Thursday, October 19, 2017

They know where Jonas Burgos is

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Inquirer photo
What a heartbreaking moment it was for Edita Burgos, mother of Jonas Burgos who has been missing for 10 years, when a Quezon City court acquitted Army Maj. Harry Baliaga of arbitrary detention charges last Oct. 12. Baliaga was one of those suspected of involvement in Jonas’ abduction in 2007. Jonas has not been found or heard from since then. His whereabouts are unknown and no one has come forward to say with certainty what has happened to him.

Jonas’ father, the late Jose Burgos, was a press freedom icon who suffered detention. He was the publisher of We Forum and, later, Malaya, stalwarts of the so-called alternative press that challenged the Marcos dictatorship during its waning years and precipitated its downfall.

From the Burgos family’s timeline on Jonas’ disappearance:

April 28, 2007: Jonas Burgos was abducted at about 1:30 p.m. by four armed men and a woman in civilian clothes while he was having lunch at the Hapag Kainan restaurant in Ever Gotesco Mall, Quezon City. Jonas was alone and unarmed. A waitress who saw the forcible abduction positively identified Jonas from a picture shown to her. Jonas is a farmer who manages the family organic farm in Bulacan. Jonas has been giving technical training to members of the Alyansang Magbubukid ng Bulacan (Peasant Alliance of Bulacan), a local chapter of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, since 1999. The Philippine government and the Armed Forces of the Philippines have labeled the KMP a “front” organization for the Communist Party of the Philippines.

May 2, 2007: Larry Marquez, a security guard on duty at Ever Gotesco Mall, from where Jonas was abducted, told police that Burgos was dragged by the suspects to a maroon Toyota Revo with plate number TAB 194, as Burgos shouted for help.

May 2, 2007: The Burgos family filed a missing person complaint with the Philippine National Police.

May 4, 2007: In an investigation by the PNP, and through the efforts of the family, the license plate number was traced to a vehicle that was in the custody of the 56th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Bulacan. It was impounded from illegal loggers on June 24, 2006. Senior Supt. Joel Coronel, who led the police investigation, was relieved of his post shortly after he traced the vehicle in Burgos’ abduction to the Army.

The timeline covers almost a decade and tells about the roller-coaster ride that the Burgos family has been through. The family’s experience includes a habeas corpus petition, court hearings, subpoenas, and investigations.

Significantly, in 2013 President Benigno Aquino III ordered a thorough inquiry involving the Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation. Still no Jonas. The search and hearings continued. Last Oct. 12, the acquittal was handed down.

From where I watch, the frustration is not so much about the acquittal of someone suspected of having to do with Jonas’ disappearance as it is about seeing all efforts to find him seemingly hitting a dead end. Where to next?

Right after his acquittal, Baliaga sidled up to Jonas’ mother Edita who was in the courtroom. It must have been a discomfiting moment for both, but I want to see a ray of hope in that courtroom moment. With Baliaga free of his legal burdens, might he — innocent or not before God Almighty — want to help find Jonas, as Edita dared to propose?

If not Baliaga, there are other people out there who had something to do with Jonas’ abduction and disappearance. Jonas could not have been taken by aliens from outer space, but by human beings. Who are they, where are they? They, too, have families, so can they not find it in their hearts to send Edita leads, anonymously if need be, so that she may find her son, alive or dead?

It is not too late to make things right, if not legally, at least for the peace of mind of those who are concerned, to lighten the weight on their consciences, but most of all, for the sake of Edita, a widow and mother in search of a missing son.

Try me. In the past, through this column I had made suntok sa buwan (a stab at the moon) calls for one thing or other, and got unexpected results. To borrow the last line from “The Little Prince” of Antoine de Saint-Exupery: “Send me word…” #

Thursday, October 12, 2017

IPs are us

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

This month is National Indigenous Peoples (IP) Month in the Philippines. The National Commission for Culture and the Arts is taking the lead with “Dayaw,” a festival.

Note, too, that the Catholic Church in the Philippines designates the second Sunday of October as Indigenous Peoples Sunday, with the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) encouraging the clergy and lay faithful to observe the day in various creative ways. The CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples (Ecip) is supposed to oversee various ministries among IPs.

Redemptorist Bro. Karl Gaspar has written about how the Ecip came to be in 1978. It would be safe to say that the government’s designation of October as National IP Month might have been a way to sync with the Church’s practice.

Although it was on Aug. 9 that the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples was celebrated, our national celebration this month should take cognizance of our IPs’ foreign counterparts. Worth mentioning is that Sept. 13 was the 10th anniversary of the United Nations’ Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The declaration, a UN statement said, “is the most comprehensive international instrument on the rights of indigenous peoples. It embodies global consensus on the rights of indigenous peoples and establishes a universal framework of minimum standards for their survival, dignity and well-being.”

(Note that we use the double plural “peoples” to refer to the various distinct groupings, and the regular plural “people” in referring to IP individuals.)

The UN reminds that: “There are an estimated 370 million indigenous people in the world, living across 90 countries. They make up less than five percent of the world’s population, but account for 15 percent of the poorest. They speak an overwhelming majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages and represent 5,000 different cultures.

“Indigenous peoples are inheritors and practitioners of unique cultures and ways of relating to people and the environment. They have retained social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live…

“Indigenous peoples have sought recognition of their identities, way of life and their right to traditional lands, territories and natural resources for years, yet throughout history their rights have always been violated. Indigenous peoples today are arguably among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups of people in the world. The international community now recognizes that special measures are required to protect their rights and maintain their distinct cultures and way of life.”

I am pleased to say that over the years, I have written a good number of long feature articles and column pieces on the Philippines’ IPs (Mangyan, Kalinga, Tingguian, T’boli, B’laan, Aeta) and I even thought of putting these together in one book. (Some have found their way into my anthologies.) They might sound dated, I thought, but they are also a slice of the IPs’ history (with photographs and all). As in once upon a time…

Immersing oneself among IPs, even for a very short while, and learning about their struggles and dreams, have been very unforgettable and enriching, and sitting down in solitude to write about them a profound contemplative experience.

Don’t we all have IP roots? When do we cease to be IPs?

Speaking of tattoos that make our IPs culturally distinct, University of the Philippines Baguio anthropology professor Analyn V. Salvador-Amores has written an award-winning book, “Tapping Ink, Tattooing Identities” (UP Press, Cordillera Studies Center), which tackles “tradition and modernity in contemporary Kalinga society, North Luzon, Philippines.” It is thick and rich with well-researched information, made richer by old and recent color photographs plus illustrations.

Much has been said recently about tattoos, in reference to whether or not Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte, a son of the President, has on his back a dragon tattoo signifying membership in the so-called Chinese drug triad. At a Senate hearing, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV had dared the vice mayor to bare it for all to see. No way, the vice mayor said.

And what was that about—the House’s proposing an insult of a P1,000 budget for the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples for 2018? #

Thursday, September 28, 2017

'Harana.' food and memories

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

These past weeks and months I’ve been watching stage productions, documentaries and films, attending events and gatherings that dealt mostly with our human rights and the tyrants, despots and plunderers that oppressed us in times past, on how to be vigilant so that we will not be in shackles ever again.

So it was quite a change to receive an invitation to a “harana songfest” honoring and serenading one of the country’s celebrated cooks, Teresita Reyes, better known as Mama Sita, who is celebrating her 100th birth anniversary in culinary heaven. The invite came via Virginia R. Moreno, poet, playwright and many things else, whom one does not refuse especially if the event is at the Cine Adarna of the University of the Philippines Film Center which she midwifed into being — and no one is to dispute that.
“Harana Para Kay Mama Sita” is “Pasasalamat at Paggunita sa Isang Ina, Kababayan at Kusinera” presented by the Mama Sita Foundation and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. It was an evening of thanksgiving and remembrance for this mother (of more than a dozen children), Filipino and cook. No euphemisms for this denizen of the national kitchen. (“Kusinera” means cook.)

It was also a celebration of a life spent promoting the Philippines’ culinary heritage. Mama Sita created and perfected Filipino dishes not only for her large family but also for homesick Filipinos in the diaspora who craved the flavors of the native land. Long before the title “chef” became de rigueur and much coveted, Mama Sita was already kitchen bound, interested only in feeding people through her joyous cooking. She “lived, loved and cooked,” and she loved God, her family and her country. And so the musical tribute had to be just as flavorful, a banquet of folk songs, love songs and patriotic songs that brought back the yesteryears.

The music makers were The Andres Bonifacio Concert Choir with composer Maestro Jerry Dadap conducting (even while at the piano), and the RTU Tunog Rizalia Rondalla conducted by Prof. Lino Mangandi. In all, there were almost 100 of them on stage. (I spotted Inquirer contributor Amadis Ma. Guerrero in the choir, clad like a katipunero.) The soloists held their own with their solo numbers.

Before the show, while savoring the merienda (santol sherbet with a sprinkling of salt, anyone?) and while going over the exhibit/sale of Mama Sita food products and recipe books (I bought a copy of “Mama Sita Homestyle Recipes”), I bumped into Dadap who told me he would spring a surprise toward the end of the show.

The show (all in Filipino), directed by Victor Sevilla, was brisk and crisp, with inserted biographical vignettes lyrically recited with images projected on screen. The Filipino folk songs were followed by “harana” love songs then capped by rousing patriotic songs. National Artist Lucio San Pedro’s “Kayumangging Malaya” (lyrics by Rodolfo de Leon) shook my soul, as it always did in the past when it was sung in Masses celebrated by the late Fr. Ruben Villote. But with a 40-member choir and a 40-member rondalla bringing the music to a crescendo, my patriotic juices leapt and rushed to the sea.

To fete Mama Sita, Dadap composed a serenade: “Sita, Iniibig Kita,” and nationalistic songs “Awit ng Pagkakaisa” and “Alay sa Inang Bayan,” plus religious songs sung before and toward the end. Then a postre of a march, “Awit ng Pagkain, Mama Sita March.”

Oh, the surprise: While the choir was singing “Bayan Ko” (Constancio de Guzman), in came a soloist, three-year-old Eumie Maurin, in Filipino costume and all, who sang with gusto and hit the notes right like it was nobody’s business. I did take a photo of her singing but I kick myself for not turning on my camera’s recorder. (Anyway, famous cinematographer Romy Vitug and his team were recording).

Congratulations to you, Eumie, and to your parents Junnel and Edelyn (both members of the choir). Yes, Eumie is three years old! Backstage, her father was carrying her like a baby. I asked her parents’ permission to post her photos (with this article) on Facebook and they said yes.

So you see, patriotic fervor burns well with the kitchen fire. Food and freedom! #

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Preists, religious fought Marcos tyranny

Etched on the Wall of Remembrance at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani are the names of 27 priests/pastors and religious (women and men) who fought the Marcos dictatorship. A number of them died violent deaths or are counted among the desaparecidos (the disappeared). Many of them fought and died without seeing the dawn. The others continued the fight to end tyranny and died after freedom had been won.
They are among the 287 individuals who are in the Bantayog ng mga Bayani’s roster of heroes.
Know more by visiting the Bantayog website (http://www.bantayog.org/) and reminisce about those you knew and struggled with, or learn about many on the list for the first time. Or better still, physically visit the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City (corner Edsa and Quezon Avenue, near the Centris MRT station). And why not also visit http://martiallawmuseum.ph/?

The list here is by no means complete if we include lay church workers who also gave up their lives and have made it to the Bantayog list. Alas, this column space has its limits. (Anyway, yearly and almost without fail, I write about the latest additions to Bantayog’s list of martyrs and heroes from different sectors.)
Today, 45 years after the declaration of martial law that ushered in a repressive regime that lasted 14 years (1972-1986), I list here the names of the heroes and martyrs from the church sector, they who held up the light during those dark times under tyrannical rule. 
I present their names in the hope that readers would recognize their contribution to the restoration of freedom in this country. And so that those who knew them personally (as I did a good number of them) would pause to remember and emulate their courage in these present times as we gaze, once again, at the darkening sky.
Tomorrow, I and several other martial law survivors will be speaking at a forum organized by the Ateneo University’s Faculty Association, School Forum, and Ugnayan ng mga Makabayang Guro — their way of “keeping our faith and hope in a repressive time.” Their objective is “to draw lessons from the lives and experiences of those who not only lived through the dark days of martial law, but also contributed in their own ways to the restoration of democracy in our country. Our hope is for the community to listen to stories of endurance and good so that those of us who feel helpless may cultivate inner resources that will help us to confront the moral issues of our time, including extrajudicial killings.” #

Thursday, September 14, 2017

'Pagsambang Bayan, the musical': liturgy of the masses

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by MA. CERES P. DOYO

In 1977 I watched the staging of Bonifacio Ilagan’s “Pagsambang Bayan” at the University of the Philippines and was blown away. Martial rule was then in effect under the Marcos dictatorship. But Ilagan, just freed from detention, came up with the daring opus. That version was directed by Behn Cervantes who was rearrested and jailed soon after.
After 40 years, “Pagsambang Bayan” is again on stage, this time as a musical and directed by Joel Lamangan and performed by Ang Tag-ani Performing Arts Society. Ilagan is this updated version’s scriptwriter, librettist and executive producer, supported by composers and arrangers. Watching it last week at the Irwin Theater of the Ateneo University brought a rush of memories that stoked still burning nationalistic embers.
Unlike “Jesus Christ Superstar,” the hit rock musical based on Jesus’ last days, or “Godspell” that tackled, through songs, the parables in the Bible, “Pagsamba” is a “mass,” with the songs, prayers and liturgical structure (all in Filipino, of course) hewing close to the Holy Mass as Catholics and others of allied churches know it. (A working definition of liturgy is “the official, public worship of the Church,” with emphasis on the word “public.”)

From start to finish, the musical tries to get the viewer on worship mode, but not in prayerful self-absorption. The opening song invites: “At tayo ay maglalakbay/ At tayo ay sasapit rin/ Doon sa Lupang Pangakong/ Nakalaan sa may pananalig.” (Let us journey together, and we will reach the Promised Land prepared for those who believe.)
It is a common journey toward freedom of an oppressed people. Their call: Come be with us.
The cast as worshippers/singers represents different sectors: the youth, urban poor, indigenous peoples, religious, workers, human rights victims, professionals, farmers, with some of them doubling as characters in the parable of the Good Samaritan. And there is the priest, the main celebrant. (Conrado Calnea Ong III, a seasoned tenor, was the priest when I watched. Eric Cabrera alternates.)
The musical has the basic structure of the real Mass with some tweaking. Except for a couple of Mass songs by Jesuit Eduardo Hontiveros that lend familiarity, the rest of the music are originals.
The prologue: a video of last year’s funeral procession of the long-dead dictator Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Cemetery for Heroes) as justified by President Duterte. Flashbacks on the 1986 People Power that ousted the dictator and the Marcos family’s eventual return.
Then a discourse on Mr. Duterte’s winning the presidency and his bloody war on drugs and the killing of more than 10,000 persons.
A bamboo crucifix is brought in amid a rousing chorus of voices, and the Mass begins. In one part the people decipher the meaning of Genesis 1:26, what it means to be “in God’s image.” And after the gospel reading about the Good Samaritan, the priest is not able to deliver a homily in the way he knows how.  Instead, he listens.
For Catholics and other Christian groups with Eucharistic rites, the Mass is “the central act of worship, the source and summit of Christian life.”  The Mass is indeed a great medium or platform for artistic creations. Consider the Masses composed by Faure, Brahms, Beethoven and Mozart, to name a few, and in modern times, Andrew Lloyd

Weber (“Requiem”). From my 1986 visit to Nicaragua I brought home the fiery “Misa Campesina” (Mass of the Peasants) by Carlos Mejia Godoy (I played it just now). But these are all music to be performed in auditoriums and real Masses in churches.
In contrast, “Pagsamba” is a musical stage production, with the stage as altar and the altar as stage. The altar—where the plaints and pains of the world are offered and distilled, where the journey is ended and begun.
The denouement and great reveal: The priest undergoes a dramatic transformation. Ite missa est. The real journey with the masses begins.
Play dates: Sept. 21, CCP Little Theater. 8 p.m.; Sept 22 and 23, 3 p.m., 8 p.m.; Sept. 27, Holy Angel U in Angeles City, 3 and 7 p.m. Tickets available at TicketWorld (8919999) and the CCP box office. Special showings can be arranged.

Read more: http://opinion.inquirer.net/107112/pagsambang-bayan-musical-liturgy-masses#ixzz4tkOoPU6E
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Thursday, August 24, 2017

Tugdaan: Mangyans' seedbed of hope

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

In Paitan, there live gentle people who know not the ways of war, people the color of clay, shy and swift like the deer, mountain-sturdy, brothers and sisters to the vanishing tamaraw.

I wrote that in 1988, I visited Paitan, a village in Naujan, Oriental Mindoro, where a community of 250 Alangan Mangyan families lived. I stayed at the 220-hectare Paitan Mangyan Reservation. I was there to find out and write about their endangered lives and ancestral domain, and also to immerse myself, even for a short time, in their way of life. I listened to their myths, legends and everyday concerns. I went there upon the invitation of Sr. Victricia Pascasio, a Missionary Sister of the Holy Spirit and social action veteran whose heart, mind and soul are attuned to the concerns of indigenous peoples (IP).

My piece came out in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine (“Reclaiming a Lost Eden,” 4/7/1988). It was about the intrusion of non-Mangyan into their territory that had been declared ancestral domain and the threat to their lives (a leader had been slain) and peaceful ways.

I did go back to Mindoro some years later to write about yet another Mangyan community, the Tadyawan. The Mangyan of Mindoro Oriental and Occidental are grouped into Alangan, Tadyawan, Bangon, Buhid, Iraya, Hanunuo and Tau-buid.

In 1989, Ben Abadiano, a young anthropology graduate, came to Paitan, stayed for a couple of years to put up Tugdaan (Alangan word that means seedbed) that would later expand as Tugdaan Mangyan Center for Learning and Development. The Holy Spirit Sisters were there to lend a hand. Abadiano went away for a few years because he thought he might become a Jesuit, but he did find out soon enough that his calling was with the IP communities. Tugdaan was waiting for his return.

Tugdaan, the seedbed, grew. It now occupies four hectares in the 220-hectare Alangan Mangyan’s Paitan reservation. It has a junior and senior high school, food processing centers, a heritage center and library, a training center, gardens, and more.

For his groundbreaking work that is Tugdaan, Abadiano, was awarded the 2004 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Emergent Leadership. He was 39 then. Abadiano, now president of Assisi Foundation and the Philippine Equity Foundation, also founded Ilawan Foundation and Pamulaan — which also means seedbed — a college for IP students from all over the Philippines. The school is inside the University of Southeastern Philippines in Davao City. He also set up Advocafe, an entrepreneurial offshoot of IP endeavors.

I was in Tugdaan last week for the turnover of the new training center donated by the Embassy of Japan. Atsushi Kobayashi of the embassy’s economic section came. An Alangan Mangyan elder conducted a “tawtaw” ritual to bless the structure and offer it to Kapwan Agalapet (God the Creator), while the students, all in their Mangyan finery (girls in intricately braided “yakis” skirts, boys in G-strings), sang songs. It was a proud day for the Mangyan leaders, particularly for Ligaya Lintawagin, director of Tugdaan and head of Samahan ng mga Nagkakaisang Mangyan Alangan. Representatives of the Hanunuo Mangyan were also present.

At the center of the training hall is the “palangganan,” a sunken square area which is a feature of Mangyan dwellings that shelter entire clans or neighborhoods. Here members of the clan place food and farm products for everyone to partake of. Changes will happen in Tugdaan in the coming months. Soon to be housed under one food processing center are the production of virgin coconut oil, calamansi concentrate, hibiscus concentrate, coffee and cacao products, etc.

Tugdaan (with the Department of Education) has published a beautiful booklet on IP education as implemented among the Alangan Mangyan of Paitan. Tugdaan’s Balay-Lakoy Research Center for Mangyan Culture has published children’s books as well as a compilation of Alangan words and phrases. By the way, the Mangyan are among the few indigenous groups in the Philippines that have an ancient syllabary or system of writing. Efforts have been made to preserve and make the young Mangyan proud of it.

Being in Tugdaan and with the Alangan Mangyan this time around was a wow moment for me. More another time. #

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Schizophrenic in Marawi and Iligan

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Heartbreaking is the news that of the over 400,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs or evacuees/bakwit) from the bombed out city of Marawi, more than 7,000 are now exhibiting schizophrenic behavior or are on the verge of developing schizophrenia because of the stress they have been going through in the past two months and a half. These IDPs are mostly camped in neighboring Iligan City and waiting to go home—that is, if there is still a place they can call home or a peaceful one where they can feel safe.

But before they can go home — and they have no idea when that would be — the stress they go through is taking a toll not only on their bodies but on their minds as well. Lanao del Sur Crisis Committee spokesperson Zia Alonto Adiong has been quoted as saying that some 2,500 evacuees are showing signs of schizophrenia. His source was the Integrated Provincial Health Office.

Schizophrenia is defined as “a serious mental illness characterized by incoherent or illogical thoughts, bizarre behavior and speech, and delusions or hallucinations, such as hearing voices.” In common parlance it means losing one’s sanity. I do not want to use colloquial terms here which would trivialize the state of mind of the affected IDPs. This is no laughing matter.

I don’t know how the IDPs’ mental and emotional state was assessed. Was there one-to-one examination of the evacuees, or were the conclusions based merely on casual observations of external manifestations? Whatever the case, it must have been easy for observers to see that something alarming was happening to many IDPs and it did not need trained psychiatrists or psychotherapists to conclude that the IDPs were in bad shape mentally, emotionally, physically. How much more can they take?

Most of the IDPs may not be shell-shocked as they were not caught in the crossfire and did not experience up close the fire fight between government troops and the Maute terrorists. If they did, it was only in the beginning. But the IDPs are badly traumatized because they have been forced to flee and leave their homes which, by now, might be rubble. Many of their family members have not been accounted for or are presumed dead.

Right now the IDPs are staying in evacuation centers and wanting in food and amenities. They may not die o f bullets but their lives may be shortened because of the hardship they undergo, the insecurity, uncertainty and fear. Government soldiers are surely undergoing something of their own, like shell shock, war trauma, posttraumatic stress disorder. So, too, are journalists and other media workers in the war zone.

This is the time when the National Mental Health Act should be in full use. Approved last February, Senate Bill No. 1354, which was sponsored by Sen. Risa Hontiveros, seeks to integrate mental services into the health system and for the government to provide mental health services at the community level and professional (psychiatric, psychosocial and neurologic) services in all regional, provincial and tertiary hospitals.

Article IV (on mental health services) lists the ways the services are to be dispensed in all these levels. I wonder how these services are now being implemented in places such as Marawi, Iligan and neighboring places affected by the ongoing fire fight where casualties on both sides are now in the hundreds. While the government is promising billions of pesos for the rehabilitation of Marawi City, what about the rehabilitation of its people? It is so much easier to repair structures that have been destroyed or to build entirely new ones, but restoring individuals’ shattered mind and spirit is no easy task. Traumatized individuals and families with losses to bear, if left on their own, could become like the walking dead, bereft of hope and direction.

The rehabilitation of mind and spirit should start now, even while the fighting goes on. Children are said to be resilient, but you never know. Let us not overestimate them. Neither should we underestimate them. If ignored, their fears and anger can become festering wounds that will be carried to adulthood. The children of war bear ugly scars. Who knows how the sound of guns would one day stir the silent rage in their hearts?