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BLIND SPOT: Paradox of protest

I had hoped classes would be suspended last Monday due to the nationwide jeepney strike. Too bad, I had to face my usual Monday. Why are weekends never long enough? An electric powered jeepney with standard 22 seater capacity facing front (not anymore the left and right sides facing each other), enclosed from the external atmosphere, with full air conditioning, with wi-fi connection and global positioning system, with the entrance/exit on the right side (not anymore on the rear) is the proposed design of the new jeepney; which would subsequently cause the phasing out of the traditional supposed largely carbon emitting king of the Filipino road. (Ay, dawa mayong GPS o wi-fi; okey na ako sa aircon.) I would appreciate the air conditioning; just as long as it’s not the nauseous supposed air freshening systems used on buses running the Metro Manila routes; the type that would make me rather sweat it out in a three-hour steam bath in an ordinary non-aircon bus. The new design is the object of the protest for the supposed nationwide strike executed by transport groups; the news of its effect of which have been overshadowed by reports en masse of the SONA. If there were news of its paralyzing effects, I might have missed it while on my way home stuck in a traffic jam in Jacob and Liboton. But a friend residing in Calabanga told me he had a hard time hitching a ride to Naga in the morning. In street corner beer drinking sessions, academic discussions in classrooms, broadcast media editorial commentaries, complaints from a public utility vehicle driver or an annoyingly blabbering middle aged female vendor, and in dining table exchanges, you would hear, “sa ibang bansa…”; laced with exceeding exultation of progress in foreign countries while degrading systems, procedures, culture, values… well, practically everything Filipino. You know, how Americans are more efficient, Europeans are more open-minded, Japanese are more disciplined, Chinese are more business savvy, and it’s safer in Singapore, commodities are more affordable in the U.S.; it’s cooler in Europe and so on and so forth. You could actually sum the sentiments up to a desperate desire for our nation to scale the heights of Western modernization. You know what’s irritatingly ironic? It’s the consistently Filipino habit of getting the jitters and release a barrage of underdog complaints and protests when coming face to face with breadt h of a hair strand, with the actual change towards that so much aspired a la Western living conditions. (Huna ko baga…) Even with the buses around, I’d still prefer the jeep. It’s a lot easier to get in and get off, it’s less shaky, and it’s a lot easier to yell, “para”. But should we not welcome initiatives towards improvements for safety and convenience? Is not improvement incumbent in life and its many labyrinthine lanes? Sure, the Filipino jeepney wouldn’t run as fast as the Japanese Shinkansen bullet train, but maybe we can make it more closely convenient. Is a modern jeepney unit’s being too expensive be a wall for us to stop and rant and grumble and say let’s go back the way we got here. If I am faced with an extremely high mountain on my way to somewhere, should I go home or endeavorto make the climb inch by inch, no matter the difficulty, no matter the cost, in the spirit that whatever challenge could be conquered? But no, the Filipino resolve grumblingly says, “It’s too expensive”. Then after the day’s work, the compadres would take shots of spirits, while taking shots at government inefficiency and ills of Filipino society and concluding in the question of when will change come and the Philippines would bask in modern progress similar to that which we hear about in foreign countries. President Rodrigo Duterte did something remarkable after the State Of the Nation Address. He broke protocol and went out to talk man to man with the leftist militant protesters who just like government protocol have become a part of the tradition of the SONA and the Filipino political landscape. (Although, I’m not a big fan of his), the President admirably stood up to talk to the protesters to get to know what the noise is all about. I have to admit that this grand gesture is a mark of a gentleman, definitely denying any allegation of disregard for marginalized sectors of society. After a hodge podge of braggadocio against illegal drugs violators, human rights violations and Mindanao Martial law critics (with an unusual concern on mining and earthquake preparedness) that is the State of the Nation Address, here is the President of the Republic getting down to smooth things out with militants. But while the President is exercising human dignity, the protesters would yell and shout and occasionally chant , still acting as in a rally when they have already been brought to a more efficient venue, that is a dialog. But it seems that that’s all they want – to yell and complain for a change; even if change is being offered before their faces. “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:19

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