I write better when I smoke. Don’t ask me to reduce it to a science.

Tracy’s travails

It’d be so easy to flog this girl for all the things that she wrote – but how can you really turn a blind eye to the jarring honesty she exhibited. Just like with racists, all the hateful things that flowed from her keyboard were simply the product of who she is and the environment she grew up – and hopefully eventually matures – in. People are not born enlightened, after all. And besides, since the text was basically ripped from the pages of facebook, it is pretty safe to assume that her candor is limited to her circle of friends who, presumably do not think too differently. In other words, I doubt that this is the public face she presents and that in general, she is likely to be as politically correct as her most vociferous critics are.

Having said that, what struck me most about her account is that it paints a starkly accurate picture of what it is like to live in some indigenous communities. Her observational skills are respectable, and by recording her impressions side-by-side with her empirical notes, she intuits a sociological approach that highlights not just how things are but how huge the gap is between people like her and people like Aetas. That gap, she shows, cannot be bridged until the biases of those on her side of the abyss are addressed adequately. As she said, before her immersion, she was a naive girl. 

And how many of us have the same problem the first time we sally forth to save the world, with our college diplomas and fiery idealism? What interests me now is how she will proceed from here. Gautama ventured into the squalor and poverty and indignity of the world outside his pleasure dome and went on to achieve enlightenment. Tracy might not end up establishing a world religion, but one hopes that she will eventually learn to look at the Aetas with some compassion and become a genuine crusader for them.

But honestly sorry St. Ignatius, I was NOT immersed. If anything, the trip was like a test of true patience for me and how well I could mentally block everything. Like aside from being the girl in our group who is known for her amazing bladder and colon control skills, I’m like also the girl who can keep sleeping anywhere and everywhere. It was like my spacing-out skills at its finest.

It is normal on the first go to engage in denial – always the first step people take when confronting crisis – or as Tracy says, to “mentally block everything.”  The question is, can progress?  That can only happen when she learns to move her focus from herself and onto the plight of others. Only then, I imagine, will she be able to realize that the purpose of immersion is not to achieve instant enlightenment but to spur self-doubt. Immersion is intended to shake up your pre-conceived notions of how peachy keen the world is; to bombard your senses with information that will give you a better appreciation of how shitty the world actually can be.

Or, she can remain locked in the selfish, shallow, and self-absorbed point-of-view she has now. Instead of Gautama, she might take after Imelda Marcos whose campaign to promote beauty consisted only in covering up the ugly bits. Yep, that outcome is possible too. And if she is unfortunate enough not to be able to break free of that, then I say the blame will fall on those who were supposed to make sense of this immersion for her.

She mentions a paper on her reflections where she will recount her ‘realizations.’ Yeah. Anyone with a firm grasp of all the platitudes can write a reflection paper that will bring a tear to your eye. But what good will that do? 

Many students coming from immersion trips like this take the easy way out and write up their experiences as though they were Oprahclones. And their teachers, when they applaud those relentless epipahanies, are also taking the easy way out. The right way to end immersion experiences like this is to go after the dark, smelly, and clammy impressions you get and working out how best you can use those impressions – those eeks! and ews! – to the benefit of yourself and the depressed community you have just emerged from.

I hope Tracy is lucky enough to have teachers who can shepherd her out of this. Otherwise, we will lose yet another articulate and intelligent young girl to the seduction of materialism and the allure of comfort.


Filed under: education, society, , , , ,

31 Responses

  1. BrianB says:

    I sincerely admire this post. ROM, you’re amazing. You should get a column already. Manolo should show this blog around the Inquirer. Not only could you write and not only are you one of the most logical women I have ever met in my life but your insights are above and beyond your fellow writers.

  2. BrianB says:

    Of course, like most young people, you do have a TONNE of blind spots. 🙂 But totally respect your intelligence, nonetheless.

  3. BrianB says:

    Special attention to this paragraph, the honesty you rarely find. She is still from a good school, you got to know that:


    Seriously though, the only thing that kep me sane was the really pretty view being on top of a cliff and all and how everything was so airy and spacious. Life there is so monotonous and droll and time was soooo sloooow, but so weird I got kind of jealous at how simply happy they were. I was jealous at how uncomplicated everything there was. (Yeah, yeah I realized a couple of things but that’s reserved for my actual reflection paper because that’s not what you guys are after haha) But honestly sorry St. Ignatius, I was NOT immersed. If anything, the trip was like a test of true patience for me and how well I could mentally block everything. Like aside from being the girl in our group who is known for her amazing bladder and colon control skills, I’m like also the girl who can keep sleeping anywhere and everywhere. It was like my spacing-out skills at its finest.


    Rom, have this post published on print.

  4. Death says:

    I like the way you talked about this issue.

    I find it depressing that not only is the gap between social classes obvious in this post, but even physically.

    It was sad that there are people in this world who do exist..those who are hidden in a world of riches and not being able to see how the world truly is.

  5. Allegra Luna says:

    I was about to leave a rather scathing post on your transcription of her entry, but then I’m glad I read this first, and I want to say thank you for not just launching into a long tirade about what a horrible, insensitive bitch Tracy Borres is. I haven’t been seeing that a lot on the Internet. Most of what I find is just people making mean, underhanded comments about her and judging her entire person based on that one blog entry that they were never even meant to read, and it disappointed me.

    Tracy is a friend of mine, and she’s been a good friend for a long time. The contents of that blog entry are not the summary of her person. I’m not making any excuses for the things she said, and I’m not condoning her actions either, because her comments were really offensive, even to some of her friends who already KNOW what she and her humor are like, but I think she deserves to be treated better than she is being treated now, because right now, people seem to think she’s hardly human and are not regarding her as such.

    What frustrates me about this hoopla is that people keep going on and on in their blog entries about how “they’re spreading the posts so that more people know about this heinous bitch,” and when I ask what for, some actually tell me that they’re doing it so that “Tracy Isabel Borres learns something.” What’s she going to learn? That people on the Internet are self-righteous cunts? Some of these people have tried to get her in trouble with the school, but the school already knows about this, and right now, all they’re really concerned about is that this nuttery isn’t affecting Tracy negatively, academically or emotionally. If the school can take it with a grain of salt, and understand that not everybody has a beautiful, mindblowingly enlightening immersion experience, why can’t everyone else?

    I understand where their anger is coming from, but I think that instead of further spreading the hate all over the Internet, where Tracy is obviously not looking because she knows what’s out there, these “concerned, upstanding, moral, socially-aware citizens” could be doing something more constructive. Doesn’t everyone know her Facebook name by now? Doesn’t everyone know what her photo looks like? Why don’t they just take their grievances straight to her and message her on Facebook?

    Or can they only bravely express how horrified they are and how awful they think she is on their own inviolable turf, where she’s not looking and where nobody’s standing up for her?

    Anyway, thank you for your time, and thank you for your kindness. It is very much appreciated.

  6. Allegra says:

    I also left a rather long entry on the subject on my Multiply account’s main page in case anyone is interested. (It won’t let me post a blog entry right now.) I’m just really, really, really worried about my friend, and this “scandal” has been spread all over the world na daw. 😦

  7. cvj says:

    So that’s how the Ateneans turn into Benign0s.

  8. BrianB says:

    Found more photos of Tracy here (just don’t think I’m stalking):

    She doesn’t look snobbish at all. Very normal actually. Is her thinking normal, too? I think so.

  9. Bencard says:

    definitely not a princess di, audrey hepburn, or even angelina jolie, when it comes to commiserating with the “dregs” of humanity. aah, these chic pretenders who feel important and superior by stomping on the downtrodden. shame!

  10. BrianB says:

    It’s her real feeling, though. In the YFC (youth for Christ) there was a girl from Manila that went with us on a mission in some far flung place in Panay. This lady was really culture shocked on her first night. I saw her curl up on her haunches in a fetal position as a few local girls and guys approached her for a conversation. I felt only disgust in my mind for her but then the day after she was all better and was very sociable to everyone. She wasn’t even the sosyal or kikay sort, just a normal upper middle class girl from Manila, already in college too.

  11. rom says:

    Allegra: welcome to the smoking room. It’s a good thing you’re doing, standing up for your friend

  12. UP n grad says:

    Tracy’s blogpost entries about her experience among Aetas — raw honesty, brilliant insights, and torrid humor. That she did not do an out-of-body experience to be a cheerleader and save the world (or worse, to feel a need to sacrifice body and soul “for the greater good”) speaks a lot of Tracy’s stability and perception of self-worth.

  13. Jen says:

    ZOMG Rom, I’m so out of the loop.

    Props to your take on the issue. Very classy.

    LOL @ CVJ’s comment ehehe 😀

  14. UP n grad says:

    Tracy feeling alienated by the conditions among the Aetas —- no toilets, kids walking around tulo-uhog, drunkards walking the streets — makes perfect sense. Tracy’s mistake is that she did not see the Aetas as votes, but then again, she is young, but she did see lahar as maybe a source of revenue (make-up additive).

    Wishfully, there should have been some stirrings inside Tracy to help the Aetas, but then again, Tracy has no cousins nor aunts among the Aetas. Tracy’s experiences illustrate that the immersion program should be reversed. A handful of the Aetas should be brought to Cebu or Davao or Manila to see the better sanitary conditions and the better educational facilities of the metro-areas. Then the circle is completed when the Aeta “immersion-students” return to their communities with “desire for better for their own” and ideas on how to implement. And if these Aeta-immersion students feel discrimination as they walk the streets of Makati, then tough. But it will all even out as they hopefully become leaders and held in greater esteem as they return to their communities.

  15. rom says:

    UP n: Awesome suggestion, uncle!

  16. The Ca t says:

    i hope she will not have the chance to volunteer in the non-profit organizations here in the States where the clients are also smelly or worse than the indigeneous people that she’s describing.

    Because if the volunteer writes an honest to goodness experience and feeling that she had, she will never see light when she applies for ajob with only the non-profit as her reference.

    tssk tsssk, this woman who thinks that her airdonditioned room is heaven and everything that smell and are dirty are hell should come to San Francisco. If she is not careful, she can step on human waste , sputum and urine in the sidewalk of SF downtown.

    Even in Rome and Paris, if you are lucky you can take pictures of these “tae” in the crowded plazas and streets.

    sayang ang expensive education. labas pa rin ignorante.

  17. Reezen TOT says:

    It is so sad how pathetic she could ever be. Racism and Discrimination is not acceptable for me..

    She won’t even be able to live in the real world with out the help from her parents..

    tsk tsk tsk…

    this type of blogs sickens me…

  18. Jen says:

    I honestly blame the kid’s parents.

  19. brianbro says:

    Yes, everyone’s in denial but many upper middle class families think snobbery works for their benefit.

  20. kantob0y says:

    To UP n grad:
    good suggestion but you’re forgetting that we’re talking about IP’s here and not urban poor.

  21. brianbro says:

    UP n,

    My mom, after getting tired of my recalcitrant ways, once sold me to an aeta (an ATI as we call it). Believe me when I say they are not tempted by the technological advantages that we enjoy. They love their bows and arrows. Their most precious possessions, besides some gold, is their itak, which you and I know is a big steel knife. They don’t make them so they get it through charity or barter.

    Come on, ROM, you know the aeta lifestyle is BY CHOICE.

  22. dino says:

    i admire your insight. you saw the elephant inside the boa constrictor 🙂

  23. just asking says:

    is this mark guab’s blog? sorry im lost

  24. rom says:

    just asking: welcome to the smoking room. Mark Guab’s blog? Well, you have to go back about three blocks from here … take the first right … go about five blocks straight down … when you see the Caltex, you need to turn left. Mark Guab’s blog is right across from the big tree on your right. 🙂

    Hope you don’t have trouble finding it. 😀

  25. Pastilan says:

    Is that what they teach in Ateneo? Money can’t buy education. This asshole Tracy is one hell of an uneducated girl!

  26. benj says:

    ^ ngek. ISA KA PA!

  27. Nitzche says:

    Frankly, i experienced not taking a dump for four days because of poor toilet conditions…. i just can’t but i didn’t feel what she felt because i stayed with relatives 🙂

  28. nice post rom! it’s a good take on this issue. i hope that tracy would read your post and maybe fine-tune her view in her whole immersion experience (that turns out to be an extended class for her — the blogosphere mob as her teacher hehehe)

  29. rom says:

    palusot: welcome to the smoking room! that’s a rockin’ site you got there! 😀

  30. […] I’m going to post here, I suggest you read Smoke’s transcript of the Tracy Borres post, Smoke’s reply, and her take on Tracy’s reply.  More required reading comes from ReynaElena.  Which means […]

  31. DFC says:

    It’s funny how serious people have become over this Tracy girl. I just find it plain funny, to be honest. I couldn’t even get to the end of her blog entry since the way it was written, and her very generous sprinkling of cono Filipino terms, just made my tears well up with laughter. That, and of course, her utter lack of discretion (I don’t buy her “it was only meant for friends” excuse – why even post it on the net?)

    I find it very hard to be mad at her for the same reason I can’t get mad at Paris Hilton – her naivete is so comical it absolutely absolves all of her guilt in my eyes. And I mean that in full honesty.

    And she’s pretty hot, too. Make a sex tape, Tracy. Then everybody in the male population will forgive you. I guarantee it.

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