Ninoy for our times

One of the things I have learned while working at a multinational company is that the Philippines have so many holidays compared to other countries. Aside from the regular holidays, such as New Year’s Day and Christmas, the national government has made it a tradition to declare special non-working holidays for all kinds of events. Some of these have been declared as such for so many years already that many people, myself included, confuse them for regular holidays. For example, All Saints’ Day.

But other holidays appear whimsical, almost as if the government is only too happy to save Filipinos from working: count in this category the additional non-working days adjacent to the regular holidays, such as January 2 and December 26. And then there are the many local government holidays. This year, three holidays have been declared for Metro Manila on the occasion of the Pope’s visit. Two more days in November will be observed as non-working holidays for an APEC meeting (seen by many as a drastic solution to ease traffic in the metropolis while the world leaders meet).

Most tragic, however, is the realization that the original intention of these special days—to commemorate special events in the nation’s life—are lost on many Filipinos. Some of those who do remember the significance are overcome with cynicism. “Wala namang nangyayari,” they would say, drawing from the spirit of hopelessness that possesses so many Filipino citizens. For others, especially many of the youth, the holidays are just another opportunity to ‘enjoy life’. Better is the holiday that creates a long weekend than the one that does not, because it allows us to spend longer trips to the beach, or abroad.

It is imperative though, for idealistic but heartfelt reasons, that we restore the honor of our holidays by properly reflecting on their stories. We can start with today’s holiday: Ninoy Aquino Day.

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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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