I was in Cebu when the Trillanes Walkout and the "Makati standoff" happened at the Peninsula Manila. So far away from friends and family, I had to wait for my meetings to end so I could watch the news and see one of my favorite hotel lobbies being broken into by a military tank. All over the country's central business district, I had friends who were trapped inside their offices because the roads were jammed with cars, soldiers, and journalists.
I don't understand what happened, actually. Not yet. But there was a word I heard repeated many times by the police and the military. They said that the people who were left with Sen. Trillanes - mediamen included, who were herded off inside buses were "processed".
Processed? I wondered what they meant. It sounded like something that was done to cheese food or sausages.
Confused citizen that I was, I sought the dictionary and looked up the meaning of the word, to see if they used it properly, as I was bothered by the particular, even careless, choice of word.
process[2,transitive verb]process[4,intransitive verb]
1 a: to proceed against by law : prosecute b (1): to take out a summons against (2): to serve a summons on
2 a: to subject to a special process or treatment (as in the course of manufacture or film development) b (1): to subject to or handle through an established usually routine set of procedures
(3): to subject to examination or analysis
The "processing" done to the legitimate members of the media and everyone else rounded up inside the Manila Hotel after the authorities ordered the premises cleared, did not involve "the course of manufacture or film development", "insurance claims", "sensory information", "computer data", and all the other words I found in the dictionary meaning.
But then, what do I know? I'm an ordinary citizen. I don't know who to trust. I don't know who to believe.
Part of me wanted the military to takeover the government. Part of me got irritated at Trillanes' grandstanding and diva-like hog of the limelight. A huge part of me got confused at the over-reaction of the authorities to the groups who were gathered yesterday. I saw no arms on Trillanes' side; hence, to my mind there was insufficient provocation, or reason, to fire warning shots just an hour after the deadline to surrender. Neither was there a need to break a perfectly good hotel door.
The President commended the police for efficiently resolving the "Makati standoff". She also told the Filipino people not to be affected by the day's events. She said, "To one and all, let us leave this short charade behind and get on with the business of the people. Our fight against poverty and justice must be uninterrupted." Read more here.
Let me get that straight -she expected us to what? There was tear gas; there were guns; there were tanks. It reminded the people of scenes from the '70's and the '80's. We never learn from our history, we just keep repeating our mistakes.
I was on the phone practically the whole day monitoring the events through text, 3G and calls. I bought an overpriced Internet prepaid card at the hotel where I was staying just to get more of the news. There were threats to peace, democracy, and life, however uncomfortable, as I knew it. Sorry Madame President, but I could not just shrug off everything like that. My thirst for justice is looking for answers.
Only in the Philippines
We were voted one of the happiest, most positive people in the world. Only Filipinos cope with disaster with such ironic humor.
I saw on TV that while the military tank was slamming against the entrance of the Peninsula Manila, one of the soldiers took out his high-tech camera phone (probably a Nokia N95) and tried, several times, to get a good shot. TV cameras also saw them laughing and joking. This was in the midst of a possible coup d'etat and all.
Inside one of the tallest buildings in Makati, my friend told me that some of her officemates disappeared while the conflict was ongoing just a few blocks away, and she later found out that they slipped into the pantry to practice their number for their Christmas party.
It seems like Christmas will go on, Pinoy style, however tragic our lives may be. We still document every event and pose for a souvenir photo, especially once-in-a-lifetime moments like military tanks entering deluxe hotels.
Forgive me; I'm just dog-tired from work and travel, confused due to lack of sleep, and confused as to my identity. Heck, I'm writing in English when I'm thinking in Filipino. There must be something wrong with me.
Filipinos are not native English speakers. I should be kinder to those who insist on using "processed" when they refer to human beings. I don't know any better.
Aside from being the most optimistic people in the world, these days we Filipinos probably are the most confused of them all.
Lord, have mercy on us.