FOR AROUND SIX months a decade past I worked in the headquarters of a very popular fizzy drink company in the Philippines. The gig was undistinguished by accomplishment or any kind of success, and the only thing I clearly remember now was the free cola drinks served from a mint-condition vending machine that didn’t need any coins or bills to dispense drinks representing every member of the world-famous red-and-white product line.
You could enjoy your beverage straight, on the rocks, from the famous bottles they were traditionally served in, via cans, from the vendo cup, anyhoo and any which way actually, any hour of the day on your desk, in the toilet, in a meeting room, and you could drink to your heart’s content.
As long as you drank the dark stuff on the premises, and of course, never brought anything out. Unless it was already in your gut.
I used to fantasize chucking cans and bottles out through the window to my waiting friend (itago natin ang kanyang katauhan sa pangalang “Boyet”) in his shopping cart or kariton, and from there we’d sell it as fast as we could. We’d do the rounds of sari-sari stores, groceries and carinderia, and we’d making a killing, cuz everyone and his dog/cat could never have enough of the fizzy pop. It was very nearly a commodity that could be used to acquire other useful things, if you couldn’t sell it soon enough.
Of course, the only thing that stopped me from pilfering the product and taking advantage of the company’s generosity was the fact that we were on the 12th floor overlooking part of Old Makati, and the thick glass windows were not about to give way to an amateurish get-rich-through-free-cola scheme. Also, I was then happy in my job and not about to give it up for a few extra pesos grating on my conscience.
I just remembered those few short weeks in Coca-Cola Export (oops, slip of the tongue there) because if ever we had pulled off our grand caper and my accomplice friend Boyet was immediately fingered as the cola felon, I couldn’t very well stand by idly and watch him get the third degree from the cola police.
Even though he would get caught with the proceeds of our crime, complete with all the tools to further his nasty deed, and the list of the sari-sari store carinderia and sidewalk vendors all attesting to his sales, the real architect of the crime would me little old me, for without my original plan, my access to the drinks and my making them available to Boyet, he would still be pushing his kariton downstairs wandering aimlessly in cola-less land.
I think you see where I’m going here. All the glitzy mansions in Forbes Park, Dasma Village and other posh subdivisions, Los Angeles (USA) properties, and flashy BGC condos are certainly deplorable examples of conspicuous consumption, and that YouTube video of the debutante who put Kim Kardashian to shame certainly didn’t help. The insistence that wealth was gained through legitimate means only added to the aura of arrogance. In the end, pride and denial proved the downfall of this queen of fraudsters who became a fugitive from the law before surrendering to no less than the Chief Executive of the Land. (The highest official I could surrender to would be our barangay captain, if he was available. 🙂 ) I guess even before Lady Justice, it still helps to have a friend or two in the right places.
But really, wasn’t our Public Enemy No. 1 (for 48 hours at least) no more than a conduit for funds that couldn’t be touched by the rapacious hands of those trusted to disburse them to the least of our kabayan? Those most vulnerable and who needed public projects the most? She was just an example of what happens when the arrogance of power and the craftiness of cutting-edge thievery meet in the coffee tables of five star hotels.
It goes against the fashion of the moment and current wisdom in media-saturated Manila, but don’t you think our hatred and derision is misdirected towards the effect rather than the cause of all this prodigality and high living? Come to think of it, isn’t it time we started wondering why you’ve hardly seen a senator (except maybe Sen Rene Saguisag and one or two others) who hasn’t lived like a multi-millionaire during and especially after serving their elective term?
Going back to my cola job anecdote, it drove me crazy that I had all that privilege to drink soda and fill myself to the brim, and yet I couldn’t bring it out of the office. I fantasized about someone helping me take advantage of what I had but couldn’t do myself. (Seen the parallels yet? 🙂 ) And yet, in the end, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not just because it wasn’t the right thing to do, but because I might get caught. Like Machiavelli’s princelings, the rule of law is better feared than loved.
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It’s alright to energize our actions against Ms Pork Barrel Queen via righteous indignation, but it’s better spent hating the system that made her so successful in making dirty money. It’s time to stop hating, and start changing.
Thanks for reading!
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- Coca-Cola Confronts Obesity in Marketing Campaign (business2community.com)
- Without Coca-Cola, life is unthinkable (justcocacola.wordpress.com)
- 10 controversial ingredients found in Coca-Cola (myscienceacademy.org)
- VIDEO: Gay rights groups target Coca Cola (bbc.co.uk)