For the word
For the word,” Chato Garcellano wrote on the first page of my copy of “Young Blood 6” at its launch last year. During the event, surrounded by young authors flush with the triumph of seeing their name in print, she had talked about how pleasant it was to see that it was still a thrill to get published, to see your voice reflected in the written word.
I thought about this, of all things, when I was asked by a superior recently about my political leanings. Was I pro- or anti- the current administration? If I swung one way or the other, why did I hardly ever write about it? I used to, I wanted to say, but now I don’t anymore. Like the histrionically dressed woman in “The Hunger Games” who focuses on costumes and fripperies while society crumbles around her ears, I’ve tried to write about other things, not because disbelief and legitimate criticism of the administration aren’t important to say, but because I had become deadened to talking or hearing about them; because other people are writing about these, and doing it better; and because, no matter how well they write about it, it seems not to make a difference. One outrage is replaced by
another, and we react accordingly, but the administration ploughs on.
As writers, we may often feel that we have next to no power in the current age. We write about outrage, about inexplicable dismissals and suspicious appointments, about corruption, about human rights. Regardless of what we write, the President is rid of his enemies swiftly, like a chess player flicking pieces off the board. Another pawn, or bishop, or queen advances, but they, too, are dismissed, any power they did have stripped away, and the President moves on to his next enemy, with the attendant fanfare, the shower of swear words and the threats (the latest, to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno: “I am now your enemy”). How to write about such an administration? Arch questioning, logic, fact-finding maybe, or perhaps satire. But it’s hard to satirize what is already, essentially, a caricature.
At least one opinion column a day gets published around yet another legitimate criticism of PD, but still he stands, unmoved, as unaffected as Godzilla would be by a shower of spitballs. We can write all we want, but we have also given the man and his lackeys such absolute power that nothing we’ve said here so far appears to have made the slightest difference in the way the country is run. It’s his sandbox and we’re all playing in it, at his sufferance. He called the Chief Justice “bad for the Philippines,” tempting us to ask: What, then, is good?
But still we write—or the more courageous, more persistent of us do, though times have changed and memes seem to have more power than traditional outlets, and “the word” is easily manipulated by any paid purveyor of fake news. There’s still honor here, as real and staunch as this paper refusing to be cowed by a dictatorship decades ago.
Journalists and columnists write, in defiance, in spite of fear, despite rape threats, death threats. For posterity, for the sake of recording that the administration did not go unopposed, however small the voices of the opposers. For understanding, for the number of people still picking up the paper with open minds and critical eyes. For new perspectives; for thoughts shared by experts, academicians, lawyers, economists; to hear the cries of parents still mourning children lost to Tokhang, to hear the plaints of those losing their livelihoods in Boracay. For expression; for the need to think and to see the thoughts organized, reflected; for logic in this illogical society; for the word.
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