October 2, 2023

The night before Arnie’s flight to Cambodia, we had dinner with Joy – a college friend who now works as a jail guard in Manila. It was the same day that Benguet State University had their graduation and the first and lone summa cum laude Vjnyl Pondivida, whom we fondly call Vaja received her award.
Arnie, Vaja and I have one thing in common – we all worked in the school newspaper, The Mountain Collegian.
There was heavy downpour the afternoon Arnie, Joy, and I met. They arrived dripping and their shoes soaked.
Both of them missed Baguio – the cold weather and the thick fog would become a distant memory for both of them since Cambodia and Manila experienced urban heat.
It is vacation time and most overseas workers and those who work in different regions are also coming home to be reunited with their family members, friends, and their community.
Arnie is preoccupied with the things he will carry back to Cambodia – he has pasalubong and pasabay for other Filipinos there.
He said “They asked me to buy Good Shepherd’s ube jam, Magic Sarap, canned goods, and noodles. One colleague even requested Rexona sachets; another one asked me to buy ostia for their Sabbath day.”
We all laughed and kidded ourselves with these fond memories of our life in college and how our careers now have changed us and given us a lot of insights into life.
Joy shared about the things she experienced in Manila. She is an Education graduate but during the pandemic, she applied to work. She now has short hair, she lost weight, and sporty akin to her profession. She said, “During the preparation, we had physical training and learned combat skills. You know, at first, I didn’t join the common bath and stayed in the female cubicle, but now all form of malice was stripped out from me.”
She shared about the growing number of persons deprived of liberty under their watch, many rape cases and murders were recorded. The PDLs were children, women, and senior citizens too.
Our discussion would heat up when politics came into play, the controversial system at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
Arnie and I defend the media because we know how journalists work hard to check those in power, and now that I study in University of the Philippines Baguio, all the more that I felt like we are being torn apart because of our diverging views and the polarizing effect of social media and disinformation. This leaves a bitter taste in our mouths, we are almost sorry about the state of divisiveness we are in, good thing we finished eating already.
The menacing vibe and aura between the journalist, the academic, and the uniformed personnel with the red-tagging and hate that proliferate in social media make us guarded and awkward in our dealings, given the fact that some of them are our family members, friends, and colleagues.
When Joy asked me why I tend to post my political views on social media, I explained modestly, “Political leadership and the administration come and go but we should not sacrifice relationships. Our political views right now are shaped by many things, our experiences, our conscience, and admittedly our “interests”. But I will not apologize for the things I believe in because I earned them, I spend time reading my history books and following current events in the newspapers.
As a teacher, I enrolled in advanced education to have informed knowledge on different aspects and share this with my students. What I mean to say is that my confidence in the truth comes from the effort in learning and studying and not being fed by “fake news”, disinformation, and propaganda.
We should not defend the culture of killings or the barbaric approach of a macho chauvinist leader, those who thrive in their corruption, and distort our history to their liking.
The online world has intercepted our lives now more than ever. We cannot help but be confronted by political things when we deal with each other face-to-face. But we hold on to our persistent relational values. This night shouldn’t end this way, so with many of our dealings with each other, I said to myself.
I learned to compose myself in times of heated argument, most of the time that night, I chose to be quiet so as not to provoke further argument. I realized that when we disagree with each other’s view, we should be cool and light like our Baguio weather. It should not also poison our appetite and our heart.
I then reminded myself of the reason we met in the first place – even how difficult. We chose to unite, reach out to each another, cross the distance of time and respect the being that life and moment have brought us. That night after the heavy rain inside a cozy coffee shop, we bid peace to each other before we said goodnight.