"Have you been reading the newspapers?" This was the greeting of a call at 6 AM this morning from my friend in New York -- the one who's so interested in Philippine politics (and don't ask me why) -- to me in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. If you've been reading this blog, you'll know that I met him at the JAL lounge of Narita Airport and that this began a long-distance ongoing conversation on the state of the Philippines. Basically he talks and I listen.
"Of course, I've been reading the newspapers," I replied cheerily. "The New York Times had a really interesting article yesterday on the infighting at the top at JP Morgan, that resulted in that 2 billion dollar loss."
He was suddenly cross with me. He said: "You know I don't mean the New York Times."
I knew what he meant, but I so didn't want to talk politics again while I'm on a trip to another paradise. He said: "Everything I've been telling you is coming to fruition."
I was silent. So he continued: "You've got brilliant strategists in the Philippines. Too bad they don't put their talents to better use. With a series of expertly-timed moves and black propaganda, they're effectively decimating the opposition in your country."
I sighed and tried to change the subject. "Did you know that Kota Kinabalu has one of the best sunsets in the world?"
He wasn't listening. He continued: "All three supposedly independent branches are going to be merged into one. You know what happened the last time this took place..."
By then I was already on Facebook although he probably thought I was still listening.
HISTORIC DAY IN THE PHILIPPINES
He said: "And today a decent man is going to take the witness stand in defense of himself in a trial that never should have been initiated in the first place. He's not perfect but he certainly isn't a blatantly corrupt official, unlike so many of the others."
And this was where I perked up. I asked him: "And how do you know that?"
He replied: "Read the newspapers. Read between the lines of all that black propaganda being put out. See how they came up with those figures for 82 bank accounts and millions of dollars. It's ridiculous. You don't even need to be in finance to understand that they either fudged the numbers or f---ed up."
I said: "I don't read newspapers that put airport brawls and high society divorces on the front pages."
I went back to Facebook. These were facts I didn't really want to know. It's dangerous to be involved in politics in the Philippines these days.
I was on my computer in my hotel room, with the phone on my shoulder, getting ready for a nice day of interacting with baby orangutans in Borneo and then a swim afterwards. The problems of the Philippines were a thousand miles away -- literally and figuratively.
He persisted: "What will you do then?"
I sighed. Then I replied, just to end the conversation: "Maybe I'll just move to Malaysia."
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