Los Angeles—After having been away from this country for years, I find it gripped by far-ranging social and political changes, mostly not for the better.
The biggest topic here these days is President Trump’s—$5-billion proposal to build a wall along the border with Mexico. It won’t just be a wall, of course (whether steel or concrete), but will include an entire package of surveillance systems, holding facilities, beefed-up border patrols–everything needed to improve security against a non-stop influx of illegal immigrants that could include drug traffickers and potential terrorists.
Weeks ago, a horde of “asylum seekers” from Central America—mostly in Honduras—began walking north with the avowed objective of forcing their way into the US. We can only surmise who’s been financing and directing this well-organized assault, and to what end. But what’s surprising is how these blatant law-breakers are getting some degree of sympathy from the American public.
These sympathizers would include critics of forced separation of children from their illegal-alien parents who’re being held for deportation proceedings. This kind of emotional blackmail being preached by the lefty-liberals conveniently fails to mention that whenever anyone is arrested and detained, of course he or she will have to be separated from their kids. That’s just common sense. What ought to matter is how government treats the kids meanwhile, and on that score, nobody’s faulted the authorities here.
The woolly thinking of these critics is best exemplified by their latest darling, newly-elected NY congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortes (AOC”), who’s a year short of thirty. In her latest pronouncement, AOC declared that “it’s more important to be morally right than to be factually correct.” It’s a distressing example of the kind of self-indulgent, self-righteous cluelessness that’s taken over so much of current millennial thinking here.
On the issue again of immigration, the same critics have been claiming that immigrants in fact have lower rates of criminal behavior compared to the native-born. Well of course that’s true—but only if you lump all immigrant groups together. If you exclude communities like the Asians, and focus only on illegals from Latin America—most of whom can’t even be bothered to learn English—the results would be quite different—never mind if my theory smacks of politically incorrect ethnic profiling.
* * *
From Manila, I note with approval the latest plan of President Duterte to duplicate his Boracay feat by also cleaning up the waters of Manila Bay.
This is bound to be a much bigger and more controversial challenge. Duterte has pointed his finger at the hotels and other tourist establishments along the seashore. But DENR Secretary Roy Cimatu has also uncovered another surprising culprit: Manila Zoo, which presumably has been taking shortcuts in disposing of the zoo animals’ waste.
What I think is likely to be the biggest culprit will be the “informal settlers” around the shoreline and beside the Pasig river, whose detritus—together with the waste from industrial establishments along the river bank—ends up in Manila Bay.
I’ve never forgotten the story once told me by green activist Orly Mercado, a former defense secretary under President Erap, who unleashed the entire Armed Forces at one time to clean up the entire Pasig riverbank. Lo and behold! just six months later, the pollution levels were back up again, as if the clean-up had never happened.
Luckily, the communities and local governments in other resort areas—from Puerto Galera to Panglao to Davao—already took the initiative to clean up their act as soon as the “Boracay solution” was implemented. They could see the way the wind was blowing, and it was self-evidently in their own best interests to clean up their own act, too.
But Manila Bay will be different. It’s beset by complications that Boracay never had to face, and its problems will will require a devilish amount of political will and sustained enforcement to address. We can only hope that Duterte will be able to enlist the kind of popular support in this campaign that he has a right to expect in light of his stubbornly high trust and performance ratings this late in his term.
* * *
While my wife packs for our return flight to Manila, I can’t help thinking back to the highlights of our month-long holiday in the States, the longest I’ve been away from Manila in a long while:
• Family reunions in Virginia for Christmas Eve and in Pennsylvania for the New Year, where I rediscovered what East Coast cold weather really means;
• Meeting my first grandchild, Sebastian George Olivar IV, for the first time, and making sure that his chronically unobservant father had him baptized;
• Visiting my cousin’s colonial-era house, a national heritage site, on the Delaware river in the quaint village of New Hope, as well as George Washington’s stately manse on the Potomac river in Mount Vernon;
• My daughter’s engagement—the surprise of the year—to her boyfriend, a nice Italian-American kid who had the Mediterranean grace to first ask for my blessings even before proposing to her (in Hawaii);
• A truly expensive dinner at the “molecular cuisine” restaurant of Chef Jose Andres in Beverly Hills, courtesy of my sister who joined my wife (her Sigma Delta Phi sister) in drinking their hubbies under the table;
• Most of all, a side trip to Mexico City, where my shortness of breath from the high altitude only made our pilgrimage to the basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe seem more luminous. That sacred tilma, mounted on its place of honor by the altar above a giant Mexican flag, is a breath-taking reminder of how Divine Grace occasionally tears a hole in the fabric of our world and shines the light of eternity into the darkness of human history.
Taipei airport-—A sadder intimation of eternity has greeted us here while waiting for our Manila connecting flight, with the unexpected news that my balae, Bob Ramos, died peacefully in his sleep. An Ateneo product, Bob raised thoroughbred dogs, but his real vocation and passion revolved around his fellow rockers from legendary sixties bands like the Hijacks and the Moonstrucks who regularly descended on his Cubao home for weekend jam sessions. Bob was forbearing enough to let me join him in toasting our newly-wed children with songs at their simple nuptials. Today the kids are preparing to immigrate soon, leaving us behind. Bob, I know you’ll have my back as we continue to look out for them. Rest in peace, balae, and may Our Lady of Guadalupe enfold you in her eternal embrace.”
Readers can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.