TEODORO BENIGNO: THE WHAT-IFS OF HISTORY; BLIZZARD REACTION TO BANGON!

MANILA, NOVEMBER 26, 2003  (STAR) HERE'S THE SCORE By Teodoro C. Benigno - Every now and then, we have those so-called trunkwheel moments when the mind veers, memory does a somersault, and the what-ifs come like surprise guests at a party. For a starter, if it wasn’t Spain but Britain or the Netherlands which came over in the 16th century to colonize us, where would be today? Well, for sure, we wouldn’t have been tagged the Philippines after King Philip. For another, we would have embraced the Protestant religion, not the Roman Catholic faith. Our culture, our spiritual bedrock would be entirely different. The Protestant faith would have sunk deep into our psyche with its emphasis on hard work, discipline and dogged, even boring earnestness. The religious fiestas Filipinos love so much would have been replaced by the austerity and stodginess of the Puritans. Laced with grim determination, the Puritans faced the morrow with an agenda of goals and objectives to improve both their physical and spiritual lives.

Today’s celebrated Filipino smile would never have become a reality. We would have gone through our Victorian and Elizabethan eras, experienced the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution, and wolfed in the political philosophy of England.

And what if the United States had not purchased the Philippines from Spain for the amount of $25 million? That’s a big, big bite and we will not get into that. To hear some historians, that was the Hollywood phase of our history to complement the convent period, our legacy from Spain. And that’s why we are where we are today, moving in on the 2004 elections with the boom-boom excitement of OK Corral and the resigned, sorrowful flick of the Black Nazarene of Quiapo on our faces. Enough said.

Let’s go to other, more contemporary what-ifs.

What if Ferdinand Marcos did not declare martial law September 1972 and allowed events to move on without any interruption? Well, the elections of 1973-74 would have taken place. Imelda Marcos would surely have faced off with Ninoy Aquino. Surveys then extrapolated Ninoy would easily have beaten Imelda. And most certainly, the Philippines would have taken a different course. Many social scientists and political observers say the 20-year rule of Mr. Marcos showed the Philippines into some sort of Dark Age. And we’re still suffering the consequences today.

Look closely at the protagonists vying for power in 2004. You’ll readily spot elements of the Marcos dictatorship, remnants of Cory Aquino’s six-year presidency, and FVR cohorts with grim epaulets on their shoulders.

What if EDSA I had not occurred? What if EDSA II did not transpire? We would have toiled on and soldiered on just the same. They were not "revolutions" in the real sense of the word. Blood was not spilled. There was no settling of scores. The same system remained. There was no changing of the guard as there were in other revolutions, like those of China, France, Russia, England, America. No Jacobins spouted the meaning of revolutionary virtue, no Bolsheviks ruthlessly cleared the decks for the birth of a "new man".

Ah, but the next is a good question. What if Ninoy Aquino was not assassinated? What if the communist insurgency, which was then close to full flood, was not aborted by EDSA I? It was then likely the NPA would have surged to the final offensive in the early 1990s. Would they have taken over the government? Would the United States of America not have intervened, the way they did in Iran, in Guatemala, in Chile, in Greece? And if America intervened, what would have happened? A replication of Vietnam in the Philippines?

What if the widow of Ninoy, Corazon Aquino, was not around in 1986? Would Salvador (Doy) Laurel and his UNIDO have taken over the opposition to the dictatorship? And would Doy have won the snap elections in February 1986? And how good a president would Doy have been?

And yes, what if the RAM coups against the presidency of Cory Aquino succeeded? Would Juan Ponce Enrile have become president and Col. Gringo Honasan his most likely successor? And how would America have reacted? We would have become the first banana republic in Asia. How would we have shaped up? Remember, this could have happened earlier if JPE and the RAM vanquished the dictator, his wife and Gen. Fabian Ver in their ill-starred February 1986 palace mutiny.

And Joseph Estrada, precursor of Da King Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ). If he had not been a womanizer, a tippler, a gambler, an all-night carouser, could he have stayed on in power? What if? Erap was loved by the masses. Potentially, he had populist talents that if aided by superb technocrats could have turned the tide. Honestly we shall never know. Erap was his own worst enemy with id, ego and libido brimming like never sated sharks in his presidential cup. Now, he is facing a plunder rap.

The same query could have been asked of Ferdinand Marcos. What if as a dictator, he had the best interests of the nation in mind? What if he used his intellectual and political brilliance to extricate the Philippines from millennial poverty, and gunned the nation to economic prosperity? He could have, many say. But he chose to marry Imelda. The power-hungry Ilocano and the luxury-loving Visayana worked their marriage into atomic fusion. The result, so the opinion of the majority goes, was disaster.

What if Kris Aquino had been born a boy instead of a girl?

Would she have slid into the intellectual, moral legacy of Ninoy instead of the profligate celebrity world she loves so much? Would she even as much cast an eye on Joey Marquez, Philip Salvador, Robin Padilla, and, as the rumor goes, on Vic of Tito, Vic and Joey? People were aghast when Kris was quoted (she eventually denied this) as taking up the cudgels for Ping Lacson for the presidency in 2004. Definitely, at the time, Ninoy rolled in his grave.

And so we conclude this unique and unusual piece of what-ifs. Perambulate we did from reality – and it was fun.

* * *

When we wrote that piece – a primer on BANGON! – we miscalculated the radius and geographical range of this column. We tacked an E-mail address (teddybenigno@excite.com) and – lo and behold – we got replies from all over the world from Canada to China, from Seoul to Stockholm. Almost 70 letters and messages we received. And it’s just impossible to publish even short excerpts in this space. For that, we’ll need more than two full columns. And the traffic just cannot absorb the load.

What we have to state initially is that the response to BANGON! was just terrific. Almost 90 percent of the responses came from Filipinos residing abroad, and they were all for BANGON! hitting the high road. They said it was high time such a Third Force as BANGON! got into action in their native country, high time the status quo of money, power, exploitation and political rapacity got busted. All of them were following events in the Philippines with rapt attention. All of them were now plumb scared that events could get out of control and a social explosion occur.

They had another preoccupation. How does one get to be a member of BANGON! We are now crossing the T’s and dotting the I’s on this matter. Let me tell you the lines for BANGON! membership have proliferated all over the country – and now beyond – but we shall cope. I shall shortly announce in this space how membership applications can be carried out. Patience, please.

As for other matters, like the action program of BANGON! and related issues, we have already outlined that in general terms. More specifics will follow. One of the top priorities right now is to organize chapters in the nation’s provinces and cities. As the tide goes up, so will the crusading battleships of BANGON! Again, patience.

The big battles are still far ahead, rather a distance ahead.

Already, the air is replete with the rumble of imminent big demonstrations, street marches, intensifying demands for the resignation of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, military factions fixing their bayonets, self-anointed messiahs bawling out their agendas, seemingly retired politicians fixing or repairing their political weapons. Everybody, it seems, is on the jungle prowl.

It is when the streets team with protests, heave with popular upheavals, that BANGON! will make its weight felt. There is no other force like BANGON! in the nation, no other with its present nationalist leadership led by Vice President Teofisto Guingona, no other with its non-partisan agenda, no other with the will to go up mountain-trails and mountains to wake up the country and motivate it to fight dragons now seeking to devour the Republic.

I personally apologize for my failure to publish your letters and messages for they came in a flood and exceeded all my expectations. Nonetheless, keep them coming, they inspire us a lot, they constitute our daily adrenalin. Soon, we shall publish selected excerpts.

Send reactions to: teddybenigno@excite.com


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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