Thursday, March 5, 2009

The war is not over

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
World War II Filipino veterans who fought alongside US troops more than 60 years ago will at last get some monetary compensation. The announcement came even while many of these hardy Filipino veterans here and abroad are dying every day before the cameras. Many died poor. Some died just before the announcement which means their bereaved families cannot get the compensation.

The war is not over. The veterans need to remain alive and it is heart-rending to see some of them at death’s door, hooked to tubes and machines and hanging on just until…And see that right thumb drenched in purple ink?

And the outrageous thing about this is that those who had moved to the US are getting more than their counterparts who have remained here. No wonder so many had gone to the land of milk and honey (now the land of collapsing financial institutions) even if that meant losing some of their dignity and living in deplorable conditions there.

I was able to behold this scenario in the US more than 10 years ago. US-based photographer Rick Rocamora showed me around. He had painstakingly documented the lives of these old men who hobbled on the streets of San Francisco. (I ended up doing the essay for Rocamora’s photo exhibit.) Those who stayed behind in the Philippines and grew old in the embrace of their families were better off, I must say.

I could not help asking then, what was it that drove many of these brave men to forsake the land of their youth, the land they had defended? What was it that beckoned them to distant shores at a time when shadows were falling on their lives and twilight was nigh?

America had always been in their hearts, to borrow the saying. And the dream to set foot on the land of apples, to behold the amber waves of grain, to step on the soil that suckled a Gen. MacArthur had never died.

Once strong soldiers that saw battle, they had become crumpled little men fighting yet another war—of recognition, for compensation. Their long wait was over when the US Immigration Act of 1990 finally opened the doors for them. Under that law, Filipinos who served in the US Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), in the Philippine Commonwealth Army or in recognized guerrilla units could apply for US citizenship.

More aging veterans left home alone, in the hope that, as US citizens, they could send home part of their Supplemental Security Income ($620 then). They had to scrimp on food and lodging and many shared hole-in-the-wall accommodations so that there would be enough left for their families in the Philippines.

It was heart-rending.
I was at the GoNegosyo Women Entrepreneurship Summit at the World Trade Center last Monday and it was good to see so many women entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs at the affair.

Only a portion of the WTC was used so space was a problem. There were just too many bodies—a good thing—but walking around and looking at and buying products was not easy. The inspirational talk shows were jampacked. The sponsors should do this again but in a more airy and relaxing atmosphere where women could bond and share and not be so sweaty. What’s a little more space. Ah, but women thrive even in the tightest situations.

Readers wrote to ask for more information and to react to the column piece “Microfinance in these hard times” (Jan. 5). At the GoNegosyo fair, the Department of Trade and Industry distributed booklets on where to go for financing (“Financing Programs for Microenterprises”) and how to put up a business (“Nais Mo Bang Mag-negosyo?”). The former provides a listing of financing institutions and what they offer and require, etc., while the latter is a step-by-step how-to. There was a long line to the DTI booth. Those interested should contact DTI’s Bureau of Small and Medium Enterprises Development (8977596,, or the Philippine Trade Training Center for seminars (4688962 to 70,,
Correction: Re the column piece “Gang rape-murder in Antique” (Feb. 19, 2009). The information that the father of the rape-murder victim had a stroke and died upon learning about his daughter’s fate is not true. That information was part of the letter of appeal that circulated in the internet for some time and which rallied many Antiquenos to raise an outcry so that authorities would act. Even the media were being taken to task (as in “Hoy!”…)for not responding soon enough. I was piqued but I responded by giving space to the letter of appeal, but alas, the information on the father turned out to be untrue. I am thankful the victim’s father is alive and I apologize.

There is the angle that the victim may not have been raped. It seems the investigations have been quite messy. By the way, I never named the victim or her family so I would rather not name names here.

In a follow-up article in the Inquirer article (Feb. 21), the victim’s brother was quoted as saying that the family had “felt bad about the reports so we did not want to issue any statement earlier.” How I wish those who knew the accurate details had made statements or corrections earlier before the case went global. In playing up the case in order for the authorities to act, the local media must have gotten overzealous. In the end, the media get blamed.

The rape of a woman is not only by penile penetration of her genitalia. Using force and inserting anything (inanimate objects included) into the victim’s genitalia, anus or other body orifices is also rape. Rape is no longer called a sexual crime against chastity (it is not about the victim’s chastity), it is a crime of violence against a human being.

Sunday, March 8, is International Women’s Day. Wear lilac, lavender, violet, magenta, ube, any shade of purple.