Politics of the viscera

By The Sunriser

AT SCHOOL I tried to excel in my studies, obtaining grades higher than most of my classmates. Born to poverty, I was told the only way to escape it is through education, getting a degree, and getting yourself employed. I thought to myself, indeed. There wasn’t no alternative but to educate yourself.

Encounters with involuntary hunger on countless occasions were something not to brag about. Pangs in the stomach dulled the brain cells. Hard times may force the young mind to get creative and resolute but the burstings of mental enthusiasm were ephemeral as the physical body would usually cave in to the cravings of the empty stomach.

My parents took to the radio sets for drama programs and on occasions for news broadcasts. Drama series in Bombo Radyo and Radyo Tagring of the defunct dyRP were entertaining but I was more interested in current events. Perhaps, this was where I got my consciousness about societal issues, especially regarding politicians and their politics.

Decades ago in our remote town, I noticed that the poor and the hungry didn’t have much of a choice as regards the election of leaders, let alone participate with their ideas on how to build a locality that provides the greatest good for the greatest number. Before my innocent eyes, money exchanged hands in the course of the electoral campaigns. Vote-buying was as rampant as it is today. I thought these were normal activities until certain broadcast media personalities in the vernacular started decrying to high heavens the evils of vote-buying.

Martial Law was a subject not taught in public schools. I have no remembrance of any of our teachers in elementary and high school talking about the Philippines as a garrison state under dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. Public schools during this period were operating under the continuous progression scheme punctuated by rote learning, memorizing facts, figures and names of Filipinos in our history books. And the names of Marcos’ Kitchen Cabinet. Critical thinking or the culture of analyzing and questioning ideas, events and people was not the order of the school day.

Radio broadcasters were mostly for Marcos and his administration though. Only a few had the courage to take the cudgels for the opposition, giving air time for the opposition stalwarts like some of our local boys such as Roding Ganzon, Arthur Defensor Sr. and Fermin Caram. Only history will tell whether they were really freedom fighters and heroes of democracy. (Roding would later on in his political career careened to the embrace of Marcos. Defensor Sr. would publicly maintain his opposition to the Marcoses but his son and namesake Gov. Arthur Jr. has recently joined PBBM’s Partido Federal.)

Almost all of our municipal officials were for Marcos. They didn’t hesitate to consign to the sidelines those perceived to be on the other side of the political fence. Suffice it to say that Marcos’s monolithic grip on the town’s politics during that period is an understatement.

Our family never dabbled in politics. We never had the chance. Families at the bottom of the economic strata were considered cattle for sale to the highest bidder, exploited by those thick-faced sycophants fronting for their candidates. It is true that political opportunities in this benighted land with pretensions to democracy is reserved for the moneyed. Though there are a few outliers but that is another story. Tatay and Nanay just devoted their time on how to make both ends meet for their children.

A few years later the Edsa People Power came. For change, radical change. So I thought. So I believed.

Sadly no. The halves remain in their comfort zones. And the pre-Martial Law politico-socio-economic culture has returned with a vengeance, the halves expanding their economic might and galvanizing their dynasties. While the have-nots remain docile, still behaving like cattle forced to queue into the slaughter. Where to get the next meal is their utmost care. Ninoy Aquino Jr. was right, for the country to progress, the first freedom that must be won is freedom from hunger.