Wednesday, February 19, 2014

St. Valentine’s Martyrdom And The Filipino People

By Edwin A. Sumcad, PAR Columnist

     Saint Valentine of Rome -- real name Valentinus -- suffered a lot of persecutions under the corruption of the then rising and later dying Roman Empire.

    Valentinus was an extraordinary human being.  He was full of love, so to speak, so that to the Roman Empire, his only fatal mistake in life was his love in performing marriages to couples in love who were in the military, which in Rome was then a criminal offense punishable by death.

     And because of what he was doing, this saintly person was persecuted by the Roman authorities under Emperor Claudius II, arrested, imprisoned and finally executed on February 14, 269 AD. 

    From then on, the Christian world observes Valentine’s Day on February 14 to commemorate Valentinus’ death. The Romans reasoned out to the spying authorities that the purpose in celebrating this event was not subversive but only to “‘Christianize’ the pagan celebration of Lupercalia . . . a fertility festival dedicated to Faunus, the Roman god of agriculture”. [1]

    The idea of love and fertility is symbolic of procreation from the union of man and woman in love that produces and nurtures life on earth; in Literature, its appeal was a legendary epic of enormous proportion.  Novelists and fiction writers are attracted to it, but to my spouse and I who are both journalists and novelette-short story writers of the roaring 70s and early 80s, it is too fabled and mythological at least for me to write about as my idea of a bestseller.

    My better-half Esperanza Lazatin-Sumcad -- whose published short stories have been nominated for Palanca Awards -- had her own different interpretation of Valentine’s Day. But to me the reason for this universal February 14 Cupid celebration, especially among the love-struck young at heart is that if you read the life of Valentinus, what his martyrdom represents is a popular irony of our human feelings of love and hate -- of pure and eternal love that binds two people together, a bond that becomes larger than life itself, and of hate that swears and kills life either in the physical sense or in terms of affectionate relationship of a couple that simply fades away like an early morning mist when the rising sun caught up with it.

    It was because of love that Valentinus is remembered and celebrated to this day, while as if it was only yesterday that also because of love, he was hated by the rulers of a corrupt society, condemned and sentenced to death.

    Like the amorous and affectionate Valentinus, the Filipinos are generally known to be a loving people. They are light-hearted people, always grinning with warm friendship and affection when they talk to strangers. They are such a happy and apologetic smiling people that they stand out in comparison to their Asian neighbors if not the rest of the world. They smile even if their foot is caught in the doorway when someone slams the door to close it either accidentally or intentionally.

    You don’t have to apologize If you happen to be that somebody who slammed the door close, because maybe you were pissed off and want to hurt someone or maybe you were just drunk after a round of Budweiser or San Miguel beer . . . but for whatever reason would that be which made you act like a rascal, it wouldn’t matter anyway. The Filipino in pain because of what you did will say, excuse me sir … sorry sir, my foot was on the way when you closed the door . . . it will never happen again, sir, I promise . . .

     Don’t be surprise.  Generally, that’s how the ordinary Filipino personality distinguishes itself from the rest of the world, that is if a paragon of humility is what you are looking for from a friend you want to keep the rest of your life.

    You may also encounter the opposite of this personality trait in a Filipino relationship particularly in the affairs of the heart, especially if you are a woman of marriageable age.

     You might have probably read in some exotic [not necessarily erotic] magazines, newspapers, tabloids, and all sorts of published literatures about the exploits of dashing, handsome young Filipino men who were written the world over as the “Rudolph Valentinos” of the Far East or the daring “Buccaneers” of the Orient Seas women couldn’t resist of being pirated to become their wife, otherwise those Filipino Romeos are simply known as the swashbuckling Latin Lovers of Asia.

    But again in general, like Valentinus of Rome, Filipinos are always known to be a loving people. 

     The only difference is, hiding behind that endearing smile of Filipinos you met is their own martyrdom under the exploitative regimes of venalities and corruption they have to live with every day in their homeland.  That misery continues to this day under the regime of President Benigno Aquino III -- “Noynoy” for short -- who critics believe rules the country as bad as Emperor Claudius II ruled Rome in 269 AD.

    I will tell you why critics might have thought that Noynoy is the reincarnation of Claudius Gothicus, Roman Emperor [Claudius II, 268-270 AD] who gave St. Valentine a hard time like what Noynoy is doing to Filipinos in the Philippines today.

    When Noynoy delivered his latest State of the Nation Address [SONA ] in July 2013, he was singing a different song while the Filipino people – still smiling -- are suffering in abject poverty as a result of widespread corruption, exactly like Nero who was singing and playing the harp while Rome was burning.

     In his SONA, Noynoy mesmerized the suffering Filipino people with his grandiose plans and litany of promises to free them from POVERTY, and deceptively hypnotized the innocent and the ignorant of his audience with his fighting words to once and for all stop CORRUPTION under his much publicized “Daang Matuwid” [Straight Path] policy – a good stage material for telling jokes when contestants vie for the Season’s Grand Trophy for The Last Comic Standing, one of NBC TV’s popular shows.


Unemployment and the Bubble of Noynoy’s

success story in reducing poverty in the Philippines


    Noynoy’s Administration is too upbeat if not too pathetically myopic of Philippine reality. Under his so-called Public-Private Partnership Projects, he cited reduction of unemployment in a supposedly robust economy.  But under the result of the Social Weather Stations [SWS] survey, what is shown is far from what is real – it was totally different from what Noynoy was talking about. 

     On the contrary, there is a horrendous job scarcity under the Noynoy Administration.  “In Aquino’s first three years in power, the number of workers who said that they were jobless increased by 2.6 million…” based on SWS polls. [2]

      Poverty is getting worse, SWS says, contrary to Noynoy’s claim that the country’s poverty rate is going down.  When Noynoy started his rule in the middle of 2010, 45.5% of the population was poor; it climbed to 49.3% in 2011, and continued to rise to 51.0% the following year.

      SWA said: “There are now around 10.3 million families who consider themselves poor, up from 9.9 million in 2011 and 8.9 million two years ago.

    “ Thus, in the first half of Aquino’s term, the number of poor families ballooned by 1.4 million. . . SWS survey report continues.

     The Philippine National Statistical Coordination Board reported that “the income gap between the rich and the poor was wider in the Philippines than in Indonesia and Thailand, indicating serious inequality in the distribution of the country’s economic gains” that Noynoy was crowing about. [3]

     Obviously, the economic gains that Noynoy announced in his SONA are only planned and designed for the rich. I do not doubt that Noynoy is aware of this flaw in his economic planning.

     But the bigger problem to think about is that if this blunder is not accidental, then it is intentional. The Filipino people, especially the poor, are unaware of what stabs them at the back. They feel the wound, and gee, how that hurts.


      Corruption is a dynastical legacy of Noynoy he cannot afford to get rid of, sad to say …


     Noynoy will speak of corruption as the number one enemy of the people anytime anywhere, especially when provoked by his political enemies branding him as a corrupt president.  I am not a thief,” Noynoy fumed mad in a rare TV prime time appearance, showing his rage when the pork barrel thieves publicly announced that he was one of them.

     In his public bravado to fight corruption, actually the truth is, he should first get rid of himself as the head of Political Dynasties that rob the people blind before he could stop corruption.  Is he prepared to do that? No, I don’t give a second thought that he is.

     Maybe this is possible in Japan where a disgraced political leader would perform hara-kiri, in the tradition of the honorable Samurai to cleanse the soul before entering the Gate of Heaven. I guess not in the Philippines whose political culture values life more than honor. Of course here I am not referring to Filipinos whose admirable cultural values are known to be impeccably strong and morally upright that the world envies because these are worthy of emulation not only locally but also globally.

     But rather I am referring to those morally mutated Philippine politicians engaged in the massive thievery of public fund as a way of life; politicians who are “trapos” or “maduming trapos” [rags or dirty rags] who were born to families of Political Dynasties in the past and present that rule the country not only for a decade or so but for centuries.

      Faced with this grim reality, the people are bedeviled to know why Noynoy cannot and will not get rid of corruption.  

    For example, the public noticed that in Noynoy’s SONA, nothing was mentioned about the multibillion-peso pork barrel “political heist” that scandalized the nation which a president who is not himself corrupt or a part of of the “robbery” is expected to address in his SONA.  This oblique omission mortified Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago who twitted Noynoy’s SONA as no better than a college student’s school paper that did not make the grade.

    Malacanang’s lame excuse was that the SONA shouldn’t include lengthy details, and that Noynoy has only a limited time to dwell on such important subject as the pork barrel corruption that black-eyed the nation in the eyes of the world.  Not even about in an hour long of Noynoy’s blah-blah in front of the TV cameras that the pork barrel scandal which shocked not only the nation but the world, had a chance of getting included.

    In other words, to get rid of corruption is like killing the Political Dynasties that Noynoy heads.  Noynoy knows this, and he cannot and will not do it although he would swear in public that he will, but actually in the back of his mind he will not. Like the imprisoned Valentinus of Rome, the Filipino people have no way out. Corruption will stay as part of their life.

     The lesson to learn in Valentine’s Day when we remember Valentinus’ fate in the hand of the Emperor is that this martyr did not change -- he continued to do what he loved to do knowing that it would lead to his execution. He persisted to be just a loving person that he was. For him, there was no way out.

      Similarly, the Filipino people continue to elect Political Dynasties to power in every presidential election cycle, giving a terrible president they elect like Noynoy a good reason to poke their nose and kick their butt.  With a bloodied nose and a hematoma in their swelling behind where the boot landed, the Filipinos are still smiling and apologetic even though the door had slammed on their face and a foot was caught in between causing such excruciating pain.

     Under this situation where Valentinus once was, there was no way out.

     In this dilemma, the only solution I see is the people or Noynoy has to change. If there is no change, the elimination of one of the parties or both in a head-on collision is inevitable.

     Against the world, Rome didn’t change, until the end of it. Against Rome Valentinus didn’t change either up to his execution. The confrontation went on to its final conclusion.  The result was, against the world, the terror that was once the mighty Roman Empire disappeared; against Rome, the brave and resilient Valentinus gets eliminated.

     In the Philippines, corruption prevails, and in politics the law of the jungle is the law of the land. Since there is no change, the end that I am talking about could be the end of Noynoy and the Political Dynasties he leads or the demise of the people in a bloody EDSA III revolution reminiscent of the Fall of Bastille in France in 1789. We could say that in every rule, there is always an exception.

     I think it is just a matter of a little more time for this end to come. For all we know it is already there. But just the same, how would this problem end is nobody’s concern at the moment.

    There is too much love around the corner and this feeling I have in Valentine’s Day is magical. I could hear the bell ringing with joy . . . much too much affection and sensation that when it touches you it is electrical.

     What I am trying to say is, if the end is just a matter of time, I couldn’t hear the clock ticking.   


 © Copyright Edwin A. Sumcad. Access PAR February 10, 2014.



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