…there was you and I.
We knew each other. Your parents and my family were once close. We went to the same school. Attended the same birthday parties. We knew each other’s likes and dislikes like the back of our hands. We fought the same ideals. We were on the side of truth.
After every election, we’d talk about how a new government could provide better opportunities for its people. Every time the subject matter of politics came up, you’d always tell me that if so on and so forth became president or senator or congressman, you’d migrate. Thirty years later we’re still both here in this country. Trying to make ends meet.
Two years ago, things changed.
It wasn’t only the political landscape that did. The story of our friendship took a twist as well.
I was not a fan of PNoy (or for any president for that matter. To me, every president is paid to do their job.) On an unbiased note, I gave him a passing grade during his presidency. There were noises in the background, particularly when the presidential sister would be in the picture. In hind site, she had her own bragging rights. There is not much you can do for being born into a family of politicians. He had his faux pas moments. From the botched hostage attempt at Luneta at the beginning of his term, to the Mamasapano slaughter towards the end of his presidency. Death hounded him from beginning to end. There were also allegations of placing friends in formidable positions. As any politician would, friends would always be your first choice. This is made on the premise that because they are your friends, they will protect you rather than harm you. But some friends will have their own vested interests at hand. It is, after all, not an easy position to be in. A hallmark, however, of his governance was the fact that he did get the “best and the brightest” to steer the country from where it was at the time Macapagal-Arroyo left. And while he had good decisions, he had unpopular ones as well. (Name me one president that didn’t.)
Growing up, we had various opinions on the performance of each and every president. We grew up knowing Marcos for quite some time. Gloria’s father was Philippine history in our classroom.
Back then, there was no social media.
We took to writing, with hopes that a legitimate press would pick up the pulse of the masses and that government would listen and act on the issues at hand. When this did not happen, we took to the streets to fight for our rights and freedom. And the future generation of Filipinos.
We fought for truth. Democracy. Independence. Moral values. Life. Decency in public service. Trust. Even when at times the stakes were high, we protested against corruption and inept government officials.
In spite of the odds, we believed that competence was essential to every public servant. We believed that truth, honesty and accountability were the hallmarks of hope in bringing change to a country we grew up in and raise our loved ones. More than 30 years after we gained back our democracy, we fought alongside each election to sustain the gains of independence so that our children and grandchildren would have a better future.
That was why the debates before the elections was highly viewed. Well, by the more educated. The rest of the land were still busy hanging on to their telenovelas – in both reel and real life.
That was merely two years ago.
After an election.
There was a political divide. You were mired in defending your political stand. And I respected that. Those who did not agree with the current administration were called “dilawan” (Yellow).
While I went to the polls, there was one position I did not vote for. I was unimpressed at the candidates. Whoever won, I would respect. Because that is the way a democratic country works.
But for indecency to now find difficulty understanding why it needed to be rationalised in this changing world of politics, baffled whatever is left of my senses.
The lies. The scandals. The fake pictures and news. The empty promises. Even when they were blatantly wrong, you defended it.
I did not say a word. I only wondered.
Your rabid desire to be a follower of whoever won was your choice to make. Who was I to stop you? After all, we’re almost the same age. Señor-itos already. Entitled to make the right or wrong choices at this point in our lives. The last I remembered, we lived in a free country.
I have never spoken about the political sphere because there were more credible people who knew what to say. About the economy. Crime. Drugs. Policies. Foreign matters. Health. Traffic. Employment. War. Peace. Life. Death.
I am not a politician. I do not have political affiliations. Only a sense of pride and love for a country.
My friend, I watched you from the sidelines. Commenting like an economic expert or ranting at matters of foreign policy when dealing with China, Russia and the US. Even when I disagreed, and shook my head when you desperately tried to explain the many whys and hows on social media, it was with a heavy heart that I knew that I began to lose the friend I once knew.
The person I shared many ideas with. The man who stood by his principles on ethics, morals, values, life and liberty. The father who made his children proud because they knew that this was the man who would fight all forms of evil and false communication. And I asked myself and your family – what happened?
I still gave you the benefit of the the doubt. And myself as well. Who knows. In 2022, when he is no longer president, I may be wrong. You may be right.
But the noise in the air is too heavy to bear. The trolls who continue to patrol social media like loyal soldiers was the first big disappointment of this government.
The signs were there. With social media being used to slowly erode the very core of humanity. Chipping away at the little human decency left. The troll patrols used vile languages and incomprehensible reasoning in order to provide chaos and sow hatred and confusion at the opposition. I thought they were invisible. Not real people. Just paid nobodies. Living inexistent lives. Earning a pay by day, destroying a country by night.
The idea of creating trolls was to bring into mainstream social media, real people who’d believe these lies and incredulous stories of deception, of dubious fiction, of a story gone awry.
But mainstream news became a slave to technological advances as well. That was the second big disappointment. Rappler was the firm believer of “real time” news reporting. Here, the news reporters would report on real time and the news would be posted as a “live” VLOG. The problem with this was that wrong information may not have been double checked before it was reported. I should know. I’ve been in the shoes of the person the reporter who did not know what she was writing about until after the smoke had faded. But the harm had been done. The story had been written. There were no apologies from both Rappler nor the news writer. I am not writing this to ask for an apology nor to reveal what is true (as what they claim to furiously fight for). Or to have a cheap columnist in a popular newspaper write fairy tale stories and whodunnits from Lala-land because it is her means of livelihood. I don’t know if her children know how their mother makes a living, but I am sure she will never be able to look them in the eyes and say that your mom is a decent human being.
I am writing this to tell you that between you and I, I know what it feels to be in the right and yet have no one stand up for you. Because everyone is afraid. To them, these are chapters in their lives which they will move on from. But these are stories in mine that will never make me forget how painful it is to live with made up lies.
The irony here is that in the two years that has passed, our 30 years of friendship has completely drifted apart. The bonds. The laughter. The stories over lunch or dinner. The tears. And when we bump into each other, it’s an awkward moment.
We greet each other with “hi” and “hello”, but that’s about it. Like two long-time lovers who have drifted completely apart.
Before Mocha and Drew, you and I shared a sense of reasoning. I am writing this for you, not because I want to influence your political belief. I am writing this to tell you that I am missing my friend. Someone who on my worst days made me laugh and on my best days, patted me on my back. And to tell you that I saw your name commenting on various posts in social media. Unabashedly using words that I never knew you’d use. It was then that I realised that perhaps I really didn’t know you at all.
I will never compromise my principles in life. It will take more than a friend or family to change my mind on why I believe fighting against all these lies, fakes, and indecency is the right thing to do in my declining years.
We are not young anymore. We have fought the good fight. We need to return decency and honesty back into society, where our children and grandchildren will be the generation that will benefit from our actions today.
Our friendship has nothing to do with politics.
There will be no epitaph on our tombstones reminding us how we drifted away from one another as friends when we were still alive.
After the dust settles with Mocha and Drew, I hope we remain human beings who respect the value of decency and dignity of every human being. We owe ourselves that much.