After 97 years, the Philippines finally bags an Olympic gold medal thanks to Ms Hidilyn Diaz. Diaz is now a pillar of Pinoy Pride, the cornerstone of an entire national identity. If one could draw this national identity, it would look like an inverted pyramid with a tiny elite of excellent Filipinos at the pointy bottom holding up the massive rest of the pyramid above it.
Indeed, the weights Diaz needed to lift to bring home that gold are nothing compared to that involving her weightlifting feat today. She has the pride of an entire nation on her shoulders. Everyone wants a piece of her — because there isn’t much in the way of anything else that props up Pinoy Pride.
This being an election campaign year makes her role in society particularly tricky. On the aggrieved embittered side of today’s politics are partisan camps in control of the country’s biggest media conglomerates, its most influential private Catholic schools, its state universities, and its most encompassing morality radar stations. As such, while the scramble for a piece of Diaz’s personal brand may be vicious, it has already likely been won thanks to the Opposition’s institutionalised social engineering machine.
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The reality of that inverted pyramid that describes the character of Philippine society does not change, however. There is probably only one other individual who can relate with the journey Hidilyn Diaz is only beginning today. That person is Manny Pacquiao. Pacquiao, after all, was once at that same pointy end of the inverted pyramid that Diaz finds herself at today. Pacquiao at the zenith of his boxing career was Pinoy Pride embodied.
Today, Hidilyn Diaz is the new Manny Pacquiao. She lifts an entire people. Her achievement is claimed by an entire nation. In truly excellent societies, the pyramid drawing would look a bit more normal. It would be standing on a broad base of the collective achievement of their peoples with an elite set of achievers at the top representing a happy bonus to all that.
It does not take a structural engineer to appreciate the rock-solid nature of a pyramid standing on its bigger end. In the case of the Philippines, the spectacle of an upside down pyramid teetering upon the formidable shoulders of Hidilyn Diaz seems to be a picture that satisfies the pwede-na-yan sensibilities of most Filipinos. Perhaps, like Manny Pacquiao, Hidilyn Diaz will go on to become a senator someday and maybe even become president, essentially getting proper institutions to help with her job of propping up an entire people. Until then, the world champion weightlifter has the job cut out for her. For now.
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