Eking Out An Opposition

Senator Kiko Pangilinan asks questions at a Senate hearing.

by Wilfredo G. Villanueva

Dark with shades of gray, that would be the predominant color of Philippine democracy to a painter. There would be a little pink, that’s Vice President Leni Robredo, representing everything that’s good about the country, hemmed in by the grays, but heroically manifesting herself just the same. Yellow would of course be in the outer fringes, trying its best to be vital to the painting, but swallowed up by dreariness. Other colors of the rainbow would be there, but still in all, if you looked at the painting and blinked for that picture that stays in memory, you’ll come out with: Philippine democracy is dismal, the color of the sky when a typhoon looms.

VP Leni’s pink-of-health advocacy is backed up by traditional politicians, like Senator Francis Pancratius Nepomuceno Pangilinan. Kiko will do. I sat with him for an interview in his office in the Senate of the Philippines, his white barong unruffled, starched just right, sitting rigidly just right, appearing cool, but you and I know that we’re looking at defeat; 12-0 is hard to erase in the mind, keeps popping up like a failing grade or a botched courtship. Cheating hangs heavily in the air like a nasty wind, but the Otso Diretso gents and lady licked their wounds in private, not once crying in pain like Bongbong Marcos. Yes, the opposition coalition has got class. Wimps they are not. Like, “We knew what we were getting into.”

Senator Pangilinan speaks to the press at the introduction of the Otso Diretso senatorial slate campaign.

Sen Kiko, the dauntless one. A smile would escape from his U.P. (University of the Philippines) and Harvard mien; there’s something different about him, schooled in a family whose patriarch—the late Donato T. Pangilinan, Jr.— is a former corps commander of ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) in U.P. Diliman. You can just imagine the need to excel, to stay in line, to wear the uniform proudly.

In La Salle Greenhills high school, Kiko was in a crossroads. Is it Kundirana, gateway to a singing career because he had a collection of 45 r.p.m. records and he would sing to his heart’s delight, or is it a life of public service, since he was an officer of the student council? He chose the latter. He had intimations of becoming President of the Philippines someday, since he had gravitas, public speaking savvy and a heart that bleeds for fellowman, but the whispers of highest calling have long gone, resigned as he is to destiny.

And then the debacle, as he himself calls it. Twelve-zero, baby. Try again, strike out, bokya, nganga, sorry. He submitted his letter of resignation to VP Leni to own up, to be accountable, but she wouldn’t have none of that, so Sen Kiko is still in the saddle, his mandate refreshed.

The elephant in the room: Sharon Cuneta, Kiko’s wife of 25 years, is with the other side, I reminded. “Ah yes,” he said, “but so are other families, friends, groups, fraternities, orgs.” Does it intrude in the dinner table, the dichotomy? “No. Hardly,” he said. “We’re a normal family after work. We love, we cry, we eat, we laugh, no difference.” The social volcano sits in every Filipino household, and the Pangilinans are no exception.

Pangilinan family portrait for the 2019 calendar. L to R, Kiko, Sharon, Miguel, Miel, Frankie, KC

The kids, all right? “Yes,” he said. “Excellence awards, student leadership, singing, blooming talents.”

The farm? He brightens up. “The farm! That’s where I recover and where I am myself,” he said. Your Walden Pond (place for introspection), I asked. “Uhm, yes. I think, I grow, I gain strength for the battle I have to rejoin.” Once a week at least he is in the farm in Alfonso, Cavite, like a dolphin or whale coming up for air. Aah, the farm, he said. The senator’s a kid, yearning for farm.

And the seven-hour glitch? “You saw me in the hearing, right?” he asked. Yes, I replied. I said I heard him say that the glitch has to be explained to avoid a repetition. But when will they come up with the explanation, I asked. The troops on the ground are restive, a combination of surrender and expectation. “The hearing will be called again,” Sen Kiko said. So that’s that. Unfinished business. Bitin (dangling conclusion). Even the explanation of the seven-hour glitch is a glitch in itself.

And Representative Edgar Erice’s thoughts on joining the supermajority? Sen Kiko answered in Pilipino: “Kasalukuyang sinusuri ng Partido Liberal ang magiging pasya sa hidwaan na nagaganap sa House of Representatives LP bloc. Hinihikayat natin ang ating mga miyembro na ipaabot ang kani-kanilang mga pananaw ukol sa isyu sa official email ng Partido upang malaman ng liderato ang ating saloobin.”

(“Partido Liberal is in the midst of deliberations to resolve the conflict among LP members in the House of Representatives. We’re asking our members to send us comments on the matter by email.”)

That’s Sen Kiko as president of Partido Liberal.

Sen. Pangilinan taking out the weeds off a lettuce plot in Sweet Spring Country Farm, his organic farm in Alfonso, Cavite

Speak to the Filipino people?

“Laban lang! Noong lamay para kay Karina David, may lumapit sa akin na dating estudyante din ng U.P. nung panahon na ako’y chairman ng U.P. Diliman student council nung dekada ‘80. Nagpakilala siya sa akin; sabi niya nag-abot kami sa U.P. nung panahon ng diktadura at kasama namin siya sa mga martsa laban sa diktadura.

“Ang tanong nya sa akin: ‘Senador may pag-asa pa ba na magbago ang takbo ng bansa natin?’

“Sinagot ko siya ng ganito: ‘Habang may buhay may pag-asa at hindi tayo dapat mawalan o mapanghinaan ng loob sa harap ng mga pagsubok na kailangan harapin. Laban lang.’

“At para naman mapasigla siya at mapawi ang lungkot niya, pinaalala ko sa kanya ang nakaraang mga panahon ng aming pakikibaka, sinundan ko ng mga salitang: ‘At kailan ba tayo nanindigan at kumilos dahil alam natin na tiyak ang ating pagkapanalo?’ Napangiti siya.

“Galing na tayo sa diktadura. Galing na tayo sa pambubusabos ng karapatan natin bilang tao. Galing na tayo sa pagmamalupit at panloloko para lang manatili sa pwesto ang diktador at makapagnakaw pa. Ngunit sa bandang huli, nangibabaw pa rin  ang katotohanan at dahil sa sama-samang pagkilos ng sambayanan, gumuho din ang mapang-abusong diktadura.”

(“Keep the flame burning! In the wake for the late Karina David, I saw a fellow U.P. student. She said she was part of the movement to oust Marcos.

“She asked, ‘Senator, will our country ever change for the better?’

“My answer: As long as we breathe, we will have hope. We cannot lose our will to fight. Resist!

“To put a smile to her lips, I reminded her: ‘Did we fight in those days because we knew we would win?’

“We came from a dictatorship. We came from being abused, treated cruelly, deceived, so that they can hang on to power and steal some more. But in the end, truth prevailed because we were together; dictatorship crumbled after all.”)

Yes, come to think of it: Did we fight Marcos because we knew we would win? Who would have thought we would win?

As Sen Kiko strives to put a smile on the lips of anti-China, anti-EJK (extrajudicial killings), anti-misogyny, anti-chacha (charter change) advocates, they must remember that in the midst of struggle, nobody knew they would throw Marcos out. It was like wishing for a white Christmas.


21 Responses to “Eking Out An Opposition”
  1. Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

    Missing Edgar Lores for his 1, 2, 3s.
    Thanks, JoeAm.

  2. arlene says:

    I love this Will, the picture of an honest and still hopeful politician. Good morning everyone!

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Hi Arlene! Thanks! We’re all doing our best. Knowledge leads to understanding, to wisdom and love.

  3. karlgarcia says:

    Less than three years for Drilon and the rest to interpellate the privilege speeches of the nonsensical newbies. No joke Bato has a paper PHD, Tolentino a paper law degree, and Imee a fake degree.
    They all don’t make sense.

  4. karlgarcia says:

    The persecution of Bro. Armin Luistro, Chel Diokno does not sit well with us La Sallians.
    No matter what Bro. Armin is well loved by my contemporaries be they be pro or anti-admin.

    • kasambahay says:

      ah, is that why po in a hurry nang ipasa ang death penalty? those that cannot be riding in tandem killed are to be killed just the same! minamadali na po ang paraan.

  5. Pablo says:

    Thank you

  6. Great piece as always , Wil !

    “Keep the flame burning! In the wake for the late Karina David, I saw a fellow U.P. student. She said she was part of the movement to oust Marcos.”

    This was the name that I found familiar , only because it’s Biblical which made for easy remembering. but I once attended a meeting in Tarlac , held in TSU Lucinda campus (not the big campus in town), map here:

    But that 5 acre or so (i’m estimating) lot there was donated by the David family of Tarlac i believe some time in the 60s (during or before Marcos era, not sure). Now i’m familiar with that area because of my light readings about the Huks. needless to say, that was Huk area back then, and I believe the donation came about as a way to appease both the gov’t and the rebels. My question… is that the same David family from Tarlac???

    the wider point is, that type of thinking , whether intended or not, there needs to be more of that in the Philippines, why don’t the landed folks give back where it’s happy-all for everyone , gov’t (colleges especially) is happy, people (since colleges lift them up) are happy, granted one less land for a landed family but everyone wins in the end, they have more. Micha would agree here , i’m sure . 😉

    Which brings me to Mayor Isko, he seems to be doing this, playing the non-zero sum game (happy-all, win-win ) and not the zero sum games everyone there seem prone to do.

    Wil, my request, if you have access to him, and if you are so inclined, is can you do an interview with Mayor Isko and see what his vision is for the whole of Philippines. Like i’ve said, seems like Sara is now interested in him as well, hopefully she teams up with him and not go against him; like God to Jesus she only needs to sacrifice her brother for the good of the country, thus also hopefully cleansing her father’s sins in the process.

    But 2022 , looks very exciting for the Philippines, more exciting than 2020 over here— which is looking very much another like Trump victory (that’s unless the Dems really get their act together back here between now and next summer, Wil ). Again, thanks!

  7. Adan E Ebuen says:

    “Those were the days, my friend “…not any more. Only very few committed activists nowadays, unlike the days of yore led by the reds. What makes the Reds better than the rest of us? “ the answer my friend is blowing is blowing “… in the upper class lifestyles of Kiko’s Kind

    • Wilfredo G. Villanueva says:

      Please check 2019 votes of class AB in National Capital Region. There’s an 11 per cent increase in support for the opposition. Also, please review EDSA One history. The reds as you call them stayed at the outer perimeter while the yellows shared food and sympathy with the rebs in Camp Aguinaldo. But let’s not drive a wedge between the colors. They are united in cause, which is to make President Duterte uneasy, enough to order another survey.

      • kasambahay says:

        lol! so uneasy po siya that aside from regularly ordering survey, giving kapolisan gifts galore na rin po siya. gonna spoil them rotten, the kapolisan accepting gifts na, and mayhap bayad for extracurricular activities as topmost customer service and excellent client satisfaction. those that can afford gift giving are mostly uber rich politicians, cashed up drug lords, crime bosses, celebs, etc. of course not bribes kuno yan, just gifts, lol! gifts comes in many forms and sizes: suvs, mansions, lands, and maybe lots of money too. the sky is not limit! the job ordered open to discussion.

        then, the fall out with kapolisan picking and choosing the better gifts vs ordinary gifts, pitting gift giver vs another, kapolisan running and owning small time lotteries and maybe drug dens too.

        pardon my irreverence po, laughing na po ako, my sides hurt.

        • Good morning, kasambahay. I always enjoy your remarks. They are intellectually sharp, quite amusing whilst being serious, and morally well-balanced. They do take some work to interpret now and then, and that’s fun. You should write an article for the blog.

          • kasambahay says:

            thanks and good morning, joeam. been there, done that and have a number of my poor teeth knocked out of me as well! I’m out on good behavior and behaving well.

            I can run with the bulls but definitely not allowed to join the bullpen. and I can only write the barest of snippets now. I cannot afford to lose both of my knee caps and risk making orphans of my high heels!

      • Adan E Ebuen says:

        And who prepared the ground work, through the many painful years, the intensive networks of consciousness raising and organized rallies that GAVE RISE to the EDSA phenomenon?Surely This was not a result of spontaneous combustion! True, they were on the sidelines due to their own stupid dogmas at the end; but credit should be duly accorded to them. And this goes back to my point: why can’t this feat be duplicated or equaled in the present times as it was done in the Marcos years? The answer is blowing in the wind

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