The death of Mrs. Corazon C. Aquino has left me feeling sad and frustrated. It’s difficult to come to terms with kind of people we Filipinos are, the kind of collective memory we have, and how we are able to forgive and forget so easily. Oh but how we love! How immensely capable we are of loving, and how intensely we love– almost with the innocence of young children loving their favorite toy or their first puppy; and with the depth and sincerity of a poet writing their beloved. And as we love, we hurt ourselves because we forget that those we love were not perfect, and we dismiss the pain that never leaves.
All this morning and this afternoon (as the whole time yesterday) my mother has kept vigil over the television, watching as Filipinos paid their last respects to Mrs. Aquino. She barely got up from the sofa, worried that if she did, she might miss something. It was strange to me, because I thought that my mother was not a particular fan of Mrs. Aquino or her family. But there was she sat, watching avidly– even crying sometimes.
When I asked her about it, she turned to me and said, quite simply, “Cory was a good person. She wasn’t like Gloria Arroyo.”
I could understand that. Mrs. Aquino was a good person. She tried her hardest to be. She was prayerful and humble, and she kept her dignity at all times. And most important, she was not at all like the incumbent president.
And today, the same incumbent president is forced to accept the harsh and brutal fact when she dies, she will not have the same kind of funeral; she will not be accorded the same honor; and her memory will not be cherished and loved by multitudes. Thousands will not go out into the streets, braving heavy rains and heavy traffic to get a glimpse of her cortege and whisper a prayer for her peaceful repose. The only reason that people will go out to attend her funeral would be to make sure that she was good and dead, and probably to give a nod of approval that someone who clung to power so tenaciously out of fear that she will be persecuted for her countless crimes has finally died.
Hay naku, mahal kong bayan at mamamayan.
I couldn’t help but be upset by the commentaries made by radio and tv hosts covering the funeral. They kept saying that it was Cory who brought back democracy to the Philippines; that it was her who made sure that we enjoy the freedom we enjoy today.
All the while I kept thinking: what, and she did it singlehandedly? The last decade before Marcos was ousted, it was the national democratic movement that fought the hardest and the Filipino people supported the creation of a new liberation movement, one that continues today. And to think that the martyrs of the Movement, the hundreds of nameless civilians who laid down their lives in the struggle against Marcos; and the hundreds more victims of human rights violations of the dictatorship have yet to receive the tribute and indemnification they deserve!
And what kind of democracy are the broadcasters talking about? What kind of freedom?
Re-establishing the senate and the congress? Two institutions that have passed very few or little laws that ensured that the quality of life of Filipinos improve? And are we free from poverty? When the Marcos dictatorship fell, the money and corporations they sequestered were taken back by the Aquino government and then turned over to the likes of the Lopezes, the Cojuangcos, the Ayala-Zobels and tycoons like Tan and Sy once more had the freedom to develop and expand their monopolies?
The lessons of EDSA are not lost, but I’m not sure that these lessons are the same for everyone. I don’t think we’re talking about the same lessons; the same way that we are not talking about the same kind of freedom, the same kind of democracy. The Philippines remains a nation where those who toil continue to starve, and to demand justice is to risk receiving a bullet in the head.
While we love, we must not be blind. And as we move forward, we must not neglect to look back because we always risk losing our way. As a nation and as a people, we still have to grow in political and cultural maturity. We are too sentimental and too compassionate; we forget too easily (or we forgive too much: either way, we suffer). But then again, maybe it will be like like what Dumbledore told Harry Potter (and what supposedly, inevitably save the latter in his final confrontation with Voldemort): it will be love that will save us in the end. And mercy will replace forgetting; and a deep sense of justice will hold back the temptation to simply forgive and then embrace.
Even as we continue as a people to love and love those who even hurt us in one way or another (and the pain survives through generations, birthing more hurt in various forms), maybe we will learn to love with eyes awake, and without needing to deliberately ignore the flaws and weaknesses of the beloved. And only then can we truly pay tribute to the beloved and what they tried to achieve, what they in essence believed in and fought for.
Tuloy ang laban para sa tunay na demokrasya, kalayaan at ganap na pagkakapantay-pantay!