By Criselda Yabes
It seemed simple enough for the inaugural: they both got off the black Mercedes Benz with car plate number 1 at the far end of the grandstand, Noynoy the new president giving way to his predecessor Gloria to proceed with her final farewell, smiling and waving as she trooped the line in her fine beige terno.
After nine years, Filipinos had wondered if this day was going to happen, if she would be willing to step down peacefully. The new leader of the country never dreamed this day would take place either – a day, he would say in his 20-minute Tagalog speech, that was going to be the start of his ‘kalbaryo’ to live out the legacy of his parents.
And just as the ceremony of the symbolic change of power was about to begin, a jeepney heading towards the front was stopped in its tracks because it was breaking protocol.
Vice President-elect Binay was in it – though he was supposed to have arrived earlier – already creating a metaphor for the role he is playing in the government, this early ingratiating himself to a status off-tangent to the presidency.
What was his point of a battery-operated jeepney as compared to the German-make luxury car? How does he want to see himself in the months to come when a nation feels like it might be starting over again, after years of decline and corruption?
Binay had been eyeing the powerful post of Interior and Local Governments, one that would have given him control of all the local government units and the national police. Noynoy did not offer it to him, and instead appointed himself in that temporary capacity until he decides which one on his list of three prospective appointees he would choose.
Announcing the lineup of his cabinet the previous day, Noynoy presented a combination of old faces in politics, managers in the private sector, women of solid background and feisty reputation, friends he could not part with – in a move showing he wants to achieve a daring style of governance.
Noynoy took his oath a few minutes early before the clock struck noon, as it was supposed to be by strict tradition, yellow rose petals falling from two military choppers that swooped overhead in the humidity of a cloudy day.
Most everyone on stage was fanning themselves in what looked like a choreography of past inaugurations where officials and guests on stage, dressed in barong tagalog and terno, come from the ranks of government and business and diplomacy, overlooking the masses waving yellow flags, the symbol of the Aquino icons of the post-dictatorship years.
The Philippine Philharmonic Orchestra lent an air of refreshing solemnity to an occasion that was meant to be dignified, but had started out in the usual entertainment fashion of a noontime show and a Chinese lion dance that looked out of place.
Noynoy made it clear that he was for the masses, speaking their language, peppering his speech with slang words – wala nang lamangan, walang padrino, walang pagnanakaw … walang wang-wang, counterflow, tong … kayo ang boss ko – saying that the deaths of his parents were for nothing less than the pride of the ordinary Filipinos.
For a man who had been seen as lackluster, a plodder, wallpaper consigned to the background of the greatness of history and destiny bequeathed to his parents, Noynoy has come out of his shell, striking in the afterglow of his impressive victory.
He marched a bit awkwardly when it was his turn to troop the line – after the oath-taking, after his speech – as the new commander-in-chief, to the music of a military brass band. But soon he will get used to it. There’s an air of graciousness about him; he appears neither arrogant nor imperious. The way he clasps his hands shows solidness and conviction.
Today, even just for today, we’d like to believe something good can happen out of this. A pair of doves was flown into the air and there were other flocks that flew past. The people on stage with him cannot miss the symbol of witnessing the heir of Ninoy and Cory taking perhaps yet another major step, and how much of this can we understand on his first day on the job of changing the course of our future?
I shall carry the torch forward, he said. Join me.
If we truly want change in this country, maybe it’s our turn to take the call. (GMANews.TV)
IN PHOTO: The incoming president and his predecessor arrive at the Quirino Grandstand for the inaugural rites.