Thursday, December 29, 2016

'Sanayan lang'

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

Photo by Kristine Angeli Sabillo
In English, “sanayan lang” roughly translates as “one gets used to it.” Or, to borrow a line from the musical “My Fair Lady,” one grows accustomed to a face, to someone, to something, but in a “loverly” way.

There are things to which one should not simply get accustomed, so that one becomes numb and disabled from reacting. Among these are suffering, cruelty and a host of other evils that are inflicted on persons.

Even while I was writing this piece TV news was reporting on deaths, not by typhoon, tsunami, or earthquake, but by guns. Not in some war-torn country but in your neighborhood or some blocks away from where you live. It is still killing season hereabouts; a so-called war waged on some specific societal plague has turned into a contagion. Anyone who has an axe to grind, a long-held grudge or a motive, can find use in that so-called war, pack a gun, mount a motorbike, and ride off into the night.

At the Baclaran Church, the Redemptorist Fathers have mounted a photo exhibit of the killings. So un-Christmas-y you might say, but wasn’t the newly born Jesus himself the object of killers let loose by a despot named Herod?

Yesterday, Dec. 28, was the Feast of the Holy Innocents, which commemorates the mass killing of babies that targeted the Infant Jesus. As the prophet Jeremiah had foretold, “A voice was heard in Rama, sobbing and loudly lamenting: it was Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted because they were no more.”

One of several books I received this Christmas was “Sanayan Lang Ang Pagpatay,” a smoldering collection of poems in Filipino (152 in all) by Jesuit Fr. Albert Eduave Alejo (High Chair, 2016). The title roughly translates as “one gets used to committing murder.”

But before reading the poem with the murderous title, break into a smile while reading the dedication: “Alay sa Tatay ko at Mama ko/ na unang nagturo sa akin/ kung paanong magparag√°n ng kamiseta/maghati ng buhok na de pomada/wumasiwas ng muestra/ at bumigkas ng tulang patirada.”

Here is the tulang patirada, “Sanayan Lang Ang Pagpatay [para sa sector nating pumapatay ng tao]”. I heard the poem being read at a gathering of women.

Pagpatay ng tao? Sanayan lang ’yan pare Parang sa butiki.
Sa una siyempre Ikaw’y nangingimi.
Hindi mo masikmurang
Tiradurin o hampasing tulad ng ipis o lamok
Pagkat para bang lagi ’yang nakadapo
Sa noo ng santo sa altar
At tila may tinig na nagsasabing Bawal bawal bawal ’yang pumatay.
Subalit tulad lang ng maraming bagay
Ang pagpatay ay natututuhan din kung magtitiyaga
Kang makinig sa may higit ng karanasan.
Nakuha ko sa tiyuhin ko kung paanong balibagin ng tsinelas
O pilantakin ng lampin ang nakatitig na butiki sa aming kisame
At kapag nalaglag na’t nagkikisay sa sahig
Ay agad ipitin ng hindi makapuslit
Habang dahan-dahang tinitipon ang buong bigat
Sa isang paang nakatalingkayad: sabay bagsak.
Magandang pagsasanay ito sapagkat
Hindi mo nakikita, naririnig lang na lumalangutngut
Ang buto’t bungo ng lintik na butiking hindi na makahalutiktik.
           (Kung sa bagay, kilabot din ’yan sa mga gamu-gamo.)
Nang magtagal-tagal ay naging malikhain na rin
Ang aking mga kamay sa pagdukit ng mata,
Pagbleyd ng paa, pagpisa ng itlog sa loob ng tiyan
Hanggang mamilipit ’yang parang nasa ibabaw ng baga.
O kung panahon ng Pasko’t maraming paputok
Maingat kong sinusubuan ’yan ng rebentador
Upang sa pagsabog ay mapagpaalaman ang nguso at buntot.
            (Ang hindi ko lamang maintindihan ay kung bakit
             Patuloy pa rin ’yang nadaragdagan.)
Kaya’t ang pagpatay ay nakakasawa rin kung minsan.
Mabuti na lamang at nakaluluwang ng loob
Ang pinto at bintanang kahit hindi mo sinasadya
Ay may sariling paraan ng pagpuksa ng buhay.
Ganyan lang talaga ang pagpatay:
Kung hindi ako ay iba naman ang babanat;
Kung hindi ngayon ay sa iba namang oras.
Subalit ang higit na nagbibigay sa akin ng lakas ng loob
Ay malalim nating pagsasamahan:
Habang ako’y pumapatay, kayo nama’y nanonood.
May 2017 be less bloody than the year just passed. May Divine Light shine brightly on your life and loves in the year ahead and beyond. God makes all things new. #

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Wise Women

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

You have heard the “would have” story about the Three Wise Women at the birth of Jesus. Its origin is unknown. Some humorless know-it-alls question its biblical, theological, geographical and even astronomical (something about the guiding star) possibility. But here it is, anyway.

“What would have happened if it had been Three Wise Women instead of Three Wise Men? They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and brought practical gifts.”

The killjoys have a sequel to this that is unflattering to women. It tells about what the Three Wise Women did after they had left the Nativity scene. So much for scrooges who can’t take a Christmas story with a gender-sensitive twist.

But, indeed, the women can be relied upon, as the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has often stressed. In its latest report, the FAO said “women hold the key to building a world free from hunger and poverty. But gender inequality is putting a brake on sustainable development.”

FAO director-general Jose Graziano da Silva said recently that achieving gender equality and empowering women is not only the right thing to do but is also a critical ingredient in the fight against extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition. Speaking at a high-level event co-organized by the FAO, the European Commission and the Slovak Presidency of the Council of the European Union in collaboration with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (Ifad), the World Food Programme (WFP) and UN Women, Da Silva said: “Women are the backbone of our work in agriculture,” adding that women comprise 45 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries. That figure is rising to 60 percent in parts of Africa and Asia.

What do these numbers mean? They underscore the importance of ensuring that rural women enjoy a level playing field. “It’s all about opportunity. Evidence shows that when women have opportunities, the yields on their farms increase—also their incomes. Natural resources are better managed. Nutrition is improved. And livelihoods are more secured,” Da Silva said.

This is why rural women are key players in the effort to achieve all of the Sustainable Development Goals, but especially SDG2, freeing the world from hunger and malnutrition, he added. So if Zero Hunger is to be achieved, women have to be involved. There is no way to get it done without them. Neven Mimica, European Union commissioner for international cooperation and development, told event participants: “It is often said that if you educate a woman, you educate a whole generation. The same is true when we empower women across the board—not only through access to knowledge, but also to resources, to equal opportunities, and by giving them a voice.”

Yet current statistics suggest that the world is falling short on this score, Mimica said. “We know that agricultural yields would rise by almost a third if women had the same access to resources as men. As a result, there would be up to 150 million fewer hungry people in the world. And we know that children have significantly better prospects for the future when their mothers are healthy, wealthy and educated. Especially during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life,” he said, adding: “If we are serious about putting an end to poverty and hunger once and for all, then we all need to step up our support for rural women. As an investment in families, in our communities, in our wider societies, and in our planet’s future.”

And so the need to close the gender gap. Although nearly half the world’s agricultural labor force is female, women own less than 20 percent of agricultural land. The FAO has it figured out: If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million due to productivity gains.
I have headed to the “wilderness” where I will thrive on the proverbial locusts and wild honey while awaiting The One. Maranatha! Have a good Christmas, everyone. #

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Forgiveness does not erase the crime

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

For the traditional pre-Christmas simbang gabi (dawn masses, actually), the first of which is scheduled at dawn tomorrow, there will be an anticipated Mass at 9 p.m. tonight (Thursday) in front of the People Power monument on Edsa. It is dubbed “Sambayanan, simbang gabi ng siklab bayan.” (Samba means worship, and sambayanan means people or society.)

A people in worshipful, prayerful gathering. A people crying out to the Savior, “Maranatha!” Halina! Come! Bring candles, your aching hearts, your trembling hopes. The gathering, sponsored by The Coalition Against the Marcos Burial at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani (CAMB-LNMB), is the first of this year’s Advent dawn Masses.
The Filipino Catholic practice is rich in symbolism as it prepares the faithful for the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, Savior and the Light of the world. The gathering hopes to highlight the concerns of many, especially the “encroaching darkness in these troubled times.”

The organizers stress that in view of all these, “Christmas then takes on a deeper meaning, imbuing the Filipino nation with strength and courage to band together, to seek truth and justice and the preservation of our hard-won and most cherished freedoms as symbolized in the People Power monument.”

I hope the gathering turns out to be a really solemn gathering and not an occasion for onlookers, cynics and skeptics to grouse about those who do not want to “forgive and forget” and who refuse to “move on”—that is, the victims of Ferdinand Marcos’ martial rule who insist on history being set aright, not revised or twisted for the benefit of those who had wounded and scarred this nation.

Forgive, this is what revisionists so sanctimoniously admonish those who insist on the truth and who expose the lies for the young generation to see. Forgive? Move on?

I will not tire saying this: Those who underwent horrendous sufferings during the Marcos dictatorship have long moved on with the scars, lifted up their bloody memories to the heavens, cleansed their hearts of anger for their very own sake and peace of mind. (Though some succumbed to the trauma and lived a troubled existence.) But the survivors—how to continue getting on with their lives when they are suddenly given the most painful cut of all? The tyrant and plunderer who gave them hell, dead for 27 years, was given a hero’s burial in hallowed grounds reserved for the valiant and noble. No thanks to President Duterte and nine of the 15 Supreme Court justices.

Forgiveness does not absolve the criminal. Forgiveness does not erase the crime. Forgiveness and absolution are not for the unrepentant. So those who use the profound “F” word in vain, think again.

Metanoia is the Greek word for repentance. Meta means “after” and nous means “mind.” Metanoia requires a change in the mind or in the inner person.

Nobody from the Marcos family has sincerely shown atonement or sought forgiveness from the victims of martial rule. Is the compensation due the victims (Republic Act No. 10368) all about money? No. Above all, it is to show the Marcoses’ culpability.

When the Swiss government returned the ill-gotten wealth stashed in Swiss banks, it was on condition that the Philippine government give it to the martial law victims. What better way to show there was tyranny and plunder, what better way to show there were victims? In the case of the class suit filed in a Hawaii court and won by close to 10,000 victims/claimants (worth $2 billion), their victory was also meant to show that, indeed, there were that many victims and that much stolen wealth.

The hunt for the missing “Marcos art” worth billions of dollars is seeking fresh momentum, a New York Times report said. Finders keepers—the Philippine government or the almost 10,000 claimants.

In this season of Advent and hopeful waiting, it behooves us to cleanse ourselves of resentment, to open ourselves to hope and gladness, but we must also be compelled to be carriers of truth and light and not pull down the shroud of darkness and untruths that would carry us back to the anni terribilis, the dreadful years when we were in shackles. #

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Martial law killed them in their youth

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

Down, down, down into the darkness of the grave
Gently they go, the beautiful, the tender, the kind;
Quietly they go, the intelligent, the witty, the brave.
I know. But I do not approve. And I am not resigned.
—from “Dirge Without Music” by Edna St. Vincent Millay

For lack of space, I could not write about each of the 19 new heroes/martyrs honored on Nov. 30 at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in last week’s banner story of the Inquirer (“19 heroes to be honored at Bantayog,” 11/29/16). The lives of the six young men who were slain in their prime during the Marcos dictatorship are worth knowing about.

Eduardo Aquino (1953-1973) was 20 when he was killed. Born in Pangasinan, he was the youngest of eight children, the family’s doted-on, boy-next-door type, what one would now call a fashionista. He became an activist when he was studying political science at the University of the Philippines. When martial law was declared in 1972, Aquino left school and got involved in political work among farmers in Tarlac. He died when soldiers from Camp Macabulos in Sitio Pagasa, Tarlac, fired at the hut where he was meeting with farmers. He and his companions were unarmed.

Marciano “Chuck” Anastacio (1955-1982) was 27 when he was killed. Baguio-born, he went through a difficult adolescence. He studied at the University of the East for a while. He figured in brawls and was into drugs and alcohol until he met a female activist who opened his eyes to the ills of society. His life found direction and because organizing was second nature to him, he got involved in labor issues.

In 1980 a military agent shot Anastacio in the face and left him for dead in an isolated garbage dump. He spent a month in intensive care where he was put under surveillance. When he was well enough, he headed to the Sierra Madre to join the armed resistance. He and a companion were seen captured alive on Dec. 18, 1982. But the following day their bullet-riddled bodies were paraded in front of the San Jose Panganiban town hall in Camarines Norte. Two months later, his family, with the help of the Task Force Detainees of the Philippines and the Paracale parish, was able to claim his remains, which were found wrapped in plastic and left in a dumpsite near the town cemetery.

Fortunato Camus (1949-1976) was killed at 26. Born in Cebu, he became a youth organizer of the Consolidation of Reforms for the Youth in the University of the Visayas where he studied law for two years. He later joined the armed resistance in Luzon against the Marcos dictatorship. He was killed in an encounter with the military in Nueva Ecija.

Hernando Cortez (1954-1983) was 29 when he was killed reportedly during an encounter with the military. His family believes otherwise. Cortez attended the Gregorio Araneta University in Caloocan City. A trade union organizer, he was with labor leaders when the military raided their meeting place. The Task Force Detainees reported that he was tortured before he was killed.

Edgardo Dojillo (1948-1972) was 24 when he was killed. A popular figure in the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos where he studied accountancy, he led consciousness-raising events against the exploitation of the sacada in Sugarlandia. A few weeks into the Marcos dictatorship, Dojillo and a friend were on a motorcycle when they were ambushed by members of the Philippine Constabulary. Badly wounded, the two were tied up and hung like animal carcasses on the side of a cargo truck, then transferred to a weapons carrier where they bled to death.

Ricardo Filio (1953-1976) was 22 when he was killed by friendly fire while government military operations were going on in Laac (now part of Compostela Valley). Filio was a student in Ateneo de Davao when he joined the Left-leaning Kabataang Makabayan. Because of his activities, his family’s house was raided and he had to seek sanctuary in the hills. He was among the first recruits of the New People’s Army in Davao.

They are the unang alay (first offerings), as the song goes. #

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Forgiveness for the unrepentant

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

Art work by Edicio dela Torre
It is one thing to have forgiveness in one’s heart for tormentors and abusers, even for the most hardened and unrepentant, and, in silence, lift one’s pain to the heavens—something victims can do for themselves to exorcise the pain. But it is quite another to bestow honors on the hardened and unrepentant, allow them to reopen wounds and mock the victims of their unspeakable crimes—and expect the victims to call it forgiveness, or moving on.

To those who, with good intentions, admonish the victims to forgive because that is choosing the better part, I say: That is indeed godly. But it is quite insensitive to say “Forgive” or “Move on” while watching the unrepentant deny their culpability, spit at the wounds of victims and claim honors for a tyrant and plunderer. Does forgiveness mean allowing the uncontrite to strut about with impunity while the wounded nurse their reopened wounds?  
Think what it is like to have one’s wound reopened and rubbed with salt, vinegar (sukang Iloko) and the hottest chili pepper.

To those who preach forgiveness from the goodness of their souls, I will not snarl at you, but please find it in your hearts to see things from the side of those who suffered extreme pain during the Marcos dictatorship. This is not about forgiveness of sins, this is about justice.

Please do not talk about moving on and letting go because many victims of the Marcos dictatorship have indeed done that, while proudly bearing the scars, even the unhealed wounds, of yesteryears. But allowing the unrepentant beneficiaries of the Marcos loot to dig at the victims’ pain and sneakily bury the dictator in hallowed grounds with honors—does allowing this constitute forgiveness?

Hateful and unforgiving—this is how victims of Marcos tyranny are labeled by those who wish to shut them up. But why turn the tables on the victims? Why demonize those who truly suffered and knew what it was like to take the blows, to be made to sit on blocks of ice, to be made to drink urine and eat feces, to go through water torture and bear the unnamable pain of loss for the disappearance of loved ones or finding their mutilated remains?

Why portray as vengeful those whose rights were trampled upon and whose properties were taken away? But how do you call those who wish to revise history by honoring the dishonored former soldier and president? How do you forgive an unrepentant family whose members continue to flaunt their impunity?

Lord, forgive them for they know not what they do—is this the prayer we want victims to say to their offenders every time their rights are trampled? Why should we expect so much from the victims but not from the uncontrite victimizers and their cheering squad?

And then there are those who say, “That happened more than 30 years ago, let history be the judge.” Precisely! We are now in that historical future and judgement is due. If it is not now, when in the future? A thousand years from now?

There are those who sneer and say, “Well, the victims went to the Supreme Court, and now that the Supreme Court has spoken, they complain and protest?” When the victims went to the Supreme Court, they were called petitioners. They pleaded that their side be heard, that the honorable justices see the justness of their plea. They did not go there to simply seek an opinion, as in “Tell us, is this red or green?” and whatever is handed down should be good enough. No.

And so the weeping and gnashing of teeth, the raising of fists, the howling in the streets.

“Not yet, Rizal, not yet,” the poet Rafael Zulueta da Costa’s cry pierces the darkening sky, “the land has need of young blood…”

Many millennials—those who knew little about the atrocities committed under martial rule—are now eager to know the truth from their elders. And having known, they do not want a repeat now and in the future. Hear them roar.#