Admission: I voted for former Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who placed last in the 2016 national elections. (And yes, I voted for Leni Robredo for vice-president; Santiago’s alliance with Bongbong Marcos was the only thing I held against the former senator, as I still admire her no-nonsense ways of bringing sanity back to Philippine politics – even though Santiago was branded as “brain-damaged” by critics.)
In my social media post that evening of the elections, I warned my friends that I may suddenly decide to switch careers — resign from my job at OpinYon, buy a ticket puncher, get a conductor’s license, and troop to Green Star Express (as South City Express was still called then).
Fortunately, I stuck with my job, where I have since graduated from writer to editor of this edition. That Facebook post I had long since dismissed as a feverish rant of a guy who was so disappointed the way Philippine politics was run that he even contemplated leaving this Godforsaken country for good.
Looking back — and forward — I realize that many Filipinos have had that same dilemma: should we leave this country if voters made what they perceive was the wrong choice for the elections?
That question had been burning in the minds of many Filipino intellectuals as they watched the country fall into what they called a “banana republic”: a country led and populated by stubborn people who couldn’t take criticism, who’d rather listen to flattering lies than truth that will hurt their ego, who’d make the same mistakes over and over again and expect different results each time.
Anti-intellectualism, after all, has been deeply rooted in the Philippine psyche, instilled by Spaniards who for three centuries taught the “Indios” that a desire for learning will only land them into trouble with the Spanish authorities.
Jose Rizal’s character Padre Damaso enunciated that mindset clearly when he declared that native Filipinos should not be sent abroad for more education as it will only make them stubborn and resistant to authority.
When the Americans colonized us, they quickly embarked on a widespread education campaign as part of its “benevolent assimilation” of the Philippines. Whereas the Spaniards conquered us through ignorance, the Americans conquered us through intelligence.
Unfortunately, the roots of the Filipinos’ disdain for education have been long since planted, and the Americans were unable to uproot them.
As a result, many of our country’s “best and brightest” watched helplessly as the country gradually became engulfed in kakistocracy – the rule of the least intelligent (but more arrogant).
In the six years since I wrote that feverish rant, I have decided: No, I will not leave this country.
Even as many have expressed this sentiment, “Pilipinas, ang hirap mong mahalin!” I have realized that that love of country is precisely what we should express even more in these uncertain times.
Remember what Jesus said? No one lights a lamp and hides it under the bed. Instead, he puts it on the table where it could spread its light to the entire room.
As that rock song said, magsilbi sana tayong liwanag sa dilim. Let’s be the light that will put our country out of the darkness – and leaving it will not make our light shine.