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.