Qwertyman for February 6, 2023
THE HON. Victor M. Dooley, once again, was in a quandary. At the end of his trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, he was brimming all over with enthusiasm, eager to prove to his constituents that the money spent for his first-class ticket (and for his Chief Political Officer and rumored girlfriend, Yvonne Macahiya) had not been wasted.
There was a long list of sessions he had planned on attending, identified for him by Yvonne as strategically important, with titles like “What’s Next for Monetary Policy?”, “How to Turbocharge Development Finance”, “Living With Risk,” and “Mapping Russia’s Trajectories.” She had prepared briefs for him, along with a list of intelligent questions he could raise in the open forum, so they could take a picture of him, in his bespoke Senszio suit that he had ordered during his last junket in Brussels, on the floor. But as it happened, strolling up the Promenade on his way to the forum, Sen. Dooley found himself staring at a new Omega Seamaster 300 Co-Axial Master Chronometer at the window of a watch shop. He must have stood there for a very long time, because an unusually friendly salesman stepped out of the shop to invite him in.
“Guten Tag! Bonjour! Buongiorno!” the man said in the city’s three languages. “Good morning! Are you Indonesian?” This year, the Indonesians had put up a large national pavilion along the Promenade.
“No, no!” cried Victor. “I’m Filipino!”
“Ah, Filipino! Magandang umaga!” said the salesman. “We love Filipinos! Many of them come to Davos! Many of them come to my store. Come in, come in!”
Victor allowed himself to be ushered into the boutique, which, he had to admit, was warm and pleasant compared to the bitter cold outside. Last night, as he cuddled in bed with the snoring Yvonne, he had wondered why the WEF (which he would often misquote as “WTF,” to Yvonne’s dismay) insisted on holding the forum in the dead of winter rather than in some nice summery spot, like that lakeside place he had seen on “Crash Landing on You.” Why would people even want to talk about something as boring as economics in all that snow? Davos was meant for cuddling—which, sadly, was all he could now do with Yvonne, much to the latter’s dismay, unless he took an overdose of the little blue pills, which dismayed Yvonne even more.
But of course the Hon. Victor M. Dooley couldn’t refuse the President’s invitation. As chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Culture, and the Arts, he frankly had no idea why he was going to an economic forum in Switzerland, except that he was sure the President’s appointments secretary had a crush on him, and added his name to the list, as she had done for him in Belgium; surely his movie-star looks couldn’t hurt the delegation.
Naturally, Yvonne found and crafted a plausible reason for him: “Education, culture, and the arts are indispensable in shaping the new post-pandemic economy, especially given the global transition to online instruction and the response of creative industries to new opportunities created by this expanded platform. We cannot underestimate the importance of human creativity to economic growth. If traditional economics concerns itself with supply and demand, then creative industries can exert a powerful influence at both ends—creating new needs, new producers, and new resources that can only spur economic development, especially among sectors often marginalized by industrial homogenization. I would urge all our leaders here in the WTF—most notably those from the developed West—to look to the Philippines for new ideas, particularly in the fields of design, fashion, animation, music, indie filmmaking, food, and graphic arts. These are the growth industries of the 21st century, endeavors that our predominantly young populations can relate to with vigor and enthusiasm.”
Victor had to admit that it sounded good, although he had to have Yvonne explain “industrial homogenization” to him by pointing out that his Lexus looked like Congressman Tungkod’s Genesis G70, which also looked like Mayor Lanzones’ Audi A5, at which point Victor felt deeply depressed. But Yvonne pulled him out of his funk by having him memorize his spiel before a mirror—warning him, like a good coach, not to count off “design, fashion, animation, etc.” on his hand starting with his pinky finger, as Filipinos were wont to do. Victor felt energized; he couldn’t wait to fly to Davos and spring his little speech on the unsuspecting WTF’ers.
But now he was staring at the Omega Seamaster, glowing like a hypnotic planet. The salesman had taken it off the display shelf to cuff him with, and he felt locked to it for life, as if it belonged to him and he belonged to it forever. Why, it was James Bond’s watch, it went to the moon, and the price—well, surely Yvonne could free up half a million from his intelligence fund in the name of cultural diplomacy, which a little Filipino-Swiss transaction promoted.
“It’s worthy of a president,” the salesman whispered in his ear.
“I’m only a senator—yet,” said Victor. His throat felt dry.
“Then it will lead you to your destiny.”
That evening, at the dinner for the delegation, Sen. Dooley was chagrined to find that two other senators and even the president’s third cousin sported the same new watch. And everyone around the table was talking about some “sovereign wealth fund” that was going to save the country, which Victor, sans Yvonne who was consigned to dine with the secretaries, was clueless about.
“I know all about it,” she told him later at the hotel, as they packed for the flight home. “The secretaries told me. It’s big, and it’s as good as done.”
“And I’m not part of it? I have to announce something when we get home!”
“Are you sure you want to? According to ChatGPT, sovereign wealth funds are subject to risk tolerances, liability matches, and liquidity concerns. As it’s my job to protect you, let’s think of something else.”
As they cuddled on their last night in Davos, and as he watched the seconds tick by on his Seamaster, Victor felt an old stirring under the blanket, going back to his misspent youth, that revived long-dormant memories of simpler pleasures.
“I think I have it!” he told Yvonne. “This will be for everyone’s physical and mental health. We will train hundreds of thousands of masseurs and masseuses. Every Filipino, man or woman, will get a free massage after a hard day’s work.”
Yvonne seemed genuinely surprised. “Hmmm, that’s original!”
“We’ll call it the Maalikaya Health Fund. Our slogan will be ‘Every Filipino deserves a happy ending!”