“He’s a National Artist while I am just an ordinary journalist.”
The death of National Artist for Literature F. Sionil Jose affects me in many ways. He was not only my friend; he was my idol. Frankie was an Ilocano from Rosales, Pangasinan. We speak the same language.
The last time I saw Frankie was during the launching of my book, “The Road Never Ends” at the Manila Golf and Country Club on Jan. 30, 2021 before the COVID-19 pandemic struck the country. He even took some copies of my book, hoping to sell them at a bookstore, “Solidaridad” along Padre Faura. He was a great writer and a novelist, something I can never be. I have read many of his books.
I have always considered Frankie in the category of Nick Joaquin, also a National Artist for Literature.
With the death of F. Sionil Jose, I can say that it will take some time for the country to produce another literary giant of the same caliber. Frankie’s columns at the Philippine Star separates him from the other columnists. Although Frankie wrote only once every week, reading his columns gives me insights on Philippine events, past and present. I also know his wife.
Frankie and I were the oldest columnists still writing, he at the age of 97, and me at 94 going 95. Still, there is a great divide separating Frankie and me. He is a National Artist. I am only an ordinary journalist.
To Frankie, I bid farewell. To Frankie’s family, my deepest and sincerest condolences.
In politics, nothing much is ongoing with presidential aspirant Bongbong Marcos still leading by some 30 million votes against second placer, Vice President Leni Robredo.
For her part, former Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio is likewise leading the vice presidential race, with Senate President Tito Sotto as second placer. At the rate things are going, it will take the other presidential and vice presidential aspirants some doing to catch up with the leading BBM-Sara tandem.
I really don’t know why the other aspirants are lagging far behind the BBM-Sara tandem this early in the campaign. Is it a question of image or just a matter of perspective? Senator Imee Marcos said that people must remember her late strongman father President Ferdinand E. Marcos for so many good things he had done for the country.
I believe, as a journalist who has covered election campaigns since the time of the late Apo Pidiong Quirino, that it is a confluence of events why the BBM-Sara tandem is leading. First, if we look at the pairings, the Bongbong-Sara represents a combination of the Solid North and the Solid South, together with a larger portion of the Visayas with Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio being a Cebuana. Note that the largest speaking dialect in Central Visayas and even the Christians in Mindanao Cebu dialect.
Thus, together with the Ilocano voters of the Solid North and the Cebuano-speaking people of the Visayas and Mindanao, the BBM-Sara team makes a perfect geographical and demographical combination that traditional politicians can only long for.
How about the rest of the aspirants? Vice President Leni Robredo can only hope for the Bicol region as her base. Manila Mayor Isko Moreno has the Tagalog region as his base, while fourth place Senator Manny Pacquiao has parts of the Visayas and parts of Mindanao as among his constituencies. Senator Ping Lacson, while he is a Caviteno, has no base to his name.
That’s where the great difference lies.
The Martial Law issue? I believe that the Martial Law issue against Bongbong is now a discounted one, especially among the present generation, whose memory of Marcos and the Martial Law are just what they read in the books and the ululations of anti-Marcos people.
Most, if not all, issues thrown at Bongbong come from the fact that he is now the runaway presidential aspirant. Now, the big question. Can the other aspirants ever catch up with Bongbong? Can he maintain his lead until Election Day?
However, we can expect Manila Mayor Isko Moreno to catch up with Robredo considering the fact that the percentage difference between Moreno and Robredo can change. On the part of the other aspirants, Senator Manny Pacquiao and Senator Ping Lacson, they should be reminded that May 9, 2022 is not too far away. And for them to catch up with the BBM-Sara tandem, they would do well to examine why all the poll surveys are showing that perhaps some things are wrong in their campaign.
In the Senate race, it looks like the returning senators and reelectionists are filling up the 12 Magic Circle together with the newcomers, broadcaster Raffy Tulfo, former Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar, and former Vice President Jojo Binay.
The returning senators are Alan Peter Cayetano, Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero, and Jinggoy Estrada, while the reelectionist are Migs Zubiri, Win Gatchalian and Joel Villanueva. In the 10th to 12th place are Robin Padilla, Dick Gordon, Risa Hontiveros and another Erap son, JV Ejercito.
In the Senate race, it’s a name recall that counts, and for the newcomers, they have to work much harder.
We have a new COVID surge, likely driven by the Omicron variant. My gulay, the whole country is now considered a “high risk area” with stricter health protocols and restrictions. We are now under Alert Level 3.
Just how long will this new variant last? It’s anybody’s guess, and yet health experts tell us not to panic. They must be kidding.
With the country now classified as high risk, there goes our expected economic recovery with its unemployment and rising incidence of poverty and hunger. I am alarmed because it seems the pandemic won’t end this year. To think that nine out of 10 Filipinos had hoped that this year 2022 will be a better year than last year.
The reality on the ground tells us this year won’t be a better year.