Thursday, August 6

Life's Heroes

Many are still in the state of euphoria I guess over President Cory Aquino’s burial yesterday. It was an event reminiscent of Ninoy’s burial back in 1983, when everyone was boiling over with nationalistic ardor and passion. Everyone has his own moment or experience to savor, now that the same things seem to unfold again, reminding us jarringly of what we once were as a nation, and that somehow we have already come full circle.

I was only twelve when Ninoy was assasinated. I didn’t take much stock of what was happening to places outside of my hometown, and owing to my poor memory, I can only remember my grandfather one night, knocking on doors of our neighbors and telling my uncles and aunts what had happened in Manila. It seems at that time, there were only two simple truths: either you were a Marcos loyalist, or a Ninoy lover. I found it rather strange why my grandfather would be overzealous when no one else seemed to share his reactions. Apparently, majority of the families in our family compound were for Marcos. We were the odd ones out. But like anything else that didn’t really interest me, these things passed before my eyes like snippets of an insignificant dream.

My more vivid memory of Cory therefore, was in 1986, three years after Ninoy passed away. My mother was traveling to Manila to receive her cobalt treatments, and I was a 15- year old kid, who processed events in my mind still no more differently than I did when I was twelve. Simply put, politics were beyond me. I was just happy doing teenage things in a partly obscure place like Sum-ag. But in the months leading up to People Power, I had suddenly began hearing more frequently, things like oust, revolution, snap election, leftists, activists, summary killing, church and state unification. It just felt like something imminent was coming. I just didn’t know what.

Back in Bacolod, I was suddenly thrown into a whirl of events that I am just recalling now with faint amusement, because I felt like it was just the most spontaneous thing to be in. I was a middling character even back then and was never destined to have any voice about anything. Besides, blogs were not in fashion yet so even if I had wanted to write about it, the effort would have proved futile and easily forgotten. Doy Laurel was running for president against Marcos, under the Nationalista Party, but people were keener on having Cory run. What I understood was that Doy gave way and would run as her Vice-President. The reason why Doy Laurel came to mind is because his wife Celia Diaz-Laurel happens to be my grandfather’s first cousin. And one of the Diaz grandchildren was my good friend and classmate in St. Scho. I used to come over to their big ancestral home in Lacson Street. As a caveat though, I didn’t intend to speak of these people as though I have a direct affinity to them. I maybe a distant cousin, but if we had any relationship at all, I was definitely that proverbial poor relation. Moving on….

The hub of Doy’s campaign in Bacolod is in that house in Lacson, so you probably get the picture of how busy things got there. This was one of the many occasions that I was invited to come around, and since they always treated me well, I tried to make myself useful in the process. Rizza and I, together with her young cousins, were tasked to go around the city in a pickup van to place Doy stickers on virtually everything we could legally get our hands on. Later on, more cousins and relatives began to volunteer. Our new job was simple. We just needed to put stickers with Vice-President over Doy’s posters that says for President. There were hundreds and thousands of those posters, but I never questioned anyone of the change. I was just there happy being in the middle of all that flurry, excited to be of help, and elated at the chance to be in the same room with Senator Doy Laurel, and one of the sons, Cocoy who was fond of singing all the time. No one was probably aware of my existence there in that small capsule of time, and there was definitely no life-changing paradigm shift taking place inside of me, but yeah, it’s an amusing memory altogether.

In February, my mother and father were still in Manila, and then the People Power happened. Mother called long distance to tell us, not about her treatment, but that she was in the Edsa rally, taking part in the historic event. It was great to imagine her exhilaration although I still didn’t fully comprehend why it was such a big deal. Now in my adult mind, 1986 becomes a year of importance—a year we had our first woman president, a year the Philippines was catapulted into global consciousness, a year my mother finally lost her battle to cancer. And probably also a year I emotionally grew up.

So, where is Cory in all of these? Well, after Cory was proclaimed president, life went back to its normal state. I was motherless, and the price of commodities inflated sky-high. All of a sudden, everyone was skimping on food, foregoing vacations, feeling utterly poor. Nothing much changed for us. If at all, life turned for the worse. It’s not because of her administration; it was just my state of things at that time.

Fast forward to 2009, I am a mother to two children who have little peculiar quirks as I do. I still cringe at the thought of discoursing politics with anyone, let alone myself. I am just not born with an astute mind to analyze, or an acerbic tongue to critique, or an ample amount of confidence to speak up and be in the know of things intelligently in that general scale. I leave that to the experts. I am content to be one of the nameless millions who make up the productive sector of our society and that is good enough for me. I feel that my role is to live a life with benevolence and compassion towards everyone, to pay my taxes dutifully and obey traffic rules, to buy groceries and bring my own brown paper bag so that I don’t in essence cut more trees, to be a conscientious mother who makes sure that my children do not grow up delinquent and freeloaders so that more taxpayer money is wasted on unsustainable causes because I should know I am a taxpayer myself, to give to charities whenever I have the means, to donate or recycle old things so that I don’t have to keep buying new ones, to try not to watch pirated DVDs which is a hard habit to break but absolutely feasible. My role is to be a good person in very minute, even traditional, ways. And that is okay for me. My reason is that if millions of us do these things every single day, only in realistic proportions, and not in a sweeping radical sense that is good only as our fifteen minutes of fame and media mileage, then certainly we do not have to be overwhelmed like children and join the anarchy in the streets for the right passions but the wrong reasons.

But I veer farther away from Cory. Now there is a woman, who accepted the burden of steering millions of people to the right path even if she was only a housewife, who stayed the course of her presidency with utmost decency and integrity in her character, who esteems her country more than she does her life, who for the many adulation she is given remains to be humble and distant from the trappings of materialism, who believed that everyone has equal chance at everything, who until the very final chapter of her life wanted nothing much but tangible human resolve to be better and do better, whose name Corazon (heart) is simply the embodiment of what she really was in her life. Her heart was bigger than life itself. That was her role in life--to be herself and inspire. Her son said that for all the praises about his mother and father, being heroes of our life, the fact remains that they are just human and ordinary like everyone else, that they were just thrown into extraordinary circumstances, and did the right thing. In this entry, I will label them "angels".

In life we encounter people who have done illustrious things and possess characteristics that we can only draw inspiration from. They are the brand of people we’d like to look up to as our personal heroes. But, we should also not forget that within us is an innate goodness that we need to tap—that quality that makes us ourselves little heroes in our own right.

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