It was a day in flames.
In the Polytechnic University of the Philippines in Sta.Mesa-Manila, the school Administration announced a tuition increase from P12 to P200 per unit. In response, student activists called on their fellow students to thrown out broken furniture as a symbolic act of protest. But their rage was so great, many threw even relatively unbroken furniture, their exam papers and readings, and even a broken door. They then set fire on the entire wooden mess.
Meanwhile, high school students attempted to hold a lightning rally in the Dept. of Education’s national office in Ortigas-Pasig to protest the DepEd’s unwillingness to enforce their own no forced graduation fees policy in public schools. Three to four of them got in, while the rest were stopped cold by a combination of a steel gate that got shut in time, and security guards who pointed their firearms at the small ones. Undaunted, they shook the gate and smashed the steel with their bare fists.
And back in Manila, youths joined a civil society march to the Supreme Court to protest the latter’s ruling allowing Gloria Arroyo to appoint the next SC Chief Justice. The participants were alarmed at the prospect of Arroyo controlling the highest court in the land at a time when she is clinging on to executive power and presidential immunity. The youth participants then set fire on a streamer containing the faces of the nine SC justices who voted for the ruling.
Satur Ocampo once said Ung pagrarali ay symptom ng lipunan na hindi nagbbgay ng sapat na daluyan ng communication. Naghahanap sila ng sariling daluyan.
In a society where your school administration does not bother to consult you before they raise your tuition, where the government does not even enforce its own laws, where the right to due process is only for those who are pro-government, where the highest court in the land is the bastard of the evil bitch, burning things seem to be one of the few effective ways of communication left.
Dialogue? The PUP Administration never ever attempted to have one with their constituents. Responsibilities? Remind the DepEd. Rights? The Morong 43 don’t have any, at least that’s what the military tell us. Consensus? The AFP’s idea for building it is by eliminating all opposition. Rule of law? Arroyo’s above it.
I suddenly remember Stephen King’s novel ‘Salem’s Lot. In the end, their solution to the town’s vampire infestation was by setting fire to the entire town. As the older hero said They say fire also purifies. And if you remember your high school mythology correctly (or you were just another Harry Potter-obsessed teen), it is from the ashes where the phoenix rises from.
Already, I can see that today’s events have set fire to the discussions, both online and offline. Some youths’ romantic notions of rebellion and idealism have been set aflame. But it is not enough. We must pour gasoline into it. It’s not enough to discuss about whether it was right and wrong from the sidelines. The debate must be on what should be next, the question asked should be directed to one’s self, and how can one participate.
The issues, problems, and challenges facing us are piling up faster than the thrown furniture at PUP: human rights violations, the specter of failure of elections, an Arroyo-dominated Supreme Court, the scenario of emergency rule, martial law, or even Gloria as a caretaker president. What can we do? Simple, we set it on fire.