Thursday, February 26, 2009

celebrating toxicity.

(After a year's wait, INTARMED 2011 will finally march down that elusive graduation aisle. In commemoration of this glorious milestone, I was commissioned to write an article paying tribute to that collective four years of blood and sweat, of joys and tears. This piece will appear in the forthcoming yearbook to be released this year - hopefully.)

At first glance, the thousand-page tome must have been too much for his scrawny, bespectacled frame. He sits by his lonesome on a secluded corner, studying intently to his heart’s content, when his solitude snapped with a sudden smack on the back, replete with the scornful mockery of someone screeching, “Ang toxic mo!” Almost reflexively, he whips around and retaliates in a most defiant tone: “Hindi ah!” Better yet, he raises the bar. Keeping cool, he lifts one sophisticated eyebrow and calmly lashes out, “Mas toxic ka pa nga sa akin eh…”

Such phrases must have grown over the years to become classic bylines among INTARMED 2011 members, the types that lend themselves more to affection than sarcasm during stressful times. After all, toxicity – that four-syllabled entity governing the mechanisms of our behavior – is something we have worn up our sleeves like a badge. The term historically referred to the idea of quintessential nerds slash geniuses with pitiful lifestyles, but in the context of forty close-knit youngsters harboring mutual dreams and ambitions, it has slowly evolved into a multifaceted concept rooted deep in the core of a collective spirit.

There’s the toxicity of academics. The outside world unmistakably views us as the lucky crème de la crème who excelled in their respective high schools, aced the UPCAT, and are now poised with fiery enthusiasm to prop themselves up the highest trellises of medical achievement. We have been called high school students on an extended tenure of secondary school, who never had and who never will get a real taste of college. We have been dubbed humanoids possessing the most swollen eye bags on campus, for want of many a good night’s sleep.

Sadly, that’s only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Enter a bunch of top students from different parts of the country, destined to spend the passing years in each other’s company. Toxicity spilled over in bloody fashion from day one as we buckled over the lethal synergy of math, biology, chemistry, and physics, glossed over the linguistic acrobatics of history, and incessantly faced the ominous consequences of impending memory overload. Incidentally, it also meant trudging over mountains, splashing down rivers, entering temples, conquering beaches, and wolfing down food – perhaps the most significant experience for a batch notorious for its gluttonous appetite, whose idea of carpe diem was to study hard and party even harder.

Celebrating toxicity is giving tribute to that unique microcosm that is INTARMED 2011.

It translates to smiling at the mere mention of someone else’s birthday, at the numerous lakwatsas, study sessions, Lady Meds, and Lantern Parades that evoke a relentless outpouring of recollections. As if these weren’t enough, a written document, christened “Nerdovia”, even attempted to chronicle our own distinct personalities with its pantheon of gods and goddesses, royal bloodline, scheming barbarians, and thriving citizenry, the saga mirroring the joys and woes of a class bent on fulfilling its quest for peace and unity, that utopian Pax Nerdoviae. In retrospect, the past four years were far from perfect – the ride was a little rough, the winds portentous, the storms unforgiving. But it was the “toxicity” of trust and companionship that kept us going, the resonant tunes of “Toxic ka!” providing unconditional reassuring pats on the back.

Change, of course, was also “toxic” in its own right. Four years witnessed the dramatic transformations that triggered the unlikely metamorphosis of high school hipsters into mature individuals cognizant of their roles in society. Even the physical embodiments that accompanied us down our journeys couldn’t escape the waxing and waning of the tides. Oversized shirts and baggy pants became pristine white uniforms. Frogs turned into cats, and cats morphed into cadavers. Acquaintances deepened into friendships, some of which blossomed into minute bliss. We laughed, we cried, we loved, we lived. These changes weren’t always expected, much less welcomed, but we all agreed: They made us wiser, stronger, better.

Whereto, then, after BS BMS? More importantly, whereto after 2011? If the wizened stargazers were right, fate would see us continually burning the proverbial midnight candle, poring over endless pages of edible print to consummate communal expectations. Much like how stories could have random endings, Nerdovia could go on to culminate in sweeping jubilation, or tragically end with the gods being banished from the heavens, the kingdom disintegrated, the populace thrown into discombobulating anarchy.

Then again, as Prof. Esguerra himself told the class years ago, “I see it in you.” We do have the “toxicity” of passion, which overpowers everything else. The bespectacled, scrawny boy may still be rightfully “toxic”, but now he has learned to weave his own gift of nurturing and healing others. Who knows? It may be all he’ll ever need to reach that elusive happy ending.

To 2011 and beyond!