Malakas at Maganda

Buencamino does foreign affairs analysis for Action for Economic Reforms. This article was published in newspaper Today, 21 December 2004 edition, p. 11.

CLASS is what I call this paper’s editorial describing Susan Roces as “quick, brilliant, sharp.”  Susan Roces and Fernando Poe always had class, as individuals and as a couple. Class is indescribable yet easily recognized. It becomes embarrassingly obvious when a classy couple is placed on the same stage with a couple that has absolutely no class.

The Poes have always been real people. This explains why the majority of Filipinos welcomed FPJ’s transition from movie idol to political leader. He won the last election, by an overwhelming margin and, most important of all—in the proper venue

It never bothered the people that Poe never finished high school or that he did not have any experience in the business of politics. Those who knew the Poe couple know why his and his lady’s good heart, native intelligence, common sense and ability mattered more than any resume. Contrast how this one man was quietly helping the weather bureau acquire radars while an entire administration was looking for someone else to blame for the typhoon tragedies.

In his book, Culture and History, Nick Joaquin wrote, “The plow did not ‘corrupt’, it begot, the Filipino. The ‘Filipino’ thus begotten could only have had, as initial identity, that of initiate in the mysteries of certain techniques, which, on the other hand, would make him feel different from those who knew not of such mysteries and, on the other hand, would make him feel kin to those who did know.”  Joaquin wondered whether it was worth studying the sense of common identity among those tribes who were initiated into certain technologies with those who were outside this “tool culture.”

In Poe, Estrada, and, despite her pretenses, Imelda, one can see the common identity among those who were initiated into the “tool culture” and those who live outside it. The “tool culture” in today’s world refers to the westernized tribes who inhabit gated subdivisions. It includes those who live outside but whose mentality is the same. They all fit Edward Said’s description of people who “argue that the source of the world’s significant actions and life is in the West, whose representatives seem at liberty to visit their fantasies and
philantrophies upon a mind-deadened Third World…[those] outlying regions of the world have no life, history, or culture to speak of, no independence or integrity worth representing without the West.”

Witness how Malacanang and this country’s leading newspapers did somersaults over the accidental seating of Mrs. Arroyo beside George Bush in the recent Apec meeting. If Malacanang had any sense of
self-respect and worth they would have spun that whole story by saying that both governments tried their best to arrange a meeting between the two leaders but that Mrs. Arroyo’s schedule was too tight and, anyway, the two leaders would have ample time to talk over dinner. It would have been a lie but it would not have been self-demeaning. It would have presented Mrs. Arroyo as the leader of a poor but proud country, not as some wannabe who, thanks to what one newspaper credited to divine intervention, had the Great White Father’s arm around her shoulder during dinner.

Poe’s untimely death highlights the contrast between these two Filipino cultures or tribes. One speaks of bestowing official honors, as in Torrens titles, and the other simply recognizes that to whom something
truly belongs.

The country’s flag need not be lowered at half-mast. The outsiders’ hearts are already at half-mast. Susan Roces does not care to see national honors bestowed upon her husband by those who questioned his citizenship. The outsiders have bestowed that honor already. She does not have to see the crocodile tears of those who stole the election from him and from the people who chose him to lead. She has already seen real tears from real people.

Those in power should listen to what Susan Roces has to say. It comes from the heart and it is tempered by an intelligence far superior to the “mini-me” minds that wash up on the banks of the Pasig. She is now the icon of the “untooled.”  She is strong and beautiful, definitely much more pleasing to the senses than  …well you know who.

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