Tuesday, July 29, 2008


The State of the Nation Address has been called a political circus, a political theatre and a "fashion show." Now I know why. On the way to the galleries, our troupe ran into former NEDA chief Romulo Neri and his coterie. I felt like I had just seen a rockstar. In the North Session Hall, the atmosphere was befittingly that of a rock concert. I felt like I had gone in there to be entertained. I wasn't. I was exhausted.

There they were, the leaders of this country - bonggaciuosly dressed, perfumed and coiffed. They all were busy socialising 45 minutes before the arrival of Madame La Gloria. I wondered why they all looked so cheerful and content. Like the cat that had feasted on the canary the night before.

I hadn't expected the event to be all seriousness, as one would expect from committee hearings (that I have yet to witness), but I wasn't expecting the overly cheerful vibe emanating from the floor either. Are these people completely so inured from reality that they could afford to celebrate and reaffirm themselves in such a disgraceful manner?

One after another, Congressional wives (and female representatives) floated on the floor, parading their shining, shimmering and splendidly expensive ternos. I thought to myself - I must have helped pay fort that.

In times where more and more Filipinos cannot afford to eat thrice a day, there they were flaunting their excesses.

Some of the personalities I recognised fromt the uppermost galleries were US Ambassador Kenney - in a black gown with a fuschia pink collar. Pink must've been the colour of the day - that and purple. Seated a couple of rows in front of her was former President Fidel Ramos. He was sitting in the foreign dignitaries box.

Manny Pacquiao arrived with Mayor Atienza and Chavit Singson. Boy, they were stuck to the champ's side like a leech to a fat cow.

A few minutes before 4pm, some of the our representatives started forming a queue to welcome the president. Her chopper flew in at quarter to the hour. On two giant screens we saw her alight from the vehicle, and then welcomed by some personalities I cared not to know.

On the way in, she made beso to Miriam Defensor-Santiago (in pink) and another lady in pink. Enthusiastically narrating it all on NBN is a former professor (allegedly) one of this administration's spinmeisters and co-author of this SONA. I tell one of my bosses, seated to my left, how I detest said spinmeister - first for being an asshole sexist (must be overcompensating for his short-comings) and second for giving me the lowest grade in grad school.

At first I could not see La Gloria amidst the throng. While her salmon pink terno might have been easy to spot from our spot, her tiny royal self was hidden by the perfumed mob of her court. All the way to the front, she was greeted by besos and handshakes galore.

As all of this was happening, the most annoying music was being played by (what certainly sounded like) a live band. I suppose the music was supposed to trumpet her royal majesty's greatness.

When they played the national anthem, there I stood, hand over heart, gazing balefully at the huge flag. I was supposed to hear the state of the nation from this country's single most powerful being. It was a bittersweet moment. I no longer felt like crying, as I did when I went to the Black and White Movement's ZTE Presscon and I'd heard the anthem played for the first time since my return from Oz. Nevertheless I felt overwhelmingly sad. What was I witnessing this farce for?

And then her address commenced. And she painted a beautiful picture of her private la-la-land. Seated near us were a couple of her palas. They kept looking down at what looked like a copy of her speech, spread on their lap - and clapped on cue.

My colleagues said this SONA was a lot less noiser, with less applause, than last year's. By far people cheered the loudest when La Gloria announced telcos halving the text message price. We Filipinos certainly know how to get our priorities straight.

After the hour-long spectacle, I felt overwhelmingly tired. Our bill looks like it will be trashed for the nth time. I asked the troupe, how they can keep on doing this day in day out. These battle-weary warriors looked at me with wisdom belied by their not-so-old bodies. And then they smiled. You take it a day at time.

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