#EDSA30 – What did we get?

I was hoping that by now we have learned to divorce the narrative of the EDSA Revolution from the cult of the Aquinos. But I was wrong. Challenging certain personalities’ “saintly attributes” apparently equates to being pro-Marcos, or that we must only subscribe to a specific groupthink or get criticized by attacking the “Spirit of EDSA” – as if the concept of democracy itself is monopolized by a few personalities in history.
Ironic, because that kind of logic is the same propaganda that Marcosian rule brought to the Philippines for several decades: it’s either we subscribe to a single political narrative or get shunned. And while the days of being killed out of your own political convictions isn’t so widespread as before, it begs me to think if the kind of political conditions we have now is any better – that we are ostracized by dominating discourses if we do not toe the line of what ruling classes want us to believe. Maybe this is the “dictatorship in democracy” that Slavoj Zizek talked about with reference to dominating liberal ideologies.
It’s difficult for us “who weren’t there” to appreciate EDSA, simply because that what we’ve been taught for 30 years looks more like a dogmatic mass than actual history. Let’s just forget the fact that Cory’s administration suffered human rights abuses comparable to that of the Marcos administration. Let’s ignore the prevailing oligarchic rule that took over after EDSA to continue the oppressive systems we experience today. Let’s be thankful this, let’s be thankful that ad infinitum.
Yes, I’m thankful that we have greater political freedoms than what we had 30 years ago. But that doesn’t mean we’re no longer allowed to hear the truths of EDSA that, many of which challenge the dominating narrative that is forced upon us every 25th of February. Because the real spirit of EDSA – and that of inclusive democracy – is having the freedom to challenge these dominating discourses. It’s self-contradictory to say that the story of EDSA “is not over” then suddenly impose limits to this story.
That being said, if we want to celebrate the real story of EDSA, here’s where we can start. Let’s go beyond saying never again to Martial Law. Never again to the ghosts of Marcosian rule that try to inch inside our current politics. Never again to a rule of an oligarchy or political dynasties. Never again to poverty. Never again to the political abuses committed by all past administrations, including those that came after Marcos.
When we allow these kinds of narratives to take place in our conversations every time we celebrate EDSA, maybe our current generation would start appreciating what transpired 30 years ago.

Expectations (A Short Story)

“It’s been raining for a while” said my brother. He continued, “if this rain continues for another hour we’d be flooded here in this funeral home.”

I assured him, saying “Don’t worry about it Caleb. The rain’s already weakening right now. No floods to worry about eh?”

The gloom and doom is not just with the weather truth be told, but everything that I’ve been experiencing for the past couple of years. A few bright spots here and there, but just generally pessimistic.

I look back to all of those years, and now I’m in my dad’s wake. Seeing his casket surges all the short memories I’ve had with him.

“Aidan” called my brother “Your uncle’s calling”

I walked to my uncle, “My deepest condolences” he told me.

Frankly, this day doesn’t bother me as much as I’ve expected. For years I was preparing myself for this day to come, that one day my family will receive a letter from the military telling us about the bad news of my father’s unfortunate demise.

It happened last week.

I was busy at work, doing favors for certain “friends from high places” when my mom called me.

“Aidan, please come home. Dad is dead.”

“I will, I’m sorry to hear that.”

I rushed to the nearest train station, and arrived at my home an hour later. In the living room I saw my brother Caleb, comforting my mom as she laid her head in his shoulder. It was obvious that she was forcing herself not to grieve, but her tears wouldn’t hold back. Our neighbors and close family friends were there as well. One by one they gave their sympathies to us.

“Mary” said one of our neighbors to my mom “I’m sorry to hear about your loss.”

Different lines, same meaning – our neighbors and friends feeling sympathy for us. I never really understood that practice to be honest. I just mostly observed them as I was there in the corner of the living room while I sipped my beer. I know that most of them never really felt their “deepest sympathies”, it was just a way to comfort us. But why is it we humans would go to the extent of lying just to comfort someone else’s grief?

Is it because we really care? I don’t know, emotions were never really my cup of tea.

That dreaded day kept replaying in my mind as I stared at the window in the funeral home. The strong pour of the rain only encouraged my active pessimistic thoughts, it bugged me as much as my questions of not really being there for my dad – or my dad not really being there for much of my life.

My dad, Elias, loved his military career. So much so that for practically half of my life he would be at military tours rather than my family’s most important moments. It was duty over family for him. I know that he loved us, but the country will always come first for him.

It was thanks to this practice that I inherited the same ethic from my dad. I still care for my family, sure. But that image of a close family being together for whatever happens, that’s not my life. A shame really, I was never really a family man – and unfortunately I’ll never be one.

This sort of regret comes to me, to which I try to distract my thoughts thinking about work. Observing my relatives and everyone else paying their respects to my dad is something to behold. It oddly calms me, that I’m just a few steps away as I see them converse and chat about my dad’s life, escapades and so on.

Suddenly, my phone rings.

Finally, a distraction from my emotional turmoils.

“Sir, what is it?”

“Aidan” my boss calls “How are you? I hope everything is alright.”

“Everything is fine sir. I’ll get over it, I’ll be back to work in 4 days.”

“I hope to see you again as soon as possible. I know how hard it is to lose a loved one. But we’ll need you focused. If you need more time to mourn just tell me.”

“I’ll be fine sir. In 4 days I can handle it.”

“Alright, take care.”

“Take care sir.”

Just as I ended my call, Caleb walks by to check me up.

“Bro, that was your boss I assume? Mourn with us, you shouldn’t stress yourself with your work. Don’t be too hard on yourself.”

“Caleb, you don’t need to sympathize with me. You know very well how I feel about these things. I don’t want to sound harsh, but I’d rather be working than being stuck in this den of depression.”

“You never really changed brother, what’s bothering you? Is it your work?”

“Yeah, work. I just can’t get it off my thoughts.”

“You can tell me, you know.”

“No need, you wouldn’t understand.”

My brother nods, and he goes back to entertain our guests. Maybe I am a bit harsh, but I’d rather not pretend that I’m a family man myself. My family respects this. I do wish to change, but it’s too late now. That opportunity has long been gone.

Besides, my work is a much more important point in my life right now.

In a year from now, the elections are about to start. My work involves dealing with issues that may damage the reputation of one of our country’s congressmen. I am practically his public relations hitman. I make him look good, so that he can focus on important shit while I handle the dirty ones.

The fact that there’s only 360 days left before the general elections means more mudslinging, shallow discourse, and libelous statements. It’s gonna be hell, but I’d rather face that hell than become wallowed in my personal problems.

That job of mine was offered to me a year ago. Back then I was already working for 3 years in a think tank where I dealt with various projects concerning politics and the like. My old boss knew my current boss, and so that’s pretty much how I got the job.

At that time, my current boss needed someone to help him make his boss’ local project look good. I was already getting bored with my old job, so I took the chance. Problem was, this project we were dealing with involved mining. Worst of all, the area concerned affected indigenous lands. To make that project look good is like making shit smell like high end perfume; it was almost impossible.

Luckily – for me I guess – that area was also infested with rebels fighting the government over issues of poverty. So the way my boss and I dealt with the project’s image was two-fold. One, we made it look like the “job package” that would provide opportunities for nearby residents. Two, we spreaded malicious rumors claiming that the indigenous people against the mining project were also working with the rebels. Thankfully, the rebels themselves were not seen kindly by many of the residents nearby.

Our job was successful, the media bought our bullshit and the boss of my boss got it passed in congress. The government did the rest of the work dealing with the rebels and indigenous people. From there, the rest was history.

Is my job dirty? Yes, unprincipled even. But hey, when you can’t even call your boss by their name when talking to them in public, you know very well it’d be damn dirty. If only my dad knew what I’ve been doing right now, he’d understand. I know that as a soldier, he had to get his hands dirty from time to time too.

I’m not a soldier like my dad, I’m a hitman. A loyal hitman to be exact, one that only answers to my boss and to his boss.

Funny how I just thought about work right now. But as I muse about work I noticed that our relatives and close friends have already left. How long was I buried in my own thoughts? Was it really that long?

No matter, it’s already 15 minutes before 11 pm. As I face away from the clock, I walk to the very first row to which I’d sit and stare at my dad’s casket. My family is asleep, and I’m all alone. From here, this is how I’m going to mourn. This solitude is what I’ve needed for a long time.

But I’m not just going to mourn for my dad’s demise, I’m going to mourn for myself – all my regrets, my fears, my insecurities and the rest of the turmoils that has gotten me fucked up.

All those past years of memories start to surge into my mind.

But as I was about to get lost again in my thoughts, footsteps interrupt my ritual. I look back as I see Caleb, staring at me as his eyes show how worried he is about me.

“You should go to sleep brother.”

“Not now, I’m in mourning.”

“Then let me mourn with you.”

He walks towards me and sits by my side. I couldn’t take it anymore, these frustrations and turbulence of emotions just suddenly spill out forcing me to break down into tears. I’ve been so strong for all these years, but no longer at least for this night. I lay by my brother’s shoulder. He comforts me, with the most solemn of words he could muster.

“Caleb” I say to him “I don’t understand why my life had to be this way. This family, my work, everything. I don’t know what to do. I’m just fucked up.”

“I don’t know what else to say brother. All I want you to know is that mom and I are just here. Dad may not have been with us for most of our life, but I know he loves you as much as mom and I do. We’ll always be here, even if you constantly try to avoid us – do know that we’ll always be here.”

“These words mean nothing. They’re merely empty, I know it. I know they’re all lies, all of it just to comfort us from not accepting the bitter truths we hold.”

“Then at least accept this lie, for it will be better than the troubled truths you forcibly hold on to yourself.”

“I cannot, I’ll never accept this lie. We’re not a close family, all because dad never cared for us. He picked his duty over us, so let me do the same.”

Our conversation was cut short as my phone rang.

I wiped my tears with my hands before I answered the call. It was from my boss. I tried to calm myself for a few seconds to prepare myself  in answering the call. I wouldn’t want to sound so rough talking to my boss thanks to my cries.

“Aidan, I’m sorry if I had to call you this late. But it’s an emergency. We have reports that our bill is about to be scrapped within congress in the following days. If you could give us some suggestions about this, that’ll be fine. But I know that you’re in mourning so….”

“It’s fine sir, I’ll meet you tomorrow. Let’s discuss about it.”

“I thought you needed 4 days to rest?”

“I assume this is an emergency sir? My emotions will have to take a back seat I’m afraid. Don’t worry, I can handle myself.”

“Alright Aidan, take care of yourself. See you tomorrow.”

As I end my call, I stood up so as to leave the room and rest for my work tomorrow. But as I was about to leave, my brother walks towards me and puts his hand on my shoulder as a gesture of comfort.

“If dad were alive, I’m sure he’d apologize to us… to you as well.”

I turn to face my brother and said “I know, but it’s too late now is it? He’s already dead. Good night Caleb.”

“Just one more thing. Are you going to leave us again brother?”

“I’m afraid so.”