In the 1986 presidential snap elections, my husband, Rolly Fernandez, and I took an unpopular stance although we were quiet about it. We followed the Leftist line and boycotted the elections. I stayed home to follow the developments on the radio while Rolly worked for the newly revived, Roces-owned The Manila Times.
The groundswell for the widow Corazon “Cory” Aquino was too massive to be ignored. As photographer Manny Chaves recalled, wherever she went, especially in the provinces, crowds would meet her, even lay pots of flowers and plants along the road of her motorcade as a gesture of respect for the candidate. Inaalayan siya.
Weary of decades of authoritarian rule, Rolly and I bought the Leftist analysis that warned of the restoration of the old oligarchy should a Cory victory happen. We wanted no less than a sweeping and radical change.
When the People Power Revolt happened, regret washed over us. I made sure I would be there to have myself counted against those who defied dictator Marcos when he sought to impose martial law again and insist that he had won the elections. Rolly, trapped in his office and unable to cross Edsa to go home, monitored the quickly developing news until the Filipinos regained their freedom through a peaceful revolt.
Fast forward to 2010 when I was again restive from nine straight years of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s graft-ridden rule. Cory passed away in August 2009, a few days after Rolly and I celebrated our silver wedding anniversary. We joined the people who lined up Roxas Blvd. when the truck bearing the beloved President’s casket passed by.
In my blog brooksidebaby.blogspot.com, I remember writing: “I’ve always had a distaste for politics, but I love my liberal, libertarian, socialist and communist friends. Long ago, I learned that the act of writing is already a political act in itself. One cannot hide behind the journalistic code of objectivity all the time. In the end, you have to make a choice: are you on our side or on the enemy’s? Whether in the home with the threat of domestic violence hanging on one’s head or out on the streets where cruel traps are laid, we face the challenge of choosing, of making a stand.”
Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III wasn’t even on my radar as a possible replacement for Macapagal-Arroyo. When public clamor pushed him to be the presidential front-runner of the Opposition, I looked at him with indifferent eyes.
At first, I heard how so-so he was as a congressional representative and senator. A friend, who was his English teacher at the Ateneo, remarked how he was not a student who stood out in his class, short of saying his papers were mediocre.
And yet, he couldn’t help but be wrapped in the Aquino charisma. Breeding is all when I read feature articles on Ninoy and Cory Aquino’s children. Ballsy, Pinky, Viel, even Kris to some extent, exuded good manners and right conduct. I imagined so must Noynoy.
When the campaign got rolling, I volunteered to do my bit to make up for my deficient “marks” in 1986. On my own, I got rolls of yellow ballers or bracelets in the hundreds from the campaign headquarters along Edsa apart from handouts. I gave them to our village tricycle drivers and any cab driver whose taxi I rode. The cabbies I would engage in discussions about the country’s then current situation and what a Noynoy presidency would hopefully be like.
When writer-painter-former fashion model Baboo Mondoñedo invited me on a media familiarization tour of Baler, Aurora, turf of the Angaras, her in-laws, I agreed to go so that I could also help her in Noynoy’s campaign.
I can still smell the scent of dried fish and how it clung to my clothes and body as we rose one early morning
I can still smell the scent of dried fish and how it clung to my clothes and body as we rose one early morning and stomped in the public markets. We glad-handed the vendors, the fishermen, the women doing their day’s marketing. Again, we sought out the trike drivers parked nearby.
It didn’t even occur to me to wonder what the hosts, the Angaras, were thinking, considering that a couple of them were rooting for Gilbert “Gibo” Teodoro for President.
Speaking of Gibo, our family household in Pasig, where I was living part of the time, was divided. Our matriarch, Gliceria Lolarga, was pro-Gibo along with her mahjong mates. She even had her fingernails painted a metallic green to show her support for him. Some siblings sided with her, others were for Noynoy.
Because Gibo’s HQ had no green ballers to give away, my mom did her bit by coloring her nails in his campaign color. No, I didn’t paint my nails yellow, but I always wore a yellow pin on my summer hat or on my shirt.
And so it came to pass that Noynoy won. Baboo called her friends for a victory merienda at the Baguio Country Club. She wasn’t delirious from the triumph; rather, she was unusually muted as though weighing what the future would hold for us and the country. Meanwhile, we picked through the sashimi boat and let the cool afternoon wash over us.
I also recollect that when I reported to my creative writing class at the Community of Learners after a summer spent campaigning, one of the first things I asked my students to do was to write an open letter to the new President. Apart from the congratulatory greetings, they asked solutions for such local problems as garbage disposal and road repair.
When I tuned in to his inaugural State of the Nation address, low and behold! He was speaking in straight, colloquial Filipino. He was amazingly fluent and wasn’t stumbling on words. He being from Tarlac, I imagined the language was second nature to him, and he could use it to wrap difficult concepts with. Then came the famed announcements: “Kayo ang boss ko!” spiced up with “Walang wangwang!” That was when I cheered in front of the TV set and knew my efforts, such as they were, were not in vain.