The missing papas

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

Instead of starting with our main topic about “The Missing Papas” allow me to touch on a political subject matter that I feel must be a revelation from the Lord, given that I am not much into political analysis. Today millions of Filipinos will be voting for a new government and new leaders, but like I constantly say in every election: what will we each be doing for ourselves in and for our own lives? During the campaign period a number of people were asking: How can Filipinos sustain the belief, hope, aspiration and “can-do” attitude that we all exhibited during the campaign and tap it as a power source for national transformation regardless of who wins or loses? How do we get the different colors and teams to come together on common ideas, projects even business that would generate jobs, promote community growth and ultimately elevate community spirit rather than political patronage or dependency?

In my circle of friends as well as social media, the common link is faith and church. For others, it’s a network of business associates, fellow employees, neighbors or enthusiasts in a given hobby or sport. But when it comes to politics, none of us are actual members of any real honest to goodness political party that stands for something or represents a platform beyond colors and characters. Philippine elections and campaigns are more like personal events or “personalan”/ personality-based politics rather than organized groups and goals. We informally come together only because of a common aspiration or frustration and when elections roll around, the politicians start the campaign through divide and conquer, pitting us against one another! This is what needs to be corrected in the Philippine political party system that honestly does not exist in the true form.

Political parties must have real members of good and long standing! We should stop recognizing political parties whose only members are politicians in local or national positions. How the hell can you have party-list representatives that don’t even have real party members? By imposing the membership requirement and nationwide representation, we would be planting the seeds of participation and involvement for Filipinos. Those who aspire to have or lead a political party will need real members and the only way to have real members is to give people a reason to enlist in the party. Party membership turns into real power far beyond the campaign periods because if a party fails to sustain its numbers, they could be suspended or declared non-functional. The Comelec should be prodded to invest more effort in the development of real political parties by requiring a set percentage of voters, spread nationwide and an actual set of long-term political platforms that are not mere copy paste slogans of paid key board hackers. The platforms must be representative of a group’s track record.

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Coming out of the Mother’s Day celebration yesterday, I noticed something consistent and eerie in the many posts on social media honoring mothers all over the world. Many family photos showed mothers and siblings but more often than not, fathers were missing. I realized then that most of the “papas” have passed away, which explains why they are absent in the recent family photos posted on Facebook. Time and time again, we have heard or read that the average Filipino male has a much shorter lifespan. I think it is even a global statistical reality that women outlive men by 5-10 years, depending on the country or continent. So, the question is: Will us “Senior Papas” make it to Father’s Day? I sure hope so!

With not much to do for the rest of the day except to vote and later on bite our nails waiting for the election results, it may be a good idea to consider the fact that statistically speaking, the average Filipino lives up to 71.53 years. Most of those who are fortunate enough to make it to 80 years of age are generally fragile, immobile or limited in their range of motion and travel or utterly dependent on the tender mercies of a younger offspring or caregiver.

I remember one time when Ambassador Danding Cojuangco went out and bought a Honda Goldwing or some mechanized hog that had 1200 cc of power and the immediate reaction of people around him was “Boss, No!” or “Sir, that’s very dangerous” and other similar statements. As the shocked circle began to tone down, someone curiously inquired what made him decide to get a big motorcycle in his senior years? In vintage ECJ style the Boss replied: “Kailan pa ako mag momotor? Pag hindi ko na kayang itayo yung motor pag natumba?” (When else will I ride a bike? When I can no longer stand the bike up if it falls?)

“When else will I do it?” That line resonated with me during the two years that all of us experienced a nationwide quarantine and various seasons of lockdowns. Unable to do things that we took for granted such as travel, go for walks, bike rides, work or shop, we suddenly missed and placed great value on them. When the finality of death and separation repeatedly hit all of us, we all realize the people we loved and valued. There will be no “See you laters,” no “Let’s get together for lunch” and, saddest of all, is that our absence won’t be punctuated by a blank white oval in photos or images of current get togethers.

So, when “Father’s Day” rolls around next month, do try to make the most of it. Take lots of photos, do really special stuff and remember, the average Filipino Dad has a shorter shelf life than Mom.

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