EVER SINCE he broke out into the national consciousness last March by being hailed by Vatican watchers as a likely papal contender, it was only a matter of time before Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle comes into his own as a worthy occupant to the office once held by the late Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin, arguably one of the most influential Catholic Church leaders this side of the world during his time.
Tagle fully assumed the role and cemented his reputation as an agent of change last Monday. The good cardinal, who weeks ago was in tears as he appealed to lawmakers and government officials embroiled in the pork barrel scam to show more empathy towards the poor, made a surprise appearance at the Million People March at the Luneta.
Unlike the portly, gregarious and sometimes brutally frank Sin, the boyish-looking Tagle is more unassuming and soft-spoken. But it is his low-key and non-confrontational approach to issues, which makes Tagle as effective as Sin, if not more so.
Instead of ignoring him amid the din of discourse, people tend to stop, gravitate and listen to what he has to say. It was the same last Monday, as Tagle, his face radiant and beaming, read from a prepared speech in Filipino.
Rather than attack and fulminate in the mouth against the supposed perpetrators behind the scam, Tagle urged Filipinos to rise above themselves and practice the once innate and nearly forgotten virtue of bayanihan.
In fact, the gist of the message was more about civic-consciousness than spirituality. Without spelling it out, it was as if the cardinal was saying that spirituality is nothing if you don’t back it up with actions.
Dressed for the occasion
He even came dressed for the occasion by ditching his red cardinal’s garb in favor of a nondescript priest’s habit in white, the color leaderless and supposedly non-partisan protesters chose to wear to voice their indignation against irregularities in the system.
Instead of despair, he brought hope to the occasion. Hope that things are bound to get better if only we dare venture beyond ourselves by thinking more of others.
Tagle’s last line, although no longer original, still managed to ring with truth and freshness. It was a fitting end to a speech delivered, lest we have forgotten, on National Heroes’ Day.
“…Ating ipakita sa bawat bansa sa mundo na marangal ang Filipino!” (Let us show to every nation of the world that Filipinos value their dignity.)
And with that speech, a rock star was born.
In contrast, impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona was roundly booed for daring to show his face and be one with the people. For once, I felt pity for the man.
After emerging from the cool confines of the Manila Hotel to join the anti-pork barrel throng outside, Corona’s humiliation began in earnest. Soon enough, he and his family and friends had no choice but to back off and retreat to a waiting van.
(Corona’s humiliation began even inside the Manila Hotel, according a number of my friends who saw him there. He was said to have attempted to speak against the pork barrel scam after a number of speakers said their pieces, but was unable to because people inside the hotel were already booing him.)
But what was he thinking? Did he expect to get red carpet treatment from disparate groups of protesters united by one single issue: a seething anger over corruption? This time, PNoy had nothing to do with it.
Corona may insist to this day on his innocence and invoke heaven’s name all he wants, but in the eyes of not a few Filipinos, he’s as guilty as hell—a living, breathing symbol of what’s wrong with the government, especially during the administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, his No. 1 patron.
His failure to declare huge amounts of questionable wealth (in dollars and pesos) and his lack of propriety to accept a midnight appointment are just two of his more glaring sins. God knows what transpired during his private conversations with GMA and FG.
These public and televised transgressions are still fresh in the minds of Filipinos. In a way, it was good that it happened. For once, notoriously forgetful and forgiving Filipinos are learning and remembering. Well, it’s about time we do.
For his misplaced audacity and pure kapal ng mukha (“thick-faced”?), Corona, the disgraced pawn star who didn’t think twice of hocking his dignity and profession to a wily and amoral ex-president out to cover her tracks, was ousted anew.