|24 The Great O-O-Os of
the Late 20th CenturyThe joint school location transfers to a re-unified
campus led to one side benefit: it enabled the Philippine Jeddah consulate general to also
move out of its cramped, old building adjacent to the cramped, old school.
The Philippine mission settled into a very
decent mansion with a large courtyard for community activities. It was finally able to
break away from the crippling encumbrances of looking after an impaired school that should
not have been a burden to the consulate in the first place.
It was in its new location that the
Philippine Jeddah consulate received the official visit of then Vice-President Joseph
Estrada, and where the Filipina diva, Nora Aunor, sang her heart out to gain a lot of OFW
family votes for the future president. The event was probably the largest gathering of the
Filipino community in Jeddah ever. The consulate grounds was brimming up to its fences and
rooftops with a holiday crowd that spilled out into the streets of Jeddah for several
This record, I reckon, can only be
surpassed in the future by another visit of now-President Joseph Estrada, with the same
Nora Aunor. Just to be doubly sure, Fernando Poe, Jr. should tag along to belt out a solo
Sapagkat tayo ay tao lamang.
These days, Joseph Estrada spends his days
dispensing bugs and bytes of wisdom about Mindanao such as this admonition to the MILF
about its Lost Commands: "You cannot just tell me they do not belong to your
organization. They are with you in your religion," or advising Salamat and Misuari to
work together because "anyway, theyre all the same Muslims."
He may yet be the Great O-O-O to solve
this primordial problem once and for all.
Other great men and women had failed.
In early 1986 when my young family was
still in Manila and I was alone in Jeddah barely starting to appreciate Saudi football, I
took pain to follow on TV the EDSA people power revolution. I sat transfixed in front of
the tube, in between football and World Wrestling Federation matches, in awe at how
Filipinos looked so much real and natural on the boob tube like those late-night Egyptian
epics. My wife told me over the phone that she went out to EDSA once with her brother and
distributed some boiled eggs but did not stay out long. I thought I saw some people on TV
offering those tank soldiers some baskets full of eggs, but I did not catch any glimpse of
Liza or her brother.
In retrospect, I now realize that those
basket people were actually penoy vendors.
I also caught a portion of a TV coverage
of a renegade, warm-blooded Moro with armalite in his arms pledging support to fight for
Corazon Aquino to the last. Cory must have been inspired by that show of courage and
defiance, since early on, after being crowned as the President of the Republic, she
forayed into the jungles of Sulu to look personally at those automatic firearms and tried
to solve the Mindanao problems single-handedly. In Jeddah, at his own White House, MNLF
Chairman Nur Misuari was euphoric at the thought that the death of his comrade, the
Greater-Than-Life Ninoy Aquino, was worth every minute of their previous meetings. That
euphoria must have been such that even when President Corazon Aquino chickened out of a
deal later, the euphoria carried over into the can-do, Kaya Natin Ito! era of
President Fidel Ramos.