The Accidental Nation
(A conversation with my conscience.)
by Wilfredo G. Villanueva
“Your country has many contradictions,” my conscience told me. “One part is rich, the other poor. One is educated, the other not. One is holy, the other is hypocritical. One is patriotic, the other self-destructive, almost seditious in its ways.
It’s the season to look inwards, being Holy Week in the Philippines. We like celebrations, commemorations, anniversaries, birthdays, births and deaths. Our heroes have to be dead. As long you’re alive, nobody will believe in you.
“And you just love to take your mind off things that matter,” conscience again.
But what am I to do. Like Jim Paredes, I have no exit. I’m fighting for a better Philippines, for an inspired country, but I have to couch my words so people can accept my message.
“Oh,” conscience said, “and what may I ask is your message?”
“That we are the country that Jose Rizal and Ninoy Aquino died for, that we are beloved, worth dying for,” I said.
“Violins,” conscience said.
“Really,” I said, “who will love it if we don’t.”
“Look, you have advised your daughters to take up foreign citizenship, isn’t that hypocritical, considering everything you say on-line?”
“But what’s a father to do,” I replied, “climate change is upon us, disaster mitigation is the name of the game, and my children will be left to fend for themselves in a country where you will advance or be saved or helped depending on who you know.”
“There you go,” conscience said, “now you’re making sense.”
“Wait,” I said, “I didn’t say Baby my wife and I will move, we’ll stay here, so our patriotism is intact.”
“So what do people care,” conscience said.
“We care,” I said, “the country needs men and women like my wife and I. Hey, I have a secret.”
“I’m all ears,” conscience said.
“Do you know, in the EDSA One celebrations,” I said, “we’re the only ones of our age in the group that we joined. Most of them were 16 year olds, not even of voting age, and you know what?”
“Go ahead, I haven’t left.”
“When I asked them who they liked for president, it was either Miriam, Poe or Duterte.”
“I told you Mar doesn’t have a chance.”
“But that’s the reason why I’m going inward, like a trek up a holy mountain, to talk to you my conscience.”
“So what do want to know, what can I do to help?”
“Well, my question is, is there hope for the Philippines?”
“Hmm.” Big sigh.
“Wait, before you answer. The Aquino administration has done wonders in terms of uplifting the economy, curbing corruption, peace and order…”
“Hahaha! But in all the factors you mentioned, economy, corruption, peace and order, people have a reply, and you won’t like what you will hear.”
“I know. The other side of the coin. The devil’s advocate. The counter argument.”
“Tell you what,” conscience said, “why don’t we backtrack a bit. Maybe the answer lies in our genes or racial makeup or psychology or… just about everything that defines a Filipino.”
“Okay, where do we start?”
“Start with Lapulapu.”
“He didn’t kill Magellan because the Portuguese was a foreigner, an invader. He killed Magellan because he came with an opposing tribe. He was just in the wrong place at the wrong time,” conscience said, snickering.
“Granted,” I said, “but the priests Gomez, Burgos and Zamora, they were patriots like Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Heneral Luna and the rest.”
“Like you, there were, there are a few of them.”
“C’mon,” I said, “give us a break.”
“And the Philippine revolution,” conscience said, “it wasn’t the whole country in revolt against Spain, it was province or region—Katagalugan for instance—that took up arms, set their own laws. The Malolos Republic consisted of revolutionaries removed from the rest of the population, the Muslims, for instance.”
“My head aches,” I said.
“Deal with it,” conscience said. “Mark this, what did most of the Filipino veterans do right after winning the war against Japan?”
“I know what you are going to say,” I said.
“They wanted to be Americans!” conscience said.
Oh, that sinking feeling.
“But Ninoy Aquino,” I said, “united the country.”
Conscience was quiet.
“Conscience, what have you to say. I said Ninoy Aquino united the country.”
“You know you are right. After a long, long time, we finally found one Philippines. Lapu-Lapu was tribal. Katipunan was regional. Filipinos against Japanese was actually most Filipinos acting as Americans against Japanese. But Ninoy was different. The mortal wound on Ninoy’s nape from a single gunshot was felt from Batanes to Tawi-Tawi. In a way, Marcos united us as a nation because we all suffered the same excesses, we were all stolen from by way of Imelda’s insanely luxurious lifestyle. And when Ninoy came to reason with the dictator, we felt one with him when he was gunned down before he could meet Marcos.”
“That was one great moment for the country,” I said.
“Yup. You got me there. We have been one nation since August 21, 1983. We thank Ninoy for that. But where are we now?” conscience asked.
“Well, his son is asking us to vote for Mar Roxas and Leni Robredo to continue Daang Matuwid,” I said.
“And the nation isn’t biting,” conscience said.
“And the nation isn’t biting,” I said, “Not biting yet, anyway.”
“What else can be done to make Daang Matuwid win?” conscience asked. “It’s six weeks to election day.”
“I’m afraid it’s down to deus ex machina, divine intervention—for the non-religious, an accident, we need an accident,” I said.
“Accident?” conscience asked.
“Well, Cory’s death in 2009 was a deus ex machina or an accident because everyone saw how Noynoy Aquino loved country and family,” I said.
“Well, whatever that is, it hasn’t got much time left,” conscience said.
“We’re an accidental people,” I said. “We’re on the path of natural calamities, somehow we are also on the path of blessings, divine intervention, accidents.”
“You know, you’re right,” conscience said. “What’s your name again?”
“Stop kidding around. If it weren’t for spices, the world wouldn’t know we existed. If it weren’t for the blowing up of the Maine, we wouldn’t be the first colony of the United States, to learn democracy, English, civil government, patriotism, to be educated. If not for globalization, our work force will not be known around the world.”
“You’re right. Everything is either divine intervention, or an accident,” conscience said.
“We are an accidental nation,” I said.
It’s Spy Wednesday, the day when Judas Iscariot spied on Jesus and handed him over to Sanhedrin. The country is winding down for Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Black Saturday, and finally, Christmas for adults, Easter Sunday. It’s a good day to be talking to one’s conscience.
Do we need divine intervention or an accident to sustain the gains of Daang Matuwid? Or will the people surprise us on May 9? That will be an accident.