Saturday, February 27, 2016

Happy ending

EBULLIENCE doesn’t come to mind when I think of Filipino voters.

The word comes from the Latin word “ebullientem,” which means “spilling over”. A website has even a stronger translation: “boiling over”.

The closest to capturing the spirit of being “very happy and excited” is the small yellow-throated bird that flits among the budding branches of the “tambis” tree growing outside our bedroom window.

As it moves among the fruits and the flowers—many of which are even bigger than itself—the bird is the very picture of ecstasy. Its color is a radiant flash among the ivory-hued blossoms. Unlike the big black bees hovering like uninspired drones above the blooms, the bird chirps and chirps away, even in the presence of the cats, sleeping nearby with a twitching tail.

With May 9 drawing close, I wish I had an eighth of the optimism in the tiny feathered body.

Elections come with a predictability that leave many Filipinos prematurely cynical and pessimistic. I was born in 1965, when Ferdinand Marcos began his first term as the 10th president of the country.

Fifty-one years later, as the nation is deluged by surveys that predict who may win the race to become the country’s 16th president, I wonder how to summon the energy to draw up a mental list of candidates I will cast my ballot for. Unlike the bird in our tambis, the choices facing voters are thin.

The most prescient assessment of this horse race does not come from journalists and scholars. It comes from the social media influencers who upload the creative, entertaining, irreverent memes parodying every political pretender, antic or gambit.

Policy and issues were the focus of the organizers, as well as the five presidential candidates, of the first presidential debate held in Cagayan de Oro City last Feb. 21.

Yet, gauging from the comments and memes proliferating on the Net, the Mindanao leg of the “PiliPinas Debates 2016” might as well have been every soap opera, romantic comedy or Star Wars installment captivating watchers with a fixation for personalities, drama and entertainment.

What cerebral discourse can hold up to the “kilig” power of DuRiam (seconds after they clinched before the debate, the embrace of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte went “sticky” online and inspired unforgettable memes)?

Granted: Filipino humor can soften any blow the fates will deal us. Will we still be laughing when the electoral results will trickle in after May 9?

Last Feb. 25, the 30th anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, Martial Law survivors launched a campaign to oppose the vice-presidential candidacy of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. Aside from opposing the distortion of history, the anti-Marcos activists urge millennials to remember the lessons of EDSA.

Passing the half-century mark, I recall EDSA as a mixed success. Look what we brought in after the People Power Revolution: an Estrada and an Arroyo. Or, if you belong to the opposing camp, two Aquinos.

On the other hand, Feb. 25, 1986 demarcated the past, when elections meant killing fields, and the present, when a campaign tragedy is a meme that bombs. Thirty years should make us realize where hope lies: in an informed citizenry casting their votes only for those who love the country.

( 09173226131)

* First published in the February 28, 2016 issue of the Sun.Star Cebu Sunday editorial-page column, “Matamata”

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