Under the August skies

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By Gabby Fernandez

Of Snapshots & Zeitgeists

Thursday, August 28, 2014


AS I write this, August 2014 is about to come to an end. In much of the Western world, the blistering days of summer slowly gives way to the picture-perfect months of autumn.

Here in the Philippines, it means the start of our beloved “Ber” months. The breeze becomes cooler, the nights turn longer.

Thus it is that the world turns and the seasons change. And as with the passing of each season, a time for reflection, of taking stock.

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I read the news headlines, immerse myself in in-depth magazine analyses of current issues, scan my online forums, catch up on the latest trends about culture and politics and everything in between.

What I find is an interesting amalgamation of contrasts and dichotomies, an assortment of snapshots that define our “times,” images and thoughts and news and facts that do not seem to come together and reflect one “reality”.

The world under these August skies is extremely diverse as to seem like they come from different alternate universes.

The Middle East has become a powder-keg ready to explode with civil wars across many countries and an escalation of the Israeli-Palestinian war of wills.

Europe is at a loss as to how to deal with an empire rising from the ashes as Russia flexes its muscles in Ukraine. On the other hand, China and India continue their tightly-controlled economic rise and Japan’s decade-long slump seems to be finally turning around.

America is back at war abroad as it sends troops to Iraq while at home, it is back at war with itself as evidenced by the riots in Ferguson. A conflict fuelled not only by racism but by the great divide between the rich and the poor.

Here at home, the issues of PDAF and Janet Napoles and the dramatic imprisonment of Senators Estrada and Revilla has boomeranged back to the P-Noy government with allegations of corruption from among its ranks. The politics behind these controversies rages on. No surprise here as elections presidential elections are less than two years away.

In the meantime, the average working class in the national capital suffers through horrendously snail-paced traffic every day. The main alternative of mass transit through Metro Manila – the MRT – has crashed and injured more than 30 people and operations were suspended for one whole day due to technical problems, the first time it has done so in its entire 15-year history.

Here in Bacolod, the mayor and the congressman are debating who between them is to blame for the recent fall of Bacolod's competitive rating from No.5 to No. 20 among the cities of the Philippines, with its “local government efficiency” rating tumbling down from No. 2 to No 45.

Meantime, the rest of the mostly-apathetic local community prepares for its biggest economic and tourism event – the MassKara Festival in October.

The city’s top visual artists led by – Charlie Co, Dennis Ascalon and Manny Montelibano , with the support of most of the arts community is in full pre-production mode as it prepares for the biggest gathering of Visayan artists: the biennial Visayan Visual Arts Excon or simply VIVA Excon (in fact, VIVA Excon is the only one of its kind in the country – bringing together artists from an entire regional aggrupation). As always, the strong tradition of arts and culture in Bacolod continues on its progressive development supported mostly by benefactors and the private sector.

Back in the national capital, the political issues and stakes are reaching its boiling point, its main protagonists battling it out heatedly as 2016 nears.

In the meantime, day after day, all over the country, hundreds of thousands of students, workers, middle-class entrepreneurs and foreign investors muddle through the gridlock traffic on flooded roads, many totally-soaked wet from torrential monsoon rains…here under 2014’s August skies.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on August 28, 2014.

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