Friday, March 1, 2013

Leadership


My Dad and me, in 2013
   In 1962, all the streets in Pasay City have been paved in either concrete or asphalt except Ibarra Street.  It was a dirt road that turned into mud during the rainy season.  Everyone walked around the pot holes that kept water like miniature ponds.  Little children purposely stepped into the watery holes.  I preferred the ankle to knee deep flood.  Taft Avenue flooded first and deeper before the other streets in the area.  After the rain my playmates would call me out and our tiny troop ran towards the beckoning water park provided by nature. 

   To show superficial concern the government dumped a truck load of rocks intended to cover the pot holes.  Two weeks later the pile of rocks has not been touched.  Everyone was beginning to wonder when the public works people would come back to fix the pot holes. 

   After another week, My father, Marciano, who was on vacation from his job in the US Navy came out of the house with a hammer.  He picked up a rock, placed it on a pot hole and pounded on it.  His neighbors who passed him mocked him and laughed.  They thought he was crazy to be out there sweating under the sun doing hard labor for something he was not being paid.  I observed as my father ignored the hecklers.  The rock broke into pieces filling up the hole.  One by one the able bodied men came out of their homes with hammers.  Before the end of the day the pile of rocks was gone and the holes had been filled up.

   I was so proud of my father.  The people who mocked him had crappy jobs that got paid in Philippine peso.  My father earned US dollars but did not think twice about donating his labor to better his community.  Engaging the men to follow his lead without a word showed leadership.

   Pasay City still floods every rainy season but children have fallen into open manholes that they can’t see through the brown water.  That made flood wadding a thing of the past.  Ah, the good old days.  
       Flood in Manila

   Fast forward to 1976, the country was under Marshal Law.  Warrantless arrest was legal.  A presidential election was arranged to show the world that democracy was still in place.  The opposition feared election fraud.  They announced during the campaign that those who would be voting for the opposition were to conduct a noise barrage on the eve of election at exactly 8:00 to 8:30 o’clock in the evening.  The noise was to evidence the number of votes that might fail to get on the tally sheets.  The government similarly announced that police cars would be roaming the city, that those who would join the noise barrage will be arrested.

   I was by this time married with two sons, ages six and three.  I debated with herself all week about joining the noise barrage.  I was afraid of getting arrested but could not live with the idea that I allowed fear to prevent me from doing something I felt strongly about.  I thought I might be the only one in the neighborhood to join the very first noise barrage organized.  That made an arrest probable.  I invited my husband to join me.  He said no, I might need someone to bail me out. 

   Everyone in the neighborhood said they were voting for the opposition.  At 8:00 pm. I waited for the noise, the silence was deafening.  I just had to do it.  I gave my sons frying pans and the three of us made the loudest noise we possibly can.  The boys enjoyed the political exercise.  They were not usually allowed to toy with kitchen stuff.  The snickering husband watched us from inside the house wondering if he would have to bail out the kids as well. 

   Some of the neighbors jeered at our mother and sons band.  I took offense but like my father did a decade prior, I ignored the ridicule.  Then someone started honking his car inside his garage.  The man has joined us but opted to hide from the police.  Another car owner was emboldened to do the same thing.  A few minutes later some housewives came out banging their pots and pans.  By the time a police car came by the whole neighborhood was enjoying the sound of their conscience.  The police drove on. 

   I was so proud of the women and children of Ibarra Street for coming out to face the police with me.  My dad should have seen my show of courage in the face of an arrest threat, exercising the leadership I learned from him. 

Postscript:
Marciano Camino (1926-2017)


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