Sunday, July 8, 2012

Take me home

Take me home Lord, oh take me home. O'er the hillside and o'er the sea, to the soft grass of the valley where Your grace shall set me free. (Self portrait)

Last Saturday, a little past noon, an elderly woman died. She was hit by a passenger bus along Lacson Avenue in Manila. Her body rolled under the bus and was pinned on the vehicle’s wheels at the back. It was such a gruesome scene that even now, after successfully writing the news script for the radio’s 4:00 pm newscast, I still couldn’t find the right words to provide a picture of what took place that wouldn’t succumb to what we call now poverty porn.

I never knew Pacita Romero, the woman who died in that accident. But I can tell you what few people told me about her.

She was 70, lived alone in a small house in Sampaloc and was a mother to many. At her age, she was still braving the wild streets of Lacson Avenue, even around España, selling sampaguita garlands to motorists. She was there, said a bystander, at the middle of the screaming city under the scorching sun, even on glaring monsoon, selling whatever she could to earn a living.

Asked by a reporter, the driver of MRR Transportation Bus Alfonso Elistre defended himself. He said he didn’t notice a woman crossing the street. It was only when he felt a bump and a bystander pointing something that he knew something was wrong.

A handful of bystanders attempted to gang up against the driver only to be stopped by MMDA men and the arrival of some police. They were mad, cursing the driver. I wasn’t exactly sure if they really know Lola Pacita, but I am sure they were genuinely angry.

I left the scene, as all the other people did. But it kept me thinking without exactly knowing what to think. I just want to think for no sure reason, looking at the coursing cars and jeepneys, the mad heat and the torrent of people passing each other like ghosts.

Night fell and I ended my week in a certain bar where hungry poets, hippies and junkies gather. I was alone in my table and was still thinking of the accident. It never left me. Her mutilated body kept flashing on my mind, plaguing me. I drank my vodka straight feeling the heat travelling from my mouth to my throat. I watched from afar those smoked lights as the clanking bottles and glasses mixed with PJ Harvey’s music provided the background.

The weight of 2 bottles of beers and vodka took its tool. I made my way through the sprawling tables and chairs with slight difficulty and went for the restroom. After hitting the John, I pulled a cigarette and looked around for anyone with a lighter. And then I saw a guy smoking a few meters away from me, borrowed his lighter and lit mine. I noticed he has a camera dangling on his front.

We talked, or more properly, I insisted a conversation. I told him about a story of a woman who got rammed by a bus and died. About a driver that shook his head, scratching, terrified but indignant. About the state of Manila’s street, its people and a temperament open sky. He just nodded in between my sentences and made audible noises, grunts, from time to time.

The next thing I knew, we were on his room and he was on top of me. I felt his mouth on my chest, on my hips and on my thighs. My eyes were fixed nowhere. I thought my head was about to explode. I was still seeing hazy visions. I couldn’t decide if I want them gone or not. And then the guy reached for my mouth, his tongue invading.

I don’t know about the woman. I couldn’t even remember the name of the guy. All I know is that that night, as darkness swallowed the whole city, the streets never empty, I could hear the concrete ground calling for me. From then, I knew. I knew that something inside me died and I will never ever be the same. 

12 reaction(s):

rudeboy said...

Are you sure you're cut out for a journalist's life, DB?

Journalists - especially those on a Metro and/or police beat - are exposed to the varied miseries and injustices of life on a daily basis. It doesn't take a genius to figure out this may be a big factor why a lot of them often end up depressed, alcoholic, and suicidal.

I intuit - correctly or not - that you chose this calling in the service of some high ideal. Lord knows it can't possibly be for the money, or lack thereof. But there's a high price to be paid for being so up-close-and-personal with Life's Big Pandora's Box Of Miseries™.

But do ask yourself: what use would you be to a world you seek to save if you end up burned out/depressed/dead at a relatively young age?

I'm not discouraging you from pursuing a path I assume you feel is the one that best serves your ideals.

But as you will learn later on (or not), for all our empathy, the universe is largely indifferent to our existence. That's why religion is such a powerful force, rightly or wrongly. The possibility that there is no omnipresent, caring Being; that there is no such thing as justice in a hereafter; that there is no rhyme, no reason, no Grand Design for our existence except for the random confluence of cosmic events, is too bitter a pill for many to swallow.

If the Darkness is swallowing you up, DB, it is also because through your line of work, you chose to stare into the Abyss.

And as you ought to know by now, the Abyss is staring back at you.

Nate said...


Will said...

I sincerely hope that the best explanation for this experience is that you are not yet used to seeing all these chaos. Give it a year or two. Kung wala pa rin, consider another year. Repeat until sanay ka na. Kaya mo 'yan. :D

LJ said...

Its will always be easy saying that its part of the job, but there will always be things in life that someone will never sink it right away.

I hope that the experience will make you stronger for the people who listen to the news you write. There are a lot, and you are doing a great job.


LJ said...

*that will never sink it right away.

Désolé Boy said...

Ruddie - Believe me, I asked myself that question a lot of times. I thought in a span of time swallowing those harsh realities would be easy. It never did. But imagine my frustration of doing so little. Truth is I hate myself even more than those people who stare blankly everyday in their life doing nothing. It's because I know I could do more yet for some reason, I can't seem to.
Nate - Thanks.
Will - It never eased out. I already counted 2 years. And I'm afraid, and I do pray, that I will behold that needed courage for me to stay standing on my ground.
LJ - That's why I tell these kind of stories. Sure we cannot help the victims like Lola Pacita, but in thinking, in changing and extending whatever we can, somehow, if one reader or listener do, somehow, it eases the guilt I am feeling. Thank you.

Visual Velocity said...

Oh god. I'd be traumatized too if I had to write an article about that. :-(

Anonymous said...

There are crises that define us.


Mac Callister said...

thats the life you will face everydat deebee you gotta have a strong stomach for it, like me having around death all the time. ganyan din ako nun una naiiyak pa nga ko kapag may kamag anak na nag iiyakan once we pronounced a patient dead.

pero eventually, i got through it,its part of the work :-)

Désolé Boy said...

Visual Velocity - They say it's part of the job. Now I say it's part of my life.
Yas - Touche!
Mac - I decided I don't want to get used to it. I still want to cry with those people who lost their loved ones, I'll never get tired of mourning with them. I'll never outgrow fighting with a mother looking for his son, and a daughter looking for justice. If this is fate, then I accept.

the green breaker said...

I think I've already tweeted you my reaction to this.. Hugs na lang. Eerie things happen nowadays, as the people who are in the frontline of all of it, you need to adapt, for this might not be the last of those terrible things.

rudeboy said...

I thought in a span of time swallowing those harsh realities would be easy.

Eating human tragedy for breakfast every day can never be easy, no matter how often you do it.

I know I could do more yet for some reason, I can't seem to.

That's why there's no such thing as Superman. We can only do so much, being human. And we can only do what we can, DB. Sometimes it's not enough.

But no one can ever save the entire world. You can only save who you can, and while that falls far short of your goal, in the end that has to be that.

Perhaps, the best you can hope for is what you said in your response to LJ. Your personal efforts to save this world can inspire others to do the same. And with each person who does, more and more will be saved.

Enough of that, and maybe - just maybe - that will do.


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