Buko Juice, Anyone?

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

Buko juice. There is something uncanny about what P-Noy can sometimes say that goes straight to the Filipino heart, like “no wang-wang,” or “kung walang kurap, walang mahirap.” The intellectual who cannot reach below the surface will smirk at simple-mindedness, then is bewildered at the impact of simple phrases on the Filipino public. After all their attempts at learned diagnosis and prognosis, and their doomsday predictions about a president who doesn’t seem to understand governance, has no vision, and little political will, P-Noy gets the highest approval and trust ratings of any president after one year in office.

To cover criticisms he had aimed at P-Noy from during the campaign period to today, a well-known opinion maker says that Filipinos are too complacent and do not demand more from their leaders. That statement in itself is close to being absurd, and quite revealing about undisguised bias. The opinion maker conveniently forgot to accuse Filipinos of being too trusting as well – maybe because he knows that Filipinos are not. The survey was about approval and trust, and the people resoundingly said, “we approve, we trust.”

Buko juice is about buko juice, and way beyond. Just as wang-wang is about wang-wang, and way beyond. It is funny how the intuitive intelligence of Filipinos can, to the degree that surveys capture their truth at any moment, can appreciate the depth of what wang-wang means and what wang-wang represents, what buko juice means and what buko juice represents, but many a self-acclaimed media pundit can utterly miss. Or choose to miss in order to justify pursuing a losing line.

It sure seems clear to most that “utak wang-wang” is the “I am better-than-you, or richer-than-you, or more-power-than-you” and, therefore, am entitled to more than you. It means a few can break the law and most cannot; it means some can go ahead of the line anywhere, anytime, and most cannot. It means wealth, power and even high academic degrees and social pedigrees entitle the minority to lord it over the common, ordinary majority.

Thus, when future of the buko juice is the bacon that P-Noy brings home from America, his critics smirk. That their previous smirks have been dismissed by the people as sour-graping, as prejudiced conclusions, or as malicious accusations seems to be a reality too harsh for them to admit; they would rather believe that their opinions matter more than the sentiments of the vast majority.

Buko juice is that drink which must be the most common and readily available drink for Filipinos after water itself. Coffee has been on the rise, but the poor in the rural areas can count on having buko juice even in the fields where they work. A society that has long been governed by the little minority (very little, as little as 1%) will tend to look down on buko juice. That is why it is only recently in Philippine history that more attention has been given to buko juice when the elite had centuries to avail of it. Buko juice must have looked so low and ordinary to those who, from a long time ago, could afford cognac, chocolate, and coffee.

It may not have mattered much to societal snobs that coconut farmers and their families comprise a rather huge percentage of the Filipino population, and that Philippine lands are mostly planted with coconut trees. It matters little what most need, what most have, and where most are; what matters much is what the few want, what the few have, where the few are. Of course, what the few value more is what Philippine society has been following, at least for four hundred years. That does not make what the elite wrong all the time, but it does make them selfish when they have little regard for what the majority needs.

Buko juice is a product of, by and for tens of millions. That is why it matters to the majority. But the majority counts only in a true democracy. When the will of the few become more important than the sentiments of the many, there is no democracy in practice, only on paper. Democracy demands the will of the majority be the one that drives the vehicle of governance. And that will is as common, as ordinary, as buko juice.

Yes, the world has become very technical, very technological, and very viral. That means buko juice must find a way to adapt, to adjust, yet stage its own initiatives from its natural platform. That means Filipinos must lean on their own native talents and resources – then use these in the game of technology. At the same time, even the technically adept needs simple things in life, things they have often no time for, like bringing up their children because they are in their offices, like cleaning their houses because they are busy at work, like cooking their food because they have no time. Well, Filipinos still do all these chores, and more.

They are the healers of the world, the doctors and the nurses. They man the seas even when others have the capital to build the ships. Filipinos know how to make the rest of the world laugh, cry, sing and dance. And in a world that is turning to communications more and more, guess who will excel.

One day, the Filipino race will be a nation. It will finally become one people, one nation, when it discovers that the buko juice is more important as Coca-Cola. And the most pleasant offering of a host will be, “Buko juice, anyone?”

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