On coming home to Manila, my Manila

The changes sweeping the Philippines are evident in the ever-evolving skyline of our capital. Every time I come home to Manila, as I did this Christmas, more and more ultra-modern spires pierce the clouds. There’s the proof, glaring at you from the Skyway, that our humble archipelago is developing at the speed of sound.

Or is it?

As buildings rise higher with each passing year, so does the level of the floodwater that the country down, literally drowning Filipinos not fortunate enough to find footing on higher ground. There’s a metaphor in here somewhere. After all, what good are these spectacular towers if built on such shaky foundations?

A Spanish friend of my father’s used to say that Filipinos have the opposite problem to their Spanish colonizers: the Spanish are quick to protest, to organize strikes, to form unions, while Filipinos, so used to being a country defeated, conquered and colonized, complain about nothing. Time and time again, elections are an exercise in choosing the lesser evil. In that respect, our last one was no different.

But have we become so absolutely hopeless that this “lesser evil” we have chosen is utilitarian to the point of sacrificing the lives of our countries’ most vulnerable citizens in the name of order and discipline? What a fragile peace to build. Not to mention his willingness to offer our territories and natural resources up on a platter to a certain superpower, never mind our dignity and internationally-recognized rights, all in the name of progress.

What long-term cost will these short-sighted policies have?

And of course there’s the specter of martial law, lurking in Manila’s corridors of power, everyday emboldened to come into the light once again. Have we so easily forgotten the suffering of our grandparents, and everything we lost not half a century ago?

When it comes to changes, there’s more promise in the fact that people are talking. People are getting angry, getting informed, and demanding more.

We need to keep being outraged. We need to keep being angry. Because if we don’t keep screaming we risk being silenced.

What will the future hold for Manila, my Manila? Will we be caught of in this wave of crazy currently sweeping the world? Or will we gather our strength and fight against the current?





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