Saturday, July 08, 2006

Sicilians Among Filipinos

There is an unforgettable scene in Mario Puzo’s classic novel “The Godfather” where Don Vito Corleone asked his consigliere Tom Hagen the question: "Is he a Sicilian?" Don Vito was referring to Virgil "The Turk" Sollozzo who wanted to partner with the Corleone Crime Family in distributing narcotics in America and he was asking his newly-appointed counsellor for his opinion of the man.

"Is he a Sicilian?" It was a seemingly simple and straightforward question but it made Hagen pause for a few minutes. The Don obviously was not asking if Sollozo, literally, was a Sicilian. Corleone was interested to know if Sollozo had "balls" and "guts." In Mafia lingo, being a "Sicilian" meant having the strength of character to lose all you have on a point of "honor." It means having the courage to stand up for a personal affront and to stick through a fight to its end. In other words, Don Corleone wanted to know whether "the Sollozzo fellah had the guts to take on a Don if he felt slighted."

Tom Hagen answered, "Yes."

Readers may be familiar with what happened next. Don Vito Corleone said no to Sollozzo, Sollozzo felt insulted and, with the help of the other New York Five Families, instigated a "coup" against the Corleone Crime Family. When Sollozzo's assassination attempt of Don Vito failed, Michael Corleone knew that he would have to kill The Turk because, as a "Sicilian," Sollozzo will just keep on trying until he succeeds in murdering his father.

I am bringing up this scene from “The Godfather” here because I find some parallelism in it to what’s presently happening in our country today. To those who are puzzled with former Ambassador Ike Señeres’ seemingly “bizarre” behavior, I offer this explanation: he thinks he is a “Sicilian” and he is challenging his co-plotters to be “Sicilians” too.

I see the current maneuverings as a struggle between contending Crime Families out to attain political power for personal aggrandizement. The Corleone Family (Arroyo Administration) is constantly threatened by many Virgil Sollozzos (Gen. Danilo Lim, Col. Ariel Querubin, Magdalo soldiers, Joma Sison and his CPP/NPA), “Sicilians” who have the brains to plan and strength character to carry out their plots to topple the present government. As true “Sicilians,” these groups will not stop until they succeed, as the recent Magdalo plot to bomb Batasan proves. But more dangerous to the Corleone Family are the New York Five Families (the anonymous politicians and businessmen who fund coup plots and direct things behind the scenes).

Filipinos do not care whichever group will prevail in the end because they see the contending groups as contending Mafia gangs. Most would not allow themselves to be “used” by either group again because, as one jaded EDSA veteran said, “pauuwiin lang naman kami matapos nila makuha ang poder.” Many would rather concentrate on working and earning a salary for their families. “Sila sila lang naman ang nagpapatayan. So long as it does not affect us, it doesn’t concern us” – is a most common sentiment today.

There is a scene in “The Godfather III” where Michael Corleone asked his nephew (played by Andy Garcia) to give up his love for his daughter in exchange for his admission to the Mafia. Michael said, "That is the price you pay for the life you choose." Magdalo officers have given up promising military careers and college-educated activists squandered lucrative private-sector jobs for their principles.

My question is - Why is it that it is always the young who suffer and die? During a coup ‘d etat, it is the privates, lieutenants and captains who bear the brunt of the fighting, not the generals and admirals. During protest rallies, it is always the college students who get hurt and beaten up by police, not the Communist Party Politburo members. Why is it that only rank-and-file and middle-level government employees get jailed for corruption, not agency heads? And yet, when a plot succeeds, it is the old people who get to enjoy the "perks" of victory?


Anonymous said...

No matter how you cut it, it brings you back to the "slave and master" relationship. The master does all the command, and pay the cost, the slaves do all the work and dying, and quess who enjoy all the fruits of the slaves labour?

vic said...

To somehow minimize if not eliminate the "sicilian" in us check my entry on how to go about it. In my Inquest and Enquiry, this country had somewhat put the myth of "sicilian' where it belong, into the small circle of petty criminals, who are only tough when nobody is tougher than them. When you met their violence with tough justice, they are just like everyone, just as scare as you and me to spend the rest of their useful lives behind bar.