Yellow as the Color of Opportunism

As far as I can remember, yellow has always been my favorite color. As a little girl, I picked stuff up simply because it’s yellow. Anything yellow gets my attention and draws me to it like a magnet. People in my life give me gifts in color yellow. My friends greet me  “Yellow!” instead of the usual “Hello!”

Then Ninoy Aquino decided to come home from exile in 1983 while I was in high school and they made “Tie A Yellow Ribbon” his homecoming theme song, a song associated with welcoming home someone who has been gone for so long. Then he was assassinated at the airport upon arrival. “Yellow Fridays” swept the Philippines as a symbol of protest against the 20-year Marcos rule that represented oppression, abuse and violence.

Ninoy’s widow, Cory, wore yellow outfits while flashing the “L” sign which stood for “laban” (fight) and she became the rallying symbol of Filipinos’ struggle for change. People urged her to challenge Ferdinand Marcos and to run for president in the 1986 snap elections. There were reports of massive electoral fraud that ensured Marcos’ continuing rule but the people rejected the official election results.

The mass protests nationwide culminated in what is now known in history as the Philippines’ gift to the world – the bloodless People Power Revolution in EDSA. It is simultaneously a military coup d’etat, a religious-inspired rally, and a mass political protest.  And it installed Cory, Ninoy’s widow, to the presidency, making history as the first female president of the country.

The year 1986 was a great year to be Filipino in the world. Yellow was the color of the year as it became a symbol of people power. For us martial law babies, it was a color of change; a color of freedom. Yellow was so fashionable at that time and that made me, the yellow girl, super cool and very proud.

Then somewhere down the road during my college years, yellow went out of style as Filipinos became disappointed with Cory. Several military coups, the infamous Mendiola and Lupao massacres, a “total war policy” against leftists and their perceived supporters, proliferation of rightist vigilantes terrorizing villages, and epic fail on agrarian reform were some of the things that marred the Cory administration.

It was also during this time when the “yellow” unions became popular. A yellow union is a company-organized workers’ organization or one that is influenced by an employer and not considered an independent trade union. Yellow unions are established to weaken genuine, independent unions, a violation of international labor law.

It is in this context that yellow is also a symbol of betrayal and cowardice. It is also a sign of danger, caution, or warning. In physical illness, yellow is a sign of jaundice, malaria, and pestilence. Also yellow pigments come from these toxic metals – cadium, lead, and chrome.

When Cory died in 2009, her only son, Noynoy, became a viable presidential candidate. Yellow made a huge comeback. And Mar Roxas, who was poised to be the Liberal Party’s presidential candidate in 2010, had to give way to Noynoy who was more “winnable.”

So for the past six years, Filipinos were bombarded with the color yellow. Yes, bombarded because it almost borders on the offensive how the current administration uses yellow in everything. They certainly milked, for all it is worth, the goodwill PNoy’s iconic parents got from the Filipino people in the 1980s that they use yellow as a tool for emotional blackmail. It’s like the way Spanish friars would use religious sacraments as a means to grab land from the natives.

I think yellow has lost its magic among the Filipino people when Cory apologized to Erap Estrada for leading the so-called EDSA 2 that ousted Erap in January 2001. Cory’s exact words, captured on television news in December 2008, were: “I am one of those who plead guilty for the 2001 uprising. Lahat naman tayo nagkakamali. Patawarin mo na lang ako.” (All of us make mistakes. Please forgive me.)

The icon of EDSA 1 publicly admitting she made a mistake in ousting a president who was later convicted of plunder is kind of sending mixed signals to her people who view her as a saint. She campaigned against corruption and abuses of the Marcos regime. By apologizing for EDSA 2, did it mean certain plunders are more excusable than others?

Which brings us to Mar Roxas. Mar served as cabinet secretary under Erap, the president convicted of plunder; and under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the president who granted Erap pardon later on and is also now accused of plunder. I personally remember Mar staunchly defending Erap from his critics just before EDSA 2 only to resign at the height of it when he probably saw that the ship was sinking. He was later rewarded with a reappointment by Gloria.

Mar’s party, Liberal Party, led the anti-corruption campaign against Erap and actively supported the Resign-Impeach-Oust campaign. It later formed an alliance with Gloria and helped install her to power. It also supported her presidential candidacy in 2004, the controversial election that was allegedly won by cheating. When Gloria became unpopular because of “Hello Garci,” the party was split into two factions – those who abandoned Gloria went with Franklin Drilon and those who remained with Gloria went with Lito Atienza.

Mar Roxas used to be blue. After getting the official endorsement of PNoy to be the presidential candidate who will continue the “Daang Matuwid” (straight path), Mar switched to yellow and branded it the color of continuity.

Aren’t Filipinos sick of the color yellow already? Besides, do we really want a continuity in Mar’s path to power? He served under presidents who were accused of massive corruption and abuses. But he abandons them at the last minute when they pose a danger to his political career. Do we really want a leader who has no qualms, in the middle of a crisis at that, telling us, “Bahala na kayo sa buhay nyo!” when he does not get what he wants from us?

Mar Roxas has ruined the color yellow for me. On him, yellow is the color of egoism and opportunism.

First appeared on Mindanao Times, February 11, 2016