By GEMMA CRUZ ARANETA
This is the first time in my life that the future landscape looks bleak and dismal, without the proverbial silver lining, nor that speck of light at the end of a frightful tunnel. All the happy clichés I know are not working, none will come true. Despite the joyful year-end celebrations shared with loving friends and family — pre-Noche Buena, the Noche Buena, Rizal Day, a pre-New Year’s Eve merienda- cena and the Eve itself (which is tonight, at this writing) — I feel a pall of gloom which has become unbearably terrifying.
After a bout of self-scrutiny, I realized that this heaviness of the soul began on Rizal Day, while my relatives and I were assembled at the foot of the gigantic flagpole waiting for the yearly commemoration rites to begin. I noticed the security was lax, Roxas Boulevard was not closed to traffic and although there were troops in formation on Burnham green, people were still milling around sort of aimlessly at Rizal Park. The National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP), the organizer, distributed copies of the program, which indicated that Vice President Leni Robredo was guest of honor. Apparently, President R. Duterte had flown to Davao City to preside over Rizal Day ceremonies there. Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada was conspicuously absent; he sent a bureaucratic non-entity to take his place.
When VP Robredo arrived, there was no parade-in-review of troops to an energetic military march, which always sparks a patriotic mood. The raising of the largest national flag in existence was disastrous because one of the corners ripped off its rivet, so our cherished national symbol could not unfurl freely over Rizal Park. After the Vice President offered a wreath, escorted by the NHCP Chairman and a young naval officer in white ducks, the trio forgot to go through the ritual of thanking the honor guards after which they would ceremoniously leave the park bearing their battalion banners. Instead, the trio walked to where the Knights of Rizal were assembled to salute its commanders. They went around greeting each and every group assembled, while the honour guards waited patiently to be formally dismissed, but that did not happen. I am quite sure the faux pas could have been avoided, had the mayor of Manila been there.
As it turned out, President Duterte did not attend the Rizal day rites in Davao either; he was, as usual, “resting.” However, it was reported that he did address an assembly of workers and instead of, or aside from, a prepared speech, he spoke extemporaneously only to reveal that when he was a teenager, he molested one of their domestic helpers after which he “ went to the bathroom” and the day after, confessed his lascivious acts to a priest who molested him. And the audience laughed, according to reports by mainstream and social media. That the audience laughed, is a tragedy more portentous than the President’s public confession of his perversions. I should probably ignore the Chief Executive’s vulgarities and feel depressed about certain man (and woman)-made events that are causing the dismemberment of our institutions and body politic.
As a doting grandmother, I fear for our grandchildren whoare growing up exposed to people, in responsible elective positions, who have no idea of good manners and right conduct, have never heard of civility nor good breeding, insult the Almighty without compunction and are raising their political dynastic heirs withnotions of entitlement, hubris and disregard for the rule of law.
I have always been an incurable optimist; never dwelling on misfortunes, ready to spring back to the swing of life like a good Libra. However, in 2018, I could not help feeling that the Philippines is being dismantled, bit by bit, right before our eyes, it is crumbling, unravelling and we do not know what to do. It will get worse in 2019. I am afraid this is certainly not the nation Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini and Luna envisioned.