A nation in crisis

A nation in crisis

To Juan dela Cruz, endless and pointless political discussions fill up social media and the news. As Filipinos struggle to cope with the socio-economic effects of COVID-19, our presidential candidates and their teams continue to attack one another like cats and dogs. Such shameful grandstanding and bickering happening left and right, unbecoming of true statesmen.

To start off, Comelec has not changed to improve the guidelines for the presidential races. Instead it has encouraged and supported mediocrity. Can we not level up to better systems to help improve the election process? Why allow twists, turns and maneuvers?

Will God finally send us a Joan of Arc or a King Arthur? Or are we already surrounded with terrifying monsters, gremlins and supervillains? Well, Halloween is just around the corner. Some candidates will surely blend in well with the theme of the party.

So, here is what we are looking for: (1) a good citizen; (2) just to everyone, friend or foe; (3) defends the weak and the oppressed; (4) chivalrous to womanhood and considerate to old age; (5) performs, whenever possible, acts of kindness and mercy; (6) courageous and will never yield to the forces of evil; (7) must know that all authority emanates from God, and that duly constituted governments must be respected as long as they do not conflict with the divine mandates and the fundamental rights of man.

For a democracy to achieve its purpose, civic order and social discipline must be maintained. Our new leaders must respect the idea that the powers of government are largely derived from the consent of the governed, in conformity with natural law and the law of reason.

In our country, we choose the highest officials and those entrusted with political powers by exercising our right of suffrage. We may differ in our choices of who to vote for. We may engage in bitter controversy during the electoral campaigns. But once the people have spoken, their decision and verdict must be accepted and obeyed.

My great grandfather, the late assemblyman Benito Soliven, remind public servants: “A successful candidate ceases to be a mere individual. He represents the people and is clothed with their august authority, vested with the legitimate powers of government. However, this does not mean that the official may do as he wishes; for he, in turn, must perform his duties to the state and to the people, irrespective of party affiliations and partisan leanings.” Of course, we do not see such acts of patriotism nowadays. But who knows, one aspiring candidate may have such qualities. Abangan!

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Before I forget, I would like to congratulate Maria Ressa for winning the most coveted Nobel Peace Prize for being a guardian of press freedom. Continue to do what you are doing and ignore those bashers who envy your accomplishment. What a feat! You truly have made such a big impact on the Filipino youth and many media warriors out there. Your message is clear – to continue to protect freedom of the press in the Philippines. Thank you for reminding us to persevere and have courage even when every hope seems to weigh down on us.

My late father, Max Soliven, who was imprisoned by Ferdinand Marcos during martial law, continued to fight for press freedom until the very end of his life. On the role of journalists, he said: “Journalists are far from perfect. It can be pointed out that nobody anointed them to be messiahs, or arbiters of culture and civilization, defenders of public morality and critics of government and society, except themselves. It has already been repeated, ad infinitum, that while lawyers have to take the Bar examination to qualify to practice, doctors must hurdle medical board exams, dentists must pass similar examinations to qualify and even veterinarians, no journalist is required to take a test, not even a psychological examination, before inflicting himself on the world.”

The life of a journalist is not easy. You write to expose social ills. You write to fight for justice. You write to speak the truth.

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Figures from the literary scene mourned the passing of National Artist for Literature, Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera. He is known for his theatrical works including the librettos for Tales of the Manuvu, Rama Hari and Hibik at Himagsik nina Victoria Laktaw as well as his poetry collection Likhang Dila, Likhang Diwa.

Palanca awardee for literature Floy Quintos called him a gentle genius and intellectual giant. He wrote, “To say that he was very astute and learned is an understatement. In fact, it is stressing the obvious. What is most important is that he had a consistent and fully developed philosophy, a point of view and moral conviction that underlined all his work. He believed in freedom from tyranny, feudalism and fascism. He stressed the importance of individual freedom balanced by a commitment to the liberation of one’s fellowmen and the betterment of a nation founded on equality and social responsibility.”

This firm but quiet activism manifested itself not only in all his works but could be gleaned immediately in his manner, kindness, compassion and humility. He was never loud or strident, not even in the most impassioned of protest gatherings. He always spoke with a calm conviction, in measured tones, with a touch of his Batangueño frankness and folksy humor.

Though he spoke the most beautiful Tagalog. He was equally eloquent and expressive in English. That firm command of both his mother and adopted language is why I will always hold him up as model for all Filipino intellectuals, artists and academicians. He spoke and wrote fluently in either English or Tagalog. Note, I didn’t say Filipino; Ka Bien was Batangueño. Tagalog was his mother tongue.

He was a Renaissance man. A Nationalist, Teacher, Writer, Playwright, Poet, Critic, Anthologist, Literary and Cultural Historian.