Like Kafka’s “The Hunger Artist,” I find daily food a bore, so when three friends offered a bet of dinner each at restaurants of my choice on whether Manny Villar, Philippine presidential candidate, would win, I immediately accepted, having in mind three places with top chefs I could never afford. They thought he was going to win; I thought NOT. This was the month Villar was neck-to-neck with the eventual winner, Noynoy Aquino, and for a while there, I wondered if I would have to sell Guapo, the house ewok, to cover my bets – or maybe hand him over to the chefs.
Well. Burp. What an absolutely fab first dinner, paid by friend with the black visa card, while he ranted against his stupidity and I nodded in sympathy, so he wouldn’t notice I was eating his dinner, too. And to make up for the damage to his bank account – ice wine, fab!, with this unimaginable dessert of honey, filo dough, chocolate, strawberries and green tea ice cream, (if you ate as erratically as I do, you’d understand the bliss) – I gave him a comforting spiel about how I knew he and his candidate were going to lose. I plan to use the same spiel for the two forthcoming fab dinners as well:
“First, Villar’s slogan sipag at tiyaga, which presented him as having made billions from hard work and patience, which to 99.9% of Filipinos is hogwash, as they’re all on sipag and tiyaga on a dollar a day. The subtext of the message is if you’re poor, you’re lazy and impatient or if not, must be stupid, which the 99.9% will reject and cause them to think eh, balderdash, you did something nasty; nobody becomes a billionaire overnight in the Philippines without effing up the next guy… The other subtext is that you, the voter, is such a moron I can say anything and you’d believe it – quite an insult.
“A jeepney driver could’ve told him that and for half the money he likely paid an advertising agency, I could’ve given him a better slogan like negosyo’t trabaho which would’ve made sense, with his image as a successful businessman and be clear as well to the unemployed, underemployed and low-income masses… Filipinos are very good at teasing out subtexts so one’s message has to be clean of possible (mis)interpretations.
“Second, when he added Bongbong Marcos to his senatorial slate, which already included Left-wingers, he showed he was willing to discomfit even his allies for his own interests – i.e., selfish, no core values and no loyalty. Then he had those half-naked girls gyrating on stage, though he knew he had women candidates. Villar might have been from the poor but his actions showed he was so insensitive as not to see he was losing women’s votes in the process of titillating men.
“Third, the constant harping on his being rich, like he’s entitled to anything he wants or can buy… We hate that, don’t we? A rich person should be circumspect, tumabi-tabi diyan, as in line up for four hours to vote just like us... otherwise the impulse would be to take him down a notch or two.
"Class is not the sole criterion by which we judge an individual; to Filipinos, that’s leavened by character and record. Note that the people not only gave Noynoy millions of votes in advantage; they also backed Estrada over Villar. That’s not only being a fan but a backlash of anger against Villar's campaign callousness.”
Friend chewed that over instead of the white asparagus on duck – ummm good – and then rather crudely said: “Well your friends went down with him,” which warned me he’d noticed I was eating everything. "How do you think they'll spin that? What do you think they should do?"
Mull that over for a minute. I had wished and still wish Liza M had run as an independent; it had been painful watching her try to deal with the gross impositions of the Villar campaign, from Marcos to the Kembot Girls and the self-back-slapping of that lurid guy Willie whats-his-name. As painful as watching guerrillas try to give substance to the “failure-of-elections” hysteria – a Plan B, I suppose, in case the Villar alliance crashed and burned, a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy…
Myriads of phone calls had reached me hyperventilating about “failure-of-elections,” the main ingredient being fear of Gloria staying in power – which left me quite non-plussed as it was clear she already had an exit strategy in place. I’m not sure whether her record of outmaneuvering the Left, or at least one of the Lefts, was due to her smarts or other’s denseness… in any case, there were days when I sort of walked around wondering if I was the only one in the whole universe unable to see this “failure of the elections” scenario, barking out to whomever on the cellphone, “the US won’t allow it, haven’t you heard of imperialism?”
But what do I say to my dinner partner, who’s found something to twit me with? Looked him straight in the eye and declared: “Focus on partylist gains instead of denouncing and kicking out whoever crafted the Villar alliance. Cover-up in lieu of criticism-self-criticism. It's nothing new."
I speared the last strawberry and ate it. -- #