(Second part of the Keynote Speech delivered at the 44th Congress of the Unyon ng mga Manunulat sa Pilipinas (UMPIL) and the 31st Gawad Alagad ni Balagtas held in Roxas City on 28 April 2018 with the theme: “Kadulom kag Kasanag: Panitikan ng Pag-asa.”)
Kanya, another image of the bird na lumabas ay ang ibong malaya. Ito yong inawit ng mga makibaka-huwag-matakot na ang bokabularyo ay dominated ng tatlong “ismo” monsters. Sa kanilang paningin tayo ay nakakulong sa malaking hawla ng tatlong “ismo” at “isang dipang langit” lang ang ating nakikita.
Ang daming mga Messiah ang nagsulputan, isa na si Marcos who viewed the oligarchs and communists as the evil causes of our poverty, declared Martial Law, and offered the New Society as the sinalimba or hope of Filipinos. In turn, ang mga ismong activists viewed Marcos as the biggest demon in Philippine society. Nag-mutual demonization. Kaso, mas makapangyarihan si Marcos at pinaghuhuli, pinagtotortyur, at pinagpapatay ang mga aktibista. After twenty years nagcrash ang New Society and was replaced by Hope who wore yellow at EDSA. But it went phht very quickly.
One government after another has come and gone, offering hope in the form of millennium goals that went up in smoke, a kagang-kagang jeepney, matatag na republika na madaling nalosyang, and another sinalimba labelled “kayo ang boss ko.” But the country’s situation has worsened. We’ve mangled our Constitution several times, but the diaspora continues, not only to the States but also to Arab countries where our so-called heroes could end up being murdered and hidden in a freezer.
I continue to be stunned by our poverty figures. Lanao del Sur (ARMM) – 74.3%, Sulu (ARMM) – 65.7%, Sarangani (Region 12) – 61.7%, Northern Samar (Region 8) – 61.6%, Maguindanao (ARMM) – 59.4%, Bukidnon (Region 10) – 58.7% etc, etc. Nationwide, it’s still a shocking 25%. Self-rating surveys say 50% of Filipinos feel they are mahirap.