Thursday, April 29, 2010



If you have lived long enough to experience the tea party called Martial Law, ask "Where were you when Ninoy was shot?", witness the tumultous 1986 snap elections, and see all the strange things that have erupted along that highway we call EDSA, then perhaps you can also surmise that Philippine history repeats itself. And not just because it is cyclical, but because for some odd reason, we Pinoys seem to WANT to repeat history.

In 1983, Ninoy died by gunshot in broad daylight at the Manila International Airport; in 2009 his widow Cory died of cancer. Marcos was president then, now it is Arroyo. Then and now, elections were forthcoming as the opposition fanned the flames of indignation against an increasingly unpopular administration. Back then, the more experienced and qualified Doy Laurel sacrificed his presidential ambition so that Cory the housewife could run in his stead; Mar Roxas did the same for her son, Noynoy. Cory and Noynoy were both "unwillingly" thrust into a campaign riding on public grief, buoyed by the Filipino-Catholic impulse to beatify the heroic dead by making their surviving relatives president. It's deja vu. It really is.

But I realize that all is not the same at all. These times are really different. The foreground, the background, the context, and the content are morally distinct. But that nostalgia for our supposedly most glorious moment - EDSA '86 - has been overriding all reason, rendering us somewhat incapable of making that distinction. Our longing to go back to the time when all the world's eyes were upon us for our collective heroism has romanticized our view of what's going on today. But we must see clearly, more importantly, we must think clearly. We must discern romantic notions from the pragmatic. We must open our eyes to the immense opportunity to evolve and transform our democracy NOW, before it passes us by. Again.

Personally, I believe that it is not 1986 that we need to reflect upon, but 1896, the year that our national hero, Jose Rizal gave up his life in order to transform the Filipino people. But sadly, it seems that 114 years later, his martyrdom has not been fully resolved. 114 years later and we haven't moved on from that moment. And even if Rizal the doctor saw all our societal cancers, and predicted the slow, painful death that comes from them; today, in 2010, those cancers remain and they fester. But this time, we can no longer blame the toxicity on foreign interference but our own selves. Filipino against Filipino.

The Philippines is a pluralistic, diverse, and divided nation. It is an archipelago of 7,107 islands with what seems to be 7,107 ways to seeing, doing, and thinking about things. And in the past, as is today, electing a president for this society through a seemingly dysfunctional system amidst a chaotic political landscape, will not change things. It is just changing hands from the Spaniards to the Americans to the Japanese to the presidents that we have today. It's more than apparent then we not only need just a new president, we need a new kind of leadership too.

So do I want history to repeat itself? No, I want our history to resolve itself. Rizal and Ninoy's martyrdom was not enough. The valor of our war veterans, the casualties of Martial law are not enough. The little sacrifices of Doy and Mar are not enough. The unselfishness of our OFWs is not enough. Democracy and freedom demand more from us. Once in a while, it requires revolution; but more than that, it requires a continuing evolution. So I call on that one presidential candidate who has the potential to start this evolution and bring all the oblations and unfinished work to fruition: Mr. Gilbert Teodoro. Qualified, brilliant and competent, I like him as he is, but there is definitely much more that he can do, much more that can be, if we can find the more evolved version of ourselves in him, in his avatar.

Sheltered by his pedigree and education, ensconced frequently in a legalistic mindset, perhaps Teodoro is flawed in that manner. And although his past mistakes might be supposedly clear to all, with these flaws come lessons and through these lessons, events can culminate to a boiling point which will catapult him into the person he was always meant to be. It is a story as ancient as the Greeks. It's the hero's journey. This Gilbert Teodoro I see this late in the campaign has seen enough of the presidential campaign and his own career to realize that the moves he must make to ensure victory are not worth the moral compromises.

His fading alliance with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo only showed him that her Machiavellian ways - the end justifies the means, power no matter what the cost - may have helped her accomplish her goals, but lost her the trust of the people. For it is not just by what we achieve, but HOW we achieve it that history judges us in the end.

His public rift and break with his powerful uncle may have landed him his first break into politics. But perhaps it was necessary. Staying on with his controversial uncle's party would also have a price. It would have cost him his own independence and personal sovereignty. Perhaps Teodoro would have just ended up another fallen prizefighter in the hands of these cockfighters/kingmakers of Filipino patronage politics should he have maintained the status quo with his powerful uncle.

But perhaps the best lesson here is that the greatest legacy he can possibly leave his country and future generations is not just that he won and finished a six-year presidential term, but that he stood up against all the malevolent forces of Philippine politics and freed himself from them. He fought the fight and overcame the formerly negative and divisive system. It would be Gilbert Teodoro who would change the way campaigning in elections would be done in the Philippines. And in the end we would all learn in the end that paradigm shifts can happen through the accentuation of the positive and dwelling upon the promised goodness that the Filipino could be.

Teodoro does not just owe it to us: he owes it to himself to be the man he ought to be. That is why I will vote for Gilbert Teodoro and start this evolution.

Published in The Philippine Graphic