I have been to the last three Nazareno festivals,
true masa gatherings of the B, C, D, and E’s.
The grounds filled with the commerce of religion,
One grand stage where ministers of God
spewed sermons and dispensed blessings,
to countless devotees with their panatas.
This day was different.
A political rally, a gathering of the B.
Perhaps, a few of the burgis A’s, some C’s.
They filled up the Manila Hotel lobby,
dominant in white garb,
some with overnight accommodations,
assured of plush seats to empty bladders and colons from,
horrified by the idea of using Porta Potties.
Politicos and celebrities trickled in
Offering a side attraction . . . or distraction. . .
not to miss the opportunity,
ready with prepackaged messages for eventual sound bites.
Outside, a cloudy day, with only recurring light drizzles,
that disappointed the umbrella vendors.
Walked around through a seamless crowd.
A silent patch, heads bowed in prayer and mass.
Scattered stages with anti-pork placards and banners
drawing sectional audiences,
competing and outwitting each other
with anti-pork slogans and rhetoric.
It got old soon enough.
I went back to where I was parked, the Burgos side of the Park.
Sat on a sidewalk ledge
and watched the people stream in and out.
The B men and women in white,
a few in wheelchairs, some in canes.
Many in the autumn of their lives,
there to share in a desperate hope
that something will come out of this collective outrage.
The night before, over dinner, with a friend
we pondered on the incredible math on the pork barrel scam,
and wondered where it will go.
He said But no one will go to jail.
If stealing 50 million from the coffers of government
how many are not guilty of plunder?
He said One or two
Surely no more than the fingers of one hand.
As the men and women in white walked by,
I watched the D and E in their daily commerce,
Happy for this event,
not for the possibilities of change or what it promises,
but for the opportunity it brings to eke out a living,
that will feed the next few days.
Selling umbrellas and ground mats,
probably praying for a downpour.
Masa fare of banana cues and small binalots.
Ttwo kids sharing on a plastic cup of something.
The man, with his allotted stretch of parking spaces,
sitting on the ground, eating, sharing with a daughter
a lump of plain white rice,
perhaps, white salt, and nothing else,
in a white styrofoam plate,
very much in keeping with the color motif of the day.
He caught me looking and said
Baka mayroon kang pagkain,
baka puwede mo nang iwanan sa amin pag alis mo.
I asked him about the rally,
he said Walang manyayari diyan.
The B have claimed this as middle class tax-paying outrage.
Where does it go from here?
Can the middle class sustain this outrage,
without the decibels from the lumpen proletariat,
the masa who have long resigned to the political corruption,
the ultimate beneficiaries of change?
The picnic is over.
In its wake, some possibilities for this middle class collective outrage.
Weeks before the picnic, a friend intimated:
This pork thing can be the next Edsa.
I am sure it brewed as much in countless conversations.
And suddenly, with the immediacy of media,
the drama of whistle blowers and exposés filled our days,
as easy and comprehensible pork barrel math
provided graphic numbers to the scope of political greed.
Suddenly, there was a clarion call.
The pork barrel became a pig,
to symbolize political gluttony and greed.
There are lines out of a Dylan song,
in case you’re too young to know,
or too old to have forgotten. . .
Come senators, congressmen. please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway, don’t block up the hall,
For he who gets hurt will be he who has stalled,
There’s a battle outside and it’s raging
It will soon shake your windows and rattle your walls,
For the times they are a-changing.
Change a few words, and you have an anthem.
This is a historic crossroad.
An opportunity that may not present itself again.
Suddenly, there is the possibility of change
that heretofore, we have given up on,
with our collective sigh of resignation. . .
Not in our lifetime.
It is here, and we must not waste it.
Indeed, perhaps, it is time to take it to Edsa,
before the clamor and outrage subsides.
For both sides, it will be a battle of political will and resolve,
How to sustain the outrage and what hands to wield
against an establishment that will do all to keep the status quo.
Edsa One had a face, Marcos.
Edsa Dos, Erap.
Edsa Tres, Arroyo.
For the next Edsa, it’s the Pig, for the congressmen and senators
who have been plundering since the birth of pork barrel.
Take it to Edsa.
Luneta is too convenient.