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Visayans declare it’s now their turn

On the big day, Cebu radio commentators, with voices brimming with regional pride, broadcast that “Bisaya na pud” (It’s Visayans’ turn now), while describing the new ruler being sworn in at the capital as “ang unang presidenteng Bisaya” (the first Visayan president).

They apparently forgot that in a suburb of the capital, a “purong Bicolana” (a woman born and bred in Bicol) had been sworn in as vice president earlier.

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They also seemed to forget their history, especially the fact that a Bisaya in the person of Boholano Carlos P. Garcia occupied Malacañang when he assumed power after President Ramon Magsaysay’s plane collided with Cebu’s Mount Manunggal back in 1957. That Bisaya leader instituted the “Filipino First” policy while presiding over an austerity program.

Perhaps it’s their youth that makes Visayan commentators set their political benchmarks only now with the new Cebuano-speaking ruler.

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That new ruler had said earlier that he wouldn’t wear an itchy native shirt for the big event, prompting his hometown tailor to come up with a handsome non-itchy one. Knowing that such formal events call for elegant black trousers to match the shirt, the chief displayed his signature unconventionality by choosing to wear casual brown pants instead. Watching the event with awe, spectators remarked at the truly unique persona who would be leading the nation.

During the farewell walk on the Palace grounds with the former leader, the new leader impressed the people with his easy swagger, especially as he briefly placed his hands in his pockets as though ready to pull out a pair of pistols. An admirer watching the proceedings on TV remarked: What an elegant cowboy style the ruler displayed, one showing him as a genuine defender ready to gun down the bad guys who’ve been oppressing his long-suffering people for too long.

The leader having agreed to put up with the pomp of the inaugural event, it was impressive to watch his offspring (dressed to camouflage any tattoos) march in a dignified manner down the great Palace hall to the platform, which surely made some watchers desist from calling them parvenus. Both sons observed the protocol of donning black trousers to go along with their barong Tagalog, but one wondered if they harbored the thought that such formal apparel should be renamed “barong Bisaya” regardless of its origin.

The youngest child trotted along seriously and only a trifle nervously, swathed in a pretty dress with elegant panels. (Was it a fairy godmother or her real mother who styled her hair with the obligatory strand draped over one side of her sweet 12-year-old face?) If she was disappointed that Daddy didn’t bend down to kiss her after he’d finished his oath and removed his hand from the bible she was holding up for him, she made no sign of it.

The atmosphere throughout the day made this writer recall once reading a book titled “Barefoot in the Palace” and written by the American Agnes Newton Keith, who arrived in Manila in the 1950s.  She’d accompanied her British husband who was sent by the Food and Agriculture Organization at the time Ramon Magsaysay was newly installed in office, under a happy haze of the people’s high hopes and best wishes.  Only later did the citizens find out that the supposedly simple man from Iba, Zambales, had been groomed, and his political agenda choreographed, by a sly agent of the former power, the one that usually pulls the strings in its former colony.

The new leader today has declared that he will not allow any foreign powers to interfere with his governance and has extended a welcoming hand to new friends and old enemies (even after having earlier berated a couple of major allies to “Shut up!” and keep out of his politics).

Meanwhile, the new ruler’s devotees may be feeling apprehensive at his plan (stated earlier but subject to change, depending on his whims) to commute to and from his Davao hometown to the capital city. Perhaps they worry his aircraft might end up like Magsaysay’s, or worse, like MH370 which disappeared en route from Malaysia to China and was never found despite probers scouring the Indian Ocean and beyond.

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One may well ponder if, as in Magsaysay’s time, today’s political landscape is off to a fine start, operating with smoke and mirrors.

Isabel Escoda is newly settled in her hometown of Cebu after many years of living in Hong Kong.

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TAGS: Carlos P. Garcia, leni robredo, Rodrigo Duterte, Visayas
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