The Airport site is just a few minutes drive from Barangay San Aquino. We came at about lunchtime and this explained probably (I hoped so) why we had seen only a handful workers along the future runway of the airport. The idea of an airport being built to be operational by next year naturally creates in anyone an image of a hectic building site with heavy machines, mixers, loads of cement and bricks, cranes, trucks, bulldozers, scaffolding, technical personnel and construction noise.This was not the case in Bulan airport building site for it was very silent, in fact almost a deserted construction site. The few piles of sand and gravel and the few men with spades braving the sun looked very pathetic and depressing. I spotted a parked vehiclea but it was a fish dealer truck! I doubted till my bones as I asked myself how on earth could they possibly build an airport with only a couple of spades, wondered whether the whole thing was just a joke.
“Trust the Filipino ingenuity” is something we have often heard before. But this old phrase has always been overvalued in the Philippines as we take it as a positive attribute. But this is just an excuse to comfort ourselves and divert us from the real cause of our under-development which is our inability to work seriously for our own country, make self-sacrifice for the benefit of all and to view oneself as part of the team of nation-builders. These qualities should be enough to combat corruption which is the main destroyer of our nation, not our multi-ethnicity, but this viscous selfish attitude that has glued our nation in decades of political and economic quagmire. I have seen multi-ethnic countries yet many of them are progressive because they value teamwork, hardwork and thoughtfulness. In the current national administration under Gloria Arroyo administration I have not discovered any sense of deep thoughtfulness but a blinding reflection of avaristic colonialism and plastic patriotism. And if there is anything at all that’s transparent in this administration it is the politic of lies and opportunism.
That’s the future runway. An airport should signal to Bulan Municipality an era of modernization.
And this should be understood by Bulan leadership and the people alike. But this journey to a modern Bulan is still a long, long way to go. The Bulaneños must first free themselves from the political dystonia that has been engraved in their cortex after decades- or centuries- of political repression in the Philippines. Bulaneños still consider open political discussion and paticipation as dangerous; they twist their faces when asked about hot issues in Bulan, or hide their names and faces when they find the courage to say the truth. This bad habit should be deactivated by now if we want to be modern and progressive. I believe that it is the political education that paves the way to economic progress. For as long as the people consider themselves as saling-kittens only in the political playground, they will not be able to help direct the course of Bulan development.
Exactly this attitude nourishes the so called political dynasties whose interest is really just to keep the people poor and dependent as they are while they continue to rule for decades, inculcating in people’s mind the impression of their indispensability. A public office is not a private property that can just be handed over to the next blood-line generation, and as a matter of propriety, public property should not be built within a private property. Last but not least, real democracy is not built upon the extent of private property but upon the extent of freedom of the individuals and the rule of law.
The Bulaneños should roll-up their sleeves now, leave behind their saling-kitten dasein, unchain their minds and be self-confident. Bulan will never be progressive if the people still prefer to live in a dark and boggy political poultry.
The airport will be bringing in new opportunities for the town as well us strangers who might be interested to settle down in Bulan. Among them maybe Koreans who someday might also eye for Bulan leadership. Koreans are now flooding the Philippines. This is the result of Arroyo’s unpatriotic economic policy: she boasts of driving out Filipinos abroad as Wow (Workers of the world) to find jobs for her and be servants while she holds an open arm to the incoming foreign nationals like the Koreans who have money so that those servants left behind will find their masters, too. Arroyo’s servants abroad-servants at home political policy attests to her thoughtlessness: indeed she’s a towering icon of Filipino ingenuity- not in a creative but in an opportunistic sense. So Bulaneños must wake up now before a foreigner, this time a Korean, could snatch them of the town leadership.
With Bulan Airport, Bulan might find itself on the verge of a take-off someday. This woman in the photo told me these words when I talked with her: “Remember us when you come back next time”. I just wonder how the Bulan airport would affect her life and the lives of these children living at the edge of the airport site. In any case I wish them a better future.
Of course I’ll remember this woman and the garden products we bought from her- fresh organic eggplants. But most of all, I’ll never forget the message I picked up from that short conversation with her which is to never give up. In her age I still sensed a tremendous life energy- the elan’vital, and the genuine rootedness in Bulan. Our president would pale and appear bloated beside her. An honest soul of Bulan is she, one with clean heart and intention and one who does n0t need to buy your vote for you to appreciate her or has to insert her name in every thing she does in every corner of Bulan. In fact I never know her name yet she made me realize the greatness that reside in ordinary people that make up the town of Bulan. But at that very moment I envied her for her serene spirit and for her lifestyle- a simple life, working on her garden and selling her products for a living. And I wished to trade places with her. But then I realized that it is just right to keep her where she is with her vegetable garden than for her to deal with sociopaths and psychotic minds everyday. In this sense, she has indeed a better life.
Yet Bulaneños would get what they deserve if their greatness would be expressed not through political slumber but through political awakening. Progressive and democratically-inclined people are never silenced or manipulated because of poverty but are motivated by it to to fight for progress and elect leaders who represent their needs and understand their longings.
Soon these children will witness planes arriving and leaving Bulan everyday. They will be excited also seeing the many people who arrive and leave Bulan each day. They are the young Bulan observers of today, yet their minds are also full of dreams and expectations. Many might be dreaming of the possibilities of life beyond the clouds they see and the far away hills across the horizon where planes slowly disappear from their eyes. Yet, against their dreams and visions, I hope that a progressive Bulan of the future would hold them together and keep them home.