Friends, countrymen, please relax. I know it’s difficult to read something you disagree with, and it’s easy to take things personally when you are being told to keep your biases in check. My reaction is always to take a step back, reassess my own perspective, and wonder: is that judgment of my opinion valid? Clear about its own biases, too?
But that’s me, asking questions. That’s me wondering if I might have missed a point or two, and whether a revision of the original opinion is in order. Or not. In the case of that piece that calls out the bias against the Binays dictating the manner in which they have been vilified and pilloried on social media, I stand by the question: What is it that everyone is not seeing here? Is it not valid to ask why the Philippine Daily Inquirer only came out with it 19 days after? Is it not valid to ask why it has done so at a time when so many other things could and should be in the headlines?
Is it not valid to ask: How are we blinded by our biases, what is it we end up not saying, not asking, not thinking because of those biases?
Does it necessarily mean that I am for the Binays, because I am not one with the rest of Pinoy social media and online opinion that collectively condemns their behavior?
I laugh out loud.
If you did some research, you would realize how preposterous it is to think that I am for the Binays at all, or that I would do public relations for them—as many-a-commenter has scurrilously said.
It is not only preposterous, it is laughable.
Because I have experienced first hand what it is like to be a government employee of the Makati City Hall, even as I live in Mandaluyong (with its own dynasty in the Abalos family). I’ve experienced the kind of system the Binays have created there, and know for a fact how and why it works, but also how and why it is questionable—and painfully so.
As teacher in the University of Makati (UMak), I found out first hand what it is like to be part of a city that works. Where teachers have free hospitalization and are allowed the possibility of free housing; where they are acknowledged by the local police to be public servants; where our students are certain of jobs the moment they graduate, what with courses that make them better skilled for jobs that would otherwise be given to high school graduates. Think secretary and tourist guide, mechanic and receptionist, and call center agent.
As such it was clear to me that UMak was not just the run of the mill local university; the promise of jobs that education makes is something that this local university fulfills. Of course one must ask: but why keep these graduates from achieving more, doing more, than being service workers?
That is the painful side of this same coin. It is one that Binay is able to make his Makati citizenry forget because they also know to be thankful: this is more than what people have in other cities, we are all so lucky.
What a joke
I survived UMak for a year, and probably because I knew that I was merely passing through.
When I use the word survive, I mean I plodded through that year of teaching, where the latter was secondary to being a government employee. I raced for the bundy for my six-hour days—including the days when I had only an hour or two of actual teaching to fulfill. I was paid a pittance for hours spent in the classroom, with no compensation for the time I spent checking and prepping for classes. For approximately P11,000 bucks a month, I was cash strapped for most of that year.
Because I refuse to be blind, deaf, dumb, I asked questions. I realized that the teachers were surviving on that salary by going into debt with the cooperative set up by the school itself. Whenever the salary was late, that coop would rise to the occasion of advancing salaries to its members—with interest of course. Of course it was easy to be suspicious when the salary would always be late. Even more so when one realizes that the head of the cooperative is considered a local government higher-up.
At some point one of the friends I made there told me: para kaming ginigisa sa sarili naming mantika. Which is to say too that the Binay system’s cracks are known to the people here, yet there is no righteous indignation against it, no condemnation, no resistance. There’s just no time for it.
I had the time—and the freedom—for it of course. With so little pay I was living off my parents anyway, there was every reason for me to ask questions and demand better—I am certain I looked like some privileged brat, but I knew I was exactly that in the context of UMak.
English teachers hated the textbook that we were all required to use, one that was far from being about teaching students English, as it was some linguistics experiment by a professor from the University of the Philippines. Not only did we have to teach our students this textbook, we were at the mercy of a UP professor’s periodical tests, which were not just a measure of students’ learning, but of teachers’ teaching. It was only after I refused to require it of my students that I realized teachers had a cut in those textbook sales—corruption can be as simple as that.
Many teachers questioned that textbook, but no one had the time to fight against it. Finding myself in front of the UMak President, and having him ask about that textbook, I could only be honest. Soon enough the rest of the regular faculty were having an audience with the President (a first, I was told), and it was decided that the use of that textbook would be scrapped, and money would be raised for a textbook written by the English teachers themselves.
That was one teeny tiny battle won, and the battles can only be numerous and continuous in a University—and a city—that delivers more basic services than any other, but which also makes sure to maintain the status quo. That is, keep the powerful where they are, keep the struggling working class where they are. Everyone’s too busy to ask questions.
It’s what happens across this country of course, but without free hospitalization and education.
There is nothing funny at all about the plight of the working class, neither should it be a cause that’s taken up only when convenient. In fact there is a depth and complexity to their needs that this whole anti-Binay drama fails to level-up to, as many now talk about how this is about the rights of security guards, and the need to respect them, etc. etc.
I wonder how many can actually take on the cause of security guards and the working class for real. Say fight for the P125 across the board wage increase and get angry at the government for taking pride in the P10-increase in September. Say, fight against the Meralco price hike, one that will certainly make the security guards’ lives more difficult, as they spend the little that they earn on basic services, which are basic rights.
Or go beyond the security guards and talk about farmers’ rights, particularly over at Hacienda Luisita, where the President’s Cojuangco family have stood quietly by as the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) claimed and bulldozed farmers’ lands. These are farmlands included in the distribution program of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), yet the eight farmers who resisted Tadeco’s bulldozing activities are now in jail.
You want to talk workers rights, you want to talk about the powerful oppressing the powerless, the arrogant and wealthy throwing their weight around? Then level-up. Talk, too, about hunger and need, proper wages and justice. Talk, too, about systemic dysfunction. Otherwise you all are just speaking to each other in a vacuum that doesn’t alleviate the plight of the working class.
On social media, one expressed the sarcastic hope that I never experience what those Dasma security guards experienced.
Well, I won’t experience it, honey, and neither will you. We are not security guards after all.
It’s been hilarious really. Thank you for the laughs.