December 16, 2006
She liked the word ‘ayoko!’ and it was the first word she taught her baby daughter how to say. Janet Hope Tauro-Batuigas always had the mind of a rebel. She had it in her even before she learned how to speak. Thus her tormentors (siblings and parents) had an early dash of advantage. They would dismiss her infantile goobledygook as ‘pangungulit’. This was until she learned how to say ‘ayoko’.
Later, Janet became an activist, as I came to know after consuming the rest of her essay in Ani 31: The Love Issue. She grew up with words it seemed. But mine is a different story.
When I was a small boy, I thought the president controlled everything—the prices of commodities, fare, TV and radio programs, even the weather. I thought Marcos dictated the day’s weather. If he liked rain, there would be rain. If he liked sun, there would be sunlight. If he liked winds, there would be storms.
Every now and then, his head would pop-out right in the middle of John and Marsha, interrupting the show. Then he would talk. His voice sounded cool and confident. Then choppers would fly atop of our heads. He seemed to control all the soldiers too. When Lola would relate that Marcos said more of them ‘soldados’ will come, they really would come around the neighborhood.
I wanted to become like Marcos. So I gathered all my toy guns and let my friends borrow them. Soon, I had an ‘army’ of my own. My mother hated it. My friends would mess up our place and we would all be sweaty and powdered with dust after the ‘wars’. My Lola would say, “Tama sana iton, arug kan a pag-iisip ka puwedeng magin leader.”
But then my Lola would also call me Hitler. I was cruel. I liked to beat the daylights out of our ‘enemies’. I wanted to become like Marcos, the man who controlled the weather. And Hitler sounded cool too.
Later, I heard Marcos got ousted. He was corrupt they said. My Lola, being a loyalist, declared out of commission all our media appliances for sometime. Cory Aquino will interrupt the programs with her nonsense anyway, she would say.
And so I took interest in scanning my grandfather’s books. He was a lieutenant during the Second World War. He had lots of reading materials–from war history books to Homer. I did not like the looks of the man who did his hair and mustache like Charlie Chaplin.
It was painful to look at words, not being able to read nor understand them. My mother hired a pretty coed, a consistent topnotcher in her Education classes to act as my mentor. It was cool, she could put up with my pranks. We played a lot and learned.
By this time Marcos had long been demystified in my eyes, even Hitler. I read about the ironic death of mythical Achilles, and of Alexander the Great’s premature passing. I read about Hitler burning and Marcos dying of systemic lupus erythematosus.
Yes, politics can turn people into legends and mythological figures, until humanity catches up on them, early or late. Even empires die, but it is still the same fight. Alexander the Great of Macedon and Darius of the great Persian Empire had fought over Babylon (Iraq) before. And my friend George Bush is still interested to join in.
Truly, I knew it was not Erap who controlled the rain during the EDSA II march. I was not wearing black but I was there. And I think Janet was there too.