[This article was originally published  in the Diliman Review]


“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than have ever done;
it is a far, far better rest that I go to than have ever known.”

“I die without seeing the dawn.”

“In the economic sphere an act, a habit, an institution, a law produces not only one effect, but a series.
Of these effects, the first alone is immediate; it appears simultaneously with its cause; it is seen.
The other effects emerge only subsequently;  they are not seen; we are fortunate if we foresee them.”

Who will guarantee that these officials always express the
genuine interests of the working class as a whole and
the genuine interests of progress rather than their own caste interests?


Juan and Pedro of Pilipa

Once upon a time there lived in the country of Pilipa, Juan and Pedro who loved their country equally well. They were both strongly nationalist in sentiments. They wanted to see their countrymen attain the good life. In their identical aspirations for the good life, the average workingman must have a house sufficiently able to withstand the typhoons that came two or three times every year. The house must be supplied with electrical light so that leisure could be lengthened with a TV set and a radio. The house­ wife must have a soot-free cooking stove and a refrigerator to store food and thereby reduce daily trips to the market. The bread­winner must be able to ride, perhaps, his own motorcycle, if not a car. Luckily, Pilipa is not visited by harsh winter months, so families had simpler housing and clothing needs. They lived in a tropical country blessed with sun, fertile soil, and riche mountains.

 Economy, life and people of Pilipa

Obsessed by the good intentions in their heart, Juan and Pedro decided to become politicians, and after trying hard, they were elected to serve in the Pilipan National Assembly. Someday, each had hoped to become President of Pilipa.

But Pilipa was a poor country. According to economists their country had only a per capita gross national product (GNP) of 600 pesotos at the beginning of our story, or roughly 200 dollars, which was about six times less than that of a land named Nippongol and more than ten times less than that of the known richest land, Les Etats-Unies de Colombe. They had an abundance of a relatively poor peasantry. All Pilipans were hardworking and Code fearing. But it was not enough to be hardworking to earn a livelihood. Some had to look for work and go to the cities. Those who remained on the farm worked as much as they knew was needed.

Many of the peasants who looked for job opportunities in the city often found themselves without steady jobs; they lived in slums. On the other hand, job opportunities on the farm were only very seasonal. Therefore, life on the farm was not much fun, as a favorite Pilipan planting song went. Moreover, the simple life could no longer remain simple as long as Pilipans on the farm would discover that during town fiestas a great variety of goods beckoned them to increase their wants-for instance, new canned goods, motorcycles, radios, new style shoes, pretty dresses in their prints, not to mention ready-made cooking oils and simple washing detergents for the housewife. To those poor Pilipans in the cities, the contrast was even more appetite-whetting.

And the poor Pilipan people multiplied in numbers whether they lived in the cities or in the farm. Their population growth rate, demographers and statisticians said, was in the range of 3.3 to 3.6 per cent per year. Being very poor, parents desired larger families. If. they were able to make four of their seven children live up to the age of 10, never mind if all were malnourished for they themselves never knew what good nourishment was, the four would provide them ample social security at old age in the harsh world they lived in. The children would be able to provide a little income to add to their daily hand-to-mouth budget if they lived in the city, or if they stayed on the farm, the children could at least assist in tending to the carabao, in fishing, or in planting the vegetable or the staple crops by the age of seven years. Some parents could therefore not even send their children to the primary grades, even when the government of Pilipa provided free public schooling.

Aside from this, they always listened of course to the parish priest, who on Sunday would tell them that to have large families was not a sin, that one who interfered with the handiwork of God was to be against Him. Of course. most of them· never understood what the priest talked about. But at night, they knew what their impulses were.

And at the age of 16 to 19 the children of Pilipa found themselves each a partner to beget further children.

And so went the same cycle.

Of course, there were the rich in Pilipa. Decades of limited progress had enriched them. Foreign treaties negotiated special privileges for their commercial exports. Landlords owned large tracts of lands. But there were only relatively few of them.

And they lived handsomely. Pilipan taxes were too low on their consumption, too generous ton industrial incentives when they went into business. They got the largest credits in government banks at low interest rates. Sometimes this was not for building factories but to buy many amenities of life. They had large, elegantly built houses, with walls as high as two men standing as in a totem pole. And within each backyard was an elegant swimming pool, exclusive for their own use.

The country in the north

There was also a country north of Pilipa, whose people were poorer but almost as plentiful. In everything else they were the same. Except that a great war had ravaged their country just recently. Their young men were decimated. But they were still plentiful.

Economists compared Pilipa and this country in the north at the beginning of our story. They estimated that on the average, this country in the north had a per capita GNP four-fifths that of Pilipa. And in their estimates, because the climate and resources of Pilipa were more favorable, the people in the north would have more difficulty lifting themselves by their own boot­ straps.

In the meantime, at the beginning of our story, Pilipan economists had boasted they were far ahead of this country in the north, and so Pilipa was more progressive.

Juan and Pedro differ on the means to the good life

Assemblymen Juan and Pedro both believed in promoting a high rate of economic growth and in achieving a high rate of employment growth for Pilipa. But they differed in everything else after this. Their differences were highlighted by their stand on critical issues. Juan was greatly enamored of any proposal which invoked “social justice.”

For instance, Assemblyman Juan favored raising the minimum wage, because he believed it would raise the earnings and welfare of labor. In reply to this argument, Assemblyman Pedro would say, “Yes, I favor higher wages, but given the large unemployment rate of the economy, a higher minimum wage is not the solution. This will help only the currently employed labor force, not the large mass of unemployed. We ought to raise agricultural productivity to bring down the price of rice and simultaneously concentrate on employment policies.” Then Assemblyman Pedro would discourse on the possibility that capital would displace even some of the labor already employed and therefore create more unemployment. And he would end: “Only when we have raised employment to 96 per cent of the labor force can we anticipate to make minimum wages work fully, not when only 70 to 80 per cent are steadily employed. Also, at present only about 40 per cent of our labor force may in fact be receiving something over to the minimum wage. This includes all government servants and the rich.”

On the issue of profit-sharing in enterprises, Assemblyman Juan was again greatly in favor. “After all, labor must share in the profits of enterprise,” he would say. Again, Assemblyman Pedro was against this bill. He firmly believed that passing such a law would discourage investments from increasing as fast as he had wanted. He would argue that if the country had a high level of industrialization, this bill could be helpful. But so long as the level of industrialization is low, Pilipa ought to concentrate on laws that increase the rate of industrialization.

On the issue of foreign investments, they were again at odds. Assemblyman Juan argued that foreign investors were exploiters of the national wealth and of Pilipa. They would repatriate profits as fast as they earned them. They would kill indigenous entrepreneurial talent. To this, Assemblyman Pedro would counter: “You get only what you deserve. Make the investment climate prosperous, and they will contribute more to progress. We can invite them in industrial ventures that go into exports -but this requires that we must stop discussion of minimum wage laws and profit-sharing bills and foreign exchange policies must be liberal, not restrictive. And we have to induce, not restrict, them with this and that requirement. And the exchange rate must be at tractive.”  But this led again to the other issue over which they disagreed.

On the issue of foreign exchange controls, Assemblyman Juan was again in favor of strict controls. He would say, “We must determine priorities and ban some imports to provide a market for our industrialists. This is the nature of things in poor countries like Pilipa! ·we must give priority to our countrymen in the procurement of licenses to import. We must prevent profit repatriation by foreign investors, or reduce them to a minimum.” Once he ended an impassioned speech on the subject which. was applauded from the galleries, from which of course he derived great satisfaction, knowing it meant the further shining of his political star: ·’Pilipa for Pilipans, and Pilipans for Pilipa.”

Assemblyman Pedro was against these measures and emotional slogans. He believed that more liberal foreign exchange policies, even to the extent of using “realistic” exchange rates for the country’s currency, represented the basic dose of medicine to achieve a prosperous economy. “This policy,” he would say, “will restore to many businessmen and every citizen a proper balance of advantages. It will help Pilipa attain growth in industries with high potentials for exports. It will weed out the growth of industries which are inefficient. It will be an obvious check against corruption, which is ‘inherent in policies that give power to a few officials· in government. It will attract efficient foreign and domestic investment.

In many of these debates, very few understood Assemblyman Pedro in the galleries. In fact some felt he was depreciating his countrymen, to which criticism Assemblyman Pedro always had an answer, “I believe that our countrymen and our businessmen have the talent and wisdom that many deny them. I believe they are not infants who need cuddling but young adults ready for a good challenge.” As he went out of the National Assembly one time, he was called anti-Pilipan and pro-foreigner. He was hooted and hissed at. He was called all sorts of names fit only for a bitchy dog. Yet he remained calm, dignified and as clearheaded as before.

The basic differences between the two leaders carved their individual destinies as well as that of their country. Assemblyman Juan was called a true nationalist. He was worshipped by the labor leaders and by university students as a man truly ahead of his times. He raised the hopes of every one. And every one truly believed him to be the national messiah to lift the country from the doldrums of poverty and high income inequality. His political aspirations reached an apex when he was eventually elected President.

On the other hand, Assemblyman Pedro just nearly lost his seat in the National Assembly because he was called anti-labor, anti-nationalist, and all sorts of names. And students, labor leaders, and organized peasantry ganged up against him.

President Juan and Dr. Aesopo’s Advice

President Juan, true to his promises, influenced the National Assembly to raise minimum wages, as he considered them too low. Then a profit-sharing law. Then the social security tax borne by employers was increased. He imposed strict exchange controls. He was instrumental in passing an investment incentives act which was in accordance with his wishes, very restrictive to foreign in­ vestments, although in apparently broad areas. He invited them in manufacturing and agricultural enterprises for export. He invited them to go into heavy industry. But only in accordance with a long list of conditions.

Foreign investors did not come, or when they came, they were in trickles. But President Juan surely believed that they would not have come to Pilipa anyway. “So you see I was right,” he would temporize. “They don’t come when you impose truly pro-Pilipan conditions.”

Yet President Juan \vas bothered by two things. Some Pilipan industrialists and financiers and foreigners established in Pilipa were investing in other countries, including the country in the north. And foreign investors from other places were coming in great volume to the country in the north.

President Juan could not understand why. He therefore sent a mission of his economic advisers to see why. The mission came back with a report: The country in the north had liberal economic policies, realistic exchange rates, and realistic interest rates. It had no minimum wages. It had more attractive foreign investment policies. It had no profit-sharing law. It had no

Bah, but this is not for us,” President Juan said.

And his advisers said, “Yes, yes, we agree.”

But President Juan had doubts for the first time. He said to himself, “How can I repeal the laws that I had proposed and fought for all my political life. Not after all the fanfare.” Then he comforted himself, “And a President, like the Pope, does not commit errors. Only his subalterns do.”

In his private panic, he called for Dr. Aesopo, a professor of Economics at the University of Pilipa and the known economic adviser of Assemblyman Pedro, to see him in private. President Juan spoke:

“Dr. Aesopo, how can we have a rate of economic progress as fast as the one in the country in the north? I heard that their GNP is growing at 10 per cent per person. Ours is only at 2 to 3 per cent. Their exports of manufactures are rising very fast; I am told these account for 75 per cent of their total exports. Our exports are only largely agricultural and mineral exports. They even buy our raw material exports, and they process them for sale to other countries.”

“Mr. President,” Dr. Aesopo began, “the country in the north, you will remember, was being ravaged by a disastrous war at a time when our industrial program began. Our beginnings were all right. But in the course of our industrial history, we have failed to undertake major corrections when the directions of further growth pointed only to them. True, we did make a major correction several years ago. We dismantled all forms of exchange controls, but we restored the same system of industrial protection which was the driving force behind our industrialization efforts prior to the exchange reform with the policies which were needed to invigorate our industries. In the meantime, we have encouraged a further distortion of our industrial incentives against the resource which is most abundant to us-labor.”

President Juan interjected: “I don’t understand you. How can I distort policies against labor when, as you recall, I have raised the minimum wage, favored unions even at the point of pampering them, passed the profit-sharing law, raised the company share in the social security tax, and now I am even thinking of reducing working hours to 40 a week in industrial enterprises. We are modernizing our labor laws like those that are adopted in the advanced industrial countries-. We are approaching the welfare state. So I must be acquitted of your criticism.”

“Mr. President, sir, all you have said are precisely what I mean,” Dr. Aesopo said. “And more than that. All the investment incentives laws we have passed cheapen capital goods and raw material imports. Our entrepreneurs are encouraged to buy labor displacing machines. They set up new industries which are less labor-using. Furthermore, they are establishing highly import­ dependent industries. They are acquiring the attitude that less labor is good because of overactive labor unions. Moreover, this preference requires of them to be less innovative in the direction of managing a larger labor force within the plant and making such workers as productive when they work with less complicated machines”

President Juan again interrupted. “But all the laws about incentives are the same laws in the country in the north from which we copied portions of our investment incentives law.

Now you tell me, we are wrong even in this.”

Dr. Aesopo replied, “Yes, we have copied their investment incentives laws. But we have not copied their labor laws, or lack of them. We have not copied their liberal foreign investments laws. We have not copied their liberal exchange rate policies; we have not ….”

“But Professor,” President Juan said, “the country in the north is led almost by a dictator. He can have all his wishes. I cannot.”

“I disagree, sir,’ Dr. Aesopo said, “that because Pilipa has democratic institutions, our institutions are not virile enough to undergo changes in policy. It is a matter of approach, salesmanship, as the marketing man will say. We are promoting growth and employment, and our children today can have far better times ahead of them. We can educate the masses by example, especially if new steady jobs are provided quickly and they can see these. If job opportunities are plentiful and continue to increase at a fast rate, we shall be able to swamp irrational dissent with material examples of progress. Today, I believe that our very political basis is being endangered by all the labor laws you have passed and by all the ostensibly nationalist restrictions you have imposed which prevent foreign resources from helping us. You have raised our people’s expectations so high, but you have failed to provide the jobs. All the laws you have passed have come too early to us and they have stood in the way of progress. But there is a way out.”

This made President Juan angry, yet he respected a man who told him to his face. “Here is a man who finally did not say yes,” he said to himself. “But his words are echoes of Pedro!”

“What are your recommendations for me?” President Juan asked.

“I offer only five criteria for your industrial policies,” Dr. Aesopo began. “One, at all times, our exchange rate must be realistic. A realistic exchange rate corrects for many distortions which are unseen but foreseen and help to regulate entrepreneurial activity into activities which are most conducive to the use of our most abundant economic assets. Two, provide an option for all industrial enterprises to use labor-cheapening, rather than capital­ cheapening, incentives. To do this, I recommend a wage subsidy. Three, continue the good work undertaken in promoting agricultural productivity. Four, have a liberal foreign investments incentives law. To do this, one requisite is to suspend for 20 years the effectivity of the profit-sharing law or even repeal it; the other requisite is to be less restrictive about sharing rules in the capitalization of foreign ventures, even allowing 100 per cent ownership of industrial enterprises by foreigners in some cases. Five, at all times, central banking policy must be liberal, especially to all industrial exporters. Some of these recommendations require further legislation, others do not.”

President Juan thanked Dr. Aesopo for his views. As soon as the professor had gone, he called a meeting of his economic advisers. He gave them copies of Dr. Aesopo’s papers written at the University of Pilipa, which the latter gave to the President.

“Gentlemen, what do you think?” President Juan said.

“Sir, the trouble with Aesopo is that he is so rabid an economist that he has lost all social and political context. His recommendations. are unrealistic, given our institutions and present predicaments.” Economist A said.

“His recommendations are impractical. Even if they are practical, we are a democratic society, and we cannot turn back on our own policies,” Economist B said, blissfully not knowing his argument did not tie logically together.

Then A mumbled to B, “Besides, Aesopo’s writings are too many. I have no time to read them. If they are not long, they are short; and when they are short, they have equations that I do not underst. .. , er, er, I have no time to follow.” A and B laughed, with B saying, “Yes, yes!”

[Months later in their prison cells and prior to their execution, Economists A and B found all the time to reassess their positions. They read again some of the extant writings of Aesopo (they were burned by the new political establishment), and they found out their errors. But Aesopo had the last laugh, when A and B read Dr. Aesopo’s quotation from Frederic Bastiat, which went as follows: “There is only one difference between a bad economist and a good one: the bad economist confines himself to the visible effect; the good economist takes into account both the effect that can be seen and those effects that must be foreseen.”]

Then the economists said to President Juan: “We recommend a tightening of exchange controls, a more nationalistic approach to our policies, a welfare state. We will get over the hump of these problems, if we practice austerity and self-discipline.”

President Juan turned to Minister Rasputah for his views, “Do you think we should follow Aesopo?”

Minister Rasputah, the wily statescraftsman said, “Mr. President, if you do what he recommends, there will be a violent revolution. You cannot turn back on your words and your program. The credibility gap is wide enough. For instance, how can you do away with profit-sharing? The organized labor unions will call you anti-labor. And you will lose your power base. Anyway, the mass of the unemployed is so ignorant, it will forever remain silent. Just keep their hopes high!”

And Rasputah said to himself, “I have convinced him. Hmmm . . . . He won’t win reelection. And I can easily switch to the other party. Perhaps, I might even be their next Presidential candidate. And as President, I will adopt all the advice that Dr. Aesopo had given, create a momentum for economic growth so great that we can overcome all social discontent. Anyway, we can wait for the elections next year.”

President Juan, not knowing he was now so unpopular among the groups that had once supported him, heeded Minister Rasputah’s advise and that of his own economists. “Anyway,” he said to himself, “I have first to win the next Presidential election.”

 Austerity, national discipline, and social orgy

President Juan therefore decided that austerity and national discipline were the order of the day. He exhorted his people labor, the common citizens, the rich, everyone.

One day, in fact, Minister Rasputah called in the palace press and read the following announcement:

“The President and his family’s breakfast consisted of dilis, leftover fried rice, and vinegar. For lunch, he convened his cabinet to discuss matters of state, and they had dried tapa, tomatoes, and boiled rice. For dessert, they had black coffee without sugar and cream. The President is hoping everyone will follow his example, especially the rich at least once a week.”

At the end of the press message, Minister Rasputah took a long, long puff from a stick of his favorite, imported Morrie Philips 100s. Then he said, “Any questions, gentlemen?”

In the meantime, K.K. Kruz, the wealthy engineer, was having a photographic session for a magazine interview. He was showing off his collection of antique and new Cadillacs, Rolls-Royce, Mercedes-Benz and a dozen other cars. He had his cars arranged, like the petals of a pretty daisy, and he placed himself in the middle, like the nectar of a sweet flower. “Hold it, that’s nice!” Click! went the photographer’s camera. “The magazine feature will be stupendous. You will be the darling of the car-loving crowd,” assured -the photographer and the magazine writer;

In a hospital, meanwhile, a millionaire, well-known for his instant wealth from dubious sources, was found to have a tumescent cyst that he wanted a doctor to remove. The doctor said he had to be operated on. “Will it be painful?” the millionaire asked. “Don’t worry, I will apply local anesthesia to kill the pain,” the doctor said. “Doctor,” the millionaire implored, “I can afford anything, why don’t you use imported anesthesia.”

That night, a wealthy matron died. And her bereaved husband called the advertising manager of the Pilipan Times. “That’s right,” he said. “I want to buy two full pages of obituary announcements, the least I can do for my loving, departed wife, aside from the beautiful mausoleum I have commissioned. And I will pay cash. Send a bill collector this evening.”

And that night elsewhere, too, a glowing couple celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary threw the wildest party. The jet set royalty from other lands was invited, all their living expenses paid for and of course only at the plushiest place fit for royalty, the Hiltona; the most expensive champagne from a land known as Yuropa overflowed in shining glasses; thousands of lights glittered to match the sun’s energy; the prettiest imported prima donna sang the anniversary waltz; an imported jazz band played the dance music; and all the members of the society press were invited. It was the party of the century that all Pilipans would remember forever, for each generation would read about it in their grade school books and be reminded about its similarity with the parties held by a certain King Louwie who built a palace to end all palaces in a far-off land known as Versalyas.

Popular unrest

But elsewhere, a tempest in a teapot was transforming itself into a wild cyclone.

For during the time that the career of Assemblyman Juan was sweeping him to the Presidency, the poor in the cities and the farm had multiplied. Poverty became more noticeable in spite of the- growth of industrial and commercial areas. – Beggars for the first time became more obvious. Student and labor unrest grew. Teachers complained about not getting their salaries. Public services, like the mail and garbage collection, were deteriorating. The press cried, corruption in government. Peasant unrest grew, too. If peasants \vent to the city to look for jobs, they found themselves more impoverished. An incipient rebellion had turned real. The crime rate had increased – crimes against property and against chastity.

Rallies, demonstrations, and strikes were called. Students, labor unions, teachers, and plain citizens joined

“Where is the social justice and economic freedom you promised,” every one asked loudly.

“I have a job, but my two sons cannot find any!” cried one elderly laborer, who appeared ready for retirement.

“You made the slums,” accused one student leader, obviously pointing to President Juan as the caption appeared under his caricature.

“Fascists!” cried one university student.

“Reactionaries and useless functionaries,” shouted one young man, after naming President Juan’s economic advisers, the very same ones who always advertised the nationalist orientation of their policy proposals.

“Many degrees, no jobs,” cried a student.

“Schools are in bad shape,” said the teachers.

“Why do our best minds and brawns go to other countries for good jobs,” said one scholarly looking gentleman. “Stop crime!” demanded the women.

“Down with taxes and with the rich,” shouted another student. “The peasants are hungry If they go to the city, they become beggars,” declared a peasant’s group.

“Jail all exploiters,” demanded another.

“One-tenth sharing profits, nine-tenths sharing nothing!” said a placard of a former labor unionist without a job.

“Food, jobs, and social security,” cried another.

Strikes against industrialists were often mad. One industrialist said to another: ‘“These strikes are communist-inspired.”

“Capitalist exploiters!” workers and students would counter. And to those who wanted to continue earning their livelihood as workers, they said: “Capitalist dogs! Scabs!”

There were other cries.

“Poverty is not social justice!”

“Poverty is not economic freedom!”

“Abolish property and redistribute all wealth!”

“Poverty + Unemployment = Social justice? Bad arithmetic.”

“Why are you laying off workers and installing that machine!”

A National Assembly Committee hearing was called to investigate the strikes and the demonstrations.

“These are communist-inspired,” Assemblyman A said. “We must go after the reds. Anyone who quacks is a duck.” And he named names.

“These leaders you name are true nationalists!” protested Assemblyman B.

Assemblyman Pedro stood up and said, “Our economy has been unable to provide the necessary jobs and the required rate of economic progress that would have pleased our citizens. The trouble is, many of our laws have all biased policy against job creation, although each law was supposed to achieve social justice. We ourselves have brewed the discontent. And these are the causes. We had only ourselves to blame five years ago.”

Some government offices would have swastikas painted on their walls. Others would have hammers and sickles. And the police would erase them before sunset just to find them again in the next dawn.

Enter Adolfo and Fidel

In the meantime, two patient men were watching carefully, even gleefully.

“If this thing goes on, it will be good for me,” said a short, bemoustached army lieutenant Adolfo to himself. His grin was clearly joyful.

“Ah! Unrest is the food for a truly popular revolution,” said bearded Fidel, who had been waiting for five years now in his mountain hideout waiting to launch his kill-offensive. His eyes were deep with conviction and his belief in himself was as cathartic as it was also overpowering.

Revolution unleashed: into the age of silence

Suddenly, the spark was ignited. Fighting occurred. First the labor and student leaders led massive demonstrations which went out of control. Then there was fighting between demonstrators on one side and the police and army on the other. Several students and demonstrators were mortally hurt. The students ransacked army and police arsenals. And guns and tanks were unleashed And so, there was an abrupt struggle for power.

*        *        *

(Our records are not clear how the final struggle ended. We speculate on two possible results.)

Ending I. The army overpowered the students and labor leaders and the peasant rebellion. And a young bemoustached lieutenant named Adolfo, suddenly emerged as leader. Mabuhay Adolfo!

Ending II. After months of fighting in which labor leaders and idealistic student leaders took to the underground, military victories over the army in strategic places led to the triumph of a popular revolution. The peasants, labor leaders, and students celebrated their victory in parades from town to town leading to the capital city, led by a bearded leader aperch a captured army tank, whom they proclaimed as the savior of Pilipa. Mabuhay Fidel!

(But whichever ending it was, there was a very clear beginning.)

*        *        *

Now, the country had marched into the age of silence. For the beginning of the age of silence saw the following: President Juan and all leaders of the National Assembly were locked up in jail. One by one, they were tried for treason and hanged. President Juan first, then his pool of economic advisers who were known as nationalists, then Minister Rasputah, then Assemblyman Pedro, then Dr. Aesopo. Then student leaders who demanded tov much followed. Then some teachers, too. And then some labor leaders. And so on.

If only Assemblyman Pedro’s views had triumphed

Dr. Aesopo, true to himself and his vocation, was able to write an essay about what went wrong with Pilipa, even while in jail. The essay was smuggled out by a friend from the prison cell before he went to the hangman’s scaffold. Part of it read:

“Could the revolution have been averted? Yes! If only Assemblyman Pedro’s views had triumphed. For his recipes were simple, and they depended on goading the best in his country­ men’s traits. He would have generated new jobs many times faster than the growth of the labor force. He would have raised the level of wage earnings much faster, as unemployed labor was transformed into employed. He would have made his country­ men proud of themselves for being able to guide them into industrial ventures which could favorably compete with the best entrepreneurs of other countries. By allowing foreign investments to come in, he would have generated more jobs. The fruits of progress having been attained, the government’s tax revenues would have been raised to levels sufficiently necessary to defray an improvement of general public services. This would have instilled pride among his countrymen.

“Student and labor demonstrations would still have been there. But their popular base would have been much weakened. And a rationally-based counterforce to the social ferment would have been reinforced. In an atmosphere of progress, little could be had by demonstrating.

“Yes, the revolution could have been averted, because economic progress and the availability of jobs would have swamped many other demands stemming from poverty, income inequality, social unrest, and overly heightened material aspirations which-in President Juan’s tenure-got so inflated, due largely to President Juan’s self-deception that his policies were going to generate the progress that would have been possible only if Assemblyman Pedro’s views had gained following. Therefore, Assemblyman Pedro could have saved many lives, including Juan’s, his advisers’, and those of poor idealistic students who should have studied their books and scientific principles more closely.”

The country in the north and Pilipa

Five years later, during the age of silence in Pilipa, the President of the country in the north had been named the awardee for the Nobel Peace Prize. The winner might as well have been- if only! – President Pedro.

The living in Pilipa’s earth were trying to work out a new society based on silence. The former students and labor leaders, now more aged and wiser, were back on the same grind. They were told that work, work, work would raise everyone’s living standards – not perhaps for them in their old age, but for the generation of their sons and daughters.

But bless the souls of those who all loved Pilipa who were, by then, peacefully buried no matter how violent their final sacrifice was!

Every year during the celebration of Revolution Day, Leader Adolfo (or was it Chairman Fidel?) would remind his countrymen, “We are moving toward a society where all men are equal.” Yet, like many before them who had tasted power, the new (that is, now old) leader could not help mumbling to himself half­ seriously and half-grinningly, “But some men are more equal than others.”

And every year, some young Pilipan economists were sent to the country in the north to learn the tricks of progress. For by now, in the country in the north, a common worker could have electrical light in his home, a TV set to watch, a soot-free cooking stove for the wife, and a refrigerator to store food. Still, the car could not be had; but it was only a matter of time.

In the meantime, in Pilipa, the average worker was still dreaming the dreams of Juan and Pedro.


My son, Hans, once reminded me that a fable is a story with a lesson. Although this fable is not written for children, I dedicate it to my children, especially to Michelle, whose 8th birthday it was when I completed this. I sincerely hope that the lesson will be learned, so that the Orwellian experience recounted will never happen.

This is a work of fiction. However it is not guaranteed that the characters will not resemble actual persons, living or dead, and that the places are unreal.

Andrei D. Sakharov is the Soviet scientist, credited to have “Fathered” the Russian hydrogen bomb. I am grateful to Efren Bordador for leading me to the quotations from F. Bastiat.  Iheard the anecdote about anesthesia from Antonio Ayala, from which my adaptation is copied. I could not help remembering J. Encarnación’s fond quotation from Orwell’s Animal Farm, too.