SAMUEL is forced out of dreaming when his mother, pounding heavily on the door to his room, calls out his name.
“You’re going to be late,” she says.

He eats his breakfast with his father, who impales a sausage with a fork and waves it in the air as he tries to convince his only son to become a lawyer.
“That’s where the money is,” he insists.

He rides the air-conditioned bus to Manila, hearing the faint but mingled songs (that almost passes for music) emanating from the overused earphones of his fellow passengers. He joins them as they stare blankly at the road outside, as if they were watching a rerun of some remake of a television show, whose title they’ve completely forgotten:
“Oh, look. It’s that billboard from yesterday. Isn’t she pretty? Maybe they upgraded to Adobe Photoshop CS3.”

He listens to his classmates’ chattering as they wait for the professor.
Anecdotes about the day before fill the classroom. One classmate of theirs—a girl—was robbed of her jewelry inside the Quiapo Church:
“And right in front of the Nazareno!”

His teacher’s bitter ramblings feel like nails being pounded into his ears. The class’ beloved mentor seems to enjoy telling them how the future will suck them dry someday, like a giant leech ready to extract every ounce of blood and hope from their veins after graduation:
“Welcome to the real world!”

He covers his right ear with his hand to protect his hearing from the barker’s voice as he boards the jeepney home. With a trickle of sweat running down his cheek, he tries to squeeze between an old lady and a middle-aged man as the barker screams, “Dalawa pa! Dalawa pa!”
Meanwhile, as Samuel reaches into his pocket for some loose change, the driver says, “Otso pesos na ang pamasahe ngayon.”

Coming out of my shell

When the jeepney is stalled by traffic, he gets off and sees the myriad protesters blocking the way. He soon realizes that he has no other choice but to walk all the way home.
Claiming the streets with their placards flashing words of indignation, the crowd shouts for justice, for time, for rice, and for change.
“Ibagsak,” one placard states. “Itaguyod,” says another.

At the dinner table, Samuel’s mother asks him how his day was. He wonders why he keeps on pondering every night what he should answer to the same question.
And just as he does every night, he says, “Fine,” followed by a standard nod.

Finally, in silence, with hands clasped together and knees squared on the floor of his room, Samuel bows his head, closes his eyes, and waits anxiously for that one, all-knowing voice that can provide all the answers.


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