President Obama and the Man with the Golden "Bahag"

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Sagada-Igorot-Kamehameha-ObamaLeft: A statue of King Kamehameha I at the US Capitol. Right: A smiling cut-out of President Obama at the Washington, D.C. Union Station. Photos taken on December 2008.

The Man in the Golden Bahag. Upon entering the main lobby of the newly created Visitors Center at the US Capitol in Washington, D.C., there was one particular statue that caught my eye. It was that of a dark colored man, standing in a very regal manner, and dressed in what seemed like golden clothing. He was dressed in a “bahag” or loincloth, although it was not your ordinary loincloth. I read the inscription in the statue and learned that it was that of King Kamehameha I (pronounced kuh-mey-huh-mey-huh), the first king of Hawaii.

I was amused. I read about this king from a green colored hard bound book borrowed from the IATM library in Sagada during my elementary days. I recall a legend about his golden spear – if other people touch this spear, they would disappear. That’s actually a cool gadget to have don’t you think?

Sagada-Igorot-Washington-DCAbove: Our youngest chase squirrels at the US Capitol grounds. The fenced area in the background is where President Obama was inaugurated.

Hollywood’s President. When we were at the US Capitol, we took the chance to see the site where Obama will be inaugurated. At that time, there was a white fence that covered perimeter at the back of the Capitol where he would take his oath. We could not see much of the place. And rightly so – security was expected to be tight for weeks around the area. To say that there was huge excitement over his inauguration is an understatement. It was all over the place – Chicago Tribune had a whole section published the Sunday before the event. Major TV and Internet networks covered the preparations non-stop. Yes, it is a historic event. Yes, he’s the first African American to be president of the United States. Yes, he has the highest approval rating of any recent president-elects entering this office. Yes, his ascent to the highest position in the US, and perhaps even the world, is a testament to what he has achieved considering his humble origins.

But what stood out to me was the heavy involvement of Hollywood stars in the run-up events to his inauguration. It seemed that every major star was present in the capital. Oprah even got to host her show in Washington DC and had Vice President Biden and his wife attend as surprise guests. Oprah’s show also featured the world debut of "America's Song" sang by such superstars as Seal, Faith Hill, Bono, etc… I was disappointed about the song though. I was expecting a bit too much I guess. I was hoping for some excitement ala WE-ARE-THE-WORLD or maybe even the lesser known VOICES-THAT-CARE. To me, it was worse than the performance of the America’s Got Talent’s top 10 contestants during finals night. I didn’t even feel a single tingle run down my spine.

Back to the topic though – for someone like me who frowns on the ideals that Hollywood is promoting, I thought that the heavy involvement of the stars cheapened the run-up events a bit. I would rather hear ordinary people say how excited they are with President Obama than have big name celebrities gush and try to exhaust every available superlative to describe their feelings. It just feels, I don’t know – insincere?

The President's Inauguration. My wife was wondering why businesses and classes had to go as usual on the day of the inauguration. I agree. In the Philippines, it would have been a holiday, hehehe. For my son at least, they got to watch the inauguration on TV at school. I was only able to read the text of his inaugural address from the CNN website a couple of hours after the inauguration. My wife and our homeschoolers got to watch the whole thing.

I thought his speech can be summed up like this – we have problems, we will be facing the problems, I cannot do it on my own, all of us are very much a part of this mess and so I would like everyone’s help to solve it. It is a step back from the I-will-do-this-and-I-will-do-that rhetoric that categorized the campaign period. I suppose that’s the way it is. You campaign to win. Now that he won, its time to set the expectations down a bit.

President Obama was not my candidate, but I am cheering for the guy to do a good job during his term. At church last Sunday, the whole congregation bowed down in prayer for him and his family. We are not citizens of this country, but President Obama’s decisions are bound to impact lives in or outside the United States. In the end, his presidency will be most remembered by the decisions he makes, and not the speeches he delivers.

President Obama and King Kamehameha. There’s actually a link between President Obama and King Kamehameha that’s why I decided to lump both figures in this one post. They were both born and grew up in Hawaii of course, but there’s more. In a biography of President Obama that I didn’t complete reading at Barnes and Nobles, I read an anecdote where the president’s white grandfather teased tourists in Hawaii, that the boy Barack was actually a direct descendant of King Kamehameha. This made the tourists shoot souvenir photos of the future president.

Last Tuesday, somewhere in rural United States, an elderly couple was checking some old travel photographs from a Hawaii vacation decades ago. While watching the inauguration, the old lady turns to her near deaf husband and says, "Dear, our new president looks very much like that great-great-grandchild of the Hawaiian king with a weird name. He has a weird name too."


Jamie January 22, 2009 at 6:51 PM  

Hahaha. I laughed out loud at your story's ending. I was able to watch the full inauguration on TV. The fumble was funny too.

Kayni January 22, 2009 at 7:03 PM  

Interesting you have King K mentioned here. I'd really like to find where he's been buried. Lots of stories surround the whereabouts of his final resting place.