Saturday, May 07, 2016


ON this day honoring mothers, two are on my mind: the country and Mary, Mother of Christ.

Last Friday evening at the faculty room, while packing papers to check over the long weekend, I wondered if I would still have the school routine to resume “the day after”.

The jokes swapped by colleagues and friends over the past weeks have only been said half in jest. We have had to endure three sources of unrelenting heat: summer, final exams, and elections.

Tomorrow will come soon enough. The prospects unsettle many of us. What will happen on May 9? Or after?

The change augured in the presidential race, as indicated by the pattern of results in the most credible polls, have made us pause.

Weeks ago, some of us already withdrew from social media after we noted how the right of expression has degenerated into an ugly, hollow travesty of the freedom to demean and destroy.
The ugly can come in the most entertaining forms. Researchers can monitor changes of the pulse, galvanic skin response, and other bodily indicators to measure how stress levels go through the roof when one is watching political ads that reflect the heights of creativity and the bankruptcy of truth and responsibility.

I have talked to two newspaper editors-in-chief who, on separate occasions, confirmed how this campaign season has been the ugliest in the country’s history. Benchmarking their observations with martial law’s unrivalled record for electoral fraud and mayhem, my heart breaks.

On the other hand, I have listened for hours to young people, many of whom have yet to vote, scrutinizing the promises of those who swear to uplift the lives of Filipinos. The nuggets of insight yielded in essay after essay attest that intelligence, sensitivity, and patriotism are qualities not unusual among these college students. We do Millennials a disservice when we stereotype all of them as vacant-minded pawns of historical revisionism.

One such Millennial is 18-year-old Patricia Candaza, whose reflection as a first-time voter was posted by Rappler on May 7: “We are all Filipino citizens, our loyalty doesn’t belong to our candidate, it belongs to our country—the Philippines.”

A talk with another veteran journalist first yielded the term of “counter-sumpa”. She recounted how a religious leader described the country as being under a spell (“sumpa”), hypnotized by personal charisma and populism.

Skeptical of the elder’s view, the journalist, nevertheless, posed a question, as if to herself: What is more effective to break the hold of evil? Prayer.

Social media has risen steadily as an influencer in past electoral exercises. This election demonstrates that, for all its strengths, social media has drawbacks. Right now, the vacuum is filled by prayer.

It’s not just praying nuns. Nor fellow journalists. Citizens heed the call of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to pray the rosary until May 9.

“It is by the power of the rosary that we can stop the evil of election violence and cheating,” said CBCP president and Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas.

“Our best contribution is to pray that the Lord of history guide every voter and guide every candidate.” On this day honoring mothers, may Our Mother deliver our Motherland from evil.

( 0917 3226131)

*First published in Sun.Star Cebu’s May 9, 2016 issue of “Matamata,” the Sunday editorial-page column

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