The Philippines Deserves Better

We’re sick of the way you’re politicizing our human rights. And our lives.

Illustration by Momo Fernandez

It’s getting tiring, fighting for this country. There’s a lethargy here that has nothing to do with my body. It’s surreptitious, yet undeniably there, creeping into my limbs and lungs.

The Philippine flag deserves to be turned upside down. The menace isn’t a foreign invader. It’s within.

There are no sweeping declarations from me, this time. No call to action. I wish I could end this post with another specific punctuation on what this is all about, or what we ought to do. A realization, a thesis, some deep epiphany.

But no. Sorry. This time, I got nothing. Just a rant. And plenty of anger and frustration.

I’m not alone when I say how sick I am of all the horrors taking pace in this country. You’d think that by now, we’d have learned from history. Because you know what they say about those who don’t. My heart is rocked by the idea that the grievances of generations past are failing as a warning sign to those who would supposedly lead us, to their supporters.

I’m shaken by the idea that the Commission of Human Rights would be effectively stripped and shackled with a measly budget because of petty grudges. I can’t believe that so-called leaders are unable to manage working with others who disagree with them, who exist to check and balance them.

Oh, the corruption. The ego.

I’m shaken by the idea that our President would support granting the Marcoses immunity, when he has advocated framing and shooting innocents on sight. It’s irony at its best: In his obsession to stamp out criminals, it’s baffling that he’d want to protect the single biggest criminal the Philippines has ever had.

I believe I’m a model citizen — I follow the traffic regulations on the road better than most, play by the rules, pay my taxes, all squeaky clean. And yet, I don’t feel safe. I have nothing to hide, but my heart always skips a beat when I see the police on the sidewalk on which I’m walking. Wondering if I’m going to be the next Kian, or the next Carl.

I’m sick of my taxes going to the salaries of unqualified officials who do nothing but tweet blind support for a president. To someone willing to twist the truth into their own image. To people who let their politics decide what’s good and what’s evil; not vice versa.

I’m disgusted by how our tax rates might be comparable to Singapore and Japan. Yet, despite NAIA demanding terminal fees — more money just for being there — our own airport can’t even hold a candle to the likes of Changi and Narita. What are we doing? Where is our money going?

What’s patriotism? It’s getting harder to define, even harder to defend.

I’m sick that favorable services like Grab and Uber are being shackled by the LTFRB for none other than a sense of insecurity, greed, and jealousy. I’m slack-jawed by the notion that they proclaim safety in registration, when public taxis have shown a far greater failure in that regard.

I’m sickened by what’s happened to our film festivals, where money has become the priority over the arts. Where appealing to the lowest common denominator is applauded over pushing the boundaries of what our collective minds and hands can do.

I’m sick of how the common Filipino might demand change but refuse to change themselves. I’m sick of stepping outside my house and seeing supposedly educated people littering their plastic cups and cigarettes without a care.

I’m mostly frustrated that I can’t do anything about it, and that even leading by example feels invisible as anything else.

I used to think that staying and helping the country get better through one’s individual time and talents was a noble thing. I suppose in the big picture, it still is. But I no longer blame those who leave the country in search of better pastures.

I now see the best of us stepping on an airplane and flying out and thinking, “Yeah, I understand. I’d do the same, if it were so easy.”

Because we give, and we give. We try to be the best versions of ourselves, for the sake of others, for the familiar and the stranger alike, and yet… this is what we get.

The feeling that we could do a better job than the ignorant, the corrupt, and the selfish in power. The feeling that we’d give each other better if we could.

My only hope lies in the next generation moving forward.

One day, those in power won’t be in power anymore. Whether they step down after their terms, or whether they collapse from old age after extending their terms because of how hungry they are for more, more, more…

Whatever.

They won’t be there forever.

Then we’ll see what’s left of the Philippines after that.

~QR

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