Thursday, August 25, 2005

Vinoba Bhave

The year was 1916. A young man was visiting India’s holy city of Benares to contemplate the crossroads before him.

Should he go to the Himalayas and live as a religious hermit immersed in silence and prayer? Or should he take the road to West Bengal and join the freedom movement that was fighting the British colonizers?

Twenty-year-old Vinoba Bhave was intensely drawn to both ways…

Before I continue, let me say that the names of the Ramon Magsaysay Awardees for 2005 have been announced. The RM Awards Foundation (RMAF) will honor these exemplary Asians on Aug. 31. Included in this week’s RMAF to-do is the launching of the second volume of Great Men and Women of Asia (GMWA). This book project is RMAF’s way of popularizing the lives of past RM awardees who, through their work and example, made an impact on the lives of many Asians.

We are in search of models, aren’t we?

I wrote four of the stories in last year’s first volume. This year, because of time constraints, I agreed to do just one. I picked the much-revered Vinoba Bhave, recipient of the first RM Award for Community Leadership in 1958.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Save the tree of life campaign

See, not everyone is cursing the darkness or wallowing helplessly in the political quagmire we are in. Not everyone is threatening to leave for parts unknown where the sun shines brightly, there to momentarily forget the hovering darkness that envelops the country, made darker still by more dark deeds, dark schemes, dark motives.

But yes, if you think this is darkness before daybreak, think again. This is more like darkness at noon and it’s still a long way to midnight and the breaking of a new day.

But there are so many reasons to be hopeful if only we cast a glance at the other side of the septic tank and go toward it.

This week, the Atikha Overseas Filipinos and Communities Initiatives, Inc. is launching a fund drive that intends to help save the coconut tree, push other community initiatives related to it, as well as develop coconut-based enterprises that will create jobs in Laguna and nearby areas.

This is being launched in the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego and New York in the USA as well as in Ontario and Toronto in Canada.

Atikha, which is spearheading this, was established in 1996 as an offshoot of a study on the social impact of women’s migration on families and communities in Laguna. Separation brought about by migration caused family difficulties. But more than that, all the years of separation bore fruit of a different kind—dependency on remittances and uncontrolled spending on the part of those left behind. Many overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs), upon returning home for good, find out their sacrifices were all for naught.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Roco in search of Camelot

``THINK back,’’ the late Raul Roco had mused, seemingly swallowed up in a fog of memories. ``Think back on all the tales that you remember of Camelot.’’

The words from the 1960s Lerner-Loewe musical often cascaded from Roco’s lips, as he thought back on how King Arthur sang about that ``fleeting wisp of glory, called Camelot.’’

Roco, former congressman, senator, education secretary and presidential aspirant, died of cancer Aug. 5. He was 63. He will be buried today in Naga City. Roco and another 2004 presidential contender, Fernando Poe Jr., died within eight months of each other.

``We were the Camelot boys,’’ Roco recalled when I interviewed him in his Antipolo hillside retreat named An Maogmang Lugar (Bicol for ``the happy place’’) famous for its tropical blooms that became the signature design of his campaign get-up.

The dream--how far back did it go, when first did the glimmer of the presidency come into view?

It was in 1961, Roco said, when he was president of the National Union of Students in the Philippines (NUSP), that something stirred in him. ``Those were the Kennedy years. Pres. Kennedy spoke of Camelot. `Right is might.’ When he said, `Ask not what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country,’ it was as if he was addressing me.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

A small scary story

While big national issues rage, while the big guys slug it out in the national arena and play to the bloodthirsty gallery, many Filipinos continue to live their lives in the shadows and in quiet desperation. If these skirmishes were projected on the big video wall, we, the spectators and passersby could only cower as the big, dark shadows and images overwhelm us. The cheering and the cajoling come from the bettors lusting for the spoils.

Many Filipinos continue on with their day-to-day chores wondering when and how it will all end. In the meantime, the stereophonic, cacophonic, dumbing din becomes even more assaulting to the senses. We are the proverbial lonely crowd waiting for an intermission and the exit door to swing open so that we could take in a chestful of fresh air.

While the fighting goes on in the big arena, thanks to its life-size projection in the media, our so-called peace and order guardians are busy looking after the top. The rest of us down below have to look after our own survival and safety. Evil is abroad in the land and stalks its prey with freedom and impunity.

During the President’s State of the Nation address, when it seemed all the police and security forces were concentrated in one battle area, the petty and big criminals must have had a field day.

Here is an account from Cierlene Rivera, a mother who saw evil up close. The incident happened two months ago when the ``Now Showing’’ political drama was just unfolding.