Monday, July 26, 2010

How we should remember Raul

AMBIENT VOICES Maria Isabel Ongpin Newspaper- Opinion Today

"Manglapus will be missed as a man who did not hesitate to be what he was and take the consequences. others must now take up his unique role in the national life."

I am one generation younger than Raul Manglapus but he will always be a part of my political conscience and consciousness. Simply because when I was growing up in the heady days of the Magsaysay presidency, Raul Manglapus was part and parcel of the dynamism, hope, optimism, and pride that Ramon Magsaysay’s election brought to the youth of the Philippines. Raul Manglapus with his crew cut and youthful slim appearance, his bow ties and his eloquence was in the public eye as a Cabinet member. His rise was the stuff that youthful dreams were made of. It could happen that being young, idealistic, committed and willing to reach out to others to come together for equality, justice, freedom and truth would make one a player in a democracy we all professed to die for. Indeed, Raul Manglapus died at 80 last Sunday, but as far as I was concerned he might as well has been in his thirties when he made his unforgettable impact on the greatest number of young citizens. In that time and that age, he was an admirable individualist who seemed to have his own drummer to listen to and march by. And somehow the public could identify with him and his vision of a better country, better citizen, better times, and hear that drummer.

After the Magsaysay years, Raul Manglapus made waves in the Senate. He also made us sit up and take notice of his attempts at the re-education of the Filipino mindset, such as the toning down of fiestas to save the national economy from the profligate ways of towns and townspeople in the fiesta furor mode. As a politician he took up the difficult challenge of Land Reform in the Philippines, a thankless job which remains a problem to this day. But Manglapus did not shrink sponsoring a land reform bill, a duty he took upon himself in the Senate.

Politics made Manglapus poorer, not richer. That politics brought him exile and separation from his family, until they made a daring escape to join him, during the dictatorship. It also brought him conflicts with others due to misunderstanding , miscommunication, envy, which he had to contend with as he struggled far from home to keep the Philippines a democracy. But Manglapus had made up his mind to serve his country from his student days, when he is said to have drawn the attention of then President Quezon on national issues. The Japanese Occupation gave him the premier occasion to serve his country for which he was taken to Fort Santiago and tortured. From then on he was a national figure forsworn to eschew the comforts of a quiet, comfortable and possibly elitist life that his station offered.

His definition of ideals and his pursuit of them in national life made him an attractive and credible figure for the youth. When he ran for president in 1965, it was a brave and daring move. It was also quixotic. It was in this campaign that my husband got to know him and worked for his cause, giving his campaign all of P5,000 in hard-earned funds and attending endless meetings. Despite the financial and organizational constraints, Manglapus’s candidacy did make a point, mainly that Philippine democracy needed everyone’s involvement and assistance. It was a Damascus experience that gave us the sense that to be part of this country, to live in it, one had to contribute much more than one’s everyday life and livelihood. This revelation came with a certain clarity and finality, which in turn summoned up the courage to be committed; and if necessary to sacrifice one’s preferred privacy and individual peace for the marketplace, the street and finally the public eye. And then live and maybe die with consequences.

Raul Manglapus never became president but in his time he influenced numerous young Filipinos about how government should be and what kind of people should govern, almost as though he had been the national leader. It was not the world of Philippine politics as usual. And his ideas and ideals did not triumph

on a national scale. But they do linger in the hearts and minds of many who in turn made valid contributions to the cause of Philippine democracy because of them.

As a person, Manglapus evoked culture, decency and a joie de vivre that made him an attractive and enjoyable companion be it in music, books, travel, conversation. He was always curious and eager to learn. One got to rely on him for the finer things of life or politics, and he did not disappoint. Indeed, as a constant and supporting character on the Philippine national scene, Manglapus, has a place to be envied and emulated.

In the 1992 presidential election, an older me and Manglapus were together on a television panel on the night of the elections as the returns were coming in. At that time I was the spokesman for Miriam Defensor Santiago and he was on the NUCD/Lakas Party side. As the returns showed my candidates, who like him in his time had made a quixotic decision to run , leading the race, he turned to me and said, "Yes, she may win in Manila." It seemed to me that he was being condescending. But on second thought, I realized he was only speaking from his own experience as a presidential candidate, that of leading in Manila and then foundering in the provinces for lack of what quixotic candidates should have—money, organization, media support, government neutrality. He meant well as he always did, and even as he was sometimes misunderstood. And my third thought was the revelation that Manglapus had led the way through which my own candidate was travelling. She Journeyed much farther on the route than Manglapus did, winning all over the country and perhaps winning the election, but it was a route that Manglapus had taken and the people like myself had taken with him.

That second time around for my candidate, myself and who voted for her, was the next generation catching up with him and inspired to do better. And that is why Manglapus is part of the political consciousness of the thoughtful, freedom-loving

He will be missed in the coming political history of this country as a man of ideas ahead of his time, who did hesitate to be what he was and take the consequences. Others must now take up hi unique role in the national life. That is how he deserves to be remembered.

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