From ‘Banana Republic’ to ‘UK-low’

CTALK - Cito Beltran - The Philippine Star

The writer George Santayana warned us: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Pop star Britney Spears confessed: “Oops, I did it again,” as well as millions of Filipinos who are now experiencing a repeat of what happened to their lolos, tatays and titos from the 1970’s to early 90’s.

We now have two Marcoses becoming president, US military facilities are on Philippine soil, US “advisers” are on the ground coaxing if not coaching the Marcos-Romualdez team on matters political, whether local or geopolitical. Mainland “Communist” China is once again “the enemy” and once more, a Romualdez is suspected of wanting to redefine politics from “Unity” to “Continuity” by way of a people’s initiative for constitutional change.

The difference is there was a touch of originality and style, maybe even a little class over crass that yesterday’s leaders and tyrants had to achieve their goals. They were even poetic and philosophical, as some of them often quoted Niccolo Machiavelli who said: “The ends justify the means.” To their credit, Marcos and Enrile made efforts to spin a story about the republic under threat, about communists at the gates or attempts being made to assassinate one of them. Someone tried to carve out Imelda’s Marcos’ heart on stage while someone allegedly staged the assassination attempt on then secretary of defense Juan Ponce Enrile.

Yes, students actually attacked Malacañang and broke through a Palace gate, which is why Mendiola/Chino Roces in Manila is heavily guarded. What we never really asked is how many of them were students and how many were planted undercover agents of the CIS, NICA or ISAF. In hindsight, I think it’s safe to assume that since there were no casualties, the incident was orchestrated.

But if a lot of people were killed like in the Mendiola Massacre of Jan. 22,1987 where 13 farmers were shot dead or the massacre of the Lapiang Malaya members on Taft Avenue on May 21, 1967, we know that those were for real. That’s when the police learned never to use blanks on a mob with bolos and amulets or anting-anting. There were no rubber bullets back then, so they tried to scare them off with blanks. When the cops started getting sliced and chopped, they fired away!

The thing with today’s politicians and wanna-be kings is that they are more crass than class. They parade their trophy girlfriends, post images of their vast properties or corporate acquisitions, drive around in vehicles that are more expensive than the average house and lot and they openly break, engineer or work things to their favor to acquire more properties or extend their term. Fearless has been overtaken by the term Shameless, as in “Walang Hiya.”

Looking back for similarities, there was an effort to replace the 1935 Constitution in 1971 by holding or staging a constitutional convention. The only memorable and significant points from that event was the “Quintero Exposé” where a former ambassador to the UN and a delegate to the said convention divulged that he was given P11,150 (1971 values) to influence and manipulate the outcome of the final version. Among the accused in Quintero’s hospital bed statement was then first lady Imelda Romualdez Marcos. That fueled the belief that Marcos Sr. wanted to extend the term limit on his eight-year presidency (Quintero Exposé, from Wikipedia).

When the Mosquito Press attacked the members of the regime, they used literary tools such as parody, while the more combative resorted to white papers.  At the height of my dad’s comeback after martial law he often spun stories about “The Banana Republic,” a general term for Third World nations as well as one of the most popular brands of clothing among journalists back then.

While they were generally parodies, behind those scenes were actual events, corruption, abuse and betrayal in different branches of government, people would snitch on their associates as well as their opponents in typical Banana Republic conduct.

Years later, you don’t see a Banana Republic outlet like we used to. The favorite brand now is Uniqlo or the pang masa UK-low or ukay-ukay. No thanks to K-pop and digital media, Banana Republic parodies have become too long to read and useless because politicians have become shameless and fearless in their manipulation and behavior.

So far, we have repeated electing a “Ferdinand Marcos” as president; even worse, it’s practically the entire cast from 1969 but version 2.0 The Next Generation. Back then, we had the US military bases where we could all buy “PX” goods outside the perimeter while the Philippine government collected rent and the Marcoses then got US support and protection until the Filipino people did the EDSA 1 on them. Another unsolved mystery is why did the US really fly them out? Was the US so deep in the mud that protecting Marcos was about protecting themselves?

Today, we have several new staging areas for US military personnel but rent free. Globalization and our expanded universe have rendered “PX” goods obsolete and the way the narrative is being spun is that we are being protected by Big Brother from the Reds. In other words, we now have “utang na loob” or a debt of gratitude.

As far as attempts to shift from Unity to Continuity or getting a peoples’ initiative for constitutional change, I assumed that cash would be passed around in Congress. But my sources have checked, and it seems the only thing that came out was spit. Congressmen were being guaranteed development projects from where they could get something but no cash out, not even for expenses. The reply: Your credit is good, but we need cash!

Even jueteng operators have reportedly been told to produce 30,000 to 50,000 legitimate voter signatures for constitutional change! Yes, the story repeats but the lessons remain unlearned.

 *      *      *


E-mail: [email protected]

vuukle comment



  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with