Monday, February 08, 2010

Noynoy and Great Expectations

Sen. Noynoy Aquino was twenty minutes late. The Blogwatch livestream interview had been scheduled at 6:00pm last Saturday and there were around 20 bloggers in attendance. I arrived a little after 5 o'clock at the designated venue, earlier if the traffic lights nearby had been working properly. This is democracy in action. Traffic flows bitch on all of us in equal measure.

He didn't come with a swarm of guards, in he strode in sombre black - bright, naked. His face was clear though, belying the long day of endless talk and consultation. I have met many politicians in the last year and a half. Sins committed in wielding power weather faces quickly. Lying and cheating shadow eyes. Too, I have become quite adept at detecting bullshit. I do not impress easily. I was neither impressed nor lied to.

He sat in comfort in front of us, the bloggers on either side, cameras in corners. It was an intimate tête-à-tête. I was less than 1o feet away. One quivers in the presence of power, invisible strings pull the spine to straight, the feet to point in the correct direction. One is instantly on alert - as when a predator eyes her prey. I felt no such tension in the presence of the son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino. I took pictures freely, tried to key in notes, whispered side comments with other bloggers. I slouched.

Noynoy rambles. He does not answer tout court. One can picture his thought processes - the ideas meander, linger on certain subjects even as they skim quickly over others. He peppers his sentences with endless statistics. Mid-way I was bored. I blame it on the sound system. The audio inside the big hall was horrible.

I had prepared three questions, one on RH, one on rural development and one on public debt. By the time my turn came to ask, I had gotten so bored with the policy issues I'd changed my question. In the end I addressed my question in Filipino because I remembered he seemed to connect better with his audience speaking in the vernacular. What were you thinking as you were deciding whether to run for office after your mother passed away. Why would you take such a difficult job, cleaning after the Arroyo administration. Hindi ba parang kumuha kayo ng bato na ipupukpok sa ulo? I thought I heard snickers.

He answered, as with his previous answers, in that circuitous manner. The core message is lost in the minor crests and dips. His words traveled from his lips to my ears and my brain discerned that his answer, in brief, was that he could not miss the opportunity to create change. I sat back, unmoved. I did not get the answer I wanted. I was no closer to getting a better sense of his motivations for running as I had before sharing breathing space with the good senator.

But what did I expect? Noynoy does not have the gravitas of men and women who command loyalty by simply being. He has not the charm of his father nor a revolution brewing in his favor as his mother. All he has are his shoulders frail. Here is a man who had indeed chosen to pick up the biggest rock in sight and to willingly strike it on his head. And he does it not for naked quest for power. Megalomania is to Noynoy as sweet is to brick. These properties do not compute.

These days his noticeably thinner body seems to bow under the weight of his assumed burden, this man who has had no great aspirations to power, this man who has had no messianic pretensions. In running for the highest office in the land at a time of great crisis, perhaps Noynoy only wishes to honor the memory of his mother and father, and in doing so resurrect in all of us what was was great and proud in the Filipino.