Thursday, August 7, 2008

Genes and poverty

Last July 24, we wrote here an article entitled "Moro moro in the works." Look at what's happening in Mindanao now, two weeks after. And all because one illegitimate leader will do everything and anything just to remain in power, even beyond 2010. If it weren't such a painful thing, we'd like to say, haven't we been telling you since whenever in this space, that Doña Gloria will not relinquish power? Unless we altogether force her out.

But for now, let me give you another reason why.

I could not believe my ears. Ted Failon and Korina Sanchez, over their morning program on DZMM, read a text message from our friend Butch Valdes (how he has a sister Nena, who toadies to her fellow Assumptionista Gloria Macapagal Arroyo I still cannot comprehend), which said: "In a recent talk show, GMA's favorite economic adviser, Gov. Joey Salceda, observed that the Filipino nation-state is genetically structured to fail."

Genes. As a race, we must possess the wrong ones, if Joey Salceda's postulates are to be believed. Which is one reason I parenthetically mentioned Fatima "Nena" Valdes, who along with Remedios "Medy" Poblador, are Doña Gloria's ambassadors of goodwill to the bishops, with Ephraim Genuino and Serge Valencia as ministers of the booty. Because Butch Valdes has the right heart, and even if many do not necessarily agree with his views, the right mind. Some other genes stray into one's family, I guess.

Frankly though, I sometimes ask myself, how can a race which has produced a genius like Rizal, a nationalist like Claro M. Recto, a man of courage like Bonifacio, sit in quiet sufferance a curse like Gloria Macapagal Arroyo?

And oftentimes I wonder, what sin have we committed as a race to be condemned to the wretched state we find ourselves in? Unlike Hitler's Germany, we did not exterminate any other race. Unlike Hirohito's Japan, we did not invade any other country and have not committed atrocities other than those we sometimes inflict upon our own. Unlike McKinley's America, we did not raze Balangiga to the ground, used 45 cal. pistols against the Moros, or even, in another time and under Lyndon Johnson, pillage and rape My Lai. Neither has this race unleashed an Osama bin Laden, or helped him terrorize the world.

We have not committed any crimes against humanity, but we are accursed to suffer. Maybe Joey Salceda is right about defective genes, I mused.

And then I remembered a YouTube video that I recently watched. It was a special report of GMA-7's Sine Totoo, hosted by Howie Severino and narrated by Arnold Clavio. The report was entitled "Pagpag." Now what in heaven's name is "pagpag"? It is what males do with their organ after releasing liquid body wastes. Down to the last drop.

Well, "pagpag" is also the new vocabulary for scraps and left-overs from restaurants, organic garbage really, that scavengers collect each night from their garbage bins, and then sell to poor men's neighborhood sidewalk eateries. The enterprising carinderia owners then wash the left-overs (mostly chicken parts) in hot water (not running hot water, but inside dingy plastic pails), shake off the water after two washings, and voila! They have recycled "pagpag".

The pagpag is then re-fried in hot oil, or made into adobo or afritada, seasoned with some salt, some pepper, some atsuete, sometimes tomato sauce, and loads of - you guessed it, MSG or vetsin. Then a plastic bowl-sized serving is sold at ten pesos for the adobo or afritada, and 15 pesos for the re-fried Jollibee or KFC "spare parts" (mahal kasi ang mantika).

And wow, is it a big seller among Gloria's lumpen, for whom she "cares" a lot. But retch you probably would at the video shots. The "pagpag" are sorted out from used styrofoam, plastic and paper napkins inside huge garbage bins in the wee hours of the morning. Placed in huge plastic scavenger bags, they are transported by kariton or padyak-cab to the slum area where the pagpag dealers live. Then, the scavengers sleep for a few hours to rest weary bodies. When they awake, they then place the scraps in filthy, used corrugated cartons and then sell this to the carinderia owner for 50 pesos. One such scavenger collects three to four boxes each day, which means 150 to 200 pesos.

The video footage shows men, women and children lapping up the re-fried or braised pagpag, stripping each bone of every tiny morsel of flesh or bit of cartilage, and wolfed down with NFA rice. It provides their daily sustenance. Asked whether they have not gotten sick with salmonella, e coli infestation, or some other gastric disease, one woman even proudly proclaims how strong and healthy she and her baby are, thanks to pagpag.

The scenes are enough to make a grown-up cry. So when I heard about Joey Salceda's comment about Filipinos being "genetically structured to fail," images of that slum lady proudly proclaiming before television cameras how pagpag made her strong, raced across my mind. Does Joey Salceda know the "real" Filipino and Filipina, more than we hopeless guys could?

If you want to add to your depression, these days when the Republic is willfully being dismembered by a former chief of staff of all our armed forces who once led our fighting men as they shed blood in defense of one nation and one flag, later to lend his honor to a cheating enterprise in order to serve a false commander-in-chief, do view the Sine Totoo documentary on "Pagpag." See for yourself the true, the real, the un-varnished state of the poor, which in surveys and even government statistics grow by legions each day.

Think of them the next time a convoy of huge, darkly-tinted cars led by a mobile patrol or two motorcycle cops suffering in the rain, pass you by. And curse the occupant to the highest heavens, likely a cabinet member or, if it's an armada of vehicles followed by an ambulance to boot, why, your favorite Doña Gloria, misma! And if you only could, why, perhaps you'd be minded to throw a rock.

Poverty truly sucks, and it sucks exceedingly a race that could not be so "genetically structured to fail" were it not for gross mismanagement of the national economy, corruption so endemic and so excessive, and governance so bad, and never before in the breathtaking scale to which the likes of Joey Salceda and his Doña Gloria have made this nation-state experience.

But then again, perhaps Salceda is correct. For how come this nation-state, unlike Moroland a-borning, cannot summon up the courage to defy, the will to fight a liar, a cheat and a thief? Why is most everyone, from congressmen to mayors to governors like Salceda, perennially and perhaps habitually, "sucking" up to their illegitimate Boss Woman?

Malaya, August 7, 2008