Thursday, July 26, 2007

A clean, well-lighted place

On June 30, 1992—that was 15 years ago—just before the new president, Fidel Ramos, was going to be sworn in, I was somewhere in Santa Cruz, waiting for our photographer. I was in a rush to finish an assignment so I could be home to watch the swearing in on TV.

I was doing a magazine story and I forget now what it was. But what turned out to be unforgettable was my encounter with a family of soon-to-be-seven that lived in two pushcarts. The mother’s name was Evangelina Gamutan. She was 34 but looked 54. She was ngo-ngo (with a cleft palate) and was heavy with her fifth child. Her children were aged 3 to 13. The eldest looked like she was six and had only been to Grade One. Her husband scavenged for used bottles and sometimes begged for alms.

If Angelina is still alive now she should be 49 by now and with, maybe, 10 children. When I asked her then where she was going to give birth she answered, “Ung a-an abu-in.” Kung saan abutin or wherever.

Soon they were going to be seven in all. The two wooden carts would have become too small for the growing brood. I was struck by the things Evangelina had in her mobile home. She had a dish rack, a rusty thermos bottle, a dirty teddy bear, a broom…Just like what you’d find in any home. You bet she didn’t know there was a new guy up there and newly sworn-in lawmakers and government officials as well.

This scene was swimming in my head while watching Pres. Arroyo deliver her seventh State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday. I noted down a pair of words she emphasized—dunong at kalusugan. Knowledge and health as keys to a person’s becoming and one of the basic driving forces of a community’s progress. For how to move forward if one was not equipped with the mental know-how and did not have the physical strength to do what needs to be done?

Thursday, July 19, 2007

World Day of Justice

Last Tuesday, July 17, was World Day of Justice. The day marked a milestone in the history of international law and international justice. Nine years ago in 1998, 120 states attending the Plenipotentiary Conference in Rome adopted the Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court (ICC). As of today, 139 states have signed and 105 have ratified.

It should be noted that while celebrations were taking place all over the world, here in the Philippines a summit on extrajudicial killings attended by stakeholders from civil society, the government and the church, as well as legal experts and individuals in search for justice, was taking place.

Here are some pertinent facts about the ICC. The ICC is the first permanent international judicial body capable of trying individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when national courts are unable or unwilling to do so.

The ICC represents one of the significant opportunities for the world to prevent or significantly reduce the deaths and devastation that result from conflicts. The Rome Statute of the ICC came into force on July 1, 2002 and since then, much has been achieved in the establishment of the court. Located at the Hague in the Netherlands, the court is now a fully-functional institution. The senior court officials are now seated in place and are proceeding with formal investigations.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Remembering Lean

The youth of this generation ought to have and ought to know someone like him, someone so passionate and dedicated to a vision and a cause. And yet so endearingly likeable. Ask his friends and comrades.

He was the quintessential student or youth activist. Leandro “Lean” Alejandro was all of 27 when he was killed in a hail of bullets 20 years ago. He was emerging from his organization’s office when the forces of evil swooped down on him and gunned him down. The predators had caught up with their prey and would turn him into mincemeat. What they did not know was that the spirit of this young man would live on and beyond, while the rot in his attackers’ murderous souls would continue to fester as long as they lived.

To quote writer Jo-Anne Q. Maglipon who made a moving testimony at Lean’s 47th birthday: “Someone else like Lean had to take more.” Lean is now beyond it all, and yet his example remains within reach. Will someone like him again emerge on the horizon?

Two nights ago, Lean’s friends from a wide spectrum, mainly political activists of all shapes, sizes, stripes, colors, ages and advocacies gathered to celebrate his life and also their own. “Gabi ni Lean: Isang Pag-alaala” was a night of remembering. Words, music, food and drinks flowed at the PETA theater in Quezon City. There was much laughter, and sometimes tears, as people recalled the life and times of Lean through live and video testimonies. This was to again connect to this young man who lived intensely, bravely and romantically.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

57 blood-red years

Showbiz celebrity brats like Paris Hilton and other wannabes out there have a lot to learn from this great woman.

Long before she became a movie icon and had her name on the firmament of genuine stars Rosal Rosal (Florence Danon) had already begun to have a life outside of the glitzy world of showbiz.

“I was in this world but not of this world,” she likes to say. It’s a biblical phrase she often quotes to stress that the movie persona she was known for was not what she was in real life. Of course, people know that by now.

This year, Rosal Rosal marks 57 years of service to the Philippine National Red Cross’ (PNRC) Blood Program. It’s been close to six blood-red decades since she started to lend her time, talent and treasure to an endeavor few celebrities like her have embraced. Indeed, blood is thicker than the sweat and tears she had shed to get the work done.

At 16 going on 17 Rosal found herself in the world of movies. Her Eurasian looks landed her strong character roles, vixen roles among them, when she was younger. That was also about the time that she got drawn to charity work and to the work of the Red Cross.

It all started with a little boy who lay sick and unconscious in the Philippine General Hospital. Rosal chanced upon him and his distraught mother during one of her hospital visits. She did all she could to help, she looked for blood and medicines for him. Her efforts paid off. “When he opened his eyes,” Rosal remembers with tears, “his first word was, ‘Nanay.’”