Sunday, April 02, 2006


Call me old fashioned, that’s what they say of us anyway. But why liken the federation to Galileo who was persecuted by the church for heresy? The associates don’t deserve to be treated like outcasts of society nor we don’t deserve to be hunted down like wild animals either. Is upholding traditional beliefs so serious an offense against the civilized.. er, I mean evil society?

I know what people think of us, that we are insurgents sometimes and diehard fanatics most of the times. But it is unfair to call our federation a cult nor a religious sect for its objectives are far from religious. And neither should the associates be classified as political radicals even if the federation emerged out of patriotism to preserve the heritage of our beloved nation. I wonder why the National Commission on Culture and the Arts is silent on this issue. Or is the NCCA still here in our midst?

We see only few children going to school as a result of the so-called distant education. No more field trips, no more glee clubs, no more socializing and fraternizing, no more graduation rites. Gone were my younger days when boys have mastered the art of maglalatik and girls knew how to dance the tricky tinikling. It’s hard to guess how Jack would react if there’s only work and no play at all.

Christmas parties used to be a big deal. But now, most white-collar jobs are performed in the luxury of their homes so it is a certain that employees of a company don’t even know each other. More quality time for the family which is the framework of a strong nation but not really good for the community which is the stronghold of the country’s culture.

Ah, religion wouldn’t be left behind with the on-line congregation of the churches. Masses are held hourly and daily in on-line fashion. All evangelists, countless of them, boast of their websites that provide all kinds of religious services, not to mention tithing by auto fund transfer. The still dominant Catholic church joined the fray in allowing confessions and giving absolutions via chat sessions or emails. As a consolation, weddings still adhere to the traditional festive ceremonies and lavish receptions. However, only few are availing of church marriages nowadays.

I think the arts suffered the most. Take the film industry, it uses only digital actors and actresses. No more stage plays, no more concerts by live musicians because digital music is perfect. See what happened to the recording industry? Free exchange would kill the industry. Softwares abound to do the paintings and drawings that one desires. But on a good note, hand-made paintings of yore increased in value, maybe due to scarcity.

These are trends, as drumbeaters would reason out. Yeah, the trends as dictated by them things. You see, the associates are, in fact, a concerned lot for we stand as vanguards against the corruption of our inherited culture. The federation is firm on that issue simply because we look at them things as instruments of the devil. And, sad to say, them things are now lording it over the entire nation. Them things are controlling our lives, correction, your lives. And if you may ask where the world is going, you’d better ask them things.

Mind you, the federation knows where we are all going. Changing for the worse, that is. Will somebody read the writings on the walls of Intramuros? When the barometer hits the worst level, the slaves will be the masters and the masters will be the slaves. It’s already happening, isn’t it? For most, it’s getting to be very uncomfortable to accept the changes, enhancements in the techno parlance, that keeps coming day in and day out. It’s pathetic to see people being left behind, folks being maneuvered to directions they don’t want and individuals failing to cope with the demands of them things.

It’s no joke to own riches that you cannot freely use for your purposes. One has to abide to all sorts of consumer limitations like maximum purchases, required memberships and verified credit standing. Some folks, mostly senior citizens, were complaining to high heavens and no one listened because no one wanted to hear them out, practically no one except the federation. As the ubiquitous icon on the computer monitor says, help! so the federation had reason to be born so as to provide assistance to those in need. And the federation was indeed born to break free from the technological bondage.

It was not easy sailing to fight when your back is against the wall. But there was this little voice inside me that I believe was my conscience. Resisting temptation is no mean task except for people with fluid determination. And I was determined. And so were the others.

The federation gained prominence because most of the associates are prominent personalities. Aside, there were scores of sympathizers all over the country. Associates multiplied like tadpoles in a big pond, ranging from the senior citizens down to the younger set who are mostly mongoloids and autistics. But there is strength in numbers and influence springs eternal from this strength. And being the supremo, I conveniently gained a seat in the parliament to represent a marginalized sector called “non-techno.”

Everywhere one would find an area called “non-techno” so similar to the traditional “smoking area” sign. Facilities like communication booths have the “idiot dials” and cabs and buses were mandated to use the paper tickets for our benefit. Some stores cooperated by employing real attendants who could provide personalized assistance to customers like us.

As a result, associates earned the respect of almost everyone. We had our own niche in the evil society. The federation became a celebrity of sorts by sheer number alone. Why, government officials and politicians bow down to us every election year. And, not to boast, Malacañang had one ear exclusively for the federation.

And like a rising movie star, the federation started receiving brickbats and snide remarks. Intrigues were blown up to unimaginable proportions like mountains growing up from molehills. Detractors were beginning to show their names and faces in the open. As the numbers grew on our side, the numbers grew on the other side as well. Growing pains, some associates would say but hindsight told me otherwise.

Them things have their own way with everything especially with obstacles to progress like the federation. When something went wrong, the federation was blamed. When international focus got to be a concern, the federation was a shame. So it came to pass that the federation became the official punching bag of the evil society. And little by little the unwritten law of outlawing the federation was creeping its repulsive head.

It becomes very uncomfortable when the barrel of the gun is aimed at your temple. But I tried to cope with my fellow parliamentarians. Veto after veto was what I got for my pending bills. All the laws being passed and enacted were for the sake of progress which appeared detrimental to the welfare of the federation. Can you imagine a sectoral representative giving his privilege speech on the floor with only the parliament clerk and sergeant-at-arms in attendance? I practically turned into a wallflower, giving them reason to take away the privilege of sectoral representation.

The change was abrupt and swift. There was an embargo of sorts when everything got automated, where only the techno-literates could operate the very complex vending machines. Jobs for non-techno got scarcer and scarcer. No more messy paper called money. That should have saved a lot of trees - my, what a noble tribute to mother nature. Even the reliable plastic card was obsoleted. As the drumbeaters say, everything is at the tip of your finger. Didn’t it occur to anyone that the mark on the forefinger is blasphemy? Or I should say blasphemous, pardon my grammar.

Like olden-time insurgents, the federation had to move out of the city and seek refuge to the hills. It was difficult for city-dwellers to adapt to rural life so I give the associates an A for perseverance. Everyone had a choice since the government hadn’t made up its mind yet on what to do with our fate. But associates kept on arriving to join our bandwagon.

We became instant farmers by tending our own farms and raising our own animals for food. The government, appearing to be happy with our decision, provided us with lecturers from Los Baños and Batangas. The dep-ed even made our place a mandatory practicum arena for graduating agricultural students of state universities. That’s what you can call co-existence.

But things soured so soon. The parliament passed a law declaring the conversion of all public domain into rice paddies, vegetable gardens, orchards, museums, school buildings and the like. Paradiso, the name we gave to our place, was not spared. Although the implementation has a 5-year lag time, government support dwindled until Paradiso was left to its own devices. No one may agree but I firmly believe that it was the machination of them things.

To add insult to injury, associates got more alienated by the citylife. Technology was at a high gear and there’s no chance for an associate to re-adapt himself. A simple trading of farm produce required the use of the forefinger tip, same with the transportation and communication devices.
The evil society once again showed its indifference to the federation.

But the situation was manageable. A few associates were hacking the vending machines. I myself couldn’t explain how some people with Short Attention Span Syndrome could learn by himself the nuances of pressing keys and guessing passwords. And it’s amazing to realize that these SASS sufferers remained in the fold of the federation.

Supplies got to be a regular fare until them things found out about the fraud. Safety passwords were employed and the verification method for the forefinger tip got stricter. It took time and creative juices for associates to plot strategies just to be able to purchase basic supplies. Good thing there’s the underground economy that caters to fugitives like us, at higher prices though. If only we could live without the synthetics.

Sans the convenience of appliances and entertainment devices, time in the hills seemed to slow down. Good for the senior citizens and quite boring for the younger ones. But the seemingly endless fellowships brightened our spirits which made life enjoyable even away from the comfort of our homes. And what else can the fellowships offer but reminiscings and reminiscings and more reminiscings of the good old days.

I happened to experience power outages when I was a young boy, where the kids would sit on the floor in front of an elder who would be telling invented stories. How we loved the horror stories which were adaptations of Filipino fables and fairy tales. Our fellowships are somewhat similar to those story-telling sessions but instead of kapres and aswangs, them things are it.

It was as if them things heard our invented stories because them things wouldn’t be content with our voluntary isolation. Anyway, I had earlier sensed that them things would make their move against us sooner or later so I did my homework religiously. Since the hilly Tanay is near the Pacific Ocean, there’s no other way for us to go but to defend Paradiso at all costs. I organized a ragtag army and assigned sentries armed with bamboo sticks to man the boundaries 24 by 7. Makeshift fences were erected and booby traps were laid down at the edges of the perimeter. That was the claim to our stake or should I say the stake to our claim.

It was one fine morning when the government troops arrived. They were friendly, I admit, and decent-looking but somewhat hostile with their silly grin and sneers behind our backs. Our shelter was inspected. Associates were given the dirty eye. Our names were logged including our former home addresses. An invitation was announced. Invitation to what? A battle of nerves was quickly developing.

I had foreseen all of those but what I didn’t foresee was the federation army would be out of control. The invitation to enter the rehab was the crux of the matter. It was an insult to the nth degree that no true-blue associate could stomach. That may have been the last straw that broke the tamaraw’s back. After a short nonsensical dialogue and a recess, a bloody skirmish erupted without warning.

Associates scampered for safety when the first shot rang out. Fortunately there was no second shot. The federation army fought with tooth and nail, literally. Blood was spilling from the arms and hands of the government troops. Some booby traps sprang up but, fortunately for them and unfortunately for us, no one was hit by the bamboo stick missiles. When the battle smoke cleared, I gave it a no-contest verdict.

A vast majority of the associates were arrested, about half of the rest scampered to the forest and the remaining ones, including me, braved the threats of the arresting officers who used soft but firm words. No one on our side dared to argue because most of the injured were on other side. Sometimes it makes me wonder why the federation army got defeated by soft but firm words.

We tried to regroup when the invaders left but most of those who ran away remained at large. We waited for a time until I realized that there was already a lost command wreaking havoc in the city. But can you blame those associates who vandalized the machines in every nook and corner? Can you blame an angry person with an IQ hiding under his toenails?

But them things, as I have said time and again, have their way with us so I had to be more prepared for eventualities. No, the government troops did not come back but I wasn’t that too prepared for the things to come. For what came were them things.

With army precision, them things covered the hills like ants, gradually at first and slowly inching their way. Caution was the motto of the day. We had to relocate to be able to watch what was happening. The hillside was somewhat flattened and them things were sowing seeds. No one dared make a move, not even the brave supremo. And to strengthen the argument of silence, that little voice inside of me was deathly quiet.

In a few days time, irrigation sprinklers sprang up from the ground like magic. Sensors of all types and sizes were in place all over the newly-reclaimed farm which used to be Paradiso. More gadgets and devices were installed until Paradiso looked like a factory. I had to admit, it has a semblance of efficiency. Not the farming though but the invasion to our property.

With shoulders drooping, we stayed in the border of the forest overlooking the deep blue waters of the sea to concoct a plan. But them things meant business. Mechanization continued up to the forested areas. It seemed to me that them things invaded all the lands that the eye could see. Well, soldiers should not go to battle with an empty stomach unless you have that characteristics of the legendary Rambo. But Rambo or not, the federation was given no other option. Them things waged a war and we’re calling the bet.

The attack was spontaneous and brisk. Man versus machine. Thudding sounds could be heard which later on transformed into pitiful moans. All the sensors near us were fighting back by spewing bluish sparks that looked like high-voltage electricity. Anyone could guess what happens when the sprinklers perform their role.

I reckon it took only a few minutes before everyone was captured… except I and a few others. All the associates that lay on the ground woke up in time to the welcoming handcuffs of the government troops as we watched helplessly in the safety of the big mahogany trees at the edge of the cliff.

That was the end of the federation or so they thought. But inside of me was that little voice, the same little voice that guided me in all my dealings. If not for that little voice I wouldn’t have been president of my uncle’s bank. And our bank was reputedly the only bank to resist the devil’s gift until… uh, okay, them things have their way with everything. And the devil was hiding under his pseudonym - automation.

I vividly remember the proclamation that the age of communication had arrived, linking almost everyone, anywhere one may be. Missives got shorter and shorter such that even the spellings and grammar were bastardized just to make the message simple but in fact complex which brought confusion instead of understanding. In spite of the rapid exchange of communication war still persists everywhere in the world. So why would I not listen to that little voice inside me?

And them things created a new science in aid of the existing sciences. Astronomy greatly improved but no startling discovery was made. Transportation leaped ten-fold but man still couldn’t go to Mars. And medical science, oh, poor medical science stagnating in the face of gadgets and devices at their convenience. People are still getting sick and people continue to die even if the lifespan increased to three digits. The promised panacea turned out to be just another placebo. So I was right in listening to that little voice, right?

Them things continued with their evil ways of exterminating their greatest enemy. The government seemed intent on capturing all associates to extinguish the existence of the federation. Globalization is the name of the game and the Philippines should be abreast with the times. Technology must be utilized to the fullest. Hail to you, Bill whatsoever.

In the face of insurmountable odds, the little voice encouraged me to go on with my crusade. Resist and fight back until you’re the last man standing. So little time left in my life anyway and I can put it to good use. I can make a difference, I’m certain of that. To hell with Bill whatsoever.

With the remaining handful of associates, we strolled in the city incognito, disguised as urban squatters. We were practically scavenging for food and finding shelter when not busy vandalizing the machines on the streets. Some of us even went to the extent of rummaging in the garbage mountains of Manila. Survival of the unfittest is the real test. And we survived somehow until.. them things made their move again.

It was surprising to see our blown-up photographs on almost all the vidiwalls decorating the city. So much like the infomercials against the use of dangerous drugs - turn in a non-techno and you contribute to progress. Nice slogan but cheap. The nicer thing is the reward. Tsk, tsk, having us arrested had become as easy as peeling a rotten banana.

I dread the day to be in the rehab, to see the zombie-like converts coming out with their plastic smiles and artificial zeal. So them things are not pure evil as the federation pictured them to be. Them things really bring almost every good things you find in the evil society. All good things except understanding. And to me, understanding is of paramount importance. Ask them things and surely they wouldn’t understand.

In the reception area of the rehab’s main building, I saw a medium-sized photograph of technology’s patron saint, Bill whatsoever in a rare smiling profile. Below was a caption that said “absolute automation is absolute progress” but a graffiti underneath was written the big letters IBM. Looking closely, I smiled upon reading– It’s Better Manual.

I was incarcerated in a bare room with a cot. So that was the rehab, cold and frigid and unfriendly as I had imagined. The orderly was cordial but I could discern the invisible insults emanating from his facial expressions when he was giving me a sort of a lecture about the benefits I could get from the institution. As a finale of his oration, he enumerated the countless names of proud graduates of the rehab, all of whom I knew.

The next day, the orderly came again to bring food and casually talked to me while I was having breakfast. But instead of taking off with the plates when I finished eating, he fished out a small gadget, the size of a cigarette pack. His left thumb did the chore of pressing buttons, or dials maybe, then coyly requested for my forefinger. I was somewhat mesmerized, almost automatically I gave in to his request. So that’s the imprint of my forefinger getting inside that gadget called palmtop. A few seconds passed and he smilingly declared that I was already a registered citizen and asked me to go with him outside of my room. That’s the end of the soft initiation, phase two coming up.

I was brought to a big hall, looking more like a government canteen of the olden times but neater and much cleaner. Vending machines were lined up and, being a registered citizen, impulse told me to buy soda for an acid test. When my forefinger touched the tiny blue panel of the machine, the speakers came to life. “Your fund balance is sufficient, please make your selection. Thank you and have a nice time with our soda.” The other panel, which was bigger and clearer, displayed my photo and something like 6 digits of number to which the orderly explained was the balance of my pension funds from the SSS. Not bad.

The next day I was on my own in purchasing my personal needs from the vending machines. From fruits and sandwiches, to musical sing-alongs and vintage Tagalog movies. I could feel the total control of the vending machines but I restrained myself. The orderly was quite happy with my developments and he gave me compliments from time to time.

I was beginning to appreciate things especially the friendly assistance of the orderly. He said that all I needed was to cast away my fears and cooperate with him. The computer would not bite me, hahaha. So there was nothing scary at the rehab after all. But my cooperation remained elusive just to maintain that hardline stance against their wishes.

One day, without further ado, the orderly took me to a room full of computers. My knees began shaking and my hands trembled at the sight of the monitor and the keyboard. I almost vomited when the orderly placed my hand on the mouse ball that inhabited the lower edge of the computer keyboard. When an icon was clicked I would puke, I would pass out, I would… cooperate. And why not?

But I didn’t graduate from the rehab because I had been manifesting severe mental fatigue whenever I would finish the first semester of my schooling. Authorities had to get another place of lodging for me to unwind and relax a bit. I was practically in and out of the rehab. A psychiatrist remarked that I may have developed a phobia with the machines. Even my close relationship with the orderly didn’t help. By the way, the orderly was actually a user support personnel who specialized in non-technos like me.

Now, the battle of the wits started shaping up. No one knew about my plans except the little voice inside of me who said, go on with the tide and gather momentum before you race back. It was my grand design to finish the first semester just to tickle their fancy and no more after that. But I have my own agenda - it’s either I become a techno or the orderly becomes a non-techno.

And my learning proved that it was not a waste of my precious time for it boosted the stock of my imaginative mind. I didn’t know that electronic word processing was perfect for writing unlike the tedious pen and paper. Mistakes could be easily corrected and manuscripts could be saved until eternity. What more, unlimited hard copies could be printed in exact duplicates.

I had no idea that email could reach the recipient in a matter of seconds and that email could include photographs and even film clips. Anything I write in the word processor could be sent by email to any computer that’s connected to the worldwide web. Wonderful, I’d say.

I was ignorant of the chat rooms that turned out to be really amazing. All I needed was to register my handle and presto, the fun begins. It was like an open forum where anyone who’s signed in could be seen and heard. What a nice place to find new friends all over the globe. Neat, huh?

The marvelous bulletin boards can reach a slew of audiences all over the world. Messages, be it personals, general issues and even obscenities, can be posted free of charge. And the posting would remain forever and ever. That’s what I call superb.

So all you guys, out there, I want to thank you for reading this thread. It’s a great pleasure to write and a greater pleasure to be read. I hope you will post your comments, be it positive or negative, any comment is welcome. And if you think this posting is good, why not forward this thread to your friends and acquaintances?

Lastly, if you happen to know someone who’s got the symptoms of a non-techno, please tell him that the federation is still alive and kicking. Technology is a wolf in a sheep’s clothing and whether you believe or not, them things are the tentacles of the devil named Bill whatsoever. And this Bill whatsoever is actually an alien from outer space who practiced voodoo. Search the archive for the last issue of a tabloid called Bandera, dated sometime in the year 2000.

And in case anyone would be willing to sign up, in the name of the non-techno federation, you can come to me for a personal visit, here in my present homebase at room 504 Senior Citizen Pavilion of the National Mental Health Center, Mandaluyong City.

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