HUMMING IN MY UNIVERSE By Jim Paredes (The Philippine Star) Updated June 13, 2010 12:00 AM
Illustration by REY RIVERA
What a proclamation it was last Wednesday in the halls of Congress. The room was packed. Every seat was taken and monobloc chairs had to be added for guests who had already spilled into the floor where congressmen sit. The air was electric, the excitement palpable.
Wearing various shades of yellow, people showed up for the proclamation of Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III and Jejomar Cabawatan Binay as the newly elected President and Vice President of the Republic of the Philippines. The scene still looked like election fever judging by the yellow attire, pins, bands, etc. worn by the public, except that the air was way more euphoric and even smelled triumphant. It was every yellow volunteer or partisan’s moment. We were at the Batasan to see our new leaders proclaimed. We, the people had, indeed, won.
The first and only time I was ever in this hall of Congress was during FVR’s time as president. There was an intense debate going on about whether the government should impose a total log ban. I was for the total ban. To dramatize our stand, a few of us artists and activists showed up at the gallery and at a given signal took off our shirts and exposed T-shirts that had letters which spelled out our objection to the proposed selective ban. In no time at all, security escorted us out of the building.
Before leaving my house for the proclamation, I called Mae Paner (who had informed me that we had a seated invitation) to ask her what the attire was. “Basta yellow,” she said. Since it was a proclamation, I thought I should look a bit more formal. I looked at my clothes closet and saw I had one yellow short sleeve and one long sleeve polo shirt. I opened my drawer of T-shirts and reached for my old yellow collared one with the ubiquitous map of the Philippines on the right side of the chest. This T-shirt was one of my “battle” uniforms, one I wore to sorties and other political events during the campaign that, in my mind, helped “win” many hearts for my candidates. A warrior celebrates victory bedecked in armor. And so it was the yellow “battle” shirt for me that day.
The Batasan building is a huge Marcos-era structure and I must say it is, aesthetically speaking, neither beautiful nor appealing as a legislative edifice. It somehow looks and even feels like a big-time Las Vegas casino. In a way, the metaphor is apt. After all, fortunes exchange hands here and its walls have seen both the small and mighty, the dynasties and their destinies come and go. Surely, many people who have worked here as congressmen have made a killing through corruption at the people’s expense. Like a casino, someone loses when someone wins. But, as they say, the “house” always wins in the end. Too bad for the rest of us. I am sure I was not the only person there who gazed at the congressmen present and wondered who among them were corrupt and who were not.
Sitting close to the congressmen who sat at their tables looking bored, and seemingly unimpressed by the historical event playing out before them, it only confirmed what I have always felt every time I see video footage of sessions in the hall. They looked as bored in real life as on TV! Or they could have been feigning indifference as they held their cards close to their chests to conceal their political colors.
Another impression I had was that there seemed to be a great disconnect between the people who govern and the governed. This was obvious when some congressmen showed slight shock or annoyance at the exuberant expressions of support from NoyBi participants who clapped, cheered, whistled and expressed themselves loudly and emotionally while shouting their candidates’ names as we do in rallies. I was quietly amused when the contrarian in me tried to imagine that this Marcosian structure could have an allergic reaction at the sight of common, ordinary people “polluting” its rarified air.
While the proclamation was a done deal, a sure thing, it was not as simple as a lot of us initially thought. Parliamentary etiquette, plus a few speeches, were part of the proceedings and had to be done. Senator Jinggoy Estrada read the somber conciliatory concession speech of his father recognizing Noy as the winner of the last elections. That to me was a classy exit for a man who had inhabited the political sphere controversially in so many ways and for so long. Here was a man who had played the roles of actor, mayor, senator, VP, president and even prisoner, singing his swan song. As one would expect, the speech was quite well received.
On the other hand, Senator Pimentel’s speech was punctuated with sharp humor which played well among the gallery as he referred to the now-famous acronym PCOS as “President Cory’s Only Son.” He also made light banter about insisting that the proclamation be conducted in broad daylight so he could see Jejomar Binay’s dark complexion.
To be sure, political divisions were still present even among the sea of yellow. The Binay partisans occupied the left side of the entrance while the Noy supporters, in overwhelming numbers, took over the rest. When people would shout “Noy,” a corresponding monolithic sounding “Binay” would retort back. This went on back and forth for a while and I am sure it bothered not a few people that partisan politics was still playing out up to proclamation day.
Mae Paner and I started to shout “NoyBi” as a way to bridge the gap, but got little support from many of the NoyMar people who were there and were obviously still hurting. But the Binay group caught on and soon enough started to shout “NoyBi” as well, and before anyone knew it, the entire hall followed suit.
I was tweeting away while the proceedings were going on and I got a nasty tweet for instigating the “NoyBi” shouting during the pre-proclamation. How dare I express support for Mar’s nemesis who, in the minds of many, was as corrupt as a corrupt politician can get? I was also accused of being a Binay supporter all along. While everyone, including the candidates themselves, knew I campaigned with all my heart for the NoyMar ticket, I bow to the will of the people. The votes have been counted. The results may not have been to my liking but it is the preference of the majority. As a democrat, I recognize and accept the expressed desire of the majority, slim as it is.
“Vox populi vox dei,” as they say. The voice of the people is the voice of God. I would rather see Noy and Jojo work as a team than be antagonistic toward each other.
God knows, the last thing we need now is division at the top. As it is, we are in an uphill battle. The best way to start is to give our leaders the support they will need if they are to carry their promises to fruition. I will give everyone the benefit of a fresh start but will keep my eyes open. I will not be a doting fan of anyone who will be blind to any wrong, simply because of loyalty. (I have never been a blind fan, with the exception of the Beatles, but that’s another story.)
It was quite a sight to see the hands of the elected President and Vice President raised by the Senate President and the Speaker of the House, especially since months of negative thinking making the rounds had made this moment seem simply unimaginable. Remember how many experts predicted various scenarios like failure of elections, or massive cheating? Or how all our idealism would be trumped by the sheer power of Villar’s money and GMA’s massive cheating resources?
As I watched the elected officials raise the hands of our new leaders, I thought to myself how grand and majestic democracy can be when the voice of the people is heard and recognized. Often, I must confess, I have had my doubts about democracy itself because it often takes too long to get anything done. It seems to have too many moving parts and many more parts that should be moving but are not. What is sometimes referred to as “checks and balances” can result in gridlock and it does so way too often. And this happens when people do not take their leaders to task and choose instead to become apathetic and indifferent.
My generation had their experience of People Power in1986. Many other nations saw it and knew it was something great they could use. And they did. And for many of them, it worked out for the better. This generation’s People Power experience was the elections, the equivalent of our EDSA. They experienced the individual and collective power of volunteerism that was so amazing because it could run on empty and could defeat big money and huge resources. Perhaps, this time around, we should not forget how powerful we, the people, can be, if we unite in great numbers and tell this country what we want.
I left the building feeling hopeful that maybe this time around, we, as a people, may have learned a thing or two about having another shot at redemption. As I got into my car, I received a text from a friend who pointed out that it was exactly nine months since Noy had declared his intention to run on September 9, 2009 (09/09/09). It was also a Wednesday. Mercury is the guiding planetary force and is represented by the god Hermes in Greek culture, who also happens to be the god of healing and whose color is, believe it or not, yellow!
I am not particularly superstitious but in this case, I will go with it. In the ‘60s song We’ve Only Just Begun by The Carpenters, there is a line that goes, “a kiss for luck and we’re on our way.” This old EDSA warrior will take every amulet offered as a sign of goodwill and support as we continue our long march. It’s still a long road ahead. There will be setbacks and disappointments. There will also be victories. I hope there will be more of them than the setbacks. But it’s a road we have collectively taken and which will hopefully bring us to a much better place.
Turning points in history bring their participants to greater realizations of themselves or diminish them further. It is my fervent hope that we finish the march together as true heroes, bigger than life, a people that future generations will sing about when they celebrate being Filipino.
Mabuhay tayong lahat.
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I have two upcoming workshops:
1) “Basic Photography Workshop” at White Sands Resort, Cebu on June 19, 1 to 7 p.m. Call Shirley at 0917-6207424. Cost: P3,750. You can also send queries to email@example.com.
2) “Tapping the Creative Universe,” June 21, 22, 23, 24, 25 and 28 from 7 to 9 p.m. at 113 B. Gonzales, Loyola Heights, QC. Please call Ollie at 0916-8554303. Cost: P5,000. Visit \t “_blank” http://tappingthecreativeuniverse.com/ for the syllabus and FAQ.