Politics and hearts of stone

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Will China kill the goose that lays golden eggs? Somehow the old fable, or legend, comes to mind after news kept surfacing about the resentments of old Hongkong residents against regulations imposed by China, such as the National Security Law, that evoked such reactions among the Hongkongers who had been used to the more liberal relationship they had when still with the United Kingdom. Will this result in an exodus from Hongkong, or will residents now just bow their heads and accept the new dictum from what is now their new master?

Will China kill the goose that lays golden eggs? Somehow the old fable, or legend, comes to mind after news kept surfacing about the resentments of old Hongkong residents against regulations imposed by China, such as the National Security Law, that evoked such reactions among the Hongkongers who had been used to the more liberal relationship they had when still with the United Kingdom. Will this result in an exodus from Hongkong, or will residents now just bow their heads and accept the new dictum from what is now their new master?

***

Everytime I hear or read news about the Hongkong-China situation, I never fail to thank God for all our blessings in our situation. We could have been another Hongkong, had it not been the United States that had acquired us. While it is true that the U.S. held us under its wing for years, it set us free, knowing how our people were longing to be free. It promised us independence and kept its word. And, to our regret – for some time, that is – we almost fulfilled the wish of our first President who declared “I would rather have a Philippines run like hell by Filipinos, than one run like heaven by the Americans!”

***

For several decades after that pronouncement and its occurrence, many Filipinos, indeed, felt as if we were being run like hell. Several administrations took place and people were never very happy about what was happening in our country. Graft and corruption seemed to be the order of the day, until a group of patriotic and inspired young men, chafing for a government they could rely on to build a future for their beloved country, found a man they believed could be the answer to their prayers.

***

I am sorry I can no longer remember how it all happened, I guess I was still a kid then, without any knowledge or interest in politics. But from history books and references to the leaders then who brought the change in Philippine governance, it seems that the idealistic young Pinoys, themselves scholars and of good families, chanced upon this young man who looked like a toughie but known for his down-to-earth principles and honesty, pleaded with him to run for president and supported him with all their resources and capacities.

***

The young Filipinos, among them the brilliant Raul Manglapus, planned and waged the campaign that captured the minds and hearts of Filipino voters, using every device and means to promote the man, Ramon Magsaysay, a reluctant candidate who was never involved in politics before. The inspired young campaigners went all over the country, luring the people with recall devices such as ditties, that made Magsaysay’s name a byword. The incumbent whose men were no match to the inspired and determined group backing “Monching” Magsaysay was probably only wringing his fingers, and scolding his campaigners in Malacañang!

***

To this day, I can still remember the ditties that became “hits” all over the country. And one went: “Everywhere that you would look/ Was a bandit or a crook/ Peace and order was a joke/ Till Magsaysay pumasok!/ That is why, that is why/ You will hear the people cry/ Our democracy will die/ Kung wala si Magsaysay”. Even my then baby brother, Andres (Andy or Nihan to his friends and family) could warble it even if he had a lisp and could not pronounce the letters L and R!

***

I forgot to mention that Magsaysay was a mechanic and it was from his shop that the idealistic Pinoys pleaded with him and convinced him to run for president! Maybe he committed a few faux pases while in Malacañang but who cared? He was a true “President of the people” because he did not merely stay perched on his chair in Malacañang, he went out to where the problem was, and acted on them immediately. Who said only lawyers and managers can make good leaders?

***

So much for the reminisces and reminders of history. At least, for once, we are not focusing on the pandemic that is said to be entering its second wave in some countries. Over here, concern is growing over the shutdown of the popular network ABS-CBN that has deprived so many, not only of entertainment but also of reports and advices on what to do during this time of crisis. What was it that a congressman quipped about that case? He said the case is only a life sentence, not death. I guess it is true that being in politics can make a man stonehearted.*

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