“Sigurado ka bang wala nang pag-asa?” (Are you sure that there is no hope?)
Seated in an empty Ramen Nagi while waiting for our order, I was taken aback when one of my closest friends, who I was having lunch with asked me this question. We have not seen each other since we went our separate ways after graduating college together; she pursued law in Diliman, while I made my way to Rockwell.
I knew that it was impossible for us to avoid this conversation. I knew that she only wanted to help. I knew that she was caught in the middle of a fight that she had no control over. I felt bad, because she found herself with two friends that no longer could stand each other.
You see, a year ago, I lost a friend — our common friend. She was not just any friend — she was one of my first friends in college, a confidante, and a comrade. Through the ton of readings, researches, papers, and presentations, we had each other’s back. This friendship brought us to the streets, where we found ourselves marching together with farmers, workers, women, indigenous peoples, and those from the basic sectors. We were both in an environment when we were welcome to take off our masks and opened ourselves to fighting for causes bigger than ourselves. I found so much beauty in that — from learning inside the classroom with such brilliant minds that have passionate hearts to working on projects together and knowing that I wasn’t alone in the fight — that I couldn’t process it. I was home. She was part of my home.
However, what started out as a friendship forged in our collective dreams for society and activism started to become more and more toxic. We began having problems and these problems were not just differences in opinion on how to go about bringing about the social change that our society needs, but even how we saw the world around us. The small disagreements became bickering in group chats that became bigger fights to the point that we isolated ourselves from each other and others. This shouldn’t be much of a shock, because activists do need to stop being so divisive over different opinions; however, to me, it wasn’t just about opinions. Her politics showed me the kind of person that she was, and at that point, I was done — I wanted nothing to do with her.
Every day, I dreaded walking in the corridor past the room where she usually stayed. I would get anxiety attacks as I opened group chats on Messenger, anticipating another ‘war’ that broke out in the chat. The hardest thing about it was that she and I had to work together — we were comrades, after all. The world was not going to stop for us. It kept turning. You see, this was not “just politics” — it was something that actually affects people’s lives. Workers are continually denied wages and benefits that they deserve. Farmers continue to till lands that they cannot even call their own. Every day, in this administration, the killings continue. While it got to a point where I seriously considered walking away from activism for good because I was exhausted of fighting with her, I realized that what I do isn’t for her. It was for those people that I marched with — those whose voices are unheard and are silenced.
“Sigurado ka bang wala nang pag-asa?”
Oo, at hindi (Yes and no).
Yes, because it has been more than a year since we last spoke to each other. We went our separate ways — her finding her place in the movement, and me pursuing the study of law to put the law in the perspective of the marginalized. And while there is no hope in the near future for us to be back to where we used to be, a part of me has forgiven her. I’ve forgiven her for all that was said and all that was done, but most of all, for what was not done: apologies, on both our sides. More importantly, I forgave myself. Napagtanto kong hindi ko kailangan humingi ng kapatawaran sa mga tao kung sa paghingi ng tawag na iyon, sarili ko naman ang nasaktan at patuloy na nasasaktan.
No, because while I know that while we are no longer friends, we are comrades. On that note, we are not much different.
Friendship as activism is about being and wanting to be entwined, in solidarity, and with those who are oppressed. Friendship as activism evokes something about the other — pain and loss are part of it, but also, the desire to endure. So, when our paths meet someday in the streets or in pickets with workers, while the friendship we once had did not endure, it will remind us of the potentials and in this way, push us through the negativity towards possibilities — that another world is possible, together.