PGTW: Singin’ the Blues

POP GOES THE WORLD By Jenny Ortuoste for Manila Standard-Today, 2 January 2014, Thursday

Singin’ the Blues

This is my usual year-ender piece, and to write it I had to look back at what I’d written for “Pop Goes the World” last year. Much of it was sad and depressing.

I started 2013 with a piece on reproductive rights, summarized neatly by this quote I got off the Internet on how to have an opinion on the topic: “Do you have a vagina? If ‘yes’, you may express your opinion. If ‘no’, then shut up.” This was just after President Benigno Aquino III had signed the Reproductive Health Bill after much vociferous opposition.

Among the other issues I gave my two centavos’s worth on were the Catholic Church’s response to the RH Bill, the China crisis (still on-going), then-senatorial candidate Cynthia Villar’s verbal faux pas about nurses, the “pay it forward” charity concept, Filipina scientists, taxes on books (I’m against), the “sex-for-fly” scandal in some Philippine embassies abroad, the Napoles affair, flooding in the city, the use of social media, the pork barrel, typhoon Yolanda/Haiyan, and literature events in the Philippines.

I received both positive and negative comments – some well-thought-out and genuine eye-openers, others plainly the work of trolls and narrow-minded folk. Everything was interesting and I feel privileged to have such a wide and varied readership.

There were many other issues that I would have wanted to address but could not for lack of space to do justice to the subject. Other times, it was because I was assigned something else to give balance to the Force after other columnists had already done a hot topic to death.

I noticed that what people responded to most were my columns on current events and politics, not so much those on literature and art.

Why the preoccupation with politics and scandals?

We are interested in these because humans are social animals, and in modern times we occupy an urbanized environment that for its maintenance and stability depends highly on the cooperation of the various members of society to make it work.

We have placed the overall operation of society in the hands of a structure called “government”. When government is inadequate, inefficient, or otherwise unable to provide a safe and functional environment that enables society to flourish, the citizenry are unhappy and dissatisfied and will react as they see fit and according to their capacity.

As much as some people will deny it, it is also human nature to indulge in schadenfreude, and the pranks and peccadilloes of celebrities and prominent personalities are always fodder for the media because they draw a large audience.

What hogged the news? Many public officials became sore disappointments in 2013 due to their poor performance, abuse of power, sense of entitlement, and other negative behaviors or characteristics, while private individuals shared the limelight for their own shocking shenanigans.

Among the highlights of 2013: Biazon quit, Petilla offered to quit, and Miriam asked Enrile to quit. The Binays explained, Jinggoy said he’d explain at the proper time, and Janet Napoles explained but no one believed her.  A faction of the Moro National Liberation Front shot up Zamboanga, Talumpa was shot at the airport, and Anne Curtis slapped some people in a nightclub and “moved on.”

Many of the topics I tackled were depressing. For one, this is reality. All the bad news actually happened. If my column were a music genre, it would be the blues. But as a famous Philippine blues musician told me, “If you listen to the lyrics, you’d realize the blues is about sad things, melancholy things, but it’s also about survival.”

Filipinos are good at surviving. Put us anywhere on the planet and we will thrive. Throw any challenge at us and we will overcome. That’s built into our DNA. I may sing the blues in my essays but the refrain is always optimistic, because by writing about something, it comes to the public’s attention, and change follows – maybe not right away, but in time. We will work it out.

Oh, and a Happy New Year to all. May 2014 bring the abundance, peace, and happiness we seek for our personal lives, and the good governance, efficient operations, and vibrant economy that our country needs. Blessed be.   ***

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