Monday, September 21, 2020

My Martial Law Story: Escape From The JS Prom by Cynia Mirasol and Cymark Ferdinand Mirasol

It’s quite reassuring to see the many varieties of apples and oranges that you can readily buy from sidewalk fruit vendors as well as supermarkets and even convenience stores nowadays. Speaking of apples, even a premium Apple iPhone is pretty much a common luxury for the ordinary gainfully employed individual who is willing to finance a premium subscription from any internet and telecommunications service provider operating here in the Philippines.

Of course, there was a time when it wasn’t always this way. Back in the 70’s for example, an apple cost around 60 pesos and could only be purchased in special designated stores – that is, if you could afford to buy one in the first place. Adjusted for inflation in 2020, ( that’s  ₱4,815.34 for one apple – the fruit, not the gadget.

Fittingly enough, this story takes place somewhere around 1975, as far back as my hazy memories allow – basically, smack dab in the heat of Marcos’ Martial Law. Nowadays, hysterical revisionists (that wasn’t a typo) may try to paint Marcos as a hero, but as a person who has actually lived through those turbulent times, I do hope this personal anecdote of mine can at least shed some light on how life was lived… at the time when the Conjugal Dictators ruled the Philippines.

Very vividly, I remember that this story took place on the 22nd of a February. This much is accurate because it would be my boyfriend and future husband, Ferdie’s birthday the next day. At this time, we were attending a JS Prom for our Political Science class. It was a joint party with us, the third year students as well as the graduating 4th year students at a rented house together with Attorney Ladrido, our favorite teacher for the “Polysigh” Political Science Club. He was also accompanied by Attorney Segundina Navarro, who co-hosted the party.  We had all planned to spend the night in the house and come home by morning.

As you would probably expect, a curfew was in effect and once the sirens resounded at around 10:00 PM, everyone was expected to be in their homes with the lights out and with only dim lighting even within their own houses. Bright lights would attract the local police force monitoring the area and anyone caught holding gatherings or engaging in any activities that even attracted the least bit of suspicion would be immediately incarcerated overnight. Fortunately, as long as you weren’t connected with any rebel faction, you would be released immediately the day after. In Iloilo City in particular, the horror stories of the Martial Law era were not as pronounced – of course, you should also realize that smartphones and modern information dissemination simply did not exist. In fact, this is a good time to mention that not a lot of people had TVs and you had to take whatever you heard over the radio with a grain of salt because the government could be controlling even media coverage in the background – these were dark times.

“Dark” is actually a good way to describe the martial law era as even our JS Prom had to be held in the dark and in secret so as not to arouse the suspicion of any whistleblowers in the area. After all, we were actually conducting an illegal activity. Parties and other social gatherings were simply forbidden.

Still, even though we made sure to take all necessary precautions and even though Attorney Ladrido himself assured us that it would be fine, the worst-case scenario did indeed happen. Nobody knows who exactly tipped off the police at that time, but all that we know is that at around 11:40 PM sharp, we heard the roar of a police car speeding towards our location and the blare of sirens all around us.

Most of us had already resigned ourselves to spending the night in prison… that is, all of us except my Ferdie, who told me quite plainly:

“Day, indi ko ya magpaprisohan. Birthday ko ya sa bwas.” (My dear, I will not go to prison. It’s my birthday tomorrow)

Therefore, I hatched a plan. It would be a bit risky because we faced a greater penalty if we were caught, but I was certain that it would work. We silently separated ourselves from the rest of our companions. My husband, another classmate named Arnel, and myself. Arnel and I were quite familiar with the layout of the area – even in the dark, because we lived just a few blocks away. My plan was very simple: using the cover of darkness, we’d scale the walls and then tiptoe right on the concrete walls several houses away and then find some place to spend the night in with one of our neighbors in the area.

The first phase of the plan went very well. The police were still conversing with Attorney Ladrido outside the house just as we had scaled the walls. Several of our classmates wanted to come along with us, but in the end, only the three of us managed to make a successful escape. I had a hard time scaling the walls because I was on high heels, fortunately, I had a little boost from a classmate, Freddie. As we ran along the walls, I led the way being the most familiar with the area. Arnel was keeping up quite fine, but my husband – who was normally quite athletic himself, was not. He kept getting caught up in the barbed wires and shards of glass that lined the top of the walls because it was pitch-black and he was totally unfamiliar with the place.

I actually snickered a bit seeing him in his moment of weakness – which I immediately regretted when he looked at me with cold, accusing eyes and showed me his hands up close – which were bleeding with cuts and bruises.

At some point, the police actually shone their flashlights at the walls very near us, so we had to crouch down low with our hands and knees on the broken glass-laden top-plate of the walls. It was an intense 30 seconds or so before we could start moving again.

Eventually, we decided that we’d traveled far enough and finally dismounted from the walls. We were already about 6 six blocks away from the rented house at this point. Arnel’s house was nearby, so we went our separate ways there. We immediately ran towards the house of a close family friend, the Troncillo family – who graciously took us in. We spent the night in their living room and after that, we were home free.

It was definitely a harrowing experience, but we took a risk and it had paid off. We later learned that Attorney Ladrido, being a lawyer, had somehow managed to avoid being incarcerated, but he could not do the same for his students.

Some of our classmates harbored grudges over us for leaving them behind. I guess you could liken the sentiment to communism. If we suffer, we suffer together – so why did you go out of your way to free yourselves?  You can decide for yourself whether this is a good thing or a bad thing – but do know that none of the communist sentiments that the current generations seem to hold with such high regard are anything new nor novel – although it does amuse me how such elementary ideologies taken from a fanfiction written in 1848 seems to remain pervasive and relevant in the 21st century. I suppose this is why those who do not acknowledge history are already repeating it right now.

I have lived through one of the darkest times in Philippine History, but none as dark as the current period we are living in. The problem is that now we have TikTok, Mobile Legends, Dolphins and Dolomite white sands – which can feel overly bright amidst the darkness of the oppression that we are currently experiencing.

This was my martial law story – and simply one of many, but I feel that more stories like these need to be told, so that people never forget, despite the historical revisionism and confusing Dilawan vs DDs vs Marcos Apologist propaganda that has infiltrated and poisoned our perspectives, what it is that we have gained and what it is that we should never let go of. Never again, ever again.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Shoppee Pinball Machine Toy -- Video Review

 Fulfilling a childhood fantasy with this cheap but well-built toy Pinball Machine from Shoppee. Do you have any toys or stuff you wished you could have a child? It's never too late to have them now if/while you can. 

Life can be so fragile so its best to do things you like, make the happiest memories and enjoy yourself as long as you're not harming anyone else.

Sunday, August 30, 2020

Watercolor Painting Hatsune Miku 8/31/2020

 Naturally, after being a fan of Miku since she was covering Vandread's opening as sequenced by someone from the Lemmasoft Forums, I will continue to love her to this day and forever. 

Here's my contribution. Happy 13th birthday, Meeku-chan!

Saturday, May 30, 2020

That Time I Fought Everyone

Ever since I was a child, I’ve always had this strong sense of justice – albeit, that might sound a bit self-righteous by modern standards. Still, it is a personal virtue (in my opinion), that I’ve always held true to. 

Partially at least, I would attribute this to the myriad of superhero cartoons and other shows within the same genre that I grew up with. My favorite was definitely the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, which I religiously waited for every Friday night on ABS-CBN together with my big sister. Sometimes, the show would be canceled for something else for no particular reason. It also moved timeslots several times over the years. We loved the pilot episodes of the show when we first saw it via a rented betamax tape. Of course, we did start to notice that as the show went on, the turtles weren’t even using their weapons anymore. Eventually, the fighting devolved to tripping up their opponents with booby traps or smacking them with pizza pies to the face. The Shredder went from being some fearsome villain to a complete joke… but we tolerated it because we liked the show initially. Kids were generally simple that way. You might think this naïve, but information was not as accessible back then so we were unlikely to complain about every little thing; thus, radical progressive ideas just didn’t exist – at least as far as kids were concerned. Perhaps I’m alone in my thoughts, but to the best of my understanding, no kid in the 90’s was thinking about LGBTBBQOMGWTFLOL and SJW feminist rights, kids just wanted to have fun and not be spoonfed pseudo-facts with politically-colored intentions by social justice warriors using “kindness” as a weapon to ironically and hypocritically spew unkind words upon the rest of humanity who disagree with their snowflake mentality.

So? Did this result in inhumane, suppressed conditions leading to a lifetime of trauma for people who wish to be called “persons” and not be defined by binary pronouns? Uh… no, but you’re free to think that way if it helps you sleep better at night. At least none of my classmates from IAMS – even the openly homosexual ones (yes, they existed) felt depressed, repressed, or oppressed – but perhaps that’s just me being a privileged white male imposing my own thoughts on someone else – oh wait, I’m a chinky-eyed Filipino from a small island in the Philippines – how does that work?

In any case, this was a time before cable TV and our parents would rent out a new betamax tape or two for us every weekend at a local video rental shop called Video World. Surprisingly, it still exists today, although it moved from The Amigo Plaza Hotel Mall to a place somewhere in Calle Real. A few other notable shows I grew up with were G.I. Joe, Transformers, He-Man, She-Ra, My Little Pony, Rainbow Brite, The Smurfs, Ewoks – basically, many different shows wherein the main protagonists possess a strong sense of justice and the main overarching theme is about how good triumphs over evil.

Naturally, as we grow into all adulthood all of us eventually come to realize that our interactions with other individuals often fall somewhere in that gray area between what absolute good and absolute evil. Thus, as a 9 year-old child back then, I lived in this world of good versus evil – and so, this is how I chose to deal with the people around me.

This is one particular story of what I perceived to be a great injustice. Unfortunately, unlike the previous stories of my childhood days that I’ve written before, this one doesn’t end very well – but then again, such is life. Not everything is always resolved cleanly and all of us who have gotten this far often bear many emotional as well as physical scars from the past.

Roughly, I remember that it was about the middle of the school year when I’d finally settled down and been accepted as “one of the group,” as I was a transferee to IAMS at Grade 3. Just like most other kids my age, I loved to play – even if I am an introvert. It was early morning just before classes started and I was playing a game of tag with a friend from my class, Jerson. I was “it” and because he kept a considerable distance from me all the time and he was a pretty fast runner, I was having trouble tagging him.
This was when the wheels in my head began to turn. I made an exaggerated wheezing sound and put my hands on my bent knees with my head hung low as if I was out of breath. The ruse worked and he started gloating and dancing around while clinging to a metal pole. It was one of many metal poles around the IAMS campus grounds that was used to hang banners and stuff. It was cemented in place to an old wheel to make it easy to move around.

Anyway, I let Jerson gloat there for about 10-15 seconds while I kept pretending to be oh so tired… then suddenly, from out of nowhere, I pounced. I dashed in to tag him when he wasn’t looking and then disaster struck. The plan was so effective that he panicked when I tried to go in for the tag and rushed forward straight into the flagpole.

I asked him if he was ok and he covered his forehead, smiled at me and waved with his hand to tell me he was fine – but as soon as he took his hand off his forehead, blood spurted out like a fountain. He caught some of it on his hands and the look of shock on his face was akin to someone who was facing certain doom. 

The teachers and school security were quick to react. It must have taken them no more than a minute to get there and rush him to the hospital… but this is not the story of injustice – oh no, the story proper starts after Jerson’s accident.
I was quite shocked myself, so I slowly made my way back to our classroom and when I got there, I saw accusatory glances everywhere. I heard several remarks such as:

“Cymark! What have you done to Jerson?”

“What did Jerson ever do to you? You might have killed him?”

“It’s all your fault that Jerson is in the hospital!”

What is worse is that our homeroom teacher (in our terms, our “adviser”) but she seemed to be just allowing these things to happen unchecked. Perhaps, she herself believed that I was guilty.

Of course, I shouted out in protest that I didn’t do anything and that they weren’t even there to witness the accident. I told them to ask Jerson himself when he gets back.

But I was just a single voice in a sea of what I felt to be very unjust accusations. They were treating me like some kind of monster with fingers everywhere pointed in my direction like I was some kind of criminal. I couldn’t tell who was who anymore because more than any feelings of guilt, the rage at being so unjustly accused without even being heard out was smoldering like an uncontrollable wildfire inside of me.

I let out a scream of primal rage and concentrated all the power in my body. 

Our homeroom teacher panicked and instead of attempting to stop me herself, she called out for the boys in our class to restrain me because in her own words, “Naga incredible hulk sya!” (He’s becoming the incredible hulk)

This remark caused me to snap. I screamed: “Do not touch me or I will punch you! You think I’m guilty? Anyone who thinks I’m guilty come out here right now and line up! I’ll take you all on one by one!”

I marched out of the classroom pushing anyone who got in my face out of my way. As I said before, I didn’t even know who was who anymore. This was the angriest that I’d ever been in my entire life. To add to my indignation, I saw about six boys actually follow me out of the room.  I was thinking, “Oh, you’re approaching me? Then come as close as you like (lol you know how the Jojo meme goes)”
Before I knew it, even the girls had followed me out. There was a cyclone wire fence just outside our room and the walkway was on an elevated platform. I’d actually factored this in inside of my head when I asked any challengers to come follow me.

Then, without hesitation, I launched a flying lunge kick straight at the nearest boy and sent him tumbling over onto his back. This caused him to bowl over two more boys who quickly got up to try and hit me for that. However, there was a huge difference in our desires to fight. I for one was prepared to fight to the death any of my accusers at that point, but these other boys challenging me, I was pretty sure they had very little resolve. I just kept throwing lunge kicks in their direction and they kept just receiving it squarely on the torso forcing them to retreat. Eventually, one of them decide to kick me as well – so I kicked his foot, which sent him tumbling backwards like the rest of them. At the side, I saw Damian, my bully from before cheering me on for some reason. This caused me to smirk… which was then again wrongly interpreted by my homeroom teacher.

“Oh my God! He’s smiling! He’s being possessed by a demon!”

Of course, it had to come to an end eventually. I was suddenly yanked by my collar to the side by a burly handyman who works for the school. His nickname was “Nene,” but I never knew his real name. I screamed until my throat was sore for him to let me go and fight me man to man.

He was flabbergasted that I’d challenge him – an adult (he was a short, rotund man, just about the same height as me but much, much larger in terms of body mass.) He then took out some pliers and pointed them directly at my nose.
He told me:
“Maisog ka maskin imo pa sala? Gusto mo utdon ko ilong mo?” (You being stubborn even though it was your fault? Want me to cut off your nose?)

I screamed out once again, “WALA KO YA SALA!” (I WAS NOT AT FAULT!)

Eventually, I settled down and stopped struggling which caused him to let me go. We all went back to class and our homeroom teacher told everyone to be understanding towards me because even though I’m smart, I’m a bit special. I’m not sure how clever she thought she was, but the implication that I was autistic or was an “abno” as we used to call them did not escape me.

The good news is that Jerson returned to class by recess time and he clearly spelled it out for everyone that it was his own fault and not mine because we were both just playing around. I believe, at least, that my classmates did not hold any grudges against me for my unstoppable temper tantrum after this incident. 

In hindsight, this was an accident that would continue to haunt me for decades to come. Every now and then, I still have this recurring nightmare wherein I’m totally naked and being chased by a horde of native warriors armed with spears and bows while I’m running as fast as my legs would carry me not out of fear, but powered by the rage of not being able to fight back against the insurmountable force that is chasing me. The dream would always end when I’m cornered and I decide to fight back with all my might – only to punch the wall next to my bed in real life.

This incident taught me that there are some things in life that will always be beyond your control. People will form opinions about you based on their own personal biases and trying to change their minds will only hurt you in the end. Most of all, it taught me to harbor a certain disgust and distrust for groups and communities – especially the people who rely on them to validate their own existence. I learned to stand on my own in any endeavor – without relying on anyone else; a philosophy that I will always strive to live by.

Unfortunately, there is no happy ending to this story -- no clean resolution, but the silver lining is that no one was truly hurt beyond repair. Sometimes, this is the best that we can ask for in this cruel world of ours. Learn to live with the small heartaches and move forward. Stand up for your rights --always, but don't ever expect the world to be perfect.

Funnily enough, as I would learn later on, my mother had been through a similar incident in her adult life -- but that's a story for her to tell someday.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Fragments - A Free Ebook Of My 90's Recollections Plus A Bonus Short Story

Taking a short break from blogging this week to give you this compilation. Any new entries will be appended here as well.

Read the ebook for free here.

Here are some new fanart pieces I've finished recently btw.

Sailor Moon Redraw... but it's not Usagi

Saturday, May 16, 2020

To All The Boys I’ve Fought Before…

Human memory is often quite unreliable. As such, our fondest memories are often idealized to portray ourselves as the main protagonists of this unpredictable, ever-shifting, mixed genre adventure called “life.”

With this in mind, rather than fighting against my personal biases, I am a person who will gladly embrace them as indelible parts of my own individuality. After all, there is no one in existence who can actually claim to be completely neutral.  Furthermore, as aptly stated by Eli Weisel:

“Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim.”

Fortunately, I am rather confident that no feelings (or at least no one worthy of note other than those willing to find offense at every little thing) will be trampled and no persons shall be victimized by the admittedly biased, oft-unreliable, but hopefully entertaining recollections of a middle class almost-rich kid from the 90’s.

You may or may not be surprised by this, owing to my apparent loquaciousness, unnecessary verbosity, and love for the comma-splice in written narrative, but in all honesty, I am actually a very reserved person in real life. This is not to say that I am shy however. I have never once considered myself to be fearful of other people. Rather, I am and have always been an introvert.

Of course, given the clingy and extremely sociable nature of the regular Filipino, you can probably imagine how even just trying to mind your own business would eventually lead to other people attempting to mind your business for you – and of course, this is where the conflict begins. 

You see, I am reserved but I have a horrible temper. If perceive that someone has wronged me, I will return the favor exactly five times more in my mind. Now for a lot of you, being a “rich-kid” probably translates to living a pampered life among other rich-kids talking about yachts, fancy cars, and palatial estates – and yes, of course that was part of the package as well… but in all honesty, it was a very small part of the package. Perhaps this can be attributed to the fact that I was an “almost-rich kid” and not a “son of a multi-millionaire” rich kid – but I would say this is also due to the fact that was enrolled at the IAMS (Iloilo American Memorial School) where social standing and family pedigree didn’t really matter that much. In a way, life at IAMS was actually a bit of a meritocracy wherein each pupil was judged based on performance rather than connections. It was nice that way.

Therefore, due to the combination of having a short fuse combined with being generally reserved, I actually found myself in a staggering number of fistfights during my four blissful years at IAMS. In no particular order, these are some of my most memorable encounters.

Vs. Damian 

You remember the big bully that I talked about in my other entries? Well, this is the guy I was talking about. I don’t have a lot to say about this encounter because I’ve already covered it before. Damian was 2-3 times bigger than me in terms of body mass. We were about the same height. I managed to keep him on the defensive because I stole the momentum at the start of the fight. I’m fairly certain that he could have ended the fight in his favor rather quickly if he ever managed to grab a hold of me. Fortunately, the school security guard intervened before this could happen. All-in-all, I’d say the fight ended in a draw.

Vs. Robert 

I am not even sure why I fought this guy. He was about the same size as me with the same build. He used some really strong front kicks and corkscrew punches owing to his karate background. I have to say, he hits with such precision that his punches really drilled themselves into my body. They hurt much more than Damian’s heavy blows. Of course, having been trained in karate myself, I manage to land on him as much as he did on me and given that we both chose to engage and disengage at almost the same times, we each took a blow for a blow most of the time. The main difference between us is that I was willing to go for the face while he specifically went straight for my body – probably used to sparring and point fighting? Anyway, this fight was pretty much a draw. It ended when our classmates separated us after about three engagements.

Vs. Unknown Grade 5

This happened while we were playing a game of dampa^ on the IAMS outside stage wherein the Grade 5 also liked to play. One of them just suddenly came up to us and told us to leave. He was probably a foot taller than me, but rather scrawny. We refused and he singled me out and asked me if I wanted a fight. One thing that I learned from my father is to always and without fail to throw the first blow – so I did. I punched him straight in the gut and he buckled for a bit and the fight was on. He threw wild haymakers in a horizontal arc at me and I just threw straight corkscrew punches in response. Given that he kept getting hit in the chest and stomach area while only grazing my face with very weak, slap-like punches, I definitely got the better of that exchange. The fight ended when his buddies pulled him back and another bigger guy came up to challenge me. Fortunately, a teacher saw us and put a stop to it before we could begin again. I’m pretty sure I would have lost to the much bigger guy. Still, I won this fight pretty handily.

Vs. Lynnrd

This fight happened during my very first day at IAMS in Grade 3. Lynnrd was one of the biggest boys in the class second only to Joeceph. He challenged me to a fight for some reason and we met at the boys washroom (C.R./ Comfort Room) during lunchtime. The grade 6 boys were there for some reason and one of them told me that this is how they did things here. Whenever people wanted to fight, the Grade 6 would be around to officiate the bout and make sure nobody gets hurt too badly.

With that said, once we took our fighting stances, I stuck to my father’s advice and immediately rushed forward to throw a straight punch straight at Lynnrd’s face. He reeled back from the impact because well, being a lefty, I have a pretty mean straight even though I was basically a skeleton next to him in body mass.

He recovered quickly and put up his fists in front of his face and pointed in my direction. Sort of like a muay thai stance but lower at about chin level. He then just threw a barrage of punches machine-gun style at me. They didn’t really hurt as much as they were just plain heavy accounting for his much larger size. I was involuntarily pushed back but I kept trying to regain my footing while throwing the same corkscrew karate punches that I knew back at him. 

The “referee” grabbed us both by the throat and told us that it was enough when he saw that I was getting pushed back too much. In all honesty, this was a fight that I should have lost badly. However, because I landed the first and more significant strike and he didn’t really hurt me at all, I’ll call this one a draw.

Vs. Apol Ace

You know what? I can’t believe that I can even remember some of these names myself, but I do. Anyway, this wasn’t much of a fight. Apol came up to me after the fight with Lynnrd and taunted me about how I’d lost the fight even though he wasn’t even there when it happened. I asked him if he wanted to try and he immediately threw a kick to my midsection. Naturally, I responded with a kick right back at him. We kept exchanging side kicks and roundhouses like this for about 20 seconds before my mother came up and told us to stop playing around. 

Also, we became friends after this.

Vs. Julito 

I’m not sure if Julito remembers this one, but we actually fought once. What is amusing is that we didn’t even hate each other, we just wanted to have a little boxing match since my father taught me how to box and apparently, he had actually entered some amateur boxing matches in his area.

Well, this was pretty one-sided. He kept throwing jabs straight at my face – which I was totally unprepared for. I kept waiting for a straight or a hook so I could counter him but he never threw any of these and contentedly just jabbed through my guard. I tried to jab back, but since I wasn’t really trained to do this, I just kept eating counters whenever I did.

Over-all, this was the one fight that I lost pretty badly. There were no hard feelings afterwards though.

Vs. Abraham

And here is another fight that I’ve forgotten the reason for. All I know is that Abraham charged straight at me for some reason and held his hands way up high, like as high as his arms could reach and then started windmilling punches in my direction with rage. I was slightly unprepared so I ate about two-three of these before I could respond and started charging in to negate the arc of his attacks. I managed to land about two shots to his face before we were stopped. Over-all, this was a draw.
I miss these times…

Maybe I just have a penchant for violence, but I really enjoyed these times. There never really any bad blood between my opponents and I after any of these fights – and of course, there were no serious injuries either. It was some kind of unwritten rule between the boys, but even though we had access to box cutters, compasses, and scissors, no one ever actually thought of using these nor even resorting to low blows to the crotch area while fighting. 

I would say that a huge part of it is fear and respect. We feared not the opponent, but the consequences of elevating the fight to a different level. You see, as soon as you start bringing weapons into the mix, then you are basically giving your opponent free reign to do the same – and when weapons are involved, then fatalities and serious injuries will definitely follow. We were young and naïve back then, but we knew how to respect this simple cardinal rule. 

I can only speak for myself but, I would even go as far as to say that we had some semblance of what we would romantically call a “sense of honor” – something that I believe the world needs really badly, in this time of crisis when the human race may only be a few missteps from the brink of apocalypse.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

That Time I Ran From My Bully And Made A True Friend

One thing that I’ve noticed from Philippine movies and TV series is that there is always this idealized version of the so-called pffft… “class struggle” between the rich and the poor. This is something that has existed since the heydays of stars like Nora Aunor. Always, with a probability of 90% (I’m making up the percentage), the rich are portrayed in a negative light as the oppressors of the poor who are discriminated and bullied.

Now I’m not sure how much my anecdotal experiences echo that of others, but for me at least, the reverse has always been true. I’ve been through at least six different schools in my lifetime – three during my grade school years and I’ve had the privilege of interacting with kids of my age from different walks of life including super rich kids whose families could afford three mansions with three cars each and less privileged kids who basically lived in a one-room, two-square meter house made of bamboo and dried coconut leaves.

With that said, one thing that I’ve consistently noticed is that discriminatory behavior actually depends on which demographic has more members. Therefore, if the less-privileged kids have more members, then it’s the rich or in my case, almost-rich kid that gets singled out. You might be thinking, “But how can they even discriminate against you if they’re less privileged?” Well, it’s really quite simple:

“Don’t touch anything from our group’s vegetable planting project. You don’t know how to do this because you’re rich.”

“You’re drawing a witch with a broomstick? That’s not what it looks like. Have you even handled a broom a day in your life? Your parents didn’t teach you anything because you’re rich.”

“You can’t play with us. You get to play all the time at home because you’re rich.”

“I’m giving everyone a share of this chocolate bar – except you – because you’re rich.”

Well, you get the idea. Throughout this series, I’ve often referred to myself as an “almost-rich kid” and while I did talk a little bit about this when we first started, allow me now to elaborate a little bit on the subject.

My father was a successful lawyer in what was then considered to be the premiere law firm in Iloilo City. In fact, he mentored the current dean of the University of San Agustin’s Law School as one of the senior partners of said law firm.
As such, my “Papa,” (a name that he really wanted me to use, but that I barely ever called him because it just didn’t sound right to my ears) always told my sister and I that we weren’t rich but that we had just enough money compared to everyone else – of course, we didn’t really believe him.

The reality is that we had a huge mansion-level house, we could afford to buy a new car every year, we took a Rolex watch’s worth of money just to go on vacation to Manila in the nineties, and that we certainly had enough money to buy out the local toy and book store if my father so desired. Of course, just because we had enough money to buy just about anything I wanted, doesn’t mean I could have anything I want. My father was a very strict, almost militaristic man when it came to discipline. As such, we were always told to never ask for anything and to simply wait for him to offer to buy us something because that’s what good children did. Otherwise, we would be lectured on how spoiled and privileged we were and how other kids in other parts of the world were struggling and counting every single grain of rice that they could eat.

Speaking of eating, I was a very finicky eater back then and it showed in how scrawny I was. I have a strong aversion for seafood because all kinds of seafood just make me throw up upon touching my palate. The mere smell of seafood is enough to make me vomit. Yet, back then, I had to gulp down everything from fish to shrimp, squid and all manner of seafood that I detested or risk getting slapped, punched or otherwise being subjected to violence from my father.

With that aside, this was the norm for me and I assume this was the norm for many other children similarly situated during the nineties. Yes, the terms “child abuse” and “traumatizing” did exist during these times, but not quite to the level that the modern snowflake generation have popularized these concepts. To set thing straight: I do not blame my father for his ways nor have I ever fault traumatized by these experiences.
Growing up with this kind of passive upbringing of never asking and just waiting for things to be given to me taught me how to survive and make the best of any situation… and it helped out a lot in this one instance.

Long expositions aside, this is the story of how I eventually befriended a bully.

Let us travel back (again) to 1993 and the time when I was a transferee to the Iloilo American Memorial School. By the middle of the school year, I had gradually been accepted as a part of the group after a rather rough start that began with a fistfight during my very first day. It was then that I had a rather iconic fight with a much bigger bully that somewhat ended in a draw thanks to timely intervention by the school’s security guard. This is the second part of that story.

You see, unlike in anime wherein “defeat means friendship,” my bully and I did not really start to get along with each other after that fight. It must have been a week later, but the bully (and I say that he’s a bully just because he’s larger than me, by the way), challenged me to another fight after school. Of course, me being the sucker for honor and pride that I am, I did not back down from this challenge.

Therefore, after school at about 4:30 PM, my bully started seeking me out all over the school. Now there is one more thing that I learned about survival during my younger years and this lesson came from my older sister.

Just like Maria from Hayate the Combat Butler, my older sister was always invincible at games, real-life games. This is because she had this winning philosophy: “If you can’t win, then make up a new rule that allows you to win.” Therefore, in all kinds of children’s games from tag to hide and seek, my sister would always be number one because if she lost, she made up a new rule that somehow made her the winner, and if you refused to acknowledge this rule, then she’d no longer play with you.

With this in mind, instead of confronting my bully head on, I hid. Of course, I didn’t plan to hide from him forever or else he’d think that I was a coward. At about 4:45 PM based on my wristwatch, I came out, near the entrance of the school and yelled at him to come and get me.

Naturally, since he was gung-ho for a rematch, he charged straight at me… which was my signal to run for the exit. He started shouting at me asking me why I was running. I replied that I was just relocating our fight to a bigger location.

This was actually the first time that I’d ever been out of the school on my own. My parents always came to fetch me to and from school in our car – and they would do the same today at about 5:00 PM. I would be safe by then, but I’d need to keep my bully occupied for about fifteen minutes.

I followed the street and turned the corner just before the main highway where cars were moving at high speed. I followed the footwalk and eventually reached a small toy store. I ran inside quickly to hide.
The truth is that I had no plans at all of engaging in another fistfight with this bully. The last time, I got lucky. I managed to distract him with a pik-nik can lid and then I surprised him again by charging in all the time and not allowing him to initiate any kind of offense against me.

Well, as I’d learned from being in class with him over several months, this particular bully was extremely intelligent and by this time, I’m pretty sure he’d figured out that in a fair fight with no other external factors, he would overwhelm me pretty quickly. We both knew how this would turn out – and of course, I was determined not to let that happen.

Anyway, after about five minutes, I peeked out – and saw that he was quickly approaching the toy store. He hadn’t seen me yet so I snuck out and quickly ran even further. In fact, If I’d gone even just a little bit further, I’d probably have reached my mother’s university – which was just about five blocks away from IAMS. When I looked back, I saw that my bully had probably gotten tired of following me around and saw him walking back to our school. I waited till he’d turned the corner and then cautiously made my way back to the school myself when suddenly:


He peeked out from behind the corner and then beckoned me to come and fight him. It was 4:55 at this point. This time, I had no more excuses – and not a lot of room to retreat. I clenched my fists and prepared to charge him. This was a fight that I was certain to lose. By the way, my father had actually taught me Karate and some boxing, but against an opponent who was probably three weight classes above me, nothing I knew was going to work. Still I prepared to charge forward and he did the same. As expected, he understood what happened the last time and wasn’t going to allow it to happen again.

“Cymark! Ga ano ka di sa sagwa!?” (Cymark, what are you doing here outside?)

I heard my mother shouting out from the side window of our car. Naturally, there was no way we were going to fight now – not in front my parents. Not even my bully would be that brazen.

So… what could we do at that point. Well, I calmly approached him and he slung his hand around my shoulder and I did the same. We walked together back to the school like we were the best of friends.

My mother got off from our car to talk to us. She asked my “friend” a few things like his name and where he lived. Then she told him not to allow me to walk around outside of the school because I wasn’t used to being outside.

From that point on, my bully never challenged me to another fight, but we started acting more familiar with each other like we'd always been friends. Over my four long years at IAMS, we did become really good friends. Of course, because cellphones and communication gadgets still weren’t popular at that time, we were never really able to keep in touch as we went our separate ways after graduation.

Still, even through the distance that time has created between us, you know who you are, my friend. I hope I am still yours.