Heights Ateneo — The Official Literary and Artistic Publication and Organization of the Ateneo de Manila University

From the Margins

Maria Larga

North Avenue, Quezon City, 6:00 the city—its existence, and everything that makes it the city—is violent. The Quezon City Central Business District is nothing short of overwhelming: when we look up, we are greeted by the MRT tracks, the skyscrapers that we built, behemoths that stand on the land where our houses used to be. We know these streets like the back of our hands; this is where we used to live before they came and ripped all of us out, even as we stood our ground, dug our fingers into the Earth, watered it with our blood, just so they don’t take it away, and yet they did—with the bare minimum of amounts to move our houses behind the Walls, with confusing contracts, with threats, with arrests, with cranes and bulldozers and men taking the homes we built down with their bare hands. For these buildings to stand, for them to prosper, we have had to shed blood. Tears. Sweat. Perhaps this is why the city still stands, despite the tyranny it wages on us: we built everything on our backs. We fortified them with our own lives. We smoke cigarettes in the back of the pick-up truck we borrowed, loaded with the pieces of what we’re going to leave here. We sit in silence, watching cars come in and out and around, looking for a parking spot on the land where we were once rooted. Tonight, we take it back, even for just the quickest of moments, even for just one night. Mendiola, Manila, 7:00 Inventory check goes like this: yes, yes, we would be stationed at the

Transport Hub because it’s the closest to us—here are the stickers, there are the posters and the pieces—for the sticker bombing tonight, put these up everywhere they can see, leave no post nor wall untouched—the wheat paste posters, the spray paint, the stencils—about goddamn time we got back to our roots, this city has become too fucking sterile to be Manila, they’ll cover it up tomorrow, anyway, but hey, this isn’t a futile mission, we can and we will get the city talking. That’s the goal, right? The goal is to get the city talking. To get the city to hear us, to see us. We just need them to see us. Rush hour ends in two hours. It’s a risk, but it’s the perfect time to pull this off, and, if being seen is the goal, Lawton is the perfect place to be.

Bonifacio Global City, Taguig, 10:00 Our timer will start at midnight. We have to get the job done before 4 am, or else there will be too many people in the streets; too many people to bear witness to this act of ‘desecration.’ To the people of the New Metro Manila, the city is sacred in its godly cleanliness; those who can afford to live and survive here breathe a sigh of relief at the sight of streets without us. To the people outside, in the borders and in the margins they have forced us to squeeze ourselves into, the city is a beast that needs to be slain. The city needs to bleed and cry the way we do.

The city, that is, the districts—this is what we call Manila now (apart from the New Metro Manila, which makes it sound less dystopian than it actually is, for some reason), ever since the president decided to turn the entirety of the city into a massive business district. As if that’s gonna fix everything that plagues the country. Foreign businesses and investments and perceived economic progress through fancy fucking buildings is a band-aid on a social wound that requires fucking surgery, but they’re not gonna tell us that even if we know; they think we’re brutes. What they did tell us, however, is that the economic boom that follows—would, should follow—their utopian project would elevate living conditions for all of us, or some

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Heights Vol. 68 No. 1