On the Privilege of Choice
In this issue of the Cotabato Literary Journal, I would like to explore with you, readers, the influence of our circumstances on our choices.
We will start with Ricca Jedaina Moranos Ondoy’s “Ang Paglaum nga Mibiya,” a short story of a family just at the point of breaking apart. I’m sure you’ll agree that this story would have been completely different had the main characters—a child and her mother—had the luxury of a stable income. Alas, despite the obvious attachment between the two, the child is forced to stay with the father only because he has money and the mother does not.
While “Hindi Sila Natutulog” by Allan Ace Dignadice is a story of a completely different genre, it echoes the same sentiment of desperation and dearth of choice as Ondoy’s tale. It begins with a mystery, which quickly veers towards a direction somewhat more bizarre than expected. In a nutshell, it is a conflict between what Using and Nanay perceive as a detestable act and what they actually need to do to survive. In Nanay’s words: “Sadyang may mga bagay lang na mali sa paningin ng iba. Hindi mali ang mabuhay, Using. Tandaan mo ’yan.”
The poem “Tinted Nails” by Allan Ace Dignadice plays on a similar dilemma with an unapologetically Filipino image. The persona, one among hundreds in line, ponders upon the morality of allowing one’s vote to be bought. While the persona explicitly names this act as a sin, any guilt is immediately trumped by the more pressing need of “a kilogram of rice.” And there, in just a little over a hundred words, Dignadice articulates how corruption still exists in our country.
In the midst of both news and Facebook posts of the constant threat of violence, nowadays with “drug addicts” being the usual scapegoats, Mariz J. Leona’s short story “Daisy, Say Is” tells these ever-familiar stories from a perspective closer than the usual “pinatay kasi nanlaban.” At one point, Daisy realizes that “totoo ngang pag ordinaryong tao kang namatay, napakabilis mo lang kalimutan.” In this case, it is because the “ordinaryong tao” is offered as a sacrifice for the sake of the public’s comfort by no choice of their own. Later, Daisy encounters another loss that she is not likely to forget, even if the victim, from our perspective at least, is yet another ordinaryong tao.
Finally, Michael B. Egasan’s play Pisokol follows three elementary school children making a little money for a school project by singing and dancing for customers at a seaside restaurant. As they banter and gossip in between performances, young Andoy describes himself as both “pulubi” and “bobo” and thus nonchalantly says that “wala na [tayong] mararating.” Egasan, however, ends the play on a hopeful, somewhat surreal note, a glimmer of hope that even someone who believes that his fate is predetermined by his poverty may still find a way to transcend it.
Despite the overarching, admittedly existential crisis-inducing theme, however, my goal with this issue is not to instill a sense of helplessness. Instead, I hope that it will facilitate understanding, to allow us to understand better how some people make the choices that they do or, in some cases, how choices are forced upon them.
I also hope that it will impress upon you that we, as a society, have the responsibility to fight so that all Filipinos have the privilege of choice where it matters:
To choose to be with the people we love.
To choose to work and, afterwards, to choose a career.
To choose the best leaders, without influences that cloud our judgment.
And, of course, to choose to live.
Hazel-Gin Lorenzo Aspera
Cagayan de Oro City