April 1, 2016 By Lourd Perpena | April 30, 2016
It’s 6 am. My class doesn’t start until 2:30 this afternoon. I’m graduating this year so I really have no reason to be awake at this time of day. It’s too early.
My eyes are open, and everything seems blurry. The grayness of the early morning surrounds me, and the silence of a new awakening drowns me. In this limbo between being asleep and being awake, my mind wanders off into thoughts of long ago, sealed somewhere in the back of my mind. Some are about lost love, more nostalgia than pain or anything else, really. Some are about the classes I’ve taken, those I’ve come to regret having taken at all, and those I’ve come to love and cherish, as time closes in on my last hours as a student. Still, I rarely bother with them anymore. These thoughts are done. They’re supposed to be forgotten. Why should I still think about them?
The silence breaks.
My eyes are open, but everything seems blurry. I am now completely awake, but afflicted with a different kind of stillness, one that feels like a double in gravity. This is a stillness that has allowed me to move, but won’t allow me to take a step without the sting of a painful memory. This stillness keeps me awake and isn’t something I can leave back home on my bed. It would follow me into the campus, in an Ikot jeep, while sitting in the tambayan, while seeing a friend cry and feeling the pain that she feels.
The grayness of the early morning was with me as I went on with my life that day. It was so simple, too, how this moving stillness has come. The idea was dressed in only three words, spoken suddenly and without warning:
“Nasunog ang FC.”
These few words had the power to turn me into mere switches and clicks, so that every memory I’ve ever had, and every emotion I’ve ever felt while inside that building came gushing into every crevice within my body. I distinctly remember the first moment I stepped foot in that building, not as a freshie mistakenly looking for CAL (as a lot of other students might have done), but as someone passing through. The cats seemingly guarding the front steps, the greenery that sets a peaceful tone from the outside, and the countless doors at every hallway all used to be part of a background, appearing meaningless to the eye of a freshman just having a walk. Every priceless piece of research behind those closed doors is all gone, and the memories that the Professors have created along the way may soon fade into the past, as all memories do. Indeed, from both the outside and inside, the FC would always be left with a burnt scar.
As I think of all of this and more, my day moves on without me. My body barely reacts to the odd heat of the day. I face everyone with a familiar smile and tone of voice, all thanks to muscle memory. Every interaction seems distant and every syllable I speak all sounds dripping with tears, if only to me. The stillness that has been following me since morning has become silence, the kind that hears but doesn’t really listen. It was there in class, in every conversation, and the ikot jeep on the way home. And it doesn’t help to remember that I wasn’t there.
I wasn’t there when the fire raged. I wasn’t there when the cause for the broken hearts of a whole community disturbed our peace. I wasn’t there during the attempted murder of ideas.
I’m graduating. I really have no reason to think about this. These thoughts are done. I have no reason to think about them. I should sit around silently and read. Finish up with my classes. Graduate. Leave this place. Forget.
Or maybe I shouldn’t. We have to find out who did this. Make them pay. Marcos loyalists ito diba? At Marcos loyalists man o hindi, bakit nga ba hindi tayo nabigyan ng sapat na tao para maiwasan ang ganitong trahedya? Where was everybody? Where was our government?
Or maybe I should have been there. I could have probably done something, right? I could have caught the arsonist or stopped the accident, whatever the hell happened in that place. I don’t need to write this.
Or maybe, it’s all a waste.
It’s 6 p.m. Class didn’t end early enough and my body still carries its own burden. I feel weak.
The silence of a new awakening drowns me. I don’t feel the need to do anything. So, I sit, allowing every emotion to brew within me, and every question I have to ask itself. It all starts with, “Why?”
Why did any of this have to happen?
How do we get up from this?
A better question yet:
Do we all end with a scar?
Yes, a part of UP died or was hurt when the Faculty Center burned down. Nothing could ever replace the manuscripts, the first edition books, and the memories each and every one of us, student or faculty, shared in our little home within campus. But it would take more than that to kill an idea, an idea that reminds us of Honor — that now do we bow our heads in grievance but never would we lie down in defeat — and Excellence — that while we are at a difficult point in an equally depressing time, we will find our way, through our solid community and through the love that we bear for our university and the university of and for the people.
This scar does mark us, but it will not define us.
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