I’m having the pre-birthday blues. It’s been a while since I thought about something other than personal priorities. All of a sudden, I remembered my grandpa’s war stories. When I was in grade school, I would cry every time he’d tell me his stories the same way I’d get misty-eyed when I read Philippine History. I think about the lives lost to win independence, and the sheer beauty of the sacrifice makes me cry.
Now, I’m in–what I hope to be–my last semester in graduate school, and I still cry over Philippine History, but for different reasons. First, whenever I listen to critiques about public policies in class, I can’t help but think that it’s all just intellectual crap. We smugly think that giving a cutting assessment makes us sound smarter, and that maybe the professor would give us a 1.0 this semester. At the end of the day, it’s not our mastery of political frameworks that will save us. Also, I dare think that there are very few of us who actually think about doing something for the country. I know that given the chance, very few of us would actually want to pay our income taxes. Sure, we vehemently root for Pacman and the Pempengco kid, we reacted hotly to the infamous Desperate Housewives episode, and we sure do know how to give scathing remarks against Pinoy bashers on YouTube. These are instant spurts of pride and loyalty we feel from time to time, making us want to throw confetti all over Ayala. Proud to be Pinoy! Obviously, there’s no question there, especially when Manny can finish them off at Round 3, and Charice gets a standing ovation at Oprah. But are we HAPPY TO BE PINOY? Really. My sister even jokes that if a jeepney with a signboard that reads “Anywhere Abroad” passes by, people would clamber over each other just to get onto the ride. Just picturing it is comic enough to draw tears, right?
There’s one particular story I can’t forget. My grandpa told me about a time he was talking to one of his friends with whom he had shared a dugout during the war. They had gotten used to talking over the deafening explosions. When his friend suddenly fell silent, my grandpa knew well enough not to look. He wanted to keep the face of his friend unblemished and smiling in his memory, not bloodstained with blank eyes. My grandpa was a proud man, and perhaps, his pride allowed him to survive the war. He was a true soldier when it came to discipline. While my parents never gave me the belt treatment, I’ve earned a few well-deserved lashes from him. I guess that’s how his being tough rubbed off on me. I cry, because he was no longer around when the US Senate approved the bill, which would allow Filipino veterans to get as much benefit as their US counterparts if it becomes a law. After all, they fought the same war, didn’t they? Still, I can’t help but rejoice for the rest of the 80-something veterans who lived long enough to reap their reward, even if, in my opinion, they’re still short-changed.
Lastly, I cry out of release. It brings me insurmountable relief each time I realize that many of our heroes are no longer around to see the Philippines this way, devoid of patriotism. The ones who have the power are too busy squabbling among themselves about who’s getting the bigger slice of the pie. The ones who are equipped to create change are either out to save themselves or driven out by the lack of opportunities. And those who are actually here are wishing they weren’t. As for me, I’m paying my taxes, recycling my plastic bags, and hoping not to eat my words one of these days.