Indeed, the photos streaming into our newsfeeds tell it all. Our eyes don’t tell lies, and it is upsetting when there are attempts to put the crowd estimates at less than a million. Have they forgotten crowd estimates during Pope visits and other events when mammoth crowds converge in Luneta? Or, were those estimates wrong? If they were correct, would they dare tell us now that our eyes lie?
It is useless to quibble about numbers with individuals who are bent on superficiality — deliberately or not. They are, afterall, the very bozos who would typically discount what others would want to say by words or actions. They will only listen if things suit their vested interests. To say that Rodrigo Duterte’s (DU30’s) miting de avance was just a big political rally is to miss the whole point by a mile. Others were certainly political rallies. DU30’s crowd is a movement, as Teddy Locsin aptly described it.
More than the numbers, it is the intensity in the crowd, the energy, the electrifying atmosphere, that should be looked at. To underestimate this is to go against a strong undercurrent that is starting to affect the surface. It may be a social volcano ready to erupt, and if they don’t pay attention, or they suppress it more, the eruption will come as a surprise. What do these crowds that have showed up in the course of two months mean?
We have seen the various mammoth crowds in videos and pictures wherever DU30 went in the last two months. I didn’t go to Luneta, but I was in the one in Alabang. I stood at the edge of that crowd far from the stage as a precautionary measure against any possible stampede. Still, the energy was contagious. I could imagine what Luneta must have been.
Young and old, the beautiful and the average, the well-heeled and the unwashed, they came via the deplorable mass transports, or via private AUVs or SUVs and the thousands of 125-cc motorcycles that now dangerously pepper our streets. It might as well have been a rock concert where they could jump and dance in wild frenzy. But no, they could not jump or dance, so they stood unmoving in their respective places, bottling their feelings inside, stretching their heads from time to time in order not to miss anything in the stage.
In the couple of hours they were part of the crowd, they went from tears to laughter to silence, and back again, with everyone else. And when it was time to sing, they sang their hearts out like they were being freed from something they could not yet understand. For sure, they stood proud, really, really proud, when it was time to pay homage to the national colors. It had to be an indescribable feeling to see the red, white and blue being put in its proper place again. You knew right there and then that the yellow we had for 30 years was a total anomaly.
This is about DU30, but more critically, it is also not about him. This is the reason why the cameras caught him with tears after he had time to have a good glance of the crowd. This is not the monster, the media wants to paint him. I have to guess he could not understand his emotions, his thoughts. On the one hand, he must have been glad his message, even how garbled, was getting across to the mass of humanity that was confronting him right there. Different individuals, different groups, were interpreting his message as they pleased, but it didn’t matter at that moment. On the other, it must have finally sunk in him that something much, much bigger than a simple mayor of some backwater city was being placed on his shoulder. It is a great privilege. A great responsibility.
People have searched for a medium through which they could vent their frustrations. They want to scream, they want to kick, because being a Filipino has become a passport of dishonor. Pinoy Pride has become so vacuous; it is irritating to see it in the internet, it is repulsive when demonstrated in public. They want to say putang-ina in the most malutong way, but ours is supposed to be a decent society. Yet, everybody knows it is only decent on the outside. It is rotten, foul-smelling, in the inside, and so putang-ina is reserved for private conversations.
They want to be bastos. Far too long, their intelligence had been insulted — all sorts of kabastusan had been thrown their way. They want to lash out at anything and everything, but they simply couldn’t. Protests have become useless and have become identified with those in the fringes. And if ever they protest, who will listen? Everywhere, wells have been poisoned. The Top One Percent is enclaved. Those in government are busy being puppets of those enclaved, and if they are not puppets, they are Ponzi schemers resurrected from hell — criminals in Mercs and Bimmers. And all the rest have to be the hoi polloi who could not complain about the filth in high places. And if they have been waiting for a trickle down, none has come economically, it is only filth that had trickled down. Culture has been damaged. Left and right, front and back, there is moral decay.
Even then, it still came as a shock when a guy showed up in the horizon lashing out at everything the hoi polloi wanted to lash at. There was caution in the beginning for he was wrecking havoc on established norms. He admits to having violated everything in the Ten Commandments and more. The higher ups initially ignored him for they predicted he would implode all by himself sooner than later. He didn’t implode, and the more the higher-ups attacked him, the more the hoi polloi took note of the guy, and there was delight inside, a schadenfreude, the higher-ups were in utter confusion. The hoi polloi found their medium. He curses, so that they don’t need to curse. He is bastos, so that they don’t need to be bastos.
What the Establishment underestimated is the mood of the nation, the depth of frustration. People have simply become sick and tired of propagandas and lies — 30 years. Yes, 30 years, and such lies were bound to be exposed. PNoy doubled down on incompetence, lack of empathy and patronage politics, and thus the entire yellow shenanigan became clear, bright as in a high noon sun. Continuously trumpeting credit upgrades and window dressed statistics is no way to run a country. Even the unschooled and the non-economist feel the difference between a bubble economy and sustainable development. Believe it or not, the hoi polloi could sense when a country is moving in the wrong direction, or just pretending to be moving in the right direction. This is the reason for the apathy all around outside of election periods.
It took a few brave souls at the start to close ranks with this crass individual. But, bravery is also contagious, and as soon as it picked up its momentum, it was unstoppable. DU30 shot up to the top of the surveys. The last survey showed he was at 33%, a double digit margin over his next rival. It would require desperation and a distorted mentality to cheat him, for it will have to be massive. Only a guy prepared for a bloody civil war, or an uncivil revolution, would undertake such madness.
But, stupidity is forever. PNoy read this as 67% being opposed to DU30, and he frantically called, three days before election, the other candidates to unite and face DU30 as one. He forgot that his candidate, Mar Roxas, was at 20%, which means 80% are actually against Daang Matuwid. It is just that 47% may not have yet mustered the courage to place their bet on a very un-traditional politician. A united ticket as that PNoy and Mar tried to engineer would have just pushed more towards DU30, possibly more than half of the 47%, for the clamor is about change, not continuity. We wish PNoy and Mar were successful in engineering that unity if only to prove our foregoing hypothesis as true and correct. But, alas, as proven in the last six years, PNoy and Mar fucked any major project they touched.
Nevertheless, it takes courage to bet the future on DU30. He curses, he is uncouth, he tells rape jokes, he has a very non-traditional family life, and still lives in that modest house he had since he was a lowly fiscal. Why hasn’t he enriched himself like all the other politicians when he actually is of the Roa clan, one of the elite families of Mindanao? Who is the real DU30?
The witch hunter, Antonio Trillanes, insists DU30 has a double life. But how could we believe Trillanes, a loose cannon, who has acted time and again based on unsubstantiated evidence as well as just on his fertile imagination? Trillanes goes on a rampage at the drop of hat — a hat very much suspected of containing several millions in mercenary fees paid per black OPs project. So, how could Trillanes stand against DU30 who is very much a WYSISWG guy? So far, what we could see is that we are comparing pineapple with string beans. One is a dirty mercenary; the other, a principled politician. Good that DU30 didn’t go to BPI personally; there was no need for him to meet a creature of lower category.
But, there is no point in further straining ourselves on who DU30 is. Unlike PNoy who has identified Daang Matuwid with himself, and himself, with Daang Matuwid, DU30 had made it clear he is not about to move toward such a stupid path (pun intended). So, let us stop looking for a politician in DU30 in the traditional mold. Many don’t know they are comparing a pineapple with string beans, and that is why they end up puzzled and bewildered.
DU30 has just one message: let us clean the filth. We cannot build a house on a ground that is filthy — on an active landfill full of garbage. A house on such a landfill eventually comes crashing down with no one trying to be responsible for the crash, and yet each one trying to conveniently blame another. Simple, no one checked the ground and the foundation. So, unlike other politicians he could not promise building a beautiful house as of yet. All he promised was that he would initiate the cleaning. He will start clearing the ground of garbage since there seems to be no one who wants to undertake this dirty job seriously, though many have paid it lip service and lately, with a hyped slogan. And the job is going to be dirty for how could one try to remain clean when one gets to touch dirt.
But, he is not trying to identify the message with himself, nor himself with the message. He said many times: please forget him if you don’t like the message. If you like the message, then see if he is dirty enough who could do the dirty job. But, voila, certain people could not reject the message nor him for there is something logical about what he is saying. In the process, wittingly or unwittingly, he has created a movement. One should only take a look at the crowds in GenSan, Davao and Cebu simultaneously holding their own rallies with that crowd in Luneta. DU30 didn’t show up in those three other rallies, but only in Luneta. If that is not a movement, I don’t know what is.
Unfortunately, the Makati Business Club and Management Association of the Philippines (MBC-MAP), the media, and others don’t see the movement; they only see a DU-dirty. Yes, it is a nebulous movement as of now, but if they look closer, they will see that a seed has been planted. Perhaps, the movement will die a natural death, if the seed does not get planted in the grounds of Malacañang. But, we know that good ideas, especially the ones based on so much commonsense, have a way of sprouting out in the most unexpected manner. The powers-that-be are therefore well advised if they take a closer look if that crowd in Luneta was just a political rally or a movement.
MBC-MAP and the media could be forgiven for their blindness. They are so used to looking for traditional politicians, inept or not, provided such Trapos could fatten their bank accounts. This is especially true in the last six years when 75% of the wealth of the nation just went straight up to the pockets of the the Top 10%, and the 90% have been left competing for the crumbs.
The Ateneo faculty and the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, however, cannot be forgiven for their superficial reading of the situation. They see the outside dirt of DU30, but cannot see internal rot of the society, which would not be if they only did their job as the moral guardians. And yet, in their holier than thou mentality, they are casting the first stones in a political arena, a secular territory in which in the first place, they should be hands-off. If they had done their jobs, perhaps we don’t need to debate a DU30. But since the filth is real and ever-present, shouldn’t they be the first ones to embrace the guy who has offered himself to do the job they have failed to do? Maybe, they don’t know the answers, and that is why a movement is inevitable.