Vincent’s Note: I don’t know what to say, but while I was searching my name on the net, I found my “long lost” article in the website of Access My Library and I was surprised that it was already copyrighted. This article of mine was published years ago in December 2003 (if I’m not mistaken) as a Youngblood contribution to the Philippine Daily Inquirer. During that time, I was still a struggling campus writer of our school organ where I served as its two-term editor in chief. I am now re-publishing this article since I am its “true” owner. Truly, I missed this essay of mine. You may access it in the said website at http://www.accessmylibrary.com/coms2/summary_0286-19689075_ITMfirstname.lastname@example.org&library=.
A BATCH MATE of mine once asked a question I could hardly answer: “What if the darkroom talks?” She seemed to be truly baffled, although there was a naughty twinkle in her eyes.
Indeed the question was full of irony, for how can a room speak when it is lifeless? But then I found myself turning it over in my head and even made a follow-up question: “Then, what would it say?”
Apparently, Ana, my co-writer in the Dawn, a weekly student publication of the University of the East, was referring to the room next to the editor’s cubicle. Actually, it’s no longer a darkroom now after our alumni editors decided to turn it into a stockroom. Now you see no films or old developing machine inside, only a sink with black tiles, a hanging cabinet and a refrigerator.
In the past, the darkroom played a very vital role. Without it, there could be no photographs on the front page and succeeding pages. But as time passed by, advanced technology turned the darkroom into a part of Dawn history.
The time I first entered the office, the room was painted black. Its dark texture was the thing we will always miss. Its darkness was like an opiate that could relieve pressures and lighten troubles.
I can still remember the time when my batch mates and I would gather in the darkroom and chat about the day’s experiences as we went about our tasks. Our conversations usually included complaints about arrogant sources and reprimands we got from our seniors. We came to know the word “kuryente” very well as some of our sources plugged inaccurate stories for publication.
When we were still “probis” (probationary staffers), we started to hear gossip about some alumni who held the office in the past. The stories varied from happy to outrageous. Some of our seniors told stories that sounded like urban legends. Most stories were interesting, such as disputes between seniors, love affairs, ghosts and even coups. The coups did not succeed due to lack of support from the “probis” and other low-ranking staffers.
It’s almost the same as the present when several attempts to grab power have been made. Every time, the coup plotters held many innocent people hostage.
The Dawn has a tradition of respect for the hierarchy and seniority. Our tradition carries some resemblance to that of the Philippine Military Academy. The plebeians there correspond to our “probis,” whose only right is to bow to the tradition and to their seniors and nothing more because that would mean a violation of the tradition.
Our batch was originally composed of 14 “probis,” until the system left only two of us: Ana and I. Survival of the fittest is the name of the game.
Archie, my idealistic friend who quit, once said, “If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. There are many ways of serving the people.”
The system succeeded in decimating our batch, leaving only the strongest links. But our friendship remains. Sometimes I think our tradition is harsh and discriminatory, but then I realize that without it, there would be no Dawn and no respect for seniors.
I can’t help but equate these things to what is happening outside the campus. Crimes and wrongdoings are rampant, ruining innocent lives and all the government can say is that it will “protect democracy.”
As time passed, I found myself no longer at the bottom of the hierarchy. At the top, I could see how things happened. Then I saw the darkroom with new occupants, a new batch of “probis” with a new hope for the Dawn. And then the question comes back to me: If the darkroom could tell stories, what would it say? What tales would it share?
Things have changed. The darkroom is not black as its walls have been covered with wallpaper with vibrant colors. To me it’s still the same darkroom where friendships started and no matter what color it wears, for as long as it is there, many dreams and aspirations will still be developed in the future.
Froilan Vincent D. Bersamina, 20, is an AB Communication Arts student of the University of the East and a staff member of the Dawn.