‘Les enfants terribles’

"They are children of ambition, whose ups and downs must in time be tempered by the wisdom wrought by experience."


There were a lot of issues juggling in my mind after the events of the last four days, issues I thought I would write about Sunday for my Monday space in this esteemed paper.

Issues like a baby named River, who died under the most appalling circumstances, separated from a mother imprisoned allegedly for illegal possession (why do we always suspect that ain’t so?), and whose inability to nurse her child, let alone embrace the dead body of River by the officers of the law, who took the letter of that law as license to do away with the most basic humane compassion, disturbed my heart as I am sure it did millions of others.

Issues like Xi Jinping’s admonition to China’s marines to “prepare for war” with pure energies and pure spirits, almost threatening a maelstrom in the East and South China Sea divided by that narrow body of water separating the Chinese mainland from Taiwan, called the Taiwan Strait. One would hope that the admonition is a “si vis pacem, para bellum” (if you want peace, prepare for war) exhortation rather than actual preparation for hostilities in our volatile region.

Or in distinction, write comments about President Tsai-Ingwen’s speech on the Double Ten anniversary commemorating the Wuchang Revolt of 10 October 1911 that led to the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the establishment of the Republic of China on January 1, 1912, headed by the revered Sun Yat Sen. While rallying the spirit of the Taiwanese against repeated threats by their mainland cousins, President Tsai also offered respectful dialogue as proffer of meaningful co-existence.

I also thought of making some commentary about the latest Pulse Asia survey, which gave President Duterte an astounding and outstanding 91-percent public approbation, followed by a rather queer methodology in giving an “aided list” of a few names for 2022 “presidentiables,” while giving respondents some kind of a second thought over an “unaided list.”

But I retired earlier than usual without taking any dinner Saturday night, probably after a sumptuous lunch of self-made cocido which I brought to the house of one of my daughters whose husband and kids have hankered for Papa Lito’s culinary concoctions after seven long months of uninterrupted work in Taiwan.

For whatever reason, I woke up yesterday a few minutes before five in the morning, and to the strains of Diana Krall’s duet with Christian McBride on “I’ve got the World on a String,” suddenly thought of two of my treasured politician friends: Alan Peter Cayetano and Chiz Escudero. Both “roosters” have reached their golden year this October of the Year of the Rat.

In the western zodiac though, Chiz is Libra while Alan Peter is already Scorpio.

Alan Peter was bida or kontrabida, however you align yourself, for the last week of September leading to the denouement of October 14, when he finally yielded to the formula named after Hernando de Magalhaes, the Portuguese explorer under the employ of Spain who was killed by our intrepid Rajah Lapu-Lapu in 1521.

Chiz Escudero of Sorsogon, whose father Salvador was probably the youngest agriculture secretary of the country, and one of its best, is now governor of his province, after having served three terms as its representative, thence becoming senator at the young age of 37. Serving two consecutive terms, he has “graduated,” albeit temporarily in 2019, and is widely expected to return to the Senate in 2022. Meanwhile, he sort of hibernates in the languid confines of beautiful Sorsogon, far from the madding crowd that is the national capital and its crazy politics.

In 2009, he was the “darling of the colegialas,” an articulate young legislator who could out-talk the legendary Ninoy Aquino on practically any subject under the sun. When my principal, Sen. Ping Lacson gave up on his purported second quest for the presidency after the GMA “win” over FPJ in 2004, where Ping, running independently and without a vice-presidential team-mate, accompanied by a single senatorial candidate, my good friend Carlos Padilla of Nueva Vizcaya, scored a high 11 percent of the national vote, I found myself rooting for the young Chiz.

I bet on Chiz, and to this day maintain that had it not been for a fortuitous circumstance which was President Cory Aquino’s death on the first of August 2009, he would have become president at the young age of 40. But such is fate, and as the trite saying goes, the presidency is a matter of “destiny,” and it was Benigno Simeon Aquino III, son of Ninoy and Cory, upon whom the gods smiled.

In 2015, Alan Peter wanted to gun for the presidency, and together with a fellow senator, Antonio Trillanes who also at a young age captured the public imagination by a derring-do mutiny against then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, they began to unravel in several Senate blue ribbon hearings the supposed untold wealth of Vice-President Jejomar Binay, at the time the undisputed king of the poll surveys to become the next president of the Republic.

Chiz upon the other hand thought that another political neophyte, Sen. Grace Poe, who on the strength of fond memories of her adoptive father, Fernando Poe Jr., the legendary “king” of Philippine movies who was “robbed” of the presidency by one “Hello Garci” in 2004, and who topped the elections for senator in 2013, was ripe for a presidential stab. Nursing her nascent political career, Chiz became the “unbeatable” vice-presidential candidate of the meteoric Grace Poe who gunned for the presidency in 2015, leading to the elections of May 2016.

But then came Duterte, and all the apple carts were upset --- that of Jojo Binay, of Grace Poe, and the administration candidate, Mar Roxas.

By the third quarter of 2015, Alan Peter knew that his dream to be president was foreclosed by the quickly ascending rise of the mayor of Davao City, the guy everybody in our Thursday Group pooh-poohed earlier that year, but for this solitary believer. He thus gunned to become Duterte’s vice-presidential candidate.

He beat Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos in Duterte’s choice of a running-mate. The circumstances behind this is a long story that I should, in due time, write about.

By late March of 2016, Duterte had bagged the presidency, 45 days before the elections. But Alan Peter lagged behind in the VP sweepstakes. And the winner, by a questioned “split decision,” was the “destined” Leni Robredo of Naga and Sorsogon.

Alan Peter went on to re-invent himself, first as foreign affairs secretary, then going back to Congress, as chosen Speaker under a “split decision” of the President as Solomonic referee.

He has been replaced under acrimonious circumstances by Lord Allan of Marinduque, and is currently in meditative mode. But as soon as sunset turns into sunrise, he will reinvent himself, some way or the other.

Along with Chiz Escudero, they are our political “enfants terribles,” not the way Jean Cocteau wrote about two siblings and their shattered adolescence, but as children of ambition, whose ups and downs must in time be tempered by the wisdom wrought by experience.

Topics: Lito Banayo , Les enfants terribles , Baby River , Xi Jinping , China , Taiwan , Alan Peter Cayetano , Chiz Escudero
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