Let’s do some time traveling today. Flexitime Transporters was kind enough to offer a free demo on its new vehicle with promises of “putting current events in a new light.”
Don’t ask how it works. Einstein figured it out a hundred years ago, but we don’t want to go too far back in time to interview him. Let’s be modest with our goals and go back just 50 years. You set the time, a place, and additional keywords so you are transported to a very specific space-and-time context.
First we input the year “1966” just to find out what to wear so we won’t be out of place when we go back in time. Flexitime may be high tech, but dressing up retro (up to the hairstyles) is super low tech and takes ages.
Finally, we’re dressed for the times and we ask for Feb. 24, 1966, Plaza Miranda in the heart of Manila. Before you know it, a modified Waze app announces: “You have reached your destination.”
The streets are a mess—garbage everywhere and tattered election posters from every post: Nacionalista Party (NP), Liberal Party (LP) and a few Progressive Party of the Philippines (PPP). A virtual travel guide runs through recent significant events, reminding us elections were held just a few months back, with three main political parties contending for the presidency, vice presidency and senatorial seats. Following the American system, the last election was held in November 1965, and the new officials assumed their posts in January.
The NP won and the country has a young, charismatic, new president, Ferdinand Marcos, and an elegant first lady, Imelda Marcos.
But there isn’t too much excitement in Plaza Miranda, even on a Friday with a few Black Nazarene devotees. So we step back into Flexitime and program a slow movement back in time, close to the last elections. We input all kinds of key words to get a closer fit to what we’re looking for: elections, campaign, LP, NP… there, there, Oct. 31, 1965, is fine, a Sunday.
There’s definitely more excitement in the air. We walk around eavesdropping on people’s conversations, especially in barber shops and beauty parlors. We hear “Marcos” a lot, said almost in reverential tones, and not “Makoy” as became the fashion later. Marcos is praised to high heavens as matalino (bright), magaling (capable), even guapo (handsome), and Imelda is, of course, maganda (beautiful). But others argue that the other two candidates are guapo too: the incumbent Diosdado Macapagal from the LP and Raul Manglapus from the PPP.
We check a newspaper vendor. For a moment, I’m lost in time as I ask for an Inquirer. Then I realize he’s selling cigarettes like Piedmont and Oasis. He seems to be able to read thoughts and offers blue seal, smuggled imported cigarettes.
There’s something familiar: Sunday Times with a weekend magazine, the cover showing the three presidential contenders, with a headline “Macapagal, Marcos, Manglapus. Frenzy at the Homestretch.”
There’s an article that tears apart Macapagal’s doctoral thesis, “Economic Development of the Philippines,” ending with an attack on the Macapagal presidency. There’s an article from a PPP senatorial candidate, Vicente Araneta, explaining their program of “people’s participation in progress.” That was about it from the parties and candidates. The other articles were on the crises (note the plural) of education in the country, poll statistics, the coup in Indonesia and a history of Taal volcano.
It’s the tail end of the campaign, so I guess the Sunday Times has run out of things to say about the presidential candidates. There is an article on the vice presidential race, described as “unexciting” and a “gentleman’s battle” because no one has attacked one or the other. The candidates are Gerry Roxas (LP), Fernando Lopez (NP) and Manuel Manahan (PPP).
The NP has a clever two-page ad. The ad on the right page is a more explicit political ad: “Go with Marcos for President, Lopez for Vice President” with a call to arms: “Stop the era of hunger and fear—forward the Filipino!”
On the left page there are photographs of ordinary Filipinos: a teacher, a car mechanic, a street vendor, a jeepney driver, and a kutsero (calesa driver). A large caption reads: “The Winners.”
There is no similar ad for the LP’s presidential candidates, but there is one from an LP senatorial candidate, promoting him as an “outstanding economist, crusader for good government” and “champion of local autonomy.”
The newspaper vendor once again seems clairvoyant and offers the previous week’s Sunday Times, the cover boasting that it’s Sunday Times’ “very first lampoon issue.”
There’s a two-page spread satirical cartoon by Ben Alcantara, “Our Smooth Flowing Traffic.” And another one by the famous political cartoonist Nonoy Marcelo: “Political Maelstrom” with some 30 characters portrayed. There’s Macapagal talking about a five-year economic program while his partner, Gerry Roxas, goes “My father, my father, my father.” On one corner there’s Marcos complaining to Lopez about Imelda upstaging him.
There are two kids shaking hands, the teenage girl going, “Okay, Bongbong, you tell your pa to vote for my pa and I’ll tell my pa to vote for your pa!” And the boy answers, “It’s a kid’s agreement, Gloria!”
Also in the lampoon issue is a cartoon showing a nurse coming out with a swaddled baby with the words “Mass Poverty.” The nurse asks, “Who’s the father of this baby?” and the three men, PPP, NP and LP reply in unison, “Not I.”
Into the future
Flexitime’s fine but I realize we can travel in time, too, just looking at old newspapers and magazines. But since we’ve started our time travel, we might as well see how Flexitime moves forward.
May as well look at what the Edsa revolt commemorations might be—like 30 years from now. We set the controls for Feb. 25, 2046, the coordinates for Edsa Quezon City.
Going from 1965 to 2046 takes a bit longer and we fret about what to wear. But when we get to 2046 people seem to be dressing pretty much like 2016, or is it because we got dropped off in UP Diliman, where everyone—students, faculty, staff, urban poor—all look alike in shorts, T-shirt and rubber slippers.
The Philippines seems to be preparing again for elections. The names of the candidates sound familiar. Dynasties are still around.
The traffic isn’t bad; it’s at a standstill. Children run around, some selling sampaguita, others cigarettes; others begging. I ask one of them why she isn’t in school and she answers it’s a holiday. When I ask what holiday, she pauses and answers with a question “Chinese new year?” (I check afterwards, Chinese new year in 2046 is on Feb. 6. I presume Feb. 25 will still be Edsa Day, or whatever day it may have been renamed.)
Strange, almost eerie, that everything looks like 2016. We check the controls several times and it reads right: Feb. 25, 2046. We had it right. Maybe time got it wrong. Or… we, Filipinos, got it wrong somewhere in time, several times.
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