Spaces redux

Beyond homes, schools, malls and other concrete spaces, there are more abstract categories of places that are as difficult to ponder about as they are difficult to define.

One of them is the space to which these words currently belong: the virtual realm. Go beyond mainstream thinking and you will discover that the separation between the real and the virtual is far more complicated than it seems. There is a growing discourse, likely fueled in part by the idea of virtual spaces, surrounding technology (particularly the Internet) and its relation to morality, or authenticity, and other such classical topics of philosophy. But this discourse has turned around on itself, and there are some who now argue that the place we have called cyberspace for a long time is not too virtual after all; it is still rooted in, and therefore not independent from, the reality that supports it. One could say that virtuality cannot be anything more than an augmentation of reality.

There are many aspects to this discussion that will surely continue well into the foreseeable future, given how technology has nowhere to go now but deeper into our everyday routines. Personally I would still say though that it is valuable to think of such a thing as a virtual space. I have had experiences that are fundamentally characterized by being online, and which cannot conceivably exist in any space other than in the virtual. I can even think of corners of the Web as if they were actual, physical places: some of them are fun, some of them are serious and buttoned-up, and some are even pretentious, or evil and dangerous. Certainly, these are all experiences judged by simply viewing through a glowing screen, but they are spaces in the way that we visit them, stay in them, frequent them, and even abandon them.

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Spaces and definitions

Spaces

A long time ago, our ancestors selected certain sounds from the diverse range of impressions that the human vocal tract is capable of producing, and agreed upon to attach meanings to those sounds, thereby creating language in a process that is still not yet fully understood today. In a similar way, we as individuals and as a society do not wander aimlessly about the places we live and move in everyday. We define spaces, we attach significance to certain areas of our world, and I think this activity will only intensify in an increasingly crowded, modern world.

Perhaps the most obvious and most-commonly defined space that comes to mind is the home. There is no shortage of instances in popular literature and culture that pay homage to this most comfortable and most valued of places. At the end of struggles and pain and sacrifices, there will always be a warm home full of love that the protagonist can return to. The movie Apocalypto, after all the scenes of horror and action-adventure, can be thought of simply as a man’s prolonged journey home. Superman, or Kal-el, was brought to Earth because of the destruction of his home planet. “The World is Our Playground and We Will Always Be Home,” according to the band Up dharma Down.

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Funhouse

funhouseAlong a highway flowing from downtown, still within the shadows of the city but just out of reach of sober business, there is an obscure cradle of a spot. By day it is a sleepy, dark and dusty place, hardly notable, but resilient. Pass by at night, however, and you will witness its glowing signs hinting at the happening within.

Come inside. Welcome to my favorite place, a funhouse. Meet the crowd of intoxicated animals, poisoned, perhaps dying. Hold the bottles in their hands and listen to them shouting at each others’ ears. You can always share a light, too. The vices seem essential.

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Bonifacio

I admit to not knowing a lot about Andrés Bonifacio. With José Rizal as the de facto official national hero, it seems he’s always only second place, an alternative subject, for the masterpieces of our popular culture. I’m recalling Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s 1998 Rizal biopic here; thanks to that film, I grew up with an elegant idea of who Rizal was. Bonifacio’s legacy does not have that luxury.

If anyone’s so inclined as to try to piece together a cohesive idea of Bonifacio’s life through cultural products, she will have to do so using wildly contradicting sources. From what I heard, the Cinemalayà 2010 entry Ang Paglilitis ni Andrés Bonifacio by Mario O’Hara was a respectable, and respectful, portrayal of the hero’s life, although it focused on a specific era of his life. The problem was that, being an independently-produced movie, it was inaccessible. I didn’t see it myself and neither did most other Filipinos. On the other hand, the 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival entry El Presidente had Bonifacio as a supporting character, and in an atrocious wielding of artistic license as could only happen in Philippine mainstream media, they turned the hero into an arrogant antagonist to the titular character. This understandably angered not a few concerned citizens, especially because, being an MMFF entry, many unconcerned citizens saw the movie and probably now think of the great Katipunero as an arrogant hothead.

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A different engagement

On a Friday earlier this month I attended a protest rally. It was held at the heart of Makati, the country’s business capital. It was highly publicized by its organizers, and they put up quite a scene—stage, sound system, and all. The media, anticipating a momentous event, swarmed the intersection of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas. They called it the Million People March, part 2, because it was born out of the success of a similarly-motivated demonstration in Luneta. But when I arrived at Ayala corner Paseo de Roxas, I saw a crowd that could barely fill the Ped Xing-lined box on the intersection. The TV cameras started rolling, but the media, people simply doing their jobs, comprised what looked like half of the crowd present. It was barely a Thousand People March.

I admit, I myself shouldn’t be counted as a participant in that event. I didn’t participate, I was merely present. I went there, no, passed by there out of curiosity, and out of a sense that I had nothing better to do. I have met a lot of people who have witnessed Martial Law with their own eyes, even people who suffered Martial Law with their own bodies, having been imprisoned or worse for their opinions. Me, a free student who found himself in Makati with a lot of time in his hands, can do only so many things as worthwhile as participating in such a social-political movement, right?

Right?

I think it’s not really about the very issue that the people are rallying against. It’s about how they, and we, engage with issues.

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