OF COURSE it’s personal. My grandson is one year and five months old, which means that by the time President Duterte steps down from office in 2022, he will be seven years old. As our old catechism books taught us, that age is considered the age of awareness, by which time believers could commit a sin because they are presumed to know the difference between good and evil.
What would my grandson have learned in the next six years? What values would he have imbibed, how would his morals be shaped? What sort of person would he have become, or on the way to becoming? Having grown up in the “Age of Duterte,” would something of our abrasive, rough-hewn, foul-mouthed, sexist and murderous President have rubbed off on him? Would I even recognize my grandson by then?
This, I take it, is a common worry of many parents and grandparents, teachers, Church leaders and other persons responsible for molding the next generation.
Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop and CBCP president Soc Villegas, in a message tilted “Confused and sad yet hopeful” (an apt description for many Filipinos, right?), reiterates this point, noting how “cherished Filipino values maka-Dios, makatao, and makabayan (Godly, humane and nationalistic) are slowly being eroded and replaced by an open license for cuss words, orchestrated lies and vulgarity never heard before.” (We all know who he’s referring to, don’t we?)
“I am afraid that our children and youth will catch and embrace these twisted upside down values,” he added. “I dread the thought they might carry these errors into the next generation and render tomorrow bleak and gloomy.”
* * *
MY thoughts and fears exactly. It’s not just the words. It’s also the attitude that underlies these words, the hostility to niceties and manners, the denigration of concerns over individual rights and democracy.
These fears are based on much more than perception or interpretation. Archbishop Soc said he felt “grief and alarm” over “the spate of unresolved killings in the country and the Duterte administration’s bloody war on drugs.” As well, he expressed alarm over “new things” that make Filipinos laugh, referring, I suppose, to rape, sex videos, and extramarital affairs, all of which Mr. Duterte has brought up in his public appearances, and met with amusement and gales of laughter.
Archbishop Soc puts his concerns eloquently: “I am in this endless grief at the killings I have seen and heard. The well is running dry and I can no longer give a word of condolence to the bereaved families because I also need to be assured even a bit that things will get better and not become worse even more.
“My brows have not been without furrows for some months now—worried, confused and sad. I cry as I pray alone. I am horrified at the ‘new things’ that make my countrymen laugh. How do I cope? I repeat and hold on to the saying: The darkest hour is just before dawn. The darkest hour is the hour before the sunburst!”
* * *
AS never before, among my circle of relatives, friends and colleagues, the subject of leaving the country, immigrating to more hospitable climes where our children need not fear being shot to death for the simple “crime” of being out on the streets after dark, has been coming up in conversations.
For my husband and me, it may already be too late. We have both reached, or are approaching, retirement age, and it is doubtful if we could pull up roots and start anew in a strange place and among strangers. But our children still have the window of opportunity open to them, and my grandson, who is learning his first words and is appreciating the world and the people around with ever-new curiosity and openness, has his whole life ahead of him.
When this little boy was born, our greatest hope and prayer for him was that he would grow up proud to be a Filipino, contributing his talent and effort to the creation of a country he would be proud of. (Although I also hoped he would grow up to be handsome and tall, kind and generous, loving his “No” and “Na”—his terms for us—to bits).
If he should join his parents in the growing Diaspora occasioned by the harsh environment created by Mr. Duterte, what will my grandson remember of his home country? Will he still remain Filipino? Will he still love these benighted islands?
* * *
ARCHBISHOP Soc offers words of assurance, saying he was still hopeful that peace would be restored and harmony regained, and all of us Pinoys “see civility recovered and courtesy won back.”
Of course, his prescription calls for more than what I at least would be able to follow—“to pray the Rosary every day, go to confession at least once a month, and attend daily Mass” for what he terms “the healing of all Filipinos in the Philippines and abroad—healing from anger and indifference, healing from cynicism and apathy, healing from blindness and passivility, healing from unconcern and listlessness.”
Readers, I am sure, are well aware of my own wariness toward the institutional Church, especially the leaders’ attitudes toward women and women’s rights. But as I told a group of friends recently, it is such an irony that for me right now, the Church has become a sanctuary. Not just a literal one, since Church personages have offered to open their parishes and shrines to all who feel threatened by the EJKs. But also a spiritual and emotional one: a place to recover one’s equanimity and restore one’s belief in humanity.
We are sad, saddened, afraid and disgusted. Our faith in the country, in the innate goodness of the Filipino, is fast fading. And we have yet to observe Mr. Duterte’s first 100 days. As I said earlier, it’s personal!
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.