For those of us with some semblance of a job or other, Labor Day merely highlighted the despair and emptiness of life without a job, without a purpose. After all, most of us, through no fault of our own, do not have the luxury to “live to work,” we are forced to “work to live.” Last Saturday, I decided to free myself from unjustified detention, a good excuse to venture out and experience the world outside – a holiday promising a traffic-free ride in the car, my own good-for-one “bubble.”
Without asking my children for permission, I jumped into my little car, choosing the handsome part of Manila as my destination. It was smooth sailing from Quezon Ave., Quezon City, as I had expected, until a few kilometers to España Blvd., Manila. There, traffic abruptly came to a standstill, for which Ms. Waze found no explanation. There went my holiday, in the heat of summer, caught in a jam; punishment for breaking out?
Twenty, 30 minutes later, as traffic slowly inched forward, the reason became clear. Laborers, jeepney drivers, activists had encircled the Welcome rotunda – the arch says “Welcome to Quezon City” on both sides, including the Manila side – and with policemen and a SWAT team watching over them like hawks, the question was how so many of them had managed to come together before their numbers swelled. They were not disorderly, though the assembly was way beyond the allowable 10 persons to comprise a gathering. They were protesting in silence, passersby seemingly empathizing with them for their patience and stoic behavior. It was a rally but there were no untoward signs of violent language and aggressive conduct. If I’d been half a century younger, braver, and stronger, might I have joined them? (No, maybe not; I’m afraid of crowds.)
A demonstration calls for a crowd demanding to be seen and heard. Who’s to see and hear? Media are only a messenger, media cannot force the authorities to bend over backward to accommodate every demonstrator’s wish. Media have covered hundreds of those rallies, but this one last Saturday was more sad than angry. Even those inconvenienced by the traffic seemed touched by the weight of the demonstrators’ hopelessness.