On the virtue of nonparticipation

Three months back, before a friend of mine left for China, the two of us had a light talk like we always had been doing after we finished a day’s worth of work. We were walking on the cobblestones of Ateneo talking about the sorry state of the country and how the May-9 election would impact the lives of Filipinos, the poor most especially. Our sector [we’re both teaching in that university] doesn’t stand much to gain nor lose from the result of the election, I thought.

We both agreed that the vision of a Philippines under Duterte was bleak. That time, however, Grace Poe was still leading the surveys rather comfortably, and the odds of Duterte’s win weren’t that great. It was obvious there wasn’t much choice from among the five vying for the position. If I could vote, I would have voted for Mar Roxas. But I was a nonparticipant in this democratic process. And I defended so vehemently my choice of not participating. I found the whole process unnecessary and ineffectual. One vote fewer would not rock the boat.

Seeing and reading about Duterte on TV and on online news these days, I felt for the first time regret for not having cast my vote. Duterte is often seen and heard foaming with vice in the mouth. Although he hasn’t yet been sworn in, he’s already begun sowing a culture of anger.

He’s presently enjoying a high level of popularity because after many years of hypocrisy, seeing a president-elect cuss, drop putang ina instinctively, catcall a TV reporter without showing remorse is a novel experience for most of us. Most take it as a sign of sincerity and truthfulness to oneself, Duterte the polar opposite of politicians we’ve come to detest for their duplicity and avarice.

But one accepted fact of our time is that novelties tend to lose their newness rather quickly. It’s a wonder now how Duterte has continued to remain popular. Although the consuming public is beginning to show sign of fatigue seeing his face, his unrelenting braggadocio, and unapologetic tirade against anyone he feels like shaming only to declare the next day he was just kidding. Kidding my ass!

He’s a dangerous man on the cusp of sitting in the most powerful position in this land. My friend was right. There’s no virtue in nonparticipation.

 

 

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The village idiots

beggar_seated_on_bank_282x470

This is a story of a far away land in an undisclosed location in the middle of northern Philippines where Filipino politics had not yet reached and where people’s lives had not succumbed as yet to the idiocy of politics.

In this community of ten thousand, everyone lived like  idiots. When somebody made a mistake, they laughed at it throughout the day until they got exhausted that would prompt them to sleep soundly in the night. None of the people in this far away land had ever seen any human settlement other than their village. Some attempted to venture and seek, out of that human desire for adventure, other parts of the world, but they ended in vain. Either they died along the way or they never returned to tell the story of how it was to live outside the community. No one from the outside ever reached the village and documented the unique way of life the people of this unknown place had. Not until just recently.

The people in this village lived in complete peace and happiness. Being idiots, although it sometimes caused them to start planting rice during the climax of summer heat, which ended up, of course, to massive crop failure, or to feed their pigs and other farm animals with banana leaves, which of course made the animals bloated and sickly, they seldom experienced hardship because any problems caused by their stupidity was viewed as another opportunity for merry-making and an entire afternoon of laughing spree.


The community had no established form of formal government or any kind of hierarchy based on power. However, this did not mean that their society was free from any form of stratification. There was, in fact. The more dimwitted a member was, the higher was his place in the society’s social echelon.

But being the most idiotic of the idiots was not an elected post as it is in mainstream Philippine society today. In this community, whose name was already forgotten, it is determined by the level of idiocy one has committed. The grander was the act, the more far-reaching the effect, the more stupid it looked, the higher was the member’s position in the society’s caste.

And so they continued to live at peace with each other. Each member felt secured by the fact that as long as they remained idiots nothing would harm them, and that being an idiot would keep them from harming themselves, as well as other idiot members of the community.

They were occasionally plagued with pestilence, famine, and disease; but nature had been good to them, generally. This continued for several centuries. Until one day.

It was an ordinary day; somebody’s house was burning because instead of cleaning the house using water and detergent, one housewife, lured by the addictive, pungent odor of paint thinner, poured some on the bamboo slats she was trying to clean. Accidentally, the burning wood she was using to cook rice fell on the bamboo slat and started the fire. The fire consumed her hut in half an hour. She was teary-eyed, laughing at the ashen remain of her house. The village people gathered around her and asked her to buy them tuba, a local alcoholic beverage, to which she replied that all the monies she tucked between her bamboo walls burned with the house. Everyone burst out laughing. Because of this, she was elevated to the third rank idiot position.

During that day, from nowhere, according to some accounts it was from the sky, a newspaper appeared right in the middle of the remains of the burned hut. It was a newspaper published in Manila. The people got curious and started reading the paper.

Although they were dumb, they were not illiterate. They read in that paper that the right reaction whenever they see a burning house was to cry and to blame the owner of the house for negligence, or the fire department for the very slow response, or the government for not strictly implementing building codes. They stoned the careless housewife to death, a punishment she deserved according to the village code of conduct.

They found out that their village leaders must be duly-elected leader and not selected based of the level of idiocy.

In the agriculture and farm section of the newspaper, they discovered that banana leaves are the worst things to feed to their animals.

And so a village-wide riot occurred. Reading in the newspaper that war is a natural consequence of misunderstanding, the men then took their farm implements and whacked the heads of the first person they saw. The women, opting for a less violent means, called on the village witch to cast a spell to other women whom they think are shrewder than anyone of them. The village witch had a busy day that day. It was also her last day to see the daylight.

For after that, the village vanished and nothing was heard about what happened to them.

Last week, however, archeologist from the National Museum discovered skeletons of pigs in northern Philippines. And according to the tests they conducted on the remains of the pigs, the stomach of the animal, which miraculously remained intact, contain bananaine, an enzyme found only in banana leaves which confirmed the story that sometime in the distant past, a village of idiots existed whose members were believed to have fed their pigs with banana leaves.

Manny Pacquiao and the Filipinos’ sense of a nation

manny

I’ve watched the fight through a rerun made by Yahoo.  After watching the 2-minute summary of fight that was dubbed as the “Fight of the Year” I was at awe.  Manny Pacquiao won it in an almost surgical fashion, like a professional surgeon doing the incision on a sedate patient’s throat in a calm manner–punches that seemed to be instinctual but at the same time a result of years of experience as a professional pugilist.

Seeing Manny’s performance, who won’t be proud to be a Filipino?

The boxing event that prematurely ended in the eight round was a spectacle that will forever remain etched in the memories of Filipinos glued on their television screens despite the advertisements that ran longer than the main event itself. Nevertheless, Filipinos are a patient nation, so they waited, shouted, cheered as their hero from General Santos City exchanged punches with the Golden Boy.

De La Hoya, suffered irreversible injuries from the battering thrown by the Filipino champion in the third round that foreshadowed the grim conclusion for the Mexican. De La Hoya fell, the Filipinos all over the archipelago rejoiced.

This win will at least unify my country for a matter of three days. After which things will go back to how they usually are: disunity, discontent, people getting impatient with a government that has remained insensitive and acting blind to the plight of the Filipinos.

Manny will occupy half of the primetime news slot for three days or probably a week. The scene will be played and replayed until the viewers get fed up.

Politicians will flock around him, basking in the glory of the Champion boxer, in an attempt to take advantage of the media exposure, after all Philippine elections is not too far away.

Resident of General Santos, as in last year, will mob the gates of Pacquiao’s residence in General Santos City for the money the boxer will give away. Balato, an all Filipino concept of “redistributing” wealth or good fortune, will again be at play. Of course, the prize will add to the boxer’s financial coffer. It won’t be bad to share a little.

win

The Filipino sense of a nation is grounded on nothing but personalities, such as Manny Pacquiao, but this is better than nothing. At least for days, the sense of euphoria of Manny’s win will postpone political bickering, cause the economy to surge for a few points, rest the administration’s call to change the constitution.

If only a fight of this magnitude is staged everyday just so Filipinos realize that they are one nation. If only we can produce many Manny Pacquiaos who will let their faces be sacked, punched, made atrocious just so the Filipinos will realize that they are worth fighting for.
I can’t wait for the next fight.

The Village Idiots: a short story

This is a story of a far away land in an undisclosed location in the middle of northern Philippines where Filipino politics had not yet reached and where people’s lives had not succumbed as yet to the idiocy of politics.

In this community of ten thousand, everyone lived like an idiot. When somebody made a mistake, they would laugh at it throughout the day until they got exhausted and would prompt them to sleep soundly in the night. None of the people in this far away land had ever seen any human settlement other than their village. Some attempted to venture and seek, out of that human desire for adventure, other parts of the world, but they ended in vain. Either they died along the way or they never returned to tell the story of how it was to live outside the community. No one from the outside ever reached the village and documented the unique way of life the people of this unknown place had. Not until just recently.

The people of this village lived in complete peace and happiness. Being idiots, although it sometimes caused them to start planting rice during the climax of summer heat, which ended up, of course, to massive crop failure, or to feed their pigs and other farm animals with banana leaves, which of course made the animals bloated and sickly, they seldom experienced hardship because any problems cause by their stupidity was viewed as another opportunity for them to have merry-making and an entire afternoon of laughing spree.

The community had no established form of formal government, or any kind of hierarchy based on power. However, this did not mean that their society was free from any form of stratification. There was, in fact. The more dimwitted a member was, the higher was his place in the society’s echelon. But being the most idiotic of the idiots was not an elected post as it is in mainstream Philippine society today. In this community, whose name was already forgotten, it is determined by the level of idiocy one has committed. The grander was the task, the more far-reaching the effect, the more stupid it looked, the higher was the member’s position in the society’s caste.

And so they continued to live at peace with each other. Each member felt secured with the fact that as long as they remained idiots nothing would harm them, and that being an idiot would keep them from harming themselves as well as other idiot members of the community.

They were occasionally plagued with pestilence, famine, and disease but nature had been good to them, generally. This continued for several centuries. Until one day.

It was an ordinary day; somebody’s house was burning because instead of cleaning the house using water and detergent, one housewife, lured by the addicting pungent odor of paint thinner, poured some on the bamboo slats she was trying to clean. Accidentally, the burning wood she was using to cook rice fell on the bamboo slat and started the fire. The fire consumed her hut in half an hour. She was teary-eyed, laughing at the ashen remain of her house. The village people gathered around her and asked her to buy them tuba, a local alcoholic beverage, to which she replied that all the monies she tucked between her bamboo walls burned with the house. Everyone burst laughing. Because of this, she was elevated to the third rank idiot position.

During that day, from nowhere, according to some accounts it was from the sky, a newspaper appeared right in the middle of the remains of the burned hut. It was a newspaper published in Manila. The people got curious and started reading the paper.

Although they were dumb, they were not illiterate. They found out that the right reaction whenever they see a burning house is to cry and to blame the owner of the house for negligence, or the fire department for the very slow response, or the government for not strictly implementing building codes. They stoned the careless housewife to death, a punishment she deserved according to the village code of conduct.

They found out that their village leaders must be duly-elected leader and not selected based of the level of idiocy.

In the agriculture and farm section of the newspaper, they discovered that banana leaves are the worst things to feed to their animals.

And so a village-wide riot occurred. Reading in the newspaper that war is a natural consequence of misunderstanding, the men took their farm implements and whacked the heads of the first person they saw. The women, opting for a less violent means, called on the village witch to cast a spell to other women whom they think are shrewder than anyone of them. The village witch had a busy day that day. It was also her last day to see daylight.

For after that, the village vanished and nothing was heard about what happened to them.

Last week, however, archeologist from the National Museum discovered skeletons of pigs in northern Philippines. And according to the tests they conducted on the remains of the pigs, the stomach of the animal, which miraculously remained intact, contain bananaine, an enzyme found only in banana leaves which confirmed the story that sometime in the distant past, a village of idiots existed whose members were believed to have fed their pigs with banana leaves.