Even in a day full of meetings to address important professional concerns, the talk still veers to the direction of politics.
It could not be helped. The Big Day is just a week away.
But why is it for some very, very strange reason we are all already exhausted --- as we have never been before in the past. This is not like the first national elections ever mounted in the republic. We undergo this process of electing the next Philippine president every six years ... well, after a respite of about two decades when there was just one family residing at the Palace. Setting all these historical diversions aside, by now we should have all been jaded. We should have been all too familiar with the roving jeepneys complete hired barkers and portable loudspeakers cruising the streets early in the morning to announce to the sleeping and groggy constituents why their candidate should be a councilor in their district or why this local official is the only human authorized by God to bring back order in the universe.
We are used to support-for-hire entertainers who will mount stages regardless of what God-forsaken nook and cranny in any of the seven thousand plus islands of ours to sing, dance, entertain --- and, gasp, fake adulation for a political party or candidate just to draw a crowd. Worse are the candidates themselves singing, dancing and making fools of themselves in order to endear themselves to the voting public in order to prove he will do anything for them ... or rather, their votes.
We are all just too used to that.
Yet the elections of 2016 is strangely different because of all the wrong reasons. Yes, these are wrong because never has an election been so divisive. It has become so bad that friendships are cut short or completely lost, even relatives have been alienated from one another ... and the adamant expressions of faith and trust from supporters have reached the level of fanaticism. And someone dares call this democracy at work? Oh, come on.
Some say that social media is greatly responsible for this new level of viciousness. Insults --- personal and sometimes irrelevant --- are so generously tossed around to hit the candidate and his loyalists. And trust Filipinos when it comes to creativity especially when they mistake malicious for mischievous, libelous for witty when they post all these memes to literally castrate and humiliate those who they deem as their enemies.
This compulsive crowd-thinking (as I am very, very careful not to use the word mob) has fueled such excitement among our countrymen. We are so energized when we are polarized. Filipinos thrive on territoriality --- emphasizing the differences that exist between kami and kayo ... and only never looking at the scenario as a more collective tayo when it comes to issues involving us as a nation. We think this is some bloodsport without realizing that in the end ... it will not be about camps alone as everyone will be affected not only by the resulots but also the process.
We have this tendency to oversimplify everything by creating kampos that are defined by who we think we idolize. And this idolatry comes either through sincere (or blinded) faith or because some of us stand to gain if so-and-so wins.
More often than not, the leader is not chosen for his or her capacity, credibility or even authenticity. They are singled out because of their charm, the chutzpah and the creation of mythologies that package individuals as extraordinary. These candidates are considered special because they have already been pre-ordained to lead us out of misery by this thing called tadhana. We are so easily mesmerized not necessarily by the contents (as if a majority of us really cared) but by the packaging. This is all about how the candidates are sold to feed our fantasies and further delude us in our eternal addiction for romance--- and, yes, hope.
That was exactly what pushed Ninoy's only son into office: it was not his credentials as a lawmaker but the fact that his mother passed away at exactly the right time as he was in the right place to be ordained as the next king. It reverberates of Game of Thrones only without the bloodshed and convoluted political intrigues.
It is also the reason why Grace Poe is there --- because she is the sequel to a truly sad story of the King of Philippine movies who met his premature passing because of the heartbreak brought by the monsters of politics. It is why Bongbong Marcos is staging a comeback in order to redeem the name of his family ... or why Leni Robredo has been recruited with the promise that it is she who will continue the exemplary work done by her husband (who I personally believe is one of the truly compassionate Filipinos who should have been president).
The choice of leaders has all the ingredients of believing an archetype: that the ascension into power was orchestrated by the heavens in what could be predestination. Add media exposure and further mythologizing (or even a talkative, media savvy baby sister) and you've got your winner.
When one looks back at what transpired six years ago, the keen observer can begin to comprehend what is happening now and more so why.
Again, we are entrapped by this obsession with mythology and believing that it will take a savior to completely wipe out our years of letdown, patience, compromise and eventually disappointment and disgust. This is not merely a selection of new leaders but a vote of protest.
People are appalled why a maverick whose manners and language shock the prim and proper but amuse the greater population including the social classes who would otherwise shriek at the mere sound of his natural profanity. Some are even more aghast (well, those have lived through those years when Tie a Yellow Ribbon was a tune that Imelda loved to hear on the dance floor and not an alternative anthem for protest) that the son of He Who was Ousted and Sent on Exile has not only made a comeback but is now a front runner for the vice-presidential position.
How much more surreal can we go? Yet when you really come to think of it ... we should not be surprised. What should bewilder us is how we got here. How did we reach this tipping point?
People may go ballistic and scream away their fears --- but the game is not played with reason and argumentation in the rules. It is all about the drama. It is all about the entertainment value to fascinate the audience in this telenovela life we are living, It is all about the elitistas contra the masa. But when you have the middle class supporting the gutter-talking maverick, then you realize this is not a class war at all.
A vote for the iconoclastic candidate is a vote against the existing status quo. A vote affirming the vulgarian is a "f--k you" to all who are held accountable to what has become of this country for the past six years. One can hurl all the arguments possible but the decision to stand by a candidate is an insistence on what a voter needs for the next six years.
In that insatiable (hopefully not desperate) need for change, there are many who are willing to bite the bullet and invest their belief in a man who is brave enough to say it the way they would have wanted to say it as well --- except that they are just the ordinary citizenry --- and they feel that their voices were no longer heard. Again this is a manifestation of the value of faith and hope --- and how frustration and long-standing disappointments can make people behave in a certain way or think in a particular manner.
This is why there is so much divisiveness in the elections to be held next week.
There is so much mudslinging, muckraking and creative insulting exchanged in conversations --- but more so in social media. In a platform where everyone has the right to say exactly how and what he feels at any given moment, there is no accountability --- sometimes even responsibility at the degree of insult you hurl to another just because the other party does not think the way you do --- or believes that another candidate can offer a better future.
It is with the hope that this violent insistence is brought about by a genuine concern for the future of this country --- rather than just, well ... blind faith or misguided thinking brought about by personal benefits and not national well-being. And it is with an even greater hope that voters see beyond what media pre-conditions with survey results, allegedly stilted and biased reportage or even blatant coddling of candidates that we can choose our next leaders with logic and not merely impulse or emotions.
In this insane romanticized world we make --- where everything is diminished to templates of romcoms and tv entertainment, we have not only been addicted to romantic agony. We have to outgrow that oh-so-masochistic belief that to suffer is good because God loves you more. We have to dispense with the notion that politicians (like action heroes, matinee idols and showbiz demigods) can actually be messiahs. We are only inviting further disappointment if we keep electing officials based on fairy tales --- rather than real credentials.
As the beleaguered faith healer Elsa muttered in front of the throng demanding proof of Divine Intervention: "Walang himala." (There are no miracles.)
No, folks. They are not messiahs. They are only sold as such because they need our vote... because if we want real change, it is not leadership alone that we need to overhaul. We have to get rid of all these romantic notions and for once start thinking of platforms rather than personalities, of capabilities rather than imaging. We have to stop condemning candidates because of the color of their skin but start questioning their true intentions and foresight not only for their personal political careers but for a nation. We cannot put people into office and lean back and say, "OK, do your job ..." while we waste away our opportunities to help make this nation better in our own little ways as citizens.
Before we start thinking of who to elect, we have to start reassessing ourselves as a people and they way we think. And behave.
We do not only need a change of leaders. We urgently need a change in the people as well.
- Follow me in my new Twitter account: @DirekJMSJReyes