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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Spanish poet-dramatist Garcia Lorca’s immortal passage seems tailor-made for our topsy-turvy times to quote---as antidote to despair. FVR, now critical of his protégé Digong Duterte, should form a group respected by the latter, which could be his badly-needed sounding board for his volatile ideas and unprocessed sound-bytes.








Two years ago this time, I was having a marvelous time in Spain after I won free business-class round-trip tickets at a bazaar event, courtesy of Qatar Airways, and Facebook today reminded me of my post that time from Madrid.

I had posted a beautiful passage from the great Spanish poet and dramatist, Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936), which was scribbled on the wall of the stairway of a little pension in the Spanish capital, which I read as my son Conrad, daughter-in-law Myra and I huffed and puffed as we carried our luggage up to the third floor (no elevator, as with most European pensions).

Lorca had written: “Cuando la vida te presente razones para llorar, demuestrale que tienes mil y uno razones para reir” (trans: When life presents you reasons to cry, demonstrate to it that you have a thousand and one reasons to laugh). Can I add, to live and to love?

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|Federico Garcia Lorca’s passage sat well with my FB readers, as attested by Fr. Chito Dimaranan, preacher and mentor of many writers, who commented as follows: “ I ripped this (passage) shamelessly from Belinda Olivares-Cunanan's wall (Muchas gracias!)."  Fr. Dimaranan then translated Lorca’s passage “roughly” into Filipino thus: "Sa pagkakataong ang buhay ay nagbibigay ng sanlaksang dahilan sa iyo para tumangis, ipamukha mo sa kanyang mayroon ka ring isang libo at isang dahilan upang hamalakhak at magalak.”

Fr. Dimaranan then dedicated those lines “to all those who have lost count of reasons for them to cry, but continue to find reasons to laugh, love, and live!”

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Federico Garcia Lorca’s lines seem tailor-made for us to quote (muchas gracias, Fr. Chito Dimaranan, for the reminder) in these times when our world as Filipinos appears so topsy-turvy and we don’t know whether to laugh or cry or do both at what’s happening in our terribly shattered political world.

This afternoon, I was at the doctor’s office in St. Luke’s Hospital Global, when a guy walked in and asked the two receptionists, “Did you watch today’s hearings at the House of Representatives?” He was talking about the witnessing by Jaybee Sebastian, convicted drug lord-inmate at the National Bureau of Prisons, vs. former Justice Secretary and now Sen. Leila de Lima and her alleged intimacies with one  of the inmates, even as she allegedly was receiving generous amounts of LP campaign funds from drug lords. “What a country!” exclaimed this fellow, a mix of incredulity and despair ill-disguised in his voice.  

Indeed, what a country, and in the darkness we’re going through with all the exposes about the drug world and corruption in high places, there ought to be conscious effort to present a thousand and one reasons to laugh, love and live, as Federico Garcia Lorca had recommended. Such effort has to be heroic for even as it’s tough to appreciate what our nation is going through, WE CANNOT GIVE IN TO DESPAIR. 

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Former President Fidel Ramos is one of those Filipinos who appear to be having a rough time reconciling themselves with the mouthful of excesses verbalized by President Duterte vs. prominent international personages and institutions---a predilection that’s now being attacked in various media outlets around the world. The worst attack so far has come from the French “Liberation” newspaper, which bannered the Philippine President as “a serial killer” and hit his attacks vs. President Obama, Pope Francis and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon, among others.

In his column in a local broadsheet, FVR didn’t bother to hide his disappointment over the guy he had handpicked and encouraged to run for President, asserting that “we find our Team Philippines losing in the first 100 days of Du30”s administration---and losing badly.”  FVR lamented that Mr. Duterte got stuck in “unending controversies about extrajudicial killings of drug suspects” and his predilection “to resort to cuss-words and insults instead of civilized language.”

President Ramos must feel worse than most of us, as he had a direct hand in convincing the longtime Davao mayor to run for president last May. Moreover, in his long public life, FVR many times was on the verge of losing his temper, but somehow he always managed to just grit his teeth instead of exploding openly. Steady Eddie, they termed him---always measured in his speech. Which is probably why he's shocked at his protege's language.

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There is indeed such a dichotomy between the way supporters of Duterte (who, by and large, is said to still enjoy a net satisfaction rating of +64%, which the Palace is cheering) continue to regard their guy with a great degree of idolatry I've not seen in my long years of covering politics, vs. the way much of the world by now view him with ill-concealed disgust. This is because both sides come from opposite ends of the human spectrum.

The Dutertards are happy that for the first time there’s a leader who has the guts to tackle head-on the problem of drugs which has affected some 90 % of our barangays, so that now they feel safer in the streets.

One evening, after attending a function at Tesoro’s Handicrafts in Makati, I couldn’t communicate to my driver who had parked somewhere---and probably fell asleep with a silent cellphone.  No one at home could come and pick me up---and all the other guests had gone. In my desperation I had to get into a taxi at nearly 10 pm. Mercifully the cabbie turned out to be an ex-Navy guy who was familiar with my late brother-in-law, former Navy Chief Admiral Carlito Cunanan. We chatted all the way to my place and he asserted that cabbies like him now feel a lot safer than before, when durugistas would just poke a pocket-knife in their side to demand money.

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Problem is that abroad, especially in the more politically-developed countries, certain standards such as human rights are carved in stone, and the fact that over 3,000 people have been killed in the Duterte administration’s ferocious anti-drug war in his first 100 days, and his line about Hitler have spawned the perception of “serial killing.” One can imagine how accusation of his being a "psychopath," as Agot Isidro had the guts to assert, has gone viral around the world. As the head of the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, Guenter Taus, put it, investors are asking if the anti-drug war "REDUCES THE RULE OF LAW" (emphasis BOC's).

Several things could be done to avert more catastrophe. FVR should get a group that President Digong respects, but who could tell him a thing or two about  how he can’t afford to further lose the respect of the world---as it’s going to gravely affect even our economic well-being.  This group could be Mr. Duterte's regular---and imperative---sounding board.

Then too, the Duterte fanatics should stop being too fanatic and get down to reality---and also tell him a thing or two, if they love their country. They should tell Mr. Duterte to, as Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla put it, 'LISTEN, LISTEN, LISTEN."

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