Since the beginning of time, man has struggled with his purpose. Since the beginning of time, man has questioned why he was put on earth. This is not a religious issue, it’s a human issue. You don’t have to be religious to question why you’re here. I’d like to think that I was put here on earth to inspire, build up and move people through my talent. I’d like to think of myself as a writer, an essayist, specifically. But I have not always used my talent to inspire people. On the contrary, when I started writing it was with less than noble intentions. You see, I started with a gossip blog, inspired by Gossip Girl herself. Although, I couldn’t be as vicious and cut throat as her. But that didn’t stop me from trying.
It was a school project. Start a blog and fill it with your thoughts and submit it to the teacher. So I decided, just to be unique, to focus on school gossip. Oh the people I’ve hurt, even without them knowing it. Of course, I tried keep secret, but a few people found out. Not everyone, though. Just a very select few. They kept saying that I’m good writer, that I should continue with my writings. So I did. I had my share of doling secrets, of revealing skeletons in the closets. But in process of trying to be a writer, I have caused hurt to a lot of people. That blog went on well after the project deadline. It grew into something I didn’t expect to be. It was my very first taste into writing. You see, it wasn’t the writing process that excited me, it was when people read about what I wrote. But just before I stepped into college, I decided to delete my former blog which had the tagline, “Walls have ears. I’ll be listening.” I decided that more than getting recognition for my “gossip blog”, I’d try to use my talent to inspire people. You see, I was using my talent to hurt people, to cause pain. I was using my talent to destroy reputations instead of building up lives. So when I started this blog, The Scribbler, I decided that all that has to stop. That nothing of that nature will ever be published in this website. I decided that my calling to be a writer is a calling to be an inspiration, to be the voice of the weak and few.
And so let me end with this. Just today I was reminded why I wanted to be a writer. I came across this entry on facebook written by a Mr. C.J. Chanco:
I was at first reluctant to write this. Afraid of being accused of taking literary advantage of life’s many tragedies. But some things cannot be left unsaid.
A few hours ago, a man lay motionless on the sidewalk below the LRT right across De La Salle University-Manila. It was clear he was sick, and needed urgent attention. He was a de-padyak driver.
Security guards from DLSU were the first to arrive on the scene, I was told. His pedicab had stalled for half an hour in a corner of Taft before I arrived. I would not have seen him if the jeepney I’d been riding had not stopped at Quirino, and I had to walk the rest of the way, to V. Cruz.
The guards were reluctant to shelter him in the university. The DLSU clinic had apparently refused to grant him entry.
Maybe one of the nurses could come out and see him then? I asked. To verify, at the very least, whether or not he was alive?
They would have to check. Would have to seek bureaucratic approval from the school authorities. Bureaucratic approval for the life of a man, who just might be a con artist. It was Standard Operating Procedure, after all. Perfectly understandable.
Okay. Did he have a phone? Maybe we could call his relatives.
There was nothing in his belt bag. Someone had probably snatched it in the quarter of an hour or so that he lay slumped, motionless, inside his pedicab before the guards arrived to check on him. (Only the DLSU guards, btw, did anything. There were a couple of cops and an MMDA officer on hand and they did all they could… as passive observers)
I felt for a pulse. Nothing. The guards performed CPR for the second time. One of the bystanders, recognizing him, had rushed to alert his relatives. He was from Munoz.
We looked desperately for a cab, an FX, a bus, another pedicab – anything – to take him to the hospital. A full twenty minutes ticked by, and not one of the cars stopped to pick him up, or even paused to see what was happening.
Not even in pinoy usisero spirit.
His family arrived minutes later. Amid the increasingly hysterical wails of a woman, presumably his wife, I could only catch that it was his “pangalawang beses” (Second what? Stroke? Heart attack? Seizure?)
At this point, I knew it was too late. Even a man without a medical degree can understand the first ten minutes after a heart attack or a seizure can mean the difference beween life and death.
At this point, not one of the La Salle students streaming out of Henry Sy Hall and into their private cars bothered to look. A crowd, however, did gather around the man’s body, which was rapidly turning cold: his fellow de-padyak drivers, JC, Renzo and the other street kids, who were flagging down occupied taxis and banging car windows to get them to pay attention. Not one of them ever did, and only a tricycle driver – probably another relative –finally agreed to take him to Ospital ng Maynila.
The rain was pouring down in droves, of course, and it was rush hour. Perfectly understandable.
I, for my part, was useless, as usual. I never got the man’s name. As his family brought his body (now cold and stiff) into the pedicab, I could only watch the scene unfold . Moments like these, I would later realize, bring a certain mental clarity, a numb blankness, before questions (and guilt) start nagging at the back of one’s head…
If the man did not have to pedal in vain for hours on end, ferrying St Scho, CSB and DLSU students to and from the bars and discos around Taft – in the heat and the rain, for less than a hundred pesos a day – would he have suffered the same fate?
If he had collapsed in a sports car, carried a La Salle ID (as I did) – or was, for instance, someone’s prized purebred pet dog and not a human being –would De La Salle, Inc. have let him in*?
He was around 50 – old enough to be my father. Did he have children? A wife? A pet dog? Could he afford maintenance meds? Did he have a doctor? Did he have health insurance?
If his family took him to a public hospital, would they have to foot the bill?
Would the doctors even give a fucking damn?
We are told, at times like these, not to overreact, not to be emotional. That it happens all the time. That there is nothing we can do. That children and old men collapse of neglect, starvation, or sheer exhaustion, every single day. That they die ignominious deaths out on the streets, in slums, in war zones, in prisons, in dumpsites, in distant lands far from their families.
That they drop dead like flies. As nameless in death as in birth. The fact is: the way we treat these nameless millions in death is in direct correlation with the way we regard them in life.
That is, like trash. To be flushed out of the streets.
I am struck at the callousness of universities that earn tens of millions of pesos to teach their students how *not* to give a damn about the plight of the rest of society, in the world beyond their white walls, beyond their conscience-tight, air-conditioned classrooms.
As though money can ever shield young people from reality. But they end up blinded, not immunized.
I am struck at the reality of how cheap life is, in a society that wears its values and casts them off when they prove inconvenient; casts them off like they shrug off countless, nameless millions because they are somehow beneath us.
It’s as cheap as our collective hypocrisy.
(*The La Salle guards did all they could at the time and had already gone far beyond the call of duty. The DLSU admin, the MMDA and the PNP are different matters entirely.)