Saturday, March 01, 2008

Wives’ tales

WHEN I first saw it, I had an electric jolt.

Nibbling the frozen chip of the chocolate dip coating a sundae I was not even supposed to be thinking of, I saw the distant neon-lit letters leap out in the dark: TARZAN BO.

Wow, I thought. Even given the street competition presented by rival bars on this Mactan strip, I wondered about the Neanderthal sensibility inspiring a bar name that implied its habitués, not just Lord Greystoke’s noble ape-man alter ego, had either strong armpits or weak noses.

But as the family car approached the bar, I realized that it wasn’t a weird variant of
English that was the culprit after all.

The letters on the nightclub’s façade originally spelled out: T-A-R-Z-A-N-B-O-Y. The last bulb did not just light up.

Up to now, that malfunctioning bulb has never been replaced. Except for a busybody like me, no one may have made a case of the darkened “Y.”

Or possibly, the vagaries of English don’t preoccupy the owner or regulars of such places. Correct spelling and clear meaning can hardly matter in a place that probably is too dark for reading, I told my husband one night. Do you see anyone bringing a book? he asks without taking his eyes off the road.

As the vanilla was quickly melting, I forgot to reply. What I had wanted to tell him was that I read in Sun.Star Superbalita’s Feb. 21, 2008 issue that Jinkee Pacquiao admitted to “Yes Magazine” that she is now going through the worst upheavals in her eight-year marriage to Manny.

Her husband is dubbed “Pambansang Kamao (national boxer)” for the acclaim and pride he has given the country for his ring victories. In the euphoria after one such victory over a Mexican foe, the buzz was all for hailing Manny as a modern-day national hero.

According to the Superbalita feature, Jinkee says she struggles with the womanizing and gambling of Manny. At parties and bars, she tries to be blind to her husband and his girls until she cannot take it anymore and goes to a corner to cry. Can one be a hero to one’s countrymen while being the lowest form of animal to one’s wife?

Boxing and basketball may be our country’s favorite sports, but it is hero-making that is actually our national pastime. Unlike others that tear down personalities as quickly as they build them up, we Pinoys have an elastic threshold of blind love for our idols, who fit better the mold of Erap the lover of women and the masses, rather than Mother Teresa the living saint.

In a country where even drainage systems hardly work but actors can become statesmen and statesmen opt to become actors, it hardly surprises anyone that our hopes for national transformation and moral resurgence is pinned not on processes and systems but on whistleblowers-turned-celebrities.

Senate star witness Rodolfo Noel “Jun” Lozada Jr. seems to repulse so far all the character-demolition attempts to discredit his exposure of the graft and corruption allegedly committed in the National Broadband Network deal.

In my books, Lozada passes at least one test: his wife wanted him back. Violeta Lozada filed a petition for the writ of habeas corpus in the Supreme Court after she learned the police and airport officials spirited him away upon his return to the country.

But more than the wife test, literature has a better standard for myth-building. More nuanced and realistic is the anti-hero, a literary character who resembles the villain but denies or suppresses heroic virtues. Which side prevails determines the tale’s end.

In time, our national pastime may encourage our anti-heroes to reconcile pleasing the crowds and treating one’s wife honorably. Let’s hope, for our children’s sake, that our hero-making matures from simply replacing busted bulbs to spotting mistakes in the dark. 01973226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Feb. 24, 2008 issue

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