2022 Philippine Elections

[OPINION] Never again

Romeo Alcantara II
[OPINION] Never again
'Everyone has probably heard it by now, but it doesn’t make it less true: those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it'

In 1987, my father, my maternal grandparents, and I were gathered around our “new” television set in the corner of the master bedroom. It was the type of TV that was fixed inside a cabinet, with large dials on the right side and antennas sticking out on top. It was even in technicolor!

It was the anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution, and we were watching a TV special about it. There were clips of nuns with rosaries and flowers, standing in front of tanks. It showed crowds rejoicing as they broke into Malacañang, and people climbing on poles, flashing the L sign.

As the TV special was about to end, with “Magkaisa” playing in the background while yellow confetti rained down on EDSA, my dad pulled me close. Then he spoke with the kind of voice – somewhere between a whisper and regular speech – that meant he was talking to me, but wanted the rest of the room to hear him, too. “I was there,” he declared. I was too young then to know the significance of that bloodless revolution, but the way my dad said it, I knew he was proud of what he did. That filled me with pride, too. I remember looking at him with a feeling of vicarious accomplishment, before looking back at the TV in the corner to see the rest of the show. 

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At this point in my recollection, things get muddled. Sometimes, when I try to recall the event, I remember it the video being black and white, with only the falling confetti in color. Sometimes, I see someone holding a sign that says, “Never Again.” But to be honest, I am probably confusing that memory with later occasions when I was a bit older, when I saw something on TV or in pictures about the EDSA Revolution. At any rate, that was one of my earliest memories.

As I look back on it, I am not sure now if he was trying to impress me or his in-laws. Or perhaps, as a young lawyer who completed law school as Martial Law ended, my dad just felt a sense of accomplishment being part of history. Whatever the case, to this day, it was the proudest I ever was of him. Since that day, every time I saw a clip about the EDSA Revolution, or whenever we talked about it in school, at the back of my mind I always thought to myself, “My dad was there.”

On May 9, 2022, he voted for Bongbong Marcos.

I have neither the tenacious animosity of Lorenzo nor the renown of the Legarda-Leviste name, but I share the same sense of disappointment, these past couple of days, more than ever. The “Never Again” signs are back, even if the yellow ribbons are now pink. There are still nuns in the streets, though thankfully, at least for now, the tanks are not. I even saw a picture of people making L signs from the Comelec building. The times are the same, even if the current mood is not. Everyone has probably heard it by now, but it doesn’t make it less true: those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. Only, this version is like a knock-off Recto diploma, not unlike that of the dictator’s son. Today, if the bubble I am in is to be believed, the people aren’t rejoicing. They are enveloped in a cloud of gloom. In this version of our rehashed history, the newspaper banner would read: “It’s all over; Marcos wins.”

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The past few weeks, carrying on the family legacy of sorts, my sister has been attending rally after rally for the widow/presidential candidate of our time. With a baby at home, I chose to watch the events on my phone instead. I’ve told her already, but it bears repeating here how proud of her I am. Meanwhile, that man I was so proud of — who eventually worked for the Office of the Solicitor General during Cory Aquino’s administration — is now calling for “unity” while working as a consultant for a company that was built by a Marcos crony.

I now live in that same house where we were gathered, and I sleep in the same room where we watched TV. So as I write this, just after seeing the latest partial and unofficial presidential election results, I’m staring at that corner where the old TV used to be, daydreaming of better days when we as a country beat a Marcos through the leadership of a beloved politician’s widow. And I am not one for confrontations, so I hope my dad doesn’t ever read this (I doubt a Marcos-Duterte supporter would bother with a random Rappler essay anyway), but I will never look at him — and that corner — the same way again. Never again. – Rappler.com

Romeo Alcantara II has been working from home for the better part of 10 years now and is currently a virtual admin assistant for a Sydney-based company.