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Rm. 401, Vinzons Hall,
UP Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines

VOICEBOX is our weekly contribution corner. Angsts and assholisms of every sort are welcome. Write to us, write for us. We reserve the right to edit for grammatical clarity and brevity.

Fast Forward
Gonar Musor

While everybody's celebrating and starting to welcome 1998 on New Year's eve, Muslims all over the world are celebrating a different occasion. They are welcoming the start of the holy month of Ramadhan. Ramadhan which started on December 31 and ends January 28, is not just any other month for Muslims. This signifies the start of a month long sacrifice for them. When I say sacrifice, this means abstaining from food and water for almost 13 hours. So you can imagine what a great sacrifice this is for all of us. And we're supposed to get on with our usual daily activities, with no food and water from sunrise until sundown.


The Unbearable Lightness of Being a Coņo
Arthur David Orosco

I have a violent aversion for the coņo. Whenever I pass the AS Lobby, I all of a sudden feel this urgent need to spit. I cannot bear the sight of all those who litter around the expansive hall, wrapped in their signature shirts, showered with the oils of extravagant perfumes, and talking about the finer points of shopping in Hong Kong in that incorrigibly irritating language. But my views would change radically from plain disgust to a kind of unbridled desire to destroy my peeve by becoming like them.

Last December, some of my friends invited me for a Christmas gathering to contemplate, as it were, the good times. For some reason or other, they decided the rendezvous point to be at the Glorietta. As far as I can remember, there have been very few occasions that my steps were lost in the Quad, particularly because I am disgusted by the kind of people who frequent the place. Being the good, albeit cynical, pal that I am, I agreed to join the bunch who all came from universities whose tuition per semester was just about how much my family earns in a year. They are good enough individuals, all having grand dreams of joining multinationals, and pronounce unto the world that they are young urban professionals. None of them share my critical views, and they are just all too happy with what they have and what they aspire for.

As the day of reminisces progressed, they began deciding which place is best to eat dinner. Knowing only fast food chains, I left the choice to their distinguished palates. And so we came upon a place I have never been to before. "We're going to Street Life in this outfit?" my friend from Taft said of his apparel, although I knew he was chiding my dislike for anything branded. It only became clear to me that he was refering to a place where the likes of him breathe, as well as breed. I begin to question why I have ended up with the likes of these filthy heirs to nouveau riche lifestyles, when time and again I have scoffed at their ilk. I could not help feel a little hypocritical that I would bond with people who belong to a class different from mine. But I guess fate has a funny way of binding people.

Finally, with little hesitation, we entered a restaurant whose name I am familiar with because of that Saturday afternoon television show. No wonder the teenage flick features the lives of such belligerent brats, for they are similar to the crowd that makes up the clientele of that colonial haven. I had never eaten there before, and my experience in that big alcove of imperialist consummerism would prove to be fatal. When I flipped through the menu, I felt as if my nose was about to bleed; as if my pimples would burst open in protest. I could not understand how mere sandwiches could have such ostentatious prices when I could whip up a better meal in my mother's kitchen, given the right ingredients. For a simple dinner that disappeared faster than my friends' nonchalant laughter, I paid a sum that equalled my allowance for a week. Despite the generous amount of iced tea that forced me to make too many trips to the toilet, I absolutely deplored my presence there. When my friends had exhausted the evening as well as their detached middle class stories, we decided to get on our way. Immediately after I stepped out of Friday's, I felt a sharp jab of pain in my sinus that made me slightly nauseous and flabbergasted, though nonetheless alert, for there they were -- an entire army of incorrigibly detestable coņos. I had to get out, lest the disturbing sensation that boiled my insides force me to make a public embarrassment of myself.

I blurted my disbelief to my friend. "Sobrang dami pala ng coņo dito. Nandidiri ako." She gave me a puzzled look and said, "Sobrang I don't use that word." Another one whispered that I should not mention that term in their presence. Perhaps the truth really does hurt.

I could not help but feel a kind of sadness that such blind arrogance could exist. At that moment, I straddled the economic chasm that divides Philippine society. Purposely ambivalent to reality, the rich, who feed upon my poverty, live their extravagant lives. I, the poor man, am a creation of the upper classes, for without me, and the majority of equally destitute Filipinos, these brats may not have a way of being privileged. Their lifestyle is made only possible in contrast to mine.

Unknowingly, the rich are perpetrators of a crime. In this capitalist society, where binary oppositions are almost a necessity, wealth can only be amassed by depriving others of it. Such inequality translates to an oppression of the masses. It can only be hoped that an individual strives to rise above his or her economic basketcase. The truth is, by wanting to become affluent, one must resort to a vile suppression of the majority. If I were an employee, I would not see any reason to be thankful for my meager remuneration. Companies merely take part in this cycle of oppression: of being made to think that the minimum wage is sufficient for me. Now, I begin to realize why certain groups simply cannot laud a P13 across the board increase. It is by all means, an insult.

But while I scoff at the opulence of the few, I secretly begin to chart my future, and how I might be able to orchestrate my own oppressive ways. Surely I would not want to live all my life in the gutters. And though I know that to become rich I must make others poor, I shall, like these brats, become myself filthy and disgusting, shrug my shoulders, and say, "it's a fact of life."

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