Thursday, February 28, 2013

Etta's valedictory: Farewell to a dark night

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

There we were, several dozens of us, wearing white T-shirts just handed to us, the back emblazoned with the words in bold font: “MARTIAL LAW SURVIVOR.” There could have been more of us, but not all survivors invited to the 27th anniversary of the Edsa People Power uprising could make it.

This was not going to be just any anniversary. President Noynoy Aquino was going to sign the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act at the morning celebration. It had not been publicly announced and was not even stated in the program. It was going to be a surprise.

I could have gone there as a media person, but I chose to sit with fellow martial law survivors. We wore the “survivor” T-shirts over the shirts we came in, but just before the signing many of us turned the T-shirts around so that the printed part at the back would be in front. For the President to see, and for the cameras, too.

Like the rest of the seated guests, we were given laminated tags that said “VIP.” Someone remarked, “Very Important Prisoner,” as many of the survivors present were during the dark years of martial rule. The remark brought forth a tsunami of memories.

Because of the blocked roads to the People Power monument, Commission on Human Rights (CHR) Chair Etta Rosales had invited me to ride to the celebration with her. I drove to her home so early in the morning. Over a hurried breakfast of pandesal and coffee, I reminded her that I had been to her home many years ago, to interview her when she was a high-profile teacher-activist who fought the Marcos regime and who would later be imprisoned and tortured.

In the van with several other survivors, Etta rehearsed her speech while I timed her. She was to speak before the President’s signing of the law.

Here is Etta’s valedictory, a farewell to a dark night. She spoke for the tens of thousands who survived martial rule and for those who fell in the night.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Women Writers in Media Now in Aliww exhibit

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

We, the Women Writers in Media Now (Women), upon the prodding of the Ateneo Library of Women’s Writings (Aliww), are “exhibiting ourselves” as writers starting today until April 30. The 4:30 p.m. exhibit opening is preceded by a 3 p.m. forum where three of us—Marites D. Vitug, Jo-Ann Q. Maglipon and I—will speak.

See details of the 18th Paz Marquez Benitez Memorial Lecture-Exhibit at: http://womenwritersinmedianow.blogspot.ca/.

“Procure, preserve, promote” writings by and about Filipino women. These three Ps sum up Aliww’s mandate, which has led to the creation of archival “rooms” for women where print items are preserved, items that “allow entry into the world of a woman who has distinguished herself in a particular field.” By providing researchers access to such primary sources, Aliww facilitates the writing of a national history that includes and acknowledges the contribution of Filipino women. I did write about Aliww a couple of years ago in the Sunday Inquirer Magazine (“More than a library of her own,” March 26, 2011). Now on its 18th year, Aliww holds at least two exhibits a year, says director Rica Bolipata Santos.

Here’s Women’s history:

Women writers on edge, gathered on the edge…

In 1981, nine years into the martial law era, a handful of women journalists and literary writers, appalled by the suppression of freedom of expression by the dictatorial regime, gathered, planned, plotted.
The first meetings were tame. The women wanted to hone their writing skills, critique one another’s works and invite veterans to share writing tips and secrets. Their favorite venue was the Heritage Art Gallery where Odette Alcantara welcomed groups and individuals who needed a place to meet, create and express. The women’s meetings soon evolved into regular forums on issues such as press freedom. The mood would shift from serious to irreverent, from heady to intense, from silly to downright subversive.

From and through all these, things began to emerge and converge.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Reporting on the papacy

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

With Pope Benedict XVI’s stunning announcement of his resignation from the papacy—the first in almost 600 years—the Catholic world is again praying, speculating, evaluating. The Pope cited reasons of age and health. Who will fill the Shoes of the Fisherman?

A most sought-after Vatican journalist nowadays is John L. Allen Jr., a prize-winning Vatican correspondent for the US publication National Catholic Reporter (NCR). After news on the Pope’s resignation broke, an international television news network had Allen on camera right away. But it was an Italian journalist—a woman in the male-dominated Vatican—who broke the news first. I didn’t quite catch her explanation on how she had scooped everyone, but she sounded rather humble and matter-of-fact about it.
Allen may be considered the “dean” of Vatican journalists. He is described as “the journalist other reporters—and not a few cardinals—look to for the inside story on how all the pope’s men direct the world’s largest church.”

When the charismatic Pope John Paul II died in 2005, Allen’s revised and updated book “Conclave: the Politics, Personalities and Process of the Next Papal Election” (Doubleday, 2004) became a favorite reference. I got my copy from the Jesuit theologian Fr. Catalino Arevalo, and it served me well when I was assigned to write pieces before and after the conclave.

 Arevalo also gave me a primer, “Papal Transition,” a good guide for journalists, by Rev. Thomas J. Reese, SJ (editor in chief of the Catholic weekly America). It answers 27 questions, including what happens when a pope dies, is in a coma or resigns, what happens at the conclave and after it, etc. And for incorrigible gamblers-bettors, Reese provides a one-liner on what website to visit.