Our 2Rivers August 20 To 26 Issue
Special Reprint Feature: Imaginary Interview with Ninoy Aquino
Essays: Why I Won’t Mind If Jessica Zafra Rules The World, Huggybear’s Latest Published Short Story
Videos: Ninoy Aquino’ Plan for Mindanao, Sting & The Police’s King of Pain and Wrapped Around Your Finger, Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman in Doubt. Jollibee ‘Hong Kong’ and ‘I Love You Sabado’ TV commercials. Al Pacino in The Devil's Advocate, Lino Brocka’s Macho Dancer
Artists of the Week: Janet Basco. Archie D, Mike & The Mechanics
This story originally appeared March 30, 2009 in AllVoices
Manila – Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., the greatest Filipino of the 20th century, talks to 2Rivers about the state of Philippine politics today and why democracy is still the best hope for the future. The questions are fiction but the answers are his direct quotes. from Ninoy: Ideals & Ideologies, 1932 – 1983 (The Benigno S. Aquino Foundation Jr. Foundation Inc., © 1993). Excerpts:
Q. Senator Aquino, there are those who say that what the Philippines need is a strong leader, like Lee Kwan Yew of Singapore or Mahathir of Malaysia. In this context, is democracy still relevant?
A. The struggle in the Philippines today is between those who have been mesmerized by the efficiency of authoritarianism and those who still hold that democracy, with all its flaws and inefficiency, is man’s best hope for betterment and progress. Man’s sense of justice makes democracy possible, man’s injustice makes it necessary.
Q. But don’t you think there is too much conflicting views in a democratic setting?
A. I agree that we must have public order and national discipline if the country is to move forward, [but] The philosophy of democracy rests not on the belief in the natural goodness of man, but in his educability, not in the inevitability of social progress but in the potentialities of nature and intelligence. The essence of democratic faith is that through the continuing process of political education, men can be sufficiently reasonable to discover, with evidence and give-and-take of free discussion, a better way of solving problems.
Q. Senator, how would you characterize a democratic society?
A. A free society reconciles liberty and equality, rejects liberal freedom without equality and total equality without freedom. Its essence is the absence of special privilege. Its guarantee is an equal opportunity for self-fulfillment for every citizen. It is dynamic, not static, open to change, be it gradual or rapid, for no on does possess the last word, and the world of men and nature is in constant flux.
Q. President Gloria Arroyo’s public trust ratings are even lower than those of Joseph Estrada during Edsa 2. Every year for half a decade, the opposition files for her impeachment, her allies would override it, and reports about Congressional bribery would leak to the media. But the idea is ‘Majority Rules.’ Would you call this democratic?
A. I believe democracy is not just majority rule, but informed majority rule, and due respect for the rights of the minorities. It means while the preference of the majority must prevail, there should be full opportunity for all points of view to find expression. It means toleration for opposition opinion. Where you find suppression of minority opinion, there is no real democracy.
Q. Another annual phenomena in the Philippines are talks of coup de ‘etat. Would you condone a military take-over to force a change of leadership?
A. Why should I advocate a violent overthrow of our government? I am one of the lucky few who never lost an election – from mayor, to vice-governor, to governor, to Senator. Why should I want to destroy a form of government that has served me well? In fact, in 1972, I was within a stone’s throw away from the highest office within the gift of our people – the Presidency.
Q. Since 2001, the Arroyo administration has been trying to shift into a unicameral parliamentary form of government with a new constitution because of the ‘gridlock” brought about by the political opposition, specifically, the Senate. Should we place limitations on the opposition?
A. An opposition party is indispensable in a democracy. The opposition should act the critic of the party in power, developing, defining and presenting the policy alternatives which are necessary for a true choice in public decision-making. It must therefore be guaranteed not only protection but existence, and must be allowed to speak freely and unafraid.
Q. Politicians are always dismissed as “grandstanding” whenever they speak out regarding a major issue, such as the accusations that Ms. Arroyo rigged the 2004 elections and that First Gentleman Mike Arroyo took bribes from ZTE Corp. of China for the national broadband network project. In these cases, what should the responsibility of the opposition be?
A. To speak and denounce rampant injustices. Justice can only be realized only when those who have not been victimized become as outraged as those who have been. [The opposition’s] role is to fight for the people. Whether they will show gratitude or not, immediately, later or never, should not enter our calculations. That is our fate: to fight for what is right.
Q. But some politicians over-react from time to time, to the level of name-calling and gutter language. For example, the feud between Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile. There’s also a word war between Sen. Manuel Villar and Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Sen. Bong Revilla took the floor and personally attacked a doctor who was involved in a video scandal, calling him names like “maniac” and “pervert.” Sen. Jamby Madrigal cursed Gilbert Remulla, the spokesman for the Nacionalista Party and former Cavite congressman, on national radio. Where do you draw the line?
A. We believe we are the people of God endowed with reason – which lifts us from the brute – from which we derive our standards of morality, justice and rational method of ascertaining our duty to our fellowmen and community. [But] In the end we get the government we deserve. No social or political organization can be better than the quality of the men and women who compose it.
Q. There are criticisms about how the media sensationalize issues to boost their ratings. Are those criticisms valid?
A. A free media is indispensable if a democracy is to function efficiently, if it is to be real. The people, who are sovereign, must be adequately informed all the time. These I hold sacred: the inherent dignity and worth of every human being, freedom of thought and speech and press, his liberty to choose – without fear or pressure – the public official of his choice, and the principles handed down to us by our forebears.
Q. There are rumors floating around that the 2010 elections will be sabotaged to enable Ms. Arroyo to legally stay beyond her term. There are also reports that her Congressional allies are still covertly orchestrating a Constitutional Assembly – without the Senate – to write a new Charter.
A. So, we find ourselves again in a time of trials – kind that demands of each of us an unstinting, heroic response. Beyond the greed, the pride, the insolence and the pretensions of those who rule us through force and fear and fraud, there is a living Almighty God who knows the dark mysteries of evil in the hearts of men. I know His justice, truth and righteousness will reign and endure forever. History offer cold comfort to those who think they can do as they please and let the people go hang.
Q. Last question, Senator. Do you believe that the Filipino is worth dying for?
A. I have asked myself many times: Is the Fillipino worth suffering, even dying for? Is he not a coward who would readily yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or homegrown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared, or worse, ill-suited, for presidential or parliamentary democracy? I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino, and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying
Here’s Ninoy Aquino’s speech in Dallas with his plan for the economic resurgence of Mindanao
Why I Won’t Mind If Jessica Zafra Rules The World
The spark of greatness burns inside the heart of every artist. This is the story of writers – and their creations that gave them immortality. This special story, written in January 2010, is a celebration of the rich literary heritage of the Philippines
I am writing this in our semi-empty office cafeteria. It’s the end of my shift at my call center job. There’s something about folks who eat lunch when everybody else is having breakfast.
A Sting song is playing on my mind while watching Doubt in the canteen TV. I’m trying to decide what full-movie YouTube videos I shall embed next on my blog 2Rivers while I’m reading Palanca Award winner Jessica Zafra’s Manananggal Terrorizes Manila & Other Stories from Anvil. It’s called multi-tasking.
I find creepy but I’m tickled pink that there’s a book of fiction that mirrors my own. Almost all of my short stories feature their own soundtrack, like in Friend of Mine, where the lead character, Gerald, has a secret crush on his childhood friend, Kim. They were having lunch on the cafeteria with the radio playing Bukas Na Lang Kita Mamahalin.
In the Zafra story Scylla and Charybdis, three boys on a Toyota were on their way to Baguio with Wrapped Around Your Finger all the way.
Abbo, Eric and Paco are childhood friends. Paco has a secret crush on his Eric’s sister, Francesca. Paco’s best friend is Abbo, who married Francesca.
My passion is writing and my works have seen print but I don’t eat them. I don’t eat newspapers. A Zafra character does, and it seems to run in the family. The narrator with no name in Word Eaters was told to eat a page off the daily paper to make her smart. She has a fascinating family: her grandmother Pilar, a.k.a. Larry, works for a living saying Latin novenas for the dead, while her great-aunt Apollonia cavorts with a ghost.
I find their town very intriguing. Places fascinate me. In one of my vampire stories, Flash, inspired by Lino Brocka and Crash, is set in Manila. My first published fiction, They Call Him Legion, took place in an old cathedral – with no less than the Devil himself inside making Al Pacino monologues.
But the Zafra town in Albay is even more terrifying. This is the village where all the boys enter the priesthood, and all the girls become prostitutes.
My favorite line in this book opens Romeo, et al: “No one was surprised when Rick became an actor – he’s always been a ham.”
I have yet to write a story with an actor as the lead character, but I have one with a Jollibee service crew. A Moment of Silence is the tragic love story of Wally and Jo, who lived as a folk house waitress and died as an OFW – murdered in the Middle East.
It also mirrors the love story of Rick and Amanda. He has that one-in-a-million acting gift that he’s like a chameleon who transforms himself into the character he is playing. He fell for Amanda when they played lovers in a repertory play. His world almost tore apart when, as the curtain falls, he stayed in character – as himself.
My favorite story in the Zafra book has a cemetery scene like in my story Jeremiah Agustin, which was inspired by William Goldman, who probably got the idea from Arthur Miller ad infinitum. But Kind of Brown has its own kind of magic:
As a child, Freddy was always being beaten up by his father. He grew up secretly hating him. The story opens at his father’s funeral, and ends as Freddy visit the grave alone.
“I came to say goodbye … I’ve wanted you dead for so long … Now that you’re dead I don’t know how I should feel … But I forgive you … because I can’t go on hating you for the rest of my life … Goodbye, Father … ”
Then he got into his car and went home.
They say that truth is stranger than fiction. I agree, but I would also add that some of the most beautiful stories ever told happened in real life. My new original fiction story, Baywalk, which appeared in the August 7 and 14 issue of the Sunday Times magazine of The Manila Times, is a coming-of-age tale about a boy and his tragic rite of passage from innocence to acceptance of the mysterious forces that guide the destinies of men. As human beings, we all respond to the emotional cadences of our collective music, as this story also deals with the unbearable pain of losing a loved one, showing that courage often shows itself in the little things we do in our day-to-day existence
Here’s the first three paragraphs
February 28. A friend of mine said I look like Geoff Eigenmann. I fully agreed. I’m a call center agent. I love my work, but I don’t do it for love. My career is important, but it is not my whole world. Perhaps that explains why, the last time I got laid last week, I was with an accountant.
March 1. Hi, I’m Johnny Gibbs and I’ve worked in Jollibee and a gay bar. That’s what I told the class in our first day at the call center. Everybody goes up front and introduce, tell something interesting, about themselves. The ham actor in me wants audience impact, but really, we’re only being graded for English proficiency. “I’ve worked in Jollibee and a gay bar,” I said, and they were, like, titillated or something. “I earned a lot of tips, “ I added, then paused for effect, “as a waiter,” then the gratifying laughter erupted.
Someone asked me, of course someone would, if I was also a macho dancer. I replied that I asked the star dancer, who looked like Lawrence David, who’s like a big brother to me, to teach me. “You’re too young,” he told me. That was a summer job, I explained to the class. I went back to school, and after the semester, I came back and asked him again to teach me. By then he was already the floor manager. “Sorry,” he said. “You’re too old.” Everybody was laughing. I’m happy the joke sold, and I’m equally happy that they actually believed it was just a joke
Artists of the Week
OPM English: Janet Basco
OPM Tagalog: Archie D
International: Mike & The Mechanics