Sara, for heaven’s sake, it’s just a song! GMA

Sara, for heaven’s sake, it’s just a song! Featured

AND your father, the Deegong, in a rare unguarded moment was caught in the euphoria thumping to the beat of “Manila, Manila” — the band Hotdogs’ iconic song. I wrote a similar comment on my Facebook page as all major newspapers reported this: “Davao City Mayor ‘Inday’ Sara Duterte-Carpio has questioned the song choice used when the Philippine delegation paraded during the opening ceremony of the Southeast Asian Games on Saturday” (The Manila Times, Dec. 2, 2019).

Her arguments were neither here nor there, proselytizing for the need for inclusivity “…when we encourage our countrymen to cheer…” And she went on with rambling non sequiturs, “…’Di po ba Philippine flag ang dala, why would you play the song ‘Manila’? Did Lapu-Lapu die for Manila?”

Imperial Manila

People, particularly the federalists in our midst, would have understood and sympathized with her position objecting to the song in praise of Manila — Imperial Manila — if the song was meant to reflect a federalist view that political authority is being centralized in the capital city to the exclusion of the rest of the country.

However, I think the song was not a political statement. If the good mayor had couched her arguments in something ennobling — for instance, elevating the political discourse into the need for the dissolution of our current unitary system of government and move towards a Federated mode — we would have understood her and even make her a champion for our cause. But she is not even a federalist. She is merely an influential daughter of a federalist, the President, who found it impossible to push for the federalist agenda — letting it wither in the vine.

We federalists have always voiced our objections against the centripetal migration of powers, and how along with it come pelf and entitlements easily abused by the center. We’d much rather hope that centrifugal forces propel the dispersal of powers, economic and political, towards the periphery. And this is the core concept of our advocacy these past several decades — the establishment of a parliamentary-federal system and the abolition of presidential-unitary government, which has been the source of endemic problems of poverty, social injustice and the perversion of the rule of law. (For more intensive arguments on fed-parl, please access www.cdpi.asia for my past articles.)

But going back to that grand Southeast Asian (SEA) Games opening and the positive emotions it evoked from our people, perhaps the words of a Filipina now living in Edmonton Alberta, Blossom Gonzales, who succinctly posted in her Facebook page says it all for all of us, after she saw on TV the SEA Games opening: “The song ‘Manila’ that was played created memories for the older generation of Filipino migrants to fend off homesickness and loneliness, which helps many OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) get by until now.” 

Sport as international attractions

At this juncture, I may be able to salvage the arguments of the good mayor and articulate what in part I discern to be what she meant. To be fair, she has some arguments hidden somewhere if she were only more articulate. And this would involve the treatment of international projections of Philippine imagery, similar to the SEA Games opening program or other sports events that would spotlight the diverse cultural nuances of our people. Sports events have a way of attracting international media. This is true for FIBA (Basketball Federation), FIFA (Football) and the mother of all sports gatherings — the Olympics. The recent 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, for example, held for a month in France, showcased nine cities, where the 52 games were played. These French cities had the chance to present their best to an international audience attracting tourists. But what makes this interesting is that the local stadiums were renovated with subsidies from the central government freeing local funds for other purposes.

The 2008 China Summer Olympics was held in Beijing, but secondary venues were located in regional hubs and several cities scattered across Eastern China hundreds of kilometers apart. Even the equestrian events were held in faraway Hong Kong and Qingdao was chosen for sailing events. The opening ceremony was extolled by the international press as the most spectacular show of any Olympics by far.

On a smaller scale, the 2019 SEA Games, which by itself is already world-class and impressive by any standard, could have been made more memorable for international audiences and more importantly the Filipinos themselves. Not to detract from the efforts put in by the Deegong’s people, some details could be considered at least for future similar endeavors.

Inclusive dispersal of sporting events

Instead of just Metro Manila and its environs, and Clark and Subic, we could have planned on farming out sports venues to other cities — Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Cagayan de Oro and even Davao. And probably, our good Mayor Sara can highlight the “Budots Dance,” an upbeat danceable song, which she claimed was invented in Davao. Why not? And we may even ask Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. to be the lead dancer.

But, more importantly, these venues will be awarded the appropriate infrastructures, which can later be turned over to local governments to likewise enhance their sports programs. One idea worth emulating is that some of the athletes’ villages in past Olympic sites have been turned over to the local governments and converted into apartment or offices for rent. Some have been turned into hotels and shopping malls. Imagine each city bestowed with such largesse can flip this over toward some creative economic activities.

If this is what Mayor Sara had in mind, notwithstanding her objections to a popular medley, she could have probably gotten the enthusiastic nod of her constituencies. But first, she needs to make up her mind on the more basic questions of where she situates herself with her father’s stated advocacies. Is she really for the empowerment of the local governments with all temporary appurtenances of devolutions and delegation of authority and responsibility; which can be legally withdrawn as the exigencies of politics will dictate? Or will she push for the constitutional imprimatur, which will alter permanently the relations between the center and the periphery — the creation of autonomous states towards a federal republic. These are central questions, which need to be resolved in the eyes of the public as the daughter’s actuations and body language points to an ambition beyond the confines of local governance — despite her father’s admonitions against such presidential cravings, if any. Or is this another of the Deegong’s so-called Machiavellian gambit to deny, deny and deny — until ambition and reality can no longer be denied.

Just celebrate for what it’s worth

But meantime, back to the “feel-good” mood after that grand opening and the following days’ harvest of golds. Once in a while we Filipinos all, Diehard Duterte Supporters, Yellows, fence sitters and centrist democrats, need to bask in the glory of our ingenuity, joie de vivre and celebrate our unity — fragile though it seems. Cast aside this week the crab mentality that lurks within us and join our athletes and those of our neighboring countries “win as one.” Let’s postpone our quarrels for the week after.  ka!

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