Why does the President show the world an ugly Philippines?
I didn’t. I saw it as a poor and underachieving nation finally getting its act together with a good government and a whole lot of productive work going on. A booming economy. Financially stable. Becoming a leader in Asia by standing up to the bully China armed with nothing more than a battery of attorneys.
Here’s my personal representation of the Philippines, just a little story. It differs from what President Duterte insists on showing Filipinos and the outside world:
The road crew in my town is working diligently to build out a gridwork of concrete roads from the main highway, which was widened around the entire island by the National Government, to the residential and agricultural areas on either side. The work crew measured out a 100 meter increment of barangay road and set out to complete the section in three days. As the road was being measured and framed, materials were brought in and staged along the road at intervals. Rocks, sand, cement and barrels for water. The road was measured and framed on day one. On day two, it was cleaned and leveled . . . by hand . . . and the last stocks of materials were brought in. On day three, the cement was mixed by tow-in mixer and poured in a day of labor. I counted sixteen people, each assigned a role, mixer operator, rocks, sand, cement, water, shovelers, masons leveling, and the last guy raking in the grooves across the hardening cement.
THIS is the Philippines I know. Not whacked out on drugs, not murderous motorcycle tandems, not thieves and extortionists. Oh, the nation has them, for sure. They were problems a year ago, but they did not run the nation. Jobs did.
The Philippines . . . a year ago . . . was an organized, hard-working, fundamentally honest nation with a whole lot of hard, hard, hard laboring peoples at work. Well, no doubt government was having some difficulty getting government services to keep pace with growth. But, man, they were trying. The nation was working hard. Road builders, construction workers, BPO workers, OFWs, farmers, fishermen, miners, transportation workers, army people doing dangerous work. Good people. Friendly people. Sweating and laughing people. “Hi Joe” people. Beautiful people.
So why does President Duterte show them as ugly? Why does he present ugly to the world? Strife, drugs, murder? A nation at war with itself?
Was YOUR Philippines ugly a year ago? Mine was not.
It was peaceful. It was pleasant. It was productive.
But it has been turned to horror, and . . . frankly . . . I object.
I first came to the realization that there are two Philippines right after the mighty blow of Yolanda. One of the two Philippines is made up of earnest, regular working people. The other is the players. The gamers. The users.
The earnest Philippines is represented by the electrical workers who spread out across the region after that terror, Typhoon Yolanda, and rebuilt the electrical grid in 60 days. From flattened poles and downed wires to plug-in at remote areas, like mine, in 60 days. Leyte, Samar, Biliran. The crew that did my house arrived at 5:30 in the evening as it was getting dark one early January night. In the rain. It was obvious they were exhausted, almost staggering from one pole to the next. And wet. But they were on a mission. And we finally had lights that night for the first time in two months.
The users . . . the players . . . are guys like the Mayor of Tacloban who took the tragedy and turned it around to attack the people who were working so hard . . . so devotedly . . . and who SUCCEEDED . . . in bringing the nation back from that monster smashing. He painted the good people UGLY so that he would not have to bear the shame of 8,000 dead on his watch. Did he care about those electrical workers, do you think? Did he ever thank them?
The mayor is of the category “user” in my book. A player. A gamer. A member of an entitled set of officials with the power to make or break lives, and enrich themselves.
Do you think the Mayor is a right proper Filipino? Or is he really the ugly one?
How do you categorize the President?
A worker or a player?
Beautiful or ugly?
- Do you think he cares about Manila? The place he hates to visit. Perhaps Manila is a place to wave to along the way to what he really wants.
- Do you think he cares about Panatag Shoal? Or is that just an irritant he needs to bury along the way to what he really wants?
- Do you think he has national spirit? Would he really lay down his life on a jet-ski for the Philippines? Or is he just a master story teller?
Do you know the term “carpetbagger?” Possibly not. It is a uniquely American term. After the bloody American Civil War, a lot of northern politicians went south to make some money and lord it over the losers:
car·pet·bag·ger, ˈkärpətˌbaɡər/, noun, derogatory (1) a political candidate who seeks election in an area where they have no local connections, (2) historical, (in the US) a person from the northern states who went to the South after the Civil War to profit from the Reconstruction, (3) a person perceived as an unscrupulous opportunist; “the organization is rife with carpetbaggers”.
Use it as you see fit. I gift this American term for official use in the Philippines.
Why did Mayor Duterte go north?
If it was to lift up Filipinos and the nation, he goes about it in a strange way, dragging us down in the eyes of the world.
It is incredible to me that a President would be willing to show the world his nation’s WORST face. Rather than it’s BEST.
It defies all logic. What leader who wants to lift his people up would do that to them? Show the world the worst of them and pretend that is what the nation really is.
It makes so little sense to me that I can only conclude that the President . . . barring his proof to the contrary . . . is a player. A user.
The trick is figuring out exactly what it is he is trying to achieve by showing us around as ugly.
- It is not to save Panatag Shoal for Filipino fishermen.
- It is not to defend the nation’s hard won victory for respect of law at the arbitration hearing.
- Does he care about sovereignty? Hard to believe so.
- It is not to honor Manila for its dramatic rise back to relevance, a place where congestion attests to how fast Manila has grown.
- He for sure does not seek to present the police as community servants.
- It is not to honor the nation’s OFWs, or BPO workers, or laboring stiffs like the road crew. Or honorable legislators and judges. Or university faculty, or students who are innocent of just about everything.
What does he want?
What does he get by portraying the nation as damaged goods?
- He has a reason to arm up, to impose his will and put down objection.
- He gets Federalism.
He gets a wall between his realm and the arrogant, imperial, entitled people from the north who won’t leave him alone to rule like a proper Sultan.
That’s my guess. But I could be wrong. For sure, I could be. As I have written here, he confuses me. He changes gear and relentlessly contradicts himself. I get dizzy.
So I admit, these are just deductions. The only thing I have to go on is what I can see. And I’m seeing things that make no sense if President Duterte is for the Philippine nation.
Who wants to be president of an ugly nation?
Who wants the world to think of their nation as drug riddled murderers?
Only gamers, I figure. Users. People on the way to somewhere else.
And if I sound bitter . . . if this reads as a complaint. Then you are perceptive.
Because I think the Philippines is a beautiful place. It was a year ago, for sure. I think the good people here are being dishonored, presented wrongly, presented as ugly. It is not fair, it is not nice.
It may be useful.
Where is the nation heading?
I don’t frankly know.
Sometimes a place lives up to its dreams. Sometimes it lives down to its reputation.