Monday, November 30, 2015

15 Bantayog honorees join others on The Wall

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

THIS YEAR’S This year's Bantayog ng mga Bayani honorees comprise a big batch—15 in all. Seven died in Mindanao, four in the Visayas and four in Luzon. 

Nine were in their 20s. Of the 15 honorees, 12 died during the martial law years under the Marcos dictatorship. Three died after freedom was restored in 1986.  

The conferment of honors will be held at 4 p.m. today at Bantayog Memorial Center located near the intersection of Edsa and Quezon Avenue. Supreme Court Justice Marvic Leonen will be the guest speaker. 

For soft-launching today is Bantayog’s Never Again Never Forget project. The project, organizers said in a statement, was “a response to recent attempts by certain groups to rewrite Philippine history, to confuse the young generation about the truths of the Marcos dictatorship, to erase its horrors, abuses and deceptions and to have [it] remembered as a ‘golden era’ in the Philippines.” 

Bantayog is preparing to launch new activities that will include publishing biographies, dissemination of informative materials, film showings, roving exhibitions and museum tours. 

The honorees’ names, age, year and place of death are: Fr. Roberto Salac, Catholic priest, 36 (1987, Compostela Valley); Horacio Morales Jr., development technocrat, 69 (2012, Quezon City); Ernesto Lacbao, 38 (1980, Ifugao). 

The students: Edgardo Cupino, 25 (1983, Nueva Ecija); Antero Santos, 23 (1971, Isabela); Vicente Beloria, 26 (1973, Iloilo); Alberto Espinas, 26 (1973, Antique); Rolando Lorca, 27 (1974, Aklan); Napoleon Lorca, 27 (1973, Iloilo City); Evella Bontia, 23 (1974, Misamis Oriental). 

The teachers: Ester Resabal-Kintanar, 32 (1983, between Surigao del Sur and Cebu City); Nicanor Gonzales, 67 (2007, Davao City).

The community and youth organizers: Fernando Esperon, 23 (1985, Davao City); Ma. Socorro Par, 32 (1985, Misamis Oriental); Cecilio Reyes, 36 (1975, Agusan del Sur). 

From gov’t to underground 

Kintanar, a teacher and activist during martial law, was among those who died in the sinking of the MV Cassandra in 1983. Nine honorees, Salac among them, died in military operations. He spent time in the underground during the martial law years. The priest was involved in the peace process in Mindanao in 1987 when he was killed during a military attack. 

Morales was the most well-known of the 15 because of his dramatic repudiation of the Marcos regime that he served and his joining the underground movement. Hunted during the martial law years, Morales spent several years in detention. An economist, Morales served in several government positions during the post-Marcos years. He died a natural death in 2012. 

Wall of Remembrance 

The biographies of these honorees will be posted on the Bantayog website (www.bantayog.org). All of them were opposed to the regime of dictator Ferdinand Marcos and are considered freedom advocates. The way they lived and died varied but they had a heroic streak that made them worthy to be included on the list of names on the Wall of Remembrance. 

The 2015 honorees bring to 268 the names engraved on the Wall, which stands a few meters away from the bronze monument created by renowned sculptor Eduardo Castrillo. The monument depicts a defiant mother holding a fallen son. 

The monument, the commemorative wall and other structures at the Bantayog complex are dedicated to modern-day martyrs who fought to help restore freedom and democracy in the country. 

Bantayog hopes to spread lessons from the martial law period and “to have issues related to it included in the national debate during the 2016 electoral campaign,” the event organizers’ statement said. 

‘Historical deception’ 

It hopes to counter the “historical deception and mass forgetting of the sins of the dictatorship” so that “Philippine politics and the writing and learning of Philippine history will be the better for it,” the statement added. 

The Bantayog complex now includes a P16-million building, which houses a small auditorium, library, archives and a museum. Bantayog’s 1.5-hectare property was donated by the administration of then President Corazon Aquino, through Land Bank of the Philippines, the year after the dictatorship was toppled and Aquino was swept to the presidency in 1986. 

Every year, names are added to the Wall of the Remembrance. The first 65 names were engraved on the Wall in 1992. The Bantayog Foundation is chaired by Alfonso T. Yuchengco. Former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga is chair emeritus. May Rodriguez is the new executive director.# 

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Koran's 47:4

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

One day last week, I was watching simultaneously—that is, switching from one channel to another—two seemingly and vastly different “performances.” On an HD cable channel (devoted mostly to classical music concerts, operas, etc.) was Benjamin Britten’s “War Requiem,” while on a news channel was live reportage on the ground in the aftermath of the Islamic State (IS) terrorist attack in Paris that killed 130 people. It was hard to let go of one or the other.

A hundred or so voices were rising, falling, exploding, with a symphony orchestra in a European concert hall while terror from Islamist extremists was playing out in a much-loved European capital. “War Requiem,” an antiwar opus, was composed in the 1960s to celebrate the restoration of Coventry Cathedral destroyed in the Battle of Britain in World War II. Britten mixed the Latin Mass for the Dead with verses by war poet Wilfred Owen who lost his own life while serving as a foot soldier. Sonorous and sorrowful in many parts, “War Requiem” is not quite like the “Requiems” of Brahms, Mozart and Fauré that give you glimpses of paradisum.

Hand on the remote, I suddenly wondered how my face looked like while I was beholding all these. I was overloading, I soon realized.

But last week was indeed an overload of terror, followed by several more—among them, the terrorist attacks in Mali and Tunisia. Before that was the bomb explosion in a Russian Metrojet that had just left Egypt, killing more than 200 on board, also claimed by IS terrorists. These, while thousands are heading for Paris for the summit on climate change starting Nov. 30.

The irrepressible Pope Francis asked for prayers and described the Paris attack as World War III-ish.

But there are pocket gardens of light in this so-called grey November of our souls. Just off the press is “The Study Quran” (HarperOne), a meticulous presentation of Islam’s holy book in English, with Muslim scholars—Sunni and Shiite, among them—explaining and interpreting the verses and putting them in the right context.

Behind this “monumental work” is Seyyed Hossein Nasr, university professor of Islamic Studies at George Washington University. Who is he? “Author of over fifty books, Professor Nasr is a well-known and highly respected intellectual figure both in the West and in the Islamic world. Born in Tehran, raised from the age of twelve in the United States, and a graduate of MIT and Harvard University, Nasr is well qualified to explain Islam to a Western audience. He appears frequently on Meet the Press, as well as other national news shows.”

After learning about “The Study Quran” from the news a few days ago, I immediately went to the Internet to know more about it. (It is quite pricey, I must say.) It is hoped that, with this book, persons with ill motives and terroristic bent will not use the Koran to justify their violent actions. But that is not all that it is for. There is so much more in the Koran that people of different faiths can learn from.

Often misunderstood is Verse 4, Chapter 47 of the Koran, which says, “Strike the necks of those who do not believe.” Does this mean that a Muslim must aim to exterminate—by beheading—all those whose faith is not Islam? No, this verse applies in the context of the battlefield. I looked at my copy of the Koran (Ballantine Books) and, yes, there it was, Chapter 47:4. “When ye encounter the infidels, strike off their heads till ye have made a great slaughter among them, and of the rest make fast the fetters.”

This penchant for beheading, performed on world stage for all to see, might have originated from that hijacked verse, used to suit the cruel, vengeful streak of those who wish to build one world Islamic caliphate. Peace-loving Muslims shake in fear.

An analyst said in a TV interview that recruitment of young, impressionable people into IS or al-Qaida to train for terrorism does not happen in mosques, it happens on the Internet. These recruits (some are teenagers) join not because of full understanding of the teachings of Islam or of some lofty political beliefs or to seek redress for persecution that happened centuries ago, but because of something missing in their lives, some disaffection and weariness. Maybe even a spiritual emptiness that they want to turn into some fiery, “self-affirming” pursuit. Much like what happens to those drawn to religious cults with wacko leaders.

It is the recruiters, the leaders with the political, ideological agenda who prey on the young, the dispensable young who, believing in the promise of paradise and with the name of God on their lips, blow themselves up and kill those around them.

Some of the dozens of praises for “The Study Quran”: “Nasr and his team have done the English-speaking world an enormous favor with their erudite and profound translation and commentary on the Qur’an combined with essays by some of the most learned scholars on the Qur’an—a timely contribution in a world that has become infected by Islamophobia and intolerance” (Dr. Khaled Abou El Fadl, UCLA School of Law, and author of “The Great Theft”).

“A monumental milestone in the study of the Quran in western academia and a veritable touchstone of authenticity for all who are asking: what does the Quran actually say? With clarity and comprehensiveness, the editors and translators of this magnificent volume have helped distinguish the true spirit of Islamic faith.” (Reza Shah-Kazemi, The Institute of Ismaili Studies)

I wonder what the book’s commentators and annotators say about the Christmas story in the Koran. I did write a column on this 10 Christmases ago after which I received a warm letter from a Muslim.#

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Does Trudeau know?

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

From the EcoWaste Coalition: “(We) warmly welcome Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to Manila. We hope that (he) will do the correct and just thing by taking full responsibility for the illegally exported (Canadian) trash (to the Philippines). This is a most enduring gift that he could give the Filipino people.

“It is a new day in Canada with the election of Trudeau, a young, culturally sensitive, gender-fair and change-oriented leader. We hope it will be a new day, too, for Canada-Philippine relations with Canada taking back its garbage for environmentally sound disposal in Canada. The Philippines is not a global dumpsite, and PM Trudeau, we trust, recognizes and respects this. Thank you, Mr. Trudeau.”

The Inquirer’s editorial two days ago (“Trudeau in the crosshairs”) brought up the garbage issue once again while hailing Trudeau’s commitment to pursue more ambitious emission-reduction targets for Canada at the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. A timely reminder for the new PM because despite cries of “Return to sender,” “Nimby” (not in my backyard), “Take back your garbage” and protests by environmental groups against the 50 containers of trash that arrived here from Canada in June to August 2013, the foul, toxic and disease-causing cargo is still here.
Philippine authorities have simply allowed the foreign garbage to sit on our soil for so long while Canada, a supposedly friendly and wealthy nation, was playing deaf. This deafness is not new. Recall the massive devastation that a Canadian mining company wrought upon the island of Marinduque about two decades ago, the adverse effects of which the island’s residents suffer to this day.

Like a foul-smelling rot that continues to seep through the cracks until it is taken away, this garbage issue will fester if it is not addressed. During President Aquino’s state visit to Canada several months ago when Stephen Harper was still the prime minister, environmental groups raised the stinking issue but to no avail.

Zero-waste groups led by the EcoWaste Coalition have described the garbage dumping as “environmental injustice” and an “illegal transboundary movement of hazardous waste.” News reports in 2013 said that when the containers arrived in six batches at the Manila International Container Port, customs police discovered that the cargo did not contain homogeneous or recyclable plastic scrap materials as had been declared by the importer. Police found used “heterogeneous” (mixed and unsorted) plastic materials, including household garbage and even used adult diapers.

In February 2014, Greenpeace urged the Philippine Senate to immediately ratify the Basel Convention Ban Amendment that would ban all shipments of hazardous waste from developed to developing countries, even if these are for recycling purposes, and promote clean production, stop toxic technologies and prevent governments and companies from circumventing the recycling loophole in the Basel Convention.

At that time Canadian and Philippine zero-waste advocates condemned the dumping of hazardous waste disguised as recyclable plastic. They described the dumping as a violation of environmental laws including Republic Act No. 9003 (or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act), which prohibits the importation of toxic waste disguised as “recyclable” or “with recyclable content.” Zero Waste Canada called it a disgrace, an embarrassing “bad behavior… towards the environment and the good people of the Philippines.”

Last year the Bureau of Customs (BOC) filed smuggling charges at the Department of Justice against the importer of the 50 containers and their customs brokers for violating Sections 3601 and 3602 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines; RA 6969 (or the Toxic Substances and Hazardous and Nuclear Wastes Control Act of 1990); and Article 172 in relation to Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code of the Philippines. The online petition submitted to the Canadian Embassy last year received an answer from Ambassador Neil Reeder: “We are responsible stewards of the environment in Canada and we expect our companies and the importing companies to be socially responsible. We will try to resolve this as best as we can because we have a very strong relationship [with the Philippines and] we don’t want that to be affected by issues like this.”

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said at that time that an interagency committee, including the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, had agreed to dispose of the trash in landfills here “for the sake of our diplomatic relations” with Canada. What a shame.

Well, the BOC attempted to just dispose of the shipment in Tarlac, the President Aquino’s home province, in order to decongest the ports but was found out. The EcoWaste coalition called the attempt “an open invitation to make the Philippines a dumping ground for the unwanted waste of other countries.”

On Sept. 15, 2014, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago filed Senate Resolution No. 919 for the chamber to “direct the proper committee to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on ways to decisively prevent illegal waste dumping from abroad, including the ratification of the ‘Basel Convention Ban Amendment’ and other legal measures to protect the country from becoming a global dump for hazardous wastes.”

The government can take the easy way to make the issue go away, dispose of the stinking, toxic cargo in landfills right here, or incinerate them and say, “End of story.” But this would make us the dumping capital of the world. It would be like saying, “Dump pa more.” #

Thursday, November 12, 2015


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

We shall not cease from exploration/And the end of all our exploring/Will be to arrive where we started/And know the place for the first time.—T.S. Eliot, Four Quartets

Lines often quoted by those who are on their way to somewhere or on their way back. As experience has taught us, only upon arriving where we began do we realize that there is more to be explored and discovered. Life is a journey and we all are time travelers in this universe.

Pilgrim, traveler, explorer, voyager, sojourner, tourist—these words may be related in meaning but each one is used differently to describe the state and purpose of the person who goes places. It is about leaving one’s home to go to a place distant and new, and to be there for a period of time.

Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, has been some or all of these all at once at one time or another. In the book’s title she prefers to use the word “pilgrim,” which suggests a spiritual purpose. After all she is Benedictine, a woman religious who had answered the call to take the less trodden path. As it turned out, life for her became a series of inner and outer journeys.

One of the most well-traveled religious figures hereabouts, Sister Mary John may be called a jetsetter—not a common thing to say of the stereotypical religious. Jetting all over the world became part of her life as a religious who was also a student and, later, a teacher, leader, speaker and advocate of many causes. The good thing about her being all of these was that Mananzan was not merely a passerby preoccupied with her assigned tasks. She had an eye and feel for her surroundings.

So like the Benedictines of ancient times who dutifully put pen on paper at every instance, she wrote about her explorations in foreign lands. Most of Mananzan’s written works are scholarly and academic. She has published several books which have feminist and theological bent, among them, “Woman, Religion and Spirituality” and “NunSense.” She did not set out to be a travel writer. Well, because of this book, “NunStop,” we can now call her one.

Read about her trips to unlikely places—Croatia, Togo, Benin, Trinidad-Tobago, Ephesus—and popular destinations—Paris, Rome, London, New York, Vienna, Geneva, Moscow, etc. One cannot miss the spiritual nuances that are straight out of a pilgrim’s journal. Other times she sounds like any wide-eyed tourist enjoying the sights, sounds and flavors. She not only writes about the destinations, she also writes about what it was like to get there—getting visas, stopovers, airport transfers, being stranded, meeting strange and interesting persons along the way. As they say, just as important as the destination is the journey itself.

Mananzan’s letters to her religious community and her published travel essays (in Lifestyle Travel of the Inquirer) provide the reader a vicarious experience of where she had been. She not only shares her working trips’ cultural, intellectual and spiritual add-ons, she also gives us a glimpse of her prayer life while she’s on the move.

Her knowledge of history, culture, theology, the intellectual landscape and her links to people, have made her trips rewarding and pleasurable. How can she just keep it all to herself?

By writing about her travels, Mananzan is also writing history. The names of places, sceneries and people’s way of life in those faraway lands as she knew them may no longer be the same many generations from now. Perhaps erased by wars and cataclysmic events or taken over by inhabitants from another planet. But once upon a time, in the pages of Mananzan’s book, they were real. She had been there.

Religious women and men of ancient times turned away from the mundane—fuga mundi, it was called. But not anymore in this age when they must necessarily come face to face with real life—the good and bad, the beautiful and ugly. Sr. Mary John Mananzan, the pilgrim, shows us how to dive joyfully into the heart of the world.

That is the “Foreword” I wrote for “NunStop.”

Mananzan now cochairs (with Fr. Quirico Pedregoza, OP) the Office of Women and Gender Concerns (OWGC), a mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines. This is one of her many posts and involvements (local and international) that keep her busy and on the road. (I serve, gratis et amore, in the board of OWGC.)

OWGC has been in operation for over 20 years and has done some trailblazing work in gender awareness, to name a few, research on sexual offenses within the Church, and livelihood programs among grassroots women. OWGC’s mission urges us “to reclaim the feminist principles and values” within religious congregations through formation programs and related activities, to foster equality of women and men religious, and to raise gender-awareness in the Church and society. But because OWGC’s work should go beyond religious institutions, we do have outreach programs with women in the margins of society.

This year being the Year of the Consecrated Life, OWGC needs to do even more for the religious sector and those directly involved in the Church’s mission. Would that we could expand our operations. Might groups or individuals out there want to share their resources? (Send e-mail to smaryjohnm@gmail.com).

Yesterday I was in Tagaytay City to speak before the Philippine Association of Religious Treasurers (PART) which, as its name suggests, is composed of hundreds of religious who hold the purse strings of their orders, congregations and institutions. The theme of my talk was on my encounters as a journalist with the “Church of the Poor” or specifically, with poverty and hope. I heeded my editor in chief’s advice to not speak about abstract things, but about what I know and what I’ve seen. I told stories and showed images. #

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bullets to extort, scare or shame?

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

Murderous, violent thoughts have been running through my head these past days every time I read or watch news about laglag/tanim-bala , or the alleged planting of bullets in the luggage of airline passengers who are detained by airport authorities, perhaps later to be charged with illegal possession of live ammunition.

I’ve been playing a movie in my mind where I am face to face with the culprit who got caught in flagrante delicto while planting a bullet in my hand luggage, and I am taking out my pitsikorno or brass knuckles and bashing the face of this culprit to a bloody pulp. Bam, bam, bam! Teeth and dentures fly in full view of the CCTV.

In another scene, I am eyeball to eyeball with the culprit who hangs his/her head in shame. “Please, look at me,” I plead ever so softly. “Why did you do this, and why me?” He/she looks at me with puppy dog eyes, refuses to talk, then smirks at my Mother Teresa approach. I gently reach out for his/her hand, I choose a finger, and, with the rage of an erupting volcano, I twist and detach the finger bone from its socket until the culprit cries out for mercy. Then, with the pitsikorno (a prohibited item, I suppose, but this is a movie of my own making), bam, bam, bam! Scum of the earth, @#$%?! I say in Filipino. See you in court.

It is just a movie in my cinematic mind. But I find myself hyperventilating while I am running it on my mental screen. I feel a slight rise in my blood pressure. I seethe. I am not a violent person in real life. Words and imagination are my only weapons. Well, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he would make these types swallow the bullets.

Now the scenario is changing. It seems that airport personnel are not necessarily the culprits, or the only culprits. In one case, the taxi driver who handled the luggage of an airport-bound passenger seemed to have planted a bullet, said the passenger who aborted his trip to the airport after getting suspicious. Sure enough, he found a bullet and posted a photo of this on Facebook. Or so he claimed.

I am not saying it is incredible. But why would a taxi driver plant a bullet in his passenger’s luggage? Is it mischief? Is he a sociopath? Is he in cahoots with someone in the airport who will zoom in on this particular hapless passenger while he goes through security checks? How could that come about? At what point does extortion happen?

What I find puzzling is that no culprit has been seen on CCTV, collared or confronted by a victim of extortion, if extortion was the motive. A case several days ago showed a bullet deeply hidden in an elderly passenger’s handbag. It was her lawyer, who had rushed to the rescue, who removed the bullet from the stitched up (not simply zipped up) bag pocket. So how did the bullet get there? This seems straight out of a magician’s hat, or simply sleight of hand. Was the handbag owned by someone else, a borrowed one? Warning: Check suitcases and travel bags that you borrow.

When news broke about laglag/tanim-bala, there was only one scenario, a simple one that made us angry. An airline passenger’s luggage (usually hand-carried) that is going through the X-ray machine is found to contain a bullet. And so the passenger is held, interrogated or detained by security officials. (Even while I am writing this, TV news is featuring two stories about bullets found in the luggage of two passengers. In one case, a woman admitted she owned the bullet. She had found it somewhere, she said, but she didn’t know carrying ammunition was prohibited. There.)

Plastic-wrapped luggage with warning notes pasted on them by irate or fearful passengers is now a common sight in Philippine airports. The more sarcastic the sign, the better. This could be grist for a sitcom or gag show if it were not pathetic. Now I am laughing while imagining what I would write to ward off laglag/tanim-bala. The plastic wrapping business in airports (P160 per suitcase) is raking it in. Don’t tell me…

There seems to be more to this series of embarrassing happenings in the airports than meets the eye. But these cases, we are told, did not suddenly become certain people’s favorite income-generating activity. There had been cases in the past. Was someone ever caught and punished? More victims should come forward to tell us about the extortion.

Another thing: I didn’t know that carrying live bullets as amulets is a superstitious practice among Filipino travelers. I have never heard of bullets being worn by travelers as a protective item. Do bandits and members of private armies and so-called lost commands use them?

If it was superstition or ignorance on the part of those who were really caught with live bullets in their luggage and who were not victims of laglag/tanim-bala, what was the motive of those who planted the bullets on the innocent? Besides extortion, what other motives could there be? One cannot help but suspect that there might be motives other than to afflict the innocent/ignorant and to extort. Is there is a hidden agenda in all this, like sow fear and arouse suspicion and thereby create an embarrassing situation? Already, this shameful scenario has gotten the foreign media interested, if not aghast. Isn’t the government red-faced?

Meanwhile, fearful, worried Filipinos traveling abroad show their disgust and suspicion by getting their belongings plastic-wrapped. These wraps have become symbolic of how they feel. How painful it is to hear departing Filipinos say that right here in their homeland, they cannot trust fellow Filipinos. They leave feeling hurt, even betrayed.

I reiterate my suspicion: There is more to laglag/tanim-bala than meets the eye.#