AS REGINE Velasquez was singing that haunting song of hers during the inaugural ceremonies for our new president, I could not help but have goosebumps grow all over me. The last time I felt like this was during the days immediately prior to and after Edsa I whenever Ka' Freddie Aguilar would sing "Ang Bayan Ko." Oh, those were the days. Each time we Filipinos would hear that song being sung, all of us would be like in a trance and Ka' Freddie seemed like the Pied Piper of Hamelin. Then we'd all flash our Laban signs and break into our chorus of "Cory, Cory, Cory." Our hopes were very high then as President Corazon Aquino ascended to the highest office in the land borne on the shoulders of People Power. In our euphoria, we thought then that our deliverance as a people was at hand. But as I look back to that upheaval twenty four years ago, regretfully, I've seen my idealism that was kindled during those days of Edsa I turn into cynicism. It's like we're starting all over again.

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The French call it "déjà vu." The Yanks are more blunt as they would say - "been there, heard that." Thus, while listening to Regine Velasquez' evocative ditty as well with the other performers I had this sudden eerie flashback of what's become of our country more than two decades after the first EDSA Revolution. The APO Hiking Society is still around but they've grown old and gray themselves. Perhaps they too knew that it's not the same feeling. Noel Cabangon's guitar virtuosity is impeccable but Ka' Freddie he's not. The songs inciting unity were just as fiery. We heard them all before. We all remember Jim Paredes' "Handog ng Filipino sa Mundo" and Tito Sotto's "Magkaisa"? The songs were just as provocative but it just "ain't the same." As the ceremony drew to a close I could only sigh - "been there, heard that."

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My cynicism is not without reason. When I entered government service some time in 1987 in the immediate aftermath of EDSA I, I was so full of idealism as I gained employment in the administration of then Governor Daniel "Bitay" Lacson. His 15-Year Master Plan was like a panacea to many Negrenses. My immediate boss was then Provincial Administrator Eric H. Dumancas. He gave the task to run after grafters in the provincial government. We were quite successful at first. Eventually, we realized that it was a losing battle. The grafters always managed to give us the runaround. They always do somehow. Now, try multiplying that on a national scale. President Noynoy's "walang magnanakaw" is as encouraging as Erap's "huwag niyo akong subukan."

Notwithstanding my skepticism, I still would like to give this new administration the yeoman's chance to succeed in weeding out the crooks in the bureaucracy with the same zeal as Erap once boasted he would do to those "hoodlums" in government. Funny thing was that Erap ended up joining them.

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It was a class act. I'm referring to Chief Justice Renato Corona's presence during the inaugural ceremony. And I must give it to him in spite of the indignity he had to suffer through it all. His attendance thereat was indicative of his observance proper decorum in spite of the presidential snub he was subjected to. Not even a handshake or an acknowledgment by the President as he went up the stage or while he was delivering his speech? And to add insult to the Chief's discomfiture, the President had to rub the issue about midnight appointments in his speech. Talk about protocol. I thought Manolo Quezon, who fancies himself to be "The Explainer" was part of the inaugural team. I remember him explaining on national TV about the protocols that had to be observed during the ritual. Well, he forgot one thing. He forgot about GMRC. Oh, well! There goes protocol.