Thursday, June 22, 2017

Jeepney driver, multitaskter

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

The “Basta Driver, Sweet Lover” and other epithets that go with risqué drawings stuck on the interiors of jeepneys seem to have disappeared or been replaced. Often seen, but this time on the exteriors (sides, hoods) of these vehicles, are airbrushed images of dystopian heroes and words written in fonts in the modern-gothic style. But the staple religious images still endure and adorn the exterior of many a jeepney, the prince of Philippine urban jungles.
Jeepneys are again the subject of discussion because of the impending phase out of some 200,000 units all over the country, to be replaced by eco-friendly ones. An Inquirer news report said the Department of Transportation has signed the omnibus franchising guidelines “that would set in motion the three-year rollout of the agency’s modernization program.”
In this program, drivers will no longer be bound by the boundary system and racing dangerously for passengers, but will become employees with regular salaries and benefits.

The physical object that is the jeepney as Filipinos know it will become extinct. That is, the structure and design, the feel (also the garish decor?), and even the loud stereo that has long been banned. But there still are holdouts in the sounds department. When you are driving beside them, even with your windows closed, you can feel the pounding sound. (Grrr.)
Observers of Filipino culture and the symbols that define our world, better take a good, lingering look at the jeepney and everything that it represents before it zooms away into the sunset.
What will remain of it in the new order? The driver, yes, but what about its fare collection system—that is, the way driver and riding public transact with each other?I have always been amazed by how a jeepney driver goes about his job—picking up passengers, dodging kotong cops, braving sun and rain, holding and emptying a full bladder, etc. But the most difficult of all, if you ask me, is fare collection.
For the driver, it is left hand on the wheel, right arm 180 degrees to the back. A passenger tells/yells to the driver where he boarded and where he is headed—say “from Welcome Rotonda to Taft-PGH”—then gives P50 which gets passed from hand to hand until it reaches the driver’s outstretched own. The driver must then compute the fare for that distance in his head, then also the change, which he hands to a passenger behind him, who then passes it on to the payer who is far back.
All these while the driver is looking at the rearview mirror to see how much space there is, but he must also look at the road ahead for people waiting for a ride, or look out for a vehicle he might hit.
Think of a group of, say, four. One of them yells, “Four—all from Cubao, one going down in Quiapo, two in Lawton and one in Kalaw,” and hands over P100 from behind. If you are seated right behind the driver, you’d notice him massaging the P100 bill and looking up at an imaginary calculator in the heavens.  Jeez, how does he do it?  Never mind that another passenger is demanding correct change.  Or a holdup is going on.
With fuel prices going up and down, which means new computations for distances every time, the driver must be a wiz in arithmetic (and algebra, too, you say?) in order to compute correctly.

In the short, balikan (back and forth) routes where fare is constant, passengers buy chips from a collector behind a makeshift table, and before they get into the jeepney that waits to be filled up (alas puno, it is called), each one hands over the grimy chip to the barker. How Pinoy cool is that. This collection method saves the driver’s right arm from all that stretching.
More than a “sweet lover,” the driver is a multitasker. What he does while driving his decrepit jeepney is more complicated and distracting than using a cell phone while driving or at a standstill before a red light (soon a no-no).
What will it be like with the eco-friendly vehicles?#

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Manansala & Manalad: Framing history

Eye-popping. Upon beholding the collection with my child eyes, I was short on words, so that is how I can describe the pen-and-ink drawings by National Artist Vicente Manansala (1910-1981) and Amadeo Manalad (1911-1984).
The Assisi Development Foundation (ADF) and Ayala Museum partnered in exhibiting for the first time 70 drawings (of the 263) commissioned for the landmark history resource “Philippine Saga: A Pictorial History of the Archipelago Since Time Began,” the text of which was written by Henry Otley Beyer and Jaime C. de Veyra and first published in 1947. The book was the brainchild of Ramon Roces, publisher of The Evening News.
If the exhibit opening gave me an OMG! moment, it was because I had encountered that book (and the word “saga”!) for the first time when I was in fourth grade (I was eight years old). That stuck to my brain. What a huge book, I thought then.

The story about the collection is somewhat shrouded in mystery, though someone in the know had whispered some details to me. But let it be known that a postwar private collector had, for decades, kept the drawings safe. Before his death in 2012, he bequeathed the collection to the ADF.
At the exhibit opening, ADF founder-chair and philanthropist Howard Q. Dee (former ambassador to the Vatican) said the donor wished to remain unknown and wanted the collection to be seen especially by the Filipino youth.
The notes on the collection say that the illustrations were published unsigned but 129 bore Manansala’s signature and the year 1947. The collector had asked Manansala to identify and sign his works. He then concluded that the 131 others must be Manalad’s.
Manansala had turned to Manalad to help him in his huge task. For more on Manalad, read “Amadeo Y. Manalad: Drawing a Saga” (2015) by Reuben Ramas Canete.

The selected drawings are mostly of the same size, with excerpts from caption stories that accompanied them in the book. Presented in historical clusters, the exhibit gives a sweeping view of Philippine history “since time began” and understandable enough to a young reader. Historical junctures are highlighted and given bigger panels and captions. I smiled because woman warrior Gabriela Silang was given a big panel that happens to be right smack in the center of a wall.
(Just a small glitch: Manansala’s Kalinga warrior of the Cordillera is not wearing a G-string but is dressed like a Manobo, and wielding a Mindanao kris at that.)
Complementing the collection are contemporary artists’ creations meant to engage the postwar drawings of the masters.
Unlike fine art exhibits, “Manansala & Manalad: Framing History” is an interpretive kind that provides context and explanation. The exhibit title alone must have involved lots of brainstorming, and also choosing the exhibit’s “cover photo” by Manansala. It is captioned in the program and souvenir as “Defeated but never daunted, Soliman rebuilds his kingdom.”
Two copies of “Philippine Saga” are on exhibit but encased in glass. Oh, but yesterday I was able to peruse the book online, page by page. It is in the National Library of Australia’s website.

Cocurator Mia Fernando Cameron said that even at that time, De Veyra’s prose in the book put Filipinos—including the indigenous people and Muslim communities—front and center. “Especially notable,” she said, “was his global perspective on history—we have included a drawing of Napoleon Bonaparte—and his showing how events in Paris impacted decisions made in Madrid that in turn affected the course of events in the Philippines.”
Mounting this exhibit must not have been a walk in the park—but very satisfying, I am sure. Congratulations to project director Pinky Camara Roxas and guest curators Manuel Quezon III, Imelda Cajipe Endaya, and Cameron. A big thank you to the ADF’s Ambassador Dee and Mrs. Betty Dee, president and CEO Ben Abadiano, VP Viel Aquino Dee, and its curatorial team.
What next? Will the collection be available online for viewing, and in published form?
The exhibit opened last Monday, Independence Day, and will be on view until Aug. 27. I might +go back to view it again but in quiet—that is, without the cocktail crowd and the hors d’oeuvres.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Independence Day June 12, 2017 - Bantayog

Thursday, June 8, 2017

'Ang Paghahanap/The Search'

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

Only recently did I learn the translation in Filipino of involuntary or enforced disappearance, the manner in which the so-called disappeared or “desaparecidos” (Spanish), vanished from this earth without a trace. All the time that I had been writing about them in English, I simply used the word “disappeared” or “desaparecido” to refer to those who had been forcibly taken by state forces during the 14 years of martial law under the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986).

Enforced disappearance, in Filipino, is “sapilitang pagkawala” while the disappeared (plural) translates as “mga sapilitang nawawala.” Sapilitan means forced. Of the documented 2,000-plus desaparecidos of that dark era, 81 have been found, many of them buried in remote and unlikely places, and after years of search and research. (There is a book on this.) Credit the families who never gave up in finding the truth and the human rights groups that assisted them.

The last week of May was the International Week of the Disappeared. Before then, a small group of Filipinos flew to Geneva to be at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Periodic Review of the Philippines. A side event there was the launch of the children’s book (for adults, too) “Ang Paghahanap/The Search” written by Nilda Lagman Sevilla and illustrated by Ryan John L. Tresvalles. It was again launched at the Commission on Human Rights office two weeks ago, with families of the disappeared in attendance.

Sevilla is the sister of labor lawyer Hermon Lagman, who disappeared 40 years ago on May 11, 1977. Rep. Edcel Lagman of the first district of Albay, their eldest brother, gave his reflections at the launch. Tresvalles is a nephew. Published by the Families of Victims of Involuntary Disappearance (FIND) and Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (Afad), the story weaves the life experiences of the children of the disappeared into a fictional narrative that shows the impact of enforced disappearance on families, their search for justice, healing and the truth.

Author Sevilla defines the crime as “the arrest, abduction, or detention of mostly political activists by the agents of the State who subsequently refuse to disclose any information on the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared, thus placing the victims outside the protection of the law.”

As with most books for children 6-10 years old, the images are big and colorful while the words are few and well chosen. It begins with a young girl named Bituin wondering why her playmates have a father and she has none. So she asks her mother, who then tells her the story about her father’s work among labor groups and about the uniformed men who took him away one night.

Fast forward. In the end they find him, but that is after the passing of the years. At last they find him where he had been buried. Bituin, a teenager by then, begins to understand.

The book’s foreword is by Phebe Gamata Crismo, national coordinator of the Philippine Interfaith Network for Children and whose first husband, Rolly Crismo, is among the disappeared. I did write about that case of disappearance in the 1980s in the alternative press when Phebe, then newly married to Rolly, was in so much pain and, with Rolly’s family, left no stone unturned to find him.

After years of search, Phebe and Rolly’s older brother Louis fell in love and got married. They raised four children. Louis is active in FIND and has been in searches, exhumations and identifications. “We would find items in their pockets,” he told me. “We even found a coin of that era.” The process is tedious, if not a suspenseful one.

Afad secretary general Mary Aileen D. Bacalso said that in the whole world, Asia has the biggest number of disappeared. Afad has a comic-book-style material (for adults) on enforced disappearances titled “Desap.” FIND has documented more than 2,000 Marcos-era cases in the Philippines. No wonder then that the Philippines was the first in Asia to pass a law against enforced disappearance.

Oh, but do you know that the Philippine government has not signed the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance adopted by the UN General Assembly? Big question: WHY? #

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Marawi 1986: Carmelite nuns kidnapped

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

Throwback Thursday: A cover story I was assigned to do in 1986 as a staff writer of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine was about the kidnapping of 10 contemplative Carmelite nuns in Marawi City. That was 31 years ago, when President Cory Aquino was barely five months in office and besieged by power grab attempts from all sides.

A sense of déjà vu swept over me last week when Marawi, the capital of Lanao del Sur, was suddenly besieged by the Islamic-State-inspired Maute terrorists who, at this writing, are still holding hostage a number of Marawi residents, a Catholic priest among them. President Duterte swiftly declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23; smoke continues to billow to the sky and fighting goes on.

Per reports at this writing, 89 terrorists have been killed as against 21 government soldiers who lost their lives, and 19 civilians have either died in the crossfire or been slain/beheaded by the terrorists.

In her July 20, 1986, “Sundays” magazine editorial, editor Letty J. Magsanoc wrote about the kidnapped nuns: “But there was one detail that startled the heart: the sisters had asked if they could bring their guitar, and their kidnappers whose identities were unknown at press time, said yes. “We personally don’t know any of the kidnapped sisters but … their wanting to bring with them an instrument of song into the unknown give us a picture of their life of giving, serving, loving and praying and of their daily cheerful struggles up in what would otherwise be a lonely hilltop convent in Marawi overlooking Lake Lanao.”

They were, at that time, right at home in the heart of a Muslim community. Here was how it was (now in the past tense) in Marawi Carmel: Set high on a hill, the Carmelite convent in Marawi overlooked the placid Lanao Lake. It is said that on silent nights the view from there would remind one of Bethlehem.

It must have been easy to barge into the convent, a Carmelite nun who had been there said. Marawi Carmel from where 10 nuns were abducted was not the typical gothic monastery set apart by ivy-covered walls and iron grills. It was a poor Carmel, mostly made of wood. It was decidedly meant to be that way.

The Carmelites came to Marawi in 1980 to be one with everyone, a Christian contemplative community in the land of Allah. They came not to convert, but to be witnesses to Muslim-Christian brother/sisterhood. It was therefore a surprise that a mass abduction would happen. The nuns got along with the people. The Muslims would even bring them food, a Carmelite nun from Manila said.

Mother Marie Madeleine of the Redemption (Ledesma), prioress of Marawi Carmel, was the moving spirit behind the community of cloistered nuns whose lives consisted mainly of prayer, adoration, fasting and sacrifices—an apostolate which earth-bound mortals may not easily understand. But even as they preserved the original spirit of Carmel as inspired by St. Teresa of Avila (the foundress of the Reformed Discalced Carmelite nuns and priests) their lifestyle in Marawi was indigenized and not merely a copy of western-style monastic life.

During adoration, the nuns wore malong cloaks, they sang local songs, they adapted to the spirit of the place. Mother Madeleine even fasted during the Muslim Ramadan, in addition to the months-long fasting that Carmelites normally go through every year. So little did they know that even as they were in the middle of a nine-day novena to Our Lady of Mount Carmel, they would suddenly be swept into the eye of a storm.

Shortly after, an American Protestant missionary, Brian Lawrence, was also taken from his quarters at Mindanao State University. These happened not too long after the release of French Catholic priest Michel Gigord.

Reports said the nuns were forcibly taken from their convent, which was about two miles from the city center, by armed men believed to be members of the “lost command” of the Moro National Liberation Front. The abductors demanded a P2-million ransom.

For many other reasons, the contemplative nuns each headed for other Carmelite monasteries not long after that ordeal. Marawi Carmel is no more.#