Jose Luis Araneta Alcuaz and I go back a long way. As batch mates in the Ateneo all throughout grade school to high school, I have known this man, who they now call Linggoy of the exclamation point stickers, for nearly half a century now. Each of us packing at least 200 pounds in our teens, we found ourselves racing to the 400s as we reached our 30s in the ‘80s. Only intimations of our mortality provided sobering stimulus to desperately rein in our triple XL size to at least the more acceptable XL.
We were never classmates and there is no truth to the rumor that it was because there wasn’t space to accommodate two biggies. But despite our sizes, we hardly bumped into each other in all the nine years I spent in the Jesuit-run educational institution.
My first insight into the quixotic character of Linggoy Alcuaz was when we were in first year high school. He had joined the annual high school cross country race. Of course it is always good to know about young people having the drive to join the three-kilometer cross country race across rugged and even muddy terrain. But it certainly is something for the books when someone who carries the weight of two people decides to run in a race that is considered challenging enough even for the fit and the light-footed. Sure enough as all the other runners sprinted past the first stage of the race, an incredible hulk of a Muddy Thingy suddenly emerged walking back to the starting position. It was a huffing and puffing Linggoy graduating from a crash course in Reality 101.
I saw Linggoy again after 20 years or so. In the 1980s, we found ourselves sharing the cause against the Marcos regime. My involvement sprung after the assassination of Ninoy Aquino when my disgust for the dictatorship reached saturation point. Linggoy was involved in the struggle even earlier. He sacrificed his college degree and joined the Social Democrats together with our other class mate – the late Gerry Esguerra who went underground. Both Linggoy and Gerry were also members of the April 6 Movement. By 1984, Linggoy was the Deputy Secretary General of the PDP-Laban while I was helping plan the communications program for the opposition.
Nene Pimentel was the rallying point in the PDP-Laban of the post-Aquino assassination period. For some reason, Linggoy got himself on the bad side of Nene Pimentel over some policy issue and no sooner found himself getting the cold treatment from the rest of the party. Finding refuge on my oversized shoulders, Linggoy vented his frustrations with his party mates.
I did not always agree with Linggoy’s views but I certainly gave him credit for his courage in fighting for his convictions even if these ran counter to the popular mindset.
Though Linggoy would have been a ludicrously humongous representation of the gangling Don Quixote, Linggoy never ran out of windmills to joust with. As NTC Commissioner during the Cory presidency, he was at odds with his boss, the DOTC secretary. But when he went beyond the job of an NTC Commissioner and started predicting a coup – that did him in and lost him his NTC post. Years later, he became a PCSO director in the Macapagal-Arroyo administration and soon found himself drawing battle lines with the rest of the PCSO board.
In 2003, in a move that even surprised me – Linggoy actively supported the presidential bid of Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ). I found it a surprise because Linggoy was in the forefront of the fight during EDSA I and II. By joining the FPJ camp, he had allied himself with the remnants of Marcos and Estrada whose regimes the two People Power events had ousted. I may share his disgust over the pits that the Macapagal-Arroyo regime brought us into but I can not see myself in league with the very forces I fought when I threw my lot with EDSA I and II.
Linggoy’s conflict with the Macapagal-Arroyo regime is laudable considering that he is related to the First Gentleman on their Araneta side of the family. But his alignment with the very forces he fought in EDSA I and II can only be regrettable and to me – unconscionable. At best, I can see in Linggoy someone who may already be battle weary and beclouded by the windmills of his mind. Maybe he saw a superhero in FPJ of the movies the way Don Quixote made a villain out of the windmill.
In this light, I can see Linggoy as the perfect epitome of the lost and confused Filipino. Our people, especially the masses, have wised up to the truth about the traditional politicians who have been exploiting the Filipino for decades. For two presidential elections – in 1992 and 1998 – they roundly rejected the traditional politicians who ran for president. In 2004, a quintessential traditional politician, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, appeared to have won but then the circumstances of that election are very much clouded and disputed.
In fact, 55% of those surveyed by the SWS think that Macapagal-Arroyo stole the 2004 elections. Certainly the historical survey numbers of Macapagal-Arroyo dispute her winnability. Among the post-Marcos era presidents, Macapagal-Arroyo does not even come close to the ratings of former presidents Aquino, Ramos and Estrada at their best and their worst. The best rating Macapagal-Arroyo ever got as president was a positive 30% compared to the over 70% of the other three presidents. Worse, Macapagal-Arroyo is the only one among the four presidents to register a negative 6% when even Estrada at his plundering worst still managed to register a positive rating.
Indeed a lot that can be said about our traditional politicians to justify the continued rejection they suffer at the polls. But it runs counter to human nature and logic how the Filipino has defied the natural course of evolution that discards what has become irrelevant and embraces what proves more efficient. When people felt that the train only got them to the station and not to their specific destinations whether home or office, they did not return to the horse and buggy but instead graduated upwards to the automobile.
Not so in the Philippines. When we felt disgusted with the traditional politicians, our people went for the showbiz pretenders, many of them morally unfit and sorely inept to hold public office. The talented Filipino race that manages to land the preferred jobs overseas somehow got lost in the shuffle.
I can give the masses some slack because of their limited education. But how do I reconcile the fact that a friend of mine like Linggoy – with an Ateneo education and an elite pedigree – can see himself in league with FPJ and remnants of the Marcos and Estrada regimes that he helped get rid of? It can’t be lust for high office or money because all his life he fought those who could have given that. In the Macapagal-Arroyo regime, he could have capitalized on his Araneta roots for whatever office or access to a juicy contract he could have wanted.
In a recent discussion with Linggoy, I shared with him my misgivings about the new company he keeps. I told him that for as long as the opposition he now identifies with remains a haven for the disgraced past of Marcos and Estrada, there is no way they can attract key sectors of society who can make things happen – the business community, the middle class, the Church and the military. They are engaged in a futile effort because they are going against the grain of human nature that seeks to move forward and secure better tomorrows.
The single biggest supporter of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is the discredited opposition that Linggoy is now a part of. Having nothing better to offer a people who do not relish the thought of reliving the Marcos and Estrada eras, the opposition keeps Macapagal-Arroyo in office. The very fear that this opposition may take over keeps Macapagal-Arroyo in Malacanang Palace.
We will soon celebrate another anniversary of the 1986 People Power Revolt. I hope that Linggoy and those members of the opposition who had a stake in EDSA will reflect on what they stood for, who they fought then, who they are now in league with, what they risked their lives for and who would have taken their lives if EDSA did not happen. Hopefully, they will also think about the country.