Whenever I get to Quezon Avenue station, I am always greeted with the very unappealing giant poster of Chairman Bayani Fernando. I’ve been in Manila for about a month to know that people have mixed opinions about BF: while he has largely succeeded in clearing Metro Manila’s roads of obstructions, his very authoritarian approach has not endeared him to the poor and the downtrodden. I do agree with many who say that he’s not exactly the poster boy for his own slogan of “Metro Gwapo.”
Bayani Fernando is not exactly John Lloyd Cruz, if you get what I mean.
On my way to work a few days ago, the Wet and Dry Market at Philcoa was still a very busy place. On my way home, the whole edifice was painted blue and pink, and no business was taking place. Being the ever-so-curious former student journalist, I checked the place out and found an interesting quote by The Chairman. I can’t remember what was actually written there, but if my memory serves me correctly:
Hindi ako puwedeng makiiyak sa mga mahihirap. Kung ang aking sariling mata ay nabubulag ng luha para sa mga mahihirap, sino pa kaya ang aakay sa kanila?
It was then that I realized how important Bayani Fernando is to Metro Manila. My own version of the truth be told, he’s not.
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Bayani Fernando is the temporary solution to the permanent problem of poverty. Like his giant posters, BF has become a larger-than-life figure that looms like a pink-and-blue pall of authority in all 17 cities and municipalities in Metro Manila. He’s beyond being two initials, like Sonny Belmonte of Quezon City and Enteng Eusebio of Pasig City.
I’m reminded of Adolf Hitler whenever I see BF’s blown-up images: not because he’s a fascist (which he is, to a certain degree), but because he’s the ultimate public figure. Jake Cuenca endorses Metathione, Nancy Castiglione endorses Lucida-DS, Robin Padilla endorses “Joaquin Bordado,” but Bayani Fernando is the endorsement of authority.
I’m reminded of a piece written by Patricia Evangelista where she calls BF “The Chairman.” The term lends itself well: he’s like Mao Zedong, the main character of “Iron Chef,” everyone’s concept of the evil boss. Chairman Fernando’s tarpaulin eyes watch over you: when BF says “Bawal Tumawid, Nakamamatay,” he banks on your inherent propensity to violate rules and erects giant pink fences to keep you alive from kaskasero Gasat Trans buses plying Commonwealth Avenue and Cubao Ilalim. BF paints a pink line on the sidewalk, and stepping over that line to sell kakanin has drastic consequences for you. BF has control over where you urinate: you do your business on a pink MMDA urinal on the sidewalk.
BF’s rather draconian revolution on the streets of the Metro has had him on the front lines of a figurative Holocaust of bad drivers, sidewalk vendors, and shirtless men. To me, he is nothing more than an image. Manila folk have no more need for BF if they start exercising some discipline. BF exists because we equate a lack of discipline with a lack of money. BF watches over us because we do not watch over ourselves. What is to obey traffic laws, to sell wares on proper places, and to wear a shirt when you leave the house? Bayani Fernando’s MMDA is there because we lack discipline. We seem to “need” Bayani Fernando when, in fact, he’s just an accessory, a personification of our tragedy on the streets and on the sidewalks.
We do not need Bayani Fernando to rock the cradle. There is no cradle.