With the count nearly complete – setting aside certain matters that are unlikely to change the outcome – it is clear that our people have spoken and, by a 2 to 1 majority, they have chosen Ferdinand Marcos Jr. to lead. this country for the next six years.
It’s no secret that I, among many others, voted for someone else. Sure, I’m unhappy, but how I feel doesn’t really matter in the scheme of things. Given that the Filipino male life expectancy is 67.26 years, I am already on probation at 68 and would be lucky to see the end of this next administration, let alone that of after. I told my mother Emy – who voted at 94 and shed tears of dismay and disbelief when the results came in – that living six more years to vote once more should now be her goal. . Surviving will be his best revenge.
I wonder what it is, however, for the young people who took to the streets for Leni and Kiko, believing they would make a difference. They managed, but not in the way they expected, to ride a pink wave to Malacañang. They understood, as we did long ago, that money and machines are always favorites over hope and idealism, and that problems, ideas and truth itself can be made far less important than image and message if you can buy the right public relations consultant.
They will also have learned, as other commentators on both sides have pointed out, that it was not all misinformation – that Marcos Jr. appealed to the true desperation of the poor with a promise of relief, however illusory – she. As most of Leni’s young supporters were visibly middle class and voting for the first time, it was a stark but necessary wake-up call to the realities of class politics in this country, which politicians of all kinds – none of whom doesn’t have to worry about where his next Litson Baka is coming from – have learned to negotiate and manipulate.
Defeat, it has been said, may offer more lessons than victory, and while we may have metaphorically won in some important respects – primarily the aggregation of “middle” forces not tied to a traditional political party in a growing progressive movement – there will be much to revise and refine in the years to come. This very dissociation of the Kakampinks from the old parties and their command structures, for example, has been a breath of fresh air for many volunteers, but also a handicap for operators accustomed to the old ways.
Naturally, there was a lot of wringing and gnashing of teeth in the trenches, in the desire to merge seething resistance with reluctant acceptance. I see it in activists young and old – the young, because they are heartbroken for the first time, and the old, because they never expected to come face to face with a Marcos again. The bashing and mockery they receive online from howling monkey galleries doesn’t help.
Being one of those old jerks, I tend to be more moderate in my reaction to Marcos Jr.’s win, and advise my young friends to calm down, ignore the bashers, and arm themselves for a complicated and challenging future. As someone who has been through and survived martial law – I was 18 when I was arrested and imprisoned for alleged subversion (although I was never charged or tried in court, just locked up for the peace of mind) – I can offer them living proof that we can survive dictators and despots, with faith, ingenuity and courage. My parents survived World War II, and many other people lived through worse.
I neither predict nor wish that a Marcos presidency will be doomed. I would hate for the country to suffer just to prove a point. Besides, whatever I think today won’t matter for what’s to come. Whatever Marcos does, he will do it of his own will, of his own nature, of his own character. What this character really is will emerge in the crucible of crisis – and crisis is the only thing the future guarantees, regardless of the president. Beyond and independently of the propaganda for and against him, Mr. Marcos Jr. will have ample opportunity to display what he would not let us glimpse in a public debate, and this revelation will make more than a million tweets calling him a thief or praising his insight.
Speaking of character, I had an interesting chat last week with an old friend, a renowned business administration professor, who brought up the possibility of “chance or fate” in explaining Marcos’ victory. He added that luck was a big factor in business and he would have rebuffed a student who thought otherwise.
I disagreed; As a creative writing teacher, I said I wouldn’t accept “chance or fate” as a resolution for a student story. We would call it deus ex machina – a helping hand – which thwarts the logic of the narrative with an artificial and improbable ending. I know: it happens in real life, but not in good fiction. As Mark Twain says in one of my favorite quotes: “Of course reality is stranger than fiction. Fiction, after all, must have meaning.
Whether factual or fictional, stories are less about the events—the plot—and more about the character. The plot is simply there to allow character development. Things happen for a reason: to test and reveal our character, to show ourselves and others what kind of people we really are, with dramatic clarity and inevitability.
If you’re wondering why I’ve moved from the May 9 election to a mini-conference on writing, it’s because we can view this election and its aftermath as a long, ongoing narrative that will establish our character as as citizens and as leaders. The next crises — the post-pandemic economy, China’s ambitions, the crackdown on civil liberties, deepening debt — will come to test us. This is the plot. And when that happens, Bongbong will be Bongbong, and all Filipinos – 31 million of them, especially – will see exactly what they bargained for.
So if you’re still angry, relax, recover, get back to doing something you love doing, and let that drama take its course. Like my mother Emy, endure and survive. Give Marcos Jr. a chance to fulfill his “destiny,” which could be anyone’s best education.
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Email me at [email protected] and visit my blog at www.penmanila.ph.