Saturday, October 27, 2007

A look at Honasan, the honasan

In the Asi language, the honasan is a seascape most Asi dislike because of the difficulty it imposes on their daily life. It hampers navigation.

Honasan is a noun, derived from the adjective honas, which means low tide. Honas is when the sea ebbs as a result of the moon’s gravitational pull of water in the oceans. A honasan is that part of the seabed which is exposed when the sea ebbs. Because it is drained of seawater, a honasan is an ugly sight, for it shows the carcass of the seabed—protruding rocks, corals, and the irregular terrain of sand and shoals—as well as the detritus of human activity, such as broken bottles, plastic wastes, and other slow-decaying trash trashed off by the current.

A low tide—honas—is, naturally, the opposite of high tide, the natural phenomena when ocean water rises, again, as a result of the moon’s gravitational pull. The Asi word for high tide is taob.

Every 12 hours, honas and taob occur simultaneously but in opposite coastal places on earth.

A life in an island, or in any coastal community, exposes one to the realities of these two tidal phenomena. When it is honas, it is difficult to float a launch or boat, for fishermen had to physically pull or lift their vessels and nets to where the water is. If the honasan, the exposed seabed, is wide and long, such as those of the coastal areas of Romblon, then it takes more effort to pull or lift the boats. It is difficult to walk barefoot in a honasan. Sharp objects could hurt or wound your feet.

In war, a honas and a honasan could spell victory or defeat. Magellan was defeated by Lapu-Lapu because the former didn’t heed the advice of the experienced natives to attack Lapu-Lapu’s lair in Mactan during high tide or taob. Thus the Portuguese navigator was forced to wade in shallow waters off Mactan, whose exposed seabed (it was honas when Magellan attacked) was expansive and very far off the range of the invaders’ guns.

Gen. McArthur was likewise compelled to wade in a honasan when he landed in Leyte upon his return to the Philippines in 1945 because his huge ships cannot go to shore without risking running aground.

In the political kingdom, there is a Honasan who got a first name, Gregorio, but whose moniker, Gringo, in the Spanish-speaking world is a disparaging term for a foreigner. In this piece, he will henceforth be called Honasan.

Now, Honasan before he did a Faustian barter of his patriotism immediately after the May 2007 election, was regarded as a hero by his peers and millions of other Filipinos who elected him senator not just once, but twice, for his role in the dismantling of the Marcos dictatorship. Well-known apostle of another EDSA icon, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, Honasan is some sort of a misunderstood myth because right after democracy was restored in 1986, he mounted a series of coup d’etat through his Reform the Armed Forces Movement, or RAM. All of RAM's revolutionary adventures were ground to heels by democracy's boot due to visible lack of popular support.

At various times in his checkered career, Honasan had been jailed, escaped, charged, hunted, and arrested for his rebellion activities. Tired perhaps of his failures at bloody reform, he ran as a senator and won, but when in the Senate, was never heard from, save from a few outbursts which only showed how far from reality he had detoured. His first term ended with the voters frustrated over his so-so performance. As chairman of the Senate’s peace and unification committee, he was so “peaceful” that the bills and resolutions referred to his committee miserably failed to “unite” him with the voters--and the nation.

Briefly before the May 2007 elections, Honasan once again spent his life on the run after he was implicated in another failed rebellion mounted by a group of zealous and idealistic junior officers now known as the Magdalo, which assembled at Oakwood and demanded that Gloria Arroyo resign as president because of graft and corruption and incompetence. Honasan, claimed the Magdalo members, were their teacher, their Kuya. No wonder their mutiny failed.

Honasan emerged a winner in the 2007 election. He campaigned as an independent after he was freed from jail on the orders of Arroyo’s justice secretary, Raul Gonzales, who himself is very much well-loved because his forte is to derail justice and inflict injustice depending on what side of the bed he wakes up in the morning. According to him, this is the rule of law.

That Honasan won was not a surprise. He has a mass base from which to draw votes. What was perplexing was that his fire as an oppositor to Gloria Arroyo turned to cold ash immediately after he ascended to his Senate throne. That was when people began wagging their tongues that Honasan allegedly sold everything he has to the highest bidder and thick-faced purse-liner in the center of power that is Malacanang.

How true this is, nobody is saying a word. But almost everyone knew. I knew that his loyalty is no longer with the people the moment he clammed up from criticizing Gloria Arroyo and started instead to sing her honasans, err, hosannas. See? The two words rhyme.

I knew that like the honasan in Romblon, the Honasan in the Senate has been drained of water that provides strength of conviction the moment he criticized his fellow senators, like the courageous Antonio F. Trillanes IV and the brave Panfilo Lacson, for calling for Senate investigations on matters of national interest.

Well, as they say, it is up for the people to judge him and his seeming betrayal of their cause. But before that people’s tribunal convenes on judgment day, let it not be said that Honasan was not forewarned nor told that he was elected an oppositionist, and that his role is to carry to the end the cause or causes that catapulted him to power. How can Honasan now look straight into the eyes of those who believed him and tell them that “No, I have not entered into a compromise with Gloria, neither have I betrayed the principles that all these years we have been fighting for”?

This question is relevant because a honasan, as I said, is an exposed sea bed. Honasan, like the literal honasan in Asi, is now an exposed political persona. His having been drained of courage, if that is the case, is a bad omen that people will now find it more difficult to navigate the political water with shoals scattered by GMA with leaders like Honasan betraying them on the bend.

As we say in Asi: Yaanay, mapanihi anay ako sa honasan. (Excuse me while I pick up shells in the honasan.)

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