Thursday, May 06, 2004

Portrait of Philippine Politics as Greek Mythology*

Welcome to Introductory Course to Current Philippine Politics 101.

Since it's only a few more days 'til the May national elections, I figured it would be a good idea to go over the candidates running for president. And to avoid being boring as we talk politics here, I thought it would be more fun if we could use Greek Mythology in our class. Besides, at the very least, we can link to an upcoming movie certainly on the minds of the movie-going public. Well, a number of characters anyway.

I'll be making my own analyses in reference to the comparisons raised in this post. However, that doesn't mean you can make your own. To paraphrase, let a thousand metaphors bloom in your mind.

Now, onward!

1. Incumbent President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her main opposition rival, movie icon Fernando Poe, Jr.:

If you're updated on your Greek terms, Scylla was a dangerous rock on the Italian coast opposite the whirlpool Charybdis on the coast of Sicily. The two were both personified in classical literature as ravenous monsters, i.e. Scylla as a sea nymph who transformed into a sea monster and lived on one side of a narrow strait to drown and devour sailors who tried to escape Charybdis (also a whirlpool) on the other side of the strait.

As a dictionary stated, the passage between them was formerly considered perilous; hence, the saying "Between Scylla and Charybdis,'' signifying a great peril on either hand.

Let's face facts: in the final rundown of the campaign, only two candidates are coming strong in voters' mind and that's GMA and FPJ. So it's kind of apt to compare these two candidates to the mythical monsters of Greek yore.

If you think about it, Pres. Arroyo being incumbent means she has the monolithic government and party machinery to win the coming elections, signified by the rock of Scylla. Likewise, it's ironic that those who want to escape the idea of FPJ being president are thinking about voting for GMA. The FPJ presidential movement, on the other hand as the whirlpool Charybdis, started out strong in its campaign and was definitely devouring everything that was coming its way then.

2. Former education chief Raul Roco:

It's easy to see Roco, the reform-minded ex-legislator running under the banner of the better alternative to the two above, personified as the prophetess Cassandra. A daughter of Priam, the king of Troy, Cassandra was endowed with the gift of prophecy but fated by god Apollo never to be believed.

This comparison was easy. Personally, I don't believe all the hype about Roco. However, based on Roco's drop in survey polls, it looks like a lot of people don't believe Roco period despite his promise of free education and reform in the government. Supposedly the middle-class choice for president, Roco seems to banging his head against the wall in futility with his second try for the presidency.

3. Independent opposition Senator Panfilo Lacson:

Paris is certainly well-known as the prince of Troy whose abduction of Helen provoked the Trojan War. Id est, the casus belli of the war. So why not liken him to Lacson?

Why Paris? Well, followed to its conclusion, Paris' love for Helen was the ultimate cause of the fall of the city of Troy. Likewise, there is a great possibility that Lacson's decision to run for the presidency-- and its resulting split of the opposition vote between him and FPJ-- could cause the political opposition's loss in the May polls.

At first, at the start of the election campaign, Lacson was coming off as an opposition dark horse with his strong law and order platform. However, with the failure of unity talks time and again between the former national police chief and FPJ, only time will tell if Lacson will become a modern-day Paris and cause the downfall of the opposition.

4. Tele-evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva:

The head of the thousands-strong Jesus is Lord Christian renewal movement, Villanueva can be thought of Achilles, who was one of the mightiest Greek warriors but also had one weakness.

Achilles, of course, was the mythical Greek hero of Homer's Iliad; a foremost Greek warrior at the siege of Troy. When Achilles was a baby, his mother tried to make him immortal by bathing him in a magical river but the heel by which she held him remained vulnerable--his "Achilles' heel."

Incongruous as this comparison may seem, I likened Villanueva to Achilles because-- like the Greek golden-boy-- the tele-evangelist is strong on his own due to his solid support base in the JIL. However, like Achilles and his fabled weak heel, Villanueva's strength is also his weakness as--outside of his JIL support-- nobody is sure how to take Villanueva's presidential candidacy.


*On a Sidenote Department: It's interesting to note that there seem to be a lot of variants of the title of James Joyce's work, A Portrait of the Artist As a Young Man. I've seen a lot on my bookruns and they run the gamut of "Portrait of an Old Man as An Artist", "Portrait of a Young Man as An Artist" and even "Portrait of a Walrus as an Artist" and Nick Joaquin's "Portrait of a Filipino as an Artist." Just an observation...