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Literary

Happy anniversary!

Little did I know at the time that March 9 would be the last day I would be able to see the University and my friends in person.

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(Photo by Vince Imperio/TomasinoWeb)

March 9, 2020. 

I still remember how that day was going. Amidst the safety protocols at the time in the form of face masks, alcohol, and temperature checks, it was really no different from the typical Mondays I’ve gotten used to. You wake up after a short weekend, prepare, and make your way to the University. 

In my case, it was the usual two to three hour commute I’ve been doing for over a year. Pretty simple right? 

How was it typical you might ask? Well, despite being aware of the situation at the time, I won’t deny it anyway that I did not take the situation seriously. This is not to say that I did not observe and cooperate with safety protocols, but I admit, I was still lighthearted enough about things that I would joke around about it with my friends. 

COVID welcome party. Didn’t age well, but I guess it’ll be a reminder of the days leading up to this. 

Anyways.

Simply put, March 9 was just the beginning of another cycle. A cycle of going to class, listening, or not listening to your professors, mingling with the people you’ve been with for the past year or so, and finally going home late because you still hung out with your friends well after class. 

Or so I thought it was. I had just survived another session of Economics class by the time the news broke out of Mayor Isko declaring a week-long suspension of classes. COVID-19 cases had been increasing at the time which led to the supposed one-week break. 

At the time, a week-long suspension sounded appealing. It was already the second half of the academic year which meant that any form of a break would be nice. I had an ongoing burnout as well at the time so that supposed one-week break was much needed.

But the thing is, it wasn’t just one week. Little did I know at the time that March 9 would be the last day I would be able to see the University and my friends in person. Little did I know that one typical Monday would be a reminder of my last day in Manila. 

That one week turned into a month then that one month turned into a year. Before I knew it, all my plans for the previous year had gone down the drain. Without any warning, the life I knew was gone––forced into an indefinite and abrupt end by an unseen force. 

It’s been a year since March 9. This time around last year, I was still in the outside world. Due to the suspension and campus closure, the streets had been hauntingly silent, akin to what you would see if you were still out at around 1 or 2 AM. Heck, even the trip home at the time felt weird even if I’ve ridden the same bus and sat on the same seats countless times over the past two academic years already. 

But now, I’m just here, writing this piece in my room, the same one I’ve been trapped in since I got home at around 11 p.m. on this day last year. Now I’m just some lost child who’s lost pretty much all sense of fulfillment in what he does. 

One year later, I am just a shell of my former self. 

From someone who was primed to fulfill the potential he and other people saw in him, I’ve been reduced to an underwhelming, burned out deadweight who’s probably causing the same people who believe in me to regret their decision. 

I don’t know anymore, really. At this point I’m just letting the days go by, barely putting in the bare minimum in just about everything I’m involved in. Nothing I’ve done to regain some sense of fulfillment has worked so far, and I don’t know if there’ll even be anything that’ll give me that anymore. 

Everything has felt like a burden frankly speaking. From being the second-highest officer in the organization, to having a position in a school project, all these were supposed to give off a unique sense of fulfillment for me. 

But unfortunately, all these have felt like obligations, which I am forced to fulfill because it would be unethical if I put myself first before the job. 

In retrospect, this time last year and the days that followed seemed like the best year because of how this anniversary has been. Being stuck at home and only seeing Manila for a total of four times since the one-week suspension has made last year’s events look like the best thing to happen, if we’re keeping it real here. 

And no, this isn’t some sympathy piece, nor some privileged rant. 

This is just a mere commemoration of the day normal ceased to exist. 

But hey, maybe things would get better one day, right? We may never go back to normal, but this world would be less of a living hell. Maybe one day I won’t be telling the people I love that I miss them and I am tired of seeing them through my laptop screen anymore. Maybe one day, I won’t be spending countless hours playing Genshin Impact during my free time while ignoring just about everyone in the real world. 

Or maybe not. We’ll never know until we get there anyways.

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Literary

Wall of Roses

To remember the storms and grim atrocities,
One must never let the memories of the tragedies falter.

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EDSA Commemoration held last February 25, 2020. (Vince Imperio/TomasinoWeb)

Weary eyes glare across empty asphalt,
Toward the men clad in armor, prepared for assault,
Deathly stares pointed like spears across the avenues.
Shouldered rifles, their aim steady and true.

The streets choke with the tide of people,
The radio waves harken to the faithful,
A veritable sea of bodies fill the city.
Marching the streets with devout alacrity.

His armored columns batter down the avenue,
Their blitzkrieg halted, a frozen retinue
Fearsome marines, armed to the teeth
Unmoving against a wall of hands with roses and wreaths.

Gunships circling like vultures, guns bared,
A bone-chilling sounds forth, a horrid drone,
The masses do not stir, no longer scared,
Forward they press, to his riverine throne.

His mind is unsure, his seat uneasy,
Whether to rain down his mortars and bombs.
His generals plead to loose a volley,
No orders released, his rage kept mum.

The people shout, and beat, and cry,
For him to relinquish his seat, to give up the fight.
His situation has turned sour, awfully awry.
Nowhere to go, his family takes flight.

Never forget how his men storm the night,
How daughters were taken, sons left slain.
Bearing truncheons, expressing his might,
Never again shall that darkness reign.

To remember the storms and grim atrocities,
One must never let the memories of the tragedies falter.
A bloodless war waged in the fields in cities,
Justice regained upon the shoulders of the martyrs. 

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Literary

Hello, 2021

The sun’s out with its mellow light showing a clear sign of what’s up ahead––a beginning. 

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Photo by Jessica de Rosa on Unsplash

The sun’s out with its mellow light showing a clear sign of what’s up ahead––a beginning. 

All that happened yesterday becomes a blur. The parties, dinners, the echoes of fireworks and car horns, the “goodbye and thank you” messages, the closure that we’ve been yearning to have for us to completely move forward, the people who have left, and the ones who stayed; these things leave a bittersweet ending to the year that has tested our wits and pushed us to the limits of our limits. 

We deserve a pat on the back, a roaring cheer from the crowd, and a cake for surviving the horror of 2020. We may be limping from the ache, our eyes may be red from all the crying, and our will to strive may have taken a huge blow, but what matters is, we managed to finish even without flying colors––even if we exited without avoiding being unscathed. 

And now, we take a step forward to the better things, to new sunrises and sunsets, to new beginnings, to meeting new souls that may become a part of our lives or rather be someone who would be a friend to others, to new challenges, to new levels of extreme, and to having more chances in starting anew. 

But there shouldn’t be an act of forgetting that sometimes, this is not the case for everyone for struggles don’t vanish overnight. The heaviness of circumstances that we cannot escape continues to weigh us down and so, at times, all we can do is sit quietly and bask in solitude or at most, gather all remnants of courage and strength in our bodies to conquer the storm one step at a time. 

It is the first month of the year; the sun’s out with its light––it’s just there being anything that we want it to be, may it be hope, strength, light, or whatever––waiting for us to stand up again and bravely face the unknown of what this year will bring. 

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Literary

Eight months and counting

I remember the rush my body felt as I filled up my laundry bag while talking to my friends via video chat and how eager I was to go home.

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Artwork by Fernadine Hernandez/TomasinoWeb

Flashback to the moment when Mayor Isko Moreno declared a one-week suspension because of the Coronavirus outbreak. At the time, we didn’t know that in a few months, everything would change completely. I remember the rush my body felt as I filled up my laundry bag while talking to my friends via video chat and how eager I was to go home. A lot can happen in a week, right? There was hope in the air, nothing would fall apart, after a week we would hurry to our classrooms for the first period with iced coffee and we would chat with our blockmates about what we did during the break—it was simple. 

Looking back, I wish that we could have been more cautious but then again, we can only do so much. Walking around the campus, seeing everyone wearing facemasks, showed how compliant we were. Placing alcohol and sanitizer dispensers at every building entrance, having our temperatures checked all the time, practicing safety measures—we did everything that we can and maybe that’s the reason why it has become frustrating to see the parts of what made our college life worthwhile, fade away. 

I remember the rush my body felt as I filled up my laundry bag while talking to my friends via video chat and how eager I was to go home.

Where the street is packed with students ordering buchicake and pancit canton, where fast printing services are found, and where the smell of smoke sticks on uniforms, Antonio now can no longer be recognized—empty and quiet, without any hint of fast-moving footsteps. 

In Asturias, where the crowds usually hangout in between periods and lunch breaks, a desert lies. The busy Jollibee had closed, leaving traces of memories within its walls. Its fate, similar to the convenience stores around the university, all covered with blank manila papers with no notes of return. The McDonald’s in P. Noval shut down, I remember walking by and seeing how packed it was every single day, especially during exam seasons; how it shined so bright under the midnight sky where Noval was silent, sleeping, getting ready for another busy day. 

Breakfast dates in McDonald’s Carpark come to mind, the long lines and full tables, the water dripping from the roof outside, wondering where it came from. How shattering it was to see that it closed down. It was one of the go-to food chains inside, who knew that it would end up the way it did? Not me, not in a million years. 

Antonio now can no longer be recognized—empty and quiet, without any hint of fast-moving footsteps. 

Remember how the golden sunlight covered the whole field? How it passed through branches and made you realize how easy it was to love mornings in UST? How the uneven pavement made your friend almost trip, making you laugh then after, it happened to you too? The scorching heat whenever you pass by Plaza Mayor and getting caught up by the 12 o’clock prayer, preventing you from taking shelter to avoid the heat, the long walks in lovers’ lane at night where you awkwardly pass at couples, the slow-paced walking of other students along UST Health Service, and the fountain in Q. Park that’s capable of giving you a heart attack everytime it bursts. It’s funny because I used to dread those moments but now, they are the ones that I truly miss. 

During October, the Paskuhan season starts, the lights all over bring magic to our lonely and tiring days. Now, a plain skeleton of the Christmas tree stands tall beside the grandstand with no company.

Remember how the golden sunlight covered the field? How it passed through branches and made you realize how easy it was to love mornings in UST?

It’s saddening. Eight months in and we still don’t know what the future holds. As for now, we only rely on the power of technology, on the spontaneous zoom calls with friends, on binging series and movies, and even just by taking a deep breath. 

If we only knew what would happen, we could have taken the time to feel that one last hug from our friends, to take time in eating at our favorite place, to spend an extra hour in the library, to walk slowly towards our buildings––enduring the simplicity of a normal day, because right now there is this lingering guilt that keeps on making us realize how we took things for granted and to be completely and brutally honest, I think we’re nearing towards the breaking point.

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