Thursday, January 01, 2004

Welcome to Batangas (Sort of) Part One

SLEX
We took the South Luzon Expressway, stopping at a gas station to refuel and resupply long before we reached the Canlubang exit. I bought a toothbrush and mint gum pellets reminiscent of Chiclets at a convenience store. These days one sees this gas station-convenience store combo a lot.

At the store I was suddenly, acutely aware of the class divide. Amidst the well-heeled, good-smelling, trendy families disgorged by the many SUV's parked outside, there I was, wearing my banged-up slippers and last night's clothes. All I needed to complete the picture perhaps, were dirt smudges on my arms, legs and already oily face. Perhaps a really bad hair day, actual tearing in my clothes. And lest we forget, the facial tics, jerky arm movements and shuffling gait. Perfect Taong Grasa. Then some guard would most likely have asked me brusquely to leave. (By the by I have no beef with rich people as rich people though. At least I don't think I do. All my friends who fall under that category, I have lumped under the sub-class "NICE and UPSTANDING.")

Back at the UP Los Ba�os circa 1991, one didn't have to worry about the class divide, as everybody was at one point or another, seen wearing slippers last seen during the first EDSA and last night's clothes. Everyone there was, most likely, a student being funded by his mon and pop. Ergo, an occasional lapse in the practice of dressing up, and yes, bathing, was expected. As one usually lived on campus, one could rush to the classroom and then return to the dorm for a well-earned shower and a fresh change of clothes. It was a rare thing to wind up "smelly" from the exigencies of UPLB living.

I wasn't like this at first when I changed schools sometime '93-'95. Trouble was it was so easy to get "smelly" in the city. Smoke gets in your eyes and face. You're commuting long distances, squeezed like sardines with people who bathe in sewer water (if they bathe at all) on a daily basis. You pick your nose at the end of the day in the city and you are sure to pluck out what my cousins gleefully refer to as "black boogers." Then you notice your, ah, friend Lilith from Para�aque and you wonder how the hell she stays pristine and oil-free "all day, everyday." Alluva sudden you are afraid to even shake her hand, lest you dirty it with your sweat and God knows what else disgorged from the pores.

Goes to show how much one changes when he's in a different environment.

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