Manolo Quezon is #TheExplainer Newsletter — 2021 Year Ender
Happy New Year! Thank you to those who have sent constructive feedback on this newsletter, my column, podcast, and other efforts. For my patient and wonderful Patreons, I have an idea that I will share in a few weeks. The rest of this month will be spent figuring out the best use of time for the many things I want to do: ideas inspired by your feedback. A more informal approach to the podcast, for example; and a more integrated approach to my column, this newsletter, and podcasting.
A reflection to start the year
A reflection on a quotation (see image above).
As I’ve mentioned elsewhere about the founding assumptions of our current republic (the 5th, est. 1987) 30 years is a long time for any idea, regime, or narrative: our being a newly-restored democracy kept 5 presidents in check but petered out for the 6th and may not outlast 7th.
But as I told a small group in a end-of-the-year chat, the demise (the electoral repudiation, even), in 2016, of the 1986–2016 democratic consensus and the fading away of the Aquinos was not only explainable but even inevitable, just as People Power itself didn’t survive Edsa Dos and the urban insurrection known as Edsa Tres. Having played itself out the field was free to be claimed by the throwback regime we have now and in turn replaced by the Restoration Regime wanting to reclaim power. But in a sense if the anti-martial law era had to play itself out, so too, if it happens, a Marcos restoration would help end itself: for if it were to achieve electoral success (and even potentially the first electoral majority since 1969 or 1986 however you reckon it), it would have to confront what was par for the course for the previous regimes: the experience of having been brought to power by raising expectations and the reality that exercising power will inevitably disappoint those having those expectations. Particularly in that uniquely the Marcos heir myth is built on a sand castle of untruths. By the end Of its term it would have triggered a national disappointment last seen, irony of ironies, in the 1986–1992 era.
Because you would have a situation we’re unfamiliar with in the recent era: an ultra-powerful First Lady eclipsing our more recent experience with either First Gentleman or even a Bong Go, and the compulsion to exact payback for the family’s past traumas.
Because this time they cannot hide behind past propaganda shields: the Aquinos are dead; Duterte gutted the institutions of the Fifth Republic; the media has far less bite; but public expectations and opinion are still present and in many ways even more demanding.
But of course it doesn’t even have to be this way. There is still time and opportunity to frustrate the planned Marcos Restoration.
I myself have some theories why the 30 year era came to an end, many of them based on the Fifth Republic being an institutional dead end because it proved impossible to amend the Constitution; but also like I said 30 years is a tremendously long run for any era and way of life.
In 1907 the Propaganda and Revolutionary generations faced the end of the line; the independence campaign generation found its end of the line in 1945, the generation that entered public life in 1916 found its end of the road in 1953 and the 1953 generation, in 1972… so it is.
The Long view: On Currency
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:05 AM December 22, 2021
When the gigantic concrete bust of Ferdinand Marcos was revealed to the public, I remember reading in the papers a government press release saying it was merely the first of a projected series of monumental heads honoring all the Philippine presidents. Of course, there was never such an intention; it was merely a public relations smokescreen to disguise its true purpose as a colossal and unique monument to the man whose image it bore, and after whom the highway was named, beside which the monument was perched. In a similar manner, the elimination of Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos, Gen. Vicente Lim, and Josefa Llanes Escoda from future P1,000 bills, to be replaced by the Philippine eagle, is a smokescreen for a revision of our banknotes, stripping them of their heroes and statesmen and replacing them with harmless animals.
Emphasis on the word harmless. Much as the internet gleefully reduced the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) various conflicted and conflicting statements to their logical conclusion — Pong Pagong on the P500 bill, why not? — and various individuals and institutions thundered and shrilled, the Monetary Board which decides these things can rest easy because Ambeth Ocampo, the one voice that might have actually moved public opinion, declared it a non-issue in a column.
There used to be a logic to our currency: the basic unit, the peso, featured the national hero, Rizal — the place of honor. Whether for coins or notes, then, the closer to the basic unit, the more distinguished the personage; hence Bonifacio on the P2 coin, and Aguinaldo only on the P5 note, with Mabini on the P10 note, then the three architects and founders of our modern nation and republic, Quezon, Osmeña, and Roxas, next; these proved durable despite half a century of Marcosian-inspired erosion (he had to be Alpha and Omega of our history, thus the systematic reversal of the previous generations’ consensus) and the series of martyrs: Aquino then the three wartime martyrs, proved uncontroversial, too. One could argue that the scant public affection or even use of the P200 bill, on the other hand, is proof of what happens when a note is issued with little public demand for the denomination or a consensus for the choices made for design.
A similar rule, for coins: the basic fractional unit, the centavo, was for our earliest hero, Lapulapu, Melchora Aquino on the five-centavo coin, and so on, with Antonio Luna right before Rizal. But many, even historians, have forgotten this and since this is so, it is better to fuss about security features and be bold in the erasure.
It’s often said the public dislikes coins and prefers paper currency, and one wonders if as far back as the pre-martial law era when even our fractional currency was on paper, if the public didn’t prefer that; the point being the public does not matter in the face of the wise mandarins of the Monetary Board and their exalted decisions. When the BSP decided to retire the P20 bill and replace it with coins, it claimed to do so to save money because paper currency was so fragile — fragile, incidentally, because we insist on a high abaca content as patriotic support for abaca farmers. The new P1,000 bill, the same BSP now says will likely experimentally attempt the use of polymer — plastic — as done in other countries. So much for the abaca farmers and, by the way, so much for the reason for the abolition of the P20 bill, because the polymer notes would have solved the original concerns.
In a similar manner, our Gollum-resembling governor of the Central Bank tried to placate public feelings by smoothly — but not forthrightly — saying the bills wouldn’t be demonetized right away (it is merely standard practice, so as to give the new design a chance to reach critical mass and the public to exchange old bills for the new; this is how one says something that means nothing).
But he and the other members of the Monetary Board are right in decreeing the second execution of Abad Santos, Lim, and Escoda because they are, even in death and even on soon-to-be-obsolete abaca paper, inconvenient reminders of a generation that sought to build, instead of destroy, institutions. Every face on every denomination of our banknotes and coins is an intolerable reminder to today’s Honorable so-and-so’s in all three branches of government that evolution can be reversed. And so why not, indeed, shift to the safe, the noncontroversial, and soon, anyway, liable to be equally extinct: the Philippine eagle, the tarsier, the tamaraw, the tawilis, take your pick.
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Email: email@example.com; Twitter: @mlq3
The Long View:
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:07 AM December 29, 2021
I always considered it a stroke of genius that earlier generations, in their wisdom, decided that the terms of elected officials should begin on Dec. 30, Rizal Day. At least, that was the case from the time of the second Commonwealth presidential election, held in November 1941, and the terms that began, 80 years ago tomorrow, on Dec. 30, 1941, when Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos swore into office Manuel L. Quezon and Sergio Osmeña for a second term. The last president to begin his term on Dec. 30 was Ferdinand Marcos, who was also the second president elected to a second term, in 1969. The impression I have is that Marcos decided to shift the terms not only because he could (reason enough for any dictator: who wants to share the stage on inauguration day, with the ghost of Rizal?), but because it seems May was considered less typhoon-prone while November, the season for elections from prewar to premartial law days, was typhoon-prone. (This, by the way, would be an interesting topic for the climate historian interested in looking at how changing weather patterns affect political institutions.)
Ironically, in retrospect, it seems that after the so-called National Centennial in 1998 (it should have been in 1996!) the commemoration of Rizal Day, like so many other of our national observances, ran out of steam because as the older generations turned senile or died, Filipinos ran out of something interesting or relevant to say. It may also be that the effort to downgrade Rizal began to sink in around that time, too. But a case could be made, since it dates back to Aguinaldo’s second round of the revolution, that Rizal Day is our oldest national observance and a durable link with a popular consensus surprisingly reflected in our official rituals. So far, at least, Rizal Day seems safe when nothing else is, anymore.
Some years ago, I was bothered by a question arising out of an observation: We are, in a sense, a social-climbing nation, unhappy with itself, and so always looking for ways to puff ourselves up and deny reality. We cannot admit our revolution was defeated not once, but twice; and so, we had to secure our independence by peaceful means. In a similar vein, lacking tangible monuments from precolonial times, we prefer to paint and mentally live, imaginary vistas dotted here and there with equally imaginary kingdoms. I wondered, if we somehow refuse to accept the indubitable reality that we have only been independent since July 4, 1946 (no nation on the planet dates its diplomatic relations with us before this date), and what we want is to substitute the older for the true, why 1898 and not 1896? If our revolution began in August 1896, why does hardly anyone advocate independence day on the date the fight for freedom began?
The long and short of it is the generation actually fighting the revolution were meticulously record-keepers in peace but sloppy in times of war; and the pendulum has swung, particularly after all the revolutionaries died, between Pugad Lawin and Balintawak and various dates. Yet as I understand the efforts of historians like Soledad Borromeo-Buehler and others, the evidence keeps leading back to something the Katipuneros who survived the revolution had decided among themselves all along: it was in Balintawak, and it was on Aug. 26, the date of the first battle of the revolution, that mattered to them. I don’t know why we consider ourselves better than them. If that was how they defined it, I would think a certain veneration is due that original consensus.
In the same vein, Bataan Day under Marcos becoming a generic Day of Valor is objectionable; and so are efforts to revise the foundation date of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), when the people who knew best — the actual first class of the PMA, as loudly and rightly exemplified by the objections made during his lifetime by Ramon A. Alcaraz, who insisted its proper anniversary should be on Dec. 21, 1936 — should have the precedence due them by not just seniority but reality. The Army of the First Republic, which grew out of the destruction of the original revolutionary government, was defeated. It was not restored. An entirely new, and modern, armed forces under civilian democratic control, was founded — in fulfillment, in many ways, of the aspirations of the revolutionary generation; but it is its own thing, with its own traditions, its own history, which mirrors that of the republic itself.
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @mlq3
A Podcast for Our Times
“We are all stumbling amidst this context of misinformation so civics become even more important.”
Now that election season is coming up, Fr. Tito Caluag is bringing together three distinguished historians and thinkers to highlight the importance of Civics in our voting and election process. Civics is the study of the rights and obligations of citizens in the society and in this episode, our guests emphasize that when we understand the processes and the role not just of the government but of ourselves as citizens, we will be better armed to make informed decisions for our country.
Let’s start the year right with Fr. Tito Caluag, Manolo Quezon, Carlo Santiago, and Dr. Leloy Claudio in the newest episode of Kapamilya Journeys of Hope.
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