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[IRL] NOT A DIRTY WORD

Updated: Apr 28, 2021

By Menchu Aquino Sarmiento


Politics, that is.


The moderator of the chat group whose avowed purpose was to make our small community “better,” scolded me for bringing politics into the discussion, like it was a dirty word.


We shared such common concerns as whether the city garbage collectors came regularly, or the barangay tanod patrolled our streets at night. Such basics as sanitation and security are a given good. It’s amazing how many Filipinos do not enjoy these, yet accept their absence as just their lot in life.


To trace the responsibility for the civic incivilities of communal existence, from the leadership at the lowest levels all the way to the very top was considered bad form. “That’s just politics,” I was told, meaning shut up about it already.


But our neighborhoods and our lives are not going to significantly improve by just sharing inspirational anecdotes, colorful infographics and cutesy memes. It’s scary how politics permeates every stage and layer of our lives. No wonder Dr. Jose Rizal described our situation as cancer-riddled.


From the beginning, one might be among the millions of Filipinos whose birth is never even registered—perhaps because it happened at home, or one’s parents, preoccupied with survival, simply never got around to it. Right then, the spool of destiny unreels. Late registration, or any kind of government engagement is rarely easy. Without a birth certificate, one can’t get a higher education as a path to regular employment with social security, or even a passport out of here.


Politics decides the circumstances which create such a sorry situation in the first place: whether one is born in a modern hospital, or in a remote barrio, without electricity, or running water, much less a health center. But it is also within politics that one can change one’s circumstances, with luck and work, pulling together as a community, looking out for the lesser ones among us so that things begin to work out for the better.


We’re all fish in the ocean that is politics. We must keep swimming or drown.





Menchu Aquino Sarmiento is an award-winning writer and a social concerns advocate. IRL (In Real Life) are short verbal pagmumuni-muni, the essay equivalent of fast fiction--but in real life. She really wants more Filipinos to care, and to do something legal and non-violent about it, preferably together, so that we act more like a civilized country, a mature democracy.



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