A matter of pride and honor

This is my column today, January 29, 2007 at the op-ed section of the Manila Standard Today.

I have no love lost for the Estradas and Ejercitos of this world. Truth to tell, I consider them a bigger menace to this country than say, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Go ahead, label me as a pro-Arroyo if that makes you feel you are a better Filipino. Unlike others, though, I don’t think that being rabidly anti-Estrada automatically translates into being pro-Arroyo.

But at least there are moments with this current President when people can actually still bask in some deflected glimmer of pride of being a Filipino, such as when one reads about her performance at the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. That does not erase many grievous mistakes, but it does account for something.

In contrast, what have the Estradas done for this country aside from trying to project themselves as the symbol of the suffering Filipino masses and as their last mythical hope for redemption?

Nevertheless, the sight of an irate Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson barging into the halls of the Senate with bodyguards in tow purportedly to confront Senator Jinggoy Estrada over some allegedly reckless remarks the “honorable” senator made to media sent shivers down my spine. What in the world was that?

My friends and I were in some diner idly watching our local newscasters make frenzied attempts to try to put an exciting spin to the day’s events when that news clip was shown. Let me digress a bit here to ask something that I have meaning to ask for the longest time—why oh why do our newscasters report the day’s news like they are on a treadmill or on a middle of the last two minutes of a hotly contested basketball championship?

But there we were, simply using the newscast as ambience for our get together when that clip of Singson and his bodyguards storming into the Senate was shown. At that moment the cliche “you could hear a pin drop” came to life as we sat there mouths agape, completely taken aback by the utter brazenness of the act.

It was a good thing that Senator Estrada was not in the Senate at that time. Otherwise, what else would have happened in a scenario where tempers were running high, pride and honor were supposedly at stake, and bodyguards were in tow?

What did Singson hope to accomplish with that act of bravado? Like I said, I don’t have any love lost for the senator who makes no apologies and in fact states matter-of-factly that he is ramming a wage hike bill through the Senate purely to gain pogi points with the country’s labor force even if he knows that the measure is potentially disastrous.

This is a senator you feel like strangling with your bare hands every time he utters those now standard dramatic lines about how api (downtrodden) his family has become (yeah, and yet they can afford to finance elections and live like royalty) and how his father is a long-suffering hero. Ugh.

Surely, though, no one wants to actually see him being literally clobbered in the Senate (or anywhere else for that matter!). Quite frankly, Singson just fortified the Estradas’ straight-from-the-movies iconic status in this country.

In those moments, images from some grainy black and white Filipino movies automatically came to mind. You know those hackneyed celluloid scenes that were the staple of Joseph Estrada and Fernando Poe movies that many Filipinos have difficulty dissociating from reality? That’s the image that came to mind: A band of contrabidas, usually scions of rich families swaggering into the frame to confront and beat up the poor suffering bida.

If there is anything that Governor Singson’s audacity achieved, it is to remind ourselves that these kinds of behavior are still very much present in our society; that even in the halls of power in this country, there are still people who think nothing of settling scores in that way. Crap, let’s drop this pretense of being politically correct and call the act by its real name: the kanto boy way. Guess who emerged as the hero by default in that incident?

* * *

Ordinary mortals like you and me who were not in that formal dinner hosted by the Philippine government for the heads of states of the recent Asean summit at Cebu did not get to witness live the much-vaunted multi-million cultural show that highlighted Filipino talent. But thanks to the wonders of media technology, I recently caught a taped broadcast of the show. Friends told me it was actually shown live on the government station on the same night, but I guess many people don’t really tune in to that station all that often, if at all. (I am tempted to digress a bit here and talk about how serendipitously “entertaining” Manoling Morato and Maggie de la Riva are in their show in that channel. I watched that show twice because someone told me the duo sometimes read my column in that show, but maybe some other time).

Anyway. That cultural show gained media mileage due to a human-interest angle: Most of the performers were victims of food poisoning on the day of the performance. But as they say in showbusiness, the show had to go on. I did think that it was a great showcase of Filipino talent, but sadly, not of the television director’s competence. It was annoying how the TV cameras would constantly zoom in and out behind the chandeliers on the hall! Only the desire to watch Lea Salonga perform kept me from switching the darn thing off thanks to the director’s absurd insistence on showcasing those blasted chandeliers!

For those who did not get to catch the telecast, or did not have the patience to view a show as if being perilously perched behind a chandelier, let me summarize the highlights of that show. The show started off with performances from the Mandaue Children’s Choir (these were allegedly streetchildren who were trained to learn how to sing) and a sampling of Philippine dances from the Bayanihan Dance Company. The Bayanihan, as usual, took everyone’s breath away with their astounding finale of Mindanao sketches, most notably the way they wove together the Pangalay, the Malong, and the Singkil dances in about five minutes.

Then there was the showcase of Pitoy Moreno’s Asean creations. All right, I know that fashion and modeling are art forms. But still, one cannot help but think that that showcase was not really about clothes, but more of our women. It featured the country’s winners in international beauty contests—Gemma Cruz Araneta, Gloria Diaz, Margie Moran Floirendo, Melanie Marquez, Precious Lara Quigaman, among others. I will leave you to debate on the social ramifications of the presentation.

And then there was Lea Salonga of course. Why Salonga has not yet been honored as a National Artist is beyond me. Of course people argue that the title is bestowed in recognition of a lifelong body of works, but who else in this country has given us more honor than this woman? As can be expected, Salonga wowed the audience.

And to cap the show, RJ Jacinto performed the song commissioned for the event—the lyrics of which are best relegated to the trash bin. Fortunately, simultaneous performances from the Ramon Obusan Folkloric Group and other dance troupes overshadowed that horrible song. And our supremacy in the performing arts was once again validated.


vic said…
The incident you described of the Singson marching into the Senate with bodyguards in tow is a fodder to the Macho Style by those without the protection of their ill gotten wealth and goons are just like little kids lost in the woods. I would like to see anyone that brazen in our society and I would like to see how they match with our SWAT team.

As for Lea Salonga, I guess another country will recognize her achievements before her own. That just tell us where our priorities are..
snglguy said…
Would you believe there are times when I wanted to reach into the television screen and strangle that "honorable" senator's neck?
chesca said…
i too, am a huge lea salonga fan.
i even stood outside the theater in nyc just to get her autograph after a performance of ms. saigon.
i was very happy when she won her international awards (was it the tony or olivier or both)
i agree she makes the philippines proud,
however, i was rather disappointed when she gave her acceptance speech with a rather thick british accent.
yes, this is the mark of a great actress.
yes, she was young.
yes, i plan on making the 300+ mi. trip to nyc in march 2007 to see her in les miserable
yes, i forgive her--
but i will never forget the time she missed the opportunity to use herself as a perfect advertisement for our country.
perhaps i am not the only one.
Anonymous said…
Feeling nagmamagaling lagi c Jinggoy kaya lagi akong nahi-highblood pagnapapanood ko cya sa TV kaya lipat agad ako ng channel. Ano kaya magiging pakiramdam ni Jinggoy pagnanalo c Chavit Singson sa election at maging seatmate nya sa senado..Its time na may makatapat na ang grandstanding at sarcastic na c Jinggoy.

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