MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/5 March) – It’s not often that one gets to witness a spectacle like the street dancing competition during the annual Kaamulan, the festival that is supposed to honor the seven tribes of Bukidnon province. Despite some personal misgivings about how it has become grossly commercialized over the years, I still look forward to the event. Certainly, it’s a feast for the senses – the colors, sounds and choreographed moves of performers striving for precision if not perfection.
The pragmatic in me says that at the moment it would be hard for Kaamulan to shed off the commercialism that has been attached to it. Someday perhaps redemption will come and make the festival truly a celebration of Lumad culture. After all, organizers have always touted it as the country’s only genuine ethnic festival.
But what I find disgusting is how Kaamulan has been used as a venue for politicking. It happened on March 3, during the street dancing contest, when Vice Governor Jose Ma. R. Zubiri Jr. effectively converted the event into a miting de avance (political rally). After the preliminaries he personally introduced Vice President Jejomar Binay, calling him the “next president,” and urged the dancers and spectators to cheer for the guest of honor.
Binay, returning the compliment of his host, dutifully mentioned in his speech retired (can somebody who had no mandate retire?) senator Juan Miguel Zubiri as “dating senador pero magbabalik na senador.”
As the exchange of flatteries between politicians ended I wondered who was using who. For sure, some Lumads must have thought somebody had capitalized on them. I heard a datu (tribal chieftain) behind me murmur something like “sugod na ang kampanya” (the campaign has started), making his companion chuckle, his jaw tilted upward.
Frankly though, I’d say it wasn’t Binay’s fault that he was invited. He doesn’t need allies in the mold of the Zubiris, whose “loyalty” can change so quickly chameleon-like. The truth is the Zubiris need Binay – and his party, the Partido ng Demokratikong Pilipino, for next year’s midterm elections.
There lies the problem however. Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III had declared a couple of months ago he would not allow the Zubiris into the PDP, the party founded by his father, former senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., at the height of Martial Law.
Now, Binay may be a trapo (traditional politician) who generally clings to the dictum that politics is addition. Still, I believe he would not sacrifice his long, storied association with Nene Pimentel that dates back to the era of severe repression just to accommodate a political orphan. He knows he has nothing to gain and much to lose if he takes the Zubiris into the PDP’s fold.
The Filipinos may have short memories but they have not forgotten [yet] the electoral fraud in Maguindanao in 2007 that robbed Koko Pimentel of his rightful place in the Senate for four years. If Binay falls into the trap of accommodating the Zubiris, he might as well say goodbye to his ambition of becoming president. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)