Friday, November 03, 2006

Pandanggo sa Ilaw Politics

One good thing about this blog is that it forces me to think of interesting topics to write about daily. Ever since I started this blog about six months ago, I found (to my surprise) that I was capable of writing an entry in it almost everyday. I also find blog-writing easier and more convenient than column-writing primarily because one can just post a link to the item you were writing about for your readers to understand what you were talking about.

Aside from honing my writing skills, another good thing about this blog is that it has induced me to revisit my old books in order to look for something to write about. By now I have amassed quite a collection - well, not enough to start a home library but enough to occupy one side of our wall. When I got married 3 years ago, my wife brought in her own pile of books. Since they are just gathering dust and occupying a lot of space, I thought of giving some away (I will only read it once anyway). But the fact that I spent good money and that I may need them for future reference prevented me from doing so. Now, thanks to this blog I have finally found some use for them. If I cannot think of any topic to write about, I usually turn to my books for ideas (I can also lift entire paragraphs to make my entry look "substantial").

As a political science student, I found that most of the political models we studied in college was incongruent, even irrelevant to the Philippine setting. But the book authored by UP Professor Remegio E. Agpalo sophomorically titled "Adventures in Political Science" has stayed with me through the years. I even had the book authograph by him (I will download photo later).

"Adventures in Political Science" is pretty basic political science stuff but it stands out because of Professor Agpalo's original idea of labelling Philippine politics as "pandanggo sa ilaw" politics. Although the term he coined did not exactly catch on, I thought it was a pretty accurate and colorful description of how politics is practiced in the country then. Excerpts from the book:

"The idea of pandanggo sa ilaw politics is derived from a native folk dance called pandanggo sa ilaw. This folk dance may be described in terms of 1) the participant dancers, 2) the objects the dancers carry or hold, and 3) the way the participants dance. The participants are male or female, two or more of them, who carry lighted glass oil lamps on their heads and the back of their hands. Dancing to the rhythm of lilting music, they sway and balance, go around the stage or dance floor, intermingle, manipulate the glass lamps with amazing and spectacular dexterity, and manuever for dramatic and arresting position on the floor. Agile of hands and nimble of feet, the pandanggo dancers do not trip or drop the glass they carry.

In pandanggo sa ilaw politics, there are elements analogous to those found in the folk dance. Similar to the pandanggo dancers are the political actors --the citizens and government officials; to the glass oil lamps, the power of the political actors. Corresponding to the stage where the pandanggo is danced is the political arena. The movement of the political actors can be compared to those of the pandanggo dancers; these consist in skillful manipulations and manuevering. For this reason, the political actors, like the pandanggo dancers, are fascinating to watch.

Unlike the politics of ideology where the ideological doctrines guide, direct, and dominate the political process, there are no doctrines guiding and directing the political actors in pandanggo sa ilaw politics. Thus, elections, legislations, administration, adjudication, and other processes of the government in this system are not ideology-oriented ... What interests them are personal and practical matters -- what favors can be allocated to supporters and burdens imposed on non-supporters; what personal traits certain public officials or citizens have or do not have; what party can grant favors and what group cannot give patronage; and the like. In other words, pandanggo sa ilaw politics is oriented towards personality, practicality and material goods."

Earlier I said that pandanggo sa ilaw politics is an accurate description of how politics in the Philippines was practiced then. I said "then" because with the way our present crop of politicians fight and slay each other in public, politics today is better termed "Gladiator Politics" rather than pandanggo sa ilaw politics. At least in the olden days, a politician can shine and get noticed by virtue of his intellectual agility and grace of character (just like pandanggo sa ilaw dancers). At kahit mag-kaaway na pulitiko, nag-ngingitian pa noon (well, at least in public) just like pandanggo dancers. Ngayon, nag-ngingitngitan na lang talaga ang mga pulitiko natin (both in private and in public).

Politics has and will always be a spectator sport. But I would much rather watch our leaders do a pandanggo sa ilaw rather that see them slaying each other in public.


mong said...

back in college i was a stoker of agpalo, i would strike conversations with him in the canteen or in a forum. finally i had the chance to interview him about his views on chacha in 1997. aside from pandanggo, he was insistent that we should adopt the pangulo regime.

Iloilo City Boy said...

Thanks for dropping by Mong. Yes, the Pangulo regime is also one of his theories but I thought it only served to justify Marcos's strong-man rule and martial law regime.

Anonymous said...

Hey Iloilo Boy,

Bakit ganon?
Bakit hindi kasali ang Iloilo/PANAY sa venue ng 9th CINE EUROPA(November 9-19)?
Dapat may participation din ang PANAY sa 11-day event.

Iloilo City Boy said...

Hey Anonymous,

Sorry I don't know about the 9th Cine Europa pero dapat nga represented ang Panay.