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Why we need ‘kababawan’

“Kababawan” (shallowness) it may be, as Lea Salonga put it. But the current mania over the “AlDub” love team of that local television staple “Eat Bulaga” may be the distraction we all need to lighten the heightening passions being stirred by next year’s elections.

Certainly, if entertainment were all we demanded as voters, there was plenty of it the past week, as candidates—“serious” as well as the usual cast of crackpots and clowns—trooped to the Commission on Elections offices in Intramuros and elsewhere in the land. They were there to file their certificates of candidacy, with some of the better-known conducting press conferences and interviews, while a few settled for their proverbial 15 minutes of fame.

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To be sure, there were those who sought public attention, with one coming in a “superhero” costume, while others brandished crosses, religious images and even anting-anting. One said he would call on his “alien friends” to defend our islands in the event of an invasion from China, while another said he would “enact” a law “legalizing” the four temperate seasons—spring, summer, fall and winter—in our tropical isles.

One party-list nominee, of the leftist Bayan Muna, came arrayed in a military uniform reminiscent of revolutionary general Antonio Luna, doubtless banking on the residual popularity of the movie telling the general’s tragic story.

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Candidates’ supporters massed in front of the Comelec headquarters, lending a “fiesta” atmosphere to the area as the hours ticked by last Friday, the last day for COC filing. Bands and cheerleaders filled the plaza with music and mayhem, while followers cheered on their candidates. All that was missing were some elephants, horses and clowns on stilts.

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TO be sure, there were clowns a-plenty. Even public figures who once commanded a modicum of respect sought public attention with embarrassing and cringe-worthy gimmicks.

Count among them Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago who caught most everyone by surprise with her sudden announcement of a run for the presidency and then, as if this were not shocking enough, declaring that she was taking on Sen. Bongbong Marcos as her running mate.

Social media lit up with tweets, hashtags and posts on the unexpected pairing. The prevailing sentiment seemed to be of betrayal on Miriam’s part, of how a senator who once ran for president on an anticorruption platform could now be pairing with the son of a man who, for more than a decade, institutionalized not just corruption in the system but also repression, torture and “salvaging,” a word used as code for forced disappearances and executions that gained popular usage during martial law.

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte stayed put in his bailiwick, but still managed to capture a lot of media attention with his enigmatic stance regarding a possible presidential run. Toward the close of Friday’s office hours, he sounded peeved and impatient, saying he had “never said” he was going to run for president, even if he’d dropped tantalizing hints about it in previous weeks. This left Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, a vice presidential candidate who was publicly courting Duterte to be his running mate, not just orphaned of a principal, but with virtual egg on his face.

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AND so we’re off!

But there is about the opening salvo of the 2016 elections something anticlimactic about it. All the sound and fury of the previous months reduced to this bureaucratic procedure, the pro forma filing of COCs and the usual pap about serving the country.

Sure, the fire and brimstone are sure to follow once the stump begins. In fact, another “concerned citizen” has suddenly emerged to file another petition for the disqualification of Sen. Grace Poe as a presidential candidate. And I’m sure that once the rhetoric levels up, even more mud will be hurled at competing candidates and parties. And if harsh words are exchanged, especially at the local level, can violence and viciousness be far behind? We might need more than alien allies to referee the expected melee.

The Comelec is seeking to mediate the electoral dispute, especially at the national level, by offering to host a debate among the major contenders. Perhaps this is an effort to raise the level of discourse, now mired in issues of citizenship and class origins, skin color and political loyalties, and move on to more substantial issues like platforms and principles, plans and performance. Unfortunately, none of the major contenders, including administration candidate Mar Roxas, appears willing to take part in the debate, dashing our hopes for a more substantial campaign, and thus more substantial choice, this time around.

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AND so we surrender our attention and time to the increasingly complicated—and, let’s admit it, kilig pa more—story of the AlDub pair, who appear to be moving closer to fulfilling the promise of their unlikely romance.

Of course, this is no time for wrong priorities, for kababawan, for letting the evolving story of two young lovers-to-be get in the way of a serious evaluation of all our futures. But then, given the way the election scenario is playing out, with politicians trading on our goodwill and dreams for our future to catapult themselves to power, maybe we do need to distract ourselves from the disheartening reality we confront.

But if, as AlDub fans believe, there is such a thing as “forever,” maybe there are also such things as the myths of governance we are enticed with: honesty, competence, vision, and desire to serve. Is it possible these really exist and are not just buzzwords to bedazzle us?

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TAGS: AlDub, Antonio luna, Bayan Muna, Bongbong Marcos, Comelec, Eat Bulaga, Lea Salonga, Maine Mendoza, Pop Culture, Rodrigo Duterte
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