We Are The People

by Jose Ma. Montelibano

It must be the effect of a new year, and the season that witnessed the exit of an old one, that makes more people reflective of what was and what is to come. I was able to read a few articles posted in Facebook that spoke of similar sentiments and perspective. It seems wisdom has a favorite time to visit.

I did write just last week that 2016 will be a rock n roll year. That’s an easy prediction. A change of 2015 to 2016 may be significant in some ways, especially legally and chronologically in the financial books of companies and the scheduling of the world. At the same time, change is almost seamless from day to day. If 2015 was kind of riotous, from Pope Francis to Mamasapano and what else in between before the emergence of official candidates for the presidency, then there is no reason why 2016 will not follow the same pattern.

Consider that more than a billion pesos has already been spent on political advertising by presidential candidates – and the campaign is not even officially on. When expenses can be computed because most TV and radio advertising can be monitored, it does not mean that all other political costs can be. Social media advertising, or fees for bloggers, professionals and even trolls cannot be estimated with accuracy yet. And the ground operations that begin at barangay level will most probably remain forever a financial mystery.

What can be safely assumed is that a few hundred thousand of partisan workers are already being prepared or activated from 45,000 barangays. And this number will multiply soon. Most candidates tried to depress their Christmas budgets because the heavy spending is yet to come. Local candidates, too, have started to draw the lines and pushing their core groups to expand their political workers and networks. There are just some pending matters that materially keep final decisions of many pending, specifically the still possible disqualifications of Grace Poe and Rodrigo Duterte.

Politics, too, are not the only game in town although the most pressing and exciting. The bigger thing is what goes on daily, mostly economic and social. We all do have our individual and family lives to attend to, our work and careers, and schooling for most of our younger ones. Actually, it is our choice to be uninvolved or very involved in the partisan politics that is trying to grab our attention and energies. For many, the more pressing concerns will discourage them from national or collective dynamics. The stomach and survival comes first.

Most Filipinos will not notice, until maybe too late, that the SEAN countries will bring down many barriers and begin to integrate. This process will be quite disturbing for the unprepared, though full of opportunity for the few who are. In the long run, though, I have great faith in the ability of the Filipino people to adapt. In fact, few people in the world can adapt like Filipinos. If we wake up and find great political leadership, our country will prosper with lightning speed. If not, we will prosper nonetheless because the future is almost customized to our strengths.

For presidents come and go, and so do everybody else. And we are still here after they have gone. This is the lesson that old and new years teach – that we, the people, are more constant than they, the politicians. If we begin to appreciate this, then we can also begin to understand what is more permanent than the personalities and events that usually distract us from the bigger reality. It is us, our ordinary, daily lives that matter. We are the people, we are the country – if we choose to take on that role.

If politicians come and go, despite the so-called dynasties (who also come and go), then their value should be quite temporary, and less important than we assume. What is more factual is the persevering value of the economic and the religious. Economic dynasties will last longer in the present setup, and religious dynasties have stood the test of time, centuries or millennia. But the economic and religious will rather that the political take center stage like lightning rods to distract the people from where the real power lies.

In an age of information driven by human creativity and technology, change is ushered in both the most subtle and radical ways. This change is dramatically influencing politics, economics and religion. The old forms and the old ways are quickly succumbing to what change is forcing everyone to accept. Most people remain unaware of where change wants to bring us and simply riding the wave, or bending to the wind. They cannot plan out their lives very well under these conditions and will automatically react even to the noisy and inconsequential.

Change, though, cannot change the intrinsic human design and purpose, just their more external form. If we want to fluctuate less and stabilize more, we need to find stronger and deeper anchor.  We need to recognize and, adhere to, the more permanent in us, in life individual and collective. If we are talking about country, then it is our land, our culture and our relationships with these. Because our land and our culture will outlive the other concerns that we mistakenly give undeserved importance to.

That’s the bigger picture, of course. We must carry a relationship with it because it includes us. But us – that means family, first and foremost, and then, community.  It may not seem as permanent as our land and culture, but it us. Family and community live on from generation to generation, and we are culture. We inherit culture, we live or change it, and we pass it on. We are more permanent than the messiahs we worship or depend on.

That’s the gift of freedom. That’s the gift of democracy. Our journey to keep and strengthen freedom and democracy is how we stay permanent and enduring as our motherland and the beautiful Filipino way of life.

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