Distance, isolation, detachment, among others, are some of the things we have grown accustomed to over the past year. Heightened by our innate desire to belong, we were forced to rethink how we relate and connect with each other in hopes of bridging the absence felt physically. Intimacy was no different, first thought to be one of the pandemic’s immediate casualties until it eventually manifested itself in ways we never thought of before.
Last March 2021, the government welcomed the country with another imposition of Enhance Community Quarantine (ECQ), a year after its first implementation, despite concerns over its militaristic execution. With active cases breaking records almost everyday and slow vaccination programs inducing confusion and paranoia, public health resources and manpower are yet again overpowered by the dire condition of the country. Timelines have been flooded by people mourning the loss of loved ones, grieving as we realize that even though viruses and lockdowns have already crippled our communities, a bigger border exists and it has been keeping us apart from the very beginning. With Duterte prioritizing his political agenda over a proactive centered response to the pandemic, we were ultimately left to fend for ourselves.
For instance, many people have established their own community pantries operating under the basic mantra of “magbigay ayon sa kakayahan, kumuha batay sa pangangailangan”. People come and go everyday dropping off fresh produce, canned goods, and hygiene necessities, while others fall in line to get what they need for free. A common scenario could also involve street sweepers and tricycle drivers helping to manage the lines, making sure everyone is following social distancing protocols, while farmers and fisherfolk, local vendors, and small businesses all chip in to replenish the stock. These pantries proved to be effective as they serve thousands of people every week, even spreading over the country within just days after the first pantry was established. Although met with suspicion by paranoid and deluded officials, such display of resistance through the spirit of mutual aid is a manifestation of society’s innate human ability to share when all else fails.
Efforts of local communities were also the ones which stood as the first and most consistent line of support and relief when COVID-19 hit the country. Led by students, faculty, and other individuals, Serve The People Brigade Task Force Community Unit Response (STPB TF CURE) mobilized volunteers that spent weeks relentlessly cooking and delivering food to students and residents that were still in Los Baños during the first leg of the nationwide lockdown. They also set up numerous donation drives where people can drop off any in-kind and in-cash goods, in hopes of allowing the kitchen and distribution program to continue despite the lack of support from the university’s administration. Since then, the brigade, which was initially formed mainly by students during Taal’s unexpected eruption, has led numerous relief programs and deployed hundreds of volunteers to extend help to nearby areas of Laguna, Batangas, and Cavite.
In November 2020, hundreds of students, faculty, and staff convened in an online Council of Student Leaders (CSL), enjoining their forces in an unprecedented move to call for a multi-sectoral academic strike. For the weeks that followed, all concerned sectors asserted the immediate halt of any academic-related matters in order to give way for relief operations, especially with the overwhelming material and health-related concerns. During this time of urgency, everyone’s efforts were put to the test. So much was needed beyond our work as students and teachers; and even as artists, writers, and leaders. Days were spent coordinating and unifying different organizations, planning campaigns and assessing needs, crafting statements and resolutions on a whim, hoping to gain strength in numbers despite the obvious limitations brought by the digital set-up.
In a Discord call one of those nights, Pananaw found itself checking up on each other. Like many people during this time, we shared and listened to each other’s voices over numerous attempts to reconnect through faulty servers and Internet connection. Hearing each other felt reassuring. It carried some of our worries away, and left in exchange a bigger faith in the work that we are doing together with other students, faculty, and staff who decided to join hands in demand for something better. It didn’t matter that we were not together physically. Our solidarity was two-thousand strong and it transcended beyond the screens, the Internet, and the collective anxiety felt by most constituents.
These efforts and responses from within ourselves and our communities in the face of adversity are what we wanted to surface for Pananaw’s fourteenth issue. We believe that the question “how do we perform intimacy in resistance?” enables us to open and share parts of our being and our stories that would be crucial in inspiring hope, empathy, and resistance from one community to another. We accepted works that explored and discussed how the personal is also political, as well as works that crossed borders and distance by not only choosing to come together, but by fighting for it as well. What came is a diverse body of work, each with its own unique, but equally monumental, perspectives and experiences.
Genevieve Soriano Aguinaldo’s Lala ng Luoy na Lapit is a wistful lullaby that likened our collective experience to darkness, hoping for intimacy to find its way back to our caress as we heal and yearn for a new day. In Gates Painted White, Chrystel Darbin recalls her own memories through personal anecdotes of the people close to her and the world around her, as both succumb to the reality of Duterte’s governance within the past year. Such is also the case with Sheena Absalud’s Work From Home, a series of collages featuring up-close and personal looks at four individuals as they share their own views and experiences related to the global political crises.
For the first time in Pananaw, there are also more than a few works submitted by student organizations, all of which are direct performances of intimacy in resistance. UPLB Babaylan’s Breaking the Silence invited people to express their gender identity in online spaces as we celebrated last year’s International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia (IDAHOTB). The UPLB Jocks’ If 2020 is a Song is a podcast episode that explores the intimate relationship of people with music, a language so universal it transcends culture and binds people together through the sheer experience of listening and relating. Meanwhile, UP Internet Freedom Network’s Complete your tasks, eject all your impostors, fix the sabotaged devices gathered participants in a live streamed game of Among Us to not only play but also discuss pressing issues and concerns UPLB students are facing over digital spaces and the online learning set-up.
At the core of Pananaw is the intrinsic duty and desire to share, especially now more than ever. It is not only important that we are able to process our human experience through art and literature, but that we are also able to show people what we can do when we do things together. Resistance is only possible when we let intimacy seep through even in the smallest of our actions. Sometimes all it takes to overcome distance, isolation, detachment, among others, is a simple “Kamusta ka?”
Jed Matthew B. Palo
Graphics by Kin Demotica