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If interpretations of the Mayan calendar had been correct, I might have spent the apocalypse in a taxi queue at the mall. Not a particularly memorable way to go, carrying a supermarket bag of cat food. But then no one would be left to remember, and in case of survivors they would have more important things to think about, like where to find potable water and how to fend off that pack of ravening zombies.
No asteroids struck, no sudden polar shifts occurred, everything was normal insofar as the last working day before Xmas could be called normal. After a long wait a taxi arrived, and to my amazement the cabbie did not grump about the heavy traffic, complain that my destination was too near or too far, or demand a surcharge. For several seconds I thought the world had exploded and we were in an afterlife populated by pleasant cab drivers.*
There must be some people who have mixed emotions over the continued existence of our planet. Relief (at being wrong) and embarrassment (over same) make a strange cocktail. If the doomsayers had any shame they would shut up and go away, but you know they won’t. That’s the thing about the prophecy business: it is fact-proof. They will not admit they were mistaken; they will simply cite some information they had “neglected” to mention until now.
It is like those text messages warning you about some cataclysm (earthquake-tsunami-flood usually) that will happen on a specific date. After describing the horror, death and destruction that will surely take place, they urge you to pray to certain religious figures because “Sometimes, when we pray, nothing happens.” Aha, ass-covering disclaimer along the lines of “No approved therapeutic claim”. If something happens, they were right; if nothing happens, then we have been spared.
If the apocalypse had occurred on December 21, certain quarters might’ve linked it to the passage of the Reproductive Health bill. After all, eternal damnation had been promised for all the congressmen and senators who voted for the bill. The curse of eternal damnation is reminiscent of that fatwa placed on the author Salman Rushdie—except that in the latter case results would’ve been verifiable, while in the former we’d have to take the clergy’s word for it.
Divine wrath over the RH bill has been blamed for everything, including the defeat of champion boxer Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao’s mother “Mommy Dionisia” has taken a similar line, declaring that her son lost to the Mexican Juan Manuel Marquez because he changed his religion. Perhaps in Mommy Dionisia the local clergy have found someone who can engage them in fair and equal debate.
Has the passage of the bill been connected to the results of the Miss Universe beauty pageant? The first runner-up finish of Bb. Pilipinas-Universe Janine Tugonon was the main topic of conversation in the taxi queue. Everyone in line agreed that Miss Philippines should have won, not only because she was the most beautiful finalist but also because she had nailed the Q&A. She was, they added, superior in all respects to the candidate who won the title—a sentiment echoed by various politicians, ever eager to be mentioned in the media in any context.
If Miss Philippines never made it beyond “Thank you, girls”, this would not be an issue. If she had placed fourth or fifth, everyone would be pleased. But she had gotten within a hair of winning the Miss Universe crown, and that really stings. Mas masakit yung ‘muntik na’ kaysa sa ‘wala namang pag-asa’. “At least Miss Mexico wasn’t even in the finals,” somebody sniped, thus connecting the Miss Universe results to the outcome of the Pacquiao-Marquez match. This is Pinoy logic, which operates according to its own rules. “Maybe Miss Universe will get knocked up and be unable to fulfill her obligations, and the first runner-up will have to take over!” someone added.
Think of it this way: the Philippines’ results in the Miss Universe pageant are getting better. A few years ago Venus Raj was fourth runner-up, then Shamcey Supsup was third runner-up, and now Janine Tugonon was so close, the Pinoys could taste that tiara.
Still going by Pinoy logic: Don't feel bad. At this moment, the US needs the Miss Universe crown more than we do. They’ve had a bad year, and recent events have been especially terrible. We are in a position to be charitable towards our traditional benefactor. How often has that happened?
Let’s not forget the whole point of this column (because I almost did): The world did not end on December 21. It will end someday, but for now we are alive and free to ponder the meaning of boxing and beauty pageants.
* My dealings with taxi drivers have been more cordial since we discovered a common enemy. The other week, at about two in the afternoon, I was in a taxi that was caught in traffic going down the Guadalupe interchange in Makati. Suddenly we were surrounded by a group of 6 kids, who looked to be between the ages of 10-14. The tallest of them climbed the back of the pickup truck in front of us, then did a back flip onto the roof of the taxi. I couldn’t give you his gymnastics score because I was inside the cab. He began to jump up and down on the roof while his companions pounded on the doors of the taxi and rattled the handles. Fortunately the driver had locked the doors and was staring stonily ahead, refusing to acknowledge the disturbance. A good plan, because if he had opened his door to chase them away, they would have grabbed his money, my bag and whatever they could carry. I assume they were stoned out of their minds because it they were not, that would be scarier. Apparently this happens in many congested intersections at night, so do not forget to lock your doors - even if you wish peace and goodwill to all.