Of Fireworks and Past Ills

(Came out in the MP 26th January 2014. Yes, I’m a federalist)

Of Fireworks and Past Ills

Driving away the evil spirits of the past year: this basic impulse forms the foundation of the tradition of fireworks every Chinese New Year. According to Chinese legend, a monster named Nian would emerge once, at the beginning of each lunar year, to wreak havoc. To drive this beast away people would paint the town red and cause noise by lighting fireworks.  While the mythological meaning is lost to us today, the impulse of driving away the ills of the past year remain.

The same impulse, it can be argued, is behind the western tradition of New Year’s resolutions – the idea of starting  each year anew it seems is universal.

And this is a rare case of a symbolic, almost ritualistic act retaining its practical purpose, for 2013 had a lot of old devils that we now need to ward off as we meet the new year.

 In our country and in our localities, problems still haunt us and it’s high time we stuff a superlolo down these problem’s throats.

The pork issue. Last year this decades long problem with the congressional allotment, mired as it already is with allegations of its use as a means for the Executive to control congressmen, reared another one of its hideous heads in the form of Napoles-gate. To the jubilation of militant groups, who have been lobbying for the abolition of congressional pork, the High Court ruled it as unconstitutional this year. We thus begin our first pork-free fiscal year in 2014, although there are still lingering issues on the remaining executive lump funds. A Valentine’s, Lenten, or perhaps Halloween plapla (do they light fireworks during those days?) to drive away this remaining problem might be expected.

Yolanda. Tacloban has been able to resume systems by now, but the reconstruction efforts are still just beginning. If any progress in dispelling the lingering devastation of the storm is to be achieved political bickering will not be of help. And the issue ultimately casts our disaster-preparedness, both systematically and societally, something we cannot go on ignoring if we don’t want to be storm-surge flotsam again.

Enrile. Okay, I’m not saying he’s a problem personally, but rumours about his misdeeds have been the staple of Philippine politics since the Marcos Regime. 2013 saw it resurface again with Miriam Santiago’s long list of accusations delivered on the Senate floor. For his own good, as well as for others, it is high time Enrile’s closet be opened to see if there are skeletons. Of course in every attempt at slaying dragons there’s a hero bound to emerge. Politically speaking, if Noynoy can met Enrile with condign punishment in the event that the old man is proven guilty by the DOJ and the SC, he’ll emerge as the next big thing of Philippine politics, because Enrile, by now an institution with all his barnacles, will be the final obstacle on the road to apotheosis.

Rice smuggling. Again, a decades-old problem gripped the Philippine attention in 2013 when, among other episodes, Customs officials approached Davao city mayor Rodrigo Duterte to seek help in tackling a rice smuggling goliath named David Tan. As in Napoles-gate, it takes a name to make an issue hot, and in this case David Tan was the name which stole billions of earning opportunities from local farmers. But the true identity of this rice lord, as of the writing of this article, remains uncertain.

In my second hometown of Davao at least we will be driving away bad spirits traditionally. Digong, in his typical f-you CHR flamboyance, vowed to paint the streets an auspicious red with the blood of rice smugglers. Even the CHR’s complaining sounds like part of the orchestrated noise to call attention to the serious issue.

And Digong reveals a greater monster we have to watusi: the poor enforcement of National law. Davao has recently leveled up the enforcement of the DPWH’s prescribed speed limits along highways, and not even former mayor Inday, Digong’s daughter, could escape being ticketed. Our local governments, it seems, are sporadically doing better than the national government. If we are to begin on the road to progress this year, we need to stop thinking top-down and begin acting bottom-up.

And as such I can only support NegOr Governor Degamo’s drive to make the province less reliable on the National government.

Indeed over here in Sidlakan our local governments are starting the year by dispelling idleness and prolonged conflicts with action. After years of delay construction of the Provincial Hospital’s Center Block once again resumed. Similarly, several former NPA members have deserted their pointless cause and were earlier this month given assistance by the provincial government. Light to guide us for tomorrow: but let us heed Jacinto’s old advice and not mistake sparkle for illumination.

 And we must remember this as we meet a new year: fireworks are flashy and noisy, as conspicuous as they go. But they only last as long as they are visible. Pyrotechnic change is fleeting, feeble, dare I say it – fake. Ang ningning ay maraya. True change is slow, steady, but sure. Ite inflammate Omnia, I say, and the fire that burns crackles quietly.


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