Monday, September 25, 2006


IN THE University of the Philippines campus in Lahug, no faculty room is busier than the one where the humanities teachers hold office.

That’s because of two shifts working around the clock. There is the official shift, when full-time professors and lecturers like me review papers, consult with students, doodle.

And there’s the eternal shift, from 6 p.m. till about 8 a.m. (but that’s just my educated guess because I’ve never actually seen the others on this shift).

Heard them is another thing. When I arrive much too early for my 7:30 a.m. class, I’m sure I passed through some of them on the way to my table. It’s hard to step aside for what you can’t see.

I wonder though if I’m just as invisible to them. As I only have a measly bachelor’s degree, that’s not a farfetched possibility in this university of artists, researchers, scientists and whatever is the equivalent of a doctor of philosophy in The Others’ world.

I read or write in silence; they creak, rustle, snap. Twice, they dropped the same oil painting in the conference room. The rope at the back of the painting had not snapped; the nail from which it hung was in place.

Either they did not agree with the judges that awarded the work a Joya, or did not fancy the subject (a man playing golf).

Perhaps The Others are just Dadaists, or surreal.

Just before going in my 7:30 a.m. class, I always go to the toilet. That’s usually when I hear a rearrangement of air particles in the rooms I just vacated, signaling they’re having coffee perhaps, chatting away in obsessive-compulsive clusters, with the occasional insecure fellow raising his voice to catch some double-PhDs’ attention.

I take time urinating.

When my bum is freezing and my joints are shrieking from being immobilized so long, I zip up, check in the mirror my ashen complexion (normal tone: mud) and step out to silence.

The rooms look as empty as before. I’m not thinking they “are empty” though while The Others can hear me.

Things are never what they seem in this campus in Lahug.

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