Thursday, November 25, 2004

Women and AIDS

It’s six days before World AIDS Day which falls on Dec. 1. This year’s theme is ``Women and AIDS’’. For the past two successive years (2002 and 2003) the theme was ``Stigma and Discrimination’’. That this ran for two years means that the problem took a lot of time and effort to address.

In 2001 the theme was ``I care, don’t you?’’ and in 2000 it was ``AIDS: Men make a difference.’’ There has been a variety of themes since 1988. Now it’s the women’s turn.

HIV-AIDS has been around for more than two decades, at least, and millions have died of it since it was identified in the early 1980s. How much do you know? Here’s a little quiz that might bring up a few hard facts. See how you fare.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Media and hoaxes

If I came out with your story and found out later that there was no iota of truth to what you had told me, I am going to sue you, right?

I had said this a few times to interviewees who had told me stories that were either too good or too bad to be true and especially if it put certain persons in a bad light. Of course, this was said with a smile on my face and only after I had made the interviewees realize that I had given my time and heart and mind to hear them out. And so to remind and speak softly while carrying a big stick, so to speak.

I remember someone who broke into tears when I said this and my heart broke along with that storyteller’s but it had to be said even if there were supporters who stood by the veracity of the story and the credibility of the storyteller.

Nothing personal, I explained ever so gently. I’m just protecting my paper, I said. It helped a lot when the subject had a written account and all I had to do was for him or her to sign it. That is, if there was no sworn statement to begin with. One could always use tapes and videos. But there is nothing foolproof in this world.

Sometimes, because of security reasons the interviewee wants to hide behind an alias. But if the interviewee was the one who sought me out, I have reason to say, good for you, but what about me? Ako ang mapapatay dito. (I could get killed for this.) You have to help me prove that you’re real.

It’s bad enough to be taken for a ride, it’s worse than death for a journalist to be accused of fabricating a story and, worst of all, to be proven that one did.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Pearl of great price

``Dahil sa paniniwala ng mga Palawano na ang isang isda ay pinahahati sa lahat, nang dumating ang mga Cagayancillo tinanggap namin sila, nang dumating ang mga Muslim tinanggap namin sila, nang dumating ang mga Kristiyano tinanggap namin sila, nang dumating si Cojuangco ay pinaalis kaming lahat. Masakit ang nangyari.’’ (Because of the Palawanos’ belief that a fish is to be divided among all, when the Cagayancillo came we accepted them, when the Muslims came we accepted them, when the Christians came we accepted them, when Cojuangco came we were all driven out. This is painful for us.’’

Words of Pala’wan elder Upo Gariba in his narration about Apu, also known as Bugsok Island. He was quoted in Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel’s Nov. 8 privilege speech. The congresswoman condemned Jewelmer Inc. and the Philippine National Police’s blocking of Pandanan Channel, preventing fishermen and their supporters from entering what they claimed were their ancestral fishing grounds.

Jewelmer has filed a case against the groups involved.

Last week, this column came out with Jewelmer’s response to the NGOs and PO’s accusations that the pearl farm, owned by business tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco Jr. and partners, have displaced indigenous groups and barred them from fishing in their ancestral domain.

Sambilog and Task Force Bugsuk strongly belie Jewelmer’s claims point by point. Excerpts.

Thursday, November 4, 2004

Jewelmer justifies

In the interest of fairness, I am running in full the response of Jewelmer to my Oct. 21 column piece ``Fishers, pearls and Jewelmer.’’ The news peg there was Sambilog and Task Force Bugsuk’s attempt to fish in waters claimed by some members of indigenous peoples (IP) of Palawan to be part of their ancestral domain and to cross the Pandanan channel, both of which are off limits because of the presence of Jewelmer’s pearl farm. They were joined by Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel. A congressional inquiry is being planned.

Sambilog and Task Force Bugsuk will have their chance next week to demolish some of Jewelmer’s claims.

Here is Jewelmer:

``We are constrained to address the points contained in the aforementioned article for the purpose of presenting the side of Jewelmer International Corp. (Jewelmer) and, at the same time, rectifying the apparent distortion of facts and misrepresentations made by parties associated with the Samahan ng mga Katutubo sa Dulo ng Timog Palawan (Sambilog).

Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Limbo un-rocked

Today, Nov. 2, is All Souls Day, the day for our dear departed. But feast-loving Filipinos always do the feasting and remembering in advance as if there might be no more tomorrow. And so Nov. 1, All Saints Day, is what Filipinos consider araw ng mga patay.

We Filipinos have a way of advancing the calendar to suit our festive mood. Well, All Souls Day is the harbinger of the Christmas season. Tomorrow the Christmas season “officially” begins in these islands. It will last for two months.

But hold on awhile to the 11th month. We all have our early memories of this November feast that sends Filipino families in droves to their old hometowns. Celebrations in the provinces are so much more folksy and Pinoy, unlike those in Metro Manila where the feast has taken on an American macabre flavor that I find corny and TH.

On the solemn side of memory lane, some melodies refuse to die. I can still sing the first and last lines of the Latin Gregorian chant that the Benedictine sisters chanted during the Mass for the Dead in the beautiful neo-Romanesque chapel in school. “Dies irae, dies illa, solvet saeclum in favilla…” Translated as, “Nigher still, and still more nigh, Draws the day of prophecy…”

It ends with the soaring, “Lacrymosa dies illa, Qua resurget ex favilla…” “Full of tears and full of dread, is the day that wakes the dead…”

Oh, it soaked my soul and shook the ramparts of my young heart.