Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hazare in Gandhi's footsteps

In the news in India and all over the world is anticorruption activist Anna Hazare who began a hunger strike that led to similar protests in India.
The latest issue of Time magazine carries a half-page photo of him with the caption, “Why does Delhi fear this man? Anticorruption activist Anna Hazare is surrounded by admirers at a memorial to Mohandas Gandhi in New Delhi on Aug. 15. Seeking to pressure the government into pushing through proposed reforms, Hazare, 74, and hundreds of supporters were arrested for attempting to start a hunger strike without permission. That sparked protests around the country.”
Many young Indians have joined the campaign and are flashing placards with the words “I am Anna, you are Anna, now the whole country is Anna.” It is like our own Pinoy “I am Ninoy” catchphrase.
What I noticed right away in the online articles on Hazare was the involvement in the issue of Ramon Magsaysay awardees from India Aruna Roy (Community Leadership, 2000) and Arvind Kerjiwal (Emergent Leadership, 2006). Their names rang a bell right away. (I had written about them and their advocacies. Kerjiwal, a journalist who used his pen to fight poverty, had been our guest speaker in the Inquirer.) Social activist Roy, like the famous novelist Arundathi Roy, does not approve of Hazare’s methods, while Kerjiwal supports Hazare. Another Indian RM awardee, Kiran Bedi (Government Service, 1994), is also a supporter of Hazare.

Hazare has shaken government institutions and raised awareness about corruption. At the heart of Hazare’s campaign is the Jan Lokpal Bill (citizen’s ombudsman bill), an anticorruption bill being pushed by civil society groups seeking the setting up of a Jan Lokpal, an independent body that would investigate corruption cases, complete the investigation within a year and prosecute if necessary. Very much like our own Office of the Ombudsman.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Philippine e-books on the way

We have seen tiny grade school pupils groaning under the weight of their backpacks, with their spinal columns in danger of getting deformed and their physical growth compromised. They have to carry so many books and school supplies on their backs every day of their early school lives.

Now imagine all these heavy books compressed into microscopic pixels and uploaded into very light electronic devices and then downloaded for reading page by page. Minus the paper and the heavy weight.

Two days ago I was invited to a presentation by Vibal Foundation hosted by Anvil Publishing on the hows, whats and whys of e-publishing and e-books. A number of writers were present. Vibal Foundation executive director Gaspar A. Vibal and program director Kristine E. Mandigma took us by the hand to show us how e-books can change the way we publish, buy and read books.
Vibe is the first electronic bookstore in the Philippines which will be launched at the annual book fair in September. Vibe has already done a lot of work and spent a lot of money to convert into e-books precious out-of-print books that now belong to the public domain (50 years after the author dies), as well as new publications of their own.
Why? All for the love of these books, Vibal would tell you. Outside of his family’s publishing business, Vibal has spent years working in the book business in the United States. He knows the ropes and, now, the e-technology.

Vibe is also the name of the reading app (application) that could be downloaded for free and installed on PCs, Macs, Android devices, iPhones and iPads.

Printed books will not go the way of the dinosaur and those with a fetish for caressing books and who get a high when smelling the pages will not suffer withdrawal syndromes and need rehab. But readers now have a choice.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

On borrowed earth

As I trudged closer to the mountain’s windy peak, the dark jungle slowly broke open. Then, without warning, a million peach-colored flowers surged forward and I was swallowed waist deep in a lush ocean of color. And I thought, what place on earth is this… what undiscovered beauty….

Going up I encountered a moist green snake, insects and leeches, poisonous bulan-bulan leaves. A slip, a fall, a bone-crunching day and a bitter cold night had preceded all these. Now, here, suddenly, the morning of Creation. How wild and how peaceful.

This was not a prelude to paradise, I would just soon realize. A few more upward pushes and the flowers receded. Suddenly I was facing a bare desolate peak, the dwelling place of a small community of B’laans.
Here they lived. Here they had been pushed. Like so many scattered B’laan communities, these tribal folk dwelt, if not on mountain sides, on mountain peaks from where there was no more space to go but the sky. Sad were their faces. Sad was their chanting. Forty, 50 years ago, before the settlers came, these shy but hardy people roamed and owned the Mindanao vastness. Not anymore.
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Those were the first paragraphs of a long magazine feature article I wrote many, many years ago after spending more than a week in the land of the B’laans and the T’bolis in Mindanao.
I have written many feature articles and column pieces on the indigenous communities I have visited and immersed in-B’laan, T’boli, Mangyan, Aeta, Kalinga, native Americans, etc.—and the selfless individuals and groups that work among them. And I have considered compiling these articles into a book. Many years from now their present way of life will no longer be the same, and it is changing dramatically even now.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

'That she may dance again'

To become an interruption, perhaps a prophet to the Church hierarchy that for so long has denied women of equal dignity and full humanity.”

This is the opening line of the foreword of the book “That She May Dance Again: Rising from pain of violence against women in the Philippine Catholic Church” (2011) authored by Sr. Nila Bermisa, a Maryknoll Sister, and published by the Women and Gender Commission (WGC) of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP).

The book should be read especially by both the men and women who serve in the Church so that their eyes may be opened to painful realities and they will understand the root, the history, the dynamics of the experiences that many women have suffered in secret.

It takes a Catholic woman to write openly and bravely in a book about a subject long held in secret, even often denied. But now that the dark secrets are coming out from many parts of the world, the Philippines included, these realities might as well be laid bare in an honest and compassionate way. No less than the Pope himself has apologized on behalf of the powerful Roman Catholic Church for the sins of the past that had long been swept under the altar.

But indeed, it takes a woman, with supportive women around her, to do the spade work so that what are buried may be unearthed. So that those concerned may act and prevent more abuses against women, and more importantly, so that justice may be served. So that women themselves, in knowing and understanding the roots and dynamics of these realities, may become empowered to curb and prevent more of these.