Thursday, March 29, 2012

A wake up call I didn't really need

So it's 430 AM in the middle of nowhere in Sri Lanka and my mobile rings, waking me up from what is supposed to be a deep slumber as I was completely exhausted yesterday.

It was my new friend (a.k.a. the frustrated Political Science Professor) who likes lecturing me on what's wrong with the Philippines on speaker phone as he's driving from one point to another on the other side of the world.

He's usually too busy at other times to either think about the Philippines or to call me.

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I think he forgot I was in Sri Lanka so he'd been calling as if I was in Manila. a

7 AM in Manila -- the equivalent of 430 AM in Sri Lanka -- is as good a time to talk me as any, when I'm in Manila.

I'm awake and I'm not yet at work, so I'm still not thinking about a million things at the same time. But stupid me. I'd been so sleepy yesterday that after posting a blog entry, I'd literally fallen into bed and I'd forgotten to put my phone on silent as I usually do every night.


So ring, ring. My phone does a musical jingle at 430 AM!

And now here I am awake when everyone else is asleep, and I thought I'd better just put my waking hours to good use by recounting our conversation.

This "Political Science Professor" had been the topic of conversation yesterday at lunch here in Colombo, after all, since he and this friend who's now accompanying me to Sri Lanka both went to Penn, and the latter's been trying to pry the identity of the former out of me for a couple of days now.

"Everything I told you is coming to fruition," he said, with a hint of an I-told-you-so, and again without a hello or an "It's me."

For all I know, he could have been talking about the success of Travelife Magazine (the Philippines' leading travel and lifestyle publication) or our upcoming dinner in Vienna. But I wasn't going to be that lucky. It was another long-distance political discourse at an ungodly hour in Sri Lanka.

"Isn't everything just getting a bit ridiculous?" He asked me. I didn't really know as I've been studiously keeping away from the newspapers. The front pages are a mishmash of people's vested interests so I'm not sure what's true and what's made up anyway.

"And we're referring to..." I asked feebly. I was so not my usual sharp self at this early hour.


"You know what I'm referring to," he said. "They're dissecting his life, getting his children into the picture, going back ten years and looking into every single thing he did just to be able to get something -- anything -- on him in terms of dirt. Next thing you know, they'll be trotting out a jilted girlfriend from college or a driving violation from 20 years ago."

He continued: "Personally I think he's a pretty normal guy who's far from perfect. But he's not a criminal or a corrupt person who's done something so bad that so much of government resources has to be trained on him. He wanted to make some money on investments just like everyone else; he probably didn't take his tax returns too seriously on certain years, and maybe used his influence to get a better discount on some real estate purchases."

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He wasn't finished, adding: "But if you knew someone high-up in the real estate business, wouldn't you try asking for a larger discount as well? This is a pretty normal thing for people to do. Some lily-white holier-than-thou people may think it's not ideal, bit I don't think an inaccurate SALN or haggling for discounts are impeachable offenses."

Finally, I just had to ask him: "Do you actually know the guy?"

I certainly didn't, but he was defending the guy as if they'd been family, friends or neighbors.

The reply came back back quickly: "Not at all. But I really feel bad when someone's being so blatantly harassed and bullied. It's just not right. Everyone's human and we all have some skeletons in our closets. But a skeleton in the closet doesn't automatically make a person a criminal. No one's completely black or white -- most are just human."


I sighed. I was climbing Sigiriya Rock in a few hours and I so badly needed my sleep, and now I had something heavier than an SLR and a bottle of water to carry with me up the mountain. Sigh. The problems of the Philippines again.

He then asked me: "Did you read Bobby Tiglao's column? Or Amando Doronila's column? These are some of the most thorough analyses I've seen so far on this very sorry state of bullying."


What was he thinking?

Of course I haven't read them because I'm in Sri Lanka thinking about Buddhist temples, ayurvedic massages, luxury hotels and shopping for interesting accents for my home.

I don't read the newspapers when I'm at home, I stopped reading most of them since they began printing fiction as fact to suit their purposes.

So I'm certainly not going to be reading them online here in my corner of paradise.

I've got better things to do and they're all not related to politics in any way.


Besides I've been trying to explain to him how politics in our rather surreal environment depresses me, but this fact never seems to sink in.

"Read it. Now. For the next time I talk to you," he said. Then he added: "And write about it in your blog. People need a wakeup call about this."

"Yes, teacher," I replied. I almost added: "And, by the way, I'm not one of those who need a wakeup call at this hour."

But I decided not to say this as he was already pretty fired up as it was.

Then, when I put the phone down, I googled the articles in question, and that put an end to any thought of sleep. A very early good morning from an island paradise in the Indian Ocean.


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