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Oh, My Lordy!’

John MelegritoBy John Melegrito

It’s early Wednesday morning. My journalist friend, Rita Gerona Adkins, is already on the phone. She’s fuming. I don’t usually expect her daily calls until late in the day but this one has a certain urgency to it.

“Cut me off if you need to but hear me out,” she insists as I brace myself for another one-way conversation that typically goes on for what seems like hours. Of course I never have the heart to cut her off even after assuring me she’ll be brief. And even when she taxes my patience by not getting straight to the point, I’ve come to appreciate and admire how she continues to be shocked and surprised by events that most of us would probably dismiss as insignificant or simply not worth getting emotionally upset about.

Truth be told: most of the time she makes a lot of sense, provoking me into serious thought.

As I’m won’t to do when I pick up the phone and it’s Rita on the line, I keep quiet while she rants and raves until I’m finally able to figure out what she’s talking about. Yes, I wish many times to strangle her with the telephone cord for needless detours and digressions.

“This can’t be happening,” she says finally. “Donald Trump is going to build a luxury hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, in the heart of the nation’s capital. Can you believe that? And it’s going to be like his other hotels, gaudy and ghastly. Oh, my Lordy!”

She goes on and on and in my head I’m crying out loud: where is this going Rita? What’s Donald Trump got to do with anything? And why so livid with rage? After all, he’s no longer running for president. He’s back to doing what he does best. Building real estate empires.

“Ah, but this hotel is going to replace, no, transform the Old Post Office Pavillion,” she gets to her point finally. “A piece of our history is connected to this iconic property, where the American and Filipino people celebrated the return of freedom and democracy in the Philippines. This was the people’s house, a sanctuary from our common struggles. And now they are going to tear it down and change it to a playground for the rich? Oh, my Lordy!”

Hmmmmm. I nod in agreement. My mind reels back to 1986. The Filipino people just won the People Power Revolution and there was dancing in the streets not only in Manila and Washington but all over the world. To celebrate this victory, a once-divided Filipino community came together for a thanksgiving mass and program one February evening 26 years ago. Hundreds came. Maybe more. They were no longer afraid to come out and show their smiling faces. Fear was replaced by jubilation. Marcos was out. Cory was in. We proudly donned our yellow t-shirts, unabashedly waved yellow banners and chanted the widow’s name.

The Old Post Pavillion where we all gathered to pray and to party stands part way between the White House and the Capitol. That’s symbolic enough. Inside, the speeches that night were somber, the songs subdued, the spirit less raucous than the one displayed a few days earlier. It was a time of quiet reflection by a thankful community, humbled by the challenges ahead. Perhaps it was the sense that the revolution was never really over. Even forebodings of serious threats to a fragile democracy were in the subtext of hopeful affirmations.

Although we held only one event at the Old Post Office Pavillion, its towering presence on Pennsylvania Avenue  where we used to hold our Philippine Festivals  is a constant reminder of our historic and sentimental connection to that place.

And now it’s being desecrated, defamed, defiled, debased. I get it now Rita. “Oh, my Lordy!” indeed.

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