Thursday, October 25, 2012

The horror of toxic mine spills

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

In the 1980s, long before the deadly Marcopper mine spill shocked us witless, I went to Marinduque to document for a church-based organization the havoc that Marcopper had been wreaking on the sea and the lives of fishing communities living near Calancan Bay. 

Environmental activism was not very much in vogue then but the social action arm of the Catholic Church was the voice in the wilderness that called attention to the wanton destruction of the environment in that part of Luzon.
 Marinduque Bishop Rafael Lim, then chair of the Luzon Secretariat of Social Action, stood tall against the massive destruction in his diocese. But the country was under martial rule and unlike now, there was not much national outrage over local issues then. 

I saw for myself Marcopper’s giant kilometric pipes jutting out far into the sea and pumping, pumping, pumping out toxic mine byproducts as if the world would end tomorrow anyway. Day or night, one could see a deadly sheen on the surface of the water and imagine fish na nangingisay (in the throes of death). One could see beaches turned into mud-covered landscapes that cracked under the noonday sun. One could see rashes on the bodies of fishermen. One could see the imminent death of creation.

 I wrote a long feature on Marinduque’s woes in a church social action anniversary publication, with on-the-spot line sketches by an artist who had come with me, and stark black-and white photos that I took, one of them of a huge pipe dumping poison into the sea. (I have a photo of myself standing on top of a huge pipe.) I could not hide my dismay. I wrote then: “But the church leaders are not disheartened. In Barangay Botilao in Sta. Cruz, villagers one day met to discuss the issue of pollution. In a way it was too late since Marcopper Mining has already done so much harm. President Marcos has upheld Marcopper’s petition to continue dumping its waste into Calancan Bay.” Today this would have caused a global outrage. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Women wield plows, cast nets

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

"Grow your own, be sure, be safe, grow organic, go organic.”
“Make the shift. Go brown.”
“Food security is nutritional security.” 

These were some of the popular catchwords on World Food Day on Oct. 16 that brought together many Filipino women farmers, fishers and their supporters in a market venue.
Today is the last day of the 4th Women’s Market at the Quezon City Hall Plaza. Go celebrate, buy and support the women’s efforts to combat hunger and wrong food choices. Support their call for government to put up social enterprises that focus on women food producers in rural areas. 

Sponsored by the Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Kababaihan sa Kanayunan (PKKK), women farmers and fishers from various regions of Luzon have come together this week to call for support and awareness of women’s role in global, national and local food security.
Women feed the world in ways that are not always recognized. They rock the cradle, yes, but they also cast nets into the sea and wield the plow. Like the fecund women that they are, the earth they move yield flower and fruit, the sea they scour yield fish aplenty. If only they can get more support. 

It is so energizing to be with these women of substance and energy, to be infected by their joy, to feel their trembling hopes, to hold their hands—rough, gnarled and therefore beautiful—that cause life to spring forth from earth and water. 

“It is high time the government strengthened its programs for women farmers by finding a market for their products and increasing their incomes,” PKKK president Mary delos Santos said. 

Thursday, October 11, 2012

'Hour Before Dawn'

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Marites Danguilan Vitug is Philippine journalism’s most prolific book writer today. Her oeuvres aren’t easy to write and aren’t easy on the heart, mind and conscience. She excavates, names and damns, not for her personal delight, but in order to bring to the surface long hidden ills of society and in the government, for these to be exposed to the light that kills harmful microorganisms. 

Vitug’s latest opus is “Hour Before Dawn: The Fall and Uncertain Rise of the Philippine Supreme Court” (Cleverheads Publishing, 2012). It is a natural sequel to her “Shadow of Doubt: Probing the Supreme Court.” And more importantly, it comes in the wake of the first quasijudicial drama involving a long-revered government institution—the impeachment trial of a chief justice that played out live nationwide via broadcast media.

The book’s back cover blurb says it best: “‘Hour Before Dawn’ takes the reader to what might have been the darkest hour of the Philippine Supreme Court, when its integrity was compromised by the actions of its Chief Justice, who was subsequently impeached, and by a series of highly irregular reversals of its own rulings.
 “It reveals a Court seemingly subject to political pressure, disbursing funds for questionable purposes, and abetting plagiarism by one of its own members, and yet placing itself beyond criticism even by the country’s top lawyers and academics. It chronicles the most open and contentious clash between the executive department and the Court.”
 But Vitug weaves in redeeming facets and redemptive acts that give hope that the damaged institution could rise again, albeit “uncertain”-ly.

For “the book is also a record of how a staunchly independent minority within the Court stood up for what was right, giving hope for the rebirth and reorientation of one of the country’s most vital institutions.”

Sunday, October 7, 2012

In God we trust (and also in stocks)

Sunday Inquirer Magazine/FEATURES/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Vintage Bo Sanchez discourse: 

“Why is Facebook so big today? 

“Because deep in our hearts, our most basic need, found in our DNA, written in our genetic code, is the need to belong to a community, a friendship, a network, a club, a family. 

“Forgive me for being flat-out corny, downright mushy, but whether you know it or not, whether you admit it or not, you have a desperate need for LOVE. 

“You were born with it. 

“Everybody has it. 

“Male or female, you need love.” 

So why do people follow him on Facebook, in public events and in various media through his blogs, books and other publications? Why do thousands here and abroad listen to his preaching and follow his advice on how to pray, how to love God and neighbor, make things work and live happy, progressive and successful lives? 

The answer is simple: Sanchez says things simply and makes them look and sound easy. And most of all, he shows us why something-like making money, for example-could be good and godly. 

For “If God is with us, who can be against us?” 

Eugenio Isabelo Tomas Reyes Sanchez, a.k.a. Bo Sanchez “the preacher in blue jeans,” is not the fire-and-brimstone kind of preacher who shakes the ramparts to mesmerize followers. Unlike many breast-thumping Bible-quoters, he does not try to impress his audience by rattling off Biblical verses and scriptural passages from memory.  For him, one or two verses could be enough to fill a Feast. 

Bo’s own personal life could explain how the guy can speak to everyone like he finds God in their most mundane everyday concerns. 

Born on July 11, 1966 in Caloocan City to Eugenio and Pilar Sanchez, Bo is the youngest and only boy in a brood of six. He recalls with great humor how he was “the most ungifted kid in the whole wide world.” He was poor in math, among other things. But at a young age he opened himself to grace.

In his easy-to-read “My Conspiracy Theory: A Brief Autobiography at the Middle of my Life” Bo begins: “I wrote my first book at age 20. I led the first prayer meeting of the Light of Jesus Family at age 14. I began preaching at age 13. I had my conversion at age 12. I was toilet trained at age 1, but that has nothing to do with this book.”

It is amazing how Bo has been able to sum up his life story into a booklet of 97 pages. “Chapter 1: My Childhood: Being the Most Ungifted Kid in the Whole Wide World” is as hilarious as it is heart-tugging. “Chapter 2: My Conversion—How God Became More Real Than the President” is just as interesting.

But the whole point of his autobiography is his warning “that there is a conspiracy of grace at work in this universe and heaven is scheming to bless your life.”

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Religious of the Good Shepehrd: weaving compassion

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

One of the wondrous times in my life was spent in a special place with very special people, in an atmosphere of simplicity and prayer. I remember how we came together somewhere, I remember taking in the mountain air and the soft scent of the pine that wafted into my soul.

The flowers were in full bloom, the hills were green and throbbing with life. The stars were out the night we gathered to sing hymns, and the sun rose gently from behind the hills the next morning. The quiet and the peace overwhelmed me in ways I could not explain. I was filled with awe and wonderment.
 But beyond feelings, I experienced community—and communion. This is indeed a special moment, I thought then, as I pondered the simplicity, as I gazed at the persons I was journeying with, persons I have come to love and cherish until today. 
 But that was long ago and far away, and that experience will not be repeated in the exact same way ever again. So. I wrote some of those lines years ago in this column space to describe an experience. Some curious readers wondered what it was all about and what place on earth I had been to. 

There are experiences one can never fully explain. But okay, that was when I was in spiritual formation as a novice of the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS). We were on a hillside retreat cum celebration then. As I look back now, all I can say is that as sure as the transfiguration that is dazzling to behold is the agony in the garden to follow. 

Today, the RGS is marking its 100th year of active and prayerful presence in the Philippines. The centennial theme is “Weaving compassion, embracing challenges, forging hope.” Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle will lead today’s Eucharistic feast at the Good Shepherd compound in Quezon City. 

I will be there. There where I once belonged, where I once prayed and chanted melodies ancient and new. At the break of dawn. At eventide, at eventide…

 Founded in Angers, France, in 1835 by Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier, the RGS or Good Shepherd Sisters (Soeurs de Notre-Dame de Charité du Bon Pasteur d’Angers) first stepped on Philippine soil on Oct. 4, 1912. The first to arrive by slow boat from Burma (Myanmar) were Irish RGS sent in response to the call of Lipa’s Bishop Giuseppe Petrelli.