This post is part of a series of personal impressions on the launch of HyphenCreatives and its first event: Undeconstructed – Hands of a Hundred Warriors.
As the Uber car I was in made the turn from Makati Avenue into Dela Rosa Street, whatever malaise or exhaustion I felt from work melted away. My eyes were met by rows upon rows of men and women in uniform, assembled at the entryway of the Ayala Museum.
It did not go unnoticed by the Uber driver either. “Ano kaya’ng nagaganap dito?” (“[I wonder] what’s happening here?”) I could not help but feel a sense of pride, even if I had no right to. I just tacked it to feeling really proud of my friends, Viel and Ivy, seeing their hard work paying off. “Event po namin, kuya.” (“It’s our event, [elder brother].”) I only had the mind to look to the left and to the right before crossing the road, but I just felt that I wanted to touch this assembly.
Admittedly, I came in late as I came from the graveyard shift and had a bout with nausea. It was already 13:00 when I arrived, and soon as I crossed the streets, the cadets were already filing back into the museum’s ground floor.
Late as I was, I was not in a hurry. I took a moment to just watch the very disciplined and very polished cadets file in. Seeing their very disciplined walk was refreshing, most especially when you have to deal with the pedestrian chaos of the city on a daily basis. It was like seeing a steady stream of water flowing from a faucet, as cadets from various Philippine Military Academies filed in — the Navy, the Air Force, the Army, and their respective reserve units.
Once inside the museum, I was further impressed by the neat and functional setup — but I still could not take my eyes off the cadets. Underneath those uniforms were 18 to 20-something Filipino men and women. After having attended a good number of workshops and seminars in my lifetime, I have come to expect a pattern in body language: slouching, crossing and uncrossing of legs, poking at mobile devices or taking selfies, arm crossing, head-scratching…
But not with this lot.
All the cadets had their hats and caps set upon the back end of their seats, while they all sat with good posture at the edge of their seats. Those who took notes had their small notebooks rested on their lap or held at chest level, but never too long. Their eyes and their attention were on the speakers. During the museum tour, they could barely contain their excitement, but discipline had them wait for the hosts’ bidding for them to stand. They had one hour and thirty minutes to tour three floors of the Ayala Museum (starting with the The 48th Shell National Students Art Competition exhibit, followed by that of Fernando Zobel and Juan Luna, and the world famous Gold of Ancestors collection) and they did not rush. They truly took advantage of the time and freedom given to them.
At some point, one might think that they behaved just because it was expected of them, just because higher ranking officers were present and they could receive a reprimand.
Again: not with this lot.
I witnessed genuine interest, and felt the hunger for learning. Granted, cadets are educated in their respective academies in terms of communication and history (aside from the requisite army training), but the pursuit of deeper history and an appreciation for the arts are set aside. This is where HyphenCreatives come in, and this is why we do what we do: jumpstarting the quest for excellence by cultivating national identity and artistic expression through history and film-making.
The cadets did not hesitate to ask challenging questions, as they spoke not just through genuine interest of the topics presented, but relating them to their personal passions: how can film help them become better soldiers? How can the recollection of history help with current national issues?
These men and women in uniform signed up because they are ready to die for their country and their countrymen. Granted, few can actually say that they will die for our soldiers if asked, but giving them the avenue to become better, well-rounded individuals is, I believe, a good start.
Later, I realize, what I felt was not pride — I had no right to it — but an affirmation that we are doing something right. And this is just the beginning.