A photograph has gone viral online. It is about a gathering of people in red, in front of a provincial capitol. In this country, where candidates have attached their political luster to colors, we all know who these supporters are. But this is the world of social media and avid users are either fools, knaves or experts. Those who are not easily duped by visuals—the experts—looked, and looked again at the gloriously numerous fans and wondered where they had seen a similar gathering, with the same people, in the same arrangement and jubilation.
The photo was a celebration of LGBTQIA+ somewhere across the ocean there but not here in the country.
This is just one example of photos meant to prove something is even when it is not. It has happened early on in this administration. Images were manipulated, with the origins of photographs attributed locally were disclosed to be not from any point in the Philippines. The person or company who posted the same were called out but I do not remember anyone admitting to the distortion and the lie. Or, have you?
Not everyone gets to realize the rectification and, therefore, not everyone is lucky to be reoriented, reassured, re-informed. The lie was never committed when it was not proven to be lie; to them who missed the correction they received the truth that was not the truth. Perhaps, when the time comes for the reckoning and by some machinations the candidate who wears red wins, then they will go back to this photo of admirers in front of the capitol and be hurt as well as convinced of that man’s power. Never knowing how a lie nurtured an assent, never realizing that an illusion can bring about triumph.
Which brings me to this most infamous political comeback in our history: the ascent of the dictator’s son.
During the three-day People Power revolution, the discourse was about total change. That would not happen. Even those not attuned to the theorizing closest to what we dreamt after the dictator fled knew there would be no complete upheaval, no restructuring of class. But it was good enough that after decades of being kept silent, we began to talk, to be heard, to curse them who occupied the Palace.
We drove them away. That would be the slogan of People Power. Not peace, but the brave act of driving them away.
My generation can still recall the siege of the Palace. On TV, this was vivid: the chief of the dreaded Metrocom, Gen. Prospero A. Olivas was pleading to the mob not to destroy the Palace. Huwag nating sirain.Sa atin ito (Let’s not destroy these. We own them). It was a sanctimonious plea. We all knew what the PC Metrocom did and we knew what it could have done more if the people did not become a power. But those were good people, those who stormed the Palace or they would have turned to the general and lynched him. Or maybe we are not that good a people after all.
The road to the Palace was endless. We needed to see the mythical shoes. We wanted to gaze at the table with astrological signs. We made sure the hospital bed was true and not political fiction. We were exorcising the bad spirits that haunted the huge house by the river.
Then one day, over the radio in a taxi, I could hear a woman crying. “Tears of happiness, after all we had been freed,” I was thinking to myself. The woman continued to wail and I could hear the words, “ang ating…mahal…na pangulo” (our…dear…President).
I had to ask the taxi driver what was the matter. The woman was crying for Marcos! This cannot be happening.
That was the beginning of the other tale of People Power. A few months from that day, every now and then, old women and a few men in red would gather around chanting for the return of the Marcoses. They looked pathetic. A puny crowd that amused observers. Then the members of the family began coming home. Then the dictator’s body arrived. Then it was buried in the lot for heroes.
I should have read the wailings of that old woman. I should have read my histories.
During martial law, there was hope that the good men were many and with their persistence would bring down the government built upon evil might. But after the incarcerations of the few good men, the new government with the purported New Society it was creating, began to attract intelligent and technologically adept individuals willing to work for an administration no matter what. They were called technocrats.
When the dictatorship fell, it was the task of many observers to take note of the “Marcos” boys who, deliberately, quietly, adeptly ingratiated themselves with the new government. For a society whose core value, according to sociologists, includes “hiya” or shame, these politicians were bereft of shame and decency. Their heritage: a lesson from not-so-ancient histories.
Remember the story of elite and intelligentsia at the turn of the 19th century? When the flag of Spain, the same dispensation from which their property and statuses were sustained, was brought down, as it was written, these rich families were the first to raise the American flags from their windows. Merely, we are the heirs to this politicking. We and the politicians we vote into office share in general in this decrepit notion of survival and mercenary loyalty, the very same structure that allows the departure of the discredited politicians and the return of the same when the winds of change have shifted not their direction but their odor.