December 3, 2023

(Editors’ note: The Courier is reprinting the columns of the late Atty. Benedicto T. Carantes as a tribute to one of its long-time columnists. This piece was published on Feb.3, 2013)

My Minda and I went to see Les Miserables in a Manila movie house the other week, and I was kind of hoping that Hugh Jackman would be singing ala Wolverine with all claws flashing, with Russell Crowe matching him note for note while swinging his sword ala the Gladiator.
What a fight that would have been, with one or the other singing his swan song.

In my time, all that Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra did was sing and dance, leaving all the action to John Wayne and Gary Cooper, and I do not recall the Duke nor Coop crooning to their lady loves, or voicing out their sentiments in song.

I love the movie, but the part that really tugged at my heart was the scene where, with all the muskets pointed at him, the idealistic French revolutionary, far from putting his hands up in surrender, defiantly raised the red flag instead, and is promptly shot for his “foolish bravery,” one more lover of freedom giving up his life for people and country.

Even more poignant were the citizens, fearing for their lives, abandoning cause and comrades, leaving a boy of 10 to die in the line of fire, probably with no idea what Libertad was all about, but deep in his heart, knew that he was doing the right thing.
How many of our children have died and will die in the hills for the same reason, and how many of us would rather live in fear and chains than fight or die for freedom? Democracy you say? Alas, only the cunning will survive, and the true and faithful will fall by the wayside. Unhappily, democracy is not for us, and we are what we are, because we practice democracy too liberally.

I do not know if you have noticed, but many of our young girls today are being escorted by foreigners and the elderly. Survival is the excuse given, but I think it is more than that. It is not just eating three square meals a day, or a college tuition being paid, it is living life with comfort – nothing beats a life of luxury, and love and honor can go hang. What is the Filipino saying for it – “Makakain ba ‘yon?”
Filipina women become practical if not more loose.

And speaking of a luxurious life – and I have no figures how large the Chinese community is – but anywhere you go, the Chinese are there ahead of everybody.
Who sit at round tables in a classy restaurant; who are sporting expensive jewelry while doing the malls; who are wearing costly Bally shoes and Lacoste t-shirts; who are driving the latest model cars and gadgets, who are the biggest bettors in the cockpits; or frequent Araneta big shows and theater and musical events? Name the best there is, the Chinese have it.

And these are not the Chinese of yesteryears who are noisy and unschooled, these are Chinese who are graduates of Ateneo, La Salle, the UP, or some other well-known university, and not a few have gone back to the U.S. or Europe for their college education.
These are Chinese who speak impeccable English, and hold degrees in Engineering, Accounting, Medicine, and Law.
Go over the list of honor graduates of the different universities, and take time out to scan the number of Bar and board topnotchers – there are three, four, five, or even more Chinese names standing out prominently.

I have been putting this off for some time, but about a month back, my high school batchmate Joe Rosales, while driving his car along Bokawkan Road, was apprehended for alleged smoke belching.
“Wait a minute,” Joe protests, “I just had my car tested by an emission center, and I have the receipt to prove it.”
“Sorry,” the arresting officer tells him, “but we know a smoke-belcher when we see one.”
Joe is embarrassed, for goodness sake, of what good is a receipt then? Except for the time he migrated to Canada, Joe has lived in Baguio all his life – born, raised, and schooled here. He has never been so humiliated in his entire 69 years, and he tells Domogan so when he goes to see him.
Maybe if it were a true-blue Baguio boy running city hall, things would be different. The policemen would have been castigated right off.
Poor Joe. Now he knows how it feels to be a stranger in his own city. Sorry classmate, but it looks like the Martians are here to stay.
Happy Chinese New Year!