Lola Got’s Lutong Bahay in America. by margot marfori

Chapter 5: Election Selection

I promised myself a long time ago that I’d keep my thoughts to myself on topics that had anything to do with politics. This is not only because there is no amount of savvy-ness that I could possess on the subject, but also (mostly) because it’s something that seems to be an especially bad word a lot of the time.

But, this has proven to be very difficult lately. (Yes, I do still follow some of the political ek-ek. Even here.) And, I must shamefully admit, specially so since Sarah Palin, the erstwhile Republican candidate for Vice-President here in America, has sought to going around the country in what they call the Tea Party Express. I can’t help it talaga, when I see her, I always seem to remember another infamous erstwhile-er in our part of the world – Joseph Estrada. They both wear red a lot and seem to twist and turn, hara-kiri style, an invisible knife into the heart of what may be honestly innocent if not actually uninformed (or mis-informed?) crowds. (“I can see Russia from Alaska…”?! Very Erap di ba?) They both sound sincere, as they most probably are in that moment, when they go out to make their speeches before throngs of people hungry for something that can make their lives a little less difficult. Of course, this doesn’t mean that in the Philippines, our lives were ever better than what the politicians made it out to be. Their lifestyles, though, spoke volumes….. in encyclopedic proportions that even the most intelligent and educated person in the whole seven thousand one hundred-plus islands could not finish in several lifetimes. Even if he successfully took a course on speed-reading.

From this part of the globe, there seems to be very little difference in the way politics is conducted. The only glaring exception would probably be that here, it doesn’t preoccupy the national psyche as much, and corruption is not so much the predominant “scandalous” act that brings down a politician; but, more on their sense of morality and the way by which they are perceived to have deceived the American people by acting on it. Not that any of the Philippines erstwhile-ers (take note ha, plural yan) have really been said to have lost their “powers” (of immorality pwe!….sori immortality pala) since the amount of money accumulated in their “reign” has ensured them the ability to still retain the influence they enjoyed in their terms of office.

But, again, there is, for both, that expectant hope, every time there is an election, that things will be better. This is something that seems to always prevail in the weeks before the final vote is counted and the winner proclaimed. It would be interesting to measure how long this hopefulness lasts. How long before the first bite, slap and kick is felt and the protests start anew. It’s good though, that no matter how many times this happens, we never seem to learn because we continue to hope. This is one kind of naiveté we should retain I guess. Because without this sense of hopefulness, the future would only signal a vision of certain doom and gloom.

On the “bad” word of politics. I looked it up in the dictionary, the Merriam Webster Dictionary no less (which, incidentally, was bought for fifty cents in a yard sale). The literal meaning sounds kind of presumptuous when taken in the context of our ruling class, as if the people involved knew what it meant.

“Politics n. sing or pl 1: the art or science of government, of guiding or influencing governmental policy, or of winning and holding control over a government 2 : political affairs or business; esp : competition between groups or individuals for power and leadership 3 : political opinions.”

Politicians seem to only retain the words influencing, control, business and power. All the rest are forgotten and strewn by the wayside. And the whole thing becomes a personal crusade for those who win the elections. A crusade to make sure they have their mansions and very large bank accounts by the time they leave government or before they are caught and sent abroad to let things cool down.

Before I got married, I had to attend a Pre-Cana seminar. It was to orient me on how to conduct myself and to make me aware of how things could, should and would probably be happening between a husband and wife. Not that I remembered any of the things discussed in these after-dinner meetings judging from how my marriage went, but I believe those entering the “service” of government should maybe get some kind of Pre-Cana style of orientation. Except maybe in a such a way that they will remember what real governance is all about. Like, it’s not a vehicle for accumulating all the money they can squeeze out of the coffers of the country while they are in office, but actually a service to the people who elected them. That being in government is a privilege and that being able to yield to the people and the good of the country carries with it a moral responsibility that goes beyond personal gain. That being in government is not about them, and instead about the national profit. That there should not have to be anything in it for them.

“Papasok ako ng gobyerno para naman yumaman kami.” (Yes, this was said to me personally by someone who did run and, Thank God! did not win.) It’s sad how our government has become the way by which a person can see himself become financially worthy. How has this happened? Because by no other means can this be realized except through willful deceit.

But for all these things, there is still that glimmer of light. Because, if there is just that one example of what truth has set free, we can cite the Province of Isabela under its present Governor Grace Padaca. She has fought the giants and continues to do so. She is a hopeful sign of what the country may just be able to achieve. Because the halimaws are out there again, and they are very hungry.

Continue to hope that the elections, this time, is not like winning a lottery ticket where the winners are given the gumption to plunder the taxpayer’s hard-earned contributions for disappearing government services, for their prize of unlimited financial acquisition.

I leave you, dear friends and readers, from my one and only public commentary on politics and elections and politicians and the lot. These are just some simple thoughts on a system that I must believe, can still do a three hundred and sixty. I love my country very much (okay, Davao more than the rest siguro) and I will continue to draw on that well of hope that I pray will never run dry. Otherwise, I’d rather dance the polka, or limbo rock on the white sands of Tondaligan beach in Mati when the full moon comes again twice in thirty days.

(Mindanawon Abroad is MindaNews’ effort to link up with Mindanawons overseas who would like to share their experiences in their adopted countries. Dabawenya Margot Marfori is a writer and visual artist who continues to live the Davao she loves. She taught at the University of the Philippines in Mindanao from 1996 to 2002. She is now based more times of the year in Henderson, Nevada, while her youngest son is studying at UNLV, and, where her two older children in San Francisco is near enough to visit. This piece was sent just before the elections. Our apologies to Ms Marfori for not having dispatched this much earlier as the editor thought it had been dispatched earlier).