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Verstehen Top 10 Socio-Cultural Heavyweights of 2013 (Part II)

Editor’s note: This is the continuation of the Verstehen’s Top Ten List for 2013. To see the first half, click here.

5. Mid-term elections was held

In local news, summer 2013 was characterized by daily visits from political candidates’ campaign cars, which blasted “jologs” campaign jingles from speakers splattered with stickers of the candidates’ faces. The Philippines’ second shot at automated elections gave us a new set of senators and local government officials. Let’s look back a few months ago at surface level ideal types of candidates the people put in power.

Two variables are glaringly correlated to getting a precious seat in the Philippine senate. One: a nice family name to carry your campaign to noticeable heights – use your daddy’s name, or your cousin’s, or your uncle’s and aunt’s. Just make sure the name you’ll be using rings volumes into the ears of the electorate; the cleaner the family history, and the more immediate the relationship of the candidate to a famous relative, the greater the chances of winning. Two: TV ads and “infomercials;” the general rule is, the greater the advertising pay, the greater the likelihood of a seat in the senate.

The 2013 mid-terms elections definitely showed contrasting perspectives when it comes to putting people in power. At the height of the electoral debates, the term ‘uneducated,’ or the “bobo” voter, emerged among angry citizens as seemingly undesirable candidates made their way to the top of surveys. The outcome of the elections shows how our vote largely reflects our social location. Perhaps one could argue here that it is indeed difficult to say that there is a right and wrong vote as our political choices are very much informed by our personal and historical background in society.

4. Habemus Papam

The moment Fr. Jorge Bergoglio was declared Pope, he made it clear that he is one unconventional cookie whose quirks have caught the world’s attention. In testament to his charisma, Pope Francis will be on almost every countdown this year, including this one, for many diverse reasons.

Needless to say, Pope Francis is slowly changing the way people look at the Catholic Church. In his first year as Pope, he has made so many interesting and wise moves that are forcing people to regard the Vatican once again.  The Pope’s role in the Roman Catholic Church highlights the power of religious institutions in shaping our belief systems and social world. The way the Pontiff carries himself has garnered different symbolic responses, admiration being the most common. We have yet to see a large scale effect of the response to the Pope’s recalibration of the Church, but aren’t we all excited to see what this quirky leader could do?

3. Junjun Binay’s power trip

You see it in movies, but you never think it would happen in real life. Then one day, it’s all over the news. It would strike many as stupid for a government official to be ill mannered, especially when the public accorded their positions to them. But I guess you can’t really expect much from someone whose privilege extends their family’s influence.

What a big blow the Dasmariñas village incident is to Mayor Junjun Binay. The Dasma incident begs the issue of how the concept of power is central to any social interaction. If Max Weber were alive, he would probably say something along the lines of “Well, his being part of the socio-political elite was not legitimized because he was refused exit from the village by mere security guards.” That said needing an ego boost is still no excuse to toy with people who have lesser political power. We’d like to congratulate Mayor Junjun for making it to the list. May this give you some affirmation.

2. Oink oink

I’m beginning to wonder what sound the firecracker named after Janet Napoles would be. Maybe we could light that up; any noise would sound better than the human Napoles’ “Hindi ko po alam” stint at the senate hearing. Janet Napoles became a household name in 2013 after the pork barrel issue was brought to light, taking a barrage of lobbyists to the streets in protest against it.

We look at the said protests and begin to see a trend. Based on the Million People March (which attracted a little less than expected), it would seem that the demographic is mostly middle class. The Philippines is one of the countries where seeking change falls under the leadership of a middle class, not really the proletariat, or even a combination of both. It would seem that the middle class is using the mechanisms of democracy to levy control of resources to their advantage. Or maybe a “consolidation of responsibility” has been rendered, and this quest for “transparency of government” placed in the hands of the middle classes. What would happen when the middle classes operated in conflict with both the upper and lower class?

1. “Natural” disasters said hi to the Philippines

If anyone wanted to experience something close to an apocalypse, the Philippines is one of the places to have gone to this year, what with all the “natural” disasters that hit the country in 2013: from the earthquakes around the Cebu-Bohol area, to Yolanda’s wrath ravaging much of the Visayas.

The relief operations became a point of interest to international agencies. The Philippines looked like a sitting duck when it came to independent relief ops. It’s not that we were unprepared; the extremely overwhelming traffic of relief to specific areas became more problematic because (1) there was a shortage, and (2) there were physical and nonphysical communication gaps. What ticks our sociological clock at this particular incident is the fact that even in the most tragic of times, the conflict between classes continues to exist, manifested by who gets the goods first. It doesn’t end there: Yolanda is the only typhoon in recent memory that forced people toward major acts of deviance, such as the looting of unnecessary things (ice cream freezers, TV sets, etc.) from department stores. It also showed the irrationality of the bureaucracy, with government agencies making it difficult for both local and foreign aid to reach those in need. The spate of natural disasters that struck the Philippines is replete with sociological implications, putting the Philippines’ calamity experience of 2013 on top of this list.

As we close down 2013, we find ourselves, like at any other new year, at a cross roads as peoples of one world. It’s nice to look back at the year that was, and think of the year that will be; to note what could have been and what could still be. It’s with the powers of our basic humanity and some sociological perspective that we find answers to many questions, and questions to many answers in the year to come. So let’s make a toast, boys and girls of the social sciences, to the new year ahead!

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