Thursday, June 25, 2009

My text friend, Bro. Ceci

THIS column was supposed to be on the 2009 World Food Summit and the human right to food but … that can wait.

I was stunned when I read on Tuesday the half-page obituary on the sudden passing of De La Salle Brother Ceci Hojilla. It had a big picture of him laughing. Cecilio Montelibano Hojilla served as a De La Salle Brother for 48 years, the obit said. “Br. Ceci left a legacy of being a teacher, a mentor, a storyteller, a photographer, a friend, and a brother to countless young people.” He was 65.

I met Bro. Ceci face to face only once. He invited me to deliver the keynote address at a La Sallian convention at the De La Salle Center in Batulao some years ago. The subject I was to speak about was poverty as I saw it as a journalist. I remember meditating and praying over it for a week and writing till late at night, trying to give it a human face. I was forced to take stock of what it was like inside of me and outside of me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

‘Kamoteng Kahoy’

The other day I went to see the movie “Kamoteng Kahoy” directed by Maryo de los Reyes and written by Ricky Lee, both veterans and multi-awarded. I went because the movie was based on a real-life tragedy that happened in Mabini, Bohol in 2005.

It is a good film to watch these days when deathly horror flicks seem to be all there is. The theaters are drowning in blood, gore and green vomit.

I had written about the tragedy that claimed the lives of 27 school children and downed more than 100 after they ate fried cassava snacks sold by a vendor. Questions were immediately raised. Was it the cassava root that did it? Was it the way the food was prepared? Cassava contains linamarin. If cassava is improperly prepared, this toxic component could remain. When ingested, linamarin converts to cyanide in the human digestive system. The Department of Health ruled that it was pesticide, present in the cassava snack, that did it.

And now the movie.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

In death Saro-Wiwa triumphs, Shell pays

Ken Saro-Wiwa, Nigerian writer, poet, martyr and activist who was hanged, along with eight others in 1995, has triumphed even in death. When you gas up at Shell, think of Saro-Wiwa.

A news report the other day said: “The oil giant Shell has agreed to pay $15.5 million in settlement of a legal action in which it was accused of having collaborated in the execution of the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other leaders of the Ogoni tribe of southern Nigeria.

“The settlement is one of the largest payouts agreed by a multinational corporation charged with human rights violations. Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary SPDC have not conceded to or admitted any of the allegations, pleading innocent to all the civil charges.”

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Land, a hunger

As I write this, it is one day to go before the deadline for the passing of CARPER (comprehensive agrarian reform extension with reforms) in the House of Representatives. The good news is that two days ago, the Senate passed on third reading the CARP bill extending for another five years the land acquisition and distribution program of the government. The budget is at P147 billion.

If CARPER was passed before the House adjourned yesterday, then all the last-minute efforts on the part of the farmers and their fellow advocates in the church, academe, media and civil society would have been worth it. But we can’t sit back and say everything will henceforth be smooth.

Last week, the documentary “Lupang Hinarang” by multi-awarded filmmaker Ditsi Carolino had a red-carpet screening at the Ateneo de Manila University to help push the CARPER nearer its fulfillment. There were T-shirts, photo-ops, flyers, the film—just about everything for CARPER. It was heartwarming to see young people manning the campaign, like the future of their country depended on it.