Thursday, November 23, 2017

The backhoe

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

2009 rally of media workers after the Ampatuan massacre.
I found the black T-shirt among my rarely used clothes and was about to send it away to Segunda Mana of Caritas Manila but, I thought, who would want to use a T-shirt with something about a massacre? I then decided that I would keep it until justice has been fully achieved, with the guilty sentenced and committed to the slammer, there to grovel for the rest of their lives like Charles Manson before he died in his sleep.
The black T-shirt has a red silhouette of a backhoe and the words “58 dead, 5 years, 0 justice. Ampatuan massacre 11.23.09.” It was given to us journalists to wear at a rally in 2012, the fifth death anniversary of the 58 persons, 30 media workers among them, who were murdered in one massive strike, a massacre of innocents that blows the imagination for its premeditation, mercilessness, heinousness, and the shocking attempt to hide the crime Nazi-style.
I just went over the nine-hour timeline written for inquirer.net by Matikas Santos on the Ampatuan massacre (“Maguindanao Massacre–How it happened” Nov. 21, 2014). Ampatuan is the town in Maguindanao where the powerful Ampatuan clan ruled with impunity.

On Nov. 23, 2009, Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadatu’s wife Genalin, accompanied by supporters, lawyers and a horde of media workers, were in a convoy on the way to file Mangudadatu’s certificate of candidacy for governor that would challenge the powerful warlord Ampatuan clan. They were coming from Buluan, the capital town of Maguindanao, and heading to the Commission on Elections office in Shariff Aguak. Mangudadatu himself stayed behind. On the way, armed men stopped the convoy, herded the passengers to a grassy area, and shot them dead. Even two passing vehicles, mistaken as part of the convoy, were stopped and the drivers and passengers also killed. Just like that.

The yellow Komatsu backhoe on standby was the piece of machinery used to dig the mass grave even before the massacre was committed, and to cover the corpses and vehicles as soon as the evil deed was accomplished. With its claw, this earth mover or excavator can dig and move dirt. It is a familiar workhorse in construction sites and garbage dumps. A backhoe is similar to but smaller than a payloader.

I saw backhoes (or were they payloaders?) at work at the Payatas dump soon after the 2000 garbage landslide that buried some 200 trash pickers. In the Payatas tragedy, these heavy equipment were used to extricate the dead and the near dead. They might have been lifesavers, too. In the Ampatuan massacre, the backhoe was used as an instrument to commit a crime, a massive, premeditated, politically motivated crime unmatched in this country’s election history. If you want to read about the backhoe driver’s blood-curdling account of the massacre, go to http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/437157/backhoe-driver-describes-maguindanao-massacre-burial.

On the lighter side, I actually have a photo of myself with friends riding on the upturned claw or bucket of a moving payloader, taken on a fun day decades ago in a construction site. Now, every time I see a payloader or backhoe, I am reminded, not of fun and frolic, but of the fate of those buried in cascading garbage and the victims of powerful and evil men on that fateful day which we now refer to as 11/23.

I often see backhoes at work on the road these days because of the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program. I avoid them while I drive and get out of their way fast for fear their long arms and buckets might swing in my direction and smash me to smithereens.

Today, the eighth death anniversary of the 58 victims, as in previous years, we again lament the slowness of the justice system. The Ampatuans’ lawyer then, Salvador Panelo, now President Duterte’s chief legal counsel, had said that the Ampatuans were framed. I leave it to readers to roll their eyes.

Journalists are sometimes thought to be intrepid survivors, the last ones left standing. Many have died in a crossfire, in which they were not the targets. In the Ampatuan massacre, the killers made sure no one, the media workers especially, would live to tell the story. #

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Shocking truth or shocking lie?

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

He stabbed someone dead when he was 16 years old, President Duterte told his Filipino audience in Da Nang, Vietnam, a week ago when he was there for the Apec conference.

His words in the raw: “At the age of 16, may pinatay na ako eh. Tao talaga. Rumble. Saksak. Noon 16 years old yun. Nagkatinginan lang. Eh lalo na ngayon presidente ako.” English translation: “At the age of 16 I already killed. A human being. Rumble. By stabbing. I was 16 years old then. Our eyes merely met. How much more now that I am president.”
The President did not say that he killed for self-defense.

This was not the first time that he bragged about his violent streak. He had openly confessed that he shot a fellow San Beda student when he was in college. The President ranted some more “You f*ck with my countrymen, I will not let that pass. Who cares about human rights? My issue is, at least we’ve killed them and that would lessen our problem. I will really kill you. That’s true. Let it be announced to the world.”

The newly appointed presidential spokesperson, Harry Roque, promptly performed damage control the way his predecessor from the “Department of Interpretation, Explanation and Translation” was wont to do.

“I think it was in jest. The President uses colorful language when with Pinoys overseas,” Roque said. Well, how many times in the past did Mr. Duterte’s spokesperson have to find explanations for his utterances that were either sexist, insensitive, insulting, or outright rude and unbecoming of a head of state?

This brag about having killed someone at the young age of 16—a crime of homicide — has yet to be proven true. But why dispute the President’s own words, Mr. Roque? If true, then he had indeed killed a human being as a teenager. Who did he kill? What became of the case? Was there a record of it?

If it was just a “jest” about something so serious, then it was no jest at all. It was a fabrication, a lie. The President therefore lied, and a person who lies is a liar. No one will not dare call him that but he made himself one by making up a story. If indeed he made up that story about himself — lied, that is — might he not be prone to doing the same about others? I shudder to think so.

You either did it or didn’t. To call a shocking statement mere hyperbole — as the President’s apologists are wont to do — is to miss its meaning. Hyperbole is “a figure of speech that involves an exaggeration of ideas for the sake of emphasis.” But it is based on something that is true. When a “Yolanda” typhoon survivor says that the waves are as big as mountains, there is basis for saying so. This is not a fabrication. But to state something as fact from out of nowhere, even if self-deprecating or especially to impress, is telling a lie. We don’t like liars.

Confessing (to simply impress or to sow fear) to killing at 16 CANNOT be a joke. It is either a shocking truth or a shocking lie. Either way, the speaker — proud, unrepentant and unpunished — is a walking peril.

While mulling these, I remember the long feature story about a crime that I wrote in the Inquirer on May 14 and 15, 1995. It was about the killing of Oliver Ong, 14, a scholar at the Philippine Science High School. Oliver had just stepped out of a fast-food place at SM City when Teddy Bernardo, 17, and Cesar Rivera, 20, took him at knife point and led him to Edsa. They wanted Oliver’s cash and when he refused to give it up they stabbed him six times and left him bleeding on the sidewalk.

I did a walk-through in the area in order to picture how it happened. I did a long interview with the young killers at the Quezon City Jail and their jailers as well. I also searched for Teddy’s mother in the San Roque slums and found her.

I am trying to find out where Teddy and Cesar are now, what they have become after 22 years. As to the Davaoeño who bragged that he killed someone when he was 16, he is, at 72, now president of this republic. #

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Red Wednesday for world's persecuted Christians

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

Westminster Cathedral in red on Red Wednesday 2016
Nov. 22 is “Red Wednesday,” when the world’s persecuted Christians will be remembered and prayed for in a special way. It is also a call for action. The Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) Philippines has called for the illumination or floodlighting in red of the facades of churches and other buildings on this day. ACN has also issued the call in other parts of the world.

Illuminating iconic structures in certain colors has become a practice to call attention to important issues, to denounce tragic events, or to simply celebrate.

Although the Red Wednesday Campaign is a Catholic Church initiative, it does not focus entirely on persecuted Christians who are Catholics but on all others of the Christian faith. And, more broadly, the call should equally apply to believers of other faiths who are persecuted because of their religion.

The Red Wednesday Campaign’s call is “Stand up for Faith and Freedom.” Red is the color of blood and martyrdom.

ACN was founded in 1947 as a Catholic aid organization for war refugees and was elevated as a papal foundation in 2011. It is “dedicated to the service of Christians around the world, wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or suffering material need.” ACN publishes and disseminates the Religious Freedom Report.

The Red Wednesday Campaign began in 2016 as an ACN-United Kingdom initiative. Lit in red were the Westminster Abbey, Westminster Cathedral, Houses of Parliament and Oxford University. Also lit up were the Fontana de Trevi in Italy, Sacred Heart Basilica in France, and Christ the Redeemer statue in Brazil.

According to ACN-Philippines, numerous studies consistently show that Christians are the most persecuted faith group in the world. Filipino Christians do not feel this because they are the majority. But unknown to many, there are areas in the Philippines where practicing the Christian faith is not easy.

ACN cites a study by Christian advocacy group Open Doors revealing that the global persecution of Christians has risen in the past four years. ACN also cites the findings of the Center for New Religions that over 90,000 Christians were murdered in 2016 and that half a billion Christians are unable to freely express their faith. The details are heartbreaking. These findings, ACN says, affirm Pope Francis’ statement that there are more Christians suffering today than there were in the early years of Christianity. Percentage-wise, that is.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has endorsed the Red Wednesday Campaign. To light up in red on Nov. 22 are 41 cathedrals (including the Manila and Davao cathedrals), 21 basilicas and national shrines (Quiapo, Baclaran and Edsa, among them) and three Catholic universities in the Philippines. Feel free to join. Christians are enjoined to make a statement by wearing red on that day.

ACN-Philippines’ call: “Let Red Wednesday be the start for Filipinos to lend their voice to the global call to uphold religious freedom and advocate for interfaith harmony. As one global Christian family, may our expression of solidarity be a witness to the power of love over hate and be a source of strength and comfort for Christians all over the world by sending a message that they are not alone and we are one with them in fighting for a better world where acceptance, love and respect for each other is the ultimate expression of faith in God.”

Cynics may say that Christians, at some point many centuries ago, were also persecutors. Well, we are now in the age of ecumenism, when religious freedom, not only in the name of grim tolerance but also out of genuine respect and appreciation for the diversity of faiths, should be — to borrow a millennial catchphrase — the “new normal.” Sadly, this is not so.

The Red Wednesday Campaign is only one of ACN’s projects. ACN-Philippines’ office is in the CBCP compound in Intramuros, Manila. Those who wish to help endangered Christians in Iraq, Syria, Nigeria and other troubled spots may do so through ACN. For info, visit https://acnuk.org/about/ or https://www.facebook.com/acnphilippines.org/.

Controversial theologian Hans Kung said it succinctly many years ago: “There can be no peace between nations if there is no peace between religions.” #

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Endangered wildlife,endangered humans

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

Five months of being barraged by scenes of war, death and destruction in Marawi City initiated by terrorists, a year and a half of groans and lamentations caused by thousands of drug-related killings, a scenario of a nuclear Armageddon from an Asian neighbor — and we cannot help wondering if we have perhaps become a nation of terrorized Filipinos, an endangered species. We have a front-seat view of — to borrow a movie title — a series of unfortunate events.

Preservation of human life has been uppermost in our minds. But even with all these, Manila hosted the United Nations conference of state parties to the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), a five-day gathering of some 500 delegates. It was the first time it was held in Asia, and we knew little about it while it was going on. CMS is short for the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals. It is also known as the Bonn Convention because it was in Bonn, Germany, that the Convention was negotiated in 1979.

Only after the meeting ended last week did we know more about it, and that 34 endangered species, among them the whale shark — the biggest fish in the world that also thrives and makes a home in the Philippines — were selected for stronger conservation efforts.

What is a migratory species? The Convention defines it as “one that cyclically and predictably crosses one or more national jurisdictional boundaries.” (So our endangered Philippine eagle—one of the three largest in the world—is not a migratory species.) Covered by the CMS are “mammals, birds, reptiles, fish and one insect… including many whales and dolphins, bats, gorillas, antelopes, albatrosses, raptors, waterbirds, sharks, sturgeons, marine turtles and the Monarch Butterfly.”

Some might wonder about all the fuss over migratory wildlife species while human lives are being decimated, exterminated, annihilated by their own species. Well, there is a science to it (ecology) and a spirituality to it (creation spirituality). By now we know what the so-called “web of life” or ecosystem is all about, our interconnectedness as citizens of Planet Earth (magkakadugtong ang bituka). As singer-composer Joey Ayala keeps belting out, “Ang lahat ay magkaugnay, magkaugnay ang lahat.”

I never get tired of correcting those who demonize certain animals and make them represent the worst of human behaviors. Vultures are good: They clean out rotting carcasses that could spawn harmful diseases. Important, too, are the nonhuggable crocodiles, snakes and bees. When bees begin to disappear, this planet is in trouble.

So working to preserve endangered wildlife vis-à-vis preserving human life is a nonissue. The Manila conference theme was “Their Future is Our Future: Sustainable Development for Wildlife and People.” The meeting in Manila was the largest in the 38-year history of the Convention. Going over the list of newbies on the CMS protective list is a treat for the imagination, with names such as Steppe Eagle, Asian Vulture, Sub-Saharan Vulture, Lappet-faced Vulture, Christmas Frigatebird, Black Noddy, Yellow Bunting, Lesser and Great Grey Shrike.

The Giraffe, Leopard and Lion are on the protective list, so is “humans’ closest relative,” the Chimpanzee, the near-extinct Gobi Bear of China and Mongolia, the Caspian Seal, and so on.

“In total, 12 mammals were afforded greater protection under CMS, 16 birds and 6 species of fish. Listing on Appendix I requires governments of Parties to protect the species while Appendix II calls for international cooperation to ensure that the conservation status of a species is favorable.”

Yes, all these while humans — because of war, terrorism ethnic cleansing and political and ideological strife — are being driven out of their habitats, their lives threatened. But why not?

As Chief Seattle said: “Every part of the Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every deer and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people. The perfumed flowers are our sisters, the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and the man, all belong to the same family.”

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Nun wrote diary on drug killings

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

With residents of San Andres Bukid filing for a writ of amparo from the Supreme Court against the Philippine National Police to protect their community from more drug-related extrajudicial killings and deadly police operations, focus is now trained on that densely populated area in Manila. This move could become a template for similarly situated communities whose residents tremble when they hear the sound of gunfire in the dead of night.

Singled out in the petition is Manila Police District’s Station 6 which, the petitioners said, has turned that area of police jurisdiction into a “killing field.” The petitioners also sought the relief of those assigned to Station 6.
According to an Inquirer news report, this is the fifth petition filed in the Supreme Court questioning President Duterte’s war on drugs which has left at least 4,000 dead in police operations and thousands in so-called EJKs (“PNP faces class suit in SC over drug killings” by Marlon Ramos, 10/19/17).

Aiding the petitioners is the Center for International Law or Centerlaw. Some weeks ago, groups of human rights lawyers held a press conference to announce the filing and related moves to counter the endless killings.

Here is a text message from Sr. Nenet Dano, a Good Shepherd sister who works in San Andres Bukid and who has been supporting the community’s plea against the killings. She is among those behind the writ of amparo petition. “After the writ was filed, one lady tanod of Barangay 770 was asked to write a tokhang salaysay (statement on the killings) by MPD Station 6 to counter what she had written… Three petitioners were called by barangay chair Enales of 775 to ask if they want to withdraw. That resulted in pangamba (fears). I pacified them.

“My personal experience: Six barangay chairs forced me to talk with them last Saturday evening as they thought they were in the complaint even though they were not. I told them to read the petition thoroughly and if they cannot understand, to have it translated in Filipino…

“Over the phone the chair of 787 asked: What if Mayor Erap calls him and asks questions? Most of the heads are scared because they have no knowledge of the petition.”

While I was writing this column, I received this added information: “Victoria Factor (one of the petitioners) was also called by Barangay 770. She was in panic as the barangay head told her to get a lawyer so she could reverse her statement. She calmed down after our lawyers assured her [that there was no cause for worry].”

I have in my possession this nun’s diary on the drug killings which she began writing several months ago. Here are excerpts:

“When the second killings happened on July 28, 2016, which involved three young men, I asked: ‘Is killing the only solution to solve the problem of illegal drugs?’ I was very disturbed and restless. Something should be done, I thought, and I should do something as a personal advocacy.”

As months passed, the body count increased. Sister Nenet provides a list of names, ages, dates when killed (for lack of space, I did not include the action taken):

Edwin D. Eduardo, 47, 7/7/17; Ernesto Martinez Cruz, 49, 6/21/17; Ramon Rodriguez, 55, 6/10/17; SPO Dennis Padpad, 47, 5/29/17; Reynaldo T. Javier, 35, 5/25/17; Ryan Dimacali, 31, 5/6/17; Bimbo Merced, 37, 1/25/17; Joshua Merced, 22, 1/25/17; Leo Merced, 25, 1/25/17; Eduardo M. Gores, 29, 1/18/17; Ramil Gallo 22, 1/4/17; Randy Concordia 34, 12/15/17; Jay R. Estreller, 30, 12/15/17; Emiliano Blanco, 36, 11/30/16; Joseph Baculi, 32, no date; Gilbert Beguelme, 31, 11/9/16; Alvin Mnedoza, 23, 10/11/16; Ryan Eder, 28, 7/28/16; Willy de Leon, 42, 9/30/16; Jomar Manaois, 20, 7/18/16; Jefferson Bonoan 20, 7/18/16; Mark Anthony Bonoan, 18, 7/18/16; Conrado Berona (the very first one to die, not fully documented) 7/05/16; Manuel Roy Manalac, John Paul Martinez, Rollyn C. Frias, a certain Patricia, Jerson Colaba, Josing Colaban (all six cases not fully documented).

The nun’s diary is long and covers more than one year; the list of the dead covers July 2016-July 2017. Total number of recorded drug kills in that neck of San Andres Bukid: 29.

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.” #