Photo courtesy of Jacinto Tee (1984)
Let’s be clear: politics, despite its many noble and ideal pursuits, is often a stressful, overbearing, and toxic discipline that transforms even the brightest of wide-eyed idealists into career cynics — jaded by its constant factionalism that seems to escape every opportunity for reconciliation (among other disincentives).
It is the Filipino’s conventional wisdom that politics has no place in our dinner conversations, commuters’ small talk, or even bar-based minglings. We are, after all, a non-confrontational people that would exert much effort to avoid any conflicts at all. The reality is, for the everyday Filipino, civic participation would only entail nothing but trouble.
It is then no surprise that our civic discourses, in the contemporary climate of politics, have suffered both in quality and civility — especially when nuanced to the online setting. Left and right, the equivalent of civic engagement nowadays have been reduced to mere ad hominem peppered by the occasional profanity in the comment section. Again, politics is nothing but trouble.
This non-confrontational habit of ours is not just a result of the hostilities taking place in our current civic spaces, it is also a trait that we’ve adopted and passed on to. It is in our schools that we teach little men to behave, obey, and keep quiet — huwag makulit ika-nga; it is in our churches that we teach that religious doctrines are infallible despite its very human origins; it is through the teachings of our family that we learned that, again, politics is nothing but trouble.
As a result, we’ve gladly taken the blue pill. Our noon-time shows and Facebook news feeds have taught us that one could derive pleasure by consuming content devoid of any at all stains of politics. And why wouldn’t we? Isn’t the affairs of a celebrity much more relevant to us than the affairs in our state buildings — where politics bodes us nothing but trouble?
This is why, more than ever, it is imperative for us to involve ourselves in such matters: because democracy does not die at a snap, it does so with slow and insidious demise. Like a thief in the night, it is taken by those that lurk behind the shadows of the politically dark. The collapse of our republic will not occur through a single cut of the executioner’s axe, but a deliberate ballet of dismantling the democracy we’ve built. A republic is murdered by making people believe that it’s nothing but trouble.
The incoming national elections in 2022 prompts us then to re-evaluate this collective trait of ours. Do we remain allergic to politics out of fear of compromising the illusion of paradise we’ve been living in — a paradise built on blood-soaked streets and starving children? Or do we, finally, have the courage to be part of the numerous - however divisive - public conversations taking place? Will we leave the fate of our republic, like what we’ve been doing for the past few years, in the same hands of the usual politikos? Or will we register and vote in 2022?
Whatever your answer is. I’m firm in my resolve in saying: Filipinos are worth the trouble. *Originally published in Medium on 31 March 2021
Pablo Joaquín is a writer, music producer, decorated debate coach, humanitarian, and a political development strategist. He was the youngest to have ever worked for the United Nations Philippines and formerly the head coach of the San Beda Debate Team and the national chairperson of the Students Rights and Welfare Philippines (STRAW PH).
Currently working for a political consultancy, he is also a segment producer and host for Now You Know PH; an arts & lifestyle writer for Canto Philippines; and a program adviser for the Institute for Policy, Strategy, & Developmental Studies while finishing his undergraduate degree in Development Studies, Minor in Sports Studies in De La Salle University - Manila under a Junior Debate Scholarship.
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