The Philippines is bigger than any president
We also have various analysts and pundits describing the Philippines, its economy, its conflicts with China, its defense, its tourist spots, its culture . . . notoriously described by James Fallows as “damaged” a few years back . . . and other attributes. The economy is sliced and diced everywhichway as we rue the poverty but claim our debt ratings and GDP growth with some measure of pleasure.
Yet the whole of the Philippines is bigger than any of these descriptions, or ALL of them combined. After all, there is no way to measure the nation’s soul. It is a construct of the time-space continuum that, like the end of the universe, is outside our mere mortal grasp.
You know soul, don’t you? You know what it means? It’s that aspect of our being that goes to heaven . . . or does not. It is the very essence, the very fiber of who we are, what we stand for, where we have been, what we have learned, and everything we’ve ever felt in the whole of our lives. Wikipedia puts it this way:
- The soul in many religions, philosophical and mythological traditions, is the incorporeal and immortal essence of a living being.
Well, that is so big-worded as to confuse and confound. One is inclined to respond with a huge “huh?!!”. It’s hard to define the indescribable.
How do you measure a nation’s soul, see it, confirm that it exists? We are looking for a quality that transcends the physical features that everyone is measuring or talking about.
Well, you are invited to help me out here. What is the immortal character of the Philippines? I tend to see . . . or sense . . . the soul of the Philippines to be more emotional than reasoned, more spontaneous or reactive than planned, short sighted and forgiving, spiritual without being inquisitive, warm and friendly with strains of violence, growing in awareness and knowledge but dragging along a lot of history and superstition, and it is infinitely durable . . . not fragile.
We can see this quality, this essence in the history of occupations, wars, coups, uprisings and forgiveness of the bastards who gave us so much pain, and are now in office or our best allies. EDSA was the Nation’s soul revealed, demonstrating its core strength, temperament and stubborn insistence that we may not be able to do “right” very well, but by God, we know WRONG when it is done to us.
Therein, my friends, is why the nation is bigger than any President.
We worry, I know we do. Some worry that Roxas is a sheep and will not lead the nation with firmness to overcome some of the barriers to prosperity. Some worry that Duterte will turn the nation into the Killing Fields of the New Millineum. Some worry that school-teacher Poe has no idea about running a nation infinitely more complex than the largest corporation. Some worry that Binay will take our money, paid in taxes, and build glorious haciendas for his family around the world. Some worry that Santiago will drop dead or go nuts, her physical and mental health being a mystery to most.
Perhaps we worry too much, eh?
Perhaps we have too little confidence in the Philippines, its soul, its durability, its watchful way of cleansing its system now and then. Perhaps we need to remind ourselves that the Philippines is bigger than any president.
Democracy is only a vehicle to organize leadership, deeds and expenditures. It is not the nation.
Nor are elections the nation. They are a small part of the democratic process.
Presidential candidates talk big, for sure. Filipinos like their presidents big. Decisive. Dramatic.
But in office, presidents are little people in relation to the soul of the nation they are granted the right to lead for six years.
Woe to any president who mistakenly thinks he is in charge of the soul of the nation he represents.
He is but a speck, a mote in the eye of the Philippines, here but briefly.
The nation barely blinks.