It’s May 15, the birthday of my yaya who took care of me. I gave her money from my P2-a-week allowance to buy Pilipino Komiks and Tagalog Klasiks, smuggled them to me when my mother was out so she would not see. She hated what she called “trash.” But I enjoyed reading them and we were never caught.
I also enjoyed being sent to the Tagalog (as we used to call Pilipino then) movies with my grandmother, who only spoke Tagalog and Spanish. We watched Pancho Magalona and Tita Duran, Ric Rodrigo, Lolita Rodriguez, Gloria Romero, Luis Gonzales, Juancho Gutierrez, Amalia Fuentes, etc. I wasn’t aware that slowly, through entertainment, I was turning myself into a nationalist.
When I was around 12 years old I had a mad crush on Manding Claro; I really can’t explain why. I was mortifyingly jealous of Nenita Vidal, the other half of that love team. Surely she felt for him the way I did. But when I grew old and met her, I realized how wrong I was. She would never have been even moderately attracted to Manding Claro. I grew older, fervently learning the difference between reality and imagination.
My mother sent me to school in Switzerland and Spain, the fashion then. Maybe she hoped I would marry royalty. I wasn’t really attracted to foreigners. I came back home and married the first Filipino who asked me. Since then I have been loyal to my beloved country, to our people, our culture, though sometimes — like now — it totally dismays me: our language, our food, everything about being Filipino I love.
So I am helplessly distressed at the results of our election. It demonstrates clearly how deeply the Marcos influence has altered us. It has completely changed the values of the lower classes. I’m sorry, but I have, for a very long time, believed that we have a strong operative class system in the Philippines. India has a caste system. They admit it. They know they are generally born into the class where they belong. It is not their fault. They have rules for behavioral conduct and they generally also obey those rules.
But in the Philippines, we do not like to admit that there are classes. Our demographics demonstrate it. The A and B classes are the richer people, those who have good education and good jobs that pay them enough money to live well. The C class is divided into two — upper and lower C. The upper C also have enough money to live but less than the B. The lower C is subsistence level. They are employed. They earn enough money but not enough to buy their own cars. They use public transportation. Live in crowded, simple neighborhoods. The D and E classes are the poorest of them all. They make up most of our population and to them, money talks eloquently.
Someone I used to work with told me she was having trouble with some construction project because the local municipal officials were all trying to collect their “10%.” They just assumed it was there for them since they approved the permits.
This was many years ago, during the Cory administration. She told me it was because that had become the modus operandi of everyone in government during the Marcos regime. Now there was a new government, but the old system had become a habit. I knew that to be true. They were in power for so long they planted the kickback habit: made people believe that sins were not sins, but were permanent.
The Marcoses were shrewd. They knew they could buy whatever they wanted. And… they just did. It breaks my heart. We read what people were saying. They were getting paid this much to get their ID cards. They were getting paid more if they had a higher ranking, if more was expected of them. We read all the text messages but it was difficult to tell whether the news was real or fake. I blocked off so many texters who were rude and crude. You could tell what sort of education they had from the language they used.
How can you tell people who need money desperately to look beyond the election? You made them win. Now the money they got is gone. Can you ask for more? Will he listen to you if you beg? Of course not. You gave him the power he wanted.
Old habits die hard. Now they will protect the money they stole from us once. The old cronies are immediately investing in the business of a Chinese IT expert who provided the computers that did the miraculously quick counting. He’s running out of money, bordering on being broke. So it’s crony to the rescue.
You, who sold your votes to ease your miserable lives, watch the cronies break out of their shells. Are you getting any of it? I’m sure not.
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