude 7.2 earthquake shook the neighboring island of Bohol, exposing corruption in the bidding and construction of the buildings.
We pioneered the shift to K-12, but we were not consulted nor explained thoroughly. If anything, we were victims of policy implementation without free prior and informed consent. I thought that the institution and I were better than everyone else, and I was wrong.
If there’s any consolation to this Dickensian narrative, it’s that I was grounded by reality, and better values and principles emerged. Through crises, the bond and interaction between our batchmates grew. With prior idealisms smashed, we began to see the cynicism of the world. How Science and Technology were detached from the poor. How patents, intellectual property rights, and other information gatekeeping has kept science behind closed doors and stunted progress. How the government would not acknowledge or receive policy or innovation proposals. How the scientific status quo was detached.
We began to subscribe to the movements of open-sourcing information, and almost unanimously, we became political. At the height of the 2016 presidential campaign, Pisay scholars were inspired by the rhetoric of being from the masses to the masses to spite and disdain the snobbish, elitist political and scientific establishment. We were consumed by the rhetoric of political and intellectual subversion. We supported Duterte. But because our solidarity was not grounded on ideology, we became victim to personality politics and a fascist’s rhetoric. By the historical definition of fascist from Italy, we, in turn, became fascists or were at least complicit. We were collectively wrong.
During the week of Duterte’s proclamation, we were terrified. There was an unofficial curfew for minors, so going home on a Friday was a gamble because, by the time we got home, it would have already passed curfew. My friends and I would rush the kilometer home in the darkness and I had never felt this unsafe in my hometown. Day after day, the body count went up. Then in 2017, Kian Lloyd Delos Santos was shot – and this validated our fears.
This was our disenchantment. We were gullible to fall victim to the fascist’s propaganda machine, and we have learned our lessons. I am pleased to know that most if not all my batchmates were equipped with the core values of truth, excellence, and service to the nation entering university, and have become leaders in their degrees, organizations, colleges, and universities. This collective vigilance and principles are great consolations to have come out of all of this. Perhaps, this time we just might be right.
Photos From Presidential Communications, Rappler, DepEd, PAGASA
Layout by Gerard Laydia
John Althani Famador is a student councilor from the College of Agriculture and Food Science. Majoring in Landscape Agroforestry, he advocates for democratic agricultural systems.
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