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Don't Cry For Me, Pilipinas
GLIMPSES
Jose Ma. Montelibano

As we experience the travails of Philippine politics, we witness the active
polarization of its civil, business, religious and military society.
Politicians are, indeed, a powerful lot. When they go into their tantrums,
all other Filipinos go in convulsions.

Many have taken sides, of course, and the airwaves, newspapers and text
messaging markets are rife with partisan commentaries. It seems to be a
prelude to a disintegration of Philippine society, and government along with
it, of course. The truth is, however, that only a small minority, maybe even
miniscule, are actively playing while the rest watch uneasily.

After all, Philippine society, whether it is in politics, business or
religion, dances to the tune of that minority. I hesitate to call it "elite"
because its behavior has much to be desired and would quite be insulting to
the true sense of what "elite" means. But powerful and wealthy this minority
may be, it stands on very weak and delicate ground. And that ground is the
majority poor.

In fact, all of Philippine society is carried by that weak foundation whom
we call the majority poor. By the creative use of statistics and definitions
official figures on poverty make it appear that it is less than 40%. By
their own standards, however, 60% Filipinos say they are poor. And by the
standards of developed nations, over 80% of Filipinos may be considered poor
What is most important is to recognize how weak our social foundation is,
how like shifting sands the Filipino poor are, yet all of society is
grounded on them.

Many countries that are now considered developed democracies experienced
decades, if not centuries, of changing paradigms before they achieved
democratic values and lifestyles. By comparison, it is not strange that we
find the Philippines less democratic than it is oligarchic. The only problem
is that we do not acknowledge it to be so. We keep imagining a democracy
that is not yet, and assuming feudalism is lost when it continues to linger.

Many Filipinos who have discovered the email phenomenon now use the Internet
to the hilt by profusely sharing views, commentaries and advocacy. Email is
particularly beneficial to Filipinos abroad who use the Internet as a
communications highway to their relatives and friends. The pulsations of
nostalgia and the stirrings of patriotism are served well by email which
acts like a staging area prior to more physical activities.

The ease by which Filipinos can communicate here and abroad has politicized
most of those who avail of the Internet and email. Text messaging has
intensified this politicization, and no threat of emergency rule or martial
law can reverse what is not only a global pattern but a cultural
predisposition of Filipinos. Yet, with all of the trimmings of technological
advances which already imagine the colonization of other planets, Filipinos
find themselves mired in poverty and corruption.

The hold of the old and the pull of the new keep the Philippines in the
center of a tug of war. We are a people and nation traumatized and stunted
by a colonial history that defies proper closure. We are supposed to be an
independent nation, yet we are impoverished and caught in the pattern of
exploitative leaderships internally and vulnerable to the more greedy
machinations of economic globalization. We are in the 21st century but
politically and economically living in the 19th.

I am sure that, in retrospect, other nations had found themselves in similar
positions at their own moment of change or shifts from one era to another.
Transitioning is a constant movement in the life of people and nations, and
highlights or milestones mark the more dramatic stages. Ours is being marked
today. We are in the eye of our storm, in the center of our shift, and in
catharsis as we should be when we are on the brink of a quantum leap, or a
violent purging.

If I were only to look at politicians or public officials, it will not be
difficult to anticipate that we will first be consumed by the aggression of
societal sectors in conflict. The lack of vision and charisma among leaders
and the consequent lack of inspiration among Filipinos deny us both
direction and attitude. But conventional parameters are themselves
threatened by the undeniable angst for idealism and freedom by the young and
the impact of technological advances on a whole humanity. We might be on the
verge of a historical breakthrough and only suffering the fear of the
unknown.

There are key indicators that spark not only hope but optimism itself. While
poverty and corruption still dominate the landscape, many among the present
generation are now accepting of the mess they have contributed to making and
finding the courage to reform their perspective and behavior. At the same
time, the more educated among the young are actively seeking their rightful
place in an honorable and dignified environment where their ideals as well
as their talents can find harmony in the same workplace.

It could be the end of traditional politics, or it could be the beginning of
the painful and forced collapse of Philippine society. In the hearts and
hands of the younger generations, of those in their mid teens to their mid
forties, lie the secret of our tomorrow. I personally feel an
uncharacteristic confidence that all will be well, that we experience today
only the spasms of a dying feudal and oligarchic society unwilling to accept
death quietly.

If the only constant reality is change, then moments of destiny are always
about great change. No one has to cry for Pilipinas because our moment of
destiny has come. We are all invited to be investors in the formation of the
new Pilipino, free and responsible, capable and sacrificing, caring of
country and respectful of his fellowman - and not fearful of anything except
the wrath of his God. ***
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