MIAG-AO, Iloilo (MindaNews / 9 March) – A long time ago, when knee socks were tucked into black shoes and words like sovereignty and nationalism were mere vocabulary words on green chalkboards, I remember precociously deciding that I would never denounce my Filipino citizenship and move to America.
Though I had little knowledge of the world, I dismissed an entire country as polluted and overpopulated. I felt as though that country had become a failed promise to those who dreamed of her liberating shores, trapping OFW parents, sending soldiers to foreign countries miming freedom as they stole it, breeding capitalists to pollute our economy and our resources.
As an ambitious little girl, I derided that they could not even fathom of a female president.
It did not take me long to disabuse me of my own prejudice. For one, I spoke this barbarian tongue with more fluency than I could hope to muster for my so-called native dialect, and hypocrisy is always difficult for a child to admit. Eventually, I came to realize that rot and mediocrity could be found in a place much closer to home.
Nevertheless, I was – I am, despite myself – proud of and in love with my country. I believe in the Asian identity, our rich multicultural history, that inexpressible tint of simply belonging to this home, and most of all, the mountains of progress that we as a whole continuously struggle to achieve.
In the Philippines, our college graduates get their diplomas a full two years early, without compromising our good international performance. In Asia, we boast the first female president and the first abrogation of the death penalty. EDSA in many heads was a moving sea of yellow ribbons set to a marching band musical score. We stood up to the Spaniards, the Japanese, the Americans and Marcos, and at the time of my neophyte nationalistic declaration, a movie star playing at presidency whose wax face could not even summon the semblance of shame, or guilt.
It is laughable, then, to watch (now as a legal adult of jaded affectation) as this country opens its arms to welcome the said condemned caricature back to politics as the mayor of no less than our capital city. She who replaced him undertook great strides for gender equality, proving to the world that yes – female presidents can be just as corrupt as male ones.
It is heartbreaking to watch the son of a criminal dictator be healthy, wealthy, and hilariously unapologetic. It was near hysterical to see him run for actual vice presidency.
I know I wasn’t the only one who felt a brief flash of that childlike pride when my mayor decided to run for presidency – more so that he won. To those who voted for him, campaigned for him, it must have tasted like that same flavor of progress, “Ato ni Bai” becoming more than the exultation of a proud Dabawenyo into the hopeful endorsement of, finally, a President who could understand riding jeeps and paying taxes. Someone far away from the concentric lines of Manila’s old money circles, whose kids went to local schools instead of studying abroad and when sick, went to local hospitals instead of other countries for treatment.
And yet this happens to be our reality; the systematic overturning of that which was ridiculously hard to win.
I hesitate to blame everything that is going wrong on one man’s shoulders. I insist that this injurious machismo and political hamfisting could not have gained traction without the support of the misguided proletariat and the reclusive upper echelon. However, it is frustrating to watch those who hold our country’s reigns constantly attempt to offer up our strengths to oppressors, as if they are trying to give back our hard-won description of ‘free’.
I don’t know how much honor there is left to strip, besides others, imposing poorly-handled K-12 (a rejected system), the trivialization of the unabashed clumsy meandering of bible-touting celebrities in the Senate, rampant sell-out media, human rights violations, a Marcos in the Senate, the return of the death penalty.
Miriam Defensor Santiago, in death, proves to still be a step ahead of us, escaping while she could. (Batang Mindanaw is the youth section of MindaNews. Sage Danielle T. Ilagan is a Dabawenyo, third year Biology student at the University of the Philippines in Miag-ao, Iloilo.)