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(SPOT.ph) Notice the redundancy of the title. “Juan de la Cruz”— the all-purpose nickname for the average Filipino— you know, that perennially smiling twerp wearing a salakot and a barong. In Spanish, it translates to “John of the Cross.” We share the same name as the 160th century mystic saint who wrote “The Dark Night of the Soul” (Or in the even more dramatic-sounding “La noche oscura de alma”).
Now, if we are to believe in feng shui, in the self-fulfilling prophecy of names, then we’re fucked right from the beginning. It is widely believed that the name came from McCulloch Dick, founder of the Philippines Free Press, after noticing that it was the most common one in the blotters (Blotter pa talaga!). In editorial cartoons, the character of Juan dela Cruz was also always portrayed as small and helpless against the evil Uncle Sam.
Then, Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me,” says Matthey 16:24. In Luke, the same exhortation is repeated: “And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” The concept of penitence should be of no special significance to us Pinoys. Every day seems like a slow, endless plod to Golgotha. Every day we tread our own collective Via Dolorosas (which is not the name of a personality enhancement school, by the way). Add to that the atavistic pervasiveness of a religion that constantly reminds us of our inherent unworthiness, of how we are sinners and all that nasty stuff that threatens us with images of sulfuric lakes and dudes with horns, hooves, and tails. It’s the same urge that drives us to plunge into a heaving sea of brown bodies just to touch a statue of— yegads!— a figure bearing a cross. But that’s another matter altogether. Bottomline: we are all martyrs of our own personal and shared Golgothas.
What we’re trying to say is this: we Filipinos—especially Metro Manilans—no longer need to commit acts of penitence. Every waking hour in this metropolis is a nail pounded on our sanity. Those flagellants are just drama queens—or just atoning for something profoundly nasty.
Or maybe we truly, deeply like pain. It is stamped on our psyche like a National Meat Inspection Service seal on a pig’s ear. Almost every aspect of our daily life is a Torquemadan exercise in agony and suffering.
You want a job? As long as you’ve got the necessary requirements, like the ability to read, brush your teeth, and not looking like a serial killer, fine. But try getting an NBI clearance. The sight of the slow, long lines is enough to make you faint.
Riding the MRT at rush hour is sheer masochism. Take the goddamned train if you wish to experience the sensation of being sucked in a moshpit, if you want to exchange faces and maybe some bodily fluid with random strangers. Take it if you want to experience the terror that grips a claustrophobic’s mind tighter than a fat girl holding a Twinkie. What’s that? I have an option? I can very well take the bus? That’s probably okay, if I intend to watch three Steven Seagal movies from Cubao to Makati.
Driving, too, is such punishment. Sitting behind the wheel of an expensive European SUV? Not an assurance that you won’t lose your sanity. Sure, there’s the celestially quiet cabin, the fancy dashboard and all the trimmings druglord-and-jueteng-and-tax-evasion-money can buy. But good luck with the carjackers and all the Jason Ivlers and since we’re at it anyway, good luck with the Nova buses (I wont tell you anymore about it; you’ll just feel one crashing into your side or rear. Take note of the name: Nova Bus Line). Oh, wait, speaking of Ivler, by the way: Marlene Aguilar is about to release an album called She-Dragon: In the Name of Freedom.
In the spirit of Lent and all its attendant elements of woe and misery, here are the Seven Last Words in the context of contemporary Philippine society.
“FATHER, FORGIVE THEM FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO”
Which can be very well said of everyone in many levels of society— from the prosecution panel in the Corona Impeachment Trial to some traffic enforcers who just wave and wave you by (even on a green traffic light) and right down to bus and jeepney drivers who got their lessons from the Pontius Pilate School of Driving. The geniuses in the public works deparment and their seemingly constant inability to keep a road free from potholes, blockages, and noise. And speaking of noise, there’s also noisy, noisy social media. Heck, now they’re making a big deal about some ice cream brand that has a price tag that could buy two meals for construction workers.
But the prevailing theme of the first of the seven last words is forgiveness (dah). So in this light, we all must pardon one another’s transgressions.