The point of Halloween in the western world is to use “humor and ridicule to confront the power of death” – hence the ghoulish pranks and antics. The point of All Souls Day and All Saints Day in the Catholic calendar is deadly serious; these are the days when we recall and venerate our dead and all the saints together.
In the spirit of these feasts and in the interest of fair and balanced journalism, I feel obligated to report, following my column last Thursday (“Trillanes impales himself,” October30), that Sen. Antonio Trillanes is not alone in falling on his words or his sword.
His partner in character assassination and senatorial excess, Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, also got his just deserts – and in similarly jaw-dropping fashion.
To be completely truthful, this is not my original discovery and insight. I got it from fellow columnist Alex Magno, who noted it first in the Philippine Star.
Alex wrote: “Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano, the only senator perceived to be in active play for the 2016 presidential contest, used to have a 5% share of voter preference. In the last survey, the number of voters who said they will choose him for the presidency dropped to barely 1percent. His base of voters basically evaporated.
From abortion to babymaking
“The drop in Cayetano’s numbers was so dramatic, the senator was quoted in one report as saying he would focus his energies in the near term on producing a baby. His presidential run appears to have been aborted. We wish him a healthy baby, however.
“The only thing that might explain Cayetano’s drastic loss of support is his participation in the three-man inquisition panel going after Vice-President Jejomar Binay. The hearings conducted by a runaway “subcommittee” may provide weekly grist for the scandal mill, but the partisan conduct of the hearings appears to have alarmed the public. If the second highest official of the land can be given the kangaroo-court treatment, what is there to protect ordinary citizens?”
Did VP Binay gobble up all of Cayetano’s supporters? What happened to the TV spots that Alan ran on network TV at such great cost? And to all the free TV time secured during the Senate inquisition on Binay? Did they have no beneficial effects?
This is the problem with going negative. Its soul is signed in bile and water; you cannot pocket anything and then, say the old folks back home, there is karma, “Your foolishness will come back to you or your body.”
This is not necessarily curtains for the Cayetano for president fantasy, or the get-Binay conspiracy. The financiers behind it have deep pockets. Cayetano, like his partner Trillanes, could redouble his efforts to chop down Binay. And Mar Roxas looks just about ready to formally declare his candidacy for president. He will be in earnest search of a running mate.
Cayetano and Trillanes always knew their limitations. Vice-president was the most they were pining for.
On just deserts
When I first heard the term “just deserts,” I thought it was what you get at the end of a hearty meal, spelled with a double s.
After some research, I am now properly instructed that it is spelled with a single s and is always in plural form. The singular desert will take us to the world of Lawrence of Arabia and metaphorical realms like “a cultural desert.”
In the Internet, I found this enlightening entry in the Phrase Finder website:
”Just deserts means ‘That which is deserved; A reward for what has been done—good or bad.’ ”
“In the sense of ‘things deserved’, it has been used in English since at least the 13th century. A citation in which it is linked with ‘just’ comes from 1599, in Warning Faire Women:
“Upon a pillory – that all the world may see, A just desert for such impiety.”
“With this phrase it isn’t the origin that is interesting though, but the spelling. I am often contacted by people pointing out that ‘just deserts’ is misspelled. They go to great lengths to explain why it should be ‘just desserts’. They are wrong, but perhaps understandably so.
“Deserts is now almost always used in reference to desolate and arid regions of land. Its use to mean ‘that which is deserved’ is now largely limited to this single phrase.
“Desserts—the last or sweet course of a meal—is widely used and is pronounced the same way as the deserts in ‘just deserts’.
“When hearing the phrase with the pronunciation like
‘desserts’, people think it must be spelled that way too. The spelling might be more intuitive if we thought of the phrase as ‘what you justly deserve.’”
“Most of the correspondence pointing out the ‘error’ comes from Australia. That may be coincidence, although it could be that, living in a hot, English-speaking country, Australians have more exposure to hearing the word deserts with the stress on ‘des’ than the rest of us.”
Aquino as just deserts of Filipinos
In social media, I have noticed of late that Filipinos, expatriates and foreign observers are severely critical of the Filipino citizenry and especially Filipino voters.
They aver that President Benigno BS Aquino 3rd is entirely what we deserve—because of our unknowing and credulous electorate and our stupid politics.
Locals call our voters “bobotante” (dumb voters) because we voted PNoy into office knowing his total lack of accomplishments and credentials, and without subjecting him to rigorous screening.
Foreigners think our politics is stupid because we do not vote on the basis of platforms and issues; we base our choices wholly on personalities, media images and name recall.
Everything is driven by campaign advertising. This is why they we elect a disproportionate number of entertainers and the scions of family dynasties.
Given what we are living through today—the overmatched ineptitude of the Aquino government in the face of acute national problems and public policy questions—we Filipinos have gotten exactly what we deserve.
So the challenge of 2016 could not be clearer.