When ‘honorable’ was not a dirty word | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

It’s June! Is this still the wedding month? A study made in 2007 showed June rating one percentage point lower than August. They gave no reason.


Father’s Day this year is on June 15. Another big day!


School opens in June, unless of course you are on a US schedule. We are warned about heavy traffic, as if this was a new phenomenon; but we manage, bumper to bumper. There are loud voices raised against the high cost of tuition. But we still dream about free education. Someday soon, we hope.


Over and above these noises we hear the gnashing of teeth from the halls of Congress. Vehement denials rend the air. Some people are starting to look like Pinocchio!


And as the Napo-lists grow longer and more confusing, I think of biblical times when the patriarchs could not find 10 honest men (or women?) to appease the anger of the Almighty. Hail and brimstone rained on Sodom and Gomorrah. Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt. Should we run for cover?


An invitation


I was thrilled to be invited to the Philippine Senate last week to listen to a privilege speech by “numero uno” Senator Grace Poe Llamanzares.


The last time I was in the Senate, it was to watch a hearing on the fertilizer scam. It seemed ludicrous to me that while we listened to revolting revelations of shameless corruption, we were offered free merienda in the gallery. Not too many takers, though. Was it perhaps a tad difficult to swallow? I don’t mean the food.


By the way, how did that story end? Was it, like everything else that hits the headlines, cleverly shelved and conveniently forgotten? Or has it become yet another never-ending saga?


It bothers me to see so much unfinished business. Is it true that the Filipino has a short attention span and is easily distracted? Do we as a nation move on too quickly? Just asking.


Memories of the Senate


I remember covering for the Manila Chronicle a joint session of the House and the Senate in the Old Congress Building on Padre Burgos Street. The once magnificent structure was destroyed in the battle for Manila in 1945 and restored in 1949, not quite to its original splendor, but pretty close.


I was with veteran Senate reporter Ben Peñaranda. He was a handsome gentleman and a pro. I was a newbie, and I’m sure my green horns showed. I kept checking with him every couple of seconds to identify the senators. I think he was quite irritated but patiently and politely answered all my questions.


I felt better when the senators’ spouses started filing in to fill the upper boxes, all elegantly dressed in their beautiful ternos, coiffed and perfumed, gracefully fluttering their Spanish abanicos. He didn’t know their names, and it was my turn to help out.


I diligently scribbled notes about who wore what, looking forward, of course, to dropping names like Ramon Valera, Christian Espiritu and Salvacion Lim Higgins in my front page story the next day.


I think that was the 4th Congress, and the Senate had luminaries like the irrepressible Eulogio “Amang” Rodriguez and brilliant statesmen like Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tañada.


In those days, “honorable” was not a dirty word. To say that our Senate today is a far cry from what it used to be is a huge understatement.


‘Never again’


I accepted the invitation.  I arrived early and waited at the gate for the rest of our party.


The guard was friendly. We parked across his sorry-looking station, a makeshift podium under a tent with its canvas completely askew.


Can anyone do something? This is the first thing you see when you arrive at the Philippine Senate. And Mr. Guard, please leave your back-scratcher at home!


We were given choice seats not far from the senators, who, incidentally, were impeccably dressed.


The session was called to order. Attendance checked. The agenda read. No one listened. Some walked around, others were on their cell phones. I started to get annoyed, frustrated. As in other similar events, I asked myself: “Why am I here? What do I hope to find?”


My answer is always the same. I guess there still is a smidgen of hope in this old heart. Until the angels take me home, I will look for the light that vanished.


Yes, even in the Senate.


When her turn came to speak, everyone sat up and listened.  And the daughter of the King of Philippine movies did not disappoint.


Ten years after the 2004 debacle that saw her father cheated of his rightful victory, Grace Poe revisited the anomalies that marred the elections that year. On video she showed clear and unmistakable images of how ambition and greed thwarted the course of our democracy and spat in the faces of our voters.


Her speech was not about a daughter trying to vindicate her father. Topping the senate race was vindication enough.


It was more a sobering wake-up call to be vigilant and never again accept deceit over truth or settle for anything (or anyone) but the real deal.


Cynics and scoffers will mock and lampoon the ideals of a champion.  They may predict that all, with no exceptions, will go the way of all flesh.


I don’t know about you. But I refuse to listen.