26 February 2007

EDSA and the week that was

I DID not realize the 1986 People Power uprising in EDSA turned 21 last week until I read Bill Shimizu's poignant post here, which, quite expectedly, made it to Manolo's short entry on the event. Bill's remembrance made me look back to those heady days when I was in college at the University of Nueva Caceres and then soon afterwards, when I still working at the provincial capitol.

What stood out from that recollection was a passionate exchange with a lady from a ground floor office (it was either the Assessor or the Treasury) at the Capitol building in Pili. It was right after Cory Aquino survived the deadliest of the coup attempts that Gringo Honasan would launch; our ears were practically glued to the radio that day, up until American aircrafts did their famous flyby, broke the impasse and saved government.

I'm not sure if that fiftyish lady was a Marcos loyalist, but she was so cynical that the country has turned up the corner after EDSA. I, on the other hand, fresh out of college, in my early twenty's and flushed with youthful idealism, was supremely confident that with freedom regained and its beneficiary government just saved from the rightists, there's simply no other way to go but up. I forgot the specifics of our exchanges now, but boy! they were passionate and fiery. My contention is that a better Philippines, surely much better than what Marcos built during their generation, is waiting in the horizon.

Twenty-one years later, I'm not so sure anymore. That lady is turning out to be right after all. (She has probably retired from government by this time, and I think I still see her around.) The Arroyo administration is still talking about the economy taking off, a message all post-EDSA governments carried but failed to realize. Our neighbors meanwhile have zoomed up and left us in the runway one by one. The communist insurgency is still with us, with the NPA said to be back to their full strength. And as Manolo said in his column today, everything that this administration did last year only served to repudiate the very hallmarks of EDSA '86.

An election is taking place in May, and in theory, it is supposed to herald change but perish the thought. It's the same faces and families fighting for the spoils. Why, even Gringo is running again, and the opposition might just take him back. And in the Inquirer website this morning, there's a picture of Joker Arroyo and Ralph Recto dancing in Baguio; Recto, as Mr. Vilma Santos, I can understand, but Joker? No wonder even the venerable Asuncion David Maramba is reduced to making rationalizations about the path they took.

More than two decades ago, Luis Villafuerte led the "Apat na Aguila" -- together with Edmundo Cea, Ciriaco Alfelor and Rolando Andaya, Sr. -- in sweeping out the Marcos loyalists led by Arnulfo Fuentebella in the Batasan election that presaged EDSA. Villafuerte is the only remaining survivor of the four, but both are still congressmen and even vote similarly when their personal interests converge. At the height of Typhoon Reming's onslaught and with all of Bicol suffering, he and Fuentebella both backed the Con-Ass assault on the Senate, which Villafuerte engineered. Hell, he might even get to become Speaker of the House if he wins again over Cho Roco and JDV loses in Dagupan.

I can go on and on, but I won't because I might just end up puking.

So, I'd rather end this post by touching on every thing else.

In the news last week is the P5-billion rehabilitation fund allocated for Bicol in the 2007 budget, half of what the Bikolanos in the administration -- Budget Secretary Nonoy Andaya, Albay congressman and now Presidential Chief of Staff Joey Salceda and Joker Arroyo -- promised early this year. Half of that goes to Albay, mostly for flood-control projects destroyed by Mayon's lahar flow. What I am afraid of though is the P56 million allotted for other infrastructure; It might end covering up for this P200-million anomaly of an all-weather port that Milenyo and Reming obliterated.

Mary Anne Moll -- one of my favorite young writers -- is temporarily back in Naga to clear some backlogs, and has launched a game that rewards the winner a book by John Updike and a CD containing the electronic texts of various classic works of literature, to be shipped via next-day courier service to any point in the Philippines. It still runs until the month's end so you've got to hurry.

Kristian Cordero is not only coming up with a new book on the heels of his trailblazing best-first-book-award winning Mga Tulang Tulala; Santigwar is now Pangangalagkalag, although is still at the same URL; and has penned a short story about a popular mode of transport hereabouts that should be familiar to most everyone, and a series of fascinating poems including this naughty verse.

Sorsogon's Gibbs Cadiz, who has quickly become the Inquirer's top observer on the Philippine theater circuit, pens this devastating piece explaining why actors are shifting towards politics. His fellow Sorsogueño (or is it Sorsoganon?) Jobart Bartolome meanwhile writes about the improving provincial bus service in Bikol and the intricacies of our languages, which Irvin found interesting.

An internationally renowned mayor visited the country last month, and I only got to know it from this entry by Urbano. Bogota, Columbia mayor Enrique Peñalosa keynoted the League of Cities convention last month at the Manila Hotel. Let me end with this gem, which is what Naga should do, among others, in its effort to enhance livability:

"The affluent person goes to a large house, with a garden, has access to restaurants, to country houses, country clubs, sports clubs and vacations. The poor person and his/her children have a small room, practically only room to sleep, and no alternative for their leisure time if there is no public space. Therefore, in a democracy, the first place that money should go is quality sidewalks, parks and pedestrian streets. I cannot give luxury housing to everyone, but i can give quality sidewalks to everyone."


grace said...

hello willy, out of topic but please check your email. i just sent one. thanks.

Maryanne Moll said...

Hey, Thanks for the plug! :)

I remember EDSA very well. We were living in Tigaon then and my parents and Bita had their ears glued to the radio. An issue of Panorama magazine came out that weekend and on the cover is a line art of a man laying face down on a sort of pavement -- left arm held up over his head, right arm beside his hip -- and the man was made entirely out of the tape that comes out of a video casette.

Funny how in my childhood memories EDSA and the death of Ninoy Aquino occured on the same day.

dave (",) said...

Hi Willy!

Regarding that passionate exchange about 20 years ago, the way I see it is that she said what she had said because she's about to go into retirement. Out of the game, kumbaga, too late to make any difference. You said what you had said because you are next in line, suited up for the game, raring to make a difference. It's not yet too late Willy, you're still in the game. Regain that passion, do your part, it'll make a big difference for the team.

Willy B. Prilles, Jr. said...

Mary Anne: It troubles me that I can't remember where I was when EDSA exploded. Maybe because I was quite sheltered, whose daily route is home-school-home about the A&H bus. Or probably because I was nursing some hurt as my high school crush had to move to UP in the 2nd sem:)

But I vividly recall the Mr. and Ms. magazines, the original Inquirer and of course Malaya, then under the editorship of Joe Burgos.

Dave: Thanks for the encouraging words. You do have a point. It helps to get feedback from outsiders looking in, although only in a physical sense.