today is palm sunday, the whole catholic church celebrates the start of the holy week: blessing of palm fronds, mark's passion narrative as gospel, red vestments. also very heavy traffic on nlex and slex as regular city folks start their twice, or so,-a-year pilgrimages to their home provinces.
this early morning's blessing of the palms, recalling Jesus' 'triumphal' (over what?) entry to jerusalem, evoked some thoughts on the cult and politics of personality. add to it the rather amusing fact that in this semana santa, not only do we have a "domingo de ramos" but a "sabado de gloria" as well. the 1997 cbcp exhortation on phil politics identifies the 'politics of personality', among other things, as the bane of this country's political culture. too much dependence on individuals of either strength, or celebrity, or notoriety, or all of the above.
come to think of it, Jesus was such a personality himself. and the people were already proclaiming him king, a rightful heir to the house of david. whether or not they were the same crowd, but shouting a markedly different slogan, on john's passion narrative this good friday is another matter.
a strong, charismatic cult figure. peoples at all times and places have been drawn to such figures, accepting their almost-natural leadership, taking on their words as gospel truths. even the current troubles of phil politics have been reduced to a question of personalities.
after the (rhetorical?) question: "did gloria lie, cheat and steal and so is better off stepping down from office?", the next most natural and, to some extent, harder question to answer is: "and who do you propose should take her place". personalities. it seems now this political gordian knot could be simply and swiftly (although apparently there is nothing simple nor swift about this process) be loosened by presenting a charismatic and winnable figure, an icon that would symbolize all the supposedly noble aspirations of the various/divided (take your pick) opposition. someone like cory aquino in 1986. personalities.
a leading cleric puts it succinctly: the question of what happens next, i.e., among other things, who would replace her is itself, a moral question. and for as long as no barabbas is presented the pretender queen of the pinoys will remain queen -- okay now, that was bad metaphor -- and she will railroad chacha, continue to suppress protest actions, threaten the press, and proceed to lie, cheat, steal, not only by her lonesome but with and through her minions as well, and with less impunity than ever.
it is ironic that a system, such as the parliamentary system, that supposedly favors strong parties, party identity and stands -- and, therefore, political maturity -- is widely perceived as a tool and a ruse to prop up the most unpopular, sleaziest, personality-oriented administration in the history of this nation. and the perceived solution to this crisis: a strong and winnable opposition candidate in a snap poll that would be driven by the same manic politics of personalities and party allegiance-switches. and when that candidate (whoever s/he is) wins, then we could all start working for political maturity again.
let us pray that this holy week may be a good time for repentance and conversion for all filipinos, especially our leaders from all sides. hope springs eternal, after all, we are celebrating an epic story that includes a tortured thief availing of salvation right before death's door.
have a holy holy week.