Posted on 27 August 2009.
Tears were shed, speeches were made, and political lines were drawn.
After the dust had settled, all that’s left is to take a step back and ponder on everything that had just happened.
Everyone had his or her own opinions to air. To some, she was a saint; to others, a national hero. But in the heart of it all, Cory was a symbol of the hope for the Filipino people for a better future. Unfortunately, like any other powerful symbol, they can easily be misappropriated for all the wrong reasons.
There will be no shortage of people eager to ride on the attention and support such powerful symbols are getting. Religion has the penchant for elevating noteworthy historical figures into either sainthood or martyrdom, thus claiming for itself every noble, selfless act that person has ever done in his life, no matter what the original intent was. Whether they were really doing it for themselves, for their family, their country, or for some other ideal, history will be remember their deeds in light of how it served the purpose of a higher being.
Political marketing runs along the same lines, riding on the popularity of someone or something else – be it a celebrity, a controversial figure, or even a tragic victim that has captured public sympathy. Manny Pacquiao was yesterday’s news. He was everyone’s meal ticket a few months back because he represented the Filipino’s fighting spirit and indomitable will. The pambansang kamao that became the pambansang endorser.
But now, the memory of Cory is the hot item of the moment. She embodied the Filipino’s fight against tyranny while maintaining our humanity. A feat, in itself, is admittedly quite impressive even by today’s standards. The fight for freedom is rarely bloodless, as history can attest. Now, more than ever, everyone wants to be associated with her and the glory days of EDSA… the media, the church, aspiring electionables, retailers now mounting product campaigns with the Cory-Ninoy theme, and everyone else in between. Let’s face it; she’s now more bankable dead than even during the height of the EDSA revolution. The dead can’t protest how their name is being used, no matter how over-commercialized or contrary to one’s own personal philosophy. But on the bright side, death has a funny way of re-shaping our perspective on things: we become less stingy with the praises and less critical of someone who’s passed on.
No, I don’t blame Cory for all the political grandstanding being done in her name by the media, politicians, and even her own family. All throughout her political and civilian life, she’s consistently been a very simple person with no illusions of grandeur. She had a role to play, at great personal risk to herself, but she did it nonetheless. She wanted justice for her slain husband; the Filipino people needed a symbol to rally under. It was a mutually beneficial setup and everyone was happy with the outcome. Was she the best sort of leader the country needs? No, she was there simply to prevent those who would do more harm in her place out of office.
Unfortunately, that’s only half of the equation needed to fix this mess. Not only do you have to throw out the bad, you have to replace it with the good. That’s the critical follow-through that has disappointingly been missing in our last few administrations. We know what we don’t like but we don’t know what we like. So we get stuck in this never-ending cycle of replacing crap with even more crap – quantity over quality. Needless to say, it’s a very wasteful system. With each iteration of electing “the lesser evil”, we wait till the corruption gets too obvious before we boot them out of power in yet another sequel to the EDSA revolution. Then we replace them with the same thing, just wrapped up in another package. Then the cycle begins again. We never learn. It’s like a tradition already. Sometimes, I wonder if we are not a nation of masochists, purposing electing bad leaders just so we can re-experience the glory of booting them out of power to re-live the grandeur of People Power over and over again.
And now, with the upcoming elections looming ahead, we again face the unsavory task of selecting “the lesser evil”. Just how less of an evil, we’ll just have to find out and live with our decision…. or mount another People Power revolution. But now with Cory gone, the magic of People Power may have just lost its luster for good.