Friday, May 20, 2022

Don't be afraid. Don't be apathetic. A brave and bright future still awaits!

I don't remember being this heartbroken, ever. Any heartbreak I've felt before is mine alone. This devastation I feel is for the Philippines. If grief means love, then this is good news. I must really love my country. But I'm sure everyone who went out of their way to vote last May 9 - to suffer long lines, intense heat, crowds in the time of a global pandemic, hunger, and hours and hours of waiting - also loved our country. We just showed different ways to love it. 

My love was formed by a bloody past, which I hoped never to see in my children's future. But things didn't turn out the way I hoped and I am in such a dark place of fear. No funny TikTok reel or nostalgic YouTube video from the team that ran away with the elections can comfort me because they are empty entertainment. 

Thankfully, I read this letter by Emmanuel S de Dios, Professor at the UP School of Economics, to his class. And my heart is comforted. And I can love my countrymen again, yes, even the ones who voted differently, because we are all in one boat and we need to work together if we're ever going to get anywhere. I'm copying it here, for me to read again in case I ever lose that love again.


Dear Class,

I realise how some of you must feel disoriented, disappointed, defeated, and depressed after witnessing the results of the elections just past. In many ways what you have just witnessed is a turning point in our country’s history as a nation, although probably not the one that many of us had hoped for. This will be evident especially for you who are taking this course dealing with the history of martial law and the economy. After all, the point of this course and your being enrolled in it was to learn from history so that we would not repeat it.

We thought we could dream bigger and better; that we could escape and fly farther. But the dead hand of the past has pulled us back into the shadows—for now.

I don’t mind sharing with you that I too feel this is one of the saddest days I have experienced since I was a student and martial law was declared. The reason is not just simply that the better candidate lost—a rare individual whom I personally know to be untainted by corruption and who acts only on the purest motive of selflessly serving our people. More painful for me is the realisation that a great majority of our people are vulnerable and have fallen prey to myths, half-truths, and outright lies. For this last ultimately means partly my own failure.

The blame is partly on me and my generation that we have not chopped off that monstrous hand of the past; that we failed to fully exorcise those ghosts that now haunt the minds of the majority. We tried but failed; or perhaps we did not try hard enough and long enough, especially in the face of an enemy that was smarter at using new weapons. The mere late existence and necessity of this course you are enrolled in is emblematic of that failure, which now forces us to watch as our children weep in the gloom of their dashed hopes. For this, I must ask your forgiveness on behalf of my generation.

But what can or should we do when faced with the impending rule of a resurrection of the Marcos family? I can process this the only way I know how: through reason and social science, guided by ethics and empathy. There are two things we should not do: be afraid or be apathetic.

We should not be afraid or be cowed because even now we remain a free people. Neither social conditions, nor our institutions, nor the character of the younger Marcos are such that we have been brought back to 1972. We can thank the achievements of all the post-Marcos administrations that have slowly rebuilt the foundations of an economy with sound macroeconomic fundamentals than the ruined one Marcos left behind; we can thank the 1987 constitution, its bill of rights, and our long tradition of civil engagement for the safeguards and checks to the emergence of would-be dictators. And finally, we can even, I suppose, be grateful for the lack of character and vision of Junior Marcos, who lacks the sinister genius of his father that allowed the latter to deviously manipulate our country onto the path of dictatorship and debt. All of these are factors that favor a future beyond the present gloom.

Make no mistake: there will be attempts to curtail our freedoms and liberties. There will be no shortage of sycophants, clowns, and stooges who will try to outdo themselves in seeking to silence legitimate voices of freedom and criticism through “red-tagging”; to prevent diversity of thought through attempts to rewrite history in the textbooks and through an intensification of social media campaigns that amplify the lies glorifying the Marcos family and their rule.

There will be impending abuses of public power for private gain: attempts of the Marcos family to claim large swathes of the economy for themselves and to reward old and new cronies, who are now free to come out of the woodwork and feel entitled to a share of the spoils of a Marcos victory; there will be concessions of our patrimony to foreign powers that have bet heavily on an administration that supinely compromises national interest.

At every moment we should not be afraid to call out and resist these—because we remain free and it is within our rights to be so and to act accordingly. Remember this is not 1972. You cannot remain afraid or be apathetic because there is both the need and the opportunity to combat the past wrongs that have plagued our society as well as the new ones that are about to overlay them. Your knowledge and creativity can slowly reverse the poison that has taken hold of the minds of the many. Your effort and enthusiasm can turn back attempts to return to the days of grand corruption, cronyism, and injustice.

Before you can do any of this, however, remember first of all to be kind to yourself. Mend your spirit, recharge your brains, strengthen your hearts. Spend time on the things over which you have control and which give you simple pleasures; seek the company of family members or friends who will be a source of comfort. Devote time to improving your personal health, your mental and physical skills, your cultural perspective. Only when you feel good enough about yourself can you even begin to think about helping other people— and beyond that, the country.

Objectively, our true loss and that of the country is not having the luxury of being able to take our freedoms for granted and of being allowed to devote ourselves fully to lives that are perhaps more leisurely, less inconvenienced, or more directly productive. The common soil of truth we planted with young seed is in danger of being dug up. The imperfect house of institutions we were building painstakingly is at risk of being wrenched apart. What we thought we had for sure is now threatened. This is why we must act.

But think of it this way: the burden and sacrifice required of us is still nowhere as great as that of earlier generations. Take heart that we are, after all, not being called upon to risk our lives to gain freedom, as in 1896, or the Second World War, or the years of dictatorship. How you contribute will be as varied as your personalities, skills, and circumstances will allow: from joining various organisations and volunteer organisations to help the poor neglected by government; to speaking out and correcting lies on social media; to standing your ground against anomalies if you happen to be in government; to practising your profession honestly amid material challenges to your morals; down to simply discussing with friends and family in the hope they might find their way to the truth. Means will differ but goals will coincide.

We are called upon not to fight for freedoms which are being denied us, or which do not yet exist. We are asked only to defend the freedoms we already have by using them to the full. It is by not using them that we risk losing them.

With sincere hopes for your brave and bright future,

E.S.D.
13 May 2022


Hay, Pilipinas kong mahal. I needed to be reminded that our constitution exists, na kahit na halos binabalewala na siya, andyan pa rin siya, guarding our freedoms and guiding our way forward. And there is a way forward. Naniniwala pa rin ako sa sinulat ni Jose Rizal sa El Filibusterismo more than 130 years ago:

"Ah, you don’t know what we can do in a few years," replied [Isagani]. "You don’t realize the energy and enthusiasm that are awakening in the country after the sleep of centuries. Spain heeds us; our young men in Madrid are working day and night, dedicating to the fatherland all their intelligence, all their time, all their strength. Generous voices there are mingled with ours, statesmen who realize that there is no better bond than community of thought and interest. Justice will be meted out to us, and everything points to a brilliant future for all. 

"It’s true that we’ve just met with a slight rebuff, we students, but victory is rolling along the whole line, it is in the consciousness of all! The traitorous repulse that we have suffered indicates the last gasp, the final convulsions of the dying. Tomorrow we shall be citizens of the Philippines, whose destiny will be a glorious one, because it will be in loving hands. Ah, yes, the future is ours! I see it rose-tinted, I see the movement that stirs the life of these regions so long dead, lethargic."

Mabuhay ang Pilipinas! Mahal na mahal pa rin kita.

Photo by Anastasiia Malai on Unsplash

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