(note: This was written May 5, 2010, just before the last Philippine elections)
Elections are crazy in any country. So much at stake for the candidates. So much at stake for the voters. A population faced with incredibly important decisions about which they vehemently disagree. Serious stuff.
I think it is the very seriousness of elections that make them the target of some of the most humorous parody to be found. Carson, Leno, Letterman, Dave Barry… they all get in the act making fun of elections and the candidates.
I remember back in the early 70s, when the US voters were angry, frightened and very divided over current events. The comedy team Firesign Theater produced an election-themed album that was played a lot on late-night FM radio. It was called Papoon For President and had a line in it which stated: “Vote for Papoon! He’s not insane!”
So there you have it. Lack of insanity was the reason to vote for this (fictional) guy. Although completely tongue in cheek, that’s not the worst of reasons, I can assure you.
Next week the Philippines will having national elections. Again, serious stuff. I would not in a million years presume to say who should or should not win. (I actually have no idea) nor would I campaign for anyone. That’s the prerogative of the Filipino people. I won’t even try to tell you which, if any, candidates are “not insane”!
But I will say this: elections here, while serious and at times very tense, are funny. The Filipinos are some of the most fun-loving people on the planet. Music, food, camaraderie and silly humor are present in every aspect of Filipino life, it seems, including politics.
Elections here are very different from the way they are in the US. And well they should be. This is a different place (duh!) and a different people. And it’s not a matter of “right” or “wrong.” It’s just a matter of different, and it is often those difference that makes the world a fun place. And Weird Al Yankovic would love it (I’ll explain in a moment).
So, how are elections different here?
First of all, the city is literally wall-papered with posters. Even our local city hall pictured above is covered with posters from all the candidates. (Imagine the White House last year having both Bush and Obama posters all over its walls and fences!)
Secondly, candidates have trucks, jeepneys, tricycles and vans drive around nonstop with speakers on top, blasting speeches and slogans. Some of these have these metal bullhorn-type speakers mounted. Funny, you never see these speakers any other time of year. I have no idea who sells them or where they are stored until the next election! (perhaps next to the corporate Christmas decorations? Hmmm.) However… some of these trucks have a stack of speakers that would make The Who jealous (for you younger readers, substitute “really really really loud rock band” for the unfamiliar words “The Who” in the previous sentence.)
There is another use for these Electoral Audio Cruisers, and this is where Weird Al would get excited. Each candidate has a song! A lively song! A very LOUD song! They take a pop song and rewrite the words to be about themselves (well, actually, I’m sure they have a public relations team do the rewrite… shoot, some of them probably actually hire Weird Al himself to do it!)
So this week, all over the city we are hearing “politically freshened” lyrics to “Y.M.C.A.” (yes, the old 1978 Village People “Y.M.C.A.,” which will never die… ever). We are hearing last year’s Black Eyed Peas hit “Tonight’s Gonna Be a Good Night” and the 1972 hit by Daniel Boone (no, not that Daniel Boone!) titled “It’s a Beautiful Sunday.” And what election would be complete without the rock ‘em stomp ‘em Queen Classic “We Will Rock You” (the choice of one vice-mayoral candidate.)
Weird Al would be proud… maybe even jealous!
So it’s fun. It’s festive. It’s noisy. It’s a bit crazy. And it’s very Filipino. They can make even elections seem fun. Almost like the circus.
But seriously, it’s still an election with all those important choices to be made. So we’ll pray for the Philippines and the Filipino people, that God’s hand would be evident in the election process and results. In the final tally, only God really knows who should win.
But hey, excuse me, I have to go! Whenever I hear Y.M.C.A., I gotta do the hand motions, ya know….