Thursday, December 26, 2013

Lessons in humility

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

I have three precious things which I hold fast and prize. The first is gentleness; the second frugality; the third is humility, which keeps me from putting myself before others. Be gentle and you can be bold; be frugal and you can be liberal; avoid putting yourself before others and you can become a leader among men.”—Lao-Tzu

Much has been said about the standoff between Makati Mayor Junjun Binay’s convoy and the Dasmariñas Village security guards who refused to let the former pass through a gate which was supposed to be closed at certain hours of the night. There was another gate close by that was always open.

Use the other gate, please—that was the guards’ instruction. There was no emergency situation.

The mayor’s party (that included his armed security and his sister, the newly elected Sen. Nancy Binay) just had to have their way. The police were called in; they lifted the barrier. The poor guards were “invited” over to police headquarters. All these took so much longer than if the convoy had just turned around and went to the other gate.

What is so wrong with turning back and using the other gate? What was that exercise all about?

Some officers and residents of the posh village were not pleased that their hired security agency’s head apologized to the mayor. They hailed the guards on duty who tried to stand their ground.

It was the Inquirer that first came out with the story and the video footage for everyone to draw conclusions from. The footage has since gone viral on the Internet. And the Inquirer has since published an editorial to stress what that footage showed and meant.

From the mayor’s father, Vice President Jojo Binay, there has only been defense for him. As mayor of the city he deserved some courtesy, the father said. Unhindered passage even in a private subdivision (where foreign diplomats who hold offices there are not exempt).

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas messages from the ruins

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
Sorrow is just next door. Sorrow can be the word on top of one’s mind while one contemplates the series of tragedies—earthquakes, supertyphoons, storm surges, landslides, road accidents, armed conflicts abroad—that claimed countless Filipino lives and left families in grief while the Christmas season was approaching.
“Pasko pa naman”—not “na naman”—is the oft-repeated refrain. What difference a letter makes in a phrase.
And while many of us may remain physically, materially, or financially unscarred, we cannot be emotionally untouched by the sights and sounds, the wailing and gnashing of teeth, the proximity of it all.
So easy for us to say that “hope springs”—and indeed it does in our eyes—but those who are still trapped in the depths see only darkness until and unless, little by little, they are lifted up by the loving arms of those they do not even know—those who offer time, talent and treasure and who wish no recognition or reward.
And, notwithstanding the ugly bickering, character bashing and political posturing among the ill-spirited (“Boo!” to you), the amazing thing is that nations, countless individuals and communities of people have stepped forward to embrace the Philippines.
When everything is compounded, mountains do move. The spirit of goodwill is worth more than the sum total of the material aid that has been given. And the divine forces in the universe have a way of weighing all of these energies together and ensuring that nothing goes to waste.

Just now, after writing that last sentence, I was moved to open the pages of Teilhard de Chardin’s “Hymn of the Universe.” And this is what met my eyes: “Without any doubt there is something which links material energy and spiritual energy together and makes them a continuity. In the last resort there must somehow be but one single energy active in this world. And the first idea that suggests itself to us is that the soul must be a centre of transformation at which, through all the channels of nature, corporeal energies come together in order to attain inwardness and be sublimated in beauty and in truth.”
I know an 88-year-old widow, loved by her many adopted sons and daughters, who was aching to give back to the universe. In my state, she thought, what can I do for the Supertyphoon “Yolanda” survivors? She picked up the phone, asked for relief items from her fellow senior-seniors in the neighborhood, and before she knew it her garage was full of donated goods. Now, now, she thought, what do I do with these when they can’t fit into my car? Well, a neighbor with a pickup vehicle happened by and offered to take the relief goods to a receiving center.
I have received letters from friends who have waded into the ruins of Samar and Leyte. Here are some excerpts:
From Sr. Cho Borromeo, FMM: “One heart-wrenching story is that of seven children who lost their mother while she was trying to save them one by one. That was just one of the many stories that gripped us.
“As we coursed through the various towns and barrios, scenarios of destruction and desolation loomed large: buildings and houses reduced to rubble, countless dead coconut trees lining the mountains, children running after passing vehicles begging for food and water, electric posts lying on the roads, roofless churches and houses.
“But amidst these images of darkness, we witnessed signs of light and hope. In all the churches we visited, statues of Jesus, Mama Mary, angels and saints stood tall in the midst of destruction around them. In Naval, a big stained-glass façade was shattered to pieces but not the figure of Our Lady of Guadalupe at the center. Is this not God’s way of assuring us, especially the Yolanda survivors, that He still has the last say?
“Despite lack of food, clothing and shelter … people still had time to prepare the Advent wreath, green being the symbol of hope, growth and life. Indeed, no amount of devastation can extinguish the religious dimension in the human heart—especially in the heart of Filipinos!
“What also made a strong impact on me was our teamwork. For many of us it was the first time we met the other members of the team. But the way we worked and interacted with one another gave one an impression that we knew each other from Adam! That’s the Franciscan spirit!”
From Sr. Ana Maria Raca, OSB, and the Benedictine Sisters of the Divine World Hospital in Tacloban City:
“In the midst of the immense darkness on the landscape, rays of light shone. It came from good hearts—hearts that cared—and they reached us! Relief goods, medicines, financial help and various forms of solidarity and support coming from all over the country and the whole world. Light pierced through the darkness and gave us hope and joy…
“In the confusion and chaos during the first days of the arrival and retrieval of relief goods coming to Tacloban, we received the first five boxes (the rest of them retrieved at a later time) from St. Scholastica’s College, Manila’s relief operations. These were 2 boxes of IV fluids, 2 boxes of Nips chocolates and a box of Bear Brand milk choco.
“The Nips were our supper for the night and what saved us in the succeeding days when hunger came. To you who donated the Nips, please know what it meant to us and how it became a symbol of hope. Please know that no action is small in a situation of life and death.
“For us who believe, destruction and death are not the last words, but HOPE in a loving God who works through His people like all of you.”
From me to you: A God-drenched Christmas to you all!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

aka Rolihlahla, Dalibunga, 46664, and Madiba

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

One of my favorite autobiographies is “Long Walk to Freedom” by Nelson Mandela, published in the 1990s after he came out of 27 years in prison (where he was known as 46664) and rising to become the first black president of South Africa.

Madiba, as Mandela is also fondly called, died last week at the age of 95.

“Long Walk” is an awesome sweep spanning the generation before Mandela was born, to his walk to freedom and greatness, with so much in between—the struggle against apartheid—that is well known to the world.

But it is Part 1 (of 11), “A country childhood,” that fascinated the child in me. Here lay the seed of the great tree and the freedom fighter that he would later become. Let me walk the reader through it, with little interference.

“Apart from life, a strong constitution, and an abiding connection to the Thembu royal house, the only thing my father bestowed upon me at birth was a name, Rolihlahla. In Xhosa, Rolihlahla means ‘pulling the branch of a tree,’ but its colloquial meaning more accurately would be ‘troublemaker.’

“My father, Gadla Henry Mphakanyiswa, was a chief by both blood and custom. He was confirmed as chief of Mveso by the king of the Thembu tribe, but under British rule, his selection had to be ratified by the government…

“When I was not much more than a newborn child, my father was involved in a dispute that deprived him of his citizenship at Mveso and revealed a strain in his character I believe he passed on to his son. I maintain that nurture, rather than nature, is the primary molder of personality, but my father possessed a proud rebelliousness, a stubborn sense of fairness, that I recognize in myself….

“We lived in a less grand style in Qunu, but it was in that village near Umtata that I spent the happiest years of my boyhood and whence I trace my earliest memories.”

Autobiographies of great persons make for great reading, but it is not always the earthshaking portions that shake me. It is their hidden existence before they made their way into public life that I love reading about. How did it all begin? To get biblical about it, could anything great come out of Nazareth?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Is world ready for climate change refugees?

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

Last week Agence France Presse reported on the case of a Pacific islander who had sought refugee status in New Zealand by arguing that his homeland, the island-nation Kiribati, is known to be sinking. His case received media attention. But the judge dismissed his case as “unconvincing” and “novel.”

Ioane Teitiota, 37, whose visa had expired, pleaded through his lawyers that he should not be deported because climate change is gradually destroying his place of residence in Kiribati (pronounced Kiribas). In his ruling, High Court Judge John Priestly said Teitiota did not qualify as a refugee under international law. The judge acknowledged that Kiribati is suffering from environmental woes such as storm surges, flooding and water contamination that could be attributed to climate change, but stressed that so are millions of other people in low-lying countries.

Priestly cited the United Nations Refugee Convention stating that refugees must fear persecution if they returned home, and said Teitiota did not meet this requirement.

Petition denied. The Inquirer gave the story the margin-to-margin title “Islander fails in bid to become first climate change refugee.”

This story is relevant in view of the unprecedented magnitude, even by world standards, of the destruction wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (“Haiyan”) in parts of central Philippines, the awesome rehabilitation and reconstruction work ahead, and the human toll (more than 5,600 dead at this writing) that Yolanda left behind. Many survivors have been leaving the devastated landscape in droves to seek refuge, even if temporarily, in safer havens. Others may not want to go home again.

Which got me thinking: What do we have here, internal refugees? Not evacuees, whose flight and change of residence are more temporary in nature.

The term “internal refugees” was coined by human rights groups during the Marcos dictatorship. The military would drive out residents of entire villages in order to flush out suspected rebels. Many left their homes never to return again. I know some from the provinces who feared for their lives and resettled in Metro Manila. Some even sought political asylum abroad.

The world has seen different kinds of refugees in the last century. Refugees from political persecution, war, famine. Now, as in the first test case involving a Kiribati national, we have a climate change refugee. Is the world ready? This will be a new kind of refugee—from climate change, which is not entirely Mother Nature’s whim, but her wrathful reaction to humankind’s abuses against the planet. (Some extreme schools of thought may attribute the calamities to inexorable planetary or cosmic changes not of humankind’s making.)

According to Nature World News (NWN), Kiribati faces problems of rising sea levels and its increasing population. NWN reported that about half of the total head count, some 50,000 people, are already packed onto a small sand strip that measures six square miles.

Countries such as Kiribati and Tuvalu have been sinking over the past many years, but NWN cited a Reuters report that global warming might not be the sole cause of Kiribati’s woes. Local traditions favoring large families and Church restrictions on family planning have led to population increase, overcrowding, disease, and infant mortality. Two friends of mine, both health education experts, worked in Kiribati many years ago. They didn’t tell me about Kiribati’s sinking then.

Agence France Presse reported that the UN Human Rights Commission is concerned that Kiribati, Tuvalu, Tokelau and the Maldives could become “stateless” because of climate change. NWN said Kiribati President Anote Tong has predicted that his country will be uninhabitable in the next 30 to 60 years because of sea level rise and contamination of freshwater. Among the options are moving the entire population to manmade islands and buying land in Fiji.

The Pacific region has some of the smallest nations on Earth which are most vulnerable to climate change. An Asian Development Bank report stressed the impact of climate change on the region’s agriculture, fisheries, tourism, coral reefs and human health. Papua New Guinea, East Timor, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa and Solomon Islands are taking a bad hit.

Last September, the 15-nation Pacific Islands Forum signed the Majuro Declaration (named after the capital of Marshall Islands) which seeks pledges on cutting greenhouse gas emissions and adopting renewable energy.

Back to the local front. An Inquirer report (by correspondent Robert Gonzaga) said that Bataan, the site of the camp for refugees from Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia (called “boat people” then) who fled communist rule two to three decades ago, could be a major relocation area for Yolanda survivors in search of new homes. Some Bataan residents are open to the idea of Yolanda survivors either as temporary refugees or starting a new life in the province. They had welcomed Indochinese refugees in the past, they said, why not fellow Filipinos this time?

The former camp in Morong, Bataan, is now the site of the Bataan Technology Park (area: approximately 360 hectares). Bases Conversion and Development Authority president Arnel Casanova said he’s open to the idea.

Of course, there are pros and cons, so hold your horses. The refugee camp under the UN High Commissioner for Refugees had UN funding then. Bringing in Yolanda survivors will require logistics of the government kind. Jobs, skills and cultural integration are just a few issues. Will Yolanda survivors—refugees in their own country—even take the offer?

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

New Bantayog heroes, martyrs honored today

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

Inquirer file photo

Three individuals and a group of 19, mostly teenagers, are to be honored Tuesday as martyrs and heroes in ceremonies at Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes) in Quezon City. Their names will be added to the list etched on the black granite Wall of Remembrance, bringing the total number to 223.

To be honored are Inocencio Tocmo Ipong (1945-1983), a church worker and former political detainee; Nicasio Manalo Morales (1955-1999), a consumer advocate and, later, a US-based antimartial law activist; Cesar Ella Hicaro (1947-1980); and a group of 19 young Filipinos collectively known as the Escalante martyrs, who were mostly in their teens when shot dead during a 1985 rally in Negros Occidental province.

All were opposed to the martial law regime of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and considered freedom advocates. The way they lived and died varied but they all had a heroic streak that made them worthy to be included in the list of names engraved on the Wall of Remembrance. The wall stands a few meters from the 45-foot bronze monument by renowned sculptor Eduardo Castrillo. The monument depicts a defiant mother raising up a fallen son.

The monument, the commemorative wall and other structures at the Bantayog complex are dedicated to the nation’s modern-day martyrs and heroes who fought against all odds to help restore freedom, peace, justice, truth and democracy in the country.

Church worker

Born in North Cotabato, Ipong spent three college years at a seminary in Davao City and later transferred to San Carlos University in Cebu City where he graduated. In college he got involved in farmers’ struggles. Eventually, he joined the Federation of Free Farmers as an organizer.

When martial rule was declared in 1972, Ipong saw the abuses brought about by authoritarian rule. He worked as a lay assistant of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, an organization founded by the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines. He organized marginalized communities in order to empower them to fight exploitation.

In 1982, Ipong was abducted and illegally detained in Camp Catitipan in Davao City. He was declared missing for some time until his father, who was looking for him, heard him calling from behind the grills. Ipong had been tortured by his military captors who wanted him to admit he was the man they were looking for.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

'Waray Waray,' let's rock!

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

Before anything else, let me share what my friend, actor-activist Joel Saracho of T’bak-Pilipinas, posted on Facebook last Sunday (during the Pacquiao-Rios boxing bout in Macau) which got lots of “likes” and “LoLs”: “I have this nagging suspicion that today, a lot of people will temporarily cease being disaster management experts. They will become boxing commentators and sports analysts.”

This caricatured the blamers, finger-pointers, flame-throwers and I-told-you-soers who added to the fallout of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” that leveled most of the Waray-speaking Eastern Visayas (that is, the provinces of Leyte and Samar) and parts of Western Visayas. Of course, the morning-after experts all sounded like they meant well, but after a while the ululations, especially from those with obvious malice intended, could get annoying.

Soon after The Great Howler left, people in devastated areas crawled out of the rubble with nary a possession, many with their entire brood missing. The stories of loss, survival and heroism—there’s an ocean of them. Now, more than two weeks later, international, local and government relief groups still have their hands full, but things are beginning to look up and people are starting to break into smiles, sing songs, and play basketball. And what a bonus that boxing idol Manny Pacquiao won with nary a cut on his face, and promising to pay the survivors a visit and share his prize money.

I last visited Samar and Leyte in 2010 to see for myself community-driven development projects. I visited Balangiga, in Eastern Samar, the historic little town that fought to the death the colonizing Americans on Sept. 28, 1901. The event that happened during the waning years of the Philippine-American war is now known as the “Balangiga encounter.”

To resist domination, Balangiga tribesmen attacked the elite Company C of the 9th US Infantry Regiment. It was a suspenseful strategy that showed the Filipinos’ boldness and daring in the face of a superior force. Forty-eight Americans perished and 28 native combatants died. (I remember watching the movie “Sunugin ang Samar” directed by Joey Gosiengfiao.) In retaliation, the Americans waged a scorched-earth campaign and turned Samar into a “howling wilderness,” earning for Gen. Jake Smith the sobriquet “Howling Jake.” Hundreds of Filipinos were killed. The Americans took with them three church bells of Balangiga. (There is an unrelenting campaign for their return.) I hope the lifelike replica of the bloody event by National Artist Napoleon Abueva in front of the Catholic Church of St. Lawrence was not ruined by Yolanda.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Benedictine nuns amid the ruins

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

The Divine Word Hospital (DWH) in Tacloban City was the only hospital that continued to operate in the immediate aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda,” which wrecked almost everything in its path in the morning of Nov. 8. Operated by the Missionary Benedictine Sisters—and funded, too, through their unrelenting efforts—the 160-bed hospital became a hub of life-saving emergency activities that challenged the survival instincts of the nuns, the hospital staff, the 159 patients and their bantay (watchers).

It was all hands on deck, a scene out of “ER,” the TV series, except that roaring wind, rain and sea were tearing away at sections of the hospital outside and inside. There was no place to hide. “Mother Nature was crying, howling so intensely,” recalled Sr. Ana Maria Raca, superior of the hospital. Window panes crumbled to pieces, air conditioners jumped out of their niches, roofs peeled away, electricity and all means of communication went dead. 
By the time the sky cleared, the almost dying were dead, and the new admissions—the badly injured or near dead—severely tested the traumatized hospital staff. And the nuns, too, some of whom could have perished had they not given in to instinct and put into practice the spirit of obedience at the 11th hour. Yes, in this day and age of headstrong nuns.

All the 16 Benedictine nuns who were in Tacloban when Yolanda hit survived. Not all of them were connected with the hospital. About half of them were from the Benedictine-run St. Scholastica’s College-Tacloban, which was about 45 minutes by motor vehicle from DWH. The school’s superior, Sr. Baptista Busmente, was in Manila, but the newly installed president, Sr. Julia Yap, was on campus before Yolanda hit. The school nuns knew of the warnings but some thought it was safe enough on campus. But Sister Julia was restless. A marine biologist who can dive and swim, she would have been the least worried.

That late afternoon on the eve of Yolanda, Sister Julia surveyed the landscape around and beyond. “I was overcome with a strange feeling. As a marine biologist, I am familiar with the behavior of the tides and of the sea,” she told me. Was it fear of impending doom? She was also well aware of the kind of ground the school buildings (about three years old) were standing on—reclaimed land near a mangrove area.

When Sisters Julia and Ana Maria spoke to each other over the phone, a decision was made: The school sisters must go to the hospital, spend the night there, and wait the typhoon out. Sr. Lourdes Obejas, who was flying in from Manila, was told to proceed to the hospital and not to the school.

Sr. Edissa Manrique wasn’t too keen on going to the hospital, but Sister Ana Maria insisted that no one was to be left behind. All the school nuns moved over to the hospital and took with them provisions for a day. No hemming and hawing. “Obedience without delay” is a monastic practice of those with religious vows.

Some footnotes here. The first Missionary Benedictine Sisters came to the Philippines from Germany in 1906. Known for their adherence to “ora et labora” (pray and work), they run about a dozen schools known for strict discipline and emphasis on social awareness, the Tacloban hospital (one more coming up in Pambujan, Samar), and ministries for the marginalized.

These sisters that I mention were the ones I spoke to last Sunday at St. Scholastica’s College-Manila where relief packages were being sorted out before transport to Leyte. These sisters flew to Manila days after Yolanda to help with relief efforts. Several truckloads have already been transported to the hospital by land and air.

The traumatic experience was still evident in the nuns’ voices, but the grace of humor somehow lightened the load. They recounted how they, along with the hospital staff, subsisted on rice porridge and boiled eggs three times a day till food supplies came, how it was not to have a bath and change of clothes for days, how they had to find the words while blessing the dead.

St. Scholastica’s Tacloban was a total wreck. The nuns’ decision to evacuate saved their lives. In the aftermath, witnesses saw looters hauling away sinks and the nuns’ carry-on suitcases. “As if they were walking out of an airport,” a sister said with a chuckle.

The Benedictines’ school in Ormoc City was not as badly hit, and expectedly, it was their farm-retreat in Alangalang that did not run out of food and water. There were peanuts and root crops in the ground and farm animals to be butchered. The 40-plus seminarians on retreat were a great help.

After the deadly storm surge, two nuns from the hospital went out to join the walking wounded in search of food for the patients. “Twice I bumped into [Interior] Secretary Mar Roxas,” a nun recounted. She broke out of the cordon and exclaimed unabashed, “Mr. Roxas! Mr. Roxas! Please give us rice for the hospital!” The rice came after their second encounter, and with President Aquino present this time.

This space is not enough for all the stories. No aid is too small or too big for the survivors of this unprecedented “world-class” disaster. Alumnae here and abroad (Canada, the United States, etc.) of Benedictine schools (St. Scholastica’s Manila and other branches) have been giving aid through the nuns, sending cash, even providing transport planes. For info on relief efforts and donations, visit http://haiyan.scholastican.org. It has a list of bank accounts under the name Prioress of the Community of Benedictine Sisters.

As the Benedictines had taught us in our youth, Ut in omnibus glorificetur Deus. That in all things God may be glorified.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Media's heroic coverage of 'Yolanda'

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

The first images of the fury of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” that were sent from the eye of the storm to the outside were from the media persons who were themselves trapped, battered and in near-death situations when the horrific onslaught from sea and sky began and continued for several hours.

The sounds and images did not come out fast and easy from devastated Central Philippines. For many hours, communication was dead and those of us in Metro Manila and elsewhere had no idea how deadly Yolanda (international name: “Haiyan”) was, that nothing like this had pounded this country, or this world for that matter, in so many lifetimes.

Despite the dire warnings from weather experts, and even with President Aquino calling on local governments and the citizenry to gird for the worst, there was little that could have prepared those in the path of the supertyphoon for its deadly visit. Nothing and no one was spared. Poor and rich, saints and sinners, old and young, politician and proletariat. The provinces of Leyte, Samar and parts of Cebu and Western Visayas were the worst hit, flattened by wind, rain and sea surges that roared like a tsunami gone berserk.

The Philippine media walked into the eye of the so-called perfect storm hoping to record the behavior of this “big one,” only to find themselves on their knees praying for deliverance, some of them thinking that death would claim them. Wet and shivering in the watery hell, they recorded their own last hours, so to speak, not knowing whether they would emerge from their shelters that were falling apart before their eyes. We would see footage of these only much later.
When the sky cleared and communication was back, some media persons were in near-tears; others stoically helped pull out the dead and searched for members of their news teams. The streets were littered with dead bodies and debris. Entire towns and villages were flattened. Tacloban City was a wreck. Where to go for food, water and medicines?

But before the coverage of the aftermath, there were the live images of Yolanda’s wrath, of Nature on the warpath caught on camera and beamed in real time, at least for a while, until everything went dead. Thanks to technology and the warm-blooded (I almost wrote “bloodied”) and intrepid journalists and cameramen (from TV, print and radio), the bad news was relayed to the world, not with lightning speed, but at least within the day. Thanks, too, to the TV and radio news anchors and print editors who did their best to track down their people who would send the news—that is, if they made it alive.

The good news is that no member of the media perished. They all made it, shaky and shaken but alive. The bad news is that the death toll and the number of missing persons are swiftly rising. The journalists’ coverage of Yolanda’s landfall and immediate aftermath was nothing short of heroic. We must salute them all, for braving the elements in order to bring us the news, the voices and the human faces of the suffering. Some reporters have since been replaced by their colleagues but they’ll be back, I’m sure, after a change of clothes.

A scene I found touching was how the journalists from different institutions banded together and looked after one another, our own Inquirer reporters among them, throwing to the wind their competitive streaks.

And thank God for small mercies, I did not catch any broadcast reporter, during the immediate aftermath, asking survivors the oft-asked question during tragedies that I most hate to hear: “Anong nararamdaman ninyo (What are you feeling)?”

Oh, but if a collective award has to be given to the media for the coverage of Yolanda’s deadly landfalls, its immediate aftermath, and related issues down the road, it might as well be the passing of the Freedom of Information bill. Is this too much to ask from the lobbying public and the legislators who saw how journalists risked their lives?

We’ve had terrible earthquakes (just last month in Central Visayas), floods, typhoons and landslides that claimed countless lives, many of these partly blamed on human unpreparedness or disregard for the environment. Yolanda was different and in a class all its own. While climate change worsened by environmental degradation could be the reason for extreme weather conditions, Yolanda seemed to have emerged from the belly of a monster with no name. Weather experts were at a loss for words to describe its magnitude and strength, except to say that it was the strongest to hit land—and it had to be the Philippines—ever recorded in so many, many years.

There will be more tragic images and stories to come, more work to be done, but also more hearts and palms opening. Filipinos from many corners of the world are sending help. Foreign aid is coming in, but it must be on our own native resources—material and spiritual—that our rebuilding must depend.

To foreign-based Filipinos who heckle, taunt and ask “What is so-and-so doing, where is the Church, etc.?” I say: You don’t know what’s being done on the ground.

The Philippines is at the center of the world, in the eye of the storm of goodwill, so we might as well prove to ourselves and to the universe that we can rise beautifully from the rubble. We have one another. This could be our shining moment, our defining moment.
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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fr. Joe shook hell in 'job heaven'

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

Fr. Joe Dizon, 65, passed away on Nov. 4 because of
complications due to diabetes. He will be missed by his fellow social activists, street parliamentarians, brother priests and, most of all, countless workers whom he helped through the Workers Assistance Center (WAC) that he founded and ran for almost 20 years.

A celebration-fundraising (for his hospital bills) is being organized for next week by “Ganito Tayo Noon 1980-1986” activists. See Facebook.

Father Joe was a familiar figure in activist groups for decades. He was a gentle, soft-spoken man who walked among firebrands. The last time I spoke with him was some months ago at an ecumenical forum where he was a reactor. After the forum, he asked me to autograph a copy of my book. Oh, but before the forum, while we were waiting for the main speaker, I needled him about the excesses of his friends in the radical Left, the armed communists especially, and I cited the killing of unarmed army recruits on training and reports about land mines.

“Ano ba yan, pakisabi naman,” I said, then added a few more mouthfuls. He listened and nodded.

Years ago, I wrote a two-part special report on the working conditions at the Cavite export processing zone (CEPZ) and on the deplorable lives of the workers. The article was for Holy Week, and so it was quite fitting that a priest, Father Joe, and his staff would help me get inside the CEPZ. Father Joe showed me around and introduced me to the striking workers broiling in the summer heat and the women workers in their cramped living quarters outside the zone.

I just dug up that special report. Here is the first paragraph: “Pawning ATM cards at usurious ‘5-6’ interest rates in order to survive. Delayed and below-minimum wages. A perennial diet of instant noodles. Sleeping in hot, crowded quarters. Forced overtime or ‘OTTY’ (overtime, thank you). ‘Finish contract’ every five months. Perpetual contractuals. Union-busting, summary dismissals. Runaway shops. No union, no strike policy.” You can imagine the rest.

The WAC has been doing organizing work and espousing the cause of workers since 1995. It started as part of the sociopastoral program of the Santo Rosario Parish in Cavite and later became an independent nongovernment organization. Father Joe said the WAC drew from the Church’s teachings on labor and justice spelled out in papal encyclicals (Rerum Novarum, Quadragesimo Anno, Laborem Exercens, etc.). One of its important achievements was organizing the Solidarity of Cavite Workers (SCW), a province-wide alliance of groups that upheld genuine and militant unionism.

At the time of my visit, the WAC maintained a center called Bahay Manggagawa built from funds from the German Catholic bishops’ Misereor. The center was a haven for workers and responded to their needs, be these legal, organizational, or simply personal.

The WAC also provides training in rights and welfare, especially those of women, trade union management and organizational development. It publishes the quarterly “Manggagawa Manlilikha” for CEPZ workers.

“When we started there was not a single union here,” Father Joe recalled then. Putting up unions was a slow and hazardous process indeed. Certification elections were a major hurdle, with employers blocking the way through divide-and-rule or instant holidays on election time. Most workers would rather accept unjust labor practices than lose their jobs.

The CEPZ had been vaunted as a “job paradise” or “job heaven” but as WAC documentation had shown, it was not so for many. The special report that I wrote years ago showed why the CEPZ was not heaven at all. Father Joe and the WAC were there to shake the hell out of the “heaven.” I hope things have changed for the better.

Some years ago I was assigned to write a Valentine’s Day Page 1 story on Father Joe and his adopted son John-John, then a toddler. The article was about how the child came into the priest’s life, how he nursed the dying boy back to life, the boy’s biological family, the adoption process, etc. After the article came out, Father Joe told me he was going to keep it for John-John to read when he’s grown up. At our last meeting some months ago, he told me that his copy of the article was now with John-John.

How Father Joe landed in Cavite’s Diocese of Imus is a story in itself. He was among the activists thrown out of the seminary by Manila Archbishop Rufino Cardinal Santos. Really keen on pursuing the priesthood, he went to Imus Bishop Felix Perez who then took him in. (The late bishop was known for his critical stance against martial law and the Marcos dictatorship.) Other seminarians with activist streaks were also welcomed in other dioceses.

While it was in the Cavite workers’ milieu that Father Joe chose to live out his priestly vocation, he was a familiar figure in Metro Manila rallies and solidarity work. Cavite, his home base, while becoming a highly urbanized industrial zone, has not lived down its old reputation for highly charged politics and being a haven for criminal syndicates. He knew too well that priests had no protective shields.

I saw Father Joe sobbing and shedding copious tears at the funeral of his brother priest, Fr. Jesus Palileo, who was slain and left bloodied on a grassy field in Cavite. Father Joe told me that despite warnings, the young priest went out at night to seek the lost sheep. (I wrote about the killing, which might have been the handiwork of drug lords.)

Father Joe did not die a martyr’s death. He had not been well for some time but, with cane in hand, he continued to reach out. He harkened to the distant drums and was in step with the marching masses crying out for redemption.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

"The Nameless' virtual monument

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

This All Saints-All Souls Day weekend there is much to remember. Memories crash in like a strong wave coming from a great distance. We fall on our knees to pray and be grateful.

“We are nameless and all names are ours.” This is the subtitle of the website “The Nameless” run by the Project Nameless Collective. The website is yet another way to remember and celebrate the heroic lives of individuals who spent much of their time on earth in the service of their fellow Filipinos, they who fought for justice and freedom without counting the cost.

Many of them crossed over to the Great Beyond with much blood and pain, some with nary a trace, leaving behind families and comrades with grief so deep and wounds still unhealed. Others peacefully moved on in the faint glow of sunset, the trails they blazed now become well-lit and well-travelled paths for a new generation..

But many, too, are those who have not been publicly hailed, known only to those who lived and fought closely and even secretly with them, but who deserve to be known nonetheless, not so much to earn for them belated honors as to allow their sacrifices to be imitated, duplicated.

And so while “nameless” may be a figure of speech, it honors and, just as importantly, includes those who are literally nameless, faceless or unknown to many, those who perished in the night with the name of their beloved country on their lips, who died alone in wildernesses with clenched fists slowly opening to receive eternal reward, their eyes beholding their own new dawn.

The Project Nameless Collective is composed of volunteers who contribute content to The Nameless website and keep it running. They are mostly comrades, relatives and friends of the heroes honored on the virtual shrine. The collective also mounts projects, such as mobile exhibits about the heroes and martyrs honored on this website.

The Nameless website is the collective’s way to make people “remember and celebrate the heroes…of the struggle for national freedom and democracy in the Philippines.” The collective collaborates with individuals and groups with similar objectives, like the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation and Ganito Kami Noon, Paano Tayo Ngayon and Tibak Pilipinas, to name a few.

 It can, for example, gather and provide documentation that can assist in pending nominations for Bantayog ng mga Bayani. Speaking of Bantayog ng mga Bayani, I am sure it will have its share of visitors during this All Saints-All Souls Day weekend. The remains of more than 200 (and counting) Bantayog heroes and martyrs are not buried there but their names are engraved on the black granite Wall of Remembrance that reminds us of their sufferings and sacrifices for the motherland.

I learned that although there are more than 200 names engraved on the Wall of Remembrance, there are more than 1,000 more in the Bantayog files, awaiting more substantial documentation. And there are tens of thousands more, many of them poor and unknown who died fighting for justice and democracy during the dark days of martial rule. To them, Bantayog trustee and multiawarded poet Jose “Pete” Lacaba dedicated the poem, “The Nameless” (excerpts at the end of this column).

The Nameless website is “a community-based, community-driven, intercreative, and interactive site: that is, it will rely on the comrades, friends, and relatives of ‘the nameless’ to continuously provide content, and to have discussions about our heroes and martyrs. It is a social network built to serve the needs of communities who seek to name ‘the nameless.’” Threaded comments, like those in social networking sites, are a feature of the website.

Launched last February, this project is an initiative of activists of the martial-law period. The website says that those who contribute to the site honor not only those who are no longer around but also the nameless who remember them, and who continue to make their legacy known. The site wishes to remember and celebrate heroes of all political persuasions, and possibly of different historical periods. (For starters, writer Carlos Bulosan who championed the cause of Filipino laborers in the United States during the Great Depression has been included to represent those from a long bygone era.)

I looked at the roster of names of The Nameless and realized that I had written about a good number of them for the mainstream media—from rebel priest Fr. Zacarias Agatep to “Kristo” to “Bullet X,” etc. I will be sending copies of my articles to the site.

Those who wish to contribute to the site may write to info@nameless.org.ph.

The Nameless by Jose “Pete” Lacaba

Nalalaman na lang natin/Ang kanilang mga pangalan /Kung sila ay wala na/Subalit habang sila’y nabubuhay/ Sila’y walang mga pangalan/Walang mukhang madaling tandaan/Hindi sila naiimbitang magtalumpati sa liwasan/Hindi inilalathala ng pahayagan/Ang kanilang mga larawan/At kung makasalubong mo sa daan/Kahit anong pomada ang gamit nila/ Ay hindi ka mapapalingon/Sila’y walang mga pangalan/Walang mukhang madaling tandaan/ Subalit sila ang nagpapatakbo/Sa motor ng kilusang mapagpalaya/Sila ang mga paang nagmartsa/Sa mga kalsadang nababakuran/ Ng alambreng tinik/Sila ang mga bisig na nagwawagayway/Ng mga bandila ng pakikibaka/Sa harap ng batuta at bala/Sila ang mga kamaong nagtaas/Ng nagliliyab na sulo Sa madilim na gabi ng diktadura/Sila ang mga tinig na sumigaw ng “Katarungan! Kalayaan!…”

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Benedictines from all over meet in PH for educational thrust

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

MANILA, Philippines—Educators from schools run by members of the Benedictine Order in different countries are holding a four-day global conference in Manila on the theme “Benedictine Education: A Gift to the World.”

Some 100 religious sisters, monks and their lay collaborators are gathered for the Benet 2013 Conference, which opened on Wednesday and will end on Saturday, on the St. Scholastica’s College Manila campus.

The Benedictines are monks, nuns and lay brothers who are members of congregations following the rule created by St. Benedict of Nursia, Italy, in the 6th century. Benedictine congregations are known for their scholarship and liturgical worship. Benedictine monasteries in Europe were especially known to be repositories of learning and literature in the Middle Ages.

Abbot Primate Dr. Norkel Wolf OSB said the education of young people has been a hallmark of the Benedictine and Cistercian Orders for more than a millennium. Timeless values “(Our) vocation as educators is a strong testimony of the vitality and richness of our timeless Benedictine values, in particular, seeing and reverencing Christ in the young, old and most vulnerable among us,” he said.

In many countries, and especially in the Philippines, Benedictine institutions of learning are “forces for sociopolitical cultural transformation,” said Sr. Josefina Nepomuceno OSB, executive director of the Association of Benedictine Schools in the Philippines and chair of the conference committee.

“A socially oriented Benedictine education is our gift to the world,” said Sr. Mary John Mananzan OSB, former prioress of the Missionary Benedictine Sisters and former president of St. Scholastica’s College. She said St. Benedict was a patron of “sustainable agriculture” and peace, the “Pax Benedictina.”

In her keynote speech, Mananzan spoke about priorities for Benedictine education in these times, about “academic leaders as servant and prophetic leaders of their communities toward education for justice and social transformation.”

Liberating pedagogy

She related how, during the repressive martial law years, St. Scholastica’s College adopted a “liberating pedagogy” that contributed to social awareness and responsibility.

Among the countries represented at the conference are South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Columbia, Germany, England, the United States and the Philippines. The last Benet conference was held in Germany in 2010. The triennial conference was organized by the International Benedictine Committee for Education headed by Fr. Christopher Jamison OSB of Worth Abbey in England. The abbey runs Worth School, a boarding school that is the alma mater of a number of Filipinos, most prominently Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the brothers Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel de Ayala.

Besides speakers at plenary sessions, the conference features “best-practice workshops” tackling topics such as “Young People and Benedict’s Rule Today” (Philippines), “Good Samaritan Education” (Australia), “E-twinning” (Germany), “The African Experience” (South Africa) and “Boarding Schools” (England).

The big Benedictine schools in the Philippines are St. Scholastica’s College run by the Missionary Benedictine Sisters, with many branches around the country, and San Beda College and its branches run by Benedictine monks.

The conference host, St. Scholastica’s College and Priory began in the Philippines in 1906 with the arrival of Benedictine sisters from Tutzing, Germany. Among the school’s prominent alumnae are the late President Corazon C. Aquino and the first woman Supreme Court justice, Cecilia Muñoz Palma.

The Benedictine Sisters established the country’s first college of music at St. Scholastica’s. The school is known for its strict discipline, academic standards and involvement in social issues.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

'Repair my house'

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

The first images of the destruction wrought by the killer quake that struck the island provinces of Bohol and Cebu on Oct. 15 were those of ancient churches that crumbled to the ground like polvoron. Only later, after the media had arrived, were more images seen and voices heard from ruins in remote places.

Churches, being the prominent landmarks and tourist-drawers in hard-hit Bohol, became, for a while, the focus of interest and panghihinayang (feeling of loss). Not to say that lost lives and the suddenly homeless and injured human beings are secondary. But for many Boholanos, the churches are also their homes, part of their lives and the history of generations.

And so ancient churches crashing down, and what might be the symbolic meaning of the heaps of debris, are not lost on many. It really depends on what the word “church” signifies to whoever is contemplating the devastation. From power to powder? What means “church”? Structure or people?

I have visited the churches in Baclayon, Loboc and Maribojoc in Bohol. In the Loboc church (home of the famous children’s choir) I was able to photograph the paintings on the ceiling (frescoes) that showed Jesus calming the wind and the turbulent waves opposite a rendition of the compassionate Jesus the Good Shepherd. The paintings are framed by what look like carved pink moldings which are actually flat, done in renaissance Italian chiaroscuro style that gives depth and volume.

After the earthquake ruined the Loboc church, I posted the photo on Facebook and got many “likes”.

Discovered only a few years ago in the Baclayon church was Misa Baclayana, an old musical score believed to have been written in the 1800s. I was able to see the huge original score and listen to the children of Loboc sing the hymns in Intramuros in 2010. I did write about it (“Misa Baclayana: ancient beauty that sounds so new,” May 27, 2010).

Thursday, October 17, 2013

"Poverty porn'

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

Sunday, we were reminded, was “Extreme Poverty Sunday.” Today, Oct. 17, is the “World Day for Overcoming Poverty,” declared so by the United Nations in 1992.

Do you know that in Rizal Park (Luneta), there is a marker that serves as a reminder? It was installed there through the efforts of ATD-Fourth World, a nongovernment organization whose French founder, Fr. Joseph Wresinski, was the inspiration behind Oct. 17. Groups will be gathering there this morning.

The first marker was unveiled in Paris’ Trocadero Human Rights Plaza on Oct. 17, 1987, in the presence of some 100,000 people from varying social backgrounds. (I’ve seen it there.) On the marble marker is engraved: “Whenever men and women are condemned to live in poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights be respected is our solemn duty.” A

ll these bring me to the much debated subject of “poverty porn,” which focuses on practices of the media (journalists, photojournalists, documentarists, filmmakers), development aid groups, fund raisers and those who have poverty among their concerns.

I don’t know when the words were coined, or who did. The general definition that I can glean from all the lofty and sharp arguments on the Internet—and this is a composite definition—is that poverty porn is the use and display of stark images of persons in extreme poverty that border on the exploitative and intrusive, in order to generate sympathy and donations, to increase newspaper circulation and TV ratings, or even to gain fame. And, it is stressed, noble ends do not justify such “exploitation.”

As to generating funds, I can say from personal experience that I was so repulsed by the images of poverty in the Philippines, and of particular families at that (with names and all), shown at a high-end fund-raising dinner to which I was invited (as a journalist). I almost hyperventilated and choked on my food, but the regular guests to that yearly affair must have dug deep into their pockets. Poverty porn wasn’t yet a byword then, and I didn’t have a name for what I saw on screen.

As a journalist I have seen and written enough about poverty. Years ago I was invited by a big Catholic university to share with the entire faculty and staff going through formation sessions my encounters with poverty. What insights could I impart? Sometime back the Inquirer editors asked me to write some kind of module for reporters covering the poverty beat.

And now this debate about poverty porn, as if the media were the main purveyor of it. So how far can media practitioners—and aid workers, too—go to inform, prick consciences, afflict the comfortable, show reality, etc., and not be called pornographers?

A friend once told me that her intrepid daughter who worked with a TV production that investigated poverty in far-flung areas was assigned to be an advance party. Her task was to find a situation of extreme poverty, preferably a family, “yung nilalangaw” (fly-infested). After some time, her daughter resigned, not because of the difficult work…

In the 1980s, when it was tiempos muertes or deadly August in Negros island and despite the dictatorship’s aversion to subversive pictures, we proceeded to write and capture images. The skin-and-bones Joel Abong became the poster child of starvation in the social volcano that was Negros. I shot a photo of a young emaciated girl named April Trabocon who suffered from what looked like kwashiorkor, or extreme malnutrition. “April with August in her eyes” was the title of my magazine piece with her photo. (I want to know if she is alive.)

Dorothea Lange photographed faces and images during the US Great Depression that became famous. I have a book of her photographs that I bought during the exhibition of her works in San Francisco. A heartbreaking shot shows Filipinos working in a lettuce field in the 1930s. Her photo of a distressed woman is like a Mona Lisa in reverse. I first saw it in my book of photographs, “The Family of Man,” which is a collection “from the greatest photographic exhibition of all time” (1955). Beside that photo is another famous Lange photo of a sullen man holding a cup that looks empty.

I don’t see poverty porn in Lange’s black-and-whites. I feel her compassion.

I watch local TV documentaries and sense the journalists’ desire to let people and government know about hidden poverty and brazen neglect. I am grateful. But sometimes—and now that I have the name for it—some images could border on so-called poverty porn, if not exhibitionism, voyeurism or intrusion. The poor are further diminished when they are shown as “nilalangaw.”

There are award-winning docus that have captured my heart: Ditsi Carolino’s black-and-white “Minsan Lang Sila Bata” (about child labor) and “Riles” (about families living near railroad tracks). I myself wrote a two-part special report on “homes along the riles.” I photographed people in their shacks while the trains were roaring behind me. Was I doing poverty porn?

Years ago I did a magazine feature on the sex life of the urban poor, which had true-to-life stories and all. Recently, when the debate on the reproductive health bill was heating up, I resurrected and turned it into two serious column pieces—no photos, just words. I couldn’t believe the readers’ reactions. Many seemed entertained. For some, it brought laughter.

What about photos of Mother Teresa embracing the dying amid a landscape of destitution? What about movie director Lino Brocka showing the festering wounds of society and Gil Portes’ “Mulanay” showing a poor child defecating in the open? What do we make of the new foreign movies depicting the underside of Manila?

What is poverty porn for you? Tell me what you think.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

'New evangelization' and plunder

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

I can bet my month’s earnings that most of the suspected, accused and guilty (the guilty know they are guilty even before they are proven guilty or innocent in court) in the blockbuster multibillion-peso plunder case under investigation are Catholic Christians by affiliation, or profess to be. At least one of them had, at some point, surrounded herself with members of the clergy, and reportedly even donated sumptuous sums to them.

Some could say, But of course, it’s but logical and proportionate because Catholic Christians are the majority in this country. But of course? If we follow that logic or computation, and because there is a more or less equal number of men and women in this country and planet, then why is there not an equal number of men and women convicts in prison? Male convicts largely outnumber female convicts behind bars.

These thoughts have been running in my mind these past days. Being a Catholic Christian (by birth, choice, current affiliation, and in practice), I can point to my own and not be called a stone-thrower or pharisaical. Those from other faiths or affiliations have not openly pointed at this condemnable state of affairs (they’d rather hammer at doctrines and “false teachings”) lest they be accused of being like the Pharisee in the Bible, but I am sure the figures are not lost on them.

And so, here I am, pointing it out and hoping not to get stoned back to a pulp. At least I am pointing to the mote in my own Church’s eye. I bring this up because of the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE) which will be held on Oct. 16-18 and which is expected to draw some 5,000 participants from all over the country and abroad.

Might this gathering help bring some healing to this country’s depraved and wounded state, and bring about renewed vigor to combat the evil rampant in our land? The fruits may not come now, but maybe in the next generation? The venue is the University of Santo Tomas, with its new Quadricentennial Pavilion serving as plenary center. The main organizers are the Archdiocese of Manila under Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle (chair) and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ Episcopal Commission and Catechesis and Catholic Education. Msgr. Garardo Santos is vice chair, and former Ambassador to the Holy See Henrietta de Villa is executive secretary.

A report recently quoted Cardinal Tagle as saying that “the eyes of the Vatican are on us”—not for the Vatican to police but to know what the Philippine Church can contribute to the experience and clarification of the new evangelization. A Vatican observer might be present. But more important, I think, is what Filipino Catholics will take back to their respective communities and the local churches that will fire up the practice of their faith and that will bring about positive change.

As forcefully stressed in the vademecum for the media and the PCNE announcements: “We are still challenged by pluralism, burdened by much graft and corruption in politics and governance, saddled in economics with ‘inequalities of the grossest kind’ and widespread poverty resulting in the poor becoming poorer and the rich becoming richer, and confronted with increasing imbalances in the educational sector.” (Emphasis is mine.)

The three-day gathering will feature many simultaneous talks and sharing sessions on various topics. I hope graft and corruption in high places, in the ranks, in government and outside government, in nongovernment organizations, and even religious institutions will be brought into discussions. I am sure Church-related NGOs will be well-represented at the PCNE.

If I remember right, Commission on Audit Chair Grace Pulido-Tan (one of the “three Furies” exposing and investigating the plunder case) said—and I paraphrase—that in the end, even with all the preventive and punitive measures, it is really the individual person who will make the choice for the good or for the evil. “Ang tao pa rin.”

Which just easily brings us back to our core values that we learned from our parents, teachers, churches, experiences. What we learned in kindergarten, at play, from nature, from life. Take only what is for you. And give back. Is it really so difficult to choose what is right and just and honest? It must be, it must be, especially for those who are in touch with tremendous power and for whom immense wealth is within reach with a little “creative” effort.

(If I may digress a bit, that is why I am for the abolition of the Sangguniang Kabataan in the barangays where the young and impressionable can be and are exposed early to financial maneuverings by “creative” adults. I am not saying barangay officials are generally corrupt, not at all, but there are incidents that one can’t help wonder about, like why do some barangay candidates kill for an elective position?)

I am honored to be invited to the PCNE preopening ceremonies (Oct. 15) presided over by Cardinal Tagle, and where my latest book, “You Can’t Interview God: Church Women and Men in the News” (Anvil), will be among those presented and blessed. As of today, I am not sure if Anvil will have a booth at the PCNE. But the book will surely be in National Bookstore outlets.

The book consists of some 50 profiles, feature stories, essays, interviews and column pieces I have written on Church women and men—inspiring lives and a piece on the dark side. All, except two, came out in the Inquirer. Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, wrote the foreword. Send me e-mail if you want to see the book’s eye-popping front and back covers. Book design is by Joshene Bersales, cover by Francis Manio.