mean and nasty

i wondered who was responsible for the friday rumor that had cory passing away and people bursting into tears.   mabuti at napasinungalingan agad, though not quick enough to spare us a taste of the great grief coming, sooner or later.

i wondered who could be so mean and nasty.   who could be so unkind as to play with our emotions like that.   malacanang, maybe?

Conrado de Quiros

The rumor I’ve heard is that Malacañang started the rumor. That rumor was that Cory died last Friday, a rumor that spread faster than Hayden Kho’s videos that day.

Even the British Embassy was duped into believing it and issuing a statement condoling with the family and the Filipino nation. Which sparked some idiotic reactions, not least from Dante Jimenez, the fellow who once proclaimed himself anti-crime only to end up being party to it, who demanded that whoever was responsible for the statement be made persona non grata.

For what? For being victimized in the same way as Cory’s former chief legal adviser, Adolph Azcuna? For spontaneously combusting into lamentation and commiserating with the host nation for its immeasurable loss? That is to unduly hasten people to their graves? If so, then we should condole every day with Arroyo’s family. Maybe that will do the trick. Some people ought to recover from their sicknesses, others ought to be shot.

But to go back: The rumor I heard is that Malacañang sparked the rumor to see how the public would react to Cory’s demise. Is it believable? I don’t know, though stranger things have happened in this country. But whether true or not, I believe how the public will react to Cory’s demise is not farthest from their minds. I believe it is the one thing that terrifies them. I believe it is the one thing that drives them out of their freaking minds.

The one thing Arroyo has never allowed since she took power, and especially since she wrested it by telling Garci she wanted to win by a million votes over her nearest rival, is people massing in the streets in numbers that could turn into another Edsa. Cops and soldiers have variously: prevented groups from gathering at the Edsa Shrine, headed off leftists groups to prevent them from swelling the ranks of those gathered at the Ninoy statue (easy enough in light of those groups advertising themselves with sanguine flags and even more sanguine slogans while marching down Edsa), scuttled rallies, imposed curfews on them (7 p.m. or thereabouts), floated rumors about bombings and other acts of violence in the rallies, and intimidated by coming out in the streets in full combat gear.

The ploy has been successful enough thus far. No rally has ever reached the proportion of Edsa I and II. Not the rallies in 2005 in the wake of “Hello, Garci” (which Malacañang met with “calibrated preemptive response”), not Danny Lim’s “withdrawal of support” (which gave Malacañang the excuse to experiment with a state-of-emergency declaration), not the huge rally to protest NBN, which never snowballed, thanks to the ploys above.

But what happens if, heaven forbid, something should happen to Cory?

If the vigil is held at the Manila Cathedral, the headaches for Malacañang will be epic. In the first place that is Alfredo Lim territory. Lim, of course, is the tough-as-nails mayor of Manila, the former tough-as-nails NBI director, and the former tough-as-nails chief of the Western Police District, who was known to shed a tear at the (false) news of Cory’s passing. He is also a tough-as-nails follower of Cory, whose loyalty has never wavered, who indeed went out to fight off Enrile’s and Honasan’s legions when they tried to grab power from her in 1989. Lim got a commendation for it.

A vigil in the Manila Cathedral will be impregnable. A vigil in the Manila Cathedral will be unassailable.

Quite apart from that, there is Filipino Culture standing like the Frown of God in the way. Few things are sacred to us, Filipinos, but one of them is the gathering of kin and friends to extol the virtues of a loved one who has gone ahead of us. Cory may have only a tribe of kin, but she has the whole nation for friends-and I do not mean Facebook. If the country turns out to commiserate with the kin of someone who has done so much for it, what can you do? If all of us decide to keep physical vigil with someone who kept spiritual vigil with us in the hour of our death, what can Malacañang do?

You cannot prevent people from attending a vigil, certainly not one for what the country considers even now a living hero. Not even people who do not believe in God, or who do not know whether there is one or not. They too can always believe in the power of good and the reprehensibility of evil, and recognize the embodiments of one and the other.

You cannot trot out cops and police in battle gear to meet people who are making their way to the Manila Cathedral carrying candles to light their way in lieu of cursing the darkness. You cannot scuttle a vigil, you cannot dictate limits to how many people may wish to personally express their overpowering sense of bereavement, you cannot prevent people from lifting their voices to heaven asking God have mercy on someone who has brought heaven’s light to the world, have mercy on a nation that has not always bathed in it.

You cannot impose a curfew on a vigil.

That is not to speak of what would happen if–pray heaven it is yet a long way off–Cory is finally reunited with her husband in the resting place of heroes. I have little doubt the crowds that will see her off, tears welling in their eyes, their hearts bursting with the magma of grief, will be bigger and more volcanic than the one that did so Ninoy. I have little doubt the men in barong and the women in dresses will be joined by the men in bare feet and the women with infants sucking on bare breasts, businessman and farmer, executive and laborer, priest and soldier, equestrian and plebeian, rich and poor, nun and whore, saint and sinner, chorusing, like Job, in anger and despair, “Please lang God, tama na, sobra na tigilan na.”

I don’t know that Malacañang began the rumor. I do know Malacañang will be the end of it.