Poisons

What happens when your daily bread becomes poison? You’d probably go to a different bakery, or buy a different name-brand loaf, or rant about it on a Facebook post, but that’s something that the lot of us Internet-folk have the privilege of doing. A lot of people who face these daily poisons don’t have that privilege. Maybe it’s the only bakery in town. Maybe it’s the only thing that they can afford. Maybe they can rant about it while writhing in the public wards of government hospitals. Maybe get a mention of it in media, alongside a Mayor with a giant bedroom in his office or the next celebrity engagement.

ABS-CBNNews.com reported six cases of food poisoning in the Philippines this week. Combined, the poisoning cases affected 2,028 people, mostly children. The food was not anything exotic or fancy, but typical things we would snack on: cakes, buns, candies.

All this following the national scandal on synthetic rice; needless to say, “fake food” has once again stepped into the limelight. The news shows us that poisoning from adulterated food almost always happens to the vulnerable segments of our population: the poor, the young, and those from far-flung areas who don’t have easy access to healthcare.

Adulteration itself is a very long and odious tale of greed, chemistry, political difficulties, and the old truth from countless cautionary tales: the way to move the heart of the people is through their stomachs.

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Slippers and Cinders

We all know the Cinderella story: at the final stroke of midnight, Cinderella ran off from the village ball. The majestic carriage became a pumpkin again, and her magnificent horses turned back into mice. All that was left of Cinderella in that ball was the glass slipper left on the stairs of the Prince’s castle.

We all know what happened to that slipper, and how the Prince and Cinderella lived happily ever after.

I don’t think they did make glass slippers in Kentex: they made “Havanas,” and all other sorts of flip-flops and sandals. People weren’t running away because Fairy Godmothers will reverse their blessings on the stroke of midnight, but because they can’t leave a burning factory with barred windows and locked exits.

There was no “happily ever after:” just the pittances and indignation that came with a fire fuelled less by an errant spark from a welder’s arc, but moral hazards poured over 72 people who perished in that fire.

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Conspicuous By His Absence

The long gray line of caskets at Villamor bore more than the bodies of fallen heroes. They were fathers, brothers, sons who lost their lives in a bungled operation in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. They were surrounded by grieving families and mourning colleagues. The Filipino people, too, grieved and mourned. Whatever hopes for peace shriveled, whatever dreams for accord withered.

We were all moved by the stories of loss. We too, shared in the tears that welled up in the eyes of families who, in that moment, lost their sons. Of wives who became widows. Of children who became orphans.

Conspicuous by his absence: President Benigno S. Aquino III.

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Out of Touch

Sec. Jun Abaya’s right: he shouldn’t be offering excuses on the state of the MRT. But there’s a difference between offering and making them.

Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that the MRT may not be the rotten deathtrap that many people paint it to be. Maybe people just don’t have the right metaphors for a very uncomfortable form of public transit. There’s always the overcrowded bus on a congested major highway, for example. Or prohibitively expensive taxi cabs. Or one may just consider buying a car.

But here’s thing: Sec. Abaya asks, why would anyone put up with it? Sec. Abaya claims that if ordinary people put up with it, there should be no reason why it’s “bulok.” Sec. Abaya also propounds that if you spruce up the MRT, you can even turn it into a tourist attraction.

There – with all the benefit of the doubt given up to this point – is the problem. A sense of being out of touch.

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