A ticket to anywhere

EYES WIDE OPEN - Iris Gonzales - The Philippine Star

Where are we heading, we might ask ourselves. We ask ourselves this question again and again.

I know because I asked it before and I wonder again now – where are we heading, really?

We may ask it just as Hamlet did in a soliloquy, in the middle of EDSA’s monstrous traffic jam, staring at the sea of red lights ahead of us or when lying restless in borrowed rooms in the arms of the beloved. Or while standing naked in front of the mirror about to get dressed for the day ahead.

But there is no single answer. There can be many. Or there may be none.

It’s been over a year into Marcos 2.0 so we need to ask our government – where are we heading?

Here’s what we know so far.

Congress is divided over moves to change the Charter. The President’s sister and the President’s cousin have become each other’s thorns, muddling further the already dizzying family feud between the Dutertes and the Marcoses.

Senators, meanwhile, are either busy protecting their thrones amid the threat of a new charter or grandstanding in public at the expense of senior citizen bilyonaryos whose crime is inadvertently or allegedly dozing off.

Over at the House of Representatives, lawmakers seem like kids in a game of Simon Says, just doing what they’re told to do. Tell them to change the Charter and they will change it as fast as they can. Tell them to kill a network’s franchise and kill, they will. Even opposition lawmakers are careful and calculated in their actions, you can’t help but wonder where the statesmen are when we need them most.

Amid all the noise, President Marcos himself has broken his silence,  saying that proposed amendments to the Constitution will be limited to restrictive economic provisions.

But as moves in Congress go, last-minute insertions and sleight of hand changes happen all too often. We need to keep a close watch on this.

In the meantime, the real needs of Filipinos, especially those living in poverty, are ignored or, worse, have become something to joke about. Government social workers jested that those begging for alms in the filthy streets of Metro Manila earn even more than they do.

Some employers, usually dapper in bespoke suits and signature ties, meanwhile, are jittery over the proposed additional hundred-peso daily wage hike.

Postwar Philippines

The past several nights I’ve been reading a dead tycoon’s memoir, detailing the hardships during the World War II era when the Japanese ripped through the Philippines and left it in ruins. There was famine and poverty and education was at a standstill.

Life was difficult for everyone – rich or poor – back then. Surely compared to that period, we’re in a much better place now but certainly nowhere near where we should be in this postwar epoch. Our neighbors have overtaken us by miles and miles.

While we have rebuilt our cities and structures after the war, we have not made significant progress in building or rebuilding our democracy, our institutions, our identity and, most of all, our moral fiber.

Again I can’t help but ask, where are we heading?

I write this existential piece this cool morning of Valentine’s Day as I turn a year older. Yes, I was born on the so-called Day of Love but ironically at the witching hour. I once considered myself an empath because I feel what others are feeling – or at least I think I do – but my dearly beloved said instead of empath, empakta or impakta was perhaps more accurate, given my evil streak.

There’s no denying of course that I have my fair share of that streak, mostly out of a journalist’s frustration over the things happening in society. Even the traffic is maddening, not to mention corruption and political hubris.

Don’t ask me about my birthday wish. I don’t really have a big wish for myself. Perhaps I’m too old for that. In fact, the only people who call me young are the seniors, and sadly, some of them are long gone. I guess I’ll just wish for more stories to write and good health, although I definitely don’t want to reach the age of 100 as the immortal Juan Ponce Enrile has achieved.

Cliché as it sounds, my bigger wish really is a better life for this nation of 114 million.

Mostly, I’d like to see the hapless and the desperate really break out of the cycle of poverty.

Fast Car

I think of Tracy Chapman’s Fast Car and that gripping performance with Luke Combs at the Grammys. The reason the song broke records again 35 years later is that it’s an anthem for dreamers who want to get out of that vicious cycle of hardship and poverty.

It’s a powerful song that should remind our leaders that here in our country, there are still some 20 million people living in poverty and we must help them get out of it.

Education, social services, jobs and a home country that gives its people hope are what Filipinos need.

I fervently hope our leaders get our people a ticket out of poverty.

“Any place is better,” as Tracy Chapman said in Fast Car.

That indeed is where we should be heading and maybe, just maybe, the dreamers of this country would finally get “that feeling that they belong” and that they could “be someone, be someone, be someone…”

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Email: [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @eyesgonzales. Column archives at EyesWideOpen on FB.

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