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Color-coded tears and memories

Director General Lilia de Lima of the Philippine Export Zone Authority was informed only last Sunday about Malacañang’s request that she be present at the Batasan when President Aquino delivered his State of the Nation Address on Monday.

“I decided to wear my newest terno, which was colored orange,” she recalls, “but when I got to the office, my staff said it looked too much like peach.” And in the color-coding that signified the wearer’s political sentiments at play at the Sona, wearing a shade of peach meant one supported the call for P-Noy’s impeachment made by militant organizations.

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“So I rushed home and changed into a blue terno,” De Lima laughingly relates. And a good thing she did, for the reason Malacañang asked her to be present at the occasion was that she would be cited for praise in the Sona among the many government officials present that afternoon. Standing up to acknowledge applause in a peach-looking gown would indeed have been a jarring note.

Equally jarring, but not really unexpected, was the appearance of Mae Paner, better known as “Juana Change,” the character she created at the height of the protests against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, P-Noy’s predecessor. There she was, joining the “walkout” of party-list representatives all clad in peach gowns and barong, with Paner proudly announcing that she had bought hers from a market stall. Proclaiming herself a disillusioned P-Noy supporter, Juana Change was caught on TV earlier that day, speaking at a rally where she denounced the President for using his own version of “pork” through the Disbursement Acceleration Program or DAP.

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But after the delivery of the Sona, news cameras once again caught the peach-clad Juana Change tearfully reacting to P-Noy’s denunciation of his critics as “enemies of the people.” Expressing hurt, she said critics of the President were just as valuable in a democracy as his supporters. I don’t know, but the tears struck me as somehow an affectation. When you ally yourself with sworn enemies of a leader, you don’t expect a pat on the back from that leader, do you?

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TEARS were flowing indeed toward the end of the President’s fifth Sona. This, especially when P-Noy’s voice broke after he mentioned his late parents, Ninoy and Cory, and asked plaintively how people could believe the charges hurled against him when he had their memory and legacy to live up to.

Cameras at once focused on P-Noy’s sisters tearing up in their section of the gallery, and many of those in the plenary hall or watching from their TV sets at home confessed to feeling teary, too.

For me, the moment came when I realized, just as the President was recounting all the disasters that struck the country in recent months, what a turbulent year it has been since the last P-Noy Sona. Indeed, was it only last September when forces allied with the Moro National Liberation Front attacked and laid siege to Zamboanga City? This was followed in swift succession by the earthquake that hit Bohol and Cebu primarily, and then by the most devastating blow of all—Typhoon “Yolanda,” the most powerful typhoon in all history, which devastated numerous provinces but Leyte and Samar most gravely.

What a year it has been! And the natural disasters have only been “complemented” by political disasters as well, as the loud protests over the congressional pork barrel and then the DAP gather momentum.

Who indeed wouldn’t feel like crying? But the turn toward the personal was, I felt, a master stroke on P-Noy’s part. There are reports that the closing sections of his Sona were ad lib, a plea and a declaration “straight from the heart,” as it were. Polls should show whether the Sona, the most crucial of his term, would give P-Noy a “bounce” in public opinion. But his closing words gave the people a glimpse of the “real” P-Noy, and a sense of the burdens and vulnerabilities he carries as he approaches the end of his term.

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IT WAS a decidedly “yellow” crowd at the Bulong Pulungan yesterday, at the media launch of the commemorative stamps featuring the paintings of “democracy icon” Cory Aquino.

Issued by the Philippine Postal Authority, the stamps carry images of paintings that “Tita” Cory produced after she left Malacañang and gave as gifts to friends and supporters. Carrying natural and religious motifs, the works of art, in the words of PhilPost Chair Cesar Sarino, signify “ang pait at tamis ng prutas ng ipinaglaban ni Cory (the bitterness and sweetness of Cory’s struggle).”

Chito Sobrepeña of Metrobank Foundation, representing the Ty family whose Cory painting was one of those reproduced in stamps, quoted Jesuit Fr. Catalino Arevalo (Tita Cory’s spiritual adviser) as remarking that the paintings reveal her “deep love for country and people.”

De Lima testified as to how Cory was not just a generous friend, with whom she “interacted” in some paintings, but also a persistent one, repeatedly coaxing her to destress by taking up the brush, and even gifting her with a set of paints. “I was forced to good,” remarks the Peza chief. “And after trying my hand a few times, I was finally bitten by the bug,” even writing a note to Cory “complaining” about her new obsession such that she found herself awake at two in the morning, cleaning her brushes.

By the way, the stamps of Cory paintings are also the first “scented” ones to be issued by PhilPost, bearing the essence of roses. Only a limited number of copies will be printed, and those interested are urged to snap up as many as they can, as they will most likely not be reissued.

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TAGS: Batasan, Benigno Aquino III, blue terno, Lilia de Lima, Mae Paner, malacanang, Peza, Philippine Export Zone Authority, President Aquino, Sona, Sona 2014, State of the Nation Address, terno
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