Bonifacio

I admit to not knowing a lot about Andrés Bonifacio. With José Rizal as the de facto official national hero, it seems he’s always only second place, an alternative subject, for the masterpieces of our popular culture. I’m recalling Marilou Diaz-Abaya’s 1998 Rizal biopic here; thanks to that film, I grew up with an elegant idea of who Rizal was. Bonifacio’s legacy does not have that luxury.

If anyone’s so inclined as to try to piece together a cohesive idea of Bonifacio’s life through cultural products, she will have to do so using wildly contradicting sources. From what I heard, the Cinemalayà 2010 entry Ang Paglilitis ni Andrés Bonifacio by Mario O’Hara was a respectable, and respectful, portrayal of the hero’s life, although it focused on a specific era of his life. The problem was that, being an independently-produced movie, it was inaccessible. I didn’t see it myself and neither did most other Filipinos. On the other hand, the 2012 Metro Manila Film Festival entry El Presidente had Bonifacio as a supporting character, and in an atrocious wielding of artistic license as could only happen in Philippine mainstream media, they turned the hero into an arrogant antagonist to the titular character. This understandably angered not a few concerned citizens, especially because, being an MMFF entry, many unconcerned citizens saw the movie and probably now think of the great Katipunero as an arrogant hothead.

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A different engagement

On a Friday earlier this month I attended a protest rally. It was held at the heart of Makati, the country’s business capital. It was highly publicized by its organizers, and they put up quite a scene—stage, sound system, and all. The media, anticipating a momentous event, swarmed the intersection of Ayala Avenue and Paseo de Roxas. They called it the Million People March, part 2, because it was born out of the success of a similarly-motivated demonstration in Luneta. But when I arrived at Ayala corner Paseo de Roxas, I saw a crowd that could barely fill the Ped Xing-lined box on the intersection. The TV cameras started rolling, but the media, people simply doing their jobs, comprised what looked like half of the crowd present. It was barely a Thousand People March.

I admit, I myself shouldn’t be counted as a participant in that event. I didn’t participate, I was merely present. I went there, no, passed by there out of curiosity, and out of a sense that I had nothing better to do. I have met a lot of people who have witnessed Martial Law with their own eyes, even people who suffered Martial Law with their own bodies, having been imprisoned or worse for their opinions. Me, a free student who found himself in Makati with a lot of time in his hands, can do only so many things as worthwhile as participating in such a social-political movement, right?

Right?

I think it’s not really about the very issue that the people are rallying against. It’s about how they, and we, engage with issues.

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Another look at traffic

I live in one of the northern cities of the National Capital Region. For a month last summer, I commuted every day to a commercial center in Muntinlupa right at the south corner of the capital region, and it was a 20-km or so affair, one-way. 20 kilometers is not a lot, but for Metro Manila, no distance is ever short enough to be a comfortable, predictable ride. The biggest problem was that I initially trusted EDSA to be a reliable enough route for getting to my destination. I endured the resulting three-hour ride for several days, until I was driven by exasperation to take the MRT, which I’ve always known to be a hellish place to be in during rush hour. And it was, but it is a tolerable kind of hell in the morning, as I found out. It is the evening ride home that is always torturous.

There was one part of that daily grind that I came to appreciate, however. To get from EDSA to Muntinlupa, and vice versa, I took a bus that plied the Skyway. Skyway is an interesting indicator of the state of Philippine traffic: when the highway more popularly known as South Luzon Expressway reached its capacity and traffic jams started bogging down the route, they built a second road supported directly above the old pathway. (It’s a ‘grade separated’ system, as the civil engineers call it.) But to enjoy the higher speed limit and protection from jams afforded by Skyway, you’ll have to pay more than the already steep toll fee of the lower road.

It’s not the prospect of a Speed-type scenario of buses jumping across (or falling from) raised highways that I appreciated while cruising on the expressway, however. It was the inexplicable, shallow joy of watching the city pass by at 60 kilometers per hour from a bus window. The specific vistas offered by the Skyway include an international airport’s runway, a fish cage-saturated lake with a decommissioned coal power plant on its equally-congested shores, and an endless urban sprawl featuring malls, condominiums, and townhouses, some in construction and some starting to show signs of desolation. It’s not exactly a beautiful sight, because a concrete jungle has no intrinsic aesthetic value. It was probably just the diffusion of warm and cool colors falling upon the scenery—more often than not, it was sunset when I passed the road on my way back home.

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Light traffic and other wonderful things

A few days ago I had the delightful experience of being in Cubao, the metro’s Bus Terminal District, just when the annual Holy Week exodus to the provinces was starting. I was stuck in traffic for nearly an hour, and during that time the bus I was riding was able to cover a grand total distance of about 50 meters. That corresponded to one corner of a mall (featuring McDonald’s) to the next (featuring Jollibee). The view was fantastic. I later found out that the cause of the negligible, forgivable delay was not some terrible road accident as I initially thought, but simply the mass of people swarming the bus terminals lining the Cubao portion of EDSA.

It was already late in the evening, but being the nocturnal person I am, I was wide awake the whole time the bus was speeding from McDo to Jollibee. I enjoyed seeing my fellow passengers in various stages of consciousness: from wide-eyed to sleepy-eyed to nodding off and to asleep and snoring (or so I imagined). My sight-seeing was interrupted at one point when I sensed that everyone in the bus was peering and chuckling at the bus to our left. A gap had developed in the lane, because the driver had fallen asleep while the vehicles in front had moved on. It didn’t take long for someone in that bus to bother waking him up. I thought about what could’ve happened if, upon falling asleep, the driver stepped down on the gas pedal. I guess professional drivers don’t do that.

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On EDSA

I cannot claim personal significance on the EDSA People Power Revolution, which took place nearly six years before I was born. My parents could’ve joined the protests during those fateful days in February 1986, but they didn’t; my mother was explicitly ordered by my grandfather to stay home for her own safety. Interestingly, my grandfather was actually a police officer working in Quezon City then. As to why I haven’t heard of any story yet about what he did in those days, I just assume that there really is none—that he simply stayed out of trouble, which would be in theme with all the other stories my mother has told me about him.

That’s no reason for me to ignore history, however. No one in my extended family suffered human rights violations under Martial Law, but that either means we were lucky, or that they were just apathetic enough that they were never a concern for the offenders. I cannot blame them. I can’t tell what I would’ve done myself if I lived back then. But now, the essays, stories, and films on the subject collectively paint a picture of an era that should’ve incited more anger and more protests from everyone who had a conscience.

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