Saturday, September 06, 2014

Common bad

JOY. That’s the element jumping out of a photograph Alex “Chief” Badayos of Sun.Star Cebu took of couples sharing a truck ride during a free mass wedding of 173 couples in Naga City.

Though they are sitting on plastic chairs arranged on a flatbed truck, with only a handhold to keep their balance, the faces are all alit.

Hand-waves and laughter on their way to saying “I do”: it’s an infectious snapshot that captures not just levity but also a dignity and self-worth not usually associated with the common perception of “masses”.

Frequently, any reference made of large numbers of people or the majority of the population is equated with a lowering of expectations and standards. It’s as if there’s a social formula that transmutes the common into the lowest and poorest of terms.

Not so with the Naga City Government, which organized a mass wedding during its 7th Charter Day, reported Justin K. Vestil in Sun.Star Cebu last Sept. 4.

In its four years of sponsoring the event, the local government enabled 759 couples to have a wedding even the moneyed can only dream of. The city government took care of the required documents, such as the birth certificate, certificate of no marriage (Cenomar) to prove that one is single and unimpeded from marrying, and marriage certificate.

The government even included free marriage counseling, wedding cakes and food for the couples and their families. As the photographs taken by Sun.Star Cebu’s chief photographer show of that day, it was a picture-perfect moment for 173 couples, many of whom avoided tying the knot for years due to lack of resources.

The tone shifts when one applies “mass” to the transit system in the country. The general disarray is dramatized by the almost daily enumeration of woes from Metro Manila commuters riding the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) trains.

Yet, when news media and the online community monitor and debate over the recent MRT rides of Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya and Sen. Grace Poe, it’s a validation that, despite the country’s record for senseless deaths and waste of resources caused by transport “glitches,” prominence and politics count more than the masses’ routinary brushes with inconvenience, injury, and death.

Abaya drew criticism for riding the MRT with a retinue, including someone who held an umbrella to keep rain or flying objects from spoiling the official’s “gusot mayaman” barong. In a plain white T-shirt and with her hair drawn back like a schoolgirl’s, Poe lined up during rush hour. Unlike Abaya, she squeezed in with a crowd that wasn’t exclusively elderly, disabled or pregnant.

Yet these personages are hardly the authorities to review MRT services. At best, they were slumming to attest to good faith in the MRT’s publicworthiness. At worst, they put up with an instance of public inconvenience for private good.

Thus, it’s good to note that World Bank officials asked proponents of Cebu’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system to take note of its social impact to ensure better chances that the project will be accepted and sustained.

According to Linette Ramos Cantalejo’s Sept. 3 report in Sun.Star Cebu, the social acceptance of the BRT hinges on minimizing its negative impact on the trees and heritage sites situated along its route, as well as on the public utility drivers, residents and others whose livelihood and property may be adversely affected by the BRT.

“Common good” is a concept so much taken for granted, no one remembers when “common bad” became accepted as its substitute.

It took a photo of newlywed bliss to emphasize how uncommon is a sighting of “masa” satisfaction as a common disposition these days.

( 09173226131/

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Sept. 7, 2014 issue of the “Matamata,” Sunday editorial-page column

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