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This is the blog of Ian Rosales Casocot. Filipino writer. Sometime academic. Former backpacker. Twink bait. Hamster lover.

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Saturday, May 08, 2004

entry arrow5:24 PM | Voting For X

Friday night, I am eating late dinner in Qyosko when Myrish Cadapan-Antonio enters, husband in tow. She doesn't look tired, and although the election is but a turn of the corner away, she walks with a bounce -- so much a picture of young blood we need injected into the drowsiness we call local politics. I have tired opinions of the rest of the zombies gunning for local positions -- save for Don Ramas-Uypitching and a couple of others who strike me as sincere and capable -- but Myrish I am voting for. She inspires faith in a time when Dumaguete slowly grinds to a kind of obscure death.

Smell the city. There is a seeping sense of rot and disarray. It has no dream, or vision. And what's worse: it has no real reverence to its past. It is also a ghost town waiting to happen.

We need new blood. And I needed ube shake, and mushroom ajillo to go with my longsilog. The waiters in Qyosko are slow. I am thinking, "I must tell Aw-aw about this." That was the thing I last thought of before I realized... Monday is Judgment Day.

Two things I know about Philippine democracy: we always deserve whom we vote for, and the democracy we practice is an anachronism of sorts -- but then again, there is one kind of democracy and then there are other kinds of democracy. All democracies are not equal. And while the concept is still arguably the best of anything else that is concerned with governance, it may not always be good for any one country. This last one is a sentiment of a couple of student of mine in Silliman University, who submitted a research paper where their thesis was: "Democracy, as it is practiced in the Philippines, breeds more corruption and crime."

It was also 50 pages thick. Complete with indices of graphical data.

Which leads us to ask a question that: How low have we gone down to that even our young contemplate dictatorship to rid us all of the evil that pervade even the air that we breathe?

In a recent New York Times review of a book critical of American-style democracy (on which ours is clearly patterned on, minus the concept of the Electoral College), a novelist called the American model a "totalitarian democracy," and the term has a certain ring of truth to it.

Ours is not as totalitarian. Just a little bit more circusy, which is also a perfect slap to the Greek ideal, in which -- people have forgotten this -- only the educated could vote. But in a country where the want for education is a gaping, festering wound, the likelihood of getting down to the wisest choice in a democratic election is a one-in-an-80-million chance. Imagine all that uneducated vote rising forth to become the fearful manifestation of "vox populi, vox Dei." F. Sionil Jose, in a recent column for Philippine Graphic, had this to say: "But the knowledge of the peasant is not backed by a more profound understanding of the larger circumstances beyond his immediate relationships with his mother, his village, and the land itself… The kind of information that should be part of his knowledge is often denied him. And in today's world, that kind of knowledge is not properly shaped by media and its dream world. The folk therefore is easily misled into accepting fiction as reality, popularity as leadership." In other words, we reap what we sow. And what we have sown is a negligence of more-than-serviceable education of the Filipino people. We have, instead, become a country "manufacturing" only nurses for work abroad -- no longer thinkers, planners, inventors, etc. In Silliman University last academic year, for example, there was an upsurge of enrollees for Nursing. And zero for Chemistry. Weigh the numbers. They are telling of a kind of despair. And this is just the middle class. How much more for the lower classes? Can we even imagine the depths of their despair? Can we blame them then for voting for clowns and movie stars and basketball players and second-rate TV news anchors? Can we blame them for reducing the whole debate into an argument that defies even logic: "Eh, binoto natin si Marcos na matalino, anong nangyari? Wala. Mabuti bomoto na lang tayo ng high school dropout."

Like I said, clownish logic. But blameless nevertheless. You cannot argue with a hungry stomach.

But I won't talk about the nuances of Philippine democracy or electoral system, because I do not want to bend to the common tendencies -- just right about these days -- to prognosticate the election results and analyze the voting mood of the archipelago. I will leave more seasoned men and women to do just that. What I'm going to talk about, for the sake of being irreverent, is what to exactly wear when I march into that public school in Lo-oc come Monday morning and stake a choice in my country's future.

I am not going to wear black, because that would be too obvious: the cast of a funeral wake, the way Monday could be given the ineptness of COMELEC thus far. There is an urging to wear something gray, because it is so much more neutral that way. A kind of a hoping color, too. Neither white, nor black. Undecided. Besides, this would be my first election in about ten years. When the madness of an Erap presidency came to fore sometime in 1998, I was in Thailand, in Chiang Mai to be exact, drinking wine in the middle of the night, in the muddle of the city's all-night street bazaar, explaining to a couple of American filmmakers/tourists the various shades of embarrassment for a country gone downhill with the election of a nincompoop. "I heard he's a drunken clown," the good man asked, "no offense meant to you." I replied: "No offense taken, besides you're right."

He said: "But he could be the next Ronald Reagan, you know."

I said, "I admire your optimism, but deep in my bones I know we are headed for shit." So we wined away my troubling thoughts. Later that year, I went back home to old country -- and the first time I got off the plane and stepped into the tropical heat, my skin suddenly burst into inexplicable rashes. It was a telling moment. Erap was President. The very air was poison, even to my skin.

And I was right. Years of shit indeed followed, capped by a mockery of an impeachment trial, and finally a second people's revolt that may have been shades of the first one, but lacked the latter's flood of dignity and utter spirituality. I was a local newspaper editor then before Edsa Dos erupted, and my job was to wade through news after news of continuous woe that became the very picture of the country. It was enough to break anyone's heart, the way one saw a country with a spirit amputated, the way one could go about and touch the palpable misery hanging in the air.

When the crowds swelled one more time to oust an inept leader, it was enough to make me cry. I remember that was a Sunday. I made the most wonderful issue for that newspaper in my time there as its editor, and when I stepped into the daylight after a night of toiling to get the paper to bed, there was a nippiness to the air that spoke volumes about renewed chances, about renewed dreams. It felt good: it had, after all, been a miserable year, I remember, and I was quickly losing faith in the Filipino. But how quickly, too, to regain it back.

And how quickly to lose it again.

Ricco is wearing brown, and is voting for FPJ, simply because he believes in his "mythology." He says, "That's what we need now, a mythological figure like FPJ to unite us." I know my mythology, too, and I think: if that is the ultimate arbiter for something as important as the Presidency, then I'm voting for Frodo.

Moe is wearing blue, and texts me not to forget to vote for GMA. His arguments are lucid and passionate. And he ends with this: "I cannot accept a president who is a high-school dropout. It negates the entirety of what I believe in a good and proper life." I like GMA, and although she stands exactly toe-to-toe with Frodo, I cannot vote for her. I thought I would, in the beginning, but something eats at me every time I consider her name and her immediate legacy: her quick kowtowing to powers-that-be (damn Bush, and damn Cardinal Sin...), and her inconsistencies... I happen to like my leaders who believe in their words and the firmness of their promises. Plus, I went to Iligan one time and saw this portrait of her in their house wearing a sexy, green taffeta gown, and sprawled Imeldific on some surface or other. I thought: "Napaka-ST naman," and that has stuck to me ever since. I still confuse her for Maui Taylor.

Villanueva confuses me, too. But my mother -- devout Christian that she is -- will wear a shade of magenta for him. I tell her, "You are confusing Sunday School for governance." And she says, "God is what we need." And I tell her, "And Brother Eddie is God?" And she says, "Maniwala ka, babangon tayo."

Lacson scares me. Nobody I know will wear anything for him.

So now I'm voting for Roco, by principle, and because he makes the perfect sense and the perfect foil to all these gadabouts pretending to be saviors of our word. I am voting for him regardless of anyone's argument for a "wasted" vote, something I do not understand. And regardless of rumors of his dying, too. Truth be told, the talk of Roco's impeding "death" was the final clincher: a dying man, conscious of mortality, cannot be swayed by corruption, and can only devote the last of his years to becoming the very fulfillment of a life.

We need life-and-death stakes like this to truly believe in elections that will finally matter. Not just breezy promises of everything under the sun set to Sex Bomb music. And finally my wardrobe: a red Hawaiian shirt. Just because. Plus the one I have looks good on me. Anything that will look good, to face the future -- good or bad -- that looms ever so close.

[0] This is Where You Bite the Sandwich