Like most Filipinos, I am counting down the hours to the much-vaunted Mayweather-Pacquiao fight. As far as I’m concerned, Manny has already won. Still, the waiting is not easy. It never is.
Not too many days ago, the nation waited with racking dread for Mary Jane Veloso to be shot. Most of us had never heard of her until last weekend, when the 72-hour notice of execution was announced; yet we urgently interceded for her like she was family. When the second petition for review and, subsequently, PNoy’s appeal to President Widodo were rejected, the media reported developments to our bewildered populace with uncharacteristic sobriety, like a doctor breaking bad news to the next of kin. Despite this, there was room for hope with the Divine, and many whose hearts were torn for the nearly-dead Mary Jane implored the Lord for a miracle. We were rewarded by that incredible last-minute reprieve, God’s clear response to His praying people.
We Filipinos are coalesced by crisis. Regardless of the issues that rend us, when a compatriot is unjustly imperiled, we rally to our kababayan’s defense without reservation. We do not always prevail but when we do, success is an exquisite sensation.
Sadly, it is fleeting. This is the irony: if crisis coalesces us, victory often sunders us. And so it was that a day after the miracle, Filipinos fell back into their factions almost like an allergic response to cohesion. A mere two days after her daughter’s miraculous escape from execution – for which she thanked God, all supporters, the Philippine government, and its leaders – Mary Jane’s mother Celia returned home seething at the government. In a surprising volte-face, Mrs. Veloso charged PNoy and the Department of Foreign Affairs for their several (unidentified) misdeeds against the Veloso family, openly threatening reprisal. The rest of us are left wondering, why the sudden fury? Can’t we even have a moment to celebrate together?
As one of those who stayed up praying, grieving, waiting, and eventually rejoicing in the wee hours of Wednesday, I feel chagrined and even somewhat betrayed by Mrs. Veloso’s reactions. For a glorious moment, we were one and overcame dire adversity as a nation. Could the benevolent spirit that melded us not have dwelt among us longer? Was it necessary to instantly dispel it with turfing, innuendo, and militant wrath?
Surely, it is possible to boldly confront the issues that divide us with decency and a hearty respect for each other. Yes, even those we consider ideological opponents must share a common aspiration for justice. If not, they can certainly apprehend it, especially in this democratic milieu. When the Marcos Dictatorship gagged and shackled us, we were compelled to kick and bellow for emancipation. But today we are at liberty to behave with less animus and more civility. Shouting is not the only means of communication. While we should intensely guard our freedoms and rights, we must work with equal fervor to elevate our social consciousness so that, as the ultimate manifestation of our evolution, we will treat each other better.
Many Filipinos hope for a leader who will bring the nation to that pass. Is there anyone currently in the field or even visible in the distance who can take us up and forward? Our recent leaders have been fixated on economic gains, but these are not enough; the next leaders must reintroduce the ideals of our forefathers to their political agendas and restore nobility of mind and spirit to our national psyche. This is the stuff which occupies our dreams. Will they be realized in 2016?
That remains to be seen. Meanwhile, let us watch Manny Pacquiao win and jubilate together. This will help us forget our troubles while we wait.