Balloons

By Manuel Garcia Calleja as originally posted on Blog Watch, Philippine Online Chronicles

Guys known to genuflect at the sight of things yellow-hued came to our little barangay these past weeks peddling balloons.

Not the colorful ones that liven up birthday and children’s parties. Nor the kind symbolically released to the heavens during weddings and other important occasions.

The first balloon greeted churchgoers one Sunday morning as the dark clouds overhead were about to dump tons of rain that usually submerge the two informal settlers areas along the creek.

COUP DE ‘ETAT! screamed the yellow balloon. Would have been nice if it was a wizened man with cascading beard in tatters selling the gloomy-worded balloon on a gloomy day.

But mistah Antonio? The unsmiling mutineer would still be ranting in the brig if it was bsA he had poked to walk the plank and not GMA.

yelloww balloonUnimpressed, the churchgoers dismissed the coup talk as merely a pr gig to serve a couple of ends.

Mistah Antonio pointed to retired generals tending their backyard gardens conniving with GMA. A cue for ma’am Leila to come up with yet another plunder case to keep the little lady tied to her hospital bed?

Obviously playing Messiah again. Got him the laughs for his front act in the Oakwood overthrow caper, but what the heck, it got him to be an ‘honorable’ with a take-home pay a hundred years of soldiering can’t give. Now he wants to sit on Rambotito’s chair like how he got to warm his bottom on a senator’s bench, this time by raising a Cain with a coup scare and by styling himself as a building appraiser.

And of course the coup plot fell flat as it was meant to be with the script positing that since there was no armed forces support, no ‘critical mass’ behind, ergo, bsA is still that ‘popular.’

Mistah Antonio may not have heard the churchgoers muttered, ‘Oh, come on, give us a break!’ as they walked away, the rain starting to fall. He may not have heard also their parting shot: ‘If you would only smile a little… wipe off that ‘galit sa mundo’ look in your face…’

bunch of balloonsOne sunny midmorning days later Lolo Feliciano sashayed, one-two-three, one-two-three, into a seniors group meeting holding up a pair of balloons.

CHA-CHA reads one balloon, the other balloon stark blank.

Lolo Feliciano drawled that ‘Yes!’ ‘Sure!’ ‘Of course!’ ‘It’s true’ he is for charter change. He’s been peddling it ever since, he said, but all he wants is to open wide the country’s economic doors kept ajar all these years.

Which is fine and about time, the seniors agreed. Nodded their heads. Clapped their hands. Upped their thumbs.

But why the other blank balloon?

Lolo Feliciano ignored the query. Instead, he lined up the seniors but as he gave each a lumpy handshake Lolo Feliciano ceased to be the friendly neighborhood grandfather of our little barangay. He became the quintessential politcian for all weather. Right now the ‘cong ti cong;’ as in ‘capo ti capo.’ Because he had the ‘smarts,’ as Mang Rigoberto puts it, playing his cards well.

Almost a dozen of the seniors shunned the lumpy handshake proffered by Lolo Feliciano. Huddled in a corner, arms akimbo, without uttering a word, they must have thought, ‘What do the guy take us for?’

Something, uh, funny happened early the next day to two guys who came in slick barong. “Shell game’ whiz Florencio was chased out of our little barangay holding on for dear life his two balloons, one that read BUTT THE SC BUTTS! And the other, DAP FOREVER!

Jericho’s balloon that reads EMERGENCY POWERS slipped from his hand and got wedged between two electric wires. Didn’t burst, though, as there was a brownout at that moment.

Rich kid Mar appeared later in the afternoon at the palengke together with Ben, Edgar and Jerry of the Hogs Hills boy band swishing their balloons that all read SECOND TERM!

(But why the hell was richie boy pickup carrying a sack of rice on his shoulders?)

ballons 1One-two-three, one-two-three, they did the Lolo Feliciano jig as meat and vegetables and rice and what-not vendors and buyers watched. In silence. Nobody blinking. Seemed everybody stopped breathing.

The next morning our little barangay woke up to a yellow-free surroundings. All things yellow gone.

As if a storm had washed off the yellow on lamp posts, sidewalks, roofs, walls….

But there was no storm that night. Only the sound of scurrying feet, hushed voices, noises of scraping and splashing, of things being ripped, torn down were heard amid the pitter-patter of a light rain.

Either they didn’t know or were not told of the ‘misadventure’ of Edwin and Jericho, or they were simply ‘so-ordered’ but spin guys Edwin and Abi waded through the single street running the length of one of the informal settlers areas along the creek, still ankle-deep in water from the rain the night before. Together, Edwin and Abi raised their yellow balloon that announces NO-EL!

Wrong venue. Wrong people to float their NO-EL balloon to. The rheumy-eyed old men and women, the dark-skinned men tending to their fighting cocks, the dishevelled housewives gossiping while picking each other head lice and their out-of-school children WILL NEVER accept a ‘no elections’ scenario.

Kung maaari nga lang they want elections held every month, every week. Mas OK pa nga kung araw-araw.

Edwin and Abi had to slink back to their SUV parked near the church and into the protective arms of their PSG escorts to escape the ‘could-kill’ stares and furious raised fists of the informal settlers along the creek, their collective voices ringing, ‘No way! Don’t you dare!’

It would be week of calm and gentle weather before another storm blew into our little barangay, submerging the two informal settlers areas along the creek.

In the pouring rain a guy entirely not seen during dismal times waddled like a duck and between coughing fits raised two yellow balloons. One reads SIX MORE YEARS,’ the other, I CAN DO BETTER!’

Not far behind was Rambo, the barangay clown. Prancing, pirouetting and warbling the fav ditty of old, ‘Anything you can do I can do better…. anything you can do I can do better!

Balloons Photo via Flickr (1); Yellow balloon via Flickr. Some rights reserved.

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