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IMPULSES | Oxymoronic blues

By Herman M. Lagon

The oxymoron, a figure of speech with contradictory terms fused for rhetorical paradox, mirrors the complexities and nuances of daily life, offering a lens through which we can explore and appreciate the beauty in the seemingly discordant.

In the vibrant streets of Iloilo, where tradition and modernity—the past and the present—meet in a “harmonious cacophony,” our “oxymoronic” story unfolds. Here, amidst the bustling markets and serene riverside, “alone together” takes on a new meaning. As people “almost exactly” navigate the crowded spaces, their “icy hot” thoughts remain introspective, encapsulated in their private worlds despite the crowd. It is a testament to the “silent noise” of life in this city, where the quiet moments are often the loudest and the only “constant variable.”

Consider the “open secret” of the Dinagyang Festival, a spectacle of color, dance, and music that brings the city to life. It’s a “public privacy” where personal and collective joys merge into a singular expression of community spirit. Much like the city itself, this event is a “static motion”—a constant in the ever-changing “intricate simplicity” of Iloilo’s cultural landscape.

As the sun sets, painting the skies in shades of “dark light,” the paradox of day and night in this coastal city becomes evident. The “deafening silence” that follows is anything but quiet, filled with the muted sounds of nature and the distant laughter of families gathering to share their day’s stories over a meal of “jumbo shrimp” and “sweet bitterness” of manggahan desserts.

Education in Iloilo is another “constant variable,” reflecting the dynamic interplay between tradition and innovation. In physical or virtual classrooms, students engage in “serious play”—the pursuit of knowledge with the joy and curiosity of discovery. The “original copies” of textbooks and resources are symbols of the shared knowledge passed down through generations, each page a “new antique” bearing the marks of its journey.

The “bitter sweetness” of graduation day in Iloilo encapsulates the paradoxical emotions of endings and beginnings. It is a “temporary eternity” for “butt-heading” students, a moment that feels both fleeting and everlasting as they stand on the threshold of their future, armed with “definite maybes” about their paths ahead.

In local cuisine, the “simple complexity” of Ilonggo dishes, from La Paz Batchoy to Pancit Molo, showcases the culinary mastery of turning essential ingredients into creative gastronomic delights. It is a “silent symphony” of flavors that speaks volumes, a “visible invisibility” of the love and care infused into every bowl and plate.

The “living history” of Iloilo, etched in its heritage buildings’ facades and its people’s resilient spirit, stands as a testament to the “permanent change” that shapes the city’s identity. These structures are “loud whispers” of the past, echoing stories of resilience and adaptation in the face of “clearly ambiguous” modern challenges.

In the “chaotic order” of Iloilo’s public markets, the bustling energy is a “planned spontaneity,” with vendors and buyers engaging in a dance as old as time. Here, the “exact estimates” of haggling blend with the “clear obscurities” of human interactions, creating a vibrant tapestry of community life.

As night falls, the city transforms into a “darkly lit” canvas, with streetlights casting long shadows on the pavements, inviting a “noisy silence” that envelops the city. It is a time for “active rest,” as people wind down, reflecting on the day’s paradoxes and the “real illusions” that make life in Iloilo so uniquely captivating.

For the youth of Iloilo, the “old news” of tomorrow’s uncertainties is met with a “hopeful despair.” Armed with their dreams and the wisdom of their experiences, they navigate the “straight curves” of their journeys. They scholarly question the “crazy logic” behind “advance basic,” “corporate conscience,” “military intelligence,” “computer security,” “modern history,” “genuine imitation,” “bad sex,” “painless torture,” “holy war,” “passive aggression,” “minor crisis,” “civil engineering,” “marital bliss,” “government efficiency,” “benevolent capitalism,” “scientific dogmas,” “humanitarian invasion,” “peace force,” and “democratic dictatorship,” embracing all these oxymorons that define their way of life with resilience, grit, and grace.

In crafting this narrative, we find that Iloilo itself is an oxymoron—a “small giant” in the Philippine archipelago, quietly making its mark with a blend of humility and pride. It is where “ancient modernity” defines its essence, a city that honors its past while boldly stepping into the future.

Thus, through the lens of oxymorons, we uncover the intricate beauty of Iloilo and the dynamic, contradictory nature of life itself. It reminds us that in the heart of contradictions lies the truth of our existence, a “simple complexity” that enriches our understanding of the world around us. In embracing these oxymorons, we embrace the full yin-yang spectrum of human experience, finding unity in diversity and coherence in chaos.


Doc H fondly describes himself as a ‘student of and for life’ who, like many others, aspires to a life-giving and why-driven world that is grounded in social justice and the pursuit of happiness. His views herewith do not necessarily reflect those of the institutions he is employed or connected with.


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