IN AN EFFORT to show that the benefits of the government’s much-trumpeted economic efforts are trickling down to the masses, the president spent a considerable amount of time honoring everyday heroes in her eighth State of the Nation Address which she delivered two weeks ago before fashionable members of congress. Wearing a pale fuchsia pink “modernized Maria Clara” gown created by top designer JC Buendia, our head of state recognized—to the exaggerated applause of a friendly audience—farmers, lady welders, and ordinary folks who made a difference in their lives and, by induction, in the nation’s.
Allow me to follow Her Excellency’s lead by writing about “the other Gloria”, one of my everyday heroes. In doing so, I will juxtapose Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, referred to here as La Gloria and “the other Gloria”—Manang Gloria, our househelp.
Please do not raise your eyebrows, the president herself claims to be a granddaughter of a labandera and is proud to be so. Thus, she is not at all offended when people taunt her with the novelty song: “Gloria, Gloria, labandeeeeera!”. This, I say, deserves our praise.
Gloria Portela Valencia, 51, hails from Barangay Bacsil in Dingras town. Manong Rolando, her “First Gentleman”, is a tobacco farmer who tills less-than-a-hectare of land that is not theirs (makitaltalonda laeng). The eldest among her siblings, Manang Gloria started working as a “kasambahay” at age 13. When she got married and bore kids, this devoted mother quit her job and stayed home to take care of their family. Eight years ago, however, when her children started going to college, Manang Glory decided to come back as a kasambahay so she can help send her children to school.
Honesty and integrity are among Manang Gloria’s many virtues. We could trust her with anything, even the most valuable of our possessions (and secrets). Given her deep sense of fairness and delicadeza, natalged ti riknami iti uneg iti pagtaenganmi. (We feel at ease inside our home). In contrast, under La Gloria’s watch, the Philippines has been largely perceived as the most corrupt economy in East Asia. It does not help that members of her family have been tagged in a number of scams and shady deals. As a result, La Gloria figures in the surveys as the most distrusted post-Marcos president.
On the day of the SONA (for which 200 million pesos of the Filipino people’s money was spent), there were no traces of the national crisis in the newly-refurbished Batasan. La Gloria and her cohorts were in the perfect mood to take a bite of Hollywood by walking on a long, thick, red carpet even as the nation was ailing—very much like dancing the papaya dance in an Intensive Care Unit. Manang Gloria has never set foot on a flashy red carpet but she knows door mats and cleaning rags pretty well—trapos are her tools, but she is not a trapo.
Manang Gloria is no saint, but when she commits a mistake, she says “sorry” and means it. She accepts her blunders and strives to make amends. Such was the case when she broke the glass cover of an expensive cooking pan. She looked sincerely regretful, offered to pay for the damage (which we refused), and promised to be more careful next time (which she did). Two years ago, a teary-eyed La Gloria delivered over primetime national television a well-rehearsed (but poorly performed, said veteran actress Susan Roces) “I.. am… sorry” speech for an offense she would never admit and, ergo, would never rectify.
A Doctor of Philosophy in Economics, La Gloria posits that the E-VAT is one of the best things that happened to the economy. While not claiming to be a financial technocrat, Manang Gloria, who only reached grade six, knows with certainty that E-VAT is a curse to the Filipino masa.
In her SONA, La Gloria declared: “I care…” and “nag-aalala ako” for her suffering constituency. Manang Gloria may not be as eloquent in expressing her feelings but she shows that caring entails sacrifice and self-denial. La Gloria, along with a typically bloated delegation, went on with a junket to the US of A even as Typhoon Frank lashed the country and left hundreds of casualties in the deep blue sea. Manang Gloria would not have been as callous to do the same. In fact, she once volunteered to postpone her day-off when the rains poured heavily and leaks on the roof plagued our abode.
Because of her good nature, Manang Gloria has no known enemies unlike La Gloria whose foes are as abundant as the pirated DVDs sold just a few steps away from the Laoag City Hall.
Wait, Manang Gloria does have two critics: me and my dad who sometimes complain of her salty cooking (naapgad/maalat). But well, saltiness is something very easy to remedy compared to a leadership turned sour.
We want to keep Manang Gloria for as long as we can, but we know that she will have to leave us in due time, certainly when her children become professionals, so she can go back to being a full-time nanang. Yes, we want to keep Manang Gloria beyond 2010!
Her poverty notwithstanding, Manang Gloria says she sleeps soundly at night. We can only hope that La Gloria enjoys the same luxury. ###