OFFLINE: BETING DOLOR – Meanwhile, back in Manila…

As this issue comes out, Ferdinand Marcos Jr AKA Bongbong would still be in the US, no doubt doing some last minute shopping.

  After his face-to-face with good, old Joe Biden, Junior and company will head to London to attend the coronation of King Charles. He will be right at home there, as Junior spent many years attempting but failing to earn a degree in one of the most expensive schools in the world located in merry olde England.

And after? No, sir. No back to Manila voyage for him. The supposed president will then head for Indonesia for one of those leaders meeting that is really just an excuse to travel and socialize, chat a little on some serious matters, then finally head home with an accomplishment report that no one believes anyway.

Malacanang did not – or would not – say how many are part of the presidential party, although the figure generally accepted is 70. Some, not all, are government officials who may actually get some work done. But it’s a safe bet that there are also a good number of amuyongs in the batch. And no, I do not know the English word for amuyong, although the likes of pests, leeches, and sleazeball cockroaches come to mind.

In his absence, what matters did he leave to caretaker Sara No H to make a mess of?

For one, on May 1, Labor Day, the country’s working class rightfully asked if this latest trip was absolutely necessary at this time.

Labor has been getting plenty restive again, and this time it’s for a very valid reason. Inflation in the Marcos era has been pretty high, we must all admit, but salaries have not risen to meet the rising prices.

One of the most disturbing data that comes from various sources is that the daily minimum wage is not even half of the minimum pay necessary for a family of four to survive.

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen. The average Filipino – let’s call him Juan dela Cruz; quaint, no? – works eight hours a day, five days a week, knowing full well that the money he takes home to the wife and kids is insufficient. Because of this pathetic state, he has to either 1) find an extra job, 2) borrow from any and all sources, or 3) sell his belongings.

If he does not do any of the three, his family will either go hungry regularly or his landlord will threaten to evict him.

If he gets desperate enough, he may consider doing something not quite legal. It can start small enough. He could, for example, engage in the buy and sell business, which comes as second nature to many Filipinos.

This reminds me of what a couple of close friends attempted to do some decades ago. They set up a small business with an office and all and called it Alpine Trading.

When I asked one of them why and where they got the name, he said their motto was, “Tell me what you need, and alpine it for you.” Yes, yes, even back then my then young buddies were into dad jokes. That buy and sell business didn’t last too long, though. One went back to selling insurance while another started with a small school bus business, which was actually two small vans that picked up and took home a group of kids from a private school. No franchise from LTFRB or anything.

It was, shall we say, an extra legal business.

Juan dela Cruz is adept at creating such sources of income, which some call the underground economy. If lucky, he may eventually need to register the business and pay the necessary taxes.

Or he may graduate to selling items whose source he does not want to know anything about. It could be stolen goods, in which case he wants to claim deniability. A relative or friend just asked him to sell the second hand item cheap. It can be a case of cheap brandy, a relatively new laptop, or a bicycle or motorcycle.

When caught with what is considered a contraband item, he can say he didn’t know.

This scenario is a lot more common that one would think.

If poor Juan is never caught, he can graduate to bigger and better sources of illicit income such as online scamming, which sure beats setting up jueteng operations any day of the week.

The various scams have become so widespread that the government was forced to make mandatory the SIMs used in cellphones, and the big telcos are playing ball because they know that they played a part in the spread of the scamming industry. They’ve even said that millions of SIMs remain unregistered because they were likely used in illegal operations of some kind.

But Juan’s problems are nothing compared to the constant humiliation being experienced by the Philippine Coast Guard, who are harassed endlessly by their Chinese counterpart.

Even as Junior goes on an extended excursion, the Chinese were at it again. Days before the president left to meet Biden and later Charles, another incident occurred which was the equivalent of a bully continuing to spit on the face of the 98 pound weakling that is the Republic of the Philippines.

See, a Chinese Coast Guard came close to colliding with a Philippine Coast Guard vessel inside Philippine waters. The Chinese ship was three times bigger than the Philippine boat.

Guess what happened next.

A spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry had the gall to accuse the Philippines of being the guilty party, and even bringing along international media to intentionally embarrass China.

Excuse my French, but my first impulse when I learned about it was to internally scream, “p*t@ng in@ nyo, China!”

Little Junior said he had a brilliant solution to the gnawing problem. He would ask Rodrigo Duterte’s buddy Xin Jingpin if he would agree to some kind of compromise where Filipino fishermen would be “allowed” to fish in Philippine waters.

He may not be as cowardly as his predecessor, but Junior is showing that he does not comprehend what China is doing to his country.

He probably is unaware that other small nations like Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia have faced off with China’s coast guard, and didn’t blink. Under Duterte and now under Marcos, the country’s coast guard does not only blink even before seeing the whites of the slanty Chinese eyes – yes, I know I sound like a racist, but I can’t help it – they may even be peeing in their pants when a Sino ship approaches within shouting distance from them.

My solution is simple. Junior can tell Joe B: “Sir, can you pay my country one dollar or one gazillion dollars a year, and your magnifique 7th fleet can sail all around the West Philippine Sea as much as they like?”

Pretty, please, Mr. Re-electionist President?

I am only half joking, folks.