Qwertyman No. 30: Alternatives to Cha-cha

Qwertyman for Monday, February 27, 2023

WE PINOYS know—as night follows day—that every time a new administration comes to power, a fresh initiative emerges to amend the 1987 post-EDSA Constitution. Fidel V. Ramos tried it with his ill-fated PIRMA campaign, followed by Joseph Estrada’s “Constitutional Correction for Development,” the attempt of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s congressional allies to form a constituent assembly without the Senate, and even Noynoy Aquino’s reported openness to giving the President a second term. Rodrigo Duterte included “charter change” or cha-cha in his platform and tried to push it until Covid came.

Most Filipinos, let’s admit it, don’t even know what the Constitution contains, but a few of us seem hell-bent on changing whatever is in there. Never, of course, for selfish reasons like extending term limits (now why would we even suspect our politicos capable of such nefarious designs?) but for “economic provisions only” (although extending one’s term limit is a very healthy economic provision, as far as I can tell). 

Cha-cha is in the air once again, fellow citizens, going around the House and Senate like a marching band, despite President Marcos Jr.’s public disavowal of support for the proposal. 

Even the National Economic and Development Authority’s estimate that cha-cha—the convention and the plebiscite—could cost as much as P28 billion (yes, that’s a B) isn’t likely to deter its proponents from advancing their cause. With more than five years to go under BBM, a lot of plausible reasons could be found for coughing up that money. Why, even the President could change his mind over that period, persuaded perhaps by a groundswell of demand for cha-cha that he can’t possibly ignore. (Why am I suddenly thinking of that pool resort in Cavite with the artificial wave machine that we so enjoyed last summer?)

Perplexed by this insistence on the need for cha-cha now, I turned to my favorite chatmate, sounding board, and political counselor—ChatGPT—for some answers and explanations. (I know what you’re thinking—I’m just making all of this up—but no: I actually paid good money for this app, so I’m going to get  my money’s worth. If you don’t believe me, try asking it the same questions.) Here’s a transcript of my conversation with ChatGPT:

ChatGPT: Hello, How can I assist you?

Qwertyman: How important is cha-cha to the Philippines?

ChatGPT: Cha-cha is an important dance to the Philippines, as it represents their culture and traditions. It holds a special place in the hearts of many Filipinos and is regarded as a national dance. It is often performed in public gatherings and celebrations to bring people together and express joy and happiness.

(Hmmm, I don’t know where you got that, ChatGPT. Pinoys who remember Nestor de Villa and “Dancetime with Chito” might have a hankering for the cha-cha, but I don’t see any great demand for it from millennials or even their parents. Are you sure it’s that special to us?)

Qwertyman: Why cha-cha? Why not the twist or the shingaling?

ChatGPT: The cha-cha is a distinctive Latin dance with an easily recognizable beat, which makes it easy to follow. It’s also more graceful and flowing than other partner dances, making it well-suited to more formal events. In addition, its pattern of three steps forward and two steps back is easy to learn, making it a great choice for beginners.

(That’s what worries me, ChatGPT. As you say, it’s “a great choice for beginners,” which is probably why a rookie senator is on top of the process. Some of us are also worried that cha-cha will mean two steps forward and three steps back.)

Qwertyman: But what if people just want to sit down and not do the cha-cha?

ChatGPT: That’s perfectly fine! There are many ways to have fun and enjoy one another’s company without having to do the cha-cha. You could play board games, cards, watch a movie, listen to music, engage in conversation, etc. Whatever makes you and the people around you comfortable and entertained is the best way to go!

(Totally agree! Someone should tell our esteemed lawmakers that they can do this, too—play board games, cards, watch a movie, listen to music, engage in conversation—rather than tinker with the Constitution, especially if it’s beyond their comprehension.)

Qwertyman: What are the dangers of doing the cha-cha?

ChatGPT: The dangers of doing the cha-cha include: 1. Potential for pulled muscles or sprains due to improper form, which increases the risk of injury. 2. Risk of slipping and falling since the cha-cha can involve quick, sharp movements. 3. Risk of strain on the joints due to the fast, jumping nature of the dance. 4. Risk of overheating due to the amount of movement required for the cha-cha.

(To which we can add: 1. The potential for a further decline in the quality of our leadership, by the extension of political dynasties into future generations of inbred politicians, raising the genetic potential for imbecility. 2. Risk of slipping and falling back into old ways and faces of governance. 3. Risk of strain on the national budget. 4. Risk of overheating the political climate.)

Qwertyman: Is it better to do the cha-cha today or some other time?

ChatGPT: That depends on what you have planned for today. If you have other commitments or would like to save the cha-cha for another time, it is best to choose an alternate date.

(Other commitments? Hmmm, let me think. Defending our patrimony in the West Philippine Sea? Achieving price stability for basic commodities? Fighting corruption? Raising the competencies of our children in STEM? Dispensing justice, especially in long drawn-out cases like the Maguindanao Massacre, the tokhang murders, and Leila de Lima’s incarceration? Providing housing, livelihood, and adequate social security to the poorest Filipinos? Is this list long enough?)

Qwertyman: What are the best alternatives to the cha-cha?

ChatGPT: 1. Bachata 2. Salsa 3. Merengue 4. Cumbia 5. Samba 6. Paso Doble 7. Tango 8. West Coast Swing 9. Bolero 10. Contemporary Latin Dance.

(I have to admit you got me there, ChatGPT. I’ve never heard of the bachata—unless you mean “ban charter talk”?)

(Image from The Adobo Chronicles)