Thursday, July 26, 2012

'Tibak Rising'

Great title, great cover, great stories—ours.

The book launch last Saturday of “Tibak Rising: Activism in the Days of Martial Law” (Anvil Publishing) was a very well-attended reunion of sorts. What synchronicity, one might say, because while typhoon Ferdie was blowing and causing floods in some parts of Metro Manila, the book being launched, edited by Ferdinand “Ferdie” C. Llanes, has much to do with the 14-year martial rule (1972 to 1986) of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship that caused tens of thousands of deaths and disappearances and untold suffering among those who fought back.

While we all laughed at the convergence of the Ferdies, there was no stopping the flooding of memories about comradeship, struggle, pain, close encounters, death and even romance in the time of terror and in fields of battle.
“Tibak Rising” is a collection of 46 vignette-like stories by 39 writers. The stories are varied—serious, funny, personal, heart-rending. My piece is on page 128. One other piece I wrote (a funny one) had to be dropped because of space constraints but, who knows, there might be a second volume. This first volume—five years in the making—is just a foretaste of more stories to come.
Editor Llanes, a professor at the University of the Philippines and a commissioner of the National Historical Commission, and Joel Saracho, theater actor and president of T’bak Inc., collected the stories from far and near and put them together in a neat compilation enhanced by photos of yesteryears. If you were a tibak (short for aktibista or activist), the book is something you would hold close to your heart. The stories are familiar, if not similar to yours, the persons and places might be known to you, the events still burning in your memory.

Inquirer columnist and UP professor Michael L. Tan, himself a tibak in the health sector in those days, said in his foreword: “The Tibak stories remind us there’s more to transformation than slogans and the grim and determined politics of the streets (or the hills).

“We find friendships and camaraderies built even in detention, not just among prisoners but with the soldiers. History books tend to gloss over the details of everyday life; life histories capture the warmth and color of these encounters. On a sad note, the stories also highlight the irony of events that unfolded later, of former bosom friends becoming bitter enemies, of paranoia turning comrade against comrade.”

Wrote editor Llanes: “It was this generation that bridged the movement of the ‘flower generation’/First Quarter Storm and that of Edsa’s yellow forces … Indeed, in spite of its historic role and sacrifices, this generation seems virtually nameless in the pages of the national narrative or on the templates of the national consciousness, something like looking for Eman Lacaba’s ‘lost generation’ or Carlos Bulosan’s ‘subterranean subways of suffering.’ Collecting these stories … to bring out the big picture is an important though tedious task in writing a holistic, more just narrative of the nation.”

Llanes sadly added: “It was this generation that bore the brunt of killings, detention, torture and forced disappearances instigated by the State’s military and police forces. And then in a twist of deep irony, it was also this generation that had to (experience) death and suffering in the hands of its own leadership, an ideological mindset ossified in a schema of dogma and adventurism.”

The narratives in the book are grouped into varied aspects of tibak life—Transitions, Prison and Beyond, Friendships, Picket Lines, Icons and Symbols, Brave Moments, Turning Points, One’s Life for the People. Each chapter begins with a collage of photographs and an introduction. The story titles are so enticing, the stories cry out to be read. Here are some:

“The ‘Political Economy’ of Prison Pendants” by Ed de la Torre. “‘May Panahon’ as ‘Awit ng Petiburgis’” by Bong Romulo (with the lyrics of the song and guitar chords supplied). “2205 Cinco de Junio (o, nang muntikang maging ‘kandidatong kasapi’ si Nanay)” by Joel Saracho. “Gastambide” by Sibyl Jade Pena.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Killer of dreams

If this week you noticed the subject of suicide tackled quite often in the media, it’s because the World Health Organization (WHO)-Western Pacific Region based in Manila invited journalists (three of us from the Inquirer) for a mini-consultation and discussion on the prevention of this killer.

A topic not often openly discussed, suicide springs up in the media when a celebrity or a well-known person carries it out “successfully.” Or when someone unknown or unlikely (very young, for example) commits suicide in an unusual manner or place, or for very strange reasons.
Sometime during the discussions, I asked if suicide bombers (lots of them out there) were to be tackled, too. No. Maybe a separate consultation on these politically/religiously-motivated suicide acts meant to harm many? If suicide is the result of a mind process gone awry, then suicide bombing is also suicide like any other. Hmm, but I digress.
We discussed suicides by individuals—acting alone or, worse, in a copycat serial manner—who choose to end their lives because of personal reasons, unbearable depression among them. Depression is not the only cause of suicide, by the way.

I have written about suicide a number of times, one about a young, poor girl who was hastily presented by the media as a poster girl of rural poverty but who, it turned out later, had multiple issues weighing on her. And there was the high government official who ended it all with a bullet to the heart, the “honorable” way out for him. What about the lovelorn men who scale the billboards to call out to their lost inamoratas? It takes all kinds.

And there was the foiled suicide of a radio caller that aired live on “Dr. Love Radio Show” of Bro. Jun Banaag OP on dzMM Teleradyo. That was a gripping drama that ended positively because of how many big-hearted people (listeners, taxi drivers, government personnel, radio reporters) pooled efforts to help—without delay—a distraught mother of ailing children who was at the end of her rope. Brother Jun handled the crisis so well I was moved to write about it.

Media intrusion into the private pain of those left behind is always an issue. In shock, are the bereaved equipped to face media curiosity and state facts to end speculation? What is there for the public to learn? Are the media of any help in understanding and prevention? Yes, the media.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Woman performing C-section on self

Here’s something to grossly entertain you before I go into other grosser details. A 1996 Inquirer news brief about a hacking incident could have landed in the Guinness Book of World Records except that…

I have kept the news clipping all these years and always wondered who should be (dis)credited, the writer or the copy editor. I credit them both for making me laugh every time I stumble upon the story in my files. It qualifies to be included in Inquirer Incredibles.

The news brief’s title is “Lover decapitated” and is datelined Bacolod City. It came out on July 12, 1996 (16 years ago today!) on page 21 of your fave newspaper: “An irate husband beheaded his wife’s lover after he caught them making love inside their house in Bago City. The husband said his mind went blank, took a bolo and cut off the man’s head. Headless, the man managed to run around the village and died an hour later. The woman fled and was nowhere to be seen. The husband is now detained at Bago City. Relatives of both the victim and suspect asked that their names be withheld.”

Something about that fourth to the last sentence, if gets mo. LOL?
That almost-Guinness record holder could have beaten this recent almost also-ran, which is no laughing matter. I thought the case of the Filipino woman who performed a Caesarian section on herself last week could qualify for the Guinness. Alas, I read that a Mexican woman had done it in 2000, and unlike the Filipino woman, was able to successfully deliver her baby boy alive and kicking. More on the Mexican and other incredible self-surgeries later.
The Filipino mother, Janice Calipe, 28, a midwife by the way, who attempted a C-section on herself is now recuperating in a hospital. According to news reports, Janice might be charged for performing an abortion, which is a criminal act. Her mental state is now being evaluated by psychiatrists.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Mentoring the Mentors and K to 12

I don’t tire of writing follow-up stories on the Mentoring for Mentors Program (MMP) which is quietly fomenting an education revolution in the city and the countryside. MMP is something I really believe in, not because I witnessed its birth (with Inquirer founding chair Eggie Apostol and Marie Eugenie Institute’s Chinit Rufino pushing and heaving) and I was able to snare in my close friends in the academe who would become among MMP’s pillars today, but because it was a great idea made flesh that quickly took off and took on a life of its own. Yes, to the delight of teachers hungry to feast on something out of the box.

Two weeks ago I was privileged to have lunch with the forces behind MMP—executive director Rufino, national coordinator Evelyn Mejillano (retired University of the Philippines education professor), trainors Celia Adriano and Soledad Francisco (both from UP), Lirio Ongpin Mapa (of the Franklin Covey System) and Elnora Montemayor (who has decades of experience in preschool education at an international school abroad). Mejillano, Adriano and Montemayor have been my close friends for decades.

Also present at the lunch were new trainor-recruits who have been honing their mentoring skills in recent MMP seminars.

The Department of Education’s great leap forward with the K to 12 education program (compulsory kindergarten, seven years in grade school and five in high school) has thrown many schools and teachers off balance and left them groping in the dark. How do they begin?
Let me advertise by saying that MMP can help you back on track. Already, a good number of schools have signed up for an MMP seminar, not only for their K to 12 woes but for something more, which is how best to be a teacher. As I wrote last year, MMP is taking the city and countryside by storm, but quietly. By storm, because it has unleashed much energy and fire from both the catalysts and the catalyzed, the mentors and the “mentees.” Quietly, because those involved do their work without fanfare.
MMP is a program meant to further develop teachers’ skills in mentoring their students, opening their hearts and broadening their perspectives. Its main targets are the public school system and teacher education institutes (TEIs). It mentors teachers on the “new” teaching methodologies so that both teachers and students become not only learned individuals but also agents of change.

Education for social transformation is the ultimate goal of mentoring, so at the center of MMP’s work is to help people learn more effectively and “become the person they want to be.”

MMP is a mobile program designed to meet the participants in their own localities. Sessions are limited to 50 to 65 persons to ensure quality and personalized mentoring.