Viva La Revolucion
By Kristine Abante
The last time I went home was June last year, I think a few days after Independence day and just before our new president was sworn in. Prior to the elections, I never really thought there was any way out for the Philippines. I’m one of those who have given up, who have accepted our fate that we will always and forever be owned by the elite who controls the real power in our government and therefore the elections are just a mockery of our so-called democracy let alone our “independence”.
But June 2016 was different. It was in the air, the dawn of a new revolution, a renewed fight for independence. I recognize it then, as I know it now.
It will be bloody, but, this time, it will be ours.
As a true blue “batangmaynila” and upon finding out that the entrance was FREE at the National Museum, I have decided it was the perfect time for me to pay a visit to the great Spoliarium and the museum’s many other national treasures.
A walk inside the National Museum at that particular time in history has led to me to a greater, deeper understanding of the Filipino struggle.
Every artwork seemed achingly familiar, because it felt REAL. I was standing there in present-day 2016, staring at these paintings thinking all of it is still relevant and actually happening to date.
The costumes have changed, the players have changed but I still see us, the same Filipino people struggling, fighting each other. The religious, the pretentious, the altasociedad, the oppressed, the many invisible Filipinos who toil daily for minimum wage their blood, sweat and tears shed for.
I kept seeing us on the dark, bloody, larger than life painting – OFWs risking their lives abroad, farmers begging for rice, children molested and trafficked, poor men taking the easy money from the drug dealers, while the educated illustrados carry on with their debates sitting comfortably in their safe houses and universities, sipping fine wine in their lovely ternos and suits. The scholars who turn up their noses, convinced that they know everything, calling us all who disagree with them and their friends who run the azucareras, as “trolls”, the new term for “indios”, stupid people who don’t know what they are talking about, who have no business talking about politics, the ignorant mob who should just go back to their telenovelas. Oh but how they pretend to understand, how they reach out and say they are fighting for our rights, that they want our lives to be better so we should pray, work hard, obey and don’t make a fuzz. Stay docile and drugged, stay DECENT.
I walked further down the halls and couldn’t help but stare at all the women that the master, Amorsolo painted. The ladies of the field, radiant after harvest, native beauty, the mothers with their children, the sunsets of Manila. I noticed the stuff he paints out of his own interest and the stuff he paints for money, portraits of ladies all decked out, wives of politicians and businessmen. I thought it was sad that the last painting he did was an unfinished portrait of another seemingly affluent lady.
I stood there in the old cold room of our collective memories and felt the ghosts of the past peering at me from the different faces of all these Filipinas from a bygone century, nameless wives and daughters, famous widows enjoying the fruits of their husband’s labors, the housemaids, the salesladies at the counter, the woman with five kids in Tondo, same women dealing with the same old struggles.
On another day, I found myself wandering around Makati CBD. I had a couple of hours to spare so I decided to check out the Ayala Museum.
The thing that struck me the most were the Dioramas, a walk through time.
From the very first Malays, to the Chinese traders, to the Spanish invasion, the first republic, to Marcos and the Martial law, and finally EDSA People Power.
Browsing through our entire history was like being on Groundhogday. History repeats itself over and over and over, and every time we try to change its course to favor us, every attempt at reform, to topple the ivorytowers of the controlling elite, was foiled and futile – from Rizal, to Bonifacio, Heneral Luna, to the real heroes of EDSA, every one failed. Maybe the only successful ones were the Datus of the South, who refused to bow down and instead managed to negotiate the terms with their white captors.
The Philippines was this whore slave, sold from one master to another, with the last one giving us the illusion that we are free, but we are merely given a long leash, because it was expensive to maintain a colony too far away. Americans have long been playing the game of the benevolent bully who handed us our independence at a price. They are the Negan to our Rick and we are all the walking dead.
Those who have seen the film Heneral Luna will remember the traitor Pedro Paterno. As I stare at the carefully miniatures outlining the struggle of our people, I realize there are so many Pedro Paternos amongst us today, those who have embraced the Americans to foster their own selfish interests, who
Reaching the end of the exhibit, the thing that bothered me the most was that the presentation ended after martial law and EDSA. As if history was only relevant after the dictator was removed from office. As if we have seen the light at the end of the tunnel when so-called “Democracy” was restored. As if the struggles of POST-EDSA was no longer relevant to our history, as if there was no art available to portray the daily modern cross we bore.
It did not matter that we did not progress a zilch, that there was still wide spread corruption, that Cory Aquino and all the other presidents that followed her including her son, did very little to take the rest of us forward, but did everything to make sure that their status quo was protected.
I left the museums thinking how could this all end in EDSA 1986? When we are still here, stuck in the MRT, in five hours of traffic daily, trapped in unfair temporary job contracts, made to wait at government offices, in hospitals, made to wait for disaster aid, made to wait and wait for the promise of change.
So when change finally showed up in the form of an unlikely candidate we just had to take it.
Here, now, in 2017 we are getting another chance at this, through democratising social media, through collective thought and action. For those of us who believe in the revolution, the kind that National artist for literature F.Sionil Jose speaks about, Duterte is our sacrificial lamb, and his presidency incendiary. He is far from perfect, but right now we will take what we can, as those who of us who are sick and tired of the same old sorry shit cannot wait another thirty years, we need to act now before their poison takes over.
The beast is awake, rabid and ready to fight for its freedom, do not expect it to be eloquent or pretty.
The revolution has started. It will be bloody, but it will be ours.