Saturday, April 30, 2016


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

Monday, April 25, 2016


There was not really much to remember from the final presidential debate staged on the last Sunday of April ... a good two weeks before the National Elections of 2016.  Unfortunately, like some others, I was bored.  

No, I did not expect the fireworks and the mala-"Face-to-Face" sort of format of the second debate which had the presidential candidates short of throwing knives and spitting fire at each other.  Yes, it stood good for the ratings but ... after all the cheering, jeering and sneering from the peanut gallery you end up realizing that what you witnessed was a verbal cockfight where the credibility of a candidate was based on how well he or she verbally bashed and even castrated a rival.  It had nothing to do with a discussion of platforms, an analysis of the capacity to dissect national and international problems in order to provide steps for concrete solutions ... blah, blah, blah. 

But anyway that proved to the most memorable of the town hall debates.  Definitely more remembered than the finale that was more of coitus interruptus.  Maybe it was the format.  Maybe it was the fact that it was held in an open-air venue and you could almost feel the sweltering heat from Dagupan frying everyone alive.

Or maybe because it was already an overkill ... and there was nothing more to say that has not been said.  At this point of the game when surveys pre-condition people into thinking the winners as against the odds of the losers, you have no more time to sit down and intellectualize.  Logic is thrown out of the window for the sake gut-wrenching strategies to convince the madlang people that you are on your way to victory.

In other words, with all the drum beating and trumpets blowing from opposing camps, who cares about issues and discussions and even plain and simple logic.  It is time for blood letting and a cacophony of sound bytes.

I read somewhere (again in social media) that anybody who got bored with the final debate must be suffering from mental deficiency.  Why? Because that last debate raised the bar of discussion to the intellectual.  Ah talaga?  Then I guess I missed the whole point.

Yet if there is one thing most memorable about that town hall meeting,  it was watching Miriam Defensor-Santiago stand side by side with the other candidates in that final showdown.

Senator Santiago was not around the second debate.  Her presence in the first debate did not exactly warrant the best of media attention --- as she did before.

After all, this was a brilliant lady whose sheer vocabulary and turns of phrases can actually make you choke on your own limited lexicon.  Ever since Santiago grabbed national attention, she had always been our version of Wonder Woman --- whose sheer verbal power can literally turn gladiators into eunuchs.  She is one woman who can cut you down with a machine gun mouth that did not fire invective but a volley of threaded logical statements that can literally melt the remnants of your brain.

You either love or hate Miriam Defensor-Santiago.  But she got you gasping ... or laughing ... or mortified ... you cannot not be in awe of her.

If Rodrigo Duterte is the ultimate siga without the wristband of Erap and a mouth that petrified the Legion of the Properly Bred and Well-Mannered, then Miriam Defensor Santiago is the verbal triathlete whose brilliance of mind and sharpness of wit are packaged in a highly informed and precise persona --- especially when a camera is aimed at her.  For who will not have a Santiago anecdote or quotable quote from her long career as a lawyer but more so as a judge then as a senator.

Even before the likes of Leila Delima, Conchita Carpio-Morales and Kim Jacinto-Henares came into the consciousness of Pinoys as the New Amazons of the Government who had more guts and gumption than most born with testicles, there was Miriam Defensor-Santiago.  Like how many human beings of whatever gender would have the courage to go on head-on collision with Juan Ponce Enrile in the sacred halls of the Senate? Aber?

Yet watching her in the final debate was filled with pain.

There is no secret about the trials the Senator has been going through with her health in recent years.  Unlike some of her colleagues in the senate who are only too available for the cameras to highlight their qualities and virtues especially in that endless (and seemingly ceaseless) variety of Upper House Inquiries, Santiago has practically disappeared.  She would only show up once in a while to give privilege speeches or interpolate fellow Senators ... but otherwise there is also that reason of her health.

This became all the more noticeable in the final debate.

I need not go into details as to why I ... together with so many who have great trust and admiration for her ... felt so bad that she had to go through that live telecast.  Not that she has lost her magic all together but her suffering health has taken its toll in the otherwise crispness and spontaneity of her genius in argumentation and explanation.

But this did not diminish my admiration for her.

Her bravery and determination to still stand there side by side with Binay, Duterte, Poe and Roxas only proved that she was made of far greater stuff than what has diminished the strength in her body.  Here was a woman committed to what she wanted to do --- and would not allow her challenges to defeat her too easily while she was still capable of standing.

When you come to think of those who aspire to occupy seats in the Senate ... when you even assess some who have already taken their places in this august hall, you realize that the kind of Miriam Defensor-Santiago has but become extinct. When once the likes of Jovito Salonga, Raul Roco, Joker Arroyo ... and, yes, even to this day, Juan Ponce Enrile ... took their places in seats they so well-deserved, now the caliber of our statesmen has been so compromised.  

Because of our obsession for sound bytes over the intricacies of reason, we have also lowered the ante to that dismal level.

Miriam Defensor Santiago may never be a president of the Republic --- but she will never be forgotten, much less underrated, for merely being who she is and how she has so radically changed the role of women in Philippine Politics.  But then again ... you need not end up living in Malacanang to find your place in our history.

It is enough to be brilliant, incomparable and uncompromising.  And this lady will have her chapter in the story of our republic.

-- Follow me in my new Twitter account: DirekJJR

Saturday, April 23, 2016


I kept telling myself that now is not the time to return to blogging.  Not with what has become of Facebook or the rest of social media in the text capital of the world ... no, the Universe.  Not with the elections just a few days ahead and everybody is into the baste and broil mode.  

Not with so much muckraking, mudslinging, backstabbing and shameless name calling and rumor mongering.  I heard one of my nephews say that "Facebook used to be fun" but indeed for the past few weeks, it has become toxic and the mother lode of such negativity that you wonder if creativity is also necessary to be so vile in choosing your next presidential and vice-presidential preference.

We shouldn't be surprised about this either.  I mean, hey ... this is Philippines, right? We take great pride in being celebratory even while being derogatory. We are the nation that stunned the world by singing and dancing in the streets while having a revolution with the most popular stars going onstage proving their nationalism through song.  We are a unique culture of finding reason to celebrate for every given event ... or tragedy.  That includes our local and national elections.

We give so much premium to entertainment value so much so that you have candidates hiring performers --- whether they are scantily clad ladies dancing to prove the flexibility of their pelvic areas or the most popular stars singing with their non-singing voices --- just to bring in the crowds.  Well, yes ... a little white or brown envelope can also help fake adulation or even loyalty in sheer numbers but then  that is a different story all together.  What matters most is that, like everything else, we have diminished politics as yet another palabas where the substance in character or even the presence of gray matter between the ears of candidates seldom matter.  It is all about personality and sound bytes.

Social media has magnified that: the entire thought process has been pigeonholed into a series of hashtags where your choice of leader is all about his selling rather than his or her being.  Masyado tayong ma-drama and therefore everything is diminished to drama --- about dead relatives, superhero complexes, shock value in statements --- but never about platforms and issues.

When national issues are raised even in high profile debates sponsored by various media institutions, entertainment still prevails in a game of one-upsmanship by pandering to the audience rather than providing concrete, do-able, feasible and even comprehensible programs laid out for the next six years.
There seems to be a lot posturing with accusatory fingers pointed at rivals but seldom about what is being offered by the candidate beyond mother statements.  

Indeed such strategies work: you throw eggs at the faces of your rivals to show just how really bad they are and hope that they would have a nervous breakdown or go completely ballistic and start talking to God onstage.  But even this mode of attack can be dangerous. TV is such a cool medium that he who keeps his wits about and does not succumb to the curse of the pikon will come out the winner... and not he who piles enough dung by his side to aim at his competition. 

One would wish that candidates would stop talking about legacies --- and start discussing about what they plan to do with the future.  

Show us the plans.  It is easy to say that you can make this nation great ... because even a high school valedictorian can include that in his commencement exercise speech.  But as a presidential or vice-presidential candidate, we need to know how you really plan to do it, with who and with what ... because we are so sick and tired and numbed of promises that end up just as that: promises.

But then again, that is television.  You are not there to listen to plans or dissect the logic or sheer feasibility of these great blueprints for Inang Bayan.  The audience is more concerned about the cheering squads, the supalpalans and the quotable quotes that will end up as memes in social media in about ... uh, thirty minutes after delivery.  

Thus charisma and media impact --- ergo, marketing --- are more important than substance (which also explain why some candidates just don't make the cut because they are being cut and sold all wrong. Instead of looking inspiring, they look either exasperating ... or ridiculous or even downright stupid).

It is not surprising that the frontrunners based on a zillion and one surveys hail those who have the greatest media impact via noise.  This works both ways: it manifests how media --- mainstream and new together and separately --- have oversimplified choosing the next leaders of the land through effective branding. Many are shocked ... even appalled ... that certain candidates are running away with the numbers but then again ... taka ka pa ba?

This only shows how people are so frustrated and downtrodden that they will bite the bullet ... like those planted to innocent travelers at the NAIA ... just to be given a glimpse of hope for change that goes beyond slogans and mythologies about families.  

This is even more saddening when people cease to really think about their choices and would just go for broke just to be given yet another chance to see a better future for themselves and their children.  But can you really blame them? We have been betrayed so many times not only by corruption but also the curse of everyday life when we reckon with the incompetence and even the lack of guardianship of those who we elected to guide and protect us.

Filipinos are tired.  We need a new generation of leaders --- from the young who have a true national vision and not merely personal ambition. We cannot go on like this any longer.

There are those for us who think that the vote for the maverick is not necessarily an affirmation of faith in his capacity but a vote against the establishment that has seemingly betrayed all the trust given since the first time we all marched in EDSA and made ourselves believe that there is a hero in all of us.

God knows what will happen.  We are still hoping for the best.  But when your choices have been so oversimplified in selecting not who is the best but who is the least evil among the lot, you feel very, very sad ... and ask yourself: How did we get here?  Where did we really go wrong?

- Follow me at my new Twitter account: DirekJJR