Monday, September 7, 2009


Filipinos have this thing for romance.

We love to romanticize. We love to transform everything into the simplicity of the telenovelas we watch. We are addicted to convoluted stories, the battle between good and evil ... the twists and turns that test heroes and heroines to prove their worth and eventually warrant the blessings from the gods above.

Filipinos can simplify life into a moro-moro for perhaps that makes everything tolerable. Even comprehensible. For Filipinos, there are no shades of gray ... for not even in its vocabulary can you find a word that directly points to such a color. It seems that gray areas are not within our consciousness.

Filipinos see life as black and white. Or red.

And with this love for romance, we create epic tales out of real lives ... and even out of our history. In our desire to make life more delicious than what it seems, we allow our imaginations to embellish the hardness of facts. Somewhere along the way, as we attempt to interpret everything as larger than life, even the most intolerable situations become part of a grand design, of God's plot to constitute the narrative of our race --- even the very design of our history.

I remember the lectures given by my professors in Folklore about the importance of heroes. Early literature overflows with that. Even religions are enriched by heroes now dressed up with their own theological robes and interpretations. But the bottom line is that we need them. We romance the heroes --- for the heroes, in turn, provide us with the immortal stories of romances. The kind that illustrates the battle of good and evil. The kind that keeps us alive ... and thriving. The kind that convinces us that there is always hope.

And, maybe just because of sheer luck ... or perhaps the product of centuries of endurance, of learning the value of patience... of equating suffering with the reward of eternal life ... Filipinos manage to mystify their history with a sense of God-centeredness. We glamor ourselves into thinking that the course of our daily lives is part of some Divine Plan. And everything about us ... in each and every step we make ... leads to the fulfillment of this Divine Plan that is unfolding.

For how else can we explain the events that have transpired for the past three decades in this country? How else can we deny that we are indeed a blessed people ... succeeding in booting out a dictator while filling up a major thoroughfare with the atmosphere of a mind-boggling fiesta?

The foreigners failed to completely understand that. But they were fascinated. And inspired.

History has captured in a series of images common men and women, holding rosaries and kneeling in front of tanks, the civilians protecting the military ... and the wonderful image of a Mother liberating her people from years of tyranny under a dictatorship.

That is the stuff that legends are made --- no, the kind of material that is generated by oral literature and perpetuating the grandeur of heroes at a time when blessedness seemed to have become obsolete. This is the license to create modern day myths.

Filipinos embraced that collective experience --- in the same manner that what others would have conveniently labelled as a "mob" suddenly gained reinterpretation as the power of a population. Filipinos treasured that ... and with good reason. For all that it was worth, in 1986, the romance of heroes and heroines changed the way the world saw this tiny archipelago. This seemingly insignificant set of islands situated at the gateway of the Pacific suddenly warranted the attention of the world --- for its sheer bravery, nobility ... or even daredevil attitude.

The courage of the people came from the legend it created in its collective consciousness. And even if events proved disappointing, even if the aftermath of that precise split second of euphoria seemed like downhill all the way, deep inside the faith in the Divine Plan remained unwavering.

Even if legends do not and can never guarantee happy endings, Filipinos have nurtured their heroes, forgiven them for their trespasses and loved them for their vulnerability. For this is a people who value weaknesses as part of understanding strength. Clad in its strong Catholic beliefs, the underdog earns the greatest sympathy. He or she who sacrifices, braved the most cruel of trails and struggled to achieve triumph deserved the utmost patronage and attention. From the details of the battle emerges the romance of the hero.

That is the hero who provides hope. That is the symbol who will eventually liberate the people from suffering and degradation because that is the Divine Plan. Nothing in the world can change that for in the end, the Divine Plan is far greater --- far stronger than the will of men or even the power of governments.

Such is the beautiful panacea Filipinos yearn to embrace. Such is the way Filipinos like to think of their history --- not as a series of manipulations and betrayals, not as a recurring pattern of the intelligentsia claiming to have all the solutions but never really knowing the real problems. Not as a motif of the treason of those entrusted with the brains, the wealth and the power going against the needs of the larger good but only serving their own social class and believing that this is the only way to preserve a semblance of governance.

And so here we go again.

Here we are creating legends, designing myths as we reach crossroads where battles between Good and Evil are at hand. In a culture that knows not how to discern gray, the fine lines dividing black and white have also been so blurred as they have been so corrupted. Here we are creating heroes if only to fill the void ... that nagging, aching and even humiliating emptiness in the pantheon of the admired and the admirable. We feel proud as much as we regret that the very few who have won our hearts and assured us that nobility does and can still exist have ceased to walk among us and only provide us now with that all too ambiguous term called inspiration.

But we need more than heroes who inspire. We need heroes who can think ... and from whose thoughts shall come motivation. And that is where the problem lies.

Gone are the greatness in the available men ... that we have resorted to the least common denominator to fill the gap. In so many ways, we have compromised our standards because we crave for heroes ... we demand greatness while in the process ... we have failed in our definitions of what can still be considered great.
Today, Filipinos claim to have made yet another important step marked in history. We have allowed our romantic notions ... our delusions to provide a sense of hope and even a semblance of direction. While others are jubilant, there are those who are doubtful. And those who doubt are branded as cynics --- simply because they cannot ride on the wings of romance and fairy tale endings, of the happily-ever-after syndrome the people aspire to reach ...but would not really sacrifice to obtain.
A new messiah is born because we have not learned our lessons from the past --- that the battle between good and evil was never and can never be one straight and narrow path. There is fear in further disappointments --- but there are those, like me, who refuse to be surprised.
So let the romance live. Let us be entertained by the fabrics we cut as truth ... and the illusions we think are moral lessons.

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