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Guest Post: ‘Circus, Circus’ by RJ Ledesma

Note: This article was originally supposed to appear in RJ Ledesma’s regular column for the Philippine Star. A few text messages back and forth had me agreeing to publish his work on this blog. Note that I am not a political blogger but I do understand how it feels not to have one’s column published for one reason or another. So here it is. RJ writes about the recent Manila Peninsula series of events.

Guest posts do not necessarily reflect the personal opinions of this blog’s owner, but are nonetheless fun to read, thought provoking, or cute. 🙂

For comments, suggestions or halo-halo at the Manila Pen, please text PM PGI to 2948 for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers. Or email ledesma.rj at gmail dot com

Circus, Circus

“In my country, everything has changed and nothing is different.”
– Rio Gonzaga, The Dogeaters

Last Thursday was another reason that accelerated my hair loss.

And for those of us who get our timecards punched in Makati, we found out about the big hullabaloo in the midst of a traffic jam. You know, the type of traffic jam where you grip the steering wheel and wait impatiently while fungus forms in between your toes. Then as the traffic ends up moving slower than geological time, a flock of police officers finally emerge in the middle of the gridlock and start flapping their arms furiously. Apparently, these traffic enforcers think that by making a series of repetitive hand gestures that they can eventually persuade our cars to stand upright and amble off the road. You mutter something derogatory and unprintable under your breath at the futility of their hand signals while searching for answers to this urban gnarl over the AM radio.

‘What is it again?’ you ask yourself, ‘Is it another ragtag team of civic cum religious cum political cum showbiz leaders calling on GMA to resign? Is it a group of protesters who have irrigated the streets full of nails to call attention to their bid for the Philippines to become another US state? Is it another two giant robots battling it out for the fate of the universe in the middle of Ayala Avenue?’

Amidst the radio static the news reporter barks, “Senator Trillanes and Brigadier General Danilo Lim have bolted the Makati Regional Trial Court. And when you hear the words ‘Trillanes’ and ‘bolt’ in one sentence, your mind is suddenly enveloped in a furry haze. “Along with other Magdalo soldiers, they are making their way down Paseo de Roxas.” The reporter continues to bark more updates but it all sounds like gibberish as far as you’re concerned. You roll your eyes as your head plops against the steering wheel. ‘Oh *&^%’ you grumble. And no, this time you’re no longer worried about the economic repercussions this unauthorized field trip will have on our economy. And you’re not worried whether or not bullets will be zipping past your vital organs in the next several minutes. Instead, what you are really worried about is how much longer the freaking traffic is going to be.

It’s really hard not to be manhid when there’s another uprising going on. Especially when an uprising has regurgitated itself for the umpteenth &*$%ing time.

Excuse me if I sound rather jaded. But how can I not be jaded? I grew up in the eighties. We are the That’s Entertainment generation. We are the poster children for jaded. And I’ll tell you something more: We are freaking survivors, baby. We are not only a hardy bunch, we are a fool-hardy bunch. We grew up against the backdrop of the Aquino assassination. The snap elections. The Mendiola massacre. The power outages. The Metro Manila filmfest fiasco. And the showbiz career of Kris Aquno. We’ve survived an earthquake. The Mt. Pinatubo Volcanic eruption. Waist-deep floods. Dengue outbreaks. Three days of darkness. And the showbiz career of Kris Aquino.

But our true badge of jadedness stems from our being witnesses to the game of political musical chairs that has been played since before we started growing pubic hair: the February 1986 EDSA revolution, the July 1986 Arturo Tolentino takeover of Manila Hotel (which set the gears turning in the mind of a fifteen-year-old Tony Trillanes who told himself ‘I wanna take over a hotel someday. Maybe even two.’), the August 1987 Honasan-fueled insurrection, the bloody December 1989 return of the comeback, the January 2001 EDSA II revolution, the May 2001 EDSA III revolution (some sequels just don’t live up to the originals), the July 2003 Oakwood mutiny, the February 2006 State of Emergency, and now the November 2007 Manila Pen mutiny. We’ve had more false alarms than a woman with an irregular menstrual cycle.

And you know what? My That’s Entertainment brethren and I were probably not the only who has grown jaded. All this political grandstanding generated was a news blip in CNN, a slight hiccup in the stock market, and an aborted wedding reception in the Manila Peninsula. Fact is, the incident is what the stock market would probably write off as an idiosyncratic risk. Idiot-syncratic risk indeed.

Sigh. These are the type of incidents that make you want to forget a while about your yaya, your three female readers and your neighborhood DOMs. When another ‘concerned’ political group plays chess with our lives, all you can think about is ‘I’ve been paying my taxes even if I’m not too sure where it went, I’ve voted in the last several elections even when I wasn’t sure if my vote was counted, and I am regularly extorted by the MMDA even when I didn’t swerve lanes, what more do they expect me to do?’ ‘Join me in my attempt to overthrow the government and establish a caretaker president!’ they cry. ‘Sige, no problem bro.’ I answer. ‘Basta you sign off on my paycheck at the end of the day, ha?’

Despite our lukewarm reception towards the Manila Pen occupation, I think that there are still some very important lessons that we can learn about this siege mutiny stand-off, coup, pissing contest, stage production number, repeat performance, game show. And please take note that many of these lessons spring forth as a result of this administration’s tenacity to cling on to power like a tapeworm to our intestines.

Lesson number 1: The media should never cover an event where they can get hurt. Or else the government will be the ones to hurt them. Next time around, the government should not merely pump our journalists full of tear gas, have them crawl out through broken glass, bind their hands with plastic cable ties, herd them into a bus and arrest, este, detain, este, process, este, question them in their exquisite Camp Crame interrogation rooms, they should also have them hogtied, tarred and feathered, branded, inoculated, brazilian waxed and pierced with tracking devices on their private parts. That should teach the media to cover news-worthy events. Next time around, the media should even avoid covering Senate investigations because I hear some of these senators might go ballistic. And, for reasons of personal health, they should also abstain from covering the President’s ribbon-cutting ceremonies where she rattles off a list of this administration’s achievements over two hours, unless they want to keel over from boredom.

Lesson number 2: For the administration, there is no such thing as overkill. Forget Sen. Trillanes. Forget Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim. Forget the other Magdalo soldiers. We need someone to take down ex-Vice Pres. Teofisto Guingona! And why do we need to negotiate with the mutineers when we can send off a volley of shots at Manila Peninsula that will sow panic among women, little children and yayas who live in the nearby apartments? And why do we need to send heavily armed and well-trained troops into the hotel when an Armored Personnel Carrier can do the job just as well? After all, nothing sends home a message of how serious this government is about mutiny like a tank squatting in the five-star hotel lobby. But why stop there? The next time someone jaywalks on the highway, he should be strung up by one of those mesh wire barriers that colorum buses indiscriminately bump into along EDSA. The next time somebody misses his aim in an MMDA urinal, he should be electrocuted in his privates until he learns how to improve his aim. The next time somebody says an untoward word against the First Gentleman, we will ask the First Gentleman to sit on him.

Remember also that if things go from bad to overkill, the government is more than willing to bring back martial law, este, a state of emergency, este, a curfew, a curfew! So forget about your midnight gimmicks! Forget about satisfying your late night munchies! Forget about visiting your favorite girlie bars! You’re going to party like its 1972. And what’s next after the curfew? A government mandated return to sideburns and flare pants with plaid prints!? The horror.

Lesson number 3: Sen. Trillanes will never be able to check into a five-star hotel. Ever. Again. Whenever the Senator comes within proximity of the Makati area, the general managers of most hotels lose bladder control. However, given the length of time that both of his mutinies lasted, he is probably better off conducting his next mutiny at Victoria Court. In the meantime, while they are processing Sen. Trillanes’ Victoria Court privilege card, he is temporarily checked in at the five-star Camp Crame maximum security detention facilities. At this point, it might be rather difficult for the good Senator to check out, but it has been managed several times by Pentagon kidnap leader Faisal Marohombsar, convicted Jemaah Islamiyah Indonesian bomber Fathur Al-Ghozi and two Abu Sayyaf militants. And I hear that Victoria Court has some great crispy pata.

Lesson number 4: There is money to be made in would-be mutinies. If the Department of Tourism can cobble up a tour selling the barren wastelands of Pinatubo, then why can’t they put together a tour showcasing the country’s most memorable coup sites? And we do have several sites to choose from. And in these tours, you can have both a coup site and a hotel package at the same time! Imagine the kind of business we can generate from tourists hailing from the more mature democracies who will never come close to these types of political fiestas? What with their social security, their unemployment checks and their healthcare, what these foreigners need in their lives is a little more color, a little more uncertainty and a little more police brutality. I can hear the tour guide’s spiel in my head: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, this is the room where the late Sen. Tolentino holed himself up and declared himself the acting president because Marcos was in exile!’ or ‘This is the room where the President was supposedly hiding under her bed while rebel aircrafts strafed Malacanang Palace.’ or ‘This is the street corner where an ABS-CBN OB-van was torched and looted during the oh-so-exciting May riots.’ And after that, they can make a quick stopover Camp Crame’s maximum security facilities, visit their world-famous detainees, get an autograph and maybe even a seditious statement or two. ‘And don’t forget to come back next year,’ the tour guide reminds our guests. ‘As we plan to add more coup attempt sites on our list based on the latest military intelligence reports! The Philippines, where banana republic is not just a clothing label, but a way of life.’

I think they are already planning to put up a Trillanes conference room in the Peninsula once the General Manager recovers from his nervous breakdown.

And, finally lesson number 4: Would-be mutineers never tire of sequels. With Capt. Nicanor Faeldon still on the loose there could possibly be as many mutinous attempts as there will be Police Academy sequels. And hopefully these other attempts will be just as successful as the Police Academy sequels.

You had us at Oakwood, Senator Trillanes. We got your punchline, but excuse us if we didn’t laugh. We don’t need any more of these jokes. This administration has provided us with enough humorous material to last us up to the next Ice Age: the “Hello Garci” scandal, the multimillion peso fertilizer scandal the IMPSA bribery scandal, the “Jose Pidal” scandal, the jueteng scandal, the Northrail project scandal, the Venable contract scandal, the NBN-ZTE scandal, the bribery at Malacanang scandal, the extrajudicial killings scandal – there are more scandals in this administration than there are in a bootleg sex video DVD.

Sometimes all we nine-to-five slaves to our office cubicles can really do about this larger-than-life chess match is simply to make light of things. And how can we not make light of things when we all feel like the politics in this country has touched our lives like a pedophile? How can we not make light of things when we all feel like we’re trapped in a poorly-written sitcom that starring bad actors with poor makeup in a show that is in a perpetual state of re-runs?

Back in 2005, when the country was already laughing hard enough to have an aneurysm, Tita Cory kindly asked the President to humor us all and step down from that pedestal that we weren’t really sure she should be standing on in the first place. But no, the President insisted, I still got a few more chuckles left inside me. And, yes she absolutely did keep us laughing so hard that we’ve choked on our spittle.

‘Don’t worry,’ she winks, ‘I’ve got only got three more years to go’ she promises us with the same intensity of conviction that she displayed when she first declared that she would no longer run for president. ‘Only three more years left,’ we shiver. ‘Only three more years,’ we pray. Three more years, dear Lord. Nothing more please because I don’t think we have any laugh left in us. And if it any less, please spare us from any more monstrous traffic jams, unpaid hotel bills and armored personnel carriers in our front yards. But in the meantime, all we can do is roll our eyes, plop our head against the steering wheel, then pray that the next traffic jam is because of two giant robots battling it out for the fate of the universe in the middle of Ayala Avenue.

“The beautiful thing about our culture is that we can always find ways to laugh things off.”
– Sen. Domingo Avila, The Dogeaters

About the author

Jayvee Fernandez

Jayvee Fernandez is a tech enthusiast, EAN certified SCUBA Diver and underwater photographer based in Metro Manila, Philippines. His photos and videos have appeared in various international and local publications including Random House Germany, Discovery Channel Canada, and CNN.

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