While practically everybody is currently engrossed with the UAAP Cheer Dance Competition, and with my inclination to not fall into the mainstream, I am instead writing this article for this fledgling publication. It’s not that I am not a fan of the CDC. In fact, I love our pep squad for their passion, creativity and their efficiency in inspiring such qualities in us- their drooling, smitten and physically-inferior counterparts. My support will be in this form: to attempt to immortalize a thought about them in this article made especially salient since a number of our squad members come from AIT and our neighbor college, CHK. But let’s not think of it that way. Our squad dances, sweats and smiles with vigorous head nodding/counting for us all, from UP and beyond. And we have no other choice but cheer on these more artful cheerers.
The Cheer Dance Competition has always been a source of pride for UP. “Death-defying”, “awe-inspiring” and “physically-challenging” do not do justice to the routines of our beloved Pep. There is something edifying in the way they perform, an unexplainable quality of how they do it with a mixture of UP character, relevance and creativity that makes every routine different. The technical difficulty is one thing. The fact that it’s beautiful and deeply inspiring to watch is another. So I say kudos to the UP Pep Squad, in spite of the fact that I have not seen your current routine yet.
Of other things that possess character, relevance and creativity, I want to talk about the film viewing of Chassis, presented around a month ago by START-AIT. See trailer of film. Though many of us who bought tickets did so as a favor for our friends in START and the student council, who, on the day before the actual viewing were lowering their prices to desperate rates (I could have bought mine at half the price if I waited. Ugh.), the fact the film was “double X-rated” raised a lot of eyebrows (and maybe other parts, but let’s not be indecent). Let’s put it this way: we thought, “It might be interesting.”
Though the prospect of seeing the private parts of the heroine Nora, played by Ms. Jodi Sta. Maria, held a certain lecherous appeal, the film gained an array of reactions, from it being “dragging”, “moving”, “predictable” to “where the hell is the XX part???”. Shot in grainy black and white, or “B/W monochrome” to be technical, it definitely held the appeal of my idea of an independent film. Though I’d like to reserve a lot of my other personal comments about the film from this article, I would just like to say that it relied too much on shock value, especially in the last scene where (spoiler alert) the sight of a mutilated penis would finally create the visual and disturbing symbol of a vengeance fulfilled by a grieving mother. After all, the bastard ran over her daughter- a golden girl of bright possibilities, if only she lived some place safer. As to why it was entitled “Chassis” is still a bit of a mystery for me- something I could have clarified if I stayed for the forum.
Here’s where I insert a little speculation- as to why it was called “Chassis”, whose pronunciation actually became a bit of an issue among the pronunciation Nazis like myself (who read it as “cha-see”, silent “s”), people who thought it was read as “cha-sis” because it was with respect to the Philippine mass context, and people who read it as “cha-sis” because it was simply spelled that way. However way you say it, “chassis” means an artificial structure of anything man-made like a car or truck, whose organic counterpart is a skeleton in an animal or human.
Given this, we can see “chassis” as a literal symbol given for the fact that the heroine and her daughter lived in the chassis of the trucks parked in the docking area they called home, albeit being informal settlers. Their daily life depended on the comings and goings of trucks, and their daily subsistence depended on the inconstant salary of a poor trucker and a mother who secretly prostitutes herself (at a going rate of 30 pesos) for her daughter’s future. The truck chassis was a structure that supported, but inevitably, broke down their way of life, given that the daughter was run over by a truck.
In another way, I think there must be another structure involved in the story- one more ephemeral and intangible. But in the same manner as the truck chassis, one that supported and broke down the spirit of Nora: her daughter. Or the love between a mother and her child. It’s a tragic story, where a mother’s spirit was broken through something as enraging as the irresponsibility of a driver and the unjustified death of a daughter.
This brings me to the last topic, before I sum up this article: on children. Yesterday, I saw in a booth in the CAL New Building about protecting the rights of children in the Philippines. In Southeast Asia, it is a tragic fact that the Philippines is still a hub for clandestine child-prostitution and trafficking. I found this very saddening- that we have gone so deep in the depths of poverty that the children of this nation are partly and unjustly carrying the brunt of it. It’s disturbing, given our moral standards, our moral chassis if you don’t mind, which values and cherishes the life and potentiality of every child.
So what now? How do I end this article on the CDC, Chassis and children? This is not a perfect tieback, but I think we should learn from the idea competition in UAAP; but this time, we’re not competing with other universities, but with ourselves and the creaking moral joints of this nation. Just like with UP in the CDC, our only real opponents are ourselves. How do we make a better routine than last year’s? Or what else can we do that’s fresh and innovative? In the same fashion that we have imagined and poured our hearts into cheering and dancing to create amazing routines, in the selfless spirit of UP and the Oblation, we can fix the chassis that still keeps this nation afloat, in spite of the amoral rust that gets in the way of true advancement. Let’s take a page from our Pep Squad, whose principal purpose is to inspire through sweat, passion and coordinated routines. Even in the very ways that they execute their pyramids and lifts, we find a structure of trusted lifters that supports it all, with the music and the final show after hours of rehearsals and pain. Whether or not they win, they’ve already triumphed if they have given it their all, in the grander scale of things.
As for the topics on children and responsibility, also in the grander scale of things, pep squad or not, we are all children, flourishing or barely surviving, on the figurative skeleton of the living vehicle that is the Philippines.