Mapulang Bahid

Note: So apparently, my last blog entry, The Crimson Stain, went “viral.” Now that idea, if you know me well enough, is sort of ironic (given how much I don’t like the word, and I’m really timid IRL). But it kinda warms the cold, cold heart to know that a lively discussion was fostered, and for the most part the discussion was quite civil. And quite a lot of you agreed with me.

And quite a lot of you requested for the thing to be translated (or written) in Filipino.

Now I’m not a particularly good translator (unless you talk about lyrics, although if you follow me on Instagram you probably have an idea how I prefer to translate things), and my command of Filipino is quite wonky at best, but I’ll try to take a crack at translating the blog entry myself.

And thanks so much, everyone. Many thanks, in particular, to Raissa Robles for pointing a lot of important details out to me (details that, regrettably, I missed out on. My apologies.).

Here it is. Pardon the imperfections.

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The Crimson Stain

That’s not a scarlet terno that Imee Marcos is wearing. Rather, it stands for the mountains where Macliing Dulag was killed. His blood ran down the slopes of the Cordillera in much the same way he wanted the Chico River to flow. To his dying breath—and years thereafter—Dulag fought against the hydroelectric power that threatened the survival of his people, in the hands of a dictator named Ferdinand Marcos.

That’s not Imee Marcos gracefully crossing her well-formed, tanned legs. Emmanuel Lacaba’s legs were found in the same way, tied and chained, as his corpse was dragged to an unmarked grave. In 1976, Lacaba was captured with a pregnant 18-year-old comrade in the underground, and was shot with a .45 caliber bullet not once, but twice. His crime was to write literature in opposition to a dictator named Ferdinand Marcos.

That’s not a tasteful bodice that highlights Imee Marcos’s ample curves. That bodice conceals how forces of the constabulary killed Edgar Jopson in 1982. He was found alive in Davao, but was still executed. It took nine bullets to murder Edjop: chest wounds, arm wounds, leg wounds. This son of a grocer became another statistic in a very long list of human rights abuses in the 70s and 80s, and personally earned the ire of a dictator named Ferdinand Marcos.

Those are not the features of Imee Marcos, carefully airbrushed. Those were the walls put up along the routes whenever any foreign dignitary or visitor passed by to visit Malacañang Palace. Entire edifices were built around the Philippines to celebrate and commemorate the “New Society,” all the while those displaced are kept hidden from view. For one cannot be seen poor and starving when guests come by to entertain—and be entertained by—a dictator named Imelda Marcos.

*****

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Smoke On Roxas

When you come to think about it, Mar Roxas probably has one of the most impressive résumés among candidates on the road to the 2016 elections. Roxas is the scion of two powerful families in both politics and industry (lest we forget that Mar is the son of a Senator and the grandson of a former President, and is also the grandson of the man who built the Araneta real estate empire). He’s an Ivy League graduate: he is an economist from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He spent years as a financial hotshot in New York, making a name for himself in the world of capital and investments. He’s a former Congressman, a former Senator (garnering the most votes for any candidate in a national election, at that), and held three different Cabinet positions under three different administrations.

While other prospective candidates have to blow smoke (like, say, turning the Philippines “into Makati”) to curry favor among the people and win their votes this early (at least one had to figuratively/literally blow someone’s rocks off), Roxas is—on paper—the most qualified. One may even say that he’s destined to be President: a man born and bred to be in Malacañang. Rightly or wrongly, Roxas has a very clear advantage among others through his position of privilege.

… I’m not even sure. Photo from Oras Na, Roxas Na

The problem is, that’s not exactly how Roxas is packaged. And as it turns out, it’s a really big problem.

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Squandered Politics

Great political leaders emerge from the choices that they make in times of great political opportunity. And in democracies like ours, those opportunities emerge from the challenges that frame an election.

For this, we turn to examples in American history. Abraham Lincoln’s reelection in 1864, for example, had the backdrop of the American Civil War, with the preservation of the Union and the end of slavery on the line. In 1912, Woodrow Wilson won the elections, but the stakes were so high – America was booming in wealth and people, so much so that social causes became central issues of the campaign – that two ex-Presidents (William Howard Taft as incumbent, and Theodore Roosevelt) threw their names into the game. In 1932, the Great Depression left such a big impact on the American consciousness, that the people rejected incumbent President Herbert Hoover, and voted Franklin Roosevelt in; the seeds of a great generation of Americans were planted.

It’s kind of difficult to look for Filipino examples. Partly because we have a much younger democracy that still needs time to grow. But that doesn’t mean that we never had the defining backdrops that make great leaders, or the great landscapes that define political epochs. We’ve always had them. It’s just that these seeds of political greatness found themselves planted on land left fallow by the kind of politics that we have.

I think that nothing sets this tone more than where we are now: the road to 2016.

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