The lighthouse: A letter to the opposition | Inquirer Opinion

The lighthouse: A letter to the opposition

/ 05:01 AM November 21, 2021

The other night we walked along the iconic lighthouse of Subic. I’m not sure whether lighthouses have become as established in our public imagination as other structures such as churches or bridges, but for people whose lives and livelihood depend on the sea, as many do here in my hometown of Zambales, the presence or absence of lighthouses can spell the difference between being taken by the rage of a stormy sea, or getting the chance of living and coming home.

Dear reader, whether or not we think such comeuppance is deserved, we find ourselves these days lost at the mercy of a perilous sea. Worse still, our sails fly tattered, with a captain-less crew that has — for the time being — forsaken the chance of unity.


But we are afloat. The boat is intact, despite the constant assault of harsh winds and waves. And, one and all, passenger and crew, are in silent agreement that this long frightful night should not pass without us anchored near shore. But where and how do we get there?

The stars, hidden by a dark angry sky, are of no help, but we have an old map that tells us a lighthouse should be nearby.


When you think about the weight of the crimes of the powers that be, the foulness of their offenses — how they make fun of us and our checks on accountability — this lighthouse should be nearby.

Counting how much they have stolen, whether from our coffers or in precious human lives — this lighthouse should be nearby.

Reminding ourselves of how easy it has been for them to make the interests of their families lord over our country, reducing it seemingly to private property and passing on power like heirlooms—this lighthouse should be nearby.

But these people are not the storm upon us, for they can never be as powerful as nature, try as they might. They are also on a boat much like we are, albeit too heavy for its small size, burdened by looted gold and uncollected bones. They do not seek the safety of a land ruled by law, so the lighthouse nearby wards them off, as it serves as a reminder that they are fugitives—from justice and truth, and sometimes even from kindness.

I refuse — and I invite you to refuse — the idea that their followers are on the same boat as they are, or in ours. Walk along any of our shores where fishers fish and you would see a parade of prideful boats, each bangka a mark of independence, most of them named after wives and sons and daughters — Princess, Jessa Mae, Mhark, Jeremy.

I understand why it’s tempting and convenient to say we are in the same boat. However, it is not an empowering metaphor, and very far from the lived truth of people, especially in our fishing communities. Boats and fishermen help out one another, whether it’s tugging a boat stuck at sea or pulling a heavy catch; all they need to do is ask or simply wave a hand.

In this stormy night, all of us lost at sea — aboard whichever boat and heading to shore — need to help out one another in finding the lighthouse nearby.


The opposition’s boat need not carry everyone. It just has to power up its lights enough to be seen clearly, to guide and help all of us in this search. Once anchored and safe, perhaps we can all share a meal—a warm lugaw on a new morning, watched over by the lighthouse nearby.

* * *

Kevin Mandrilla is a communications and sales professional for a multinational design consulting firm. When not at work, he writes about and advocates for democracy, human rights, and progressive policies. As a dad to a three-year-old son, he would like a future where dictators are not made heroes, but as cautionary tales about how power can be abused.

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TAGS: Commentary, Kevin Mandrilla, lighthouses
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