The stake in our hearts

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Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has received more than her share of comments for her repeated and failed attempts to meet US President Barack Obama. Probably because Valentine’s Day was approaching, early this week one commentator compared Mrs. Arroyo to a love-sick woman vainly pursuing the object of her affections. She’s also been accused of being caught in the “outdated” anti-terrorism framework of the unlamented Bush administration. And (gasp), those who fret over the country’s “image,” especially before the US and Americans (what will they say!), have complained that by crisscrossing the planet trying to catch Obama’s eye, she’s embarrassed not only herself and her government but the entire country as well.

No one has so far bothered to seriously ask why she should be so focused. That’s certainly because there’s a near universal assumption among Filipinos that every Philippine government needs US approval. After all, many Filipinos ache for the kind of American recognition and appreciation exemplified by singing a duet with Celine Dion, or beating a Mexican to a pulp in a Las Vegas ring to the roar of an all-American crowd.

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Green with envy

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The contrast with Philippine elections couldn’t have been sharper. It wasn’t just the speed with which the results were being tallied that was the source of much head-shaking over our own slow-as-molasses count, nor with the way the US media were providing information on almost everything related to the elections, including a celebration in the village in Kenya where Barack Obama’s paternal grandmother lives.

More critically was the grace with which both winner and loser greeted the results a source of near-wonderment. In Phoenix, Arizona, the Republicans’ John McCain quieted his nastier supporters by calling his rival “my president” and noting the significance of his victory to US racial relations. Unlike Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who once declared that she was president only of the Cebuanos who had supposedly given her their votes in 2004, in Chicago, Illinois, Democrat Barack Obama praised McCain’s service to country, and vowed that he would be the president of those who didn’t vote for him as well as of those who did.

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