In May 2004, the Philippines elected FPJ as president of the Philippines. Due to his noble but unfeasible wealth redistribution program, the more affluent Filipinos migrated in anticipation of his party's railroading of the program in congress, which resulted in a severe economic recession. The country was in severe unrest due to Fernando Poe Jr's aimless administration. This unfortunate turn of events was exacerbated by his untimely death in December 2004, leaving the country with no choice but to place the presidency in the hands of his vice president, Noli De Castro.
De Castro was not only inept at handling economic affairs, but was even more incompetent with diplomatic affairs, as he relied mainly on the Catholic church and the moralist sector of society. His over-conservative agenda led to a rift between the Philippines and its most powerful ally: the United States.
De Castro's flimsy concept of "economic recovery" mainly hinged on adopting a hardline stance over the disputed Spratly islands, which over time provoked a series of blitzkrieg strikes on key areas in the Philippines by China. The Chinese were met with little resistance, as not only did the De Castro administration heavily cut back the budget allocation for the military, but De Castro's advisers foolishly recommended a non-aggressive position against China.
Due to the lack of U.S. aid and due to the Catholic influence that prevented any chance of employing adequate force against China, the Philippines surrendered in an embarrassing one-sided rout to China within a mere two months, narrowly avoiding complete colonization at the cost of dropping any claims to the Spratlys and cessation of oil-rich Palawan as a Chinese colony for the next fifty years.
The resulting chaos after these significant blunders by the De Castro administration resulted in the military staging a successful coup against the government, and subsequently, the establishment of a military junta.
Because the new leadership places the blame for the Philippines' current economic and diplomatic woes squarely on the Catholic church and the moralist sector of the country, its first point of action was mainly geared towards undoing the religious and moralist influence in the country through any means possible, with little to no regard of any moral implications.
In a complete 180-degree turn, morality and religion was spurned in favor of total compliance with the military chain of command, and duty was given the forefront emphasis as the sole basis of peace and order in the country, rather than moral norms and religious sensibilities.
In accordance with this objective, the new leadership has enacted the Philippine Military Administrative Act 1021, or the Battle Royale Act. This act seeked to expose the Catholic church and the moralist sector of the country as a hypocritical facade that was now irrelevant to the progressing times.
You are invited to the Ph104-H Block Christmas party, to be held at 7:30 in the evening this 20 th of December, 2006, in the multi-purpose hall of the Holiday Inn, Robinson's Galleria Branch. See you there!
From Michael Pablo's (IV AB PH) journal account:
I'm glad that this Christmas party is pushing through. Given how ambitious this celebration was, it was a wonder they actually found someone to sponsor this party. Of course, I'm sure everyone else would've been just as happy if the Christmas party happened in our classroom or something, but it seems everyone wanted to make what could very well be their last Christmas party as Ateneans as memorable as can be.
My girlfriend, Aletheia Ferriols (IV BS BIO), is waiting for me in the car right now. We're running a bit late, but I'm counting on little traffic along the way.
Theia really is the smartest girl in our batch. Not only does she have an unprecedented 3.98 QPI, but she even picked me as her boyfriend... lol.
I guess I have to log off now...
End of excerpt.
Hannah Chia (IV BS ME) scanned the room for Theia, who was nowhere to be found in the gathering. Theia was the type who was always on time, so this was a surprise to her.
"Don't think about it too much, Hannah. She's going to the party with Michael, remember?" Nick Hernandez (V BS COE) said. Lea nodded in comprehension. Michael was notorious for being late almost all the time. Nick lightly held Hannah's hand as they walked around the room to greet a few other people, who were mildly surprised that they ended up being together just a week ago.
Hannah and Nick weren't really an odd couple, to say the least. They were an intellectual match, and their personalities complemented each other quite well. Hannah was a well-traveled girl whose thirst for knowledge knew no bounds. Nick hardly even needs to take the board exams to prove anything, given how excellent a student he was. He was arguably the only person in the room with more accolades to his name than Hannah. It was only a matter of time before they fell for each other.
"You're an item now?" asked Sharleen Santos (IV AB EURO), as the new couple hobnobbed with their classmates. "I mean, I know a lot of guys are a sucker for a genius like you, but boy, you're no keeper." She then rolled her eyes and walked off with her boyfriend, Jeffrey De Guzman (IV AB ECO). Hannah stopped Nick from starting a scene, as Dr. Rainier David (PHD Philosophy '90) walked up to the stage and took the microphone.
"Good evening, everyone. I'm glad all of you made it here tonight. I'd like to recognize the presence of our sponsor for tonight, Chicco of Hobby Haven," said Dr. David. Everyone applauded appreciatively.
"We'll just wait for any more latecomers, and we'll start the program in about five minutes," Dr. David continued. He smiled and waved to the people, and then stepped offstage to mingle with his students.
Most of the people were in a festive mood. Amid all the conversations going on, a lonesome figure was seated in a corner, and approached by a familiar face.
"Hello, Adrienne," said Cedric Gabriel (IV AB COM), who gamely smiled at her. "What's with the long face?"
Adrienne Yeo (IV AB COM) looked up and smiled at Cedric. Finally, someone she knew she can talk to. "You know what's been going on with me lately, right? I mean, you're the only one I talked to about it..."
"There, there, Addy. No need to go all melodramatic on me, now. Forget about him for a moment and enjoy yourself, okay?"
Cedric and Addy knew each other since high school, and were best of friends for a long time. Despite the fact that they've been blockmates in college, the two of them cannot be any more different from one another. Addy is into theater and advertising, while Cedric is interested in taking up Computer Science for graduate studies, while working part-time as a disc jockey in a radio station.
A few moments later, Cedric and Addy ran into Hannah and Nick. They smiled at each other. Save for the still-absent Michael and Theia, the so-called "Cerebral Six" are in attendance.
Nick offered his hand to Cedric, and says, "Cedric, I've heard you on radio a lot recently. You're doing well, aren't you?"
Cedric shook Nick's hand, then turned to Hannah, who kissed him on the cheek. "I'm doing fine, Nick. You're just doing better."
Hannah smiled at him. "Heard anything from Theia and Michael? They're a bit late."
Cedric looked at Addy and replied. "Well, nothing, really. Michael should've texted me by now if he was running late. Then again, isn't Michael the perennially late one in the group?"
Nick eyed the two slyly. "The two of you have been awfully together so often lately. Ooh... are you going to tell us something we should know?" Nick grinned mischievously and asked Addy, who was not amused by the insinuation.
Addy good-naturedly ignored Nick's comment. "You know, I long for the next time we could have a party at your house, Hannah. Your lab, Lucas, is just such a joy to have around, and your sister is awfully nice. It's just that your dad is really crazy, but he's cool."
Hannah's eyes practically disappeared as she smiled at Addy's comments. The six of them really got along with one another for the most part, as they've been a small group of friends that got together since second year college. Each one of them filled some nearly cliché archetypes.
Hannah was the uber-intelligent one who didn't care about grades; Addy was the born actress who was luckless in love; Nick was the strong, silent gifted child; Michael was the over-achieving writer; Theia was the medicine woman who wanted to save the world one patient at a time; Cedric was the loner type. Their little clique was known as the "Cerebral Six"because all six of them were regarded as among the most brilliant people of their batch.
In another part of the room, Felipe Dayrit (IV BS PSY), Sarah Jane Quema (IV AB IS), Chicco Sugay (BS CS, '02), and Jason Salita (IV AB IS) were exchanging jokes. Chicco has been very close to Dr. David during his stay in Ateneo. It also helped that his girlfriend, SJ Quema, twisted his arm quite a bit to help out and make the night extra special.
"Have you seen Dennis yet?" began SJ. "I had a huge crush on that hawt teaching assistant... before I got to know Chicco, of course." Chicco looked at SJ in feigned annoyance but smiled at the reassurance.
"So did Peppy," piped in Jason, as the four of them chuckled heartily over the comment. "Seriously, though, I am so glad that Eunice is wearing a miniskirt again today. She is such a sight for sore eyes."
"You sleazebag! Don't let me see you in the shop tomorrow!" Joked Chicco, as Fr David approached the microphone again, this time flanked by his teaching assistants, Dennis Cotoco (MA TPH) and Jacqueline Guererro (MA PH) .
"All right," said Dr. David, while holding his cellular phone in one hand. "I'm not sure how many of us aren't here yet, but the mastermind for tonight's Christmas party, Robbie, isn't here."
Robbie Benedicto (IV AB DS), the unofficial class clown, may not be the brightest student in class, but he certainly knew how to liven up the room. It was through his fanatical drive that made the Christmas party possible. He was one of the most popular students in class, if only for having kept the class from falling asleep during the times Dr. David was exceptionally boring, which was every other class.
Dr. David put his cellular phone back in his pocket, then continued. "However, he texted me to tell you that we can go ahead with the program already, as he's on his way. By the way... who closed those doors? We have to leave the doors open so that we can let in the latecomers. I'll take roll call in a while."
The whole gathering laughed. Dr. David was notorious for taking a long time just checking attendance because he always called the roll then called out all the students who weren't there the first time he called the roll. A few of the people moved towards the doors to open them, but realized to their surprise that they can't.
"Doc, it won't budge!"
"Wait, what's that?"
"G-gas! What the...?!?"
Slowly the entire room was filled with sleeping gas, and everyone in the room was knocked out in a matter of a minute. Completely trapped inside the function hall, only the heavy oak doors bore witness to this unexpected turn of events.
The moment the war broke out earlier this year, Ateneo De Manila University in Katipunan was one of the first places that found itself right in the middle of the line of fire. Due to the dangerous circumstances, ADMU promptly relocated itself in Taft Avenue, practically in front of a certain other school it had a rich history with. Meanwhile, the previous campus on Katipunan became deserted. Batch '07 will be the first batch to graduate from Ateneo in the Taft campus.
As the country has only begun its rebuilding process a little over a month ago, the Katipunan area was still a minefield. The Chinese used Katipunan as a base of operations for the Quezon City segment of their assault the moment they secured it.
The dazed students were now inside the former ADMU campus in Katipunan. Perplexed and confused, they all woke up with odd-looking necklaces attached to each of them, and realized that they were locked inside what used to be the Communications Department. The class was still puzzled over this turn of events when the front door opened and in came a notoriously familiar face.
Senator Panfilo Lacson, now the Supreme Commander of the military junta.
Unlike his classmates, Matthew De Castro (IV AB LIT) was not the least bit aghast over Supreme Commander Lacson's presence. Visibly annoyed at Lacson, Matt stood up brazenly. "Who the hell do you think you are, kidnapping us and bringing us to this place? We demand an explanation!" As he continued to stand in defiance, some of his classmates whispered to him to calm him down. Lacson was surrounded by fifteen armed men. Matt De Castro was obviously in no position to make demands.
Lacson chuckled lightly and immediately recognized Matt. "Who the hell do I think I am, Mr. De Castro? Why, I just so happen to be the one calling the shots in this country now in place of that ridiculous, incompetent excuse for a president you call 'uncle'." Lacson spoke with a venomous tinge in his voice as he relished each insult he hurled at the former president. "If I were you, I'd sit down, shut up, and listen."
Supreme Commander Lacson paused for a few more moments as some of Matt's classmates finally convinced him to sit down.
Lacson then addressed the class. "This class has been randomly selected to take part in the first ever Philippine Battle Royale, as provided for under Military Administrative Act 1021."
Lacson was met with blank stares.
He cleared his throat and continued. "Noli De Castro was a fool who believed that the Catholic church and the moralist sector would be capable of saving this country from the brink of collapse. He neglected the military, and focused on charitable work when he should have given his attention to defending the country from within and without. Clearly, that was his undoing."
Matt refused to believe his ears. He indignantly rose from his seat again. "You're wrong, Lacson! Dead wrong! My uncle had the best of intentions for this country!"
"Am I? Did he? The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Look where all that religion and morality got this country. If I want to rectify what your uncle has screwed up, I have to prove how irrelevant religion and morality are when facing dire situations."
Vivian Lim (IV AB IS), one of Matt's closer friends in the class, whispered to him. "Get a hold of yourself, Matt!"
Matt remained silent for a moment and took his seat again. Lacson then made his point painfully clear. "Clearly, you're wondering what this has to do with all of you. Consider yourself guinea pigs for my experiment. The main rule of the Battle Royale is simple: kill or be killed."
A petite girl, Katherine Florencio (IV- AB PSY), raised her hand with trepidation.
"Yes?" Lacson asked.
"S-sir," she stammered. "You can't expect to just sanction murder! We're all friends! We won't..."
Lacson cut her off. "I did say, 'kill or be killed'. It's quite simple. You are all in this Battle Royale, whether you like it or not. You have three days to survive in this campus, until only one of you is left. If there is no sole survivor by the end of seventy-two hours, all of you will die."
The class looked on in disbelief at what Supreme Commander Lacson has said so far. Frantic whispers were passed back and forth between the classmates, while Lacson stared Matt down unblinkingly
"Mr. De Castro, my reasons, as should be obvious to you by now, run far deeper than a mere vendetta against you or your worthless family. Your death is just as inconsequential to me as the death of every single classmate of yours, so don't think you're so special, Mr. De Castro."
Matthew rolled his eyes. "Hooray for equality."
Supreme Commander Lacson ignored Matt's droll sarcasm and motioned towards the LCD screen on the wall, where a video began to play. Onscreen, a group of girls were dancing in military uniforms while singing giddily and carrying rifles. The girl in the middle smiled and stood still for a moment while the rest danced on. "Hi! My name is Rochelle, and I'm here to explain to you how you're going to go about the Battle Royale!"
The other girls chanted in unison. "Get, get, aww!"
A buzz within the class began. For a fleeting moment, curiosity replaced fear, and they glued themselves to the screen.
Rochelle then did a cartwheel before speaking up again. "Each of you will be given a bag with rations good for the next three days, and a random weapon. Your weapon can be anything from a gun to a handkerchief!"
The other girls waved their hands with gusto. "Exciting!"
Rochelle then started doing some complicated dance steps involving her rifle, but before the video could play any further, a voice boomed from the back of the room.
"STOP THIS MADNESS!!!"
Lacson was startled for a moment and saw a heavy-set man who certainly didn't look like a student. It was Chicco, and while the students restrained him, Lacson's men aimed their guns at him.
Lacson paused the video and motioned for his men to bring Chicco in front of him. Lacson eyed him warily. "What's wrong? You're scared of a little game?"
Chicco replied, "I'm not a student of this class. I shouldn't be here."
"Oh, is that so?"
"My name is Chicco Sugay. Here's my identification. I'm not part of this class!"
While Matthew felt betrayed over Chicco's attempt to weasel out of the situation, he figured that it was SJ who told him that he should try to reason with Lacson. Desperate times call for desperate measures, as the saying goes.
"What a wuss," whispered Neil Rosario (IV BS MATH), to Jason Salita. Jason shook his head, then whispered back. "Can you blame the guy? Would you want to stay here if you were in his place?"
Matt then observed SJ more closely. She seemed very calm and collected despite the situation. Despite that, Matthew sensed a silent desperation in her eyes as she quickly looked away.
Lacson whispered to one of his men, and they handed him a list. He glanced at the list before putting a hand on Chicco's shoulder. "Well, I guess you're right. You're not part of this class. What do you want us to do about it?"
Chicco practically begged on his knees. "I don't want to be part of this madness. Please."
"How pathetic can you get?" Supreme Commander Lacson sneered. "You shout and make demands like some self-important bigshot one moment, and now, you beg like a pitiful little insect the next? Well, don't worry. You won't be a part of this Battle Royale."
"Of course. You have my word."
With that, Lacson whipped out a remote control, and aimed it at Chicco's collar. The center of the collar glowed a bright red.
"Wha- what's this?" Chicco grasped at his collar, in panic.
Lacson smiled at him. "Why, you didn't want to be a part of this Battle Royale, right? Well, this pretty much serves the purpose of demonstrating to this class exactly what happens if in three days, nobody wins."
Chicco turned deathly pale and crawled on his knees to Lacson. "No. Please! Make it stop!"
"So, class," Lacson said, as he mocked the way a teacher addressed his students. "See those things on your necks? They are collar bombs. They are waterproof and shockproof. Once activated, such as you see right now, you have a minute before it detonates."
Chicco didn't look like he believed Lacson at first. Then he realized that Lacson was not known for his sense of humor. At all.
"Every six hours, I will make a report of who died, and how that person died. If I feel like it, I'd even clue you in who killed who. Along with each report, I will give a list of danger zones that change on an hourly basis. If you are in a particular building that is marked as a danger zone, the collar will activate and will detonate unless you get out of there within a minute. If you somehow get out of campus grounds, you likewise have a minute to get back."
Chicco was grasping at his collar, and fell to his knees. His eyes frantically searched the room for someone, anyone, who'd try to help him. All he saw was a sea of horrified faces.
"The whole campus is monitored by closed circuit cameras. Don't even try to touch any of those cameras, or I will promptly activate the collar of anyone who does."
Chicco was in panic, but the entire class was even more tense. As he looked around the room again, he noticed Dr. David seated in the corner. The usually outspoken and opinionated head of the Philosophy department was oddly quiet and keeping to himself at this point.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
"If you attempt to remove the collar by force, you won't have a minute. It will explode instantly. Make sure that you are aware of this."
Chicco started crawling around the Communication Department's living room frantically, but the students he approached were in a panic and pushed him away the moment he approached any of them. Lacson's men likewise pushed him away when he tried to come close to Lacson again.
Beep. Beep. Beep.
The collar's beeping sound drove Chicco insane. Matt's anger was momentarily replaced by concern. He felt pity for Chicco, but had no idea how to help him. He looked on silently as Chicco finally turned to SJ, who hugged him tightly.
Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.
SJ looked into Chicco's eyes. "Stay here. If you will die, then we will die together."
"No! I can't let you do that!"
Chicco realized what SJ was trying to do and pushed her away.
<>Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beeeeeeeepppppp.
SJ staggered to the floor as Chicco's collar detonated and ripped the front part of his throat out, killing him instantly, and sending blood spurting across the room.
SJ collapsed on all fours in shock, a few feet away from him.
The class erupted in total panic as SJ turned deathly pale while she went closer to Chico's corpse. Some of the students started screaming. Some of them tried to run for the door. Others huddled together.
Lacson's men held them back and fired some warning shots into the air.
Chicco's blood flowed down one of Sarah Jane Quema's cheeks. She was staring catatonically at Chicco's corpse and didn't say a word.
Matthew gritted his teeth at Lacson's heartless demonstration. The soldiers ruthlessly hit any student who tried to run or fight back after they fired the warning shots. Lacson stood behind his soldiers. Some of the students were crying in shock. Others slowly approached those who were huddled together. It took a while, but the soldiers eventually restored order in the room. Matt silently cursed Lacson as the Supreme Commander observed his helpless classmates with a sadistic glint in his eyes.
Day 0, 2335 hours. Chicco Sugay (BS CS '04) was killed by his collar bomb. 31 to go.