Dreaming of Dictatorships

It must be my disposition, but I am vehemently against the notion of authoritarian rule. Which is (maybe) somewhat hypocritical of me, because I am now living, working in  and enjoying the comforts of a country with such a form of government (what can be more authoritarian than an absolute monarchy?).

democracy

Recently, my country has decided to elect as president a man who espouses his preference for a more “dictatorial” style of management. It has perplexed the “intellectual” segments of my country, we in our so-called ivory towers, who are removed from the daily toils and travails of the hoi polloi.

But hey, once upon a time (a little less than 6 months ago, in fact), I was part of the hoi polloi.  I was suffering the daily hell of MRT/LRT, the woes of Metro Manila traffic, the fragmented public health care system, the epal faces of politicians as pictured in those ubiquitous tarpaulins … Just six months ago, I was bemoaning all that was wrong with Pnoy’s government.

And then I left.

(And I found that I can’t vote in this country I have fled to because I was late for the registration — but that’s  another story.)

Deep in my guts, I knew it was only a matter of time that someone like Rodrigo Duterte would win as president of the Philippines. We are a country who elected Erap, after  all — and in a landslide win, at that.

We are a country who believes the social media machine of the Marcoses that is popularizing the revisionist idea that Martial Law was God’s gift to the Philippines. (ha ha, it was a gift that left me with a debt to be paid to foreign lending agencies until 2025!)

We are a country whose children do not know who Apolinario Mabini is, let alone that he was paralyzed.

We are a country whose people leave. That includes me, of course.

Once upon a time, in 1982 —   Marcos was still in power and Ninoy was still alive; when the peso was plummeting and the economy was in shambles; when thousands of would-be youth leaders have either been “salvaged”, tortured or disappeared,   a certain US Secretary of State was rumored to have said this: “The Philippines is a nation of 40 million cowards and one son-of-a-bitch.”

Well, George Schultz, it is now 2016, and the Philippines is a nation of 100 million people. I do not know if Mr. Duterte will prove to be a son-of-a-bitch (whatever that term may mean), but a lot of us are still cowards (or lazy … or deluded … or all of the above).

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A Continuing Past

“The past is not dead. It’s not even past.” William Faulkner, a dead white American novelist. From the novel, Requiem for a Nun.

“The past is past.” Bongbong Marcos, real-life son of a dead Filipino dictator. In an interview.

RequiemForANun

***

There should be a right way of remembering. Some protocol to acknowledge and/or forgive the past without bogging us down in grudges and arguments.

I say this because I live in a country that has never known how to use the past. We are like that rodent in the cage that keeps on going around in circles.

The son of a dictator insists that the past is the past and we must move on and leave it behind. How so Mr. Marcos? How does a nation that was robbed and mutilated  by your father’s regime do that exactly?

Maybe, for Filipinos, Martial Law is the equivalent of the Civil War for Americans. In many ways, it is a topic that divides us. There are two narratives of Martial Law in my country, and it depends on who is doing the remembering.

According to you and your supporters, it was a golden age when people were disciplined, the economy was great and the leadership was able and competent.

According to me and others who hold the same views: Martial Law was one of the worst things that happened to our country — when corruption was institutionalized; when Ferdinand, Imelda and the cronies robbed us blind; when people were killed by the thousands for expressing their views and when the country’s economy went down to the pits.

I wish for a time traveling machine, something like in that Michael J. Fox  movie that I was so fond of way back in 1989.

I wish to observe the past first-hand and have my friends who are pro-Marcos do so as well. We will go back to 1980, perhaps, the year  I was born and check the veracity of certain claims.

Like: presidential decree arrests, Imelda’s infrastructure projects, arrested and tortured activists, the so-called enforced discipline in the streets, the peace in the countryside, the corruption in the military, the desaparecidos, the food stability and the green revolution, the squatter  colonies and the rise of Smokey Mountain …

Can one narrative be completely right and the other completely wrong? Or are they both correct, different facets of the same prism?

How do we learn from the past if we cannot even agree on  what it consisted of?

If martial law was so wonderful ....

If martial law was so wonderful ….

 

... then why did the 1986 People Power happen?

… then why did the 1986 People Power happen?

 

 

***

Reading Lists:

http://www.fhm.com.ph/daily-reads/news/bongbong-marcos-family-elections-vice-president

http://www.spot.ph/newsfeatures/the-latest-news-features/64010/ferdinand-bongbong-marcos-mythology

http://www.slyejoyserrano.com/myths-about-marcos/

http://www.rappler.com/thought-leaders/12780-the-ghosts-of-martial-law?cp_rap_source=ymlScrolly#cxrecs_s

 

Soldiers

A few years ago, I went to Hawaii. I visited Pearl Harbor; took a peak at the USS Missouri and at the Marine Corps Base.

At that time, the US was still at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. What struck me most during that brief visit was how much the Americans respected and positively adored their soldiers. There is a bit of  envy in me, as well.

Filipino police man a checkpoint. Photo from www.nst.com

Filipino police man a checkpoint. Photo from http://www.nst.com

I did mention in an earlier post that a person I love very much, was also a soldier. He was my mother’s older brother. And he joined the Army at a time when it seemed unpopular to do so.

My country has a long history of corruption as far as the Armed Forces are concerned. A long history of corruption, and a far longer history of … injustice. Also, as the leftists in my country would add, a long history of human rights violations, as well.

Picture from pcij.org

Picture from pcij.org

But I want to be fair here — which sucks because it’s preferable (and easier) to see the world in black and white. Even if, when it comes to those you love, you feel justified in seeing only shades of gray.

In 1896, my country went to war. In as much as a caged parrot can go to war with the human being that considers himself its master. That war has not yet ended. After more than 100 years, we are still at war with “colonialism” in all its forms.

Filipino soldiers circa 1899. Photo from Wikipedia

Filipino soldiers circa 1899. Photo from Wikipedia

I started thinking about soldiers because of a recent disturbance that erupted in what used to be a very quaint, very friendly city in the southern part of my country. That disturbance sent some 100,000 civilians into refugee status.

Mobilization of my country’s soldiers in their old scruffed well-worn boots was done to repel a group of poor criminals who were pretending to be “rebels”. At the helm of these “rebels” are a group of politicians who, of course, will not admit to their perfidy.

The thing about soldiers in my country — as in other countries, most notable of which is the USA — is that, at best, they are used as weapons; and at worst, they are used as pawns. In any case, they are used — whether willingly or unwillingly is up to the men (and women) in uniforms to answer.

The soldier whom I love with all my heart, is called Rolly. Were it not for him and his job, my mother wouldn’t have had an education; and would probably have died an earlier death than she eventually had.

Rolly is no longer on duty. He is currently … disabled.

So, klutzy civilian that I am, who did not even go through citizen’s army training — I would  like to muster all the backbone I have; all the conviction left after all the compromises I made; all that remains in me of that thing called “integrity”; all that I am. I would gather all that, and give Rolly…

… a salute.

Creating (Super)heroes

After watching Ironman 3 for the 2nd time, I got to contemplating about heroes.

My country is not short on creatures who can rightly take their place with the Avengers. The only problem was, our heroes had the tendency to die.

Iron_Man_3.pg

Or they disappear. “Desaparecidos” is a Spanish word that was also used in Latin American countries (most notably, Argentina) where subversives had a habit of doing a Harry Potter and apparating to god-knows-where. Most probably to their graves, but who can say, for the dead have left no trace. Except for the memories they left behind.

They die and we forget them.

That is my country’s curse.

 

***

 

In general, we hated History — even in elementary. It was just a bunch of dates and names of dead people to memorize.

A person very dear to me, just took her tests for the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET) yesterday. I am crossing my fingers that she will pass. My country need more teachers; the kind who will tell stories instead of badgering their students to memorize “facts”.

Stan Lee will probably agree with me on this when I say that the Marvel Superheroes would have had no fans if the American kids who patronized their comics were shot by someone like Gen. Jacob Smith or were disappeared.

 

General Jacob H. Smith's infamous order "Kill Everyone Over Ten" was the caption in the New York Journal cartoon on May 5, 1902. The Old Glory draped an American shield on which a vulture replaced the bald eagle. The caption at the bottom proclaimed, "Criminals Because They Were Born Ten Years Before We Took the Philippines" -- Image and text from Wikipedia

General Jacob H. Smith’s infamous order “Kill Everyone Over Ten” was the caption in the New York Journal cartoon on May 5, 1902. The Old Glory draped an American shield on which a vulture replaced the bald eagle. The caption at the bottom proclaimed, “Criminals Because They Were Born Ten Years Before We Took the Philippines”
— Image and text from Wikipedia

 

What is Freedom For?

I watched “Braveheart” starring Mel Gibson when I was, maybe, 16.

The most resounding scene for me from the movie was at the end, when the English were disemboweling William Wallace, an excruciating procedure that he bravely endured. As he was about to die, he gave this rebel yell … “freeeedooom!!!”

I can still hear Mel Gibson in my head, 17 years later.

Braveheart_imp

***

Being a citizen of a democratic country (the CPP and Joma Sison would say “capitalist” and they would also be right), I am prone to asking myself: are we really free? And if we are, what is the value of this freedom?

On more pedestrian concerns, one is free if one can tell another person, hey keep your kid from ruining my day. Without fear of incarceration.

One is free when one can post on Facebook anything one damn well pleases, within the rules of FB of course;  otherwise the minions of Mark Zuckerberg will remove your post.

With the pork barrel scam/PDAF-corruption scandal and the Zamboanga-Mindanao crisis  that are currently rattling my small home located somewhere west of the Pacific, can I really say that I am free?

My grandparents and their ancestors have been colonized by white skinned (and sometimes, yellow skinned) foreigners for centuries. Yep, that’s ooold history. But as we are a nation with short memories, I believe one must resurrect one’s Histories again and again.

Now, Mr. F. Sionil Jose claims, we are being colonized by our own elites. That would include Janet Napoles and her daughter Jeane.

William Wallace led a revolution to free the Scots from England. In fairness, Scotland is now a part of the United Kingdom; and those Highlander guys in kilts profess loyalty to Queen Elizabeth II.

My country had it’s own revolution way back in 1896. Actually, prior to that, “small revolts” had already been carried out by locals — the Tagalogs, the Ilocanos, the Visayans, etc. — but the 1896 Revolution was the one when several of these tribes banded together and  signified our claim that we were one country called Filipinas and to hell with Imperialist Mother Spain.

As every street sweeper in Manila knows, Mother Spain left, only to be replaced by Uncle Sam. Whom we were traded for to the tune of 20 million dollars in 1899 money.

And just when we were beginning to like Uncle Sam just a little, World War II happened; and we (or rather, our grandmothers) were raped (yes, in some instances, literally) by Emperor Hirohito’s samurai wannabes.

Now China is bullying us. But that’s Book II already.

Can anybody blame us for being this messed up?

There is a poem by Teodoro Agoncillo that I love, partly because we recited it in high school during a group declamation contest; and partly because  the poem is really good.

I would like to translate it one of these days, but as I am feeling too lazy right now, here it is in Tagalog, “Republikang Basahan”:

Republika baga itong busabos ka ng dayuhan?
Ang tingin sa tanikala’y busilak na kalayaan?

Kasarinlan baga itong ang bibig mo’y nakasusi,
Ang mata mong nakadilat ay bulag na di mawari?

Ang buhay mo’y walang patid na hibla ng pagtataksil
Sa sarili, lipi’t angkan, sa bayan mong dumaraing!

Kalayaan! Republika! Ang bayani’y dinudusta.
Kalayaan pala itong mamatay ka nang abang-aba!

Kasarinlan pala itong ni hindi mo masarili
Ang dangal ng tahanan mong ibo’t pugad ng pagkasi.

Malaya ka, bakit hindi? Sa bitayan ikaw’y manhik,
At magbigting mahinahon sa sarili na ring lubid!

Kalayaan – ito pala’y mayroon na ring tinutubo
Sa puhunang dila’t laway, at hindi sa luha’t dugo!

Humimbing kang mapayapa, mabuhay kang nangangarap,
Sa ganyan lang mauulol ang sarili sa magdamag.

Lumakad ka, hilain mo ang kadenang may kalansing,
Na sa taynga ng busabos ay musikang naglalambing!

Limutin mo ang nagdaan, ang sarili ay taglayin,
Subalit ang iniisip ay huwag mong bibigkasin!

Magsanay ka sa pagpukpok, sa pagpala at paghukay,
Pagkat ikaw ang gagawa ng kabaong kung mamatay.

Purihin mo ang bayaning may dalisay na adhika,
Ngunit huwag paparisan ang kanilang gawi’t gawa.

Republika na nga itong ang sa inyo’y hindi iyo,
Timawa ka at dayuhan sa lupain at bayan mo!

Kalayaan! Malaya ka, oo na nga, bakit hindi?
Sa patak ng iyong luha’y malaya kang mamighati!

Sa simoy ng mga hangin sa parang at mga bundok,
Palipasin mo ang sukal ng loob mong kumikirot.

Kasarinlan! Republika! Kayo baga’y nauulol,
Sa ang inyong kalayaa’y tabla na rin ng kabaong?

Republika! Kasarinlan! Mandi’y hindi nadarama,
Ang paglaya’y sa matapang at sa kanyon bumubuga!

Bawat hakbang na gawin mo sa Templo ng Kalayaan
Ay hakbang na papalapit sa bunganga ng libingan!

Ang paglaya’y nakukuha sa tulis ng isang sibat,
Ang tabak ay tumatalim sa pingki ng kapwa tabak.

Ang paglaya’y isang tining ng nagsamang dugo’t luha,
Sa saro ng kagitinga’y bayani lang ang tutungga.

Bawat sinag ng paglayang sa karimlan ay habulin,
Isang punyal sa dibdib mo, isang kislap ng patalim!

***

“We who are free must use our freedom so those who are not free may gain their own freedom.”

A very nice quote from Abraham Lincoln. I would have to thank Mr. Alex Lacson’s article for this.

Repressed Subversive

Sometimes, it puzzles me how a nation that produced such great guys like Nicolas Cage and Aaron Sorkin and Steven De Knight could also spew out assholes like Douglas MacArthur and William McKinley. — Anastasia Christina, historian wannabe

***

I was watching “National Treasure” on HBO this morning and it was such great fun!

I consider being able to watch Nicolas Cage spar with Diane Kruger as my reward for having been a nice girl; who washed the dishes exclusively this week.

national treasure

Movies I love never fail to inspire me. This one is no exception.

When I’m inspired, I tend to write letters. I particularly love writing to dead men because they will never talk back even if I insult them or/and their progeny.

***

Sometimes, when I feel like being mean, he would remind me, just a little, of what Padre Damaso must have looked like.

Sometimes, when I feel like being mean, he would remind me, just a little, of what Padre Damaso must have looked like.

An Open Letter to Benjamin Franklin

Dear Sir:

What I envy about your kids is they have History.

They have history because you did not die.

You lived until  the ripe age of 84; while my very own Jose Rizal was shot and buried in an unmarked grave when he was 35.

So unfair, don’t you think?

Mr. Franklin, you would be very pleased to know that your sons (and to an extent, your daughters too) did very well after you left.

In fact, they did so great in amassing such wealth that they bought my grandmother for 20 million dollars! Yup, she was quite cheap back in 1899.

And guess what, Mr. Franklin, some of your sons committed the same atrocities to my grandparents that the British did (may also have done?) to yours. Come on, I dare your ghost … go and haunt the Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyoming, and ask the guys there where those 2 large bells came from. Ask them (preferably in a scary voice): “Does the name Balangiga ring anything?”

Nevertheless, sir,  two of your grandsons, Matt Mullenweg and Mike Little, invented WordPress. So maybe you were not such a bad ancestor, after all.

Oh, but I envy your progeny, sir! A significant number of my grandmother’s great-grandkids would rather go to Silicon Valley than stay here.

They consider staying in their own country a death sentence. And I can’t blame them. It is a death sentence to die of hunger.

Good day to you, Mr. Franklin, wherever you are. May you and your great-great grandkids have a long and interesting life (in your case, life-after-death, ooops, I forgot, you were agnostic, oh well).

With much respect.

Love and best regards,

Ina

***

The next passages are quite unrelated but, I can’t help it, so humor me …

“All men know that the female romantic novel is the product of and the fuel for women’s fantasies.  What they have not realized is that the fantasies are not about every woman’s desire to be the  willing sexual slave of some macho male. They are, and always have been, the subversive literature of sexual politics.”

— Clair, Daphne. Sweet Subversions. In: Dangerous Men & Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women: Romance Writers on the Appeal of the Romance. Krentz, JA (ed). University of Pennsylvania Press, 1992,  pp. 75.