Tragedy, as we regard it, is any senseless and unfortunate event, but it's a definition that's insufficient. Deep down, tragedy is story -- a tale of reversal of fortune, of a hero brought low by his own failings or by the fickleness of fate. Tragedy is story, story becomes drama, and drama deserves audience.
Hear, then, this tale of a Filipino tragedy. Here, there are neither kings nor gods, neither queens nor vixens, only mortals and their quiet desperations. Here, it's played out not in a theater but in broadsheets and tabloids. Only fitting, one might suppose, because it is a Filipino tragedy.
Act 1. The curtain opens. We meet a man: a decent man; a brother; a husband and a father. For a man such as this, the living is just barely enough and so he works doubly hard. Hours before the start of his shift, he ferries passengers in a van for a little extra income. He is proud of his van, his very own, the product of his toil. No hired hand he.
Admirable as he is, he is not, we are to learn, the protagonist of this story. On a humid Wednesday night in May, when our story starts, fate does him a cruel turn. A robber, disguised as a passenger, holds a gun to his nape and mercilessly, pulls the trigger.
Were this any other story, it would already be at its end. But this tragedy is just beginning. You see, the murdered man, one Supt. Jovem Bocalbos, is not merely a hapless driver but a ranking officer of the law.
So the questions begin. Why does the constable moonlight as a lowly cabman? The answer is simple: because this society could not afford to keep him on the level of dignity which he and his family deserved. The answer is simple, as simple as a slap on the face of the society which he served.
Was it with a twinge of guilt, then, when his superiors explained his actions? "It is largely caused by the inadequacy of their salaries and benefits. Many of them are compelled to take on odd jobs while off duty." Were they trying to justify Bocalbos? Or themselves?
But Bocalbos does not need to justify himself, least of all to us. This is, after all, the age of the New Filipino Hero. Though he may not have labored in foreign desert sands or sent home precious dollars, he is firmly of the type. Work is the sacrifice of the New Heroes, and it's on their backs that the country remains afloat (never mind that the powers-that-be might claim that honor.) Occasionally, heroes become martyrs.
Thus we come to the end of the first act. The New Hero lies in state, our great men scramble to make belated amends, and society wonders. The curtain falls on his grieving widow and three orphans. They are the protagonists of the tragedy.
No, there won't be any Act Two or Act Three to this piece. I originally intended it for Metro Post, but it didn't make the deadline for last week. Then I realized I got depressed writing it (and even just thinking about the next two parts, I just decided to drop it altogether. But since this bit is already here....