Saturday, February 03, 2007

One Year Later

Tragedies happen as they will. It's what follows that bears examination: Collectively, we lament and rage and accuse. Authorities snarl and threaten action. Then follow a spate of denials and disclaimers. Lawyer by lawyer, the resolve starts to unravel. Prone to compromise as we are, we decide it was nobody's fault, after all. And having lost its flavor, we spit out the gristle, and move on to the next juicy morsel.

In the end, it's all just an exercise in forgetting.

Remember this, then: A year ago, 74 people, mostly elderly women, were crushed and killed, trodden underfoot. It happened, so they said, in a matter of seconds. A crowd of 30,000, camped out for days outside a stadium and already at wits' end, surged forward in a mad scramble. For what? Tickets to a noontime game show.

What followed hewed to the pattern that we already know too well. Lament. Rage. Accuse. Snarl. Probe. Deny. Disclaim. Forget. Not one of the game show hosts and TV network officials cited for criminal negligence has yet seen the inside of a jail cell. And in the supreme display of bad taste and lack of remorse, the game show continues its boom-tara-tara beat.

A year ago, I wrote that the tragedy was indicative of a deeper malaise within the fabric of Philippine society. A year later, I still hold to that view. On the surface, we could explain it to desperation borne out of poverty; and while indeed that might be, it's far too simple and too glib and too romantic.

We are not one nation. We are fractured, and so we have been since birth. On one side are the masters who promise paternalistic benevolence; and on the other are the slaves who depend on good fortune and largesse. Odious? Yes, but it all goes down so easily in the festive atmosphere of song and dance and a boom-tara-tara beat.

A year later, the pattern still holds true. The victims and surviving family members got a dole, a pat on the head, and some words of sympathy. Justice? Well, that's a master thing. For all the rest, there's nothing but the comfort of forgetfulness.



  1. let us see this lunchtime, what the abs-cbn spin doctors and papi willie come up with to mark the event. Let us hope that it does not gross us out to the point of puking our lunch.

  2. What's a studio to do? A grp of TV people thought out a plan to alleviate poverty among their brothers while making sure their very means (TV) would not be brought to the same fate. Visions of prosperity, hand-in-hand. "Win-win". They were once praised for their success, now their accursed bec of a tragedy.
    All the studio asked is that if you want the same vision, to come. Ah, so they came .. first there was one, with one thing in mind. Then there was two, with the same thing in mind. Then three, then a thousand, then thousands more. All with ONE THING in mind... Collective thought, it's a powerful thing. Collective greed? Explosive.

  3. You're right. It is too romantic to describe the tragedy as one of the worst possible depictions of poverty's effects on people. But just because something is too much does not mean it is not true. Your theory of master and slave, in fact, points to the same thing: poverty. Poverty, not just in financial terms but construing the term in its entirety. The reason why the slave is so dependent on his master is that he has nothing. Therefore, he looks upon the master as the source of everything that he does not have, because he has no choice. It's what poverty does to people. It takes away your choice.

  4. Yeah! I still remember how horrible it is to see this event on the news that day. Driven by poverty, people would just do everything. And now those producers just cover up their act with overblown sympathy and shoving money down the victim's throats to avoid the bars. How sad