Still Tongue Makes a Wise Head

 

By Oliver Geronilla

 

Politicians and their apologists have never failed to amaze me. From their empty rhetoric to their convoluted orchestration of truth down to their infuriating chutzpah, everything seems to bring me to a fleeting rapture of guffaws every time I see them on national TV unsuspectingly shedding their own skin.

That’s true for national politics where the media seem to follow political demagogues quite naturally for juicy bits of information and commentaries. But does it also hold true for local politics? I’m afraid not. Perhaps it’s too parochial to merit the giant TV networks’ costly airtime and the major broadsheets’ precious op-ed page. Thank God we have Bulan Observer.

A couple of days ago, while dining with Dr. W. Scott Thompson, FVR’s biographer and former US assistant secretary of state, I mentioned how frustrated I was with the LGU’s nonchalance over some pressing matters in our hometown. He laughed and said: “Oh, perhaps they have forgotten what Thomas Tip O’Neill, a longtime Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress, once said.” He paused, banged the table (perhaps for theatrical effects), looked at me, and said: “Remind them that all politics is local.”

I nearly drew a blank. In fact, it took me almost half a minute before I recognized that he was waiting for me to react. When I was about to give my rejoinder, he started speaking again and ended up giving me a “lecture” on the dynamics of Asian politics particularly that of ours. He went on and on only stopping to have a sip of wine. Then, he mentioned “hiya” as one of the culprits of our flawed perception of leading and following—our own rendition of democracy.

According to Dr. Thompson, hiya, loosely translated as shame or sense of propriety, is a Filipino cultural trait that unites and divides us as a people. How? Well, look at those comments generated by the article posted by Mr. Jun Asuncion regarding the “fate” of Congressman Jose Solis. Most of them can be described just by using the word hiya and its cousins: nanghihiya, hiniya, walang hiya, nahiya, kahiyahiya, etc.

All these can either be a coping mechanism or a mere defense mechanism. But I could evidently see the angst, frustration, and resentment in their words. These, I suppose, were bottled up emotions just waiting to be “unleashed.”

In no time, BO became a temporary theater of word war. Yes, explosive bursts of emotions flooded BO’s comment page making it a repository of genuine sentiments and scathing remarks worthy of being “processed” to redefine our atavistic views.

I cringed in utter disbelief when I found out, through this site, how some of us could be vindictive—at least verbally. Still, I think there are many things that we can learn from out of this issue. One of them, and perhaps the most salient, is how we view success, failure, and downfall vis-à-vis “hiya.” We always bask in our victories walking tall thinking that our triumphs would last forever. That, of course, is an example of delusions of grandeur. Even mighty monarchs of great civilizations were dethroned. And in our case, we had the Marcoses who tried to cling to power at all costs disregarding that Filipino virtue of hiya (sense of propriety). In recent history, Erap suffered from more or less the same fate; but as we can see, he’s back in politics trying to have his last shot at the presidency. The Marcoses have long been back and, without a shadow of doubt, have reintegrated themselves to the local and national politics. Where is their sense of propriety?

What about Congressman Solis’ case? Is this the end of his political career? Maybe yes, maybe not. It’s just too bad that the verdict came out very close to the election season. Bad timing for Congressman Solis; good timing for his critics and political opponents. Well, as the cliché goes, “bad publicity or good publicity…it’s still publicity.”

Now, on the issue of hiya, is this something that is kahiyahiya? Perhaps, yes… for it has tarnished his reputation both as a public servant and as a private individual. But this is not the end. Vindication is not included in our lexicon for nothing. As pointed out by some observers, there are ways to prove his innocence. It is, in my own reckoning, clear to everyone how to do that, and where to do that.

BO writers and observers have no business defaming anyone. That’s for certain. Admittedly, some observers might have gone overboard. And their best defense? Of course, a good offense.

As I write this, things aren’t fizzling out yet. In fact, everything seems to be coming to a head. I join Mr. Jun Asuncion in asking everyone to remain level-headed and to avoid mudslinging. Let’s give our readers something worthwhile to read, something that is edifying, something that identifies us as civilized Bulanenos. Remember, what sauce is for the goose is sauce for the gander. That can perhaps change our warped views, and put hiya to proper use.

Generally speaking, we, Filipinos, are magnanimous. That’s something to bank on especially for Congressman Solis and his family members. Criticisms are part and parcel of politics. Noynoy said it well when he reminded Kris “that in any election, we’ll have our share of fervent supporters and harshest critics. And if you can’t take the heat, then politics isn’t for you.”

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