3.22.2013

Counting down to Summer...

I AM LITERALLY TWO DAYS AWAY FROM SUMMER. I. CANNOT. WAIT.
To say that I'm sooo lazy to do anything anymore is an understatement, and I honestly just want to get everything I have to do over and done with. I'm just hanging on, one last push, 'til my freshman year is over (it went by so fast!!) and 'til I can retire to being a professional couch potato for the next few months. Hooray for no summer classes!

Anyway, I've been doing A LOT of writing this past school year and I guess I just wanted to share one of the bajillion papers I've had to conjure for my classes. This one's a critical essay for English class, which I decided to write in satire because 1. it seemed a more effective way of getting the message across, 2. my brain cells couldn't come up with anything smarter and more serious, and 3. I just felt like doing something fun(ny) for my last submission. Again, it's a satire; don't take it too seriously.

[I didn't expect my writing to improve much, or at all, just because I was taking English 101: Advanced Expository Writing and had a writing buddy who was supposed to peer review my works. But in all honesty, I feel like it has, and I'm grateful for it. So, thank you Sir Oca for being great and chill and sensual (just 'cause it's his favorite adjective HAHA) and for letting us develop our skills at our own pace, without the pressure that comes along with being in Advanced English like all the other Merit sections. I am going to miss attending your lectures next year.]


Do You Ride Your Carabaos to School?

A Critique on the Modern Bourgeoisie


Sickening bright fluorescent lights flood my mind even as I keep my eyelids tightly shut. My joints are stiff and my back cracks as I straighten up on this chair that is as hard as bricks. I decide I have been sitting in the library for far too long, trying to do what I was supposed to have been done with hours ago, and I desperately need a break. There is only one place in Ateneo I know I can always count on to provide some much needed rest and relaxation, so I head on over to MVP 207. I get in the elevator just in time and mentally prepare myself for the awkward silence that ensues when a bunch of strangers are stuck in a 2x2 meter box of metal. Once the doors close though, one of the girls starts furiously fanning herself with one hand while talking a mile a minute on her iPhone about something I am all too familiar with:

“Oh my goodness, I cannot believe how unusually hot it is today. I can literally feel the heat seeping through this sheer H&M top and the sunlight glaring through my RayBans. Of course, of all the days my yaya chooses to be inefficient, it's today. She forgot to make baon the bottle of SPF 90 sunscreen with my kikay kit and forgot my umbrella too! She's so engrossed with her stupid teleseryes at night to even pay attention to my needs, because hello, she could have totally watched the news and predicted what the weather today would be like. She's sooo getting a full-on b**ch fit when she fetches me later.”

I look at the girl and sort of feel bad for her, especially when someone at the back starts to snicker. Doesn't he know that a) he is being impossibly rude and impolite, and b) what the girl is going through is a very legitimate crisis, a cause for concern? There is absolutely nothing funny about an inefficient yaya who forgets your essentials at the most inopportune times, but whose salary you never forget to pay on schedule. Not that I can relate to this girl, because I personally don't have my own yaya picking up after my mess and fixing everything from my clothes to my homework, but I had enough rich high school friends who complained about similar situations back then to understand her predicament.

I guess she's the typical Atenean people would refer to as “burgis.” Just listening to her impeccably straight English and looking at how poised she is – handbag at the crook of her elbow, perfectly polished nails – makes it a dead giveaway, really. They are nothing of a rarity, especially here in school, and sometimes when they pass you by in the hallways, they literally make you stop and think why you aren't as posh and classy as they all are. They're the kind of people you look at and admire because they're living such a privileged, high class life, away from all the distractions and hassles of living normally. They are those who have never had to ride the train, or worse, the jeepney, to go places, so they've never gone through the horror of squishing beside a sweaty, old man in a stuffy public vehicle while simultaneously trying to avoid the poor, dirty kid handing out wrinkled envelopes and wiping your feet with an even dirtier washcloth. I guess they're obviously the lucky ones.

I remember learning in Filipino 11 last semester that back then, burgis referred to a totally different concept altogether. It was the “social order dominated by the so-called middle class, connoting a certain hostility or indifference to cultural values and intellectual pursuits, and contentedness with commonplace ideas and tastes. In Marxist theory, the bourgeoisie plays a heroic role by revolutionizing industry and modernizing society. However, it also seeks to monopolize the benefits of this modernization by exploiting the propertyless proletariat and thereby creating revolutionary tensions. The end result, according to Marx, will be a final revolution in which the property of the bourgeoisie is expropriated and class conflict, exploitation, and the state are abolished.” Today, I realize that amidst the modernization, this social construct has taken on a new meaning. Though the 21st century bourgeoisie still retains its air of materialism and its striving concern for respectability, I believe it has also evolved into a class of its own, sitting on a higher – more entitled – pedestal looking down at the rest of society with so much pity and sympathy because really, money can only do so much and there isn't anything else they can do about the poor state others are in aside from feel bad for them.

I get off at the second floor, walk through the hallway, and as soon as I enter the room, I am greeted by a roar of laughter coupled with the increasingly unnerving sound of someone addictively playing 2Fuse on an iPad. I settle into the messy stack of comforters and bean bags in the corner and notice what seems like a copy of the Guidon in one of the pigeonholes beside me. I yank it out and see the seal of the University of Santo Tomas inscribed within letters spelling out “TANGANGLAWIN” instead. At the bottom of the front page, there is an article entitled “Canteen-uh Nagsara, Artenista Nagluksa,” and I have to stifle a snort and my horrible witch laugh because of the absurdity of it all. It was ridiculously na├»ve and childish of whoever wrote the piece to make fun of how majority of his schoolmates speak. I just don't understand what the big deal is with people being so conyo or at times, elitist. I mean, everyone is entitled to his personal quirks and bragging rights, especially if he really does have a lot to feel superior about. I wonder how that writer would feel if he was put in their position, and was criticized for something he had no control over. It would probably be a repeat of the whole mess with that burgis girl who wrote for the Philippine Daily Inquirer about her first ever jeepney ride through the busy stretch of Katipunan to Ateneo's neighboring college, the University of the Philippines.

Publishing an article on a national broadsheet about the most important life lessons she gained as she rode that jeep was a very bold move, and instead, what did the poor girl get out of it? Definitely not praise and admiration, but parodies, endless snide remarks, and ill wishes for her to get held up the next time she commutes from many of the article's readers. I don't understand how that can be the case when in fact, she had a lot of significant and valid realizations to impart. She genuinely learned a new kind of language from the “seemingly interesting human beings” she was surrounded and felt a sudden connection with. We are given so many opportunities to go out into the real world, immerse ourselves in different cultures, know more, be aware, and experience what life is like for a vast majority of people, and that was the author giving it a shot. Unlike the rest of the bourgeoisie, she should actually be commended for being willing to do something so risky, something that most others would find unthinkable because they're too good and vulnerable to do things normal people do.

Sometimes, I'm so surrounded with burgis friends who stare at me wide-eyed when I tell them that I ride the LRT to and from school everyday, that I cannot possibly imagine a society without them. In fact, I am slowly beginning to be convinced that their social existence is positively beneficial for everyone in the long run. Where exactly would we find ourselves without their excessive self-respect and ambition, their capitalism and detachment from reality? With the 99% of the world's population camping out on various Occupy protests against the wealth due to the rich through their birthright? If you think about it, without them, we would all be on such equal footing, living with no social hierarchies, that it would start to feel like one big communist nation around here.

We need the burgis to employ the less fortunate into their households, bossing them around like it's nobody's business and treating these maids and drivers like personal slaves they can demand anything from, so that these people can have decent jobs and provide for their own families. We need them to be regular customers at boutiques and department stores, flustering and demanding salesladies to get them this and that item in all sizes and colors available. We need them to build and buy more houses than they can possibly need so that contractual construction workers and other blue-collared workers continuously have a job inhaling cement and siphoning their wastes. They are, after all, more financially capable than the rest of us, and since the basis of meritocracy these days is money, the members of the bourgeoisie are generally better and ultimately more entitled to things others can only hope to have easy access to as well (i.e. good education, luxury cars, etc).

Sure, appreciating the role and the importance of the burgis takes a lot of getting used to, but focusing on this has greatly helped me ignore the disparity and the stark difference between the social standing of my friends and I. Eventually, I just came to terms with the fact that the farthest away these people could step out of their comfort zones, in an attempt to live simply not only out of sympathy, but also empathy and solidarity with the less fortunate or the regular working class that make up our population, is to stoop down to my jologs or jeje level. At least they're not apathetic.

I return the Tanganglawin issue to its place, because my short break from schoolwork is over and I realize I have to go back to the library immediately. But just before I manage to step out of the room, I hear a genius asking our self-proclaimed emperor in a genuinely inquisitive and ignorant tone, “Pedro*, did you use to ride your carabaos to go to school?” And everybody doubles over with laughter.

* - real name and identity of this friend is withheld at my own discretion