Thursday, April 28, 2016

Bishop Julio Labayen on revolution and spirituality

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

Yesterday while I was working on the column for today, I received word that Bishop Julio Xavier Labayen passed away early in the morning. He was three months short of 90. I had to put on hold the column piece I had begun. And, through his writings and my recollections of my associations with him, enter virtually into the essence of this man, this Carmelite priest, this “revolutionary” bishop who quietly shook the ramparts of the Catholic Church in the Philippines by his radical stance on the oppressive structures of society and the poor.

But not to forget: Labayen insisted on one all-important, binding ingredient in well-intentioned pursuits, be they political, ideological, developmental or religious: spirituality. (His biography, “It is the Lord,” by Sr. Ma. Dulce Emmanuel F. Inlayo, OCD, is available at Claretian publications.)

I still have the transcripts of my interviews with and articles I had written on him. I wish I could share them in one fell swoop. Here are excerpts from one I had written:

Who is Bishop Labayen? A line I had written made it as a blurb on the back cover of his book, “Revolution and the Church of the Poor.” Had I known it was going to be used, I would have volunteered something better.

Here it is: “Bishop Julio Xavier Labayen, a member of the Order of the Discalced Carmelites, is viewed by many as ‘controversial,’ having figured in clashes with the Marcos dictatorship. In a sea of conservatives in the Philippine Church hierarchy, the bishop is considered a voice in the wilderness.” Pardon the mixed metaphors in this intro to my Q&A that came out in the Inquirer in that frenzied week of Pope John Paul II’s visit in 1995.

I did stress his being a Carmelite—steeped in the spirituality of mystics John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila—to contrast with his being perceived as a leftist by the military and even by his colleagues.

In his book, Labayen attempted to present the Church of the Poor from “the perspective and analysis of revolution.” The book was not an apologia for some Church people’s romancing Marxism and so-called liberation movements. Far from it. What Labayen wanted to see was “a letting go of what has become irrelevant and obstructive, a going beyond… a dying to what has ceased to serve life… .”

What he was driving at was the failure of revolutionary movements to deliver. Some things just didn’t work. Or don’t work anymore. Or were bound to fail.

“What I write here,” said Labayen, “is the fruit of my 33 years of pastoral experience as the bishop prelate of Infanta (Quezon)… interwoven with the dark strands of trials, crisis, harassment, persecution and marginalization, and also with the bright strands of pastoral breakthroughs, deep insights, qualitative turning points, reassuring faith-experiences of the living God of history, His/Her comforting presence in the midst of abandonment, and discovery of the fathomless depths of the human spirit.”

But before tackling revolutions, Labayen presented two models of the Church—the “imperialist” Christendom model and the Church of the Poor. In this context he said that “while the Church may be historically shaped and conditioned by history, the same Church was founded by Jesus Christ to shape history.”

In Chapter 5 (“Where did revolutions go wrong?”) Labayen made a straightforward criticism of revolutions abroad. He cited Europe and China and lingered in Latin America, Nicaragua especially, where the Church played a vital role in the revolution. “In the initial process of revolutions,” Labayen wrote, “the outcomes either fall short of the initial noble intentions or, sometime after victory, short-change the masses.”

At home, Labayen cited the failure of the Christians for National Liberation (founded “with the intention of having a Christian presence in the revolution”) “to influence the revolutionary process to make it more humane, compassionate and less rigid.” He noted that cultural and psychological perspectives were often not taken into consideration in revolutionary affairs. It cannot all be politics and economics, he pointed out. The human factor is important. The human heart, the human spirit, he argued, also seek to be liberated.

But of course, he presented another paradigm—Christ. Not the one who is conveniently portrayed as a radical to polarize social classes, but the Christ who preached about an interior revolution in the human heart and spirit. The bishop was on to another plane. Labayen, the social action man, was not shy to say: “Those who are committed to revolution often think that the interior journey of the human heart and spirit is tantamount to copping out of the struggle… considered reactionary [and] will delay the revolution.”

He urged revolutionaries to “consider the essential condition for a genuine and lasting revolution which is that of a radically changed human heart and spirit. In other words, a spirituality for/of revolution.” He dared suggest that they “understand the contribution of the mystics and psychologists… It may well be that here we encounter a yet untapped inner resource that we have not harnessed for revolution. Could it be that herein lies the ingredient that is lacking for the satisfactory and fulfilling outcome?”

I was stumped by this. I had long waited for someone to say this.

Dig into your inner well, he exhorted, then offered words from San Juan de la Cruz’s Spiritual Canticle: “And then we will go on/ To the high caverns on the rock/ Which are so well concealed;/ There we shall enter/ And taste the fresh juice of the pomegranates.”

If, as they say, John of the Cross, if peeled and stripped of the Christian layers, is really a Buddhist monk, I think Bishop Labayen, if stripped of his activist label, was truly a contemplative, a monk at prayer, on his knees in the bloody fields of battle. #

Thursday, April 21, 2016

As the mind, so the mouth

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

We don’t need a Sigmund Freud to tell us that what comes out of one’s mouth—be it a slip, a flub, interjections of surprise, anger or joy, and other puzzling, shocking utterances—can reveal something about one’s state of mind and heart. What more when the utterances are plain offensive, and the utterer incorrigible, unapologetic?

Almost 2,000 years ago, someone named Jesus was already preaching about what comes in and out of one’s mouth: “But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders…” And: “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” There’s more where these came from.

And so when a campaigning presidential candidate, Rodrigo Duterte, recalled last week to a crowd a 1989 hostage-taking incident in a Davao City prison facility and how a female Australian missionary working among the prisoners was repeatedly raped and killed, he expressed anger but also added in so many words that he, as the mayor, should have had the privilege to be the first in line to her body. She was movie-star beautiful, he emphasized.

I was dumbfounded.

Duterte and his apologists have backtracked a bit by saying it was uttered in anger (?) then. So what was the sense in repeating the same offensive line 26 years later? To regale the crowd? Was the story such a delectable story to tell? I do not believe that it was uttered then and repeated now as a joke, as some people think it was. Joke or not, it was plain cruel —to the dead, her fellow hostages, her family, her compatriots, women, and those who respect them.

This was not the first time Duterte unleashed gender-offensive lines and dished out jokes with sexual overtones. Expletives? Plenty. Even Pope Francis and his mother got cussed.

No, he will not apologize, Duterte said as of this writing. Take it or leave it. No breast-beating for him, just more chest-thumping. Nobody controls his mouth, he made it clear. Love me, love my mouth.

What can one say? As the mind, so the mouth.

Gutter language, he calls it, harking back to his so-called humble beginnings. Humble beginnings? But didn’t he attend exclusive boys’ schools at some time in his life? Granted that he tries to identify with the poor of this world, but does he think gutter language defines the poor? The humble folk who struggle to rise above penury and achieve life with dignity should be insulted. Why equate poverty with rudeness and boorishness, with kabastusan?

Duterte (called “Dudirty” by his critics) is the kind of president we deserve, if we are to go by the cheers of the crowd he wows and the explanations of his apologists, among them a bar topnotcher and senator. How have we come to this? Some call him “Do30,” which might have been coined by journalists and those who know what 30 means, not barring divine intervention, fire and brimstone from the sky, and other apocalyptic occurrences.

That Duterte might not really be that interested in the presidency is not a totally wild conclusion. He was a reluctant candidate in the beginning who had to be constantly pushed. He gave a grudging yes but after he did, it looked like there was no turning back. Does he now secretly wish he did not get into this? Why the self-destructive statements that turn off rather than attract voters?

On the other extreme, is he preparing us for a Duterte-style presidency, a “vigilante”-style leadership reminiscent of his Davao brand of managing a city? Boasting of his Davao exploits (e.g., shooting down criminals, no questions asked), he is foil to Vice President Jejomar Binay who boasts of his own Makati City exploits. The Binays (the VP, wife Elenita, son Junjun) have ruled Makati for more than two decades. A daughter is now a senator, while another daughter, the congresswoman, is now running for Makati mayor after her brother was removed and is now facing charges of corruption. But the Dutertes (father and daughter, interchangeably or in tandem) also ruled Davao City uninterrupted.

If this were a movie, it would be titled “Iyo ang Makati, Akin ang Davao,” starring fast-drawing actors spewing quotes like “Isang bala ka lang!” that make moviegoers’ adrenaline rise.

But the campaign season is not a movie. Candidates know that the crowds are entitled to some entertainment, but to dish out offensive quotes, cruel jokes and insulting spiels, and to present lewd numbers are condescending. It could even backfire on them. The loudness of the laughter and howling is not necessarily indicative of votes. Those in the crowd will go home and recount what they heard and saw, the scandalous sounds and sights among them.

The health of Duterte’s mind is one thing, and is obvious. What about the wellness of his body? Didn’t he drop intimations about his mortality? While presidential candidate Miriam Defensor Santiago openly admits she has Stage 4 lung cancer, Duterte has not disclosed his state of health. Nor have the three other presidential candidates. There is a clamor for the presidential and vice presidential candidates to disclose their state of health and their staying power. For starters, why not submit their blood samples? For DNA testing, if necessary. Just to make sure some of them are not related to each other.

For Duterte followers, some quotes from the Buddha:

“The thought manifests as the word. The word manifests as the deed. The deed develops into habit. And the habit hardens into character. So watch the thought and its ways with care.”

“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. What we are today comes from our thoughts of yesterday, and our present thoughts build our life of tomorrow. Our life is the creation of our mind.” #

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Debating the Marcos stolen wealth

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

Ferdinand Marcos Jr., aka Bongbong, was untruthful in saying in last Sunday’s vice-presidential live TV debate that President Aquino and the Liberal Party blocked the compensation of the tens of thousands human rights violations victims who suffered during the Marcos dictatorship.

President Aquino had, in fact, signed in 2013 Republic Act No. 10368. The law allotted P10 billion for the victims and for the construction of a memorial museum and library that would preserve proof (documents, stories, books and other archival materials) of that dark era, and to honor those who fought to restore freedom.

If indeed there was a “blocking,” it was technically the 30-year-old Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) that stood in the way, not the Liberal Party of the President as Marcos said by virtue of PCGG’s task to discover, recover and return to the national coffers the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses. That is, despite the Hawaii court ruling awarding $2 billion (P80 billion) to close to 9,539 claimants who filed the class suit against the Marcos estate.

And so it has been a case of finders keepers, that is, who gets to the loot first. So far, the winning claimants’ lawyers headed by Robert Swift have found two sets of loots (cash and art) that meant two distributions to claimants. But these are peanuts compared to the $2 billion that the Hawaii court has ruled on and what are still out there to be found or claimed.

The fact is, the Aquino administration is separately (emphasis on the word “separately”) compensating the victims with P10 billion sourced from the Marcos loot recovered by PCGG from the Marcos Swiss accounts. It might take one more year for the Human Rights Violations Victims Claims Board (HRVVCB) to finish processing the 75,000 claims.

But there is more to the partly recovered Marcos loot, the PCGG and the Department of Justice on one side and the claimants on the other side. More later.

Back to Sunday’s debate. None of the six VP candidates, except Leni Robredo, countered Marcos Jr.’s untruthful statement; but her counterargument was lost in the din of so many other heated exchanges. I wished she had added forcefully that 75,000 claims are being processed by the claims board so that some justice, in the form of monetary compensation—and though to be given belatedly (30 years after the dictator fell in disgrace)—could be dispensed. 

 Just as important as the issue of the monetary compensation to be sourced from the loot is the sheer number of those who had suffered. I have been to the claims board offices in the University of the Philippines campus and saw for myself the shelves lined with tens of thousands of folders that contain accounts of suffering, death and destruction during Marcos’ martial rule. A disclosure: I was one of the almost 7,000 claimants in whose favor the Hawaii court ruled; I am one of the 75,000 claimants whose cases are being processed by the HRVVCB pursuant to RA 10368. (My case is Docket No. 2014-14-0026.) Two separate claims.

By falsely arguing during the VP debate that the compensation was being “blocked,” the dictator’s son and namesake was admitting that compensation was due. He was therefore openly admitting that 1) indeed, there are victims waiting to be compensated because their rights were violated during his father’s rule; and 2) indeed, the Marcos hidden, ill-gotten wealth exists, some of which have been recovered.

A question on the Marcos ill-gotten wealth now being asked before the Sandiganbayan is: Are the recovered wealth (money, art) now in government’s possession outside of the Hawaii court’s decision and out of reach of the claimants in the Hawaii class suit? Or could most of the 9,539 members of the class suit claim part of it to fully cover the $2 billion (P80 billion) awarded to them by the Hawaii court?

Last week, several members of the Marcos Human Rights Litigation filed a motion to intervene in Forfeiture Case No. 141 which is pending in the Sandiganbayan. This forfeiture case, which has been ongoing since 1991, seeks to confiscate all Marcos properties. According to the claimants’ lead counsel Swift, the PCGG is using the forfeiture case to try and confiscate 150 artworks bought by Imelda Marcos in the 1970s and 1980s.

The basis for the intervention, Swift said, “is the existence of strong evidence the PCGG and the (DOJ) may have committed fraud on the Court.” Said Swift: “The PCGG has long touted its success in recovering over $4 billion from properties owned by the Marcoses and their cronies. But a secret objective of the PCGG under Presidents Gloria Arroyo and Noynoy Aquino has been to nullify the judgment obtained by 9,539 Filipino human rights (violations) victims by preventing them from executing on Marcos assets. The PCGG has done so by making new claims before the Sandiganbayan whenever the (victims) initiate execution. It did so as to the Arelma assets and it is currently doing so as to the Marcos artwork. New evidence strongly suggests that the PCGG and (DOJ) were, and are, withholding material evidence from the Sandiganbayan.”

The intervenors are concerned that the Sandiganbayan is considering awarding the Philippine government all the Marcos artwork. In 2009 the Sandiganbayan awarded the government a judgement as to the Arelma case, where Jose B. Campos (who controlled properties for the Marcoses) and the government settled for the return of 28 properties he held for the Marcoses in exchange for civil and criminal immunity for himself and his family.

The question: Did the PCGG and DOJ notify the Sandiganbayan about this settlement or did they willfully withhold this information? More on this another time. #


Saturday, April 9, 2016

POW No. 24 tells of cruelty, hunger, sickness in Death March

My uncle's first-hand account on suffering and faith during the Death March in 1942. He's Mommy"s eldest brother, Uncle Fed to us nieces and nephews. May he rest in peace. Let us remember our courageous compatriots today, Araw ng Kagitingan (Day of Valor) which used to be remembered as the Fall of Bataan. _ Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Philippine Daily Inquirer/FEATURE/by Lt. Col. Federico A. Peralta

DURING World War II, I served in Bataan with the 2nd Regular Division PC (United States Armed Forces in the Far East, or Usaffe) under Gen. Guillermo Francisco.

I arrived in Bataan on New Year’s Day of 1942 with the contingent of the division surgeon, Col. Jose Gonzales Roxas. Our division was given the mission to defend the southeastern coast of Bataan. The sector was comparatively quiet except for the presence of Japanese snipers that infiltrated our sector.

But by March, we began to feel the lack of food. It became so critical that we only subsisted on soft-boiled rice twice a day with canned sardines or salmon as viand alternately. To augment our dwindling supplies, we slaughtered carabaos and pigs that belonged to civilians who lived nearby. Monkeys were eaten and even stray dogs were not spared.

At that time, the Usaffe defenders, whose numbers had been decimated by disease, injury and death, fervently hoped for provisions from America to arrive. One bright hope of the beleaguered Filipino-American troops was the expected arrival of a “one mile convoy” in a matter of days that would bring personnel, supplies and materials.

The convoy never arrived.

Instead, the Japanese reinforcement came and launched a major offensive in the early part of April. They bombed the hospitals and ammunition dumps. Taking advantage of their superiority and firepower, the Japanese broke through our lines and all of our efforts to stop the enemy’s advance were futile. With no naval support, inadequately equipped and badly outnumbered, the Usaffe defenders faced a hopeless situation.

Realizing our desperate condition, the American commander, Maj. Gen. Edward King, ordered the soldiers to stop all resistance. After the surrender, the Japanese ordered the troops to march from Bataan to San Fernando, Pampanga.

Death March

Thus began the infamous Death March, one of the most tragic episodes of the war that lasted for four days and four nights, covering a distance of 106 kilometers, of which I was one of the survivors.

During the first day, thousands of us who formed a kilometric line of marchers, four abreast, trekked with avid enthusiasm that at the end of the journey transportation would be available to bring us to our homes.

It turned otherwise, and we were concentrated instead. A notice was passed around “that the Japanese could guarantee our lives if we do not escape, and those who will, will be shot.”

I was one of those who did not take any chances to escape, inspired by the thought that I might still see my family someday. There were those who took the risk and escaped, some were lucky, some were shot dead.

Despite the difficulties, the marchers continued night and day, rain or shine, with brief halts during the night. Some of those who were dog-tired collapsed, the rest carried on—wet, cold, hungry and afraid.

The Japanese guards were harsh and cruel. Anybody who broke the line because of a malaria attack and dysentery were subjected to ridicule and gunned down. Hundreds of marchers who could no longer walk were brutally beaten up and kicked by heartless guards.

After a brief halt caused by the misalignment of the marchers, I was separated from my friends. Early the following morning, I experienced my first malaria attack and was chilled to the bones. I rolled myself down toward the soft shoulder of the road and landed on a sugarcane field.

Strange episode

After the attack, although weak and exhausted, I managed to twist off a stalk of sugarcane. But I was seen by a group of Japanese on patrol. They shouted, “Kurah! Kurah!” and gestured to me to approach.

“This is my end,” I told myself, but prayed so hard for help and deliverance. Without much choice, I approached the Japanese and resigned to my fate. But my faith in God was greater. For every second that I stood before the Japanese, I expected to be slapped, kicked and even shot.

To my astonishment, they laughed out loud. Probably, it was because of my appearance and to gloat at our defeat and subjugation. They told me to follow them and we walked until we reached their tent under a huge mango tree.

“You doctor?” one of them asked me.

“No,” I said. They thought I was a doctor because of the Red Cross brassard on my left arm and from the first aid kit that I had.

“I’m a medical aide,” I told them. They took my first aid kit and rummaged through its contents. They took turns in figuring out what the items in the kit were for.


At that moment, the bowl of rice and the aroma of smoked fish on the table caught my attention. My mouth watered, as I was without enough food the past days. Surprisingly, the Japanese invited me to eat. Without waiting for a second invitation, I ate to my heart’s content. I ate like a glutton.

While I was eating, one of the Japanese took the thermometer he found in my first aid kit and began to use it. The others found the adhesive tape and bandages handy. Some took the Atabrine and Quinine tablets. While they were busy deciding who should take the rest of the contents, I continued to eat as fast as I could. In no time, I consumed everything on the table. I regained my composure and was fully satisfied.

Then I found out that nothing was left inside my first aid kit except the emergency medical tags and the 5-cc hypodermic syringe. The Japanese gave me a bag of rice and a bottle of fresh water—perhaps, the price for my first aid kit.

Truly, God heard my prayers and protected me. They ordered me to go and I did, hurriedly. It was almost noon when I rejoined the march.

Not all Japanese were bad

I walked animated with the thought that after all, not all Japanese were cruel and inhuman, some were kind and considerate. I walked with renewed vigor until I saw a man slumped on the ground by the pond, bleeding and reaching for a fruit on an overhanging bough. When he got it, he was shot.

Some of us were hit with rifle butts when we attempted to drink from the artesian wells along the road.

The night overtook me in Limay, a town in Bataan overlooking the sea, where we were allowed to rest for the night. Most of my comrades took time out to cook whatever they could. I looked around and saw the city of Manila across the bay. I knew that the journey’s end was near. I also saw Corregidor to my right, the pitiful target of continuous artillery barrage.

I managed to improvise a bed out of cogon grass. I lay down and stretched myself flat. The breeze was cold. I reviewed the past and evaluated the future then fell asleep. Not long afterward, I woke up with a lassitude and severe headache and fever. I knew I would chill again and I did. The attack was so terrible that my teeth rattled.

“Continue the march!” the Japanese guards shouted. Moving wearily and laboriously like living skeletons, we marched on. Aligning and realigning four abreast was total harassment. In all that commotion, I lost my bag of rice and broke my bottle of water.

After we had walked for almost two hours, I heard the guards yelling, this time to align ourselves in single file, as they dashed toward the rear of the column. I knew they had something in mind again. We stood still. Then I noticed a checkpoint ahead where everyone was being physically searched.

Search and seizure

Disregarding all rules of civilized warfare, everything valuable to the prisoners were confiscated—money, watches, jewelry, fountain pens and anything that suited the guards’ fancy. As I approached the checkpoint, I made up my mind to give up my Elgin watch and hoped they would spare the money I had on me.

A Japanese officer was supervising the search and inspection while noncoms did the confiscation. Money and watches were preferred. Nothing escaped detection by the greedy guards. Money folded and hidden in pants’ seams were found and taken. But some prisoners who looked destitute and weak were allowed to go unmolested. As the search was rigid, three hours had passed before my turn came. The guards had watches strapped on from wrist to elbow and they readily noticed my watch, which I gave right away to divert their attention so that they would not search me further.

But one guard saw my gold necklace with a crucifix, which I handed over with a prayer. My original plan of diverting their attention worked and I was not searched further. Had that happened, the money taped to the sole of my foot could have been found.

Concentration camp

It was very late in the afternoon when we reached Lubao town in Pampanga. It rained so hard and since it was already dark it was easy for us to slip away unnoticed. The situation was so inviting that many took advantage of it, especially those living in the vicinity and neighboring provinces.

We reached San Fernando the following day, the final day of the march. We were crammed into five warehouses that although large could hardly accommodate all of us. My malaria attack was over when we were marched again, this time to the railroad station. We were put on railway boxcars and taken to Capas, Tarlac province. From there, we walked 8 kilometers to Camp O’Donnell.

On our way, we were greeted by sympathetic people who lined the roadsides. They gave us fruits, rice cakes and drinks. They wept and prayed because of the uncertainty that we faced. Our group reached Camp O’Donnell in the afternoon of April 15, 1942. The camp, which used to be a training place for soldiers, had been converted into a concentration camp for war prisoners. We were soon divided into groups and subgroups. The Filipino group was under one Filipino general.

Ailing prisoners

The majority of us were sick of malaria and dysentery and were malnourished so the camp eventually became a veritable hospital ward. It was made of light materials and could accommodate 100 to 150 patients on its two decks. Some of the barracks were so old and dilapidated that one of the upper decks collapsed, resulting in serious injuries to a number of patients in the lower deck.

I was designated assistant ward master at wards with more or less 80 patients. In the afternoon, I segregated the seriously ill patients who urinated and defecated unknowingly. Some of the patients who were totally taken by illness just died, mouths open and devoured by flies. I usually had 15 or 25 dead patients in the morning, and likewise at the other wards.

Prisoner count

A physical inventory by the guard was scheduled in the morning. Any shortage of or an excess in the number of patients without reasonable explanations could result in grave reprimand or punishment. A hard punch or whipping with a rifle butt in the face was often the punishment. We assistant ward masters remedied the excess or shortage of patients by loaning some from other wards and vice versa. The discrepancies happened simply because patients got lost on their way and ended up in the wrong wards in returning from the latrines.

Daily calisthenics (rajo taiso to the Japanese) was conducted and we were made to recite aloud “The Doctrine of the South-East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere” in Nippongo.

The food served was balled rice rolled in salt. More often than not, the rice was unevenly cooked, not to mention prepared by dirty hands. At other times we had boiled sweet potatoes. Cows commandeered by the Japanese were slaughtered and the meat was distributed to the kitchens. Once the beef was cooked, it barely reached the seriously ill patients in the wards. Of course, the lion’s share went to the kitchen personnel.

There was always a struggle for food and only the fittest got to eat. Commotion and pandemonium happened during meals, a to-each-his-own kind of thing. Profiteers Canned goods found their way to the camp through the grass detail—people sent out to get grass for the guards’ horses. The buy-and-sell business was done in Capas.

The goods brought to the camp were sold at exorbitant prices. I remember buying a can of sardines for P50 and a can of corned beef for P80. Prisoners who were never assigned to the grass detail became victims of fellow prisoners who turned profiteers. In the same manner, the lack of medicine made some prisoners rich overnight. Quinine tablets were sold at P5 each and sulfa drugs were went for P10 a tablet.

Those of us who did not buy medicines because we found the cost steep or we had no money, boiled guava tree bark, which had medicinal properties good for diarrhea and dysentery. Security inside the camp was quite strict and rigid. The camp was enclosed with double live-wire fences. I saw a prisoner shot dead while attempting to escape—meant to discourage the rest of us from doing the same.

No sanitation

With utter disregard for the elemental rules of hygiene and sanitation, the Japanese never provided us with proper facilities for waste disposal. Latrines were far from the wards and were just straddle trenches. In no time, they were full and looked like boiling pits with maggots feasting on the filth. At night, prisoners afflicted with diarrhea were forced to stop anywhere, and evidence of their nocturnal suffering was visible in the morning.

Water was so scarce, no one took a bath during our entire four-month confinement in the concentration camp. As a result, most of us were afflicted with body lice, which bit and made us quite uncomfortable at night. In the morning when the sun was up, all of us, regardless of rank and position, were busy killing lice, which hid in the seams of our pants.

Deaths rise

Deaths increased daily from 100 a day during the first month to nearly 300 or more in the early part of August. The bodies were just wrapped in army blankets slung on bamboo poles and taken to the burial place. Burial details were twice a day, morning and afternoon. The graves were dug to accommodate five or more bodies but as deaths increased tremendously, bigger and wider graves were dug to fit 20 or more bodies. Since more graves were to be dug, oftentimes burial was hurriedly done, thus some hands and feet were uncovered.

I could have been one of those who perished had I not been released. My prayers to see my family were answered. God was with me all the time. On Aug. 4, 1942, I was released on parole with the second batch as Prisoner of War No. 24.

(Editor’s Note: Lt. Col. Federico A. Peralta kept his release paper written mostly in Japanese. Upon release, he was among those made to board the train to Manila. His older sister, a Benedictine religious, had him met at the train station. He stayed for a while at St. Scholastica’s College and wore clothes borrowed from a priest.

Peralta wrote this piece in 1992, the 50th anniversary of the Death March. He died in the United States in 1995 at the age of 80. Peralta and his wife, Maria Luisa, raised nine children. He left this manuscript with his daughter Celeste.

He taught for many years at the Philippine Military Academy before he retired. Peralta never received compensation for his war service despite repeated follow-ups. He is the uncle of Inquirer columnist Ma. Ceres P. Doyo.)

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

The physiology of hunger and anger

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

When farmers who till the soil and grow our food go hungry because they have nothing to eat, it means trouble not only for them but also for us. Much like when bees begin to disappear, planet Earth is in trouble. Hunger and anger ruled when policemen and thousands of protesting farmers clamoring for rice met at the Cotabato-Davao highway in Kidapawan, North Cotabato, on April 1.

The aftermath: three dead and scores of injured from both sides. Then came blame-throwing, cries for investigation, and speculations on how the protest march began and ended in a bloody encounter.

It is good to know that donations of rice from entertainment celebrities and private persons have started to pour in despite the North Cotabato governor’s protestations and misplaced resentment. What a great gesture, indeed. But although we advocate free speech, I hope these generous donors could keep their “Ang sarap ng feeling” (It feels so good) sound bytes to themselves for now. Please.
The poor know what hunger is in the most physical sense—as an intense need for food, as a weakening of the body for lack of it. Food is the first in the hierarchy of needs of all living creatures.

Experts often discuss hunger in such a macro and global way. On their side of the divide, the nonhungry discuss the politics and economics of hunger. The spiritually inclined speak about prayer as a hunger. The health buff with a great horror for obesity watches out for that wicked craving.

What happens in the body when one is hungry? Not that the hungry poor care to know, for they know how it feels already. But it behooves us to realize that hunger is as physiological as blood circulating, and breathing in and breathing out during meditation. Hunger is not some diffused, nameless feeling. It is real.

Most people think of hunger as something felt in a stomach that’s gone empty. We talk about cramps: humihilab ang tiyan. Indeed, there is some turbulence of the acids in there, and a stomach left empty for prolonged periods could end up with ulcers. But hunger is more than hilab. Ever felt faint because you skipped breakfast? That is physiological hunger. It’s different from psychological hunger or a craving for, say, comfort food like dried fish on a rainy day. The psychology of hunger is another story.

That feeling of faintness because of lack of food is hunger in the truest sense. Hunger does not originate from stomach pangs. I read up on hunger and learned that the physiology of hunger is influenced by body chemistry (insulin and glucose), the brain (hypothalamus), the so-called set point, and the basal metabolic rate. The hypothalamus gland is mainly responsible for the feeling of hunger and satiation. The lateral hypothalamus (LH) brings on hunger.

When the body is deprived of food, its blood sugar drops and the LH releases orexin, a hunger-triggering hormone. The ventromedial hypothalamus (VH), on the other hand, is responsible for depressing hunger. When the VH is stimulated, an animal will stop eating, but when destroyed, the eating will be unstoppable. These complementary areas in the hypothalamus influence how much glucose is converted into fat and how much is available to fuel activity and minimize hunger. The brain system monitors the body’s state and reports to the hypothalamus, which then sends the information to the frontal lobes which decide behavior. Go, get fried rice, or a spoonful of sugar.

When the poor are constantly feeling hungry in the absence of food, it is not just the glucose level that is sending signals; their bodies are also screaming for the wide array of nutrients of which they have been deprived. Think of pregnant mothers who crave for food because their bodies and babies need it.

So, yes, the poor’s hunger is, first and foremost, as physiological as what the books say. The politics and economics of it are beyond many of them and us.

Now, the anger. In his article, “The physiology of anger,” Dr. Harry Mills examines what happens in the human brain when a person is angry. “Emotions more or less begin inside two almond-shaped structures in our brains which are called the amygdala… As you become angry your body’s muscles tense up. Inside your brain, neurotransmitter chemicals known as catecholamines are released causing you to experience a burst of energy lasting up to several minutes. This burst of energy is behind the common angry desire to take immediate protective action.

“At the same time your heart rate accelerates, your blood pressure rises, and your rate of breathing increases. Your face may flush as increased blood flow enters your limbs and extremities in preparation for physical action. Your attention narrows and becomes locked onto the target of your anger. Soon you can pay attention to nothing else. In quick succession, additional brain neurotransmitters and hormones (among them adrenaline and noradrenaline) are released which trigger a lasting state of arousal. You’re now ready to fight.”

When hunger is discussed in relation to poverty, it is often used interchangeably with malnutrition, starvation and famine. But these are four different stages and situations. Malnutrition is the inadequate intake of any of the nutrients required by the body. Starvation is lack of food intake that results in body deterioration or even death. Famine is a massive situation of hunger, malnutrition, starvation, disease and death. It could be caused by many factors such as war, natural calamities and government neglect.

What is the cause of the hunger that turns into anger? In the case of the protesting farmers, the answer is obvious. We cannot put the blame solely on El NiƱo. This we must know: When hunger and anger meet, there is danger. #