Millennials, I observed, have this knack of using just three action words to summarize life’s occurrences, probably borne out of social media’s requirement for brevity or its users’ seven-second attention span.
“Nagmahal, nasaktan, nag-abroad” is a common example of this trend, which tells of a love cherished and lost, leading the jilted lover to seek solace in a place far, far away.
To keep up with the times, let me put things in Taipei’s headlines the same way.
Nag-brownout, Nag-resign, Nilibre ang kuryente.
Last Tuesday, Taiwan suffered a massive power blackout affecting close to 7 million households on the island at a time when temperatures were unusually hot.
State-owned firms in charge of the island’s power supply said human error caused a two-minute delay in the supply of fuel to its Datan township power station causing all six generators to collapse in Taoyuan and shutting down the full capacity of the power plant. That cut off some 4.35 million kilowatts from the country’s power supply.
The voltage reduction further affected a power plant in Taichung, resulting in a total shortage of 4.65 million kilowatts countrywide. The blackout was reportedly the most severe since the strong 1999 earthquake.
Local media reported minimal impact on industries including some of the world’s leading technology manufacturers such as Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC), the world’s largest contract chipmaker and a major supplier to Apple Inc.
Public transportation system remained largely intact though, with only a few Taiwan Railways Administration stations reporting disruption in its operations.
The Taiwan High Speed Rail, airports and national highways reported no impact upon their operations at all.
Rotational one-hour brownouts were implemented as power supply was restored to original levels the following morning.
I slept soundly through the whole episode, then woke up to headlines announcing the resignation of Economic Affairs Minister Chih-Kung Lee, a good friend of mine, as an offshoot of the incident.
His vice minister, Shen Jong-chin, likewise offered to resign but was prevailed upon to stay and oversee the ministry in an acting capacity.
Minister Lee was a staunch advocate of de-commissioning Taiwan’s nuclear power plants, and assured everyone that power supply would not be affected by the frenzied move towards “green” energy. So when the outage occurred, he immediately resigned.
Would something like that ever happen back in the homeland, where nobody ever resigns even for very compelling reasons? Even if rank incompetence is quite obvious? Even if hands are caught in the cookie jar? Even if remaining in position would cause damage to the institution?
Ah, but that is the Philippines, where it’s more fun clinging to public position.
There is more.
Even President Tsai Ing-wen, describing electricity supply as a national security issue, apologized on her Facebook page for the blackout. She immediately asked relevant government departments “to quickly explain why a single event could cause such large damage across the country’s electricity system.”
But it didn’t stop there.
On Thursday, newspapers reported that victims of Tuesday’s island-wide blackout would receive one day of free electricity as compensation, according to an announcement by state utility Taiwan Power Corporation.
A total of 4.38 million households will receive one free day of electricity worth an estimated NT$270 million (US$8.8 million) while 1.54 million households which also suffered from the outage will receive compensation amounting to a total of NT$90 million (US$2.9 million).
Can you believe that?
Would poor consumers in the Philippines ever be so compensated for blackouts, or lousy internet service, or weeks and weeks of failed sky cable service?
Not in your life.
I am truly amazed at the great lengths the Taiwanese government would undertake to appease its citizens.
Back in the homeland, consumers have suffered, continue to suffer, and will suffer more from poor public utilities, whether state-owned and operated, or “privatized” to buccaneers wearing the masks of big businessmen whom the president calls “oligarchs.”
So, we just resign ourselves to poor service.
* * *
Thirty-four years ago, a man who had suffered seven years and seven months of imprisonment, then exiled through a medical furlough abroad, decided to come back to the motherland.
He, too, had resigned himself to his fate in another manner of speaking. In a letter to me dated Feb. 21, 1983 from San Francisco, he wrote: “A man may die as a dictatorship will surely die, but an institution lives on.”
He told Doy Laurel, who hand-carried Ninoy’s letter to me after their fateful meeting in San Francisco, that he intended to come home that year and talk to their Upsilonian “brod” Ferdinand Marcos to convince him to restore democracy after more than a decade of authoritarian rule.
But that conversation never happened. On Aug. 21, 1983, a bullet entered his cranium in the tarmac of our international airport.
Today marks the 34th anniversary of that dastardly murder. A generation and a half have passed; a millennium in fact was marked halfway from that historic event in 2000.
We pause to commemorate that event when Ninoy Aquino’s resignation to fate galvanized an entire people to action.
And then again we ask ourselves, what have become of us, and what has become of the nation for whose sake he returned, and died, after 34 years?
Was it worth it?
“The Filipino is worth dying for,” he wrote. And in the rage that followed, we said, “Hindi ka nag-iisa, Ninoy.”
Yet, has the return of democracy and individual liberties, under the framework of a Constitution written by the assigns of Ninoy’s widow, Cory, really improved the lot of the ordinary man?
Look at our neighboring countries. Compare the last 34 years, or better yet, the last half-century which started with Marcos and ended with Ninoy’s son, and the same time frame for China, Singapore, and South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, Malaysia, and even war-torn Vietnam.