Thursday, December 25, 2014

Mindfulness at Christmas

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

I like the word “mindfulness.” I tried very hard to be mindful of it and to practice it as
Christmas Day drew near, especially when everything out there seemed so chaotic and the “T” word (traffic) was on everyone’s lips. (I commanded myself to screech to a full stop on Dec. 18.)

A composite definition of mindfulness: It is a state of active, open attention to the present; it is living in the moment and awakening to experience. Mindfulness should be a few steps away from contemplation, which is “a long, loving look at reality.”

Many people now do mindfulness exercises. Mindfulness should help one to see more clearly, make good choices, and take the right, meaningful steps.

Alas, Christmas now almost rhymes with “harassed.” Do you feel harassed, stressed, strained, worn-out, pressured, beleaguered? If the words describe the state of affairs in your life, it might be your own fault. Who told you to get mired in endless shopping, gift-wrapping, decorating, cooking, partying, etc.? All of a sudden and before you knew it, a beautiful Christmas morning has broken but you have a throbbing headache, a bug in your tummy, the beginning of a cold and a hint of lumbago. You can’t even shampoo your hair.

Is it now in the Christmas tradition to get caught in a whirlwind of bone-crushing activities that make scrooges out of people? Is Christmas a roller coaster ride? What price Christmas?

Those who call for the secularization of the December feast (by deleting the word “Christmas” and insisting on “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings” instead and getting the crèche out of sight) in order for it to be less Christian and “more inclusive” don’t have to work hard at it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Fil-Swiss' card builds 25 boats

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

Prompted by her desire to help fellow Filipinos badly hit by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), Madonna Limcaco Uhland, a resident of Switzerland, buckled down to work to do her bit by making a Christmas card. She had not taken up brush and palette for a long time.

Uhland joined the Samahang Filipino in St. Gallen (Switzerland) that organized a benefit gathering to raise funds. The planning was quick and short, she said, but each Filipino wanted to do something. “I am not a member of the Samahan but I offered my help with my art work,” Uhland said.

Uhland’s big Christmas card shows a boy looking at a distant star.

This writer, who received the card from Uhland’s Philippine-based sister Priscilla Limcaco Lirag, took interest in Uhland’s art work. When contacted via e-mail, Uhland was pleasantly surprised. She had just come from the Philippines to take care of her ailing mother, Uhland said. “I didn’t know that my sister was carrying my card around.”

According to Uhland, Swiss and many other nationals joined in the fund-raising efforts for those severely affected by the supertyphoon. The money they raised was enough to build 25 fishing boats for fishermen in Carles, one of the badly hit towns in Iloilo province, and also directly help several families.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

DepEd to boost IP education

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

“Ako’y Pilipino! Pilipinas ang bayan ko! Taga Tarukan ako! Lahing katutubo! Tribung Aeta ang kinabibilangan ko!” (I am a Filipino! The Philippines is my country! Tarukan is my home! From an indigenous community of Aetas I come! To the community of Aetas I belong!)

I remember so well the loud, heart-pounding declaration of Aeta children in their first month of classes in the first school ever built in the Aeta hill village of Tarukan in Capas, Tarlac. The builders were their own parents, aided by the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit. The children were like bumblebees, buzzing endlessly, shouting with glee, skipping, hopping on their bare feet, as they raced to school. Snot in their noses, smiles on their faces, sun in their eyes.

I did write about Tarukan’s Bini Pre-School which was made of grass and bamboo and with the bare earth for flooring. It opened on the lush green hillside where I stumbled and fell flat on my face. “Bini” is the Sambal word for seed. It also stands for “Balang oras iaral nawe taha ikanged” (Every moment let’s teach progress).

Some 60 pupils, aged five to 15, were enrolled. Two classes were held every day—one in the morning for those aged five to eight, and another in the afternoon for those aged nine to 15. These were all in the preschool level. One of the teachers came on what they called “Carabao FX.” Where and when is Grade One? I asked then.

That was more than 10 years ago and “seven hills away,” to borrow the words of the great storyteller and National Artist NVM Gonzales.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

No '30' for Sunday Inquirer Magazine

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

For the magazine that is leaving the Sunday scene, staff writer Eric Caruncho wrote a eulogy that sounded happy (for the memories, not for its closing) rather than elegiac.

“As the Sunday Inquirer Magazine (SIM) ends its current incarnation as a glossy monthly (one year and two months) shy of its 30th year, it could only mean that we’ll never write ‘30’! The absence of a sense of finality that this suggests is strangely reassuring: you might just see us again, in another form, another platform.”

Caruncho explained in his cover story (“The story of SIM,” 12/7/14) that “to write ‘30’ in the journalism racket is to end the story.” And this is not the case for SIM. Or so we hope. SIM was my home base for many years since it first came out the week after the Edsa People Power Revolt in February 1986 (with President Cory Aquino on the cover), or two months after the birth of the Philippine Daily Inquirer (which celebrated its 29th anniversary two days ago, Dec. 9).

I was one of the first staff writers and my first assignment was to go to Leyte twice for a story on the banished Imelda Marcos’ fabulous haunts in her home province. Many of my SIM stories are included in my books. Several of my award-winning pieces came out in SIM.

The magazine had seven editors: Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, the Inquirer newspaper’s editor in chief since the 1990s, was the first, and Pennie de la Cruz the last. It went through several transformations—from wide magazine to broadsheet and back to smaller magazine size, from newsprint to semiglossy, from color to black and white and then back again to color. The contents, too, changed over the years—from long features (series sometimes) to shorter stories on politics, crime, show biz, indigenous communities, celebrities and unknowns, victors and villains, health, food, the environment, women, spiritual stuff, etc. Even its masthead and layout changed several times. It had always been a weekly, but this year it became a monthly.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Coconut fresco versus copra

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

For too long, the wonder tree that is the coconut tree has been seen mainly as the source of copra from which crude coconut oil (CNO) is extracted, the source of a commodity that has not significantly improved the lives of coconut farmers. CNO is used for soaps, detergents, chemicals, etc.

The coconut tree has been seen secondarily as the source of lumber, fiber, and alcoholic and health drinks. Coconut milk, which is used in Filipino cooking, and other fresh components have not really been the coconut industry’s main income generator.

The recent Mindanao-to-Manila march of coconut farmers meant to draw attention to their decades-old clamor that the anomalous coconut levy fund be finally used for their benefit was not for naught. But how far will their march take them?

President Aquino found time to meet with the farmers in Malacañang last week and promised to support the bill that would make operative the handling of the P71 billion (plus accrued interest) coconut levy fund collected more than 30 years ago by the Marcos regime. It was almost given up for lost, until the Supreme Court declared that the fund should belong to the coconut farmers, that this was not for the dictator’s cronies.

It is common knowledge that this country’s natural bounties have not always been harnessed to benefit the many. To say it bluntly, the Philippines’ coconut industry has miserably failed to be a flagship industry when it could have been. In decades past it had been squeezed dry by rapacious beings that left the poor coconut farmers even poorer.

Independent of all these recent hopeful developments in the coco levy fund are Filipinos who are personally concerned about the coconut industry, who are working to turn the once-considered sunset industry into a sunrise industry. With or without the help of the government, they have been thinking out of the box to push the wonders of the Philippine coconut into the world arena.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

3 labor leaders, nun Bantayog honorees

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

MANILA, Philippines–Three fearless labor leaders, four massacre victims, one Augustinian nun and four other activists were among those honored at Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes) in Quezon City this week. Their names brought to 235 the names etched on the black granite Wall of Remembrance, centerpiece of the Bantayog complex that honors those who fought, died or were martyred during the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos.

FREEDOM ADVOCATES Rolando Olalia (left), Felixberto Olalia Sr. (top, left) and Crispin Beltran are among this year’s Bantayog ng mga Bayani honorees. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

This  year’s honorees were labor leaders Felixberto Olalia Sr., Rolando Olalia and Crispin Beltran; human rights worker Sr. Violeta Marcos; “Daet martyrs” Elmer Lagarteja, Jose E. Alcantara (killed at 40), Benjamen Suyat (killed at 47) and Rogelio Guevarra (killed at 45); Jorge Checa, Ceasar Gavanzo Jr., Venerando Villacillo and Julieto Mahinay.

They were all “freedom advocates” who opposed the dictatorship. They lived and died in different ways but had in common a heroic streak that made them worthy to be included in the list of martyrs and heroes etched on the Wall of Remembrance. The wall stands a few meters away from a towering 13.7-meter (45-foot) bronze sculpture titled “Inang Bayan” (Motherland) created by Eduardo Castrillo.

The monument depicts a vertical female figure (symbolizing the Motherland), her left hand raised to the sky in triumph as her right hand lifts up a fallen martyr. The monument, the commemorative wall and the other structures in the Bantayog complex honor the martyrs and heroes who fought to restore freedom, peace, justice, truth and democracy in the country.

The Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation adds more names to the roster of heroes and martyrs as new individuals are nominated and their specific contributions established.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Uncovering Asia through investigative journalism

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

Internet detective work and digging out hidden information online. Fighting back with legal tools. Uncovering hidden assets across borders. Investigating in conflict zones. Teaching investigative journalism. Coping with trauma and threat. Despots, crooks and their wealth. Breathless in Manila.

These were among the workshop topics tackled at “Uncovering Asia: The First Asian Investigative Journalism Conference,” the recent three-day gathering of 300 journalists, mostly Asians, from 32 countries.

Hosted by the Global Investigative Journalism Network (GIJN), Konrad Adenauer-Stiftung and Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), which is celebrating its 25th year, this conference was a groundbreaking first. The unflappable organizers, among them GIJN’s David Kaplan and PCIJ’s Malou Mangahas, were aiming for only 150 participants but ended up with 300.

Being one of the local sponsors, the Inquirer sent many reporters to attend. It was a gathering of veteran and aspiring investigative reporters, data journalists, media, law and security experts.

Sheila Coronel, PCIJ cofounder and now dean of academic affairs at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, set the tone with her keynote address, “Nine billion eyes—holding power to account in the world’s largest continent.” (It’s on the Internet.) A great opening speech, I must say.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The genius of the Filipino poor

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

Sometimes it takes a non-Filipino to discover something great about us that we often ignore, do not notice, or take for granted. Sometimes we need foreign eyes to make us believe that there is more to what we already see.

British journalist Thomas Graham came to the Philippines and visited Gawad Kalinga (GK) founder Antonio Meloto in 2012 to pick his brain about issues such as poverty in the Philippines, economic growth and many more. Graham could have been any parachuting foreign journalist, the kind that makes a quick descent, covers some ground, leaves in a rush and gives the world his or her expert views and analyses. Then calls this country “Gates of Hell” or something.

Graham stayed. He immersed himself among the people—that is, the materially poor and those who work and live with them. He struck gold. What began as a journalistic assignment or curiosity—the Philippines being touted as one of the fastest growing economies in Asia—became a personal journey.

Along the way, Graham also found some answers to a nagging question that challenges the title of his book. “If there is indeed genius in the poor, then why are they poor in the first place?” What is this genius all about?

Graham responded to Meloto’s challenge: “Come alongside the poor, befriend them, partner with them, and you will discover their potential. But don’t take my word for it, experience it for yourself.”

Graham writes about his experiences and shares his reflections in his book, “The Genius of the Poor: A Journey with Gawad Kalinga.”

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Are we a nation of malcontents?

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

Here is a story that is so unlike the rest, so different from the endless tales of misery that have been served us in the past days leading up to the first anniversary of a world-class disaster.

I am sharing a Facebook post of my good friend and colleague, Rochit Tañedo, who traveled to Samar after the wrath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” leveled much of Eastern Visayas last year:

“The women of Samar were quiet, uncomplaining, after a long zombie period of looking for their dead. After a month, they were given vegetable seeds. After a week of looking for a patch of land where they could plant (since, after digging a foot deep with bare hands, it was still all muck and sand all around), they found a patch uphill, cleared it of logs and branches and planted.

“When the little seedlings appeared after another week, pandemonium broke. They screamed so loud and cried as if a dam had burst. That’s what happened when they saw how life could start changing.”

After reading this, I wanted to also scream out loud. I clicked “Like” and posted a comment. That FB post gave me an Aha! moment that opened a bright landscape.

Knowing Rochit, I could safely conclude that she posted that to spray clean, sparkling water on the corrosive negativism that has been eating at our spirits, to blow away the swirling ill wind that throws us off-balance.

“Corrosive” is the word. Even while the survivors of Y continue to rise from the ruins, there is the ruinous cacophony from naysayers that accompanies the heroic efforts of individuals, groups and institutions, even of public servants. For these so-called “negas,” something is always wrong, they should always find something wrong. But the silent workers just keep on, without counting the cost or thinking of recognition. They keep making quilts of hope away from the attention of the media that have a predilection for the dramatic and the cinematic, for sound bytes that pit one against another.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Flavier, a barrio parable

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

Former health secretary and senator Juan M. Flavier’s departure for the next life on Oct. 30 was timely. Timely—that is minus the prefix “un-” that denotes our human unwillingness to part with a loved one—because he departed from this world when government personages are embroiled in huge controversies and revelations that boggle the mind.

Timely because his passing at age 79 made us pause and reflect on his life of joyful service that once brought smiles and laughter into our lives. Timely because even in death, he made us remember that public servants ought to make life happier and better for the served and not the other way around.

Flavier, with his wit, wisdom and humor, was a giant in my eyes. Long before he served as health secretary in President Fidel Ramos’ administration he was already a popular man, not in the way celebrities and powerful figures are popular, but among the farmers in rural villages where he served as a doctor and community development worker.

He was like a burst of sunlight in the early 1990s when he took over the Department of Health and showed his brand of health service that made people become conscious of what government can do for them health-wise, and what they can do to help themselves. He was 58 then.

I was fortunate to see him up close and follow him around when I was assigned to do a cover story on him as the Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year for the Sunday Inquirer Magazine (“Juan M. Flavier: Doctor for All Seasons,” 1/23/93).

The creative communicator that he was, Flavier used every means possible to push his programs, among them, Doctors to the Barrios, AIDS awareness, anti-smoking, vaccinations. He was a media darling, newsmaker, crowd-drawer. During his first 60 days in office, he received more than 300 speaking invitations. He was a favorite guest on radio and TV, the perfect subject for feature stories.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Il viaggio continua

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

I gazed at the colored photo of the smiling Italian men—16 in all—in rugged clothes, and then I searched for the faces that became familiar because they landed on the front pages of newspapers and on TV screens after cruel men made victims of them.

The photo’s caption says: “PIME Fathers in 1984: 3 future martyrs and 2 kidnap victims.” The photo is among the many included in a book that should be a must-read for missionaries. Photos on the back cover are of: Fr. Tullio Favali, killed on April 11, 1985; Fr. Salvatore Carzedda, killed on May 20, 1992; Fr. Luciano Benedetti, kidnapped in 1998; Fr. Giancarlo Bossi, kidnapped in 2007; Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, killed on Oct. 17, 2011.

Fr. Peter Geremia just sent me his book “Seeking God’s Kingdom of Justice and Peace,” an updated version, he said, of his diary-type “Dreams of Bloodstains” (which I wrote about years ago). At the end of the book are colored photos of the priests of PIME (Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions) in mission areas. Geremia, the book’s author, has been a missionary in the Philippines since the 1970s. He once worked in the Tondo slums but most of his priestly life has been spent in Mindanao. He speaks the local language.

He wrote me a note on the Tentorio case (also included in his book) which has been languishing in the dark. Could the case merit some newspaper space? he asked. He also sent me a copy of “Il vaggio continua,” the newsletter of the Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio Foundation Inc. which was set up after the murder of the Italian priest. Looking out from the corner of the cover page is a cartoon Father Pops wearing a red tubao (ethnic head scarf), which he often used when he was alive.

Two weeks ago, Inquirer Mindanao reporter Germelina Lacorte wrote a story titled “3 years after Italian priest’s murder, still no case in court, say friends.” “Three years after the killing of Italian priest Fr. Fausto Tentorio, people demanding for justice … are still waiting for the determination of probable cause that would lead to the filing of charges in court.”

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Double entendre

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

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s statement that she would stop investigating the corruption charges against Vice President Jejomar Binay only if the President or the Ombudsman would order her to stop was a loaded one.

The charges that are also being tackled in the hearings of the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee have put on the defensive the Binay family members who have alternately ruled Makati for almost three decades. The whistle-blowers are coming out of their comfort zones and revealing in the hearings what they know. The corruption charges are grave and jaw-dropping.

Intent on pursuing the case, De Lima dropped a double entendre. Triple, maybe?

Her statement could be interpreted to simply mean that, yes, she follows presidential orders and that is all there is to it.
But she could also have been saying something loudly in a soft voice, so to speak, that: “No way, on my own, am I going to stop investigating. Only the President and the Ombudsman will stop the Department of Justice from investigating.”

Triple entendre if by that statement she meant that if we see her stop, we know who stopped her. To say it more grandly, we would know by whose power she was stopped. Then she can look us in the eye and, with arms folded, say, “Wala akong magawa. There was nothing I could do.” Then it would be up to us to speculate why.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thoughts on a toilet-bowl murder

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

The Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the United States will again be put to the test with the killing of Jeffrey/Jennifer Laude, a transgender, as media reports describe him/her.

(Laude would have surely preferred that a feminine pronoun be used to refer to him, but because there is no proof that he had legally changed his gender status, I will use the masculine pronoun in order to avoid the annoying forward slash.)

When the US naval and air force bases were voted out by the Philippine Senate and kicked out of Subic in Zambales and Clark in Angeles, Pampanga, more than 20 years ago (with a lot of help from Mount Pinatubo’s eruption after 600 years of dormancy), entertainment hubs there suddenly closed down.

Well, Clark has since evolved into an international airport, a hot-air balloon competition venue, etc. Subic, while also transformed, continues to be a docking place for ocean vessels. With the VFA in place, the night strips in Subic come alive again when US carriers disgorge thousands of service men just back from grueling jungle exercises, many of them seeking release for their raging hormones and pent-up rage, or to simply chill out.

The killing of Laude looks almost like a TV crime plot straight out of “NCIS” or “CSI.” Gross, to start with, but with a lot of political and gender underpinnings.

Monday, October 13, 2014

US lawyer says PCGG merely grandstanding

Philippine Daily Inquirer/SPECIAL REPORTS/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

(Last of two parts)

MANILA, Philippines–The claim of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) was not to the paintings of Imelda Marcos, “which were never government property,” but to the money that was allegedly stolen, according to Robert Swift, the lead counsel of the 9,539 rights abuse victims during the martial law regime of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

“The PCGG has no judgment against Mrs. Marcos for the paintings,” Swift said in an e-mail to the Inquirer. “Its claim is that money was stolen from the Philippine government in the 1960s and 1970s, and some of the money may have been used to purchase the paintings.”

He said Imelda, whom Forbes Magazine had estimated as being worth $5 billion, should be made to repay the government, “should the PCGG ever prove the theft.”
Lawyer Robert Swift handing a check for $1,000
to a victim who suffered human right violations
during the Marcos dictatorship.

“Any money that Imelda Marcos could have stolen from the republic should be recoverable from her $5-billion fortune. She lives in Metro Manila and the PCGG should simply ask her to return the money. If she refuses, attach her bank accounts in Manila,” he said.

Hence, Swift sees the attachment of the paintings ordered by the Sandiganbayan last week as mere “grandstanding” by the PCGG.

“The PCGG has known about the paintings since 1986—28 years ago—but never filed a case until now, and that is just for attachment. I am not aware of any case it filed for forfeiture of the paintings,” he said. “Instead, the PCGG is playing the game of pursuing paintings that Imelda may or may not have purchased using (the Filipino people’s) money,” he said.

$2B judgment

Swift said this was being done as part of the PCGG’s strategy to nullify the $2-billion judgment.

In 1995, a US federal court in Hawaii awarded the victims the $2 billion in damages after it found the Marcos dictatorship liable for the torture, summary executions and disappearances of about 10,000 people.

“For the 19 years since entry of the [$2-billion] judgment, the Republic of the Philippines has been relentless in trying to nullify any enforcement and preclude compensation to the class members, who are predominantly old and live in abject poverty,” Swift said. “This has included refusal to recognize the class’ judgment in Philippine courts,” Swift wrote in a brief he filed last month in the New York appellate court that is adjudicating the case of the so-called Arelma account.

Philippine Daily Inquirer/SPECIAL REPORT/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

This file photo taken on June 7, 2007 shows former first lady Imelda Marcos is seen in her apartment in Manila with a gallery of paintings including a Picasso, seen at upper right. Philippine authorities moved on September 30, 2014 to seize paintings by Picasso, Gauguin, Miro, Michelangelo and other masters held by Imelda Marcos after getting a court order against the former first lady. AFP/ROMEO GACAD

MANILA, Philippines--This is a list of 206 art pieces believed to have been purchased by former First Lady Imelda Marcos during the martial law years.

Many of them by European masters and worth millions of dollars each, the paintings have been attached to a Petition for Writ of Execution and Turnover filed in the Supreme Court of the State of New York by the lawyers of the victims of human rights violations during the Marcos dictatorship.

The victims are claimants in a case versus the Marcos estate and who have won a judgment in 1995 and been awarded $2 billion in damages.
French impressionist Claude Monet’s painting “Water Lilies” ** had been illegally sold to a collector by Mrs. Marcos’ aid, Vilma Bautista her co-accused for $32 million but the buyer avoided litigation by paying $10 million which the claimants received in March 2014. Two more—another painting by Monet (47) * and one by Alfred Sisley (7) *—could soon be recovered.
The list is the result of research and investigative work done by the claimants’ lawyers led by Robert Swift. The list has the artists’ names, titles of the paintings, medium used and size.  The list may not be complete.  Images of most of the masterpieces can be viewed on the Internet. – Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

1) Abraham Janssens
Peace and Abundance Binding the Arrows of War,
a.k.a. Peace and Plenty Binding the Arrows of War
Oil on canvas, 150x118cm

 2) Alessandro Botticelli
Madonna and Child
Tempera on panel, 37x29cm

3) Alessandro Magnasco
Christ Heals the Cripple
Oil on canvas, 93.5x70.5cm

 4) Alessandro Magnasco
St. Jerome
Oil on canvas, 73x58.5cm

 5)Alessandro Magnasco
Mother with Child
Oil on canvas, 40x30cm

 6)Alessandro Magnasco
Couple of Farmers with Children
Oil on canvas, 40x30cm

 7) Alfred Sisley *
Langland Bay

 8) Amadeo Modigliani
Jeanne Hebuterne
Oil on canvas, 51x22.25cm

 9) Amico Di Sandro
Virgin and Child
Tempera on panel, 58x58cm

 10) Andrea Della Robbia
Madonna and Child
Terracotta relief, 40.5x23cm (including frame)


PCGG, Marcos victims in race to claim Imelda's art collection

Philippine Daily Inquirer/SPECIAL REPORT/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

First of two parts 

The sudden move by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) to order a search of the San Juan residence, offices and other homes of the Marcos family for precious artworks that the PCGG claims should belong to the government caught many by surprise.
A GAUGUIN IN SAN JUAN Paul Gauguin’s “Still Life with Idol,” is just one of the masterpieces allegedly in the Marcos art collection that the government seized from the ancestral house in San Juan City.

Why only now?

One of those asking this question is Robert Swift, the lead lawyer of the 9,539 rights abuse victims during the martial law regime (1972 to 1986) of the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, who doubts the motives of the PCGG, the agency created by the first Aquino government to recover the ill-gotten assets of Marcos, his family and associates.

He believes the PCGG is “playing a game” of recovering the paintings as part of a strategy to nullify the $2-billion judgment that the victims won in a class action suit against the Marcoses in a Hawaii court.

“The PCGG has known about the paintings for over 28 years and done nothing about them until now,” said Swift.

In 1995, a US federal grand jury in Hawaii found the Marcos dictatorship liable for the torture, summary executions and disappearances of about 10,000 people and awarded the victims $2 billion in damages from the Marcos estate. According to Swift, Philippine courts have refused to recognize the $2-billion judgment while the Philippine government uses its sovereign immunity in the United States to try and prevent the members of the class suit from litigating to collect on the judgment, touting Sandiganbayan decisions forfeiting various Marcos assets in favor of the government as enforceable in the United States.

Unable to collect

In addition, Swift said the claimants in the class suit also have a 2011 US judgment against Imelda Marcos personally for $353.6 million, which they are entitled to execute on any property she owns. But again, collection of the judgment has been difficult because Philippine courts do not recognize the US judgment.

Swift himself has been engaged for decades in hunting for Marcos assets, including the art pieces—many of them by recognized masters that Marcos’ wife Imelda is said to have acquired using the Marcoses’ enormous wealth—in the interest of collecting on the $2-billion judgment.

Ill-gotten or not, the Marcos assets should be used to compensate the human rights victims of Marcos’ martial rule, he argues. “The class [suit members] are entitled to pursue any assets of Mrs. Marcos, including her art collection, because the class obtained a [2011] judgment against her personally for $353.6 million,” he said.

Finders keepers?

The PCGG and the claimants represented by Swift are therefore in a race to who gets to the trove first. Does the search mean finders keepers?

One of the Marcos art pieces that has been traced, French impressionist Claude Monet’s “Les Bassin Nymphease,” also known as “Water Lilies,” was sold by Imelda’s aide, Vilma Bautista, to a collector for $32 million. To avoid litigation, the buyer offered $10 million to the members of the class suit against the Marcos estate. Bautista and her conspirators continue to face prosecution for selling what did not belong to them.

In March, proceeds from the settlement on the Monet painting were divided among the claimants, the second distribution since 2010. (For each claimant, $1,000 in 2010 and another $1,000 in 2014.) These are a mere trickle from the $2-billion award.

More where it came from

But there’s apparently more where the Monet came from. On Oct. 1, sheriffs of the Sandiganbayan, armed with a writ of attachment from the antigraft court, seized an undetermined number of artworks from the Marcoses’ San Juan residence.


The writ, issued on the request of the PCGG, covered at least eight Old Masters works in the possession of the Marcos family, including “Madonna and Child” by Michelangelo Buonarroti, “Femme Couchee VI” (Reclining Woman VI) by Pablo Picasso, “Portrait of the Marqueza de Sta. Cruz” by Francisco de Goya, “Still Life with Idol” by Paul Gauguin, “La Baignade Au Grand Temps” by Pierre Bonnard, “Vase of Chrysanthemums” by Bernard Buffet, “Jardin de Kew pres de la Serre 1892” by Camille Pissarro and “L’Aube” by Joan Miró.

Swift’s list of artworks, whose value could partly fund the rights abuse victims’ claim, is even longer at 206, not including the “Water Lilies” that was sold.

On the list of 206 are two Picassos, two Gaugins, two Botticellis, three Degases, one Matisse, one Cezanne, one Van Gogh, one El Greco, one Fra Filippo Lippi (1460), one Raphael, one Titian, one Manet, 52 Gobillards, 18 Grandma Moses and three Monets. (“Water Lilies” was one of the three Monets on the list.)

The other Monet, “L’Eglise et La Seine a Vetheuil” (also known as “L’Eglise a Vethueuil”) and an 1887 painting by French impressionist Alfred Sisley (“Langland Bay”) will soon be traced, if not already found, the lawyer said. # (To be continued)

Thursday, October 9, 2014


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

The sisterhood had a blast! The sisterhood like no other, we love to say and tell everyone.

ICanServe celebrated its 15th anniversary last Oct. 6 at the Raffles Hotel in Makati with a rousing celebration and a gathering of breast cancer survivors and warriors who are, most of all, advocates of early detection. It was a gathering that toasted its founders, members and supporters, as well as those who had departed for the hills beyond but who served and fought well.

True to its catchphrase “Saving lives, keeping families whole,” ICanServe served up an anniversary program that was not merely focused on its members but was meant to reach out far and wide to women and men in order to raise awareness of a disease that can be licked well and good if detected early. In short, zap the invader at the gates.

All, if not most, of the attendees were energetic, can-do breast cancer survivors (myself included). Also present were special persons from the indispensable circle of support. Health workers, providers and advocates. Doctors, barangay health workers, relatives, friends, facilitators, organizers, volunteers, sponsors. Survivors in various states of wellness and stages of recovery from illness bonded, embraced, shed tears, laughed, prayed, listened to one another. Bright pink was the color theme of the celebration.

Many of us met at the 3rd ICanServe Silver Linings gathering held in Davao City in 2011 and have since become sisters and friends for the cause in our own little and big ways. Held every three years, Silver Linings is ICanServe’s educational forum and homecoming.

But the 15th anniversary last Monday was extra special. Many came even from outside Metro Manila. A whole ICanServe contingent from Cebu came and even provided an entertainment number.
 Founded in 1999, ICanServe Foundation is an advocacy group of breast cancer survivors that promotes early breast cancer detection. Its flagship program is “Ating Dibdibin,” a Filipino saying that means taking it to heart. “Dibdib” means chest or breast, or where the heart is. For ICanServe, “Ating Dibdibin” means “take your breast care to heart.”

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Fr. Pierre Tritz@100, ERDA@40

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

Few people in this world get to be a century old. One of them is French-born Jesuit Fr. Pierre Tritz, who turned 100 last Sept. 19. The Mass and simple celebration on the 19th was cancelled because of Tropical Storm “Mario” that brought flooding in Metro Manila. The gathering is being set for another date.

Thousands of poor Filipinos who were once students as well as their families know Father Tritz because of how their lives changed for the better, because of the opportunity to be educated given them. Father Tritz, through the Educational Research and Development Assistance (Erda) Foundation which he founded 40 years ago, has enabled poor children to cross the poverty line through formal education that went alongside values formation programs that would equip them to face life head-on and become pillars of society.

Father Tritz has always emphasized: “To allow a child to go to school is to give him hope.”

Erda continues to give hope to young Filipinos who cannot afford basic education while involving countless groups and individuals here and abroad to contribute to the continuing endeavor. Erda has documented many success stories about those who made good, and also those who are giving back and paying it forward.

But Father Tritz is a story by himself (as partly told in “Father Pierre Tritz, SJ: Touching the Lives of Filipinos,” a booklet edited by Sr. Josefina Diaz, ICM). More exhaustive biographies have been written about him but they are in French (one is “Les Anti-Trottoirs de Manille: Pierre Tritz, père des enfants de la rue” by Jean Claude Darrigaud).

Friday, September 26, 2014

Journalism under siege: The years of writing dangerously

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

(Editor’s Note: Starting Sept. 21, the 42nd anniversary of the proclamation of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos, we have been running a series of articles to remember one of the darkest chapters in Philippine history. The articles are necessarily commemorations and more so a celebration of and a thanksgiving for the courage of the men and women who endured unspeakable pain and loss to overcome the Marcos dictatorship and regain our freedoms. These are some of their stories.)

MANILA, Philippines–Those were the years of writing dangerously. In the eyes of the oppressive Marcos regime, the defiant journalists were better dead than read, better writhing than writing.

Whenever our group of women writers is asked to speak about our harrowing experiences during the martial law years, we never forget to say: “The men were in jail or dead, so we were (wo)’manning’ the fort.”

But we did not like being described as “women with balls.”

This is the cover of the book "The Philippine Press Under Siege,
vol. 2"carrying articles by journalists arrested or threatened     
during the rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos.                            
We had our share of frightening interrogations. I and many others were interrogated more than once for antimartial law and human rights pieces that we had written. I, and again many others, came close to being seized in the dead of night by armed men, had it not been for quick-thinking church people who came to our rescue.

But more important than ourselves and our foray into dangerous terrain were the stories that we wrote and managed to get published, thanks to the editors who paid dearly for their daring.

Future generations

What were these stories, what were they about, who wrote them? Fortunately, they have been preserved between covers for many generations to come.

In 1984 and 1985, our group, the Women Writers in Media Now (Women), came out with “The Philippine Press Under Siege,” Volumes 1 and 2, containing the “dangerous writing” that had provoked the dictatorship and brought on the horrible aftermath of such dangerous pursuits.

The collection was published by the Women’s Committee to Protect Writers and the National Press Club under the bold leadership of the late Tony Nieva.

These two volumes which we had worked on under the cover of darkness and under so much stress are now out of print. But the good news is that the National Historical Commission and the University of the Philippines Press recently agreed to resurrect them, so to speak, in a much better format, if not a better design. I am the editor of these resurrected editions.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Interrogated by the military

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

Since Sept. 21 (the 42nd anniversary of the imposition of Marcos’ deadly martial rule) the Inquirer has been running stories about that terrifying era (1972-1986) that saw the death of democracy and the killing, disappearance, detention and suffering of tens of thousands of Filipinos. Unrestrained evil, I call it, and today’s young Filipinos ought to know about it.

I wrote damning stories during those dangerous times and suffered the consequences, but they were nothing compared to what others went through. An assigned piece I wrote last week might come out in this paper in a day or so, but I want to share another one in this column space.

This is about my second interrogation in Fort Bonifacio on Dec. 11, 1982, by the National Intelligence Board Special Committee No. 2 led by Gen. Wilfredo Estrada. Human rights lawyer and former senator Jose W. Diokno asked lawyer Alex Padilla to be with me. The summons said I was “to shed light on confidential matters,” and that my failure to appear “shall be considered as a waiver on [my] part and the Committee will be constrained to proceed in accordance with law.”

There were about seven military officers-interrogators. After I was asked for my name, I dared ask them for theirs, which they gave. A couple of weeks later we, the individually interrogated women journalists and our media colleagues, named each one of them and haled them to the Supreme Court (petition for prohibition with preliminary injunction). We had a battery of Mabini lawyers led by former senator Lorenzo Tañada and UP law professor Perfecto Fernandez. The military backed off.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Noli: Love in the grip of tyranny

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

Like a thunderbolt in a dark and forbidding landscape, the character Sisa burst onto the stage and launched into an unforgettable, heartrending, four-hankie vocal and acting performance that might not be seen again in a long time.

O Inang Bayan na sadlak sa dusa (O Motherland mired in sorrow) raced through my thoughts as I beheld the grief-stricken mother in search of her lost sons, her voice rising from the gloomy depths to the gloomy beyond. She wept, she wailed, but she sustained the great soaring voice until she was reduced to a moan, until life mercifully left her.

What a searing scene. I could only gasp in awe and hold my breath. That electrifying solo performed by coloratura Antoni Mendezona rammed into my soul and shattered it to pieces.

An aside: The whistle-like portion of Mendezona’s Sisa aria reminded me of the popular Queen of the Night aria in Mozart’s “The Magic Flute.” Thanks to National Artist Felipe de Leon, who surely knew the extent of the Filipinos’ vocal prowess and who might have had that in mind when he wrote the music for National Artist Guillermo Tolentino’s libretto.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Mabuhay, FOI champions in Congress

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

Are political parties taking a collective stand on the freedom of information (FOI) bill that was killed at the last hour in the 15th Congress?

The hopeful news is that last Tuesday, the technical working group (TWG) of the House of Representatives committee on public information approved without objection a consolidated version of more than a dozen FOI bills. FOI advocates are hoping that this is a harbinger of good things to come—that is, the early passage of the bill in the 16th Congress.

The Right to Know, Right Now Coalition (R2KRN) considers this “a major positive development that punctuates months of active engagement and constant monitoring of the TWG process.”

R2KRN reports: “Departing from the paragraph-by-paragraph deliberation in the earlier TWG meetings, the meeting on Tuesday approved all remaining provisions, from Section 7 (f) through Section 33, as well as the Title and Short Title of the measure. This was made possible by consultations among authors and groups with the objective of reconciling provisions and forging consensus to assist and speed up the formal TWG.”

There was a blending of forces, R2KRN happily notes. Those who worked for the FOI bill’s almost uninterrupted move deserve mention and praise. They are midwives assisting in the birth of a groundbreaking law that can make a positive impact on the life of this nation. R2KRN believes that if passed in its latest consolidated form, the FOI bill will mean substantial gains for all citizens, and a definite advance of their right to information.

Here are the persons that R2KRN regards as FOI champions:

• Representatives Teddy Baguilat Jr. (Ifugao), Kaka Bag-ao (Dinagat), Ibarra Gutierrez III and Walden Bello (Akbayan), Emmeline Aglipay (Diwa), Winston Castelo (Quezon City, 2nd district), Gus Tambunting (Parañaque City, 2nd district), Leah Paquiz (Ang Nars), Jose Christopher Belmonte (Quezon City, 6th district), Anthony Bravo and Cresente Paez (Coop Natcco), Roman Romulo (Pasig City), and Sherwin Tugna and Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales (Cibac).

• The authors and key reform partners of Malacañang at the House—Rep. Leni Robredo (Camarines Sur, 3rd district) and Deputy Speaker Henedina Abad (Batanes).

• Rep. Jorge Almonte, chair of the House committee on public information, constantly assisted by his legislative staff Norman Pelinio and Karissa Jumaquio, and the committee secretariat headed by Romualdo Sta. Clara.

• Other authors who reconciled their versions through amendments, such as Representatives Magnolia Rosa Antonino-Nadres (Nueva Ecija, 4th district) and Xavier Jesus Romualdo (Camiguin).

• Malacañang’s representative to the TWG—Undersecretary Manuel L. Quezon III, working in coordination with Secretary Edwin Lacierda.

• Members present at the TWG meeting, including Representatives Gwendolyn Garcia (Cebu, 3rd district), Raul Del Mar (Cebu City, 1st district), and Sol Aragones (Laguna, 3rd district), and the other TWG members that have actively participated in the full deliberation of the exceptions in the previous meetings.

• R2KRN, itself an author of the bill through indirect initiative.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Orphan diseases' challenge

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

The ice bucket challenge to raise funds for and awareness of ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) or Lou Gehrig’s disease is still going on. Celebrities the world over have shown video proof of their daring and generosity. There is criticism, of course, of this so-called marketing scheme, from “selfie-shness” to waste of precious water to plain exhibitionism. But the campaign worked for the good.

Many known Filipinos have accepted the ice bucket challenge, with some getting doused publicly for all to see. With the challenge catching on, some health advocates have taken the opportunity to call attention to other so-called “orphan diseases” besides ALS that strike young and poor children whose parents cry out for help. “Orphan” because these diseases are rare and do not get enough attention.

I have been privileged to meet and write about these patients, their families, doctors and the support group that continue to create awareness and raise funds that could help these children live normal, productive lives.

The Philippine Society for Orphan Disorders Inc. (PSOD) is at the forefront of the “care for rare” advocacy and coordinates efforts to sustain the quality of life of those with rare disorders. There have been many breakthroughs since PSOD’s founding in 2006. It has become a support group and has established a network of patients, families, doctors and support groups in different parts of the world. Many patients have found access to treatment and are now enjoying a better quality of life. But there’s more to be done.
So, have you heard of Pompe’s disease? What about MPS Hunter syndrome (mucopolysaccharidosis II), maple syrup urine disorder (MSUD), Gaucher disease, adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD), Apert syndrome (craniosynostisis syndrome), adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) and phenylketonuria (PKU)? Lack of space prevents me from describing them in detail here.
Even if you shed tears while watching the movie “Lorenzo’s Oil,” you probably would not recall or pronounce the name of the disease—it was ALD—around which the plot revolved and the cure for which was the object of a couple’s (played by Nick Nolte and Susan Sarandon) research so that their only son would live.

The movie “Extraordinary Measures” (starring Harrison Ford as the eccentric doctor-scientist and Brendan Fraser as the father of two ailing children) also turned out great performances and gave hope that a cure, this time for Pompe’s disease, could be found. In fact they came close with enzyme replacement therapy.