It has been said: a rose, by any other name, will smell as sweet.
Ignoring for a moment that roses smell like rotting cabbages (am I seriously the only one who thinks this? Are my olfactory glands whack?), the Jhemerlyns, Porfirios, and Gorgonios of the world, despite all their stellar qualities, would likely want to have less outstanding names.
“And if it is love, it is a curiously inefficient force, urge and halt, both at the same time. I want, but nothing I can propose would satisfy this wanting. I can’t say what it is I want, not anything much…Simply I want. Earnestly, most hurriedly, wretchedly want.”
– “At Swim, Two Boys”, Jamie O’Neill
I’m typing this at a food court in Dubai Airport Terminal 3 while waiting for my flight to Clark. There’s a three-hour layover and I’m eating the vegan falafel sandwich my boyfriend lovingly prepared before I left the UK, which he handed to me just as he was sending me off in Heathrow.
It’s midnight, I’ve almost finished the sandwich, and I’m still hungry, but I’m not sure if the eggplant tofu dish being served at the Panda Express behind me is even vegan. So this will have to do (not that I’m settling in any sense—it is delicious falafel.)
After one and a half months staying in London, I’m now trying to figure out what I feel about going back to Manila.
I love the Philippines, no doubt about it, and I’ve often said that I couldn’t imagine myself living elsewhere. But relationships have a way of making people reconsider things, such as—what exactly should we give up for the people we love?
I’ve been thinking about the end of this year and I imagine curtains closing—the velvet drapes sweeping to meet in the middle as it hides away the stage. But instead of the end of a play, it is the turn of the magician’s trick—the second act following the pledge, when the magician makes a promise. As the lights dim and the audience holds its breath, the magician prepares the next act, this third and final act, the reveal that upturns the spectators’ assumptions.
What the trick is, I don’t know. We started 2020 hoping that we will have a better year, the bookend to a decade that was in many ways crazy and exciting and sad: the rise of social media platforms such as Instagram and Tiktok (which was—perhaps—the death knell for bloggers-as-opinion leaders, to be replaced by social media influencers); the explosion of the #MeToo movement and “Black Lives Matter”, putting front and center social inequalities, except unlike before when we only had mainstream media to spotlight these issues, now everyone who had a mobile phone could easily pitch in the conversation; the age of disinformation ushered by the Cambridge Analytica scandal, which also leads us to ask: are we actually free, or are we just biological switchboards that can easily be manipulated by pushing a few buttons here and there?
When a friend posted on Instagram stories a few weeks ago something about “being true to one’s self”, I couldn’t help but send a reply to that Pinterest platitude: “What is the authentic self, anyway?”
I wasn’t being rude: I’ve been guilty of criminally allying myself with the #staytruestayyou community at least one point in my life (specifically: in a post-breakup Facebook moment, sometime 2015: lock me up, officer.) But the more I think about pinning down who the “authentic self” is, the more I question that it even exists.
Just a few weeks back, I was reading a post on the Vegan Biologist which argued that humans are not herbivores. One would think that a vegan blog would adamantly defend veganism by appealing to nature, but the post flat-out argues against the awful science that many misguided vegans perpetuate.
While I am, for the record, vegan because of ethical reasons (it is undeniable that animals are conscious: the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness categorically stated that nonhuman animals are not mere automatons and are capable of emotions much like humans. Therefore, their continued exploitation is simply immoral, indefensible, and speciesist), I still believe that clear-eyed science must guide our arguments.
There’s nothing that drives you further down into introspection like the waning high of your birthday that’s almost about to end (except probably a close brush with death, a bus speeding at 100 kilometers per hour barely colliding with the car you’re in at a highway—but that’s another story.)
Which is to say, you’re no one, dregs of society, scum of the earth, bottom feeder, immaterial, dispensable. What they want to say is: you deserve nothing, you are both noticed and unnoticed, and you are not really sure which is better between the two, when to be seen is to be hated, for people to wish you to die, and often it’s not even a wish, because they’ve killed your kind countless times, you’ve seen it—beating other rats with a stick until their eyes pop out, skulls cracked open until their brains spill over. Or a bath of boiling water, until their fur peels off their body.
The other day, I was thinking about Ate Belle and remembered that it has been almost four years since she died. I was deciding on when I was going to fold clothes when the memory of her in our house, calmly sifting through the freshly laundered shirts and sheets, came back to my head.
I really should’ve paid attention to how she did it. Then again, folding clothes is one of the chores which I absolutely don’t enjoy. Some of my friends, like Mela and Jessica, find it therapeutic; I find it dull and repetitive. I’d rather cook or do the groceries than be stuck folding clothes for what feels like an eternity.
Recently, I was in a heated Twitter debate about how people who had animal companions but were not vegan were essentially in a master-slave relationship.
While some of my friends argued with me directly, some chose not to reply and instead resorted to subtweets and snarky, shady remarks. Those who did the latter did not contribute anything substantial to the debate, because contesting ideas directly, while it seems superficially uncomfortable, allows people to test ideas and hones our capacity to argue well.
A few days ago, my friend Nancy and I were talking about how we’re all adjusting to this new normal (a term used to exhaustion that it is already grating on my ears), as we carried our groceries back to our condos. Yes, we were lucky–alive and well, not yet driven to the brink of desperation, like those spilling out in the streets and being threatened to be shot down by the police.
But to be alive is not just the goal, I argued. We might as well be living in some weird fictional dystopian place…or North Korea. Being a hermit and being a solitary prisoner may seem similar superficially, but the difference lies in the element of choice.