Last January 13, 2012, the Ateneo Psyche hosted The Better Life Project: Prime at the Amber Ultra Lounge at The Fort Strip, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City. This was an inter-university and inter-organization party that was held for the benefit of the mental health sector. The party was attended by Psychology majors from the Ateneo de Manila University, De La Salle University, University of the Philippines – Manila, and the University of Sto. Tomas.
The Amber Ultra Lounge looks a lot like your usual after-school week gimik place. Set at the heart of The Fort, this is the place where the typical Ateneo coño comes once classes have ended and JSEC has closed. This chic bar has two floors. Set on the first floor is the bar, the dance floor and the DJ’s booth, while the second floor is filled with couches and tables where people just chill if they want to. For Prime, the dance floor was also fitted with a mini-stage where the hosts will present.
Although the party was set to start at 8PM, the program itself started a little over 9PM already, primarily due to Filipino time. As the hosts rambled on, I noticed that the crowd seemed hang around in bunches. Looking closer, I also noticed that they were all schoolmates. Hardly anyone was trying to get to know each other or anything. The people just stood there, talking amongst themselves.
After the program was over, the hosts declared open bar. The people, myself included, rushed onto the bar like a pack of wild animals that had just had a whiff of fresh meat. As the alcohol flowed, inhibitions lowered. A lot of people were now dancing around and chatting. Having filled myself with more alcohol than I had expected to consume, I left our table and shambled toward some of the other nearby groups. Since they themselves were a bit drunk, they didn’t mind having someone such as myself listening in to their conversations.
At that time, I did not think that I would be using this experience for class. If I had such foresight, I would have observed the room a little more keenly than I usually do. But since I am more of a watcher than dancer—partly because of my shyness and partly because I like seeing how people tick, I usually just watch people in functions such as this. And if you’re wondering how I could tell them apart, the answer is very simple—I look at their clothes and listen to the way they talk.
Ateneans are usually decked out in stylish yet comfortable clothes, whereas La Sallians are more likely to be dressed to the nines. On the other hand, Thomasians tend to dress inappropriately in such a way that they seem to be dressed to casually or too extravagantly, while the Iskolars ng Bayan are all dressed simply yet smartly. This is probably due to the fact that most Ateneans and La Sallians come from the upper levels of the social strata—thus enabling them to buy such lavish clothing—while Thomasians and the Iskolars ng Bayan usually come from middle class to lower middle class families—thus they tend to be a little more practical than the rest of the crowd, for they do not see the need nor have the means to buy expensive clothing and such. Clothing preference, on the other hand, is likely influenced by the environment that the individuals are exposed in. Ateneans tend to prefer practical yet stylish clothes because it is quite difficult to move around the campus in nine-inch heels and such. The La Sallian can choose to be stylish because their campus is quite evenly paved, and there are not a lot of open and grassy spaces. As in the case of Thomasians, I’d like to attribute their somewhat inappropriate sense of style to the fact that they have uniforms in school, and this limits their ability to exercise their fashion sense. Lastly, the Iskolars’ campus is situated at the heart of Manila, and thus their practical sense of style is rather expected.
The group that I was with composed of students from all of the four schools. While we were having casual conversations, I noticed that even in social situations such as this, Ateneans will likely talk about school affairs and the like; the La Sallians liked to talk about other parties and gimiks and how they still managed to ace a test despite a night of hard partying; Thomasians would ramble about how attractive so and so is; and the Iskolars to be casually interjecting comments without actually initiating conversation. These different conversational styles say a lot about the individual and his social background. Since Ateneans are practically studying 24/7, it is understandable that their studies are never too far from their minds. My knowledge of La Sallians is practically next to nothing, but I can infer that they really know how to balance business and pleasure. Thomasians, on the other hand, seem to be a little too superficial. (No offense.) Lastly, I see that the Iskolars are very down to earth, being that they see no need to assert their knowledge and such.
This is a very interesting scenario because we can see how people’s backgrounds and social status affect how they converse with people from their own social strata and those outside of it. A person conversing with someone that can be deemed as equal to him will likely be more casual and comfortable that if he was talking to someone that has a higher social status than he. On the other hand, it is likely that someone of a higher social status will demean someone lower than him.
When the group dispersed, I stayed in the couch where I was seated and I proceeded to watch the people dancing on the first floor. It’s quite curious how people dance in clubs such as these. They don’t actually dance—they just sway their hips and wave their arms wildly, like an animal performing a courtship dance. But on second thought, is all this not mere ritual? Drinking, dancing, socializing—all this happens in all clubs and bars in the Metro and beyond. But why do we do this? Why do we drown ourselves with excess and humiliate ourselves in public, then excuse it as ‘partying hard’?
I’d like to think that all this is a mere result of the youth of today struggling to fit in with society’s preconceived norms. A person who goes to bars and clubs regularly, drowns himself in alcohol, and goes out at 3AM like a stumbling buffoon who is puking all over the place is ‘cool’. This ‘tradition’ of sorts is a perfect example of how society forms us, and in turn, how we form society. We are expected by our peers to participate in this kind of revelry for us to be deemed acceptable. And as we blindlessly follow the expectations of our peers, we give the impression that what we are doing is correct and satisfactory, and should thus be followed.
And we wonder why society is so rotten.
Nina Janine A. Dionisio
SA 21 – I