The Cynic in Me

The cynic in me has kept me away from this blog, and this entry is an attempt at an exorcism.

I used to love to write. It wasn’t about catharsis. It was about thinking. Writing on this blog was like bouncing ideas off with a good friend. Committing my thoughts into words helped me filter through the books I read, the music I listen to, the lectures I deliver, the people I meet,  until all I am left with are the lessons I’ve learned.

So when I don’t write, it’s either nothing’s happening to me or I learn nothing from the things that do. Hence what kept me away? Try both.

My slide to cynicism began towards the end of last school year. Having all your hard work shoved aside does that to you. To those who don’t know what happened, here’s the Cliff Notes version.

I was assigned as the Batch Adviser of Batch 2011 for SY 2008/09.  They were a great batch. They had competent leaders, fun and pleasing personalities, and as students I considered them among the best I’ve handled. I also had to work with their parents. I was intimidated with the prospect at first but looking back now, I had nothing to worry about. They took on me as a partner and friend, and together we all did some pretty amazing things.

Amazing things, but no thanks to the powers that be. We students and parents ran a well-oiled machine for the entire year. We met, conferred and assembled regularly, and clear time tables for projects and activities were kept. A field trip and batch party were scheduled to culminate the year. All of us had our eyes on them, and they motivated us to cooperate, raise money, and follow a single track.

Then a moratorium was suddenly imposed. Activities in March were prohibited with no warning or precedent. All our well-laid plans were taken off the table.

I can divulge the real story behind the ‘moratorium’ but not without sounding vindictive and accusatory, so I will defer for now. Suffice to say, they had no grounds for doing so and the way they treated our appeals and requests was simply too unprofessional. Government bureaucracy has this way of making you feel like you made a mistake even though you were always in the right and it was they who fucked up.

Yes, I am still angry to this day. I am still seething. I am heartbroken. This is why I haven’t been writing.

As a student of politics, I will be the first to say that I don’t like it. I believe that people have the capacity to do the right thing and so I always allow them the opportunity to do so provided they have the right information and the proper choices in front of them. And yet evil persists even when good men do everything.

Just imagine the advice that one administrator gave — since the school can no longer sanction our activities, they recommend that we do so on our own. During one conversation, I was even advised that it would be better that the parents sponsor the activities and that they invite me in my personal capacity so that I wouldn’t be liable. Imagine that — so I wouldn’t be liable.

Wow. I am appalled with how this person preaches vicarious liability but lets go of it the first moment it becomes inconvenient. I hope this person feels some shame. I hope this person resigns. What that person said and did is a betrayal of the highest order, and traitors are the worst people for me.

And then there was this thing about the batch party which we proposed to be held in the school gymnasium. They said that we couldn’t use it because a structural test allegedly says that it wouldn’t survive an earthquake (though the teachers holding office in the gym never saw any tester come in). And yet — lo and behold — where was the graduation held? In the gym. What a lie. Perhaps they can tell us that there was no choice since the rains started to fall. Keep your excuses. We too had no choice but to hold our affair outside and pay rent thanks to your fine decision making.

That conversation and other events that soon followed made me lose complete trust and faith in the system. I now perceive it as inherently flawed (and all the issues surrounding graduation only reinforced that perception).  We have reached the limits of the medieval, feudalistic notion of putting seasoned and credentialed people into positions of authority. Instead, we need to revise the way we think and emphasize character and achievement when placing people into positions of responsibility. The problems in the Philippine Science High School are systemic, historic, institutional, and deep, but they aren’t our own.

These are the same problems that plague Philippine society at large. The incompetency and ineptitude of our government bureaucracy has led many to be cynical — a position where though people may know better, they do otherwise despite it. Call it indifference or apathy. But when people disengage themselves from the system even when their very engagement is its only chance to change, then we conclude that we are nothing but a nation of cynics.

And this is where I have been.

I decided to spare us all from my cynicism, but I also couldn’t write coming from such a dark place. I’ve always been known for my idealism, my determination, and my refusal to compromise. I realize now that these are what make me good at what I do — whatever that may be. Being cynical made me uninspired and unmotivated, and I couldn’t imagine teaching a new batch of students in such a state.

Perhaps, what the past month or so taught me is that I need to find new ways for my ideals and beliefs to speak to me in this more complex world. This is what some people haphazardly describe as compromising with reality, but I reject that.

I reject that for I don’t see the world as imperfect but as incomplete. To call it the former carries the expectation that it must be perfect, but I know it isn’t so. It is inherently flawed. What I do know is that it is incomplete, and that every single thing we do contributes to its completion. The only tragedy is that we’ll never see it whole, but we do our best nonetheless. And we know that we have done so when future generations live a little more fully, a little more complete.

I know fully well that I can contribute more towards this task of ‘completing the world’ by working outside of Philippine Science. I am determined to leave soon. I just have a good deal of unfinished business and once I’ve cleared that mark, then nothing remains to keep me.

I will miss my students, but the time for singing platitudes and saying farewells has not yet come. I do feel that I haven’t said goodbye to Batch 2011 well enough, or at least not in a manner that satisfies the narrator in me.

For the past month has been dark, but there has always been a light at the end of a long tunnel. And as I neared the end, markers began to appear on the walls, urging me to carry on. Smaller lights began to come into view, showing me the contours of the floor and helping me keep balance as I walk out of darkness. Now I am almost out.

Thanks to you. Thanks to the good times we have shared and all the hard work we have done. When we partied anyway and climbed Mt. Pinatubo anyway, you made me believe that the path to success can be through any way. There always is. I will never forget that. Being Batch Adviser is an assignment I’ve long wanted, and you all made it worth it.

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12 thoughts on “The Cynic in Me

  1. It’s times like these when we realize how large an impact a single person can have on the lives of so many people.

    Over the short year that I’ve known you, I’ve seen you as so many things. An awesome teacher, not limiting his curriculum to the classroom lessons, but going beyond and painting a vivid, brilliant picture of life, and how to apply what you teach us to it. A leader, spearheading the most enjoyable school activities I’ve ever had the pleasure and honor to experience. A close friend, someone to talk to when I’m bored, someone to rant to about racists, someone to gossip to about experiences, personal and not, someone to go to when hormones attack and I need someone to redirect the weirdness at. I’m sure that I’m not the only one who has shared experiences like these with you, but I AM sure that everyone who has, will treasure these memories of you.

    Of course I’d like you to stay but from the moment you became our teacher, I somehow had a sense of what you were really capable of, a sense of a greatness of person in you that isn’t something you see everyday, especially in our country right now, something that kept me wondering why you were teaching in Pisay than out there, being Sir Martin, not just to we Pisay students, but to everyone who needs someone like you in their lives to wake you up.

    I remember talking with you, and you mentioning in passing about leaving Pisay but I didn’t take it seriously, hoping that that wouldn’t be the case. However, I see that, like many things in life, hoping but not expecting is always the way to go. It’s undeniable that I, along with everyone who’s been under you will miss you terribly, and will ask many questions, like what’s next for you? What’s to happen to Aksis, and all the wonderful activities you’ve planned for the incoming year? Personally, I’ve been looking so forward to the next Sigaw, as well as many of the other things Aksis planned for the next year.

    When you leave Pisay, so will a great part of our lives. The students are aware of just how much they’ll lose. It’s just sad that Pisay itself might not.

    I’ll miss you sir. Are you dead set on this? No way at all to change your mind?

    And I miss talking to you. The invite to my house is still open I just need to organize it. Still up for it? :<

  2. My most recent blog entry echoes your sentiments about writing. I didn’t want to leave a huge steaming pile of this on my doorstep, so I avoided writing about it.

    Needless to say, I’ve also been bitten rather painfully by the system, but as I said, talking about it here is the equivalent of defecating on your doorstep. I would not do that to a friend (likely not even to an enemy).

    I’m determined to leave PSHS after this year.

  3. As I’ve said, Dante, I am not leaving yet. I mentioned I still have unfinished business, and that includes a lot of what you have written down towards the end there. 😉

  4. Oh THAT’s the unfinished business you were talking about? That’s such a relief. @_@ I don’t want one of the best reasons for being a pisay student to vanish just like that >.< 😀 So how’s your schedule for a party? 😀

  5. A suffocating bureaucracy like the one hovering over you teachers should hinder quality education. Yet in your short stay, you’ve consistently managed to deliver lessons in a unique and memorable fashion. Despite all the obstacles inherent in our government-run institution, you, and many other teachers, have been positive and unforgettable influences to hundreds of young Filipinos.

    Your frustration at the system reflects the so-called “Brain Drain” our country suffers from. People who care and can make a difference aren’t encouraged, but actively dissuaded from service.

    I wish you the best in your future endeavors when you do finally leave our school. Hopefully, our country will find another use for your considerable talents.

    And if everything goes well in a few years, hopefully I’ll step in and help fill the void left by all of your inevitable departures. 🙂 Not in the Humanities though… Maybe Biology. 😛

    Good luck with everything!

  6. I know really…

    I did suffer something very similar to this: my plans pushed over the edge without prior notice. Suffice to say that what happened as described here maybe worse. But still, **** – it got my schedule ruined like, for a month?

    Those bureaucracies of the government is one of the largest factors why the Philippines cannot easily push forward toward a better future. I pretty guess fewer and fewer investors invest in the Philippines, given how corrupt the government is.

    Anyway. We all need to learn how to get past bad situations, although I’ll admit now that something as bad as this (or even worse) will never be easily forgotten…

    Good luck with your endeavors. 😀

  7. … I’m sorry to break the mood with this question but, are you in any way a part of the new advocacy “AKOMISMO”

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