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Sisyphus’ Lament

Iglesia proved Pinoy pride is superficial

/ 02:15 AM September 07, 2015

FILIPINO PRIDE is superficial. We are offended by the trivial but condone insult to the very soul of our nation.

No one even mentioned how a key Southeast Asian leader praised our Edsa Revolution last weekend as 250,000 rallied peacefully in the next time zone. Back home, esteemed social commentary from the Inquirer’s editorials to Top Gear Philippines critiqued the Iglesia ni Cristo’s occupation of Edsa from every angle: the inconvenience and traffic, the mockery of separation of church and state, calls for reverse bloc votes, and how the country’s largest Christian minority must evolve. No one, however, voiced deeper outrage over how the Edsa Revolution’s venue was debased into a platform for private interest.


Our education glosses over Southeast Asian history such that we have no idea who Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad is. We are so parochial that we had no idea Malaysians were taking to the streets. Some mistook pictures of the main Bersih 4 rally of 250,000 people in Kuala Lumpur for pictures of the Iglesia protest.

Dr. M was Malaysia’s prime minister for 22 years, a staunch if controversial nationalist and contemporary of Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew. “Bersih” means clean and Malaysians in KL and other major cities rallied before their independence day last Aug. 31 to protest allegations that current Prime Minister Najib Razak funneled the equivalent of $700 million from a government fund to his personal accounts.

Dr. M, now 90, made a surprise appearance at the KL rally and was quoted in international media as calling for people power to remove Najib. Unfortunately, few quoted him in full: He drew inspiration from how Filipinos peacefully removed President Ferdinand Marcos in 1986. A rumor that US President Barack Obama likes adobo might make headlines here. Astoundingly, however, the deeply respected Dr. M’s salute to the Edsa Revolution at a dramatic crossroads for Malaysia was mentioned in passing only once by our media, in an AFP report carried by the Manila Bulletin.

We are barely proud of our own history, so the world sees no reason to be. Our Edsa story and 1987 Constitution should be inspiring the idealistic young men and women behind the Arab Spring, Hong Kong’s Umbrella Revolution and the resignation of Guatemala’s embattled President Otto Pérez Molina last Thursday, yet it hardly inspires our own countrymen today.

Returning to the Iglesia protest, the crowd of 15,000 massed at the corner of Edsa and Shaw Boulevard failed to elicit parallels to the Edsa Revolution, except for ABS-CBN’s short-lived “Edsa 4” nickname. Why did no one see it as a cruel parody of the original human wall against Marcos?

It is vulgar to claim that the protest had any legitimacy in human rights. We all saw the rally as the brazen intimidation against criminal charges initiated against Iglesia leaders as decried by the complainant’s lawyers Trixie Cruz-Angeles and Ahmed Paglinawan. There is no credible separation of church and state issue because no religious belief was prohibited. Ironically, the proper separation-of-church-and-state objection is for non-Iglesia members to decry undue government preference for a religious group, as seen in the refusal to disperse the protesters and in senior officials making up legal doctrines to defend the protest.

When a religious group acts along secular lines, recalling the Team Patay posters against candidates who supported the Reproductive Health Act on Bacolod City’s cathedral, it instead claims the secular rights to free speech and assembly. It is profane to invoke these fundamental rights to justify pushing Manila into a traffic gridlock for the narrow interests of a single group.

Human beings perceive many layers of meaning. We normally perceive Edsa as the hellish stretch of concrete where our lives slowly waste away whenever it turns into a parking lot. However, on the gravest of occasions, this mundane highway transforms into a hallowed ground where liberty is reborn. Edsa is consecrated by how, had our soldiers been less conscientious, our parents could have lost their lives standing there in 1986, how we risked the same fate for the same cause in 2001, and how we simultaneously hope that our children will never have to join a crowd of strangers at Edsa yet be perennially ready to do so when the next desperate call to defend democracy sounds.

Should we not feel violated because our most quintessentially public forum and foundation of our modern republic has been usurped? Beyond the traffic that ruined a long weekend, should we not be angry because critics previously scoffed that people power has been trivialized and that Filipinos need to outgrow it, but the Iglesia has actually parodied it? Should we not be outraged that future Filipinos debating whether it is time to return to Edsa may recall not the sight of nuns with rosaries standing against tanks, but Iglesia protesters with placards dubiously calling for separation of church and state? Heritage activists are scrambling to find an actual law violated by the Torre de Manila to defend Rizal Park, but there is no outcry over the use of the spiritual monument that is Edsa to push private interest.


Filipinos explode when Justin Bieber insults Manny Pacquiao or Dan Brown refers to Manila as “the gates of hell,” but fail to react when someone of Dr. M’s stature pays tribute to people power or the Iglesia parodies it a stone’s throw from the giant Virgin Mary commemorating it. There is no more emotional ownership over Edsa, hence no reverence for how it potentially transforms into our most hallowed democratic space.

Do we Filipinos thus have no idea what we should be proud of?

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React:, Twitter @oscarfbtan,

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