I slumbered deep into the apathies of my comfort. For 26 years I was raised knowing so little of the travails and hardships of living except those that academics imposed and the inanities of my childhood concerns. Having said this, it is by no means to rob the color and disparage the importance of my experiences for it did gave me my identity, which I cannot deem to extinguish and I am powerless to alter; history cannot be undone no matter how petty it is.
The reason I mentioned slumber is that during our sleep we are detached from reality and within these vaulted years―even when my inquisitiveness about our past, and the swelling distaste of the affairs in our country mounted―I remained distant from the realities in our society; these realities I was hid and protected from, by my family. I did not live like as a prince would have had but we have katulong―helpers as the term imply, shared work is what should be provided―they, ironically, did everything for us. These people labored for us, catered to our every whims, patient with our erratic personalities and eruptive tantrums. In short, they did all of the work that we should have done together, and enjoyed so little in this separateness.
There is nothing devious or alarming in this arrangement; it is as common as any middle-class household in this country―the magnitude is tenfold with the elites where uniformed maids come in platoon, even with ranks. But recently, I’ve felt the necessity to free myself in this kind of setting. I felt the comfort, minute as it is, is suffocating me, that the chores in the house are not as important as the tasks in the office and the readings in the university. It is not the chores though, it would be ludicrous to rant about that, but instead what is being plodded has been always selective. It is also to say that this way of living protected me from a far greater reality that protrudes away from home―that in this antiseptic treatment denied me the totality of experiences that I should deal, that I should suffer, feast over, enraged, troubled, anxious, defeated, and joyful with. And yet outside, the world is much, much more.
This country is much, much more.
And perhaps in this cave of our security media is the only vista to reality―but they are no different. They are half-asleep too. They could do better. They could go and traverse the frontiers of this society that has remained unchartered.
I must admit that it is a great instrument to unearth the truth: the facts, evidence, and use of creativity to educate the greater impoverished populace. It is a tool for unity; understanding between cultures could be initiated. The faculties of expression are also in multitude that could be used to capture the audiences across our diversity. Surely, it is an important tool for imparting knowledge which we starve from.
However, the giant networks that has the greatest reach and influence did nothing but cater to their prosperity, focused on their own competitions and marketing; the small ones are even worse, they are propelled by religious ministries hollering dogmas out of the somber air or private denizens boasting their opulence. Although these elements―marketing and profit―are inseparable from business they should have ventured farther and fearlessly to the education of their viewers, mainly the masa who considers television and radio one of their indispensable luxury.
Of course, we could see the noontime shows or other programs, their hosts doling out money in barangays. They are welcomed inside people’s homes―shacks patched with palo china scraps, rusted iron roofs, plywood, and whatever to conceal the holes with. Some are lucky to live in a decent environ, with cemented walls and iron roofs that do not leak. And in this shows, one apparent character is the interview. Always they try to unearth the bones in the grave that delivers one to the brink of tears. They try to console them and act like messiahs of prosperity.
Observed and scrutinized these philanthropic acts are arid and hollow. They are rooted not from genuine concern for humanity but rather to demolish the competition and to heighten their ratings. AtingAlamin is one of the few genuine programs that I know of because they empower people by knowledge not by money. They provide variation rather than sari-sari store package alone. Also, shows that ventures farther are represented mostly by the documentaries, reportage from our respected journalists―Howie Severino and Kara David just to name a few―gives an authentic touch to their work and a much needed depth in research for a spine. These shows stir the imagination and affixes heart in their deed without the showcases that is showered aimlessly.
But programs like this―those that imbue choices, alternatives―are less patronized. Perhaps it is the lack of capital, and the labor that comes along herewith is incomprehensible. What would it do to people mired in poverty? Could it ever compete to the allures of the opiate the other shows provide? Or is there ever a need for alternative if they only wanted is to get by in the day? Isangkahig, isangtuka way of living. This is the hidden face that they tried to mask: stars that cannot act, money that exudes a blind hope, and the earnings a station should capitalize.
However, what more vicious, ghastly creatures there exist than those flaunted in the government and other public seats. We could see them even in our small gallivanting. We see muddied pigs dressed in posh barongs, designer suits, and gowns that they wore with such casualty. They work on projects―why they should have been elected in the first place―then they put their condescending faces, printed in costly, gigantic tarpaulins paraded loftily with their smiles as phony as their campaign slogans and the lame, irksome jingles that plague the air during election campaigns. Truly, without shame! Is there more to be said? For everyone is already aware of their crimes, but yet we are, we feel powerless to defeat this malaise and cancer that retarded the government, hence the nation.
As I speak of these, I beheld no power to defuse this ticking bomb that slowly implodes in everyone. No one can―NO ONE MAN CAN! I would like to say: no one ever tried. But there was Rizal, martyred too early. Bonifacio betrayed by his fellow revolutionaries. The other unsung heroes across our history rotted in penury, their cries forgotten. Here, no one ever lived long enough to see the fruits of unity and prosperity, neither of equality.
Is this why we are poor?
I don’t know if we are poor because we have been ravaged by three nations. I don’t know if we are in mendicancy because of the opportunist snakes working in our government and other public seats. Nor was it because of the conspiracies of landlords and tycoons for personal economic advancement. Was it because of the endless wars waged against our communist brothers in the mountains? And the moros in Mindanao?Or is it because our population quadrupled in the past decade, while our resources depletes? Is it because of the dwindling importance to education? With all of these I am not certain.
What I know is that there are more fashioned as I am. There are many who are still slumbering within their own comforts, strewn across the nation. A prominent writer, who I look up to, F. Sionil Jose augured and herald that the greater part of change should come from the middle-class, that it is in their class, in particular the youth that would beckon the change in the society―to serve as the ram in the ideal revolution promulgating true transformation―because they have the means, the space to move about in that direction.
While I belonged to a middle-class Filipino family who is spartan in most days and extravagant during occasions; we can afford education even at the expense of drudging work; we can purchase the new clothes and other things even by scouring crumbs from the meager allowance. Yes, we have more space to move, more freedom for action. Yet I am sorry. We are no beacon of change. We are no light to a revolution. On the contrary, we are poor because my kind, my class pervaded, dwelled in the cool modern nooks of our homes without the thought, without the genuine concern to our motherland―Filipinas.
I am sorry because we haven’t done anything to provide the strength to move your wheel, the wheel of the nation that has been stuck in the quagmire. We worry of menial things: our college degree and our corporate job hereafter; the ascension in the blue-collar ladder; the latest trends in technology, the things that we could buy; our dates and dreamt-of marriage; our house bills and paunches that need to be filled. All of these are inadvertently imposed on our living, and that we should be responsible for its provision. But we stop there. We halt because we don’t know where to amble. We halt because we are afraid of the very step to take.
We are afraid of the cross of this country. We could see in the horizon that it is being heaved from atop by the oligarchs and elitist while at the bottom the dishevelled, emaciated bodies of the masses, the poor. And that we don’t know if we would be stepping, trampling the people who are already suffering or would we be crushed by the oppressive weight.
We have not done anything because we will be threading in unknown waters, where the waves are engulfing, the hue dark and crimson. We are afraid because we might drown in spite of our ideals, sank at the bottom without nothing, that before us a lightless tunnel. So we grasp whatever ropes of security we could reach. We fear that all of that we have and will have will be gambled for naught.
I am sorry because of the lethargy that I face my duties with, a duty set aside for too many a year. I procrastinated from action, and I grumbled from the bedevilled society we are in―I hated the politics, I whine about the lack of opportunity, I cuss about the metropolitan traffic, and I lash out from the scarcity that is omnipresent in this godforsaken land.
I am sorry Filipinas! Your poverty roots from too many devils from our history, but you are poor because the children you expect to give have not. They have denied you of the love that you deserve.
Although if it is not too late, if I could open my eyes deaden from sleep, maybe I could see clearly your face. If I touch the wound that has festered for generations, maybe I could feel your pain and your suffering. If I start to believe in the hope that the sun and stars in the flag represent, maybe I could understand the difference of our people and maybe the light of justice too. If I act from your love, maybe you could impart the knowledge of your ancient burden, and the opportune chance of vindication. And maybe one day, if there are more who have done so too, maybe my beloved motherland, you shall be redeemed.
Illustration by b. ryan rañeses, III