There were wet footsteps on the wooden floor that led to the wooden chair by the window. No, not a chair that one could relax on and daydream. Even doze off. It was a working chair designed to keep one awake and focused. He needed it that night.
He did not acknowledge my presence. He wanted to be alone. Solitude was a blessing in the most trying of times. Faced with decisions only him could make, there was no wise counsel he could depend on. It was his head on the line. His life. His legacy. The line was for him to cross.
There were questions I had to ask but didn’t have to. In the most inaudible voice I had heard him speak, he begun with a pain almost physical. Yet I knew, it was an invincible pain crushing his heart.
“I miss Davao. I miss the people. I miss the sense of belonging. I miss my real friends. My family. My grand kids. Malacanang is a palace built for ghosts and lonely men. Nobody should live here. Nobody can be happy here. This a prison with bars and locks provided for by power, responsibility, privilege and protocol. In here, there is no air to breathe. Nor fresh water to drink. The poison that is politics, the damnation that is corruption permeate the walls, the ceilings, the floors. There is no escape. I wonder if the Presidency is all worth it.”
Funny how in silence every little sound seem loud. Even the beating of one’s heart can be heard across the room, the pulsing of one’s artery by the temple resembled the banging of the drums and thoughts unspoken were shouts echoing from the mountain top.
“I made promises I believed in all honesty I could fulfill. I underestimated the magnitude of the problems. The drug menace would take years and utmost dedication to overcome. Brave men and women must sacrifice. Each man, woman and child must help and subscribe to a life without drugs. This is not a war just for the government to fight. This is a war for each citizen. It is only then it can be won. Corruption has become endemic. It is understandable but never excusable for one coming from deprivation to be corrupted. But how can one explain the corruption of the very rich? The bottomless greed of those who have more than enough for several lifetimes? I can make firings everyday but like the grass, they grow faster than you can cut them. More than money, greed is the root of all evil.”
There was frustration in the room that one could literally shovel. And such could fill a number of black pits. The President was, after all, human. Stressed to the limits. Damned by forces beyond his control. A victim of his own dreams and aspirations.
“It is so easy to give up. So easy to walk away and just shed all the burdens and be free. Should I? Those who covet this office and all the powers it entails never sleep. Day in, day out, they plan, they scheme, they wish and pray for my ouster. All the dirt they can pick up is thrown at my face. All the bad things that happen are my fault yet none of the good ones is my accomplishment. My demonization is without end, without limits. Yet, I am not one who will run away from the good fight”
The night is never darker than before dawn. But true men, great men, affirm their resolves in the most desperate of times. When all seems to be lost and surrender remains the only sensible alternative, the desire to fight for what is right and noble gets reignited like lightning in the strongest of storms. The 73-year-old warrior will die in the battlefield.
“When I won the presidency, my destiny was sealed. I will not shirk away from that nor find excuses to abandon the cause. I will draw strenght from those who believe. From those who never complain and just do their jobs. From all the hardworking public servants who are thankful for the privilege to serve their people. From the brave defenders of the Republic. From the idealistic young. From the aged whose futures are behind them but remain unbowed. From Filipinos who remain of this country and who will live and die as Filipinos.
I am a man fraught with weaknesses, with frustrations, with doubts, with failures. But I am my people’s President. And so I must be. No holds barred.”
The wet footsteps had dried. He looked around for any company and saw nobody. It was him by himself and the destiny that awaited. He looked out the window into the empty sky and prayed.
“Thy will be done.”
A Dimasalang Imagination Production