Four women, well-dressed, well-coiffed, obviously well-off, immaculate in their white shirts, munching daintily on sandwiches while sitting on white monobloc chairs they had obviously brought.
That, right away, told you this was no ordinary political rally. The ladies-who-lunch contingent was well-represented in the “Million People March” at Luneta last Monday—and why not?
This was also the middle and upper classes joining the rest of their countrymen in raging against the corrupt government machine, initially taking to their Facebooks and Twitters, their hashtags and Instagrams to express their indignation at the sordid pork barrel controversy, then casting off their traditional indifference to mass action to organize themselves into… a picnic.
A picnic with a purpose, to be sure. The anger at widespread government malfeasance was real, the disgust at crooked politicians deep.
These were largely the classes that paid their income taxes without fail or protest every month, the workers and employees, the single earners and middle managers, the professionals of all stripes who saw their salaries diminished by considerable thousands of pesos every pay day to pay for what was now revealed to be the shocking larcenies and profligate lifestyles of scam artists in the highest reaches of government.
In the pursuit of stability and economic mobility, the white-collar and affluent classes often choose to hedge their bets; never rock the boat too much, leave the street agitation to the professional rabble-rousers.
But this time, with the thievery hitting too close to home, the branded knives were out, the well-manicured hands ready to wring the neck of official crooks—and the ladies who lunch prepared to sit out their Lancome faces in the sun (not too harsh, thank God) if only to help swell the numbers of the throng demanding that the government ditch pork and go lean.
But nothing too strident, still. The activist groups had their own simmering pockets of activity in Luneta, but by and large the atmosphere was festive, safe, buoyant and family-friendly.
Many parents brought their kids to perhaps their first tactile, real-time civics lesson, if with a distinctly middle-class twist—the seriousness of the political leavened by the hallmarks of the gentrified: pet dogs, lunch baskets, nifty phones wielded to capture that all-important selfie or the group shot with friends, a riot of chic hats, stylish shades and smart casuals all around.
The urban species, at last, likewise bestirred to fury, but still in its own—“Amoy Rustan’s,” as one wag put it—way.