Posted March 25, 2008
Jun Lozada started it all. In the porcelain dawn of a February morning, he held a press conference at De La Salle Greenhills, telling the whole world he had been abducted by men sent by the government.
Deriving courage from the army of nuns around him, he said that the country is not only one family, driving a spike straight into the heart of the ruling family. And in words echoing that of his hero, Jose Rizal, he said that sometimes, it’s worth taking risks for one’s country. His voice broke, and then he wept copiously, for all the world to see.
He would do that again during the first Senate hearing that he attended. I was sitting a few feet away from him. Before he started, he embraced a nun, one of around 20 sitting behind him. Then he drank from a bottle of mineral water, wrung his hands, and put his head in those clammy hands. And then he spoke, haltingly at first, then later, the words flowing like water.
Tears also flowed three weeks later. This time, they came from Lozada’s assistant at Philforest. Claiming that he went to the government TV station because it was near his office, he also cried buckets. He said that Lozada was also a scoundrel and a thief. And then he wept. You could call that lachrymus crocodilius, the tears of a crocodile.
In between his crying jags, the OIC would dab the corner of his handkerchief to his eyes. I am sure, I told my friends later, that the handkerchief was daubed with Vick’s vapor rub, and touching it to his eyes stimulated the flow of tears. It’s an age-old technique found in the movies, and his crying was a parody of what Lozada did. If this were a Lino Brocka movie, the great Cherie Gil would already be in a catfight mode, screeching the words: “You’re nothing but a second-rate, trying-hard copyat.”I cannot even remember the guy’s full name, Edwin something or other, but nobody seemed to believe his crying game.
And yesterday, on national television, Senator Noynoy Aquino and Queen of Philippine Game Shows Kris Aquino announced in the show of Korina Sanchez that their mother, President Cory, is ill with cancer. Kris tried to control her tears. But on late-night TV, the close, male friends of Tita Cory buckled under.
The first was Mayor Fred Lim – the nemesis of drug pushers and criminals of Manila, the terminator of corruption and graft. Why, this crusading mayor even lauded the police officers who caught his son allegedly using and selling shabu two weeks ago! He congratulated the cops for “doing their duty,” and vowed a hands-off policy towards the case.
But when told that President Cory, who endorsed him as President in the 1998 elections, has colon cancer, Mayor Lim muttered: “She is a great lady . . . a great President.” And then, a film of tears covered his eyes. The film broke, and the brave and fearless Alfredo Lim wept for all the world to see.
The next was former Executive Secretary, Senate President, and Department of Labor Secretary Frank Drilon. Used to the backroom battles of politics and to endless meetings with hardened, striking laborers, Drilon also wished the former President well. She has my prayers, he added, and then he bowed down, because slivers of tears began to glisten in his face.
The phenomenon of men crying is not a new thing, of course. But it’s a new thing when done by men who are in politics, or governance. The mold of the political warrior is that of the stern taskmaster, the great helmsman. The eyes are fierce, the lips shut tight, the jaws set. The focus is on the next battle to be won, the next vision to be enfleshed, the coming elections to be won.
But I welcome the sight of men in power crying. It gives them a halo of humanity, an aura of vulnerability. It’s not a chink in the armor, but the glisten in the armor. But, of course, the tears should be real -- the emotions starting from the gut, running riot in the heart, water free-falling from the eyes.
Because the Filipinos, bless them, are not stupid. We can sniff the real from the fake. We have a name for the fake ones – SBM, or style mo bulok. We will see more of these fake emotions, in what Pete Lacaba has memorably phrased as “our days of disquiet, our nights of rage.”