BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Thursday, September 8, 2011

No Fairytale: The Story of the Philippines

My latest blog for The New Internationalist:

There once was a man whose charm and wit made him king.
He was gallant and brilliant and as a grand as a king could be. None of the rulers that came before him captured the hearts of the people as much as he did.
He wore a golden crown that covered his sleek hair. He stood with valour and spoke with eloquence and charmed even little girls in knee-length socks and pink pigtails.
He promised the kingdom of 80 million people that all would be good, their lives would be great and food would be aplenty.
But lo and behold, the opposite happened. The king stole everything that he could.
He emptied the coffers and pocketed the treasures. He and his queen, with their dukes and duchess, poured everything into their fortress, much more than they would ever need. The queen had 3,000 pairs of shoes, as varied as the glitter that came with each pair.
Photo: Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos by The Wandering Angel under a CC Licence
For 20 years, the bright lights in their castle glistened through the vastness of the land while the rest of the people starved and suffered.
Nobody was allowed to question authority and those who did disappeared in the dead of night. Many were never seen again. Fear reigned in the hearts of many. The town criers went from one town to another in hushed whispers.
Years passed in this God-forsaken land.
Eventually, the king died. The lights went off. The extravagant queen was stripped of power and the fortress was returned to the people.  
The kingdom rejoiced and hopes reverberated high in the air.
But new rulers reigned and nothing much changed.
They came, they ruled and they promised. Some succeeded for a while but the excesses of the past were too difficult to fix.
Now 25 years later, the kingdom is no better than it had been before.
Everyone promised that things would be better.
But things only went from bad to worse, especially when a red queen came into power along with her greedy fat king.
Gloria Macapagal Arroyo by the World Economic Forum under a CC Licence 
All hopes were dashed as the queen and king stole from the people as much as they could.
Their greed was on a par with that of the dead king.
The red queen lied and deceived so that she could stay in power.
Nine years after, the excesses of her reign are being told and re-told. She misused funds for the kingdom’s military and the police force, one town crier said. She pocketed funds for rice, coffee and schools. She took away the budgets for charity and hospitals. She spawned wars to make money from armaments. She supported warlords outside her fortress.
Her king accumulated the equivalent of million-dollar properties in other kingdoms using taxpayers’ money. He coddled smugglers so his queen could keep her throne. He sold second-hand horse-drawn carriages to the kingdom’s warriors and earned from it.
They stole and they stole until there was nothing more to plunder.
Where is the red queen (Gloria Arroyo)? by bingbing under a CC Licence 
The kingdom became as poor as before. Some people fled to faraway lands to find gainful opportunities. Others stayed on to fight corruption.
Whistleblowers and town-criers decided it was time to speak out.
Evil caught up with the others, who saw no other recourse but to take away their own lives.
Here now is a prince who has promised to change all of this. He was given the throne and the one chance to change what the kingdom has become.
He promised an end to corruption and greed. 
The people will again wait, as patiently as before, hoping against hope that the kingdom no longer belongs to the abusive and the corrupt.
But the work of rebuilding is tedious and tough. There is nothing more to plunder in what is now a bare and barren kingdom. There is only bedlam and empty coffers and heart-wrenching hunger.