It is hilarious how we eat up this whole drama of our politicians and the elite doing it like every Juan and Juana—like normal, regular people.
You know, Kris Aquino taking the MRT, the President falling in line for his drivers’ license renewal. And I do say drama because what it does become is a show of being “one with the people,” of knowing how the people live.
In truth, whatever the reasons for these instances of “normalcy,” what it becomes is a show.
Oh look! look at the President’s sister riding the MRT! Smiling widely as she has her photos taken while riding! The train is tightly packed with people, but there is space to take a photo for Instagram!
This was really my first reaction to those photos of Kris taking the MRT: how many were they in her entourage? How many had to sacrifice their space on the train because Kris was on there? Because she can’t have been alone—that would have been a security risk. Those photos were not selfies either.
Too there is this: what is gained by having the Presidential sister ride the train? Does it tell people: hey look! Kris is riding the train and you should, too! Or does it scream at us: if Kris can be a happy train passenger, then you should be, too!
But there is nothing happy about taking the MRT, and only someone like Kris can flash a smile like that and think it an adventure. She should do it for a month and see how she can still smile on Day 3. She should ride public transportation as a way of life, every day, to get everywhere, and then we can talk about smiling through that difficulty. She should go give the LRT 1 a try: smile while riding that, without your security, without your entourage. Let’s layer it with rain, during rush hour.
And this is the thing: since Kris did it, there has been this clamor for more politicians to take the train—the better for them (apparently) to understand what 80% of commuters go through every day. Now there’s a call for the President himself to get on the train, as he pushes for the MRT-LRT fare hike.
That is hilarious. Because having politicians take the train once, twice a month will not give them a sense of what it’s like to be commuter. It won’t give them a sense of choicelessness: ride the train or spend too much money on a cab. Ride the bus, or you won’t get from Point A to Point B. That is at the heart of the commuters’ travails: she has no choice but to get on that train, no matter how tight it is. She will get on that bus no matter how unsafe it is.
It is the job of our government officials to make those buses safe, make those trains more humane. They don’t need to get on that train to do their jobs well.
Because too they might only really echo Kris’s only takeaway from having ridden the MRT: what a memorable experience!
An hour wasted
Now it’s one thing to have Kris getting on that train to get to where she needed to go, because EDSA was apparently a parking lot that evening. It’s another thing to have the President falling in line to get his drivers’ license renewed, spending an hour at the Land Transportation Office. Because what I did wonder about was: what else could The President have done in that hour?
He could’ve been in Tarlac, so he might see Hacienda Luisita for himself, and what it is exactly the Cojuangcos have been doing there, bulldozing farmers’ lands – productive farmlands, mind you. He could, himself, insist that those bulldozers leave, and that the military stop with inciting fear. He could, himself, declare that this process of uprooting farmers from their lands be stopped altogether – and he need not do that as a Cojuangco, but as President.
He could’ve been in Pampanga, so he might see Hacienda Dolores for himself, look at what an impending Ayala development has done to a farmer community that has lived off that land since forever, and who have cared for it the way no development will. He could spend some time talking to farmers, so he might find out that the Department of Agrarian Reform unilaterally decided to award this land to two private land development corporations, that have since started working with Ayala.
This is the point: the President could’ve been doing a bazillion other things in that hour that he spent getting his drivers’ license. I did not need to see him falling in line and going through the process—I expect that my president and all important government officials have better things to do with their time. I would rather give my president the privilege of not having to fall in line for his government papers, if it means that he is working on nation instead. I would give it to any government official really.
Because those images of normalcy are nothing but images. To think these to be anything more is to also give these politicians some free campaign photos. In which case it’s clear we won’t have the last laugh.