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What Wall.e Taught Me About the Philippines


2008_wall_e_0051I am not ashamed to say that at my age I still enjoy watching cartoons. I watch cartoons with my daughter, and maybe, enjoy it much more than she does.


Recently, we got the chance to view Wall.e. Wall.e is a movie worth seeing, this features the love story of two robots, Wall.e and Eve. The backdrop is a “discarded” Earth and a populace that is on its thousandth year of Cruising.


The Future. Earth’s landscape has changed a lot. No more kawayan swaying in the soft breeze blowing from the mountains. No more birds chirping. The skyline has accommodated more skyscrapers, but on a closer look, these buildings are actually blocks of compressed garbage that has been compiled. What it has, is a lot of trash. Life on Earth ceased to be possible. The human populace has gone on an extended 5 year Cruise because the conditions have taken a turn for the worse. No human now lives in this depressing world, only robots are left to clean up the mess.


On the other hand, people who have gone on the Cruise lead very different lives now. They are virtual prisoners of their magnetic chairs that travel at high speeds and allow them access to various amenities without them ever leaving the chair. Not to mention, the very consumerist lifestyle they live. As a result of this very sedentary and convenient lifestyle, they have become globs of fat who haven’t known life apart from the small electronic screen that is perpetually just inches away from their faces, and beings that have never had any interpersonal relationships that they hadn’t routed to their screens.


At a time of global concern for the disrupted and extreme weather patterns, as a result of global warming, this movie establishes its relevance as it depicts a world discarded like the trash it now houses. It also takes a jab at consumerism that is also a big factor in the amount of garbage people produce in a day. With technology increasingly taking over our everyday lives, the movie also touches on how it alientates everyone as it brings people closer ang shrinks the world smaller, by reducing, if not completely removing human interaction.


However, I realize that this movie could very well be a story about contemporary Philippines.


The Philippines. The physical landscape has changed a lot. There are numerous flyovers, MRT/LRT lines and foot bridges that snake through the metro. The call center industry is booming. Shopping malls never seem to be empty of people. All these give an illusion of wealth, security and positive growth.


But taking off our rose-colored Ray bans, we see things differently. In the metro, more squatter’s areas have sprung up – under the bridges, beside building perimeter fences, in vacant lots. In the provinces, more fields are giving way to subdivisions, mining operations, golf courses or cash crops. With almost daily price hikes of oil prices and basic commodities, and the added burden of 12% tax on everything, people have turned into automatic machines that work nonstop – if ever there is work available for them – just to survive.


Year after year, scandals break out, and these are not the “scandals” that people can buy for a mere Php 50. These are scandals that involve millions, if not billions, of taxpayers’ money. As a result, the ruling clique has scrambled to make, or break ties with people they deem useful, or otherwise. And with the military on a rampage against dissidents, the political climate now is highly volatile.


For many Filipinos, except perhaps those very affluent and influential families, life in the Philippines has ceased to be fun and turned into a burden. Their world is fast becoming unable to sustain their growth and development.


On the other hand, there are also these people who, like those who went on the Cruise, seem to be completely oblivious to everything. They are the Filipinos who are in denial of the very sad state of our country. They also represent Filipinos who have lost faith in the battle against corruption, poverty and ignorance, that they prefer to cocoon themselves in their safe and comfortable chairs, rather than do something – anything – to bring about a change and rock the boat, thereby costing them their “convenient, paycheck-to-paycheck” lifestyle.


But there is hope as personified by a minority in the movie, Wall.e, Eve and the Captain. Wall.e is one of the worker-robots scraping a living out of garbage. Eve is an explorations robot that looks for signs of life, of hope in the once-beautiful Earth. And Captain is the Nth Cruise captain who discovers for the first time where their home is. A lowly worker, a middle class employee and a member of the ruling clique (well, he is The Captain) joined forces to enforce a long-overdue change. Together, the trio battled the violent opposition of other robots who think they are doing the best thing if they keep the ship afloat in space and never return to Earth. They realized that nothing will happen to Earth if nobody cared enough to do something to nurse it back to health. So they took it upon themselves to go out of their comfort zone, hurdle many obstacles and start striving for a new liveable and sustainable Home.


Their unique partnership symbolizes a unity that transcends class, gender and social status, all for a single goal. This story is the perfect wake-up call for many Filipinos who have given up hope for a substantial societal, political and economic change. The sun still shines. We can still turn things around, only if we find it in our hearts to care enough to do it, and be willing to brave the sacrifices that come with pursuing our dream.


The love story element of Wall.e and Eve has ceased to be a private affair. It has encompassed a wider scope and included the Captain. The love story is now a story of love for the country, our home, the Philippines.




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