detail from Labels for Hair Ribbons by Manuel Ocampo a delectable selection of oriental appetizers
Monday, January 22, 2001

: . Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has just been sworn in as the new president of the Philippines after yet another "People Power Revolution". Everyone is in a hopeful mood and there are celebrations in many city streets. But celebrations for such a meagre if not dubious achievement exhausts too much energy better spent for the hard work ahead—when the fiesta atmosphere subsides, we may once again fall under the spell of a political lethargy which was the root cause, let us admit it, of Erap’s too long reign. And worse, our celebrations can only produce a fleeting national pride when these hard times require a more permanent one. A Fil-Am "artivist," giddy with such fleeting pride, recently asked, rhetorically, how come Filipinos have been able to overthrow, in a peaceful manner, two dictators while Americans cannot even seat a popularly-elected president in the White House. As if the overthrow of two elected leaders within the span of 15 years is a sign of a thriving democracy. But here's more: the same Fil-Am "artivist" is also overjoyed by fact that the Philippines now has another woman president. But the Philippines' first woman president, also swept into power by revolt, belonged to one of the Philippines' wealthiest families, a family that owns a vast plantation north of Manila where the horses eat better than the laborers. Recent American experience has taught many of us the bitter truth that those whom we resemble won't always work to further our best interests: the politics of identity has only set us up for many political betrayals. A woman president by virtue of her gender alone won’t solve the nation’s ills. Filipinos, the writer Jessica Hagedorn observes, are a people held together by nothing but their impossible "Hollywood dreams." We have dreamt up too many revolutions in our history that we have wheeled ourselves back to nowhere but the same shameful ground from which we started. I hope that this most recent revolution will keep us wide-awake if only to break the curse of repeating it.

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