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Monday, June 11, 2018

Kris Aquino’s lamentations

KRIS Aquino protests too much.

One can understand her pain when she was confronted with the image of her father being kissed by two women moments before he was assassinated. And she can openly express her pain that such image reminds her of the fact that her mother, who was left behind in Boston at the time together with her and her siblings, was denied that opportunity to give him that last kiss.

But she cannot begrudge anyone, whether it be Mocha Uson, or any Filipino, to use that image as political capital to defend the President whose kiss appears to have triggered enough noise to swamp the billion-peso prize of promised investments which he brought back with him from South Korea.

After all, Kris comes from a family that subsisted on images and representations, and on political optics that revolved around the social imaginations around dead people. The death of her father, as captured by a funeral procession turned political theater, fueled the flames of protest that led to her mother becoming President, whose death as captured by the imagery, again, of a funeral procession cast a presidential umbra on an otherwise lackluster political record of her brother.

It is also a fact that the narrative of victimization which the Aquinos and their political allies embedded on the collective consciousness of the Filipinos have planted the seeds of hatred and divisiveness in our country. A vengeful Corazon Aquino endeavored to demonize and erase everything that Ferdinand Marcos stood for, even his memry, to the point that after his death she would even refuse the request of the Marcos family to allow a Philippine burial for the former President. Perhaps, Cory Aquino feared that the Marcoses would do the same necro-political ritual of parading his coffin, and she was concerned that it may erode her political capital the same way that Ninoy’s funeral procession damaged Marcos.

Aquino loyalists continued the demonization even after the death of Marcos. His body became an object of derision and fodder for yellow political jokes. And when the time came for President Rodrigo Duterte to make good of his campaign promise that he would allow the burial of Marcos at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, a move that was given legitimacy by the Supreme Court, the seeds of hatred by the yellows fully bloomed into protests where chants of “hukayin” were heard, effectively negating whatever Filipino traits we have of respecting the dead, regardless of how they lived their lives. Historical conditioning led otherwise decent people, some even parading themselves as Christians, to join the chanting, collectively demanding that Marcos’ graveyard be desecrated to satisfy their thirst for vengeance against a figure that has been painted as the devil incarnate by the Aquino narrative.

This is the ritual of politics that sustained, and was sustained by, the Aquino brand. It is one that deployed death as an ammunition to propel political careers. It is nourished by a binary mythology of saintly and heroic deaths versus deaths that deserved no sympathy at all.

However, Kris Aquino is deluding herself that the mythology of the good Aquinos versus the evil Marcoses will last forever. She must be told that her surname also comes with the baggage of a father, mother and brother who have contributed to the current state of our country and would therefore be fair game for anyone to call out, or to hold accountable. While she may have enjoyed the period when they practically sequestered the story line and commanded the nature as well as the direction of how her parents were represented in the stories that we tell and we were told about them, nothing is forever. The myth-making, and the glossing over of imagined heroism and conjured saintliness can only but unravel with the passing of time, when people are beginning to reflect on their complicity and culpability in what ails the country at present.

What is perhaps more lamentable for Kris Aquino is the fact that the trajectory of the political narrative of the Marcoses appears brighter, in contrast the apparently bleaker one of her family. The Marcos brand, at least after EDSA, began as a demonized narrative. Yet at present, there is a palpable movement towards a fairer and more objective assessment of the Marcos record, where one is now presented an image of a leader with flaws, but also with redeeming qualities. On the other hand, the Aquino brand began as a celebrated narrative. Yet, and in contrast to the Marcos brand, there appears a visible unraveling, an erosion of myths and a revelation of stories that were either misrepresented, glossed over or totally concealed from the public. The images of heroism and saintliness of the Aquinos are now confronted with questions of truthfulness and factuality, even as their flaws are being revealed.

It should not surprise Kris that the rehabilitation of the Marcos name is largely due to the manner the Marcos children, particularly Imee and Bongbong Marcos, who are more publicly visible, have conducted themselves. On the other hand, the erosion of the political capital of the Aquinos is largely due to the failures and shortcomings of her brother as a President, and her own behavior in how she failed to comport herself well as a public figure and a celebrity.

And this happened even as the Marcos children had to endure decades of ridicule and demonization and had to face a country whose ruling elites have nothing but disdain towards the surname they carry, while Kris rode high on the image of her celebrated parents.

Kris Aquino openly laments the cruelty of Mocha Uson, or of anyone for that matter, to put up the image of her dead father in what she felt was a disrespectful manner.

She has to be told that her family doesn’t enjoy an immunity from being subjected to criticisms, dead or alive. She is entitled to her private pain, but she cannot deny the people the right to critically examine her parents’ public narratives, and to exhume from these their sins. And if she cannot stand that her dead parents are being held up for criticism, then she may do well to learn a thing or two from the Marcos children on how to take the blows with quiet dignity.


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