I defy

*dapat ipapasa ko ito noon sa Youngblood, kaso natagalan na masyado.

A raised fist and a loud voice chanting slogans are signs of protest. In art and literature, they are endlessly signified as the weapons of the oppressed masses, with the ubiquitous gun, of course.

Last December 10, raised fists and loud voices were aplenty in the mobilization prepared for the International Human Rights Day. I was there too; I wanted to be with the people as this day is commemorated under the regime with the most cases of human rights violations.

I was there, yet somehow, I really wasn't; I no longer feel enraged when I see evidence of torture, as compared to my reaction just a few years ago, when I shed hot tears while watching my first documentary, “Alingawngaw ng Punglo (Echo of the Bullets).” In contrast, when I see a picture or watch a documentary or read something on human rights violations nowadays, I wonder where my tears are, and why they have not begun gushing forth from my eyes. And I feel my chest, trying to locate my heart, which I fear has become frozen.

I have become desensitized to the threats, the killings, the enforced disappearances. After being exposed to what this government can do, after reading article after article on yet another activist brutally killed or gone desaparecido or tortured, I have stopped considering the victims as people. Sometimes, I find myself thinking that they are just another statistic to cite, just another case to file, just another number in the two thousand-plus violations this government is guilty of.

And it pains me to see that I am a step closer towards apathy, an inch nearer towards hopelessness, and already in close proximity to catatonia. This is the last thing I would have expected to happen: I became involved because I know that I cannot live with myself if I did nothing. Yet now, it seems as if my efforts were futile.

I am writing this because a friend advised me to do so, and because I remember a half-baked poem I wrote four years ago. In the draft, the persona said that “ang pag-protesta ay tanda ng pagiging buhay (Protesting is a sign of being alive).” I would like to think that in writing this, I am doing just that: protesting against indifference, protesting against death, protesting against evil.

I am still alive. As long as I will not let sadness overwhelm me, as long as my ideology is strong enough to struggle against it, as long as I am raising my fist and chanting with the people, it will not conquer me.

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