Thursday, April 27, 2017

Cash cards for martial law victims/survivors

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

blogpdimug222.jpgOn April 21, the Human Rights Victims’ Claims Board (HRVCB) issued a notification in Filipino which, translated into English, reads: “Notice to Metro Manila residents who are among the first 4,000 eligible claimants. We wish to inform you that your Notices of Resolution (with attached resolutions) have been sent to your mailing addresses through Philpost.

“In case you have not received yours, you may get a copy from our office in Room 101, ISSI Building, Virata Hall, E. Jacinto Street, UP Diliman Campus, Quezon City.

“Only the claimant may claim his or her resolution. If you intend to come to our office, please contact us beforehand via text message or by calling 09995059737 so that we can prepare a copy of the resolution.

“The rest of the notices of resolution for the first 4,000 eligible claimants have also been sent.”

Early this month I went to the HRVCB office to pick up my Notice of Resolution as a claimant. I am among the first 4,000 eligible claimants whose names have been posted/published. There are thousands more being processed. I saw the paralegals hunched at work. Think of the 75,000 claims they were processing and the accounts of suffering they have to read. I learned that some of them were deeply affected by the traumas recounted and had to undergo some kind of processing themselves.

The notice contains a letter, the bar-coded and dry-sealed resolution which summarizes one’s case, reasons for approval, and the awarded points. Mine was very well written by the assigned ponente (five pages, single-spaced) and signed by the members of the division that processed my claim. Thank you, HRVCB for the warm welcome.

Soon the HRVCB will announce how and in what bank claimants can get the cash card which will contain the partial equivalent of the awarded points. There is yet no final cash equivalent for each point because this can only be computed after the final list of eligible claimants has been completed. For now, the claimants will receive one-half of the tentative amount equivalent to their points.

The suffering that people went through during the martial law years under the Marcos dictatorship cannot be merely reduced to points. But this is provided for in Republic Act No. 10368 (“An act providing for reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime, documentation of said violations, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes”).

The funds are from the P10 billion that came from the Marcos accounts turned over by the government of Switzerland to the Philippine government, on condition that these are given to the victims/survivors of the excesses of the Marcos dictatorship.

Note that this is different from the class suit filed by more than 9,000 victims/survivors (myself among them) that was upheld by a Hawaii court in the 1990s. The court awarded some $2 billion (about P100 billion now), but the award has come in trickles because of difficulties in tracking down the Marcos hidden wealth (cash, art collections, jewelry, properties) abroad. And the Philippine government also gets in the way, claiming that if it is Marcos ill-gotten wealth, it should go to the national coffers—a case of finders-keepers.

Here are excerpts from Redemptorist Fr. Amado Picardal’s 21-page account submitted to the HRVCB:

“While I was inside the ‘dragon room,’ I felt so helpless. I cried out to God but he seemed so distant and absent. I felt abandoned. Under the glare of a light bulb over my head, the intelligence agents continued to take turns in interrogating me and hitting my solar plexus, ears, chest and kidneys every time I refused to answer their questions. I was gasping for air every time they hit me. The pain became so unbearable that I passed out. When I regained consciousness I lost the sense of time since it was dark inside the room. I didn’t know whether it was night or day. I was hungry and thirsty. Instead of giving me water, somebody forced me to drink Tanduay rum. I became groggy and they continued to ask me who my comrades were and where they could be found. They thought that too much alcohol would loosen my tongue. Instead, I wailed like a little child.”

Thursday, April 20, 2017

The Marian icon and Filipinos

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

Fr. Amado L. Picardal CSsR recalls that when he was a political prisoner during the martial law years, he had a fellow inmate bearing a tattoo of Our Mother of Perpetual Help (OMPH) on his back. There was teasing for the guy to take off his shirt so the tattoo would be displayed while the inmates prayed the Marian novena.

Who is not familiar with the image of OMPH and who it represents, the reason thousands of Filipinos flock to the Baclaran shrine and to other churches nationwide on Wednesdays?

The image or icon (a representation in the Byzantine style) shows Mary holding the infant Jesus, with angels floating beside them. It has become so popular it is now part of the Philippine cultural landscape and everyday life.

I think it was Filipinos who were first, or are the only ones, to affectionately call the mother of Jesus “Mama Mary,” as if she were a member of the family. Filipinos took to calling her that quite recently (I don’t think it has been 40 years). In yesteryears she was reverently called “Blessed Mother,” “Virgin Mary,” “Mahal na Birhen,” etc. She sure has many formal titles, among them “Our Lady of Perpetual Help/Succor,” with many translations in Filipino languages such as “Ina ng Laging Saklolo.”

Just out is the book “Our Mother of Perpetual Help Icon and the Filipinos,” with a mouthful of a subtitle, “Multidisciplinary Perspectives to a Perpetual Help Spirituality.” It comes out in time for the 150th year since the time Pope Pius IX entrusted the icon to the Redemptorists in 1866 with the admonition, “Make her known.” The icon is now in St. Alphonsus Church on the Via Merulana on Esquiline Hill in Rome.

St. Alphonsus Liguori is the founder of the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer. The Redemptorists (CSsR), as they are called, came to the Philippines in 1906. The Irish and Australian Redemptorists started the devotion in the islands after World War II, in Iloilo (1946) and Baclaran (1948). Marking the 150th anniversary is the International Congress of Redemptorists of the Philippines and Asia-Oceania on April 24-27 at the Redemptorists’ OMPH shrine compound in Baclaran.

Edited by Bro. Karl Gaspar CSsR and Desiree A.B. Mendoza, the book contains eight essays by experts in theology, history, sociology, anthropology, spirituality, etc. Coming from different perspectives, the authors help us understand the history, evolution and meaning of the Filipinos’ unabashed devotion, and more. The book is published by the Institute of Spirituality in Asia and the Redemptorists in the Philippines.

The book is a great sequel to “The Baclaran Story,” written by Fr. Luis Hechanova CSsR in 1998. It presents the devotion in newer light, and with more depth and breadth, so to speak, partly because of how the Church and Philippine society evolved and is evolving. The fervor has not dimmed, that is for sure, and has even gone abroad with overseas Filipino workers.

I do not have enough space to dwell on each of the eight chapters in the book, but the titles are descriptive enough to give an idea about each author’s take on the devotion: “Devotion to the Mother of Perpetual Help in the Philippines: Phenomenological and theological reflection” by Amado L. Picardal CSsR; “Make Her Known: How the devotion to OMPH flourished in the Philippines” by Trizer Dale Mansueto; “Embracing the Mother’s Perpetual Compassion: The specific place of OMPH icon novena in the Philippines’ varied Marian devotions” by Karl M. Gaspar CSsR; “Assessing the Relevance of the Perpetual Help Devotion in the Philippines Today: A view from the social sciences” by Manuel Victor J. Sapitula;

“The Devotion to OMPH at the Baclaran Church Before and After Vatican II” by Agnes M. Brazil; “Novena Prayers to One Like Us” by Ramon D. Echica; “The Year of Mercy and the 150th Jubilee of OMPH” by Carlos Ronquillo CSsR; “The Baclaran Story: Towards Debo(Mi)syon: Devotion and mission” by Victorino A. Cueto.

Take your pick, get the book. In some way you also get to know more about being Filipino. #

Thursday, April 13, 2017

No name for her pain

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

ANGUISHED HOMECOMING Arriving from Kuwait, Luzviminda Siapo breaks down in her brother’s arms at the airport (below), and from there she goes straight to the barangay hall to confront village officials (below), before finally seeing her son Raymart in a coffin at their Navotas City home.—PHOTOS BY RAFFY LERMA
Luzviminda Siapo is mater dolorosa in the truest sense of the word; her ordeal is a Holy Week meditation. Hers is a mother’s story that gives a face and a voice to the so-called war on drugs. There is no name for her pain. No name.

Aie Balagtas See’s report last Sunday (“Drug war sends OFW rushing home for son who ‘couldn’t run’”) and Raffy Lerma’s three photos jolted me so early in the day. I learned later that I was not alone in mixing tears with morning coffee. Here was an overseas Filipino worker learning about her son, shot and killed, that he could not even run for his life (he was clubfooted). She had to kiss the feet of her Kuwaiti employer three times just so she would be allowed to fly home. She had to show her employer the online news about her son. She was finally allowed to go but was made to leave her belongings behind, to make sure she would come back. She flew home with only her grief.

Read and contemplate that scene in Kuwait. Remember, too, that her name is Luz-Vi-Minda.

Lerma, the Inquirer’s award-winning photographer who has been documenting President Duterte’s so-called war on drugs (and mostly the poor!) and the vigilante and extrajudicial killings (EJKs) that happen day and night, was in on this story to capture with his camera the ethos and the pathos: from the moment Luzviminda arrives at the airport and slumps in the arms of her brother, to her first stop at the barangay hall to confront officials, to finally beholding her son lying cold and dead inside a white coffin.

Her face, always her face, was the main focus of Lerma’s camera. While writing this piece and whenever I cast a glance at the photos, I could only gasp, my God, my God, what pain, what pain. And my eyes would moisten. As we say in Filipino, ang sakit.

There are different names for the bereaved, they say. Children who lost their parents are called orphans; wives who lost their husbands are called widows; husbands who lost their wives are called widowers. But how does one call a parent—a single mother, in the case of Luzviminda—who lost an only child, and in so brutal a manner? And yet, they say, losing a child is the most painful of all.

I remember Philippine National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa, chief implementer of the war on drugs, discussing statistics with Pia Hontiveros of CNN Philippines. The word “killed” is so unpleasant to the ears, he said. So he suggested: Why not use the word “died” instead? Another Dios ko moment there. Dude, pinatay is different from namatay.

In last Monday’s Inquirer, Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio, who had read the story, was quoted as saying, “My heart was crushed when I read the news. I could not swallow the bread I was eating, so I decided to come here to tell you that we are here for you.”

He was talking to Luzviminda, the mother of Raymart Siapo, the teenager who was gunned down by unknown assailants (now an everyday occurrence hereabouts—so what’s new? you ask) after a neighbor tagged him as a marijuana peddler.

And so on March 29 the men, some 14 of them, came for Raymart. According to Raymart’s uncle and guardian, five entered the house of their target but they couldn’t find Raymart. They found him in a friend’s house, made him ride with them on a motorcycle till they reached a place called Bangkulasi.

Run, the men told him. Raymart could not run because his feet were deformed. So they made him sit down. The Navotas police report said Raymart was shot twice in the head. His mother discovered that his arms were broken.

A mother’s lament rises to the heavens: “All it took was a false accusation for these people to murder my son. They did not bother to investigate, they did not bother to verify. They just killed him.”

“Eli Eli lama sabachthani?”

Relish the solemnity of Holy Week, and hold on to the glimmer of hope that Easter brings. #

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Why the Ateneo campus is worth your visit this Lent

Philippine Daily Inquirer/FEATURE STORIES/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

At the Ateneo campus, St. Francis of Assisi from whose “Canticles” the title of the encyclical “Laudato Si” was taken.

Hidden in the undulating edge of a hill and laid out under a leafy bower is a patch of green and quiet. Here one can walk, sit or pray with an attitude of waiting, or simply be at home with one’s self, the surroundings and the landscape beyond. Or one can think things out or grapple with the weight of the universe.

Laudato Si Terrain, Garden of Spirituality and Sustainability, is named after “Laudato Si,” (Praise be to You), Pope Francis’ encyclical letter “on care for our common home.” The garden-terrain is situated at the Loyola School of Theology (LST) within the Ateneo University in Quezon City. In his encyclical, the Pope began with words from St. Francis of Assisi’s canticle: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth who sustains and governs us, and who produces fruit with colored flowers and herbs.”

The garden-terrain is perhaps a little more than 1,000 sq m and might be considered an afterthought in the 100-ha school campus, but an afterthought it is not. It holds its own in silence, but speaks about the history of Western Christian spirituality.


Says LST president Fr. Jose Quilongquilong SJ, “Recognizing the intimate relationship between ecology, human development and the Christian tradition which provide the spiritual itinerary of Christian experience, LST has incorporated within the garden-terrain the major protagonists in the history of Western spirituality.

They are Saints Benedict of Nursia, Francis of Assisi, Dominic de Guzman, Teresa of Avila and Ignatius of Loyola.” The biggies, so to speak.

Spread out in the garden are the bigger-than-life statues of these founders of the major religious orders, except the one of Ignatius, which is in the Cardoner Square in the LST administration building. There, Ignatius is shown in a kneeling position while contemplating images in a pond.

Beside the statues are important facts on the lives of each one. St. Ignatius of Loyola St. Ignatius of Loyola But not to fret about the word “western” in “Western spirituality.” Following Pope Francis’ exhortation on the importance of dialogue with other cultures and traditions in shaping the future of Planet Earth, a Zen garden was included in the terrain at the March 22 launch of Sacred Springs, a Dialogue Institute of Spirituality and Sustainability in LST. On it is a tori gate often seen in Buddhist temples and a small fountain surrounded by pebbles.

At the tori gate, there was a reunion of sorts of some of the Ten Outstanding Students of yesteryears: Sonia Malasarte Roco, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma (a Jesuit), Edna Zapanta Manlapaz and Sr. Vicky Palanca, ICM.

Along the terrain’s pathway, one can pause for a rest on benches, do a little reading or momentarily still one’s body and soul. Or look out into the valley, look up to the tall trees and, through the boughs, to the sky.

Vicarious experience

So that the reader may have a vicarious experience of the terrain, here are some facts on the five biggies of the Catholic Church:

Benedictine spirituality: St. Benedict, abbot (480-547) was born in Nursia, Italy, educated in Rome and, later, chose to live a solitary life in a cave in mountainous Subiaco. He organized a monastic life in 12 monasteries. The monks who joined him devoted themselves to prayer and work (ora et labora). In the great abbey of Monte Cassino which he founded, Benedict wrote his Rule, which wonderfully combines the Roman genius with the monastic wisdom of the Christian East. He was proclaimed Patron of Europe by Pope Paul VI because of his influence on the formation of Christendom in the Middle Ages. His feast is July 11.

Mendicant spirituality: St. Dominic de Guzman (1170-1221) was born in Calaruega, Spain. He worked to uproot the Albigensian heresy. He was known for his learning and love of poverty. He founded the Order of Preachers (Dominicans). His feast is on Aug. 8.

St. Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) was born in Assisi, Italy. He preached and lived a life of poverty and charity. He founded the Franciscans in 1209. With St. Clare, he founded the Order of the Poor Clares in 1212, and a third lay order in 1221. His feast is on October 4.

Carmelite spirituality: St. Teresa of Jesus, virgin and doctor of the Church (1515-1582) was born in Avila, Spain. She reformed the Carmelite order with the help of St. John of the Cross. In the years following the Council of Trent, she contributed greatly to a renewal of the entire ecclesiastical community. Declared the first woman doctor of the Church in 1970, St. Teresa represents the “feminine genius” in the history of Christian spirituality. Her feast is on Oct. 15.

Ignatian (Apostolic) spirituality: St. Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) was born in Loyola, Spain, became a soldier, was wounded in battle and while recuperating, was so inspired by two books on the lives of saints and the life of Christ that he decided to devote his life to Jesus Christ. He studied in Barcelona, Alcala and Salamanca and went to Paris for theology studies. There, in 1535, he gathered his first followers and with them, in Rome, founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). The order is dedicated to God, to the service of the Church and in total obedience to the Pope. His feast is on July 31.

Loyola School of Theology hopes that the Laudato Si Terrain becomes a place of communion for those who love and care for our common home, Planet Earth. As Pope Francis wrote in Laudato Si: “In the meantime, we come together to take charge of this common home which has been entrusted to us, knowing that all the good which exists here will be taken up into the heavenly feast."

Thursday, April 6, 2017


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

We were croned! To mark the end of Women’s Month last month, 11 women (myself among them) and a man were honored at croning rites organized by women’s groups. Five of the women were sisters from different religious congregations and involved in ministries serving women.

The organizers explained that “traditionally, a croning ceremony is a celebration for a woman reaching the wonderful, mystical and astrologically important age of 56. It goes way back in time as a way of honoring the wise women of the tribe. It is again becoming popular as a rich and affirming celebration for the modern woman who is maturing into her wisdom years.”

The organizers were the Office of Women and Gender Concerns (a mission partner of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines), the Institute of Women’s Studies of St. Scholastica’s College, and the Women’s Care Center Inc. (0999-5779631, 0928-4200859). The venue was St. Scholastica’s College Museum compound.

We were made to bless ourselves with water. As each one was crowned with flowers, these words rang out from the audience like an antiphon: “Hail, valiant woman. Your name is written in the Book of Life.” Women are now reclaiming the word “crone” (the word for it in Filipino is “hukluban”).

Over the centuries the word had acquired—or been given—a negative meaning. “The old crone,” a miserable woman, unloved and despised, was a character in western fairy tales and fables. (Read Madonna Kolbenschlag’s “Kiss Sleeping Beauty Goodbye.”)

She is the bruha (bruja in Spanish) that the colonizers equated with the Filipino babaylan sought for their wisdom and healing powers. (Read “Readings on Babaylan Feminism in the Philippines” edited by Fe Mangahas and Jenny Llaguno, with a foreword by Leticia Ramos Shahani, the recently deceased diplomat, senator and feminist.)

To relax before sitting down to write this piece, I pulled out an old W. Somerset Maugham book from my shelf and, while reading one of his Pacific Islands short stories, there was the “bad” word. I thought: What synchronicity, because I was about to write about croning.

From “The Crone: Woman of Age, Wisdom and Power” by Barbara G. Walker: “The crone was the elder woman who enjoyed a special, revered status. She was considered a font of wisdom, law, healing skills, and moral leadership; her presence and leadership were treasured at every significant ceremony. Such wise women were venerated for knowledge acquired over a long life. They assisted at each important occasion from birth to death.”

I say, something like the Benedictine St. Hildegard of Bingen (1098 –1179), declared a doctor of the Church in 2012.

“The Crone’s title was related to the word crown as she represented the power of the ancient tribal matriarch. It was the medieval metamorphosis of the Wise Woman to a Witch that changed the word Crone from a compliment to an insult and established the stereotype of malevolent old womanhood that continues to haunt elder women today.”

So The Crone is really an archetypal Wise Woman, not a female ogre. From Anya Silverman’s “Crones Counsel: Celebrating Wise Women”: “When patriarchy became the dominant mode, when the divine was imaged solely as male, and as women became second-class citizens, the ideas about goddesses and the archetypes they represented went underground. Archetypes can be submerged, but they never disappear … these archetypes are re-emerging. There is a burgeoning interest in this ancient part of women’s herstory, and the crone archetype is resurfacing as a model for elderwomen.”

In national weal and woe—especially in woe—our archetypal elderwoman emerges as Inang Bayan.

Speaking of wise elderwomen, here as head of the Cuban delegation to the 8th Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of Solidarity with Cuba (April 8-9) is Marta Rojas Rodriguez, journalist and novelist, spunky and articulate at 82. Last Tuesday she spoke at the UP College of Mass Communication on “The Struggle Against Forgetting: A Writer’s Perspective.”

A major topic at the weekend conference is the US economic blockade or trade embargo against its small island-neighbor since the 1960s. I wrote about this (“No al bloqueo”) some years ago. The issue of Guantanamo will surely come up.

Historically, the Philippines and Cuba have much in common. We must not forget. No debemos olvidar. #