T’was three days before Christmas, and they were lined up in three, the more than 300 evacuees holed up in Bagumbayan Elementary School in Legazpi City. They were there because of yuletide grumblings of the nearby volcano, yet the evacuees still felt particularly lucky. After all, the classrooms were clean, it was smack in the middle of the city, and the pupils were out on vacation. Being in the city affords them the occasional visit of the politician, who hands out a few plastics of relief goods as photo opportunity.
But that day, not a few felt particularly fortunate. Word got around that the Aquino family had personally bought the relief goods to be distributed. Sen. Noynoy and his trusty running mate, Sen. Mar Roxas (more famous for marrying Korina Sanchez than anything else, as far as the evacuees were concerned), would be there to hand over some bags of goods. Tradition has it that the politicians ceremoniously hand out a couple of those bags to the needy folk as the photographers click away. After a few bags, the gift-giving will be turned over to lesser people to finish up the task. The photos end up in the papers the next day — images of a politician with a bleeding heart for the poor and downtodden.
Noynoy’s own local yellow army of liberals was of course there, but there were more than a few teachers and curious folk who gladly wore yellow that day to welcome their hero. Also as is costumary, there was a huge streamer that welcomed the party.
Lunchtime arrived but the organizers had asked the lined up folk to wait in the sun for Noynoy and Mar to arrive before being handed out goods. A huge sound system was set up, in a stage adjacent to the queues. There the luminaries waited, and behind them tarpaulins declaring Noynoy’s formidable lead in the surveys. (One tarpaulin had a collage of newspaper banner stories declaring the senator’s commanding lead over Manny Villar.)
After taking some photos of the crowd, I went to the stage, partly to survey the crowd and partly to evesdrop on the yellow supporters. One of them were loudly complaining about two volunteers who stood in front of the queues, ready to assist in the handing out of relief goods. They wore orange, he said. It might look like Villar, not Noynoy, was the one handing out the goods. He demanded to have the two volunteers removed in front, but relented to asking them to change their shirts instead. They, of course, were asked to wear yellow.
It was past 1 pm when the posse arrived, expectedly mobbed by the crowd. Jesse Robredo, the famed Naga City mayor, walked in front of Noynoy, deflecting outstretched arms reaching for the latter. It was strange, because Robredo, not Noynoy, did win the Ramon Magsaysay Award for his administrative work in Naga. But it was Noynoy, who did not so much as win an award for the best congressman or senator, that the crowd wanted and seemingly admired. Somehow, it reminded me of The Jerks who fronted for an Eraserheads concert in 1995 and was roundly booed. The crowd did not want the better band (at that point, at least); they wanted the uso.
The crowd wanted Noynoy. He was gracious, for sure, and looked appreciative of the adulation. But he was no Kris Aquino, who basked in the glow of the limelight her entire life. Walking through the throng, he had a smile that was wide as it was contorted – like he was a bit overwhelmed. Cory must have felt the same during her time. Both were thrust into that role by circumstances. And though they had enough Ninoy Aquino in them to not shirk from the challenge, both were reluctant to fill the role. Cory, at least, was in every way a hero during her time – she lost a husband and then went on to rally a people to vote against the dictator. Noynoy has done no such thing yet. He is no hero, the hero worship manufactured by a political machinery pandering to a people’s disgust with the current government. He promises change, like Cory promised – but failed to deliver – change.
Like his mother, Noynoy could only oblige the crowd. He shook their hands and handed out the first few bags of goods then took the mike to address the crowd, before retreating to his entourage of yellow-clad supporters. There would be more obligations to fulfill.