Essays and articles

Burying the Dead Dictator in Haste and Secrecy

It finally happened. The late Dictator and deposed president Ferdinand E. Marcos was buried in secrecy and haste at the LNMB. People were caught unaware of the final details and schedule of his burial. Like a thief in the night, they say, the Marcos’ family executed what was still a highly contested Supreme Court ruling on matters of the late Dictator’s burial at the LNMB. As fast as they did it, so the mass protests erupted and culminated at the rallying of activists at the EDSA Shrine in the nation’s capital. The anger will not be abated. What surprised us all was the massive outpouring of anger from the new generations who were not born in the era of the Martial Law years nor the EDSA revolution period in the mid-80’s.

I was born in 1970 and despite my parent’s alignment to the government and admiration to the Marcos’ touted “Golden Era” in Philippine administration (which only a few believe of course), I had been exposed to the debates, critiques and even protests against his dark regime. First, from older siblings who had the education and exposure to the Protest Movement’s influences. And finally, as a college student in the nation’s premier State University in the late 80s where everything is questioned, and serving the people’s interest came first as a dictum and value.

The nation is now gripped in a tense atmosphere. Even calls for his exhumation can be heard above the chorus of “Marcos’ Never a Hero” slogan. How can this be possible? Legal minds and lawmakers are saying that the SC Decision was not yet final and executory, hence the opportunity to file protests against the ruling.

Philippine democracy is once more in a crucible.

Essays and articles

Turning Points

Filipinos are a reflective people. No, we were known to be forgetful of our history. Like for instance why many would agree or prefer not to oppose the burial of the late Dictator on the “Heroes Burial Ground?”

Yes, we are a reflective people. At least, I know most Filipinos are. Take for instance the oldies in the civil society movement in the country. Those who have directly suffered from the hands of the late Dictator’s men had much to say against the idea of burying the long-dead corpse into this “sacred ground” for the patriots and nationalists alike. For those of us who had our youth budding in the 80’s and the EDSA revolution years, we can understand why such an idea is absurd and unthinkable.

At least in this one issue, the groups in the democratic center and left movements had similar views. The intensity of their opposition can be partly explained vis-a-vis their positions and engagement with the present DU30 regime.

This should not be the case.

Deaths can be a turning point in a people’s history. The execution of Dr. Jose P. Rizal in 1896 was one of the sparks of the Philippine Revolution against Imperial Spain. The assassination of Ninoy Aquino in August 21, 1983 was also a turning point in the country’s history. It signaled the emergence of civil society organizations to come-out from their UG states to openly challenge the Dictatorship. Eventually, in 1986 the Marcos Era ended. So we thought. Dead, he is still a bone of contention, on matters pertaining to his burial. He has long been given the last rites, mourned and romanticized by his wife and loyalists. In his own bailiwick, to be exact. That should have ended the issue.

Boy, is he really that lucky? Take the case of other Strongmen in history. How did they die? In the hands of their very own people, those who had suffered much under their regime.

We Filipinos are sometimes weird. Why we kill heroes and bury their killers in the Heroes’ Burial Ground? When I watched the film “Heneral Luna” with my youngest child, I was left speechless to explain to a very disappointed child why some Filipinos killed the guy?  It was one of those moments when I do not feel like being a Filipino at all.

Yes, it is true that Marcos was a good soldier and served the country. But as a leader of his own people, he had forgotten how to be a hero to them. Being the Head of State for ten years was enough to test his character as a person and leader. He obviously failed in the good governance test, or in the democracy meter.

The matter of his burial in the “Libingan ng mga Bayani” (Heroes Burial Ground) may not be that polarizing to the citizens. But how it will impact this generation and the next is something that we should reflect on.

 

Reflections

Touch Base

One of the reasons why I have stayed long in working from home and at home is the need to touch base. In the span of time we progress as adults trying to carve a career or raise kids, we often outgrow asking those so called existential questions anymore. In fact, what is supposed to preoccupy us at this stage is asking questions like, “what have I achieved by now? what more can i do in the next five to ten years of my productive life?”

This does not mean tall orders or pursuing those impossible dreams we have when still at the height of one’s youth. By now, we have unraveled the maze that is handed to each one of us at birth. Your life a puzzle to solve. By now, you are fully aware of your purpose, of where you are going. Through a series of starts, wrong-turns, dead-ends and long walks, we come to understand that both the process and the results of our endeavors are priceless lessons. It makes us who we are today.

Touching base is not simply a trip down memory lane. It is finding the grace to accept those experiences without judgment. The choices we have made are often irreversible. But it does not suppose to get us stuck. Being there, in the moment and consciously untangling what we feel as anathema to who we are, what we believe in eventually sets us free to continue our own journey.

 

 

 

 

Essays and articles

Sunrise…Sunset

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The sun rises from this part.

Here, it is more quiet. The sun slowly rises to spread its warmth on the sleeping town. The beach as always was empty, as was the rest of the property. Last night i slept with the faint sound of the waves outside the veranda, the sound marred by the AC protesting from the fluctuating current, a sorry state of affair in this locality. Over dinner of broiled fish, fried chicken and veggies in coconut milk, I pitched in to the ongoing conversation with colleagues on local issues and gossips… “why not go solar panel? All roofs in this town.” And another one interjected, “add the animal dungs and go biogas as well!” And so it went… “organic veggies, too… and meat, as well..” Laughter.

For me it was a serious conversation.

“Change is coming?” Indeed. Yes, it will come. But from the hands of those who can feel the need for such. Not something that is dropped from the sky, or from the promise of one elected politician. It often comes from the ground. And such is more profound.

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While in between battling and frolicking with the waves, three of us women in the group were having this conversation about uninhabited islands and the many beliefs of locals about respecting silence. The other side of this sea would be the part where the first landfall of Typhoon Haiyan happened. From across our vision, the small islets can be seen. And so the anecdote was retold by one of my companions that the old women in the town admonishes the local tourists to respect the Unseen inhabitants of the island, lest something bad will happen to their audacity. One look and feel of this place would make you “behave” – it’s like treading a sacred ground. And we owe respect to this unexploited place.

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In that afternoon swim and solemn walk by the beach, the local kids were generous enough to give me this photo. They asked me to capture this familiar scene. They didn’t know I had some summers like that years ago in my grandparents’ town, our house also near the beach.

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On the other side of the beach, this town rises from the tragic visit of  Yolanda, the local name for cyclone Haiyan which flattened this entire town. Three years after, I had this chance to visit the place and spent sometime in this local resort. Yes, the people are resilient.

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Back home, the sunsets are profound. I took one glimpse of the orange ball sliding into the horizon. It happened so fast. In this particular afternoon, I was the only adult that strayed into the beach while my kids and nephews were also busy taking photos and fishing on the shallow waters.

Life is sunrise and sunset.

Essays and articles

Exercising the Right to Vote

A clean, honest and credible election – that is what the people deserve. It was astounding to see how friends and neighbors took to the local precincts to cast their votes for the next set of leaders who will manage this country. I say manage – not rule, not even run. The mandate is to manage the economy and make it more humane – people over profit, the environment over greed. Surely, we have learned our lessons.

The good things are – people  voted based on their convictions, more platforms for discourses, and the young and old both dreaming of something good to happen. That explains why these generations are converging on the voting places – as watchers, as local leaders of their respective political parties, and as one of the electorates.

Still, the negative side of our political culture persist. Money floated around to entice votes. People still expect to receive some incentives for voting, be it money or food. It does not sound good, i know. But it is real, it is still happening.

They say that democracy is noisy. It creates a cacophony of voices even on social media platforms where the only regulation that exists is your own. We’re quite lucky. I thought of the citizens of countries where dissent even in their most artistic and subtle forms are curtailed. And now, the shadows of such a regime hover – at the back of our minds, in the open whispers on Facebook and Twitter. What is there to fear? We have been through those dark times in our history as a nation. Are these fears unfounded?

We wait and see… what is really coming?

 

Essays and articles

Marching to the Beat of Reason

People are marching again. This time they left their shoes on the streets of Paris, banned to protest and gather after that gory episode in Stade de France and adjacent cafes. Despite these lingering fears in the air, climate marchers are undoubtedly unfazed and more resolved to signify the popular clamor of people in all parts of the world for governments and big business to take responsibility on the costs of climate change.

This time the conversation is being zeroed in on the concept of climate justice. Small island nations are claiming more than aid to surmount the costs of the changing global climate which most scientists agree had been causing the extreme weather conditions in most parts of the world. Countries in the Pacific like the Philippines are being frequented by storms more than the average it usually experience in a year. And more intense at that! Remember Haiyan. People may have bounced back on their feet but the dead can never be forgotten.

 

COP21 is another opportunity for decision-makers to make-up their mind and do the right thing – pay heed to the voice of reason. It’s people over profit, and as the marchers say – “there is no planet B.”

 

 

 

[Photos are copied from newint.org and cbc.ca.]

 

 

 

Essays and articles

The Fear Factor

One  of my favorite Star Wars character is Yoda. I think a lot of people love him for his wit and grace under pressure. Lately, these series of movies I’ve seen since grade school are being shown again on TV. I tried to see how my youngest kid, now 15, would react to the movie. I was expecting she will be oohhed by the love story between Anakin Skywalker (the Jedi apprentice) and Padme (the young Senator/diplomat from Planet Naboo). Surprisingly, my daughter find it childish, reminiscent of old TV shows and games on Play Station that she had by now outgrown. Even if i say, “It’s a classic, child!” she can’t see why I still would watch it after all these years. Theirs is the era of Fault in our Stars, Divergent and other teen-fics that even I watch, mostly for curiosity sake.

One of the striking quotes from Yoda is on fear. It’s an emotion that all people have from time to time. As kids, we learned to fear the dark. As adults – the unknown. There’s a good side to it- it keeps us aware and on our toes. The bad side is of course, what Yoda says – it can lead us to the path of the dark side.

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Essays and articles

A View From the Window

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I stood there mesmerized. I didn’t expect to see this sight outside the windows of the Hall.

Perhaps, those few days spent feeling engulfed in a jungle of concretes and choked traffics rewired my brain. Bottleneck. I can count the number of times this word appeared in the text I was reading. Indeed, ‘twas a bottleneck.

But here, in front of me is a sight of absolute freedom. Suddenly, I saw myself running on bare feet that sank into soft sand. Arms stretched like eagle’s wings on a flight of fancy. It was a daydream worth repeating again and again. A voice sounded behind me, “coffee break’s over.” It’s time to go back to work. For how long have I stood there on that window? I do not know. Perhaps, just a few minutes for the cup in my hands is still warm.

Essays and articles

Of Rivers and Land Trips

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I took this photo while on my way to visit a small town nestled along a magnificent river route. Tropical – yes. But more than that, this undiscovered beauty of Nature is home to a number of people dependent on what it gives.

The trip was bathed in silence, only the throbbing of the boat’s engine can be heard. The jarring sound was an affront to the solemn early morning awakening the river from its slumber.  The water’s surface murky in some places with bobbing coconut heads, floating fallen branches and some other debris the rising tide has brought along  intent on their own journey. In more clearer parts of the river, you can watch the clouds’ reflection like swimming heaps of cotton. My reverie occasionally broken by the sudden flight of birds from the lush vegetation that walled the embankments. It was such a relief from the usual bumpy rides on motorcabs or being squeezed in the mini-jeeps where you have no option but fall asleep. Here in this wooden banca, one can dream and sigh.

Essays and articles

No One is Ever Alone

As I write this post, I think about the thousands of refugees fleeing their homelands to safety. Who can ignore the plight of these families and those of others who have no one but themselves to find a new life in a foreign land? Who really likes to leave the comfort of the familiar? Whoever loves to be uprooted? While people are not trees, we all have a place we often call “home.”

The story of people in exodus, fleeing persecution from home is nothing new. It’s as old as time. Yet, to see such scale of human suffering in this modern day and age is beyond one’s comprehension. The plight of ordinary Syrians and Iraqis, and other people escaping conflict and other drivers of forced migration deserve our attention. Somewhere in other parts of the world, the same scenarios are happening. Who can forget the modern boat people – the stateless Rohingyas from Burma. Who says this does not concern you or me?

As we see the gates of Europe opening, and communities welcoming these strangers, one can feel that sense of awe that humanity is still alive and throbbing. No one is ever alone.

Yet, one can wonder how many percent of these host communities are truly welcoming? Those horrible scenes of people being kicked and fed like animals, or those thrown back to the sea – just some of the manifestations of latent mistrust and prejudice.

Governments have their international obligations. Beyond that, we share common humanity. This is what is supposed to be enduring.