Falling chandelier and other omens

Inquirer Commentary 25 July 1998

Filipinos are a superstitious people. We see meaningful relationships between apparently unconnected events that happen to occur at the same time or in close sequence: the number 13 and the Estrada presidency, the chandelier and the inaugural, the chandelier and the number 13. It comes from an intuitive grasp of Carl Jung’s concept of synchronicity which, going beyond science (cause-and-effect), “takes the coincidence of eventsin space and time as meaning something more than mere chance” and which is the very principle underlying the use of the I Ching and astrology (among other occult arts) in making sense of “the essential situation prevailing” for any one person or group at any moment in time.

This is why we continue to be disturbed by the story of a Palace chandelier crashing to the floor just a few seconds after President Estrada passed beneath it. The President had just taken his oath that noon in Barasoain. He had just arrived in Malacañang that afternoon and was on his way to swearing in the new Cabinet officials when the chandelier crashed. Happening as it did in the first few hours of the new administration, it changed the quality and temper not just of the rest of the day – hitherto happy and hopeful – but of the rest of the presidential term.

Clearly, a warning. If it were not an attempt on the President’s life, then a warning of danger, of sinister human forces at play. If an accident, then of forces less menacing but quite as startling and disturbing. The message is, expect the unexpected, a pattern has been set.

The National Bureau of Investigation has since declared the crash an accident caused by faulty electrical wiring, but of course we refuse to drop it. Perhaps because we’re not convinced that that 70-kilo chandelier was not more securely attached to the ceiling than by electrical cables.

Unfortunately, no photographs or videotapes of the fallen chandelier and the hole in the ceiling have been released, which makes you wonder what’s really going on. Surely there were media around, surely pictures were taken. And yet media have been (and continue to be) kind enough to desist from printing or showing them until now. Perhaps it was not an accident after all, the investigation is still ongoing, better for media to cooperate with government and not alarm the public?

Would that media had been as prudent about declaring Estrada the 13th President of the Republic – which has proved just as scary, the number 13 being associated in the minds of Catholics with the Last Supper and the subsequent betrayal of Christ by Judas.

Estrada is the 13th only if we count all the presidents starting with Aguinaldo, including Quezon and Osmeña of the Commonwealth period, and Laurel of the Japanese occupation, and continuing with Roxas, Quirino, Magsaysay, Garcia, Macapagal, Marcos, Aquino, and Ramos.

But why count Quezon and Osmeña when we were openly still a colony during their terms of office, and why Laurel when he was merely an appointee of the Japanese invaders? And if we’re going to count Aguinaldo, why not the Supremo Bonifacio? By my count, including Bonifacio and discounting Quezon et al, Estrada is the 11th president. And if we count them all, Estrada is the 14th.

Again, you wonder what the media are up to. One moment they’re playing fast and loose with numbers, sorry na lang si Erap, the next moment they’re playing down a crashed chandelier, kawawa naman si Erap? It would help if we could get our facts straight so that we know what we’re really up against; only then can we focus our energies on countering the negative vibes, whether through prayer or political advocacy.

It would also help to keep in mind that the chandelier missed Erap, which was damned lucky – sinusuwerte talaga. And that in the horoscope of June 30, high noon, the Sun, symbolizing the government, occupies the Midheaven, the highest point in the chart, which augurs well for the republic, indicating a government that has the power, against all odds, to withstand opposition and fulfill its promise of Erap para sa mahirap.

Of course, what’s lucky for the masses won’t be lucky for the privileged few who have long enjoyed the care and protection of government. As some astrologers and feng shui experts already have said, the chandelier is symbolic of the rich, and shattered lights signify shattered illusions.

It’s the rich, the people who can afford (and who like) chandeliers, who will be most affected by the radical changes that President Estrada would need to institute to lift up the impoverished masses.

It won’t be easy, as current events reflect – change never is. But if the rich could rise to the challenge of reinventing themselves for the sake of the nation, and if Erap stands fast, guided above all by considerations of the common good, he could well be right: This could truly be the greatest performance of his life.