In an age where one is accorded the leverage to figure things out, Frankie Pangilinan is well ahead of the curve, even more assured and actualized than most adults, persisting with passion and purpose one Tweet at a time.
Newsflash: Despite a completely misguided attempt at a rosy, earnestly hopeful outlook amid the punishing persistence of the pandemic, the life we once knew of is but a chapter in the past of our collective histories as a human race. While some would file it as a footnote or as a privileged point of reset, depressingly determined to dig their nails deep to cling on the typical and traditional, we have to face the reality and relent to the fact that there is no normal, because frankly speaking, nothing about what we are still going through is. Sure, there are fragments and facets of the routine coddled within the pockets of the irregular. For example, as eerily quiet as the near empty streets were, with nothing more than a warm whistle of wind hissing through the particularly humid weekday, it was a scene of the ordinary: a father driving and dropping his daughter off for a few hours, this time for a shred of liberty from the limits of the circumstance of crisis—except that the father was Senator Francis Pangilinan and the daughter, Frankie Pangilinan.
“I think I might’ve been pursuing distractions to the extent that I’ve forgotten to reflect, so thank you for the reminder,” Frankie Pangilinan says, beginning the usual course of considered thought that is characteristic of the young lady. “My typical response [when asked how things have been] has recently been that things could be better, but they could likewise be exponentially worse, for which I am, while tired, extremely grateful. I’ll admit that there’s this insane creative restlessness that lurks between the more shadowy parts of my brain, and I think it simply seeks to be relieved. It all seems to be stuck in some sort of purgatory, indefinite and uncertain. I truly detest being uncertain. I detest the middle.”
Despite setting a self-effacing precedent of not having the slightest clue as to how she feels, which understandably swings from end to end and everything in between just like the rest of us, she is able to articulate the indefinite very well. “I tend to remind people nowadays that self-preservation has to be further up on our respective priority lists while living in the midst of a global pandemic. Survive, and then everything can follow. It’s an awful piece of advice for the most self-destructive generation there’s perhaps ever been, but that’s what makes it essential. Even in ordinary days, we already lost so much of ourselves between touchscreens and keyboards,” she furthers, detailing a coping mechanism in the form of necessary social media breathers from time to time. “When everything pertinent has to be done online, there’s little room to breathe. I think social media breathers were quite frequent for me already, it’s just that with an overwhelming amount of heartbreaking current events happening every single day, silences can be read into as well. I tend to disclaim prolonged absences now before I decide to sink into them, just so that people are assured that I’m not being apathetic. Apathy in such dark days is cruel. I don’t want to be cruel. I just likewise don’t want to suffocate. It’s essential to reset and reground oneself. Otherwise, we may go mad.”
WE’RE ALL MAD HERE
Mad is a two-pronged word that both pertain to a certain amount of extreme. Whether it is aggressively charged anger or a moment unhinged, it all figures well into the emotional vocabulary of anyone who is wired online. This couldn’t be any more true for Frankie Pangilinan, who especially as of late, has gained a notoriety on social media for her unapologetic and unequivocal crusade on the social injustices and oppression that is not only plaguing, but eroding the very foundations of humanity.
“I’ve always been this honest, I just haven’t been quite as loud. Or perhaps I was going relatively unheard in the last few years, which is why the shift has been so sudden. People seem to pay attention now, which is terrifying. That doesn’t mean I’ll stop—I’d made a vow to myself to remain unfiltered for my own integrity. What’s the use of having a digital platform if you cant take full ownership of the content you post?” she challenges. “I’ve said this before on my writing account several times, but I believe that when something is powerful enough to affect you, it is beautiful. I keep my old Tumblr as a catalogue of things I once found beautiful. I keep the rest of my social media honest for the same reason. What’s the use of pretending on platforms specifically intended to share what little you can about who you are? Hell, I have no idea who I am, but I’ll be damned if I don’t try to find out. One day, I’ll look back at all these little digital fragments I left scattered around the limitless interwebs and build a person I used to be. Maybe I’m already grieving my youth before it’s even gone—but nothing keeps me more agitated than to think of a future where it’s all gone to waste. I want to live my life consequentially, if anything. I strive to affect what I can. Perhaps that’s beautiful in itself, then.”
At 19-years old, Frankie Pangilinan has not only come face-to-face with giants, but she has successfully slain these overlords of opinion with an acerbic wit and unflinching tenacity that has turned discourse and movements out of an opposition of archaic dictates and age-old archetypes that are better off left to gather dust and spools of cobwebs. Not one to be unnerved at the thought of trying to coterize deeply-rooted cancers in society with an all too powerful Tweet button, the magnitude of the responsibility she has been handed isn’t lost on her. “I think I’m just scared about the sheer visibility of it all. I don’t think I’m scared to say the things I say—people (by people I mean the big paid troll social media machine we’re operating against) will react no matter what that is, at this point. But I guess what I lack in fear of others’ opinions, I make up for entirely with fear of my own. It honestly helps that people forget I’m this young, because then I feel as if it raises expectations, which I gladly work hard to meet, but then if I’m unable, I don’t have to beat myself up too much. I guess most of my heart is just glad I’ve gotten a sort of head start in terms of the work I can do to advocate for justice, especially in such a crucial time in history. It’s odd that I can say that, all the while feeling as if I’m already running out of time,” she contemplates. “The deeper I think about where we are, I come to the jarring realization that there’s so much work to be done and I’m unsure if I’m able to do all that I want to without spreading myself too thin. This is said a lot, but truly I’m still learning, still growing, as every one of us are, I believe. Every single day is just another challenge to outdo myself, hopefully one day I can rest thinking I did enough. Maybe then I can sleep.”
THE FUNDAMENTALS OF HUMANITY
As elusive as the concept of sleep is to her, as anyone who follows Frankie Pangilinan on either her main Twitter account or the writing-dedicated one knows, it isn’t exactly the the figurative fire-breathing dragons she has willed to submission such as misogyny masquerading as concern or the power-tripping of politics that keeps her up well into the acquiescing of the darkness to light, but rather, it is a understandable bout of unnerving unsettlement that she is being put on a pedestal and knighted as some sort of Joan Of Arc or in a more contemporary sense, Katniss Everdeen’s Mockingjay. “I definitely do not get it, oh my goodness. I think it just sort of unsettles me because there are people who are much more deserving of the tag,” she reasons. “I’m a baby in both the academic and the age sense. I don’t say anything revolutionary, I only amplify what’s been said before. This capacity is a duty and responsibility to do so. When you’re given a platform, especially, in my case, one I didn’t even really ask or work for (like, really, what have I done? In the grand scheme of things, I’ve got lots left to prove), the duty then follows. We live in a horrible world where influence has been quantified, which, pardon my French, sucks ass, because influence is a quality. Everybody has a sphere of influence. Everybody deserves the same empowerment. But while that isn’t the case, it’s my responsibility to ensure that those who deserve the louder voice get to use mine.”
If these are the thoughts that live rent free in the minds of so many people, the young’uns and the adults alike, then perhaps we wouldn’t be living in a world where our morale and morals are no longer subject to any standards other than to just get us through each day, please. Sure, there will be a whole lot more insomniacs, but at least a thought of progress exists to be taken into action. More than just a couple of highly engaged Tweets that is the bare minimum for anyone and everyone with access to data and the internet, Frankie Pangilinan is not settling for pats in the back, but is actively finding ways within her means to make changes. We’ve seen this during that much-publicized extension of her and her family’s resources for the Sitio San Roque incident a couple of months back, as well as with something as simple as a digital thread on local brands to keep an eye out for.
“I think it’s the most fundamental thing about being human. And that’s the cruelty of the world, to be honest—the fact that someone like me, who’s doing the bare minimum, is garnering attention for it, like it’s anything special. Sometimes it shakes my faith in people. If you’re incapable of taking your empathy further, then it’s entirely lacking,” she says, defiantly. “The real change is happening out there. Advocacies exist to feed action. A lot of activism online can be so performative, nobody’s lives are going to change from you posting a black square on your timeline if you don’t know what else you can do about it. It can start simple, sign those petitions (that’s free), make small cash donations (slightly less free), talk to experts, read articles. Getting informed is a great way to take action.” And while she has done more than most, she is still the first to admit that there is a lot to be done.
RECLAIMING THE TRUTH
In the fiery pits of hell that is social media, everything becomes fair game, so much so that every possible delineation becomes blurred to a point unrecognizable. It would have been infinitely easier for her if, coupled with the leverage she has a teenager accorded with the headspace and legroom to figure things out, she stayed on her comfortable perch atop the ivory tower she was born into. However, while Frankie Pangilinan acknowledges and honors her privilege and position, she doesn’t let it define, and even more so, consume who she is and can be. “How can excess and poverty co-exist within the same landscape? It doesn’t make sense. It’s no individual’s fault, at least my parents worked hard for their money and didn’t exploit anybody to get to where they are—and they’ve equipped us with the tools to achieve success as opposed to handing things to us on a silver tray. They taught us the value of personal agency and they recognized we’d grow up in a bubble, which is why, I think, they also did everything within their power to ensure that it was at least, was a transparent one,” she says of a revelation of perspectives in her crusade for justice. “There will always be people who see me as deplorable or, alternatively, lovable, on the basis of nothing more than misguided assumptions of my background. I’m trying not to care. It’s not like I can change my childhood anyway, we’re well past that. All I can change is what I do now, what I do next—and that’s why it’s essential to me to learn about what I can do from where I am now in order to help make the most substantial, good change.” Far more actualized and realized than most, she is using her advantages for the greater good—when it counts and where it matters.
“I know I said that sometimes my faith in people is shaken, but that never means it’s been torn or irreversibly damaged. I have an insane amount of belief in people’s capacity to learn and change for the better. I think that’s because I’m still (somehow) more a romantic than a cynic,” she says. “It can be frustrating to speak to people who dont recognize such movements for the powerful, completely necessary, not-at-all outlandish ideals they represent. At the same time, though, it’s unfair to expect everybody to be somehow omnipresent and know everything going on all the time. Widespread ignorance is a symptom of an ailing society. I think when we fight for social equality, we must remember that those we often disagree with are just victims of the same oppressive system. I’m angry at machismo culture, but not at the people who’ve lived their lives accepting it as the norm. We all deserve better but not everybody knows that better isn’t out of reach, it’s fought for. We shouldn’t settle.”
For someone who is carving out an identity on terms all of and on her own, Frankie Pangilinan is the first to say that despite a courage that everyone seems to pull from her, she still gets scared, as is natural for a person on-the-cusp of so many possibilities. “I am constantly terrified, maybe not always of the right things, but it’s terror nonetheless. Please understand how much I mean this: There is nothing special about the things I do. But that’s exactly what should make it doable for everybody. If I’m able to do any of this at all, then anybody can—and everybody should. If you’re a cynic, then you know we’re all going to die anyway, so let’s at least die trying. If you’re an optimist, like me, then you have faith in the idea of a goodness for which we can all aspire.”
In a sense, standing for a reclamation of everything from words, femininity, and being at the very least, a decent human being, as Frankie Pangilinan has graciously and gloriously articulated in the course of this conversation-turned-exposition, it is necessary that we define these on our own and fight for it with our lives in any way we can, because as succinctly as she puts it on the context of the otherwise, “Then what’s the point?”
Point well taken.