December 24, 2004

No hope in this Jungle

Over at this is, Mr. Jolography made mention about my comments concerning Bob Ong's new book, Ang Alamat ng Gubat. It is true that I found the book fun to read. His writing style may be ridiculed by "literary critics", but its down-to-earth "internet influenced" style easily connects with today's youth. I should know. His books have always been surefire hits when I give them away to my students.

Bob also has a very good sense of the ills plaguing our poor nation. His allegories would be very familiar to the hearts of many Filipinos.

But like what Jolography said, I did find the book a bit lacking because it stopped at exposing the problem without offering a solution. It's not that I am looking for a didactic ending to Bob's book. However, I wish that Bob would at least have offered hope that our problems can be solved.

I am of the thinking that a lot of Pinoys are apathetic nowadays not because they are unaware of our problems, but rather because they have already lost hope. They've taken the widespread corruption as a norm - an institutionalized societal malaise that we just have to live with. Pinoys now dream of escaping to other countries in order to leave this seemingly hopeless place. Actually, if we follow our government's rhetoric, it's now heroic to abandon the country just as long as you send dollars back to your kamag-anak. OFWs are our "bagong bayani". Because of our pathetic excuse for a government, the OFW remittances and the consumer spending on these remittances are the only things propping up our economy.

I have been asked so many times by my students as to whether the Philippines still has a bright future. Are there things about our country that we should still be proud of? And as usual, I offer them hope. I tell them of stories of great selfless Pinoys who still silently work to improve Philippine society despite the seeming unsurmountable task and the lack of support. I tell them of great thinkers who debate over our society's problems and the conclusions and recommendations that they reach after their debates. I tell them of successful efforts by dedicated heroes who in their small ways cure some of the problems we are experiencing.

Jolography proposed that Bob Ong may have just followed Rizal's example when he wrote Noli me Tangere. That in order to cure the contry's affliction, he would recreate a faithful reproduction of the present condition, exposing the sick "to the steps of the temple so that each one who would come to invoke the Divine, would propose a cure for them."

Indeed, the current affliction of the Philippine society has been faithfully reproduced by Bob Ong just like how Rizal did more than a hundred years back. The difference, though, is that with Rizal, his hero ended up dead for his failed attempt to fight the system. With Bob Ong, his hero did not end up dead, but rather ended up an apathetic fool. Isn't that a big difference?

How I wish that Bob Ong would have told his young impressionable readers that the sun may still rise once again in the Gubat. How I wish that Bob, even without consciously meaning to, would not have offered apathy as a way out of this mess. How I wish that Bob would have chosen to kill and martyr a fighting fictional hero, rather than killing the hope of his reader who would end up depressed - outraged at the ills of society, but helpless for not knowing what he can do about it.

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