I find them funny, these articles, blogs, and Facebook posts that together mount a futile effort to trumpet the dubious “achievements” of Yellow-branded “democracy” over the last 30 years. Authors of these hilarious articles make the whole circus sound colourful and peachy only because they apply a low bar as a baseline for measuring “progress”. All they really do is further highlight Filipinos’ renowned pwede-na-yan (that’ll do) mentality.
Some of them are downright misleading. Purchasing power supposedly increased since then because prices were crushed by the “reforms” following the 1986 “revolution” under the weight of a torrent of cheap imports from China and pretty much the rest of the world flooding the Philippines’ consumer market. Family incomes were propped up by millions of Filipinos working abroad at the expense of the sound upbringing of an entire generation of Filipino youth. Lower prices crushed by industry-killing imports plus incomes raised by a labour practice that erodes a society’s core social fabric equals the sick society we see today.
Freedom of speech? Of course we have lots of that. That “freedom” to speak is now used to spread inanities over a vast swath of the nation’s ill-educated (thanks to a still-decrepit public education system) electorate. Evidence of this failure of the nation’s “free-thinking” thought leaders to uplift the national discourse is on display today in the sorry lot of presidential candidates lined up before us and the half-brained celebrities populating the country’s legislature. Collectively, our presidential candidates are products of Philippine society and mirror its intellectual bankruptcy.
Sure, Metro Manila now looks like a “modern city” with a skyline that rivals other metropolises around the world. But how much of that cosmopolitan chic and trendiness do Filipinos really have access to? Not much. And even for those who “can afford” (thanks to OT hours and night differentials racked up in our famous call centres), getting there is an unnecessarily onerous challenge. Walking is virtually out of the question as you’ll need another shower after spending just 15 minutes outdoors in Manila’s toxic atmosphere. Public transport? There ain’t any — none that is modern at least. Own a shiny new Toyota Fortuner? Make sure you don some adult diapers (or dehydrate yourself to a crisp) before embarking on the 20-kilometre drive from your tony White Plains suburb to chi-chi Makati to “gimmick galore”. And bring your iPhone. You might be lucky enough to catch a decent Globe or SMART 3G or 4G signal during the three-hour ride — if you are extremely lucky, that is.
And so Filipinos are “still here”.
Yes, continuing to exist is now regarded as an “achievement”. Pwede na yan, right? So we will, yet again, troop to EDSA to celebrate the 1986 “people power revolution”. Was it, indeed, a display of people power? Perhaps. Filipinos have since exhibited a talent for physically massing themselves in the hundreds of thousands to “achieve” something that could be listed on the Guinness Book of World Records, so we must have learned something there, to be fair. But was it a revolution? It is on that question that the interesting discussion begins.
Was the supposed “transformation” of the Philippines following 1986 truly revolutionary?
Continuing to be “still here”, I guess, is something Filipinos consider to be revolutionary. To each his own standards I guess. Some people consider advancing from Third World to First World as the gold standard of revolutionary. Other people regard simply still being alive as “revolutionary”.
Perhaps we don’t deserve the gold standard in much the same way that we are happy defending our skies with FA-50 training planes while the airforces of the rest of the region menace their respective airspaces with F-16s and 4th-generation fighters.
Oh well. Existing is a quintessentially Filipino achievement. That, at least, we can assure ourselves of.