“Wow, famous ka na!”
I lost count of friends who had tagged and messaged me on Facebook saying, in apparent enthusiasm, that my graduation post cursing the government had just gone viral, with tens of thousands of engagements. I couldn’t remember responding to any of them, much less feeling the same excitement at the thought of having my creative shot becoming ubiquitous on various social media outlets.
It was Aug. 25, Tuesday, five days before our online commencement exercises, when I decided to compose and publish a short political commentary that would serve as my graduation post. Specifically, the commentary would revolve around what I penned on a white board when I had my photoshoot. The placard read: “Iskolar ng Filipino taxpayers[,] hindi ng f-cking government.”
I have always been unashamedly vocal about my politics on social media. This started after I joined the 18th Regional Higher Education Press Conference in January, where I took to heart the advice of one of the judges, which was to consider posting on our Facebook accounts our opinion pieces as a way to actively practice and hone our skill. Following that advice has not only proven helpful to improve my writing, I’ve also found it liberating to share my views about the country’s most pressing issues.
Publishing something political for my graduation post served as my ultimate act of dissent, both as a college student and as a campus journalist, borne out of four years of social consciousness as well as the accumulation of all the frustrations I have toward the current administration.
On the other hand, the main contention that we, beneficiaries of the free tuition law, are scholars of the Filipino taxpayers and not the government was my more blatant response to defenders of the state who shame student activists for protesting against what they say is “the same government that allowed these ingrates to study in college for free.”
Similar arguments flooded the comments section of my post. But instead of resorting to fighting their ire with more ire, I was more bent on expounding my side through actively replying to every dissenter I encountered. Others felt it was a waste of time, but I saw it as an opportunity to somehow enlighten others who were there reading the thread. No one, even and especially the proverbial DDS (Diehard Duterte Supporters), should be “cancelledt” for their faulty political leanings. Instead, they must be viewed as victims of misinformation, brainwashing, and historical revisionism.
Case in point: It is still best to think that even the most committed DDS are not beyond redemption. Take it from a person who once fanatically supported then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s presidential candidacy, and once believed Ferdinand Marcos was a hero.
Meanwhile, in the midst of responding to the raging comments as calmly and patiently as I could, a swarm of netizens came into my Messenger and told me I deserved to have a miserable life, that I should die, and that I might as well end up bloodied on the street, gunned down by unknown assailants.
Reading such hateful messages and public posts was the very reason I did not find it exciting to see myself trending. To be attacked in the public comments was tolerable, but receiving the same verbal attacks privately, and then some, felt genuinely bothering and alarming.
But despite the barrage of insults, I do not regret one bit publishing that commentary, especially because it also helped popularize the legitimate assertion that the free college education of the “iskolar ng bayan” is all thanks to taxpayer money, and not something the government and public officials should be given credit for. At least for a couple of days, more people, even the stubbornly apolitical, took to social media to participate in the national discourse.
For that reason alone, seeing my photo all over Facebook used as an example to demonize youth activism didn’t feel that demoralizing anymore. What mattered to me was how it was made by many others into a political meme to advance a noble cause and condemn a grave injustice.
* * *
Jejomar Contawe, 21, is a communication arts graduate. The title for this piece was inspired by the 2019 Cinemalaya Best Film, “John Denver Trending.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.