I'd love to have been able to say that it was a dark and stormy night when I first discovered my latent mutant powers. It would even be so comicbook-worthy if my mutant powers were borne out of some radioactive spider bite or radio active isotopes or anything radio active for that matter. But my trigger was something a tad more mundane than that: a drunken sleazoid.
It happened during my first few months of uni. It took me an hour and a half everyday to get to school, and an hour and a half going back home. The trip going back home was slightly more unpleasant because I had to go across the EDSA highway through the Guadalupe overpass to get from the bus stop to where the jeepneys were. The Guadalupe overpass is not the nicest place on Earth. It's stinky, dirty and teeming with people -- all the time. The dust and grime from vehicle emmissions from the highway have settled permanently on every surface of the underpass. The waist-high walls of the overpass, which was put there to protect people from falling off, was also used as a public urinal by men who can't wait for the nearest bathroom.The sides of the overpass are usually peppered with buskers singing Engel Humperdink and Tom Jones songs, happy clappy folks predicting the end of the world and how god's wrath will come down upon all sinners, people selling pad locks / fake swiss army knives / balut / pots and pans / shoe soles and parts. Add to that the 50 or so people crossing the overpass at any given point during the day, and cringe at the thought of just how being there feels, sounds and smells like.
But since my mother was not very keen on me attending a university known for its political activism and liberal values, I was not provided any of the comforts of travelling to school everyday (i.e., a car, preferably with a driver, or to live in a place closer to the uni). And since I would rather die than go to yet another Catholic school, I swallowed my mother's conditions for allowing me to study in that uni. So I took a 30-minute jeepney ride to Guadalupe, then an hour-long bus ride to Philcoa to get to the uni, then reversed process, traversing the Guadalupe overpass on the way home. Everyday. For about 7 years.
A few months into my first semester of uni, I was on one of my daily trips back home. It was early evening and I had just gotten off the bus stop at Guadalupe and was making my way across the overpass.
As I waited my turn to descend the flight of stairs on the left side of the overpass, I felt a hand from behind between my legs. I stopped for a second to confirm that there was really a hand up my butt then I panicked when the hand made itself comfortable. So I turned around and saw this old dude who looked and smelled like he had been drinking all day. He wiggled his eyebrows at me and gave me a smug smile. And that was it.
The next thing I knew, he was struggling to keep himself from falling off the flight of stairs on the right side, and my right hand was burning. A quick mental flashback showed me that I had, in my panic, placed my hand on his chest and pushed him away. That quick mental flashback cost me because he soon made his way up towards where I was standing in shock. He screams at me, "whaddya do that for?!?". I scream back, "Because you're a fucking pervert!" Then I pushed him again, this time with both hands. Then I ran down the stairs and got on the first jeepney I could find.
I shook all the way home (and I think I may have shed a few tears). I was completely floored by what had happened. There was nothing in my life that had prepared me for such a scene -- or the realisation of just how unsafe Manila is. Not Manila. Not my city. Not where I felt most comfortable in. Not the place I called home. I felt it had betrayed me in some way. In that 30-minute jeepney ride home, everything and anyone looked sinister. Was the man beside me sitting a little bit too close? Did the jeepney driver hold on to my hand a few seconds too long as he was taking my fare? Was that teenage boy sitting in front of me eyeing me with malicious intent?
Paranoia to nth degree is not fun.
But as I walked home from the corner where the jeepney dropped me off to my house, I began to feel a manic sense of accomplishment. The look on that drunken freakazoid's face as he struggled for balance on the stairs. And the look on his face when I screamed at him and pushed him again. So shocked! Probably as shocked as I was at the moment. Like he couldn't believe it was happening. Like he couldn't believe that some girl wouldn't let him get away with his petty, perverse thrills. And that made me laugh so hard, I had to spend an extra five minutes composing myself before I stepped into my house.
It was then that I began to realise my latent mutant powers: I cause serious damage to anyone who physically threatens me.
In the years between that day on the Guadalupe overpass and the writing of this entry, I have come across men in different places who, for reasons known only to them, get a thrill out of making threatening sexual advances to random women. And everytime that has happened, my mutant powers to cause serious damage, to defend myself, has resurfaced. Like the construction worker who walked up to me to tell me that he thinks I have a big pussy. I flicked a lit cigarette on his face and ran off as he screamed in pain. Or the man standing next to me in a crowded bus who stared at my boobs and told me he liked them. I kneed him where it hurts then stepped on his foot so hard there was no way he could walk home without hobbling.
I don't walk around Manila thinking it's a sinister place. Nor do I go around thinking every random dude I come across is out to harass me. I don't have to. I know that if anyone ever tries to come near me with the intent of sexually harassing me, I have my mutant abilities to back me up. I know that my inner mutant would come to save the day.
Hopefully, one encounter with a girl (and her inner mutant) who will fight back would make those men think twice about pulling the same moves on other women. If not, then I hope they meet some other chick with her own latent mutant abilities to teach them a lesson or two.
Posted 21st March 2007