Thursday, October 27, 2005

Enriching the earth with our bodies

``You are nothing but an infinitesimal combination of earth's rocks, water and air; these are two billion years of evolutionary explorations, new trials, new combinations, new forms of life.... beauty comes in knowing what you are and where you came and why you be, earth child.'' – Walt Whitman

During the long weekend ahead when we honor our dear departed, it behooves us to ponder on our mortality and immortality.

In the film ``The Lion King’’, King Mufasa gives Simba, the future Lion King of Pride Rock, a lecture on life and death. ``When we die,'' he tells his only begotten son, ``our bodies become the grass. And the antelope eat grass. Then we become part of the great circle of life.''

Human beings are the most notorious when it comes to the disruption of ``the circle.'' By opting not to go back to the earth, humans have cut themselves off from the great circle. Burial practices have deprived our living planet of the enrichment it deserves.

Die-hard ecologists tell us that the best way to bury the dead is to dig a hole in the ground, gently lay the dead in there and cover it with soft, warm earth. There the dead breaks down into different elements and participates in the earth's life-giving process. Why consign a corpse to an airless, concrete tomb where it cannot enrich various life forms?

Thursday, October 20, 2005

`Shameful episode’ in Australia

A visiting friend from Melbourne brought with her an October copy of the Australian newspaper The Age that has the Vivian Alvarez Solon case as banner story. The ombudsman’s report on the bungled immigration case has been released and the axe was expected to fall.

The banner article, Vivian’s huge photo, blurbs and cartoon occupy three-fourths of page one of the daily (which, in this age of shrinking broadsheets, maintains a size that is two columns wider than the Inquirer).

Inside are three more articles, Vivian’s photo as a missing person, and other related items.
The Age doesn’t have a one-liner for a headline like the Inquirer does.

The banner headline is long: ``It is a `shameful episode’ (in red) in the history of immigration in Australia. The management of Solon was `catastrophic’ (in red). The unlawful removal of one of our citizens is `almost unthinkable’ (in red).

The small kicker above it says: ``The Alvarez Solon verdict: A damning judgement against the Immigration Department.’’

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Remembering poverty

October is the month when the world is supposed to pause, remember and confront the issue of poverty and hunger. Oct. 16 is World Food Day while Oct. 17 is the Day for Overcoming Extreme Poverty--the latter by virtue of a UN Resolution and a presidential proclamation.

October is Indigenous People’s (IP) Month in the Philippines, and the IPs being among the poorest and hungriest in the country, the whole of October should belong to them.
In Southern Palawan, IPs and long-time settlers are undertaking a ``Solidarity March for Land and Life’’ that will cover the distance from Rio Tuba to Puerto Princesa City. It started yesterday, Oct. 12, and will last till Oct. 17.

The march will highlight the IPs’ call to the local, provincial and national government to look their way. The issues being raised are the slow processing of ancestral domain claim applications, government neglect and unfair local and national laws that threaten the culture and livelihood of indigenous communities. Among the marchers are members of the Palaw’an and Molbog tribes and fishermen from the towns of Bataraza and Balabac.

Thursday, October 6, 2005

Pamulaan, a sign of life

While our national leaders continue to engage in verbal and political acrobatics and while many of us are suffering from political diarrhea and dementia, there are special Filipinos who continue to dream dreams and do their own part as if there indeed is hope for this benighted nation.

Somewhere in bullet-riddled Mindanao, a special tertiary school or college is rising. The school is named Pamulaan Center for Indigenous Peoples Education. Ground breaking will be held next week, Oct. 13. Program partners will sign an agreement after which the construction of buildings will begin. These should be finished in time for school opening in June next year.

By the way, October is Indigenous Peoples (IP) Month. For many years now, the Catholic Church here in the Philippines has been celebrating the second Sunday as Indigenous Peoples Day, focusing attention on the concerns of the IPs, especially the marginalized groups in remote areas.

Pamulaan means seedbed. It is a college education program for the IPs in the Philippines and is a response to the IPs’ dream of an educational program that is rooted in their life, culture and aspirations as a people.

One of the main driving forces behind the endeavor is 42-year-old Benjamin Abadiano, 2004 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Emergent Leadership and, at present, executive coordinator of Assisi Development Foundation. A dreamer and doer, Abadiano pulled all stops to make the Ips’ dream come true. He was not disappointed. Help came quietly like spring water flowing to seeds waiting to burst into life.

Pamulaan is the fruit of the partnership of various government and non-government agencies. The partners are the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples, Assisi Development Foundation, Cartwheel Foundation, the Office of Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., and Ilawan Center for Volunteer and Leadership which Abadiano founded.