Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Collaboration Still


I was a little bit uncomfortable with the recent decision of Satur Ocampo and Liza Maza, two candidates for the senatorial race belonging to the progressive Left, to ride as guest candidates on the political wagon of the Manny Villar-Loren Legarda tandem (as shown in the photo above this entry).

This recent collaboration between “militant forces” and “reactionary politicians” reminded me of a sample ballot, actually a campaign material, from left-wing groups in Occidental Mindoro endorsing certain local candidates last 2007. Today, rumors are still spreading that a certain political faction or its key leaders are backed-up by the remaining leftist personalities in the province. And vice-versa.

But do the “national democrats” seriously support such candidates or they are just using their voting blocs to wangle funds and other logistics from seasoned or traditional politicians? For the record, militant party-list groups got the highest number of votes among their rivals in the last election. I firmly believe that Ocampo and Maza can win independently without any backing from traditional politicians. With full support of the people even those who are not members of any militant organization.

But please don’t get me wrong. I am for the open participation of ALL social forces in democratic processes such as elections. In 1987, I campaigned for the senatorial slate of Partido ng Bayan or PnBnamely, Bernabe "Dante" Buscayno, Crispin Beltran, Jose Burgos, Romeo Capulong, Horacio “Boy” Morales, Nelia Sancho and Jaime Tadeo. I have high respect for individuals who emanate from the masses or from legitimate pro-people movements joining the legal and non-violent means like the electoral race. Even most of the time they are targets of malicious labeling from hostile security or elite sectors. Nationalists who are for people’s power, genuine land reform, nationalist industrialization, human rights, free education, women’s rights, self-determination, repudiation of US-sponsored bloodbath and non-aligned foreign policy.

In 2007, specifically in Sablayan town, anti-Communist propaganda were painted in every corner of said municipality with this slogan : “Gabriela and Bayan Muna, Party List of the CPP-NPA-NDF!” CPP-NPA-NDF refers to Communist Party of the Philippines, New People’s Army and the National Democratic Front. The propaganda was perhaps launched by civilian rightist groups in our place or from the military itself. But it is not my intention here to disclose my opinion on the allegation that been lobbed since time in memoriam but still remain what it is : just an allegation.

But is there any possibility that a particular local political leader or his group, in one way or another, forged and continue to establish linkages or support the Communist insurgents in our locality? How many of our politicians willingly submit to Permit to Campaign (PTC) fees being imposed by the so-called “enemies of the state”? Was the collaboration only during elections? I don’t know.

Just imagine, in case the traditional politician wins, it is highly probable that s/he use government machinery, public resources and the taxpayers money to secretly support each endeavor of the armed extremists in exchange of votes coming from their mass base during elections. On the other hand, the police and the military could also be used (or was it being used already?) by,- say, an incumbent politician that would result to militarization and blatant violation of basic human rights of citizens that they are supposed to protect and to serve. Or even used as private armies in order to be at par with his/her political rival who are identified with said non-state armed groups. In a situation where armed agents and entities are identified to a certain political group, it is the majority of the people that would suffer most. The common people from the countryside, the upland community dwellers, the ordinary, unpoliticized citizens and voters. Are they going to sacrifice our lives and limbs for their own political ambitions? Wasn’t it treason or terrorism to the highest degree?

When I aired this sentiment to a ND friend some years back, she responded with ideological lecturing summed up to what she calls as “tactical collaboration” and “strategic collaboration”. Without understanding her long explanation I retorted back , “But it’s a collaboration still!” To tell you, call me dumb if you wish but its one of many things I do not understand in party politics up to now. For me its treachery to the people, to the other party, to your own party and even to your self. It’s plain and simple opportunism. Correct, opportunism is the art or practice of taking advantage of opportunities or circumstances, or of seeking immediate advantage with little regard for ultimate consequences. With this, opportunism for me in whatever form is not acceptable. Opportunism is not and will never be a positive and desirable value. Besides, according to Lucius Annaeus Seneca and Stephen Crane: “Every sin is the result of a collaboration."

My bias on this issue of “tactical collaboration” and “strategic collaboration” now centers on this line of thought I’ve learned just recently from one of the Church’s Social Teachings : “The value of any political goal stands or falls with the values which it embodies and promotes. It can be manipulated for reasons of power. Democratic practices without values easily turns into open or thinly disguised totalitarianism, regardless of ideological principles and leanings that its sponsors believe in.” Also, I am more concerned with the truthfulness of any relation,- be it hostile or friendly, than dwell with its technicality. I’m saying this taking the risk of being branded as Clerico- facist.

But the truth is, I am unfortunately not a systematician (if there is such a word referring to the laity) and it’s naturally hard and difficult for you to understand me. I’ve never been a political strategist, a tactician or a theorist (now I’m sure that these words refer to everyone) that is why I am seeing this thing from this odd and narrow angle. And I apologize for that. Also, that is why we are called TORATs by the ITITs during our prime.

TORATs stands for Task Oriented Rats,- while ITITs is short for Ivory Tower Intellectuals and Theorists…

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(Photo from www.pagodkanaba.com)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

First Christmas : From Darkness to Light


The innkeepers probably lied to them. Their places are not yet fully occupied and probably there were still available room inside. But as businessmen, they would not dare to risk their potential monetary gains letting this bearded old man and his pregnant wife whose money are enough for their taxes, to stay because chances are, they would not be paid accordingly. When you, as an innkeeper, is so sure that they belong to the lower class and living, probably, in the slums of Nazareth. When you are certain that way back home, they mingle with the lepers, the poor and fish-stained peasants because they are one of them. So, you do not have any other choice but arrogantly drive them away. These kind of people are not worthy being your distinguished clients or guests.

The town of my birth,- San Jose, here in Occidental Mindoro, has this same dark side where business and political elites often neglect basic and immediate needs of the poor from our far-flung rural communities. But if you were in Mary’s sandals, would you consider Bethlehem and the first Christmas as merely a time of anguish and trial? Certainly it was. Nobody could carry her soon-to-be born son away in an inhospitable and business-oriented city and out to an animal stable without feeling a grief and poignant pressure.

It was indeed a stressful situation. No immediate relative or midwife who intervened between her and his child. But the discriminating Bethlehem in its darkest side, was utilized by God as the ideal birth place of the King of Kings. If Joseph and Mary were permitted inside one of the inns and she gave birth there, other occupants would surely interfere, perhaps throw a party or celebration but devoid of divine and solemn feeling of kingly adoration. Anyone’s birth at least deserves public attention. This way, baby Jesus will be snatched away from his mother and his foster father by false revelry and all of the birth’s temporal richness.

Compared to other progressive cities in the Philippines, San Jose is still a developing town. It can be likened not to a five-star hotel but to the nativity manger where Jesus was born. This town of ours, sans its dark socio-economic and political side, is the place where we should truly nurture hope especially this Christmas and the coming New Year. Because Pandurucan (my town’s old name) though as hideously desolate (in terms of buildings and skyscrapers) as the first Christmas’ stable, there is enough room for us to love this place more warmly, fully and richly. And this love would make this humble little town transcends from darkness to light.

We must learn from Mary who made up to baby Jesus despite the absence of all pre and post natal amenities in Bethlehem. Even our local political and business leaders repeatedly turn us away...

Merry Christmas to all!

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(Photo : http://www.goddessgift.net/images/nativity-scene-TL-1822.jpq.jpg)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Not Unlike Hollywood


Michael Medved,- American radio program host, conservative political commentator, film critic and author, in his December 1995 Reader’s Digest article “Hollywood’s 3 Big Lies” commented on how the US entertainment industry justify making offensive movies and TV shows. To know more how the man criticize Hollywood, you may click here. But allow me to juxtapose some of Medved’s insights to the on-going trash talks between the two local political factions in Occidental Mindoro over their respective radio stations.

Let us focus on the authors so- called Hollywood Lie No. 3 : “We give the public what it wants. If people don’t like it, they just can always turn it off!” Election time is just around the corner and the on-air mudslinging become more and more intense each day. Do the voters, especially the youth, really want or have a craving for excessive and even senseless political propaganda by “barkers” whose motive is to gain political mileage? I do not think so. The tertiary students of Occidental Mindoro State College or OMSC who invited me as a resource speaker for the topic, “Enhancing Right to Suffrage for Responsible and Effective Voting” last November 27, 2009 headed by Ms. Aleta G. Ramos,- adviser of the Supreme Student Government of Labangan Campus, told me that they are so tired of such free-for-all and subjective statements . Oh, those heartless and childish talks. The students have noted that the commentators even display their below- the- belt comments to defeat their rivals instead of their ability to inspire their listeners. We are like blood-thirsty spectators in a car race who are not interested on who will turn out to be the winner but to enjoy every crash and wreckage!

Again, here’s Michael Medved for you : “The last part of the lie, which says, “If you don’t like it, just shut it off,” has the same logic as the statement, “If you do not like smog, stop breathing.” Politics and politicians are everywhere like the air we breathe. Without exaggeration I am asking : "Is this verbal war over the air can be considered as an environmental issue?"

In one of the house I chanced to visit, I heard a little boy hurled this insult to his elder brother, “Ikaw nga, garapata na, extortionist pa!” They are fighting over a toy given to one of the boys as Christmas present from his godfather. The two kids probably do not listen to public affairs program but they still getting the message perhaps from parents themselves, teachers or other adults from their village even unwillingly or accidentally. The truth is, you cannot elude neither escape,- regardless of your age, sex, creed or religious belief, etc, the power of mass media,- specifically radio. Any message from radio personalities or mass media practitioners have impact or ripple effect in our lives as citizens and as human beings.

Now tell me, will turning off our transistor radio or changing its tuner change this reality which is an assault to our humanity and decency? When will our political and public affairs program be meaningful, rich and fundamentally decent? The answer lies in our hands.

In Mary’y visit to Elizabeth, the former offered her selfless presence,- without any self-serving motives or ulterior political agenda, but to truly care beyond words. To give witness beyond mere appearances, beyond mere presentation of pseudo-achievements in public service. This is one of the many messages of the Third Sunday of Advent. Pope Paul VI said it well : “The modern world is sated with words; it no longer listen to teachers. It only listen to witness; only true witness, can speak to people in our time.” But let me add : “And not the political-politician propagandists and commentators among us who are laying their lives on the line serving only their earthly taskmasters and not the Immanuel.”

Every radio personality is expected to be a true witness accompanying Mary on the roadways of Galilee carrying her Son to the world…

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(Photo : http://gocalifornia.about.com/od/toppicturegallery/ig/Hollywood-Sign/From-Gower-Gulch.htm)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

PCOS and Hoes


Our recent visitors from Commission on Elections or COMELEC assured us that the Precinct Count Optical Scam,..err, Scan (PCOS) machines that will be used for the 2010 automated elections will be 99.9999% free of any manipulation or cheating. In the recent PCOS orientation and demonstration held at the Occidental Mindoro State College (OMSC) Main Campus Gymnasium held last December 15, 2009, Atty. Jocelyn Villanueva-Postrado, Assistant Regional Elections Director and Ms. Ma. Victoria S. Dulcero, COMELEC Public Relations Officer, stressed that the PCOS-Optical Mark Reader or OMR have been proven successful in elections in other countries.

COMELEC’s Special Bids and Awards Committee last June 3, endorsed to the en banc the awarding of the contract to Smartmatic-TIM to supply some 82,200 PCOS machines that will be used in May 2010 local and national polls. We have 80,122 precincts all over the country. We are around 100 individuals who attended the activity notably from the ranks of local aspirants from different posts in various municipalities of the province including their watchers. Representatives from the provincial chapter of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV)were invited that is why I was there. This was their second destination in their information caravan and the first was in Mamburao held a day before the San Jose activity.

Ms. Perlita Villangca, OIC Provincial Election Supervisor made public that series of such information and education activities will be held soon in eleven municipalities of Occidental Mindoro.

These are what I’ve learned : Under the automated system, the voter would simply the figure beside the name of the candidate of their choice. The counting machines are in front of everyone to ensure transparency and prevent possible switching of votes. The feeding of ballots by the voters will be one by one. The only thing that the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs) will do is to open and close the machine for voting after the prescribed time. Postrado likewise stressed the important role played by poll watchers from different political parties since the machine is new. Under the new system, no one, except the BEIs, would touch the ballot that would be electronically transmitted and the transmission of results could be done in just half a second.

But I have said in one of my Facebook discussion thread, there is no surefire techno fix in any political problem of the nation. The PCOS, like what commonsense dictates, is not an assurance that a true leader would emerge and solve the present socio-economic chaos of our locality. For elections is not just a question of clean and honest election so still, we must educate the people,- especially those in rural areas, to chose honest and capable persons who have the ability to serve, lead and govern. What are the assurance that this technology would not lead to wholesale cheating that would lead to possible failure of elections? Remember, those who control the system, controls the elections.

But here is another issue to consider. The PCOS technology go against basic democratic principle of “public counting”. It makes the counting, canvassing and consolidation of election results hidden from the public eye contrary to what the Constitution and RA 9369 require. Is there are no other systems available that would assure transparency? These are the issues being raised by the Center for People Empowerment and Governance or CenPEG. Let us keep our fingers crossed and our arms and legs ready that this new automated system would not lead to automated cheating come May 2010 or beyond.

Another thing. Under the new system, the proclamation of winner will be held only two to three days from day one. It is extremely impossible to file any election protest making it advantageous to the politicians who employed cheating. But how about the ones being cheated?

Everyone must be vigilant. May the IT-savvy Filipinos and specialists, and the IT expert that the COMELEC would hire from our municipality and province to supervise the specialists of Smartmatic-TIM would not put under hypnotic spell of the “hoe characters” in our local political scene…

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(Photo : http://www.newsflash.org/2004/02/hl/hl108600.htm)

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Priest-Governor, Anyone?


It’s now official. Fr. Ronilo M. Omanio will be again gunning for gubernatorial position in Occidental Mindoro in 2010. In our interview with OIC Provincial Election Officer Perlita Villangca last week over DZVT, Fr. Omanio, together with incumbent governor Josephine Ramirez-Sato and a certain Regalado Dimayacyac, filed their respective Certificates of Candidacy (CoC) before the provincial Commission on Election (COMELEC) office in Mamburao within the prescribed filing period.

I do not wish to deal with the issue regarding Church’s law for I am just an ordinary layman not competent to discuss matters pertaining to Canon Law specifically Canon 282 Paragraph 3 which states, “Clerics are forbidden to assume public office whenever it means sharing in the experience of civil power” and Canon 287 Paragraph 2 which says clerics, “are not to play an active role in political parties or in directing trade unions unless, in the judgment of the competent ecclesiastical authority, this is required for the defense of the rights of the Church or to promote the common good.” I am not in a position to interpret neither present my opinion on the subjects for I do not have any formal course on Canon Law. Let us leave that to competent ecclesiastical authorities of our local Church say our respective parish priests because it's one of their pastoral duties to enlighten us on such matter. They, not us workers of the social communication apostolate, are the most credible when it comes to said universal law. Besides, in a typical Filipino family, children are told, “Huwag sasabat sa usapan ng matatanda.” Unless of course when you are given go-signal like what I get before I open my mouth in our radio show.

What really made me feel sad is the fact that some quarters, presumably also from the Catholic circle in our province, have even gone as far as hurling accusations against Church personalities via this post created by an unknown blogger in 2007. Today, some quarters even questioned Bishop Antonio P. Palang’s issuance of Circular 4, s. 2009 or the “Decree on Fr. Ronilo M. Omanio’s Candidacy” dated 3 December 2009 which says in part : “As you publicly know, Fr. Omanio was suspended last March 30, 2007 after he filed his candidacy for governor of Occidental Mindoro, Philippines. …This time, he filed again his candidacy as governor of Occidental Mindoro. It is unfortunate that this thing would happen : an open defiance against the Universal Law of the Catholic Church.” The Decree further states : “Holy Mother Church could not tolerate this thing to happen, but this happened anyway. We therefore give him a six-month warning." Here’s the parting statement of Bishop Palang in said Decree : “I therefore decree that he cannot use the name of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose or the Roman Catholic Church, for they have nothing to do with his candidacy. I further warned Fr. Omanio that he should not and cannot administer the sacraments. Finally, I shall not hesitate to recommend later to the Holy See in Rome for his dismissal from the clerical state.” The Decree was signed by Bishop Palang and his Chancellor, Msgr. Mario R. Ronquillo. One political patron even alleged that our incumbent governor influenced the church hierarchy to mar Fr. Omanio’s candidacy but citing no single instance, evidence or proof to support his claim. Or was the kingpin just fed by wrong information and half-truths? But see how traditional politics complicate this very serious matter of defying Church’s law by one of her lost sheep or,- should I say, shepherd.

To those who are Catholics who want to study or dig deeper into the subject, it is recommended to read this book to enlighten us on the phenomenon of priests going into politics. It’s a long read that requires patience. Please finish it and find out why it is forbidden anywhere in the world.

In our Gospel today (Luke 3:10-18), three times people asked John the Baptist, “What should we do?” Each time he told them to give up something or not to be greedy. Because greed is everywhere, we need men and women of faith,- especially men of cloth who are completely identified with Jesus and not with politicians. That was the journey John the Baptist asked his hearers to make. A journey where we are challenged to make this Advent an occasion to realize the true joy and happiness given to us by the Immanuel and not any political patron and patroness disguised as messiah in our midst.

As a Catholic voter, no matter who will come out as governor in 2010, I am praying that may s/he live an upright private life and morally sound public agenda and change their old ways, and be competent and capable public servant/s. Nobody is stopping him to run but Fr. Omanio have to choose : be a fulltime priest or a fulltime politician. Life indeed is a decision after another. And conversion is not only expected from politicians but also of us, voters. Over and above, as followers of Christ.

Just a personal reflection : Any cleric, the very moment he left his active priestly ministry is indeed a big loss for the Church and the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs). The Church already lost Fr. Omanio in 2007 and it’s so hurting then. But God utilize time to heal all the wounds and to remember the lessons we have learned (or unlearned?) since then. This time, his euphemistical slip is not only showing but can be subjected to public scrutiny.

Is Fr. Omanio’s recent filing of his CoC already a sign that he wants to,- once and for all, be laicized and be fulltime politician? I don’t know. Let’s hear from him …

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(Photo of the book "Priest-Politicians" by Bishop Emeritus Oscar V. Cruz, Doctor of Canon Law. Image taken from CBCP.net)

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Caminerus’ Advent(ure)


My name is Caminerus and I proudly declare that I am the most sought-after errand boy here in Nazareth. I clean every mess left by carpenters and blacksmiths in their workshops every weekend and oftentimes, I work as a street sweeper for a dime or two. But there are also times that I accompany residents when they travel to other districts to tend their belongings and merchandize including their asses,- I mean, donkeys. That’s what I do in the last fifteen years of my life.

But I am also a dreamer. I dream someday I'll find my place in Rome, the capital of civilization. Or in Alexandria, the grain and food capital,- even only, let us say, as a warehouse apprentice. Forget about Athens, the cultural center or Corinth, the great university city. We, people of Nazareth, at least in the eyes of those who do not live here, do not belong in those known places. But I am proud I lived in this small provincial town, so irrelevant that people summed it up contemptuously in a single query : “Can anything of good come from Nazareth? Poor Nazareth!”

I am not only the errand boy of Nazareth. I am Nazareth. Without fame, with no natural advantage or historic association and cultural background or prestige and a lowly peasant city in the eyes of the civilized and modern world. Like me, Nazareth is just a “yokel” town a people of Jerusalem, the holy city of worship, would call it.

But I have a confession to make about a horrible incident that caused me goose bumps until this very hour. The incident happened last night inside the kitchen of the elderly couple named Joachim and Anne when I was cleaning their neighbor’s animal barn. I saw a winged man from the sky zoomed into the place like a lightning and immediately appeared in front of Mary who was then washing dinner plates and wiping oil from her hands. The winged creature’s voice sounds like thunder. But sweet little Mary seems not afraid of the birdman and they started a conversation. At a very tender age, she had the advantage of staying at the temple as a cleaner. Perhaps, her exposure to the truth and beauty of the Scripture made her fearless. Unlike Mary, I am a damn coward so I ran away.

Curiously, I went to see her the next morning and to my surprise, it seems that nothing unusual happened. I want to ask her about the last night’s incident but I don’t know what’s stopping me. “Someday, if I had a chance, I am going to find out.” I told my self. “If you had the courage.” My conscience said in return.

But that moment suddenly came. I met the old man Joachim at the tavern offering me another escorting job. He asked me to accompany her daughter and their close family friend Joseph, the best carpenter in town. She’s going to visit her elderly cousin Elizabeth and her husband Zachary in Hebron. It was not convenient for Mary to travel alone. It was certainly an uphill task for Joseph and Mary so they need an escort or a bodyguard of sort. And that’s me, your friendly neighborhood errand boy, the Amazing Camenirus. “It’s a deal!”, I told the bearded old man.

While on our road to Hebron, Joseph told me that we will at once return to Nazareth not only because of his works but for Mary to stay with her cousin who is six months pregnant. Elizabeth needed a helping hand for she would no longer be able to go and draw water from the village well or to look after the crops in the field and the animals in the farm. She would no longer be able to go to the market to do her shopping. Mary will stay in Zachary’s house for three months until Elizabeth ‘s baby is due. Joseph will be coming back after three months and fetch Mary.

Though I never had the courage to ask Mary about the winged man who appeared in their kitchen, but knowing her as a child who grew before my very eyes, I know that she is deeply aware of her low position in society which had been elevated by a blessing from the Lord that all generations would recognize. She is a humble maid. She connected her own experience that God is now helping His servant Israel, since He had scattered the proud and put down the mighty while exalted those of low degree and filled the hungry with good things. That’s how I put into one capsule the things we have discussed while traveling the lonely and dangerous road from Galilee to the hills of Judea.

But there’s one thing I’ve noticed about Joseph for most of the time he's been so silent. I presume that something is bothering him. Hope that winged man from the skies would ease all Joseph’s tormenting doubts. Caminerus’ surefire hunch is telling him that the winged man will soon appear before Joseph or even only in his dream.

The reunion of Mary and Elizabeth only taught me one thing : we ought to give the gift of our very presence and this is the hardest and the best gift of all. Everybody needs encouragement. Everybody needs the interior peace and joy that comes from the Holy Spirit. This is what Mary's visit did for Elizabeth. Mary's visit was an inspiration to Elizabeth.

This was the inspiration I learned from my recent travel or adventure. And at the break of dawn, Joseph and I travelled back to Nazareth who surely missed the presence of the Amazing Caminerus. I am Nazareth, remember? ...

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(NB: Another fiction try.- NAN. Photo from http://www.brigidmarlin.com.)

Saturday, December 5, 2009

An Assassin’s Tale


Today is December 5, 2039. I am here at my safe house in downtown Maharlika preparing for the biggest mission in my career : to kill John De Bap, that popular preacher-singer who has been drawing followers and crowds all over-Rizalandia and even around the world. I am out to assassinate him tomorrow in exchange of a huge sum of money that I needed so badly. I will be get paid the soonest my mission is over.

You just have few hours to live now, John De Bap and I swear. Big politicians and influential businessmen are so irritated in the message of his songs that is why they sent me for this job. His songs and poetry, they say – at least according to the people who hired me, are the biggest threat to them. Their businesses, their power, their authority. John De Bap even emphasized that essential to repentance is the issue of social justice, especially in his carrier single entitled “Luke Thirteen, Eleven”.

Call me an old fashioned assassin but in this age of robotics, laser technology and modern weaponry, I prefer to use my vintage Turkish Bora JNG-90 sniper rifle given by my late father, a war hero who died in Afghan war in 2012. This rifle, weighing 6.4 kilogram, has sentimental value to me. I caress my gun just like how my father fondled me when I was a boy. I promised him that I will follow his footsteps but because of greed and lust for money, I landed in this ruthless job. What the heck, I am getting sentimental!

After wiping my rifle’s night vision scope and blast compensator, I switched on the television and a close-up shot of John De Bap occupied the screen. He is a thin man, poorly dressed and unshaven,- but no doubt, with a look of great intensity about him. His free concert tour last summer was a big blockbuster. The freak's tour was held in the wilderness and deserts. To tell you frankly, the diversity of those who came out and be his followers amazes me - whores, gamblers, and thieves mixed with pseudo-religious leaders . Every time he performs and renders a song, the crowd fall to their knees instead of the usual dancing and shouting.

I carry in my wallet a picture of my fourteen -year old little girl, Suneta. I promise that after this job, we will begin a new life. She’s at the ICU of a hospital way back home suffering from bone cancer. She needs to undergo radioactive surgery but it would cost a lot of money. My sweet little girl is also a big fan of June De Bap as well as her late mother. I am happy seeing her, even in his hospital bed trying to cover her sorrows and pain, singing the lines of a song of his idol called, “Prepare, Prepare” : “Somebody is coming and I have been sent to prepare his way/Turn from your sins!/Prepare your self from the coming of the Almighty!...” But you have to die, John De Bap, for trying to bring back the true essence of Christmas tradition. You have to be exterminated for saying that Christmas is an event highlighting spiritual and religious values rather than pure commercialism, and you are gaining followers because your songs bring false hopes and lies.

I am studying the floor plan of the Manny Pacquiao Memorial Field where the concert will be held tomorrow. I am scanning all the pictures and documents from my palm top computer, having every single detail and information that would lead to my perfect and biggest kill come night time. Shown on TV is a pre-concert special called “The Word Among Us” featuring cuts from his previous concert tours and interviews. In the interview, he said something that really pierces my heart : “I have come to turn the heart of fathers toward their children to prepare them for the Lord.” Why this so-called Lord or God and this goddamn John De Bap so concerned about my family, about my sweet child Suneta? Why does this God want me to draw closer to my family so that I could receive His grace? I then suddenly remembered Papa. How I prepared his things and waiting for his return even though I know that he already died in the war. But as time goes on, I am aware of the fact that the memory of my father comes to me in all the events of my life. His memory made me more vigilant but each passing day, I become a dishonor to his valor, gallantly and our name.

I am almost in tears when my personal phone rang. I immediately recognized her voice but there is something unusual about it. Her voice is full of jubilation instead of pain and sorrow, “Please come home, Dad. Together let us watch John De Bap’s concert on TV. Don’t worry about my ailment for I am prepared no matter what will happen. I want to be with you when that day comes. I want to see you and together we enjoy the songs. Surely you will find me here filled with wonder and praise…” And she clicked off. I cried.

Peacefully, I packed up my things leaving my Bora JNG-90 behind and promised my self not to go back to this place anymore…

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(NB : Just a small attempt to write a fiction - NAN. Photo from : www.battlefieldsports.com )

Monday, November 30, 2009

Student, School or System?


I am not a product of a Catholic school and now I deeply regretted it. I bolted out of the Divine Word College of San Jose (DWCSJ) as a Bachelor of Arts (AB) student in early 80’s simply because of financial hardships. Also, I am bored on attending retreats and recollections including subjects concerning religion and spirituality. Nobody in our subjects and gatherings openly talk about the US military bases, about academic freedom and other burning issues of the day then, or anything negative about the dreaded Marcos government. Over and above, my poor parents could not afford, financially-wise, to keep me there. As expected, I suddenly dropped college and find work for a living. I felt like the poor man Andres Bonifacio, who was unable to go to any of the learning institutions dominated by the “ilustrados” during his time.

But outside the walls of DWCSJ are nameless teachers, rich experiences and supportive co-learners from streets, workplaces and rural communities. People who do not have to wear Levis and puff Philip Morris to gain awe and respect. A learning institution spelled L-I-F-E, where you could enroll with nothing but sheer courage, hard work and enthusiasm to discover the academy itself. From the motor pool of a DPWH project in Laguna sub-contracted to E.E. Lite Corporation, the construction site of the PAF Satellite tower in Tagaytay, in South China Sea as an apprentice fisherman, the dirty kitchen of NFA canteen as errand boy, to the picture lab of Kodak-Premier Photo,- I was in those places.

DWCSJ is the most prominent,- particularly when it comes to number of enrollees, Christian academic community in the province. Here is their mission statement : “DWCSJ commits itself to provide the students a Christian liberal education with technical and professional competence in line with local, regional, national and global development goals. It also binds itself to develop and enhance the intellectual, spiritual, moral and physical capabilities of the members of the academic community through its religious, educational and administrative services towards professionalism and competence.” There are other Catholic schools in Occidental Mindoro, actually called Vicarial schools : Holy Family Academy in Central, San Jose, Colegio de San Sebastian in Sablayan, West Mindoro Academy in Mamburao, San Rafael High School in Abra de Ilog, and Stella Maris School in Lubang.

DWCSJ and the rest of the Catholic schools are “an educational power” where the past pupils and alumni are potentials for social transformation and conversion. An institution, I presume, where ethics before knowledge is emphasized. But sometimes it’s hurting to find out and realize that there is a mismatch between what is learnt inside the classroom and what is done in society, therefore what is learnt in school does not lead to social transformation and Gospel-inspired spirituality. There are known politicians and private citizens, for example, coming from prominent Catholic schools in general who support or sponsor vices and all forms of gambling. There are those who graduated in Catholic institutions who are involved in crime and other wrongdoings. There are also businessmen who only think of their profit neglecting social responsibility. There are some who prostitute their talents for bad politicking thus sustaining the traditional political culture and its evils. Some willingly abhor to the will of their political patrons or bosses instead of using their abilities and sense of duty taught by missionary priests and scholastic nuns during their youth. Former priests (and seminarians) included. Now, who says that schooling is a cure or solution for social phenomenon (criminality, immorality, etc.) which we do not like? Surely, those are just few bad tomatoes in a huge veggie basket called Catholic education. Or, they have their own personal reasons for it, so might as well respect them.

To my mind, there are still things needed to be done in Catholic education system, to wit : First and foremost is to recognize the critical importance of teachers. They must be periodically re-educated and trained not only on skills but especially in moral and religious education. Faculty and students must collaborate or establish network among civic, advocacy groups and organizations and this must be strengthened and sustained. Active teachers from Catholic schools are also expected to participate in charitable and social action works of Catholic-run institutions or get involved in the pastoral works of their respective parish,- like membership in religious organizations or taking part in liturgies,- to mention a few.

In 1987 I went back to college. I loved being in a place where discussions on socio-political issues are open and allowed, in and off campus. Along with our teachers, we discussed national situations and we organized ourselves into a potent force which toppled of our school administrator via ala-EDSA People Power fashion. I am so proud of my alma mater,- the Occidental Mindoro National College or OMNC.

But I really wish I finished my AB at DWCSJ because I believe in what people say that education built upon Christian values prepares the future public servant (or those who are destined to wield power and authority) for the tough job ahead. We have high expectations on these Christian Catholic leaders because we believe that they believe that the kind of education which forms character and produces faith in sound principles of life comes through personal influence and example.

I truly regretted not being a DWCSJ alumnus. Instead, I sent my eldest there four years ago for his secondary education because his mother told me that every student from a Catholic school is expected to acknowledge the immense role of the Holy Spirit as a silent worker telling her/him where to go, how to act (or not to act) in any given situation, whether in their private or public life.

I am just taking this as a consolation for me : academic superiority or any achievements in school enhance the power obtained and shared by our mentors, but the ethical value of it depend on how we use it. Any school work or academic endeavor opens an opportunity that a thing may be, but the probability that it will happen depends on the individual person, and it may be nil or contrary to what is expected or desired. May my only son live to the ideals of DWCSJ all throughout and like Andres Bonifacio, may he rise above his personal needs for the sake of higher and greater cause – freedom and justice based on the teachings of the Church. For both he and Bonifacio share the same birth date today.

Was it really depends on the student, the school or the system?...

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(Photo: aerial shots of DWCSJ from Jamil V. Estorninos’ Facebook album, “For Those Who Miss Home”; This picture drove me to post this blog entry -NAN)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Maguindanao Massacre and other Real Life Massacres


While the whole world led by the United Nations, through its Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, is condemning the mass slaughter of 46 people – including women and journalists – in a poll-related Maguindanao Massacre last Monday, I am recollecting the accounts of known brutal and senseless mass killings from my memory.

There are at least four massacre stories (excluding those turned into movies by Carlo J. Caparas) that I could remember well : the Escalante Massacre and the Mendiola Massacre. I’ve also read from history materials another group killings in the Philippines that gained international attention like the Jabidah Massacre happened in 1968 (which was, by the way, made into film by Jerry O. Tirazona in 1990, starring the late Anthony Alonzo). And another incident of disrespect for life and peace happened in Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro more than 6 years ago – the Talayob Massacre.

In brief, here are the stories : The Escalante Massacre was an incident on September 20, 1985 in Escalante City, Negros Occidental where Regional Special Action Force (RSAF) and the Civilian Home Defense Force (CHDF) gunned down civilians engaged in a protest-rally in commemoration of the 13th anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law. The crowd composed of sugar workers, farmers, fisher-folk, students, urban poor, professionals and church people staged a noise protest in the town center.

The Mendiola massacre, also called “Black Thursday” by some Filipino journalists, was an incident that took place in Mendiola Street, San Miguel, Manila, on January 22, 1987, in which state security forces violently dispersed a farmers' march on Malacañang Palace. Thirteen of the peasants were killed and many wounded when government anti-riot forces opened fire on the marchers. Some farmers from Occidental Mindoro belonging to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Philippine Peasants' Movement) or KMP were also wounded.

The Jabidah Massacre, also known as the Corregidor Massacre, refers to an incident which occurred on the night of March 18, 1968 on the Philippine island of Corregidor. It was on this night that members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) massacred at least 28 Moro Muslim recruits under their supervision. The Jabidah Massacre is widely regarded as having been the catalyst behind the modern Moro insurgencies in the Southern Philippines.

Lest we forget the Talayob Massacre where entire Mangyan family was fired upon by army soldiers from the 16th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines last July 21, 2003 in So. Talayob, Brgy. Nicolas, Magsaysay, Occidental Mindoro. The poor victims who died from the indiscriminate firing were Roger Blanco who expired on the way to the hospital, his wife Oliva, who was then eight-months pregnant and their two sons John Kevin, 3, and Dexter, 2.

All of the four incidents were perpetuated by armed state agents and justice was not rendered to the victims up to now. The whole Filipino people are appealing to concerned authorities to restore justice to the situation. The Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) in a Press Statement on Maguindanao Massacre issued November 24, 2009 signed by its president, Archbishop Angel N. Lagdameo, has this to say : “We join the appeal to rightful authorities to restore justice in the situation. We likewise appeal that the common good as well as respect for human life be uppermost in the campaign for political ends. May this painful situation be a strong reason for further pursuing the ongoing peace process in Mindanao.” In the four incidents, especially in Talayob Massacre, our justice system is totally cannot be depended on.

The massacre of about 50 + people in Sharik Aguak reminds us that political syndicates and warlords can take away innocent lives for a partisan political cause. Some quarters also blame AFP for these political warlords, according to them, were used by the military in their counter-terrorism campaigns in Mindanao. Some politicians elsewhere also coddle terrorists and rebels. Politicians as “tactical allies” of these armed non-state groups can now be classified as real terrorists by becoming indirect instigators of these senseless and brutal mass killings. Others say that the massacre is just part of the long time “rido” (clan wars) between the Ampatuans and Mangudadatus and it has nothing to do with the government, elections and ideological or religious groups but it cannot deny the fact the blood of the victims will forever haunt us as a nation.

Last July 5, 2009 in his talk on the Devotion to the Most Precious Blood of Christ addressed to the priests in his office, Benedict XVI said, “Dear brothers, it is written in Genesis that the blood of Abel, killed by his brother Cain, cried out to God from the earth (cf. 4:10). And, unfortunately, today as yesterday, this cry does not cease, since human blood continues to run because of violence, injustice and hatred. When will men learn that life is sacred and belongs to God alone? When will men understand that we are all brothers?”

Indeed, life is sacred and belongs to God alone. In the Bible, life is blood. God answers the taking of human life with the giving of the Blood of His Son. The Blood of Jesus pleads on behalf of all: those who are the victims of violence including massacres,- and even those who perpetrate it, that they may be converted and live.

For Jesus taught us : “Vengeance is mine”…

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(Photo from ListOwn.Com : Maguindanao Massacre pictures)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Two Kings


Everyone of us is familiar with the story of King Midas. Yap, that mythical king with a touch of gold. Even the beautiful flowers in his garden turned gold. The king grew hungry and thin, for each time he tried to eat, he found that his meal had turned to gold. His lovely daughter,- at his loving touch, turned hard and fast to gold. His water, his bed, his clothes, his friends, and eventually the whole palace was gold.

King Midas saw that soon his whole kingdom would turn to gold unless he did something right away. He asked Dionysus to turn everything back to the way it had been and take back his golden touch. Because the king was ashamed and very sad, Dionysus took pity on him and granted his request. Instantly, King Midas was poorer that he had been, but richer, he felt, in the things that really count.

The local political leaders who support,- directly or indirectly, the Pitkin Petroleum Ltd and the Intex Resources, the two mining companies operating in the island of Mindoro only think of the economic side of the coin. Just like King Midas before his wish was granted by Dionysius.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on January 29, 2006 issued a document called “A Statement on Mining and other Concerns” and with these words CBCP reiterated their stand on mining in the whole country : ”We reaffirm our stand for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995. We believe that the Mining Act destroys life. The right to life of people is inseparable from their right to sources of food and livelihood. Allowing the interests of big mining corporations to prevail over people's right to these sources amounts to violating their right to life. Furthermore, mining threatens people's health and environmental safety through the wanton dumping of waste and tailings in rivers and seas.”

Today is the Solemnity of Christ the King and it's the end of the liturgical year for us Catholics. Next week we begin a new year with the first Sunday of Advent. And this is the perfect time to reflect on who really is the King of our life. Lumen Gentium describes Christ’s Kingship in these few words, “to reign is to serve.” To translate this in political term, “authority is service.” This is what we, citizens and taxpayers, want to ask our aspiring candidates in the forthcoming local elections.

Let us reflect on these points today : “Who is the King we choose to follow?” “Who are the people of this kingdom who cry out to be remembered by us?” “Who among our political kings (and queens) consider Jesus in their every public and private action?” God’s Kingship is not about self-serving, ruthless power, but about a God who is infinite love. Accepting Christ as King means that we strive to live like the Good Shepherd.

Jesus’ Kingdom is not about ruthless power (i.e. public display of rudeness and arrogance, etc.), or royal attendants (i.e. the “majestic” paid propagandist and “barkers”), or all those things we think of when thinking of kings (like palaces, horses (read: luxuriuos vehicles), knights (read: bodyguards), etc.). Matthew Gospel sums it up best,- I think, when it says: “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, to give his life as a ransom for the many” (Mt. 20:28).

Pope Benedict XVI has remarked that Christ's Kingship is not based on "human power" but on loving and serving others. May today’s Feast of Christ the King change and influence the way we think, we work,- the way we spend our free time, the way we pray, and the way we vote come May 2010.

Viva Cristo Rei!!…

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(Photo :The statue of Cristo-Rei (Christ the King), overlooking the city of Lisbon, portrays the Sacred Heart inviting all of humanity to come and follow Him. Taken by Teresa T. from www.trekearth.com)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hunger Strike Vs. MNP


This hunger strike reminds me of the same protest made by a Canadian named Donna Dillman which I stumbled upon from a website months ago. Dillman, a grandmother to four kids, began her hunger strike outside of the gates of the uranium protest site in Frontenac County, Ontario, Canada, on October 8, 2007 calling for a moratorium on uranium mining in Eastern Ontario two years ago. The woman legislator survived 68 days without food.

The anti-mining advocates from my island of birth are gathering today in Manila for a hunger strike scheduled this week (November 16-18, 2009) to vehemently oppose the issuance of a clearance by DENR Sec. Joselito Atienza to a mining firm operating in the whole island of Mindoro. The hunger strikers will be joined by representatives from the local government units of two Mindoro provinces led by governors Arnan Panaligan and Josephine Sato of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, respectively. Representatives from the Church led by Calapan Bishop Warlito Cajandig, DD together with CBCP-NASSA Chairman and Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, DD will say Mass for the strikers on Nov. 18. Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD, DD will be represented by Msgr. Ruben S. Villanueva, Vicar General of the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose.

The protest activity is meant to pressure DENR secretary Joselito Atienza to revoke the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) issued to said mining firm. Intex Resources Philippines, a division of Intex Resources ASA of Norway, has been granted an ECC by DENR last October 14, 2009 to operate the Mindoro Nickel Project or MNP that will extract and process nickel laterite ore and its by-products, such as chromite, cobalt, zinc, sulfide and ammonium sulfate. The mining site lies in a critical watershed area which supplies irrigation water for Mindoro’s rice fields.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez of Alyansa Laban sa Mina (ALAMIN) and Mangyan Mission said in a statement that the move of DENR to grant permit to the mining company was a “brazen act of betrayal of public trust.” A statement from ALAMIN states that : “Instead of coming to rescue our fragile ecology, the DENR shamelessly pursued the national policy agenda of the Arroyo government to promote mining industry, with utter disregard to the risks posed by the destruction of Mindoro’s critical watershed through the risky large-scale, strip mining operation of Intex Resources ASA.”

In our interview with Rep. Diogenes Osabel of ALAGAD Party List over DZVT yesterday , he said that representatives Rodolfo G. Valencia (first district) and Rep. Alfonso V. Umali, Jr. (second district) of Oriental Mindoro already signed a resolution for the revocation of the Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) issued by the DENR, while Deputy Speaker Amelita C. Villarosa of lone district of Occidental Mindoro opted for another round of legislative consultation on the issue. Osabel rendered his privilege speech on Mindoro Mining at the Hall of Congress also last Tuesday. For Villarosa, hunger strike should not be made as an option against mining in Mindoro. You may click and read the news item here.

While the events are unfolding in Manila, back in Occidental Mindoro, the Provincial Board headed by Vice-Governor Mario Gene Mendiola spearheaded series of public consultation and hearing in municipalities of Calintaan and San Jose geared towards the finalization of a 25-year moratorium ordinance for large-scale mining in the whole province of Occidental Mindoro. In his powerful speech during the consultation, Fr. Carlito M. Dimaano, Parish Priest of St. Michael Parish said : "Hindi natin papayagan ang anumang uri ng mina na papasok sa ating lalawigan". ("We will oppose any form of mining in Occidental Mindoro") Let us keep our fingers crossed. By the way, lunch is served elsewhere after the public hearing courtesy of Mayor Lily Estoya.

Going back to hunger strike, definitely one can live a long time without food, but clean water is essential to all life. Food and eating are symbolic of wellbeing and we are hoping that this activity would help increase awareness among our people, specially those who are still reluctant to fight for environmental protection. With the immediate revocation of the ECC, the hunger strike will end at once.

Here are worth-reflecting words from Donna Dilliman, a federal councilor that time in Frontenac County, Ontario : “As a society, it is time we grew up and realized that we live on a finite planet; that we must begin to live on Earth as if we want to stay.” What an inspiring nugget from a woman, from a grandmother who undoubtedly care for nature and her constituents' survival.

Unlike that big gramma whom I know ….

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(Photo from http://www.ccamu.ca/ by Wolfe Erlichman and Sandra Hannah)

Monday, November 16, 2009

Dialogue's Power


I was out for a while to attend the community-based dialogue sessions on human rights promotion and protection between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), and civil society organizations (CSO) and local community held at Ponte Fino Hotel in Batangas City last November 10 - 11, 2009. The event organizers are people from Benigno S. Aquino, Jr. Foundation, Inc. and the Alternative Legal Group or ALG headed by Atty. Marlon J. Manuel. Around 100 participants from the provinces of Region-IV attended the dialogue.

As a result of the alarming rise in unresolved cases of alleged extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in the recent years, the Philippines got the attention of the international community and the government was prompted to initiate concrete actions to address the situation. On February 2007, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions, visited the country to conduct and inquiry into the killings, and, thereafter, submitted his report and recommendations to the UN. The Supreme Court hosted the National Consultative Summit on Extralegal Killings which was attended by 400 participants from government and non-government institutions. During the early part of 2007, the AFP activated the AFP Human Rights Office (AFP HRO) and in June of the same year, the PNP created the PNP-HRAO under the office of the chief PNP.

The activity I mentioned a while ago is part and parcel of the project which aim to focus on creating venues, through a series of dialogue between AFP and PNP and CSO and local communities towards human rights protection and promotion, where the citizens to monitor the performance of said law enforcers against their avowed human rights promotion objectives. Top brigade and battalion officers of the Philippine Army were there as well as respective provincial PNP directors and their officers from all over the region were present. The IP, farmer and fisher folk leaders including leaders from the religious sector were in attendance.

We devote our first day to what we call preparatory caucus where related problems were initially put into the open including issues and gaps in relation to HR promotion and protection. The second day of the activity was the dialogue session proper. The forum provided a venue to discuss and share information about the efforts of the participating agencies and institutions in said areas of human rights.

It’s a fresh experience for me discussing human rights issues and concerns in front of high military and police officers. Our facilitator did a great job of setting principles before the workshop by emphasizing our rights, responsibilities and skills during the activity proper. Indeed, for true dialogue to occur it needs to take place within a protective environment of mutually accepted rights and responsibilities, rooted in two fundamental values: respect for the human person and trust in the process of dialogue. Dialogue works best when the participants are willing to develop certain skills that facilitate the process. And we kept that in mind during our workshops.

As a Church worker, I was exposed to various dialogues in Occidental Mindoro between sectors of society. In one of his writings, Fr. Charles Morerod, OP, a dialogue expert, said that one basic rule is to pre-suppose the other point of view – even when it seems simply stupid – might sense. Of course one must also be convinced that his own point of view makes sense, otherwise he should change it.

My personal reflection on the recently-concluded dialogue on human rights protection and promotion,- which I was so blessed and lucky to be part of it, is a little something like this : Dialogue is not simply a way to mutual knowledge. For me as a Church worker, dialogue is imperative in every social involvement.

What is needed is clarity for everything said must be intelligible. To magnify my point I want to share you this. Pertaining to a topic in one of my posts, an anonymous commenter posted, “Be factual.” without elaborating what she/he mean by that. I tried my very best but I cannot comprehend her/his comment, really. During my college days, you cannot go away with those “abstract” words without me throwing back arrogant remarks on you. But now, everything has changed. Now that I know that a true dialogue is accompanied by Christian meekness even in disclosing evil ways. Only two decades ago did I realize that a dialogue marked by arrogance, the use of foul, subjective words or offensive bitterness is such a disgrace. Also in a true dialogue, we must all be brave and fair to introduce our self or disclose our identity to the person whom we criticize or when we shoot his message or the ideas sponsored by him.

How could one develop confidence (which is one of the basic characteristics of a true dialogue) if the other party hide his true self? By the way, confidence can be mirrored not only in the power of one’s word, but in the goodwill of one party.

A true dialogue promotes intimacy and friendship on both sides. The dialogue I have attended last week in Batangas brought a giant footprint of unity in our mutual adherence to human rights. At least to us, participants.

Suffice to say that a dialogue is an apostolate and in some way, making spiritual contact…

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(Photo : From AVSJ-SSC File; Dialogue between Mangyan Leaders and the Philippine Army (PA))

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Health-wise, Vote-wise


During election time, one criterion often overlooked is the health status of a candidate. Only few Filipino voters, except maybe those in the field of medicine and perhaps those in the health/medical profession, care about it. Even politicians themselves do not give emphasis on this aspect. Though I am not from both fields, as a voter, I am beginning to contemplate on this issue and its political importance.

American President Franklin D. Roosevelt was crippled by polio, but the press abided by an unwritten rule that he was never to be photographed from waist down. But Mr. Roosevelt withheld an even graver medical condition. On Jan. 20, 1945, as he was being sworn in for a record fourth time, he was already suffering from severe hypertension and arteriosclerosis. Yes, he did not disclose his real health condition to the public and he died in office three months later.

There are three mayoralty aspirants so far come May 2010 in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. Here in our locality, health problems are not discussed and considered as anathema for politicians and a taboo subject for most of the local media, especially those owned and influenced by the the two local political giants. They focused more on senseless propaganda, mudslinging and pointing at each other’s shortcomings and blunders.

Here in the Philippines, there is no specific law mandating,- under the principle of right to information, a politician to full disclosure of her/his health record or status. But who wants a mayor who is serving his term die of diabetes or lung cancer and will not be able to complete her/his term of office? Many of us believe that the health status of a candidate is not an issue anymore. My friends told me that all we have to do is to dump the idea in the dustbin of electoral concerns. And just recycle it if time comes when our legislators are no longer dominated by traditional politicians and the traditional political culture. For us ordinary voters, the issue is as insignificant as a dew falling in a vast sea of local political events.

But here’s another vital question : “ Are the local media practitioners and election watchdogs in Occidental Mindoro ready to snoop on the medical records of our politicians (read: their bosses and patrons or even the rivals of their bosses and patrons)?” Media practitioners who are expected to be truth-bearers and champions of right to information. The local media in Occidental Mindoro, I think, is not yet ready to discuss said concern so in such climate, what the politicians have to do is to conceal their sickness or medical problems. In the first place, there is no such law mandating the candidates to reveal their authentic medical records. It is one of their campaign’s best kept secrets, so to speak.

And I am not buying this sort of crap from political and health authorities: “We must protect the sanctity of the medical records. It is very confidential.” There is a big problem. Medical records are not confidential, and they haven't been confidential as far as I could know based on my personal experience. Medical records have the same pattern of widespread use. When applying for a job, driver’s license, scholarship program, etc. If you are hospitalized, nurses, doctors and other hospital employees may see some or all of your records. Records may be shared with labs, x-ray facilities, nursing homes, physical therapists, pharmacists, and others involved in treatment. When claiming a medical benefit from SSS, the medical record of a patient can be scrutinized by anybody. Now, tell me what confidentiality are we talking about? Maybe you would say : “As medical treatment, yes. But not as an electoral criterion.” Whew! Truth is always not on our side, electorates.

Doctor-patient confidentiality stems from the special relationship created when a prospective patient seeks the advice, care, and/or treatment of a physician. It is based upon the general principle that individuals seeking medical help or advice should not be hindered or inhibited by fear that their medical concerns or conditions will be disclosed to others. But let us not forget that the duty of confidentiality is not absolute. Doctors may divulge or disclose personal information, against the patient's will, under very limited circumstances. For example, the case of Alvin Flores, the notorious criminal who just had a facelift to evade authorities. I think his doctor could not assert this thing called doctor-patient confidentiality. We, the electorates are always victimized by this epidemic called election!

As far as I know from the past local elections, no candidate have ever disclosed his medical records or health status in public. There is only one political bigwig in the province whose condition landed in pages of a national broadsheet that can be clicked here.

Anyway, the only mayor who died during his term in office is Bibiano Gaudiel, Sr., who served only for five months, due to cardiac arrest. Gaudiel was also the president of the Mayors League of Occidental Mindoro and died while rendering his speech in Ligaya, Sablayan in 1951,- if I were not mistaken. He was succeeded by his vice mayor, Ricardo Pascasio who was in the medical profession way back at the Philippine Milling Company in Central. But Gaudiel’s death was not due to a lingering illness. It was a sudden death.

I wonder if the physician who is also a mayoralty aspirant should dwell on this public concern in his campaign sortie aside from the Admittance and Discharge Policy of his hospital? Just asking.

Maybe I am getting OA but I hope someday, the Commission on Election (COMELEC), specially our national legislators should consider it …

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(Photo : From the Rotary Club of San Jose at Multiply.com)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Centennial Gimmickry (Part 2)


I am writing this from my training, formation and opinion as a community organizer for I am not a historian in the strict sense of the word. Personally, I hate people who are valuing the good side of history too much. They overvalue history by not exposing the present and past evils of society. By using the very same credulous structures (the corruption-ridden LGU) and personalities (at least some) as vehicle to convey historical facts, programs or projects. Because if we cannot co-relate or juxtapose the past and the present,- the good and the evil in our midst, (i.e. in the formulation of a syllabus integrating local history to the educational curriculum) the teaching of local history in general can always be set aside. Or, might as well to forget totally.

When an elementary pupil is asked : “Who is Lawrence Cooper?” and his reply was, “He was the first municipal mayor of San Jose.”, it is in no way connected to his being a good (or bad) citizen in the future. His ludicrous ignorance (or exemplary knowing) of history proved nothing. In short, no amount of study of our town’s history could make us better citizens. What I am saying is knowledge of history,- no doubt, is indeed a fine or good accomplishment, academically or otherwise, but ignorance of it does not hinder our success in our career, profession, our line of work or vocation or our societal position. You may disagree with me on this point but I believe that the masses and their children in general, do not appreciate history neither care much about it. Much more with the history celebrations. We have to creatively dig up why but not put entirely the blame on them. They say, "history has nothing to do with me or with my stomach." It is the duty of the historian to explain its connection or its paralellism.

Many historical bodies do not employ social criticism as a historical approach or an approach to history in their once-in-a-lifetime endeavor such as this. Criticism, for the activists as taught by their experience, is our only guarantee against delusion, deception and superstition even misapprehension of ourselves and earthy circumstances. It is the cornerstone of our,- to borrow from Moron Savant, “existential bias”. Our critical faculty is a product of our training and formation, a mental habit and power. Having said that, the historian themselves must develop and enhance this faculty. Thus, history approach or study under this faculty is the one we can truly say that develops good and responsible citizens. I salute all of the activity participants for sharing their time and talent, amidst criticisms, for such self-sacrifice and self-giving especially the youth. May your enthusiasm in cultural and theater arts transcend to the streets, in a mass action against a particular social concern or vice-versa.

In short, historians (and history students, if you want to separate the two) must wage war with the status quo and must facilitate the formation of historical awareness through exposing and opposing societal evils and their “sponsors”. This is what’s happening in actuality : the evil ways,- say for example, of a politician or a person in authority, educate faster and deeper than lessons or curricula in history. And the masses, the people in the midst of these evils either join them in their evil ways and be perpetrators of injustice or allow themselves to be willing victims of such evil acts (i.e. graft and corruption, human rights violation, etc.). A systemic wrong that requires counter systemic response. “But it is NOT our job to go out of the streets and oppose the STL, the mining companies, the unscrupulous politicians and every social ill under the sun. We will just watch you activists and report the event as it happen. As a historian we are primarily a chronicler only destined to write and compile record of events and not to swim against the tide.” To proponent of this argument I rest my case for I've done more than enough to prove my point and need say no more.

Eunice asked me, “So what kind of celebrations and activities are you proposing?” This is my reply : “Nothing.” Remember, I just rested my case…

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(Photo of the San Jose Cathedral by Ronet Santos from Flickr)

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Diarrhea and Purgatory : An All Souls Day Offering (?)


I was sidelined by diarrhea in the last couple of days and during those times of ordeal, there are two things I cannot put down : a roll of toilet paper and a write-up on Eschatology by Edward Schillebeeckx. The material speaks about heaven, hell, and yes, purgatory (which is I think related to diarrhea for it came from the Latin ‘purgare’ meaning “to cleanse").

Whenever I go and visit my departed loved ones at the San Jose Public Cemetery when a was a teenager I always wonder : “Ilang kaluluwa kaya mula sa mga puntod na ito ang pinarurusahan sa impiyerno?” (How many of these souls are made to suffer in hell?) It was the time when I was still unaware that purgatory, hell and heaven are not places but are state of being. That they are state of being that cannot be easily described by an ordinary believer without using theological and spiritual lenses. Those were the wild days of my life finding ourselves snatching food offerings from the tombs of wealthy people,- specially Chinese, for our own Halloween party that often us cause us, you’ve guessed it right, diarrhea.

But there is really a place or estate of being called hell where God punishes evil or bad souls? First, according to Schillebeeckx, “All men have faults and imperfections and no one is as sinless as Jesus Christ. Even if we do good most of the time in our lives, we are still sinners. Even if a person dies in a state of grace, he or she remains a sinner”. Thus, God’s forgiveness is our final ticket to heaven.

But if someone rejects God and the idea of eternal bliss with the Lord, who do evil in a definitive way, who do evil with final intent, their physical death is also their absolute end. That is what I’ve learned from said Belgian theologian while lying on my bed and sitting on you-know-where.

This state of being of a sinner who refused to ask forgiveness of God would end even their own spiritual existence. They cannot have the grace of God for all eternity. And this is as damning as the picture of hell being painted into our imagination by our teachers in Religion subject when we were young. Or what was depicted in the Bible as a “lake that burns with fire and brimstone” (Rev. 21:8). Hell in this notion is an eternal separation from a blissful and divine relationship with God. And this spiritual death is not a punishment. Ours is a loving God and not a revengeful God, if I may repeat.

On this view of purgatory, Schillebeeckx has this to say : “God’s first act of love in heaven is an act of illumination. God projects his light on human beings, illuminates them and purifies them. It is a kind of rooting in God, the first moment of the beatific vision. So all men and women go through purgatory before entering into the beatific vision of God”. And prayers from us the living, especially during All Saints day or All Souls Day is imperative in this purification process.

This is unthinkable : while joy and happiness pervades in House A (heaven) there should be people in a not far away House B (hell) on the point of expiring in the midst of infernal and eternal suffering. For Schillebeeckx, the final fulfillment is exclusively positive. There is no negative eschaton like the eternal suffering of souls. It is against the nature of God who is love for human beings to be punished for all eternity.

Thought-provoking, isn’t it? Next time, I will also read the writings of notable theologians who opposed or made revisions on this point like Karl Rahner and Tielhard De Chardin. Including other readings regarding Eschatology.

That is only if diarrhea engulfed me again…

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(Photo : Inquirer.Net)

Friday, October 30, 2009

The Centennial Gimmickry


I would not mind being called a centennial vagabond on this one. Nor being branded as unpatriotic villain. I personally believe that the San Jose centennial celebration does not provide the inspiration for genuine social transformation unless the presently-prevailing socio-political problems are juxtaposed in this historic task.

May 1, 2010 marks the centenary of the township of San Jose,- my home town, my place of birth. As early as last year, the San Jose Centennial Commission was formed with this key objective : “At the end of the year-long festivity, the Municipality of San Jose shall have conducted, in the spirit of a united community, a series of meaningful activities that commemorate the past with gratitude, celebrate the present with joy and envision a bright future with hope and faith, leaving a lasting legacy beyond 2010.” But are we going to hide our bad side?

Pardon me but I’ve seen various festivity and celebrations in the past that ended just like that and they are not instrumental in changing certain socio-political ills brought about by the ruling elite in the province. This coming November 15, Occidental Mindoro is about to commemorate its 59th founding anniversary but there were no significant changes in our political culture and how our politicians run the province up to this very moment. There are realities and experiences where the poor people in the countryside, - especially the Mangyans, are kept in social isolation. While the common people involved in the activities (i.e. the students, the youth for the contests, cultural presentations, etc.), gained the attention of the elite and politicians, the people in general have been losing their own social soul. For example, 2010 is election time, a peak season for corruption and other irregularities where every move of a politician or a political group (or even only if they fart!) is generally considered as politicking. What more if most of the women and men behind such activity are politicians themselves, their followers, or known propagandists and publicist of a politician during the last election? Do you really believe that this celebration would not be used to the advantage of a certain politician or would serve as an open target of criticisms for his rival? Or the hard line supporters to use the event pleasing their political patrons regardless on which political fence they are in? Oh, come on!

But let us not only focus our critique on the centennial celebration. Let us also include the San Jose annual town fiesta celebration. There’s nothing wrong in celebrations such as these. Festivity is innate in us humans. We are “Homo Festivus” (Somebody I love, incidentally, supplied me the Latin term). All of the cultures in the world have festivity and celebrations and that made them universal. Man does not only work and think, but we also celebrate,- we dance, sing, play, drink and dine. The question is : “What are the no-no’s of a celebration/festivity?”

I can only think of two words: superficiality and frivolity.

It is not superficial when it recognizes tragedy. When we, as a united community recognize that the biggest obstacle to our development is our political culture. We have to recognize that without a united group of townspeople that would serve as watchdog over programs and projects, performance and behavior of our politicians it would be impossible to remedy the biggest bane in our town: bad politics. It should not also ignore the evil side of our social life. The existence of a moral thorn in Small Town Lottery (STL) including illegal gambling and illegal drugs. It should not repress the bad things happening right before our very eyes : the dirty, mean and nasty public market, the use of political power for private business interests especially in public utility service such as power and transportation, the year-round hardships of our salt farm workers, farmers and fisher folks, etc. Themes, subjects and dimensions that must be incorporated in our songs, curriculum writing, posters, slogans, plays, dances, among others. Because over and above, the San Jose centennial celebration should not be considered a retreat from the reality of injustice and evil.

Without acknowledging the presence of injustice and evil, everything is mere frivolity. If what we want only is to astonish and catch the eye of the public, “balikbayan” or not. The utilization of the media outlets only to gain political edge or a venue to badmouth anybody who does not share his opinions and views. It is like celebrating the Feast Day of Saint Joseph the Worker (which also falls on International Labor Day) without spearheading an activity or two about the sad plight of the lowly workers of our town, like the sales ladies and clerks in our Christmas spirit-filled groceries and department stores. Or without even saying a little tribute to the so-called working class in our locality. Frivolity is wearing a mask to cover something that is rotten and garbage-like,- like the present socio-political realities of our time.

We don’t need a centennial celebration that is only confined to trivial activities and only try to explain and interpret the past or focus entirely on the present or bring false hope. Only with juxtaposition (Hope I used the term appropriately) we could challenge the past from the perspective of present experiences, and challenge the present from the perspective of our memory of the past. Or else, we will have no real legacy to pass on to be remembered even beyond 2010.

With these,- all of the celebration and festive activities, would not only serve as vehicle for ideas that only tend to anesthetize us and cloud our socio-political awareness. Or this would only become plain and simple gimmickry...

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(Photo from San Jose Mindoro Friendster Account)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Basketball Idols in My Memory


We do not have Cable TV when I was I kid so we just follow the PBA (Philippine Basketball Association) games over the radio. If I were not mistaken, it was covered by Kanlaon Broadcasting Network and it was in Tagalog. While my playmates and classmates root for Crispa, I am a die-hard Toyota fan. I admire most of their players because for me they are tough, on and off court. They are determined and strong.

I was just 9 years old,- it was 1971, when Robert Jaworski and Alberto “ Big Boy” Reynoso,- during their Meralco days in the Manila Industrial and Commercial Athletic Association (MICAA) , were banned for life by the BAP for assaulting two basketball officials in the persons of Eriberto Cruz and Jose Obias for allegedly making a series of bad calls favoring Crispa. Because of this incident Jaworski and Reynoso missed the 1972 Olympics and the opportunity to play for the national team for the first time in their lives. But the two cagers were reinstated in 1973 and on that same year, they again teamed up for the Philippine team for the Asian Basketball Conference or ABC. Other players include Francis Arnaiz, Ramon Fernandez, William "Bogs" Adornado, Rogelio "Tembong" Melencio, David Regullano, Rosalio "Yoyong" Martirez, Manuel Paner, Alberto Guidaben, Jimmy Mariano and Ricardo "Joy" Cleofas. I also remember having a notebook with their pictures on its cover that caused envy from my boy classmates at Bubog Elementary School. I was in Grade VI then under Miss Lilia T. Bercasio, my adviser and English teacher who first taught me to write from my mind.

To prove to you that I am a Toyota fan, I am going to answer this question : “Where did the “Big J” nickname of Jaworski came from?” Answer: Many people said that Jaworski plays like Milwaukee Bucks' Oscar Robertson who was nicknamed “Big O" (Lil' bit naughty, isn’t it?). And from then on, Bobby Jaworski became the "Big J" (And it's even naughtier if he was called "Big BJ" or plainly "BJ"!). But I told you, I am a genuine Toyota fan.

But aside from gluing our ears to the radio, we also watch “flesh-and-bone” or live basketball games in San Jose Summer Basketball League or SJSBL at the roofless San Jose Municipal Gymnasium. The dominating presence of Bubog dribblers were once feared by their respective opponents in Inter Barangay Division of the SJSBL. This was from late 70s to early 80s. It was 1972 when Bubog Basketball team joined the SJSBL. The team then was called Bubog Stony Club. They played in the Junior A Category. The Bubog Stony Club was composed of (+) Jolly Sol, Gil Lapuz, Romy Novilla and their star player, Ricardo "Kano" Perez. Basketball matches then are ultimate conduits of off court toughness, dominance and supremacy when I was a kid. Bubog won the championship at the expense of the team from Caminawit in 1972.

But SJSBL’s most sought after cager from Brgy. Bubog is Jaime "Boy" Paciente. He who loves to don jersey number 9 and at 6 foot 1, he was one of the best centers in the league in the late 70s and early 80s. He was once a player played for the Southern Tagalog Athletic Association (STAA) under Coach Bernabe Macaraig and a product of San Jose National High School (SJNHS) intramurals.

Paciente gained the respect as well as envy and criticisms of his barrio folks when he, instead of joining Bubog teams, opted to join "town based" and financially stable teams such as the Loyzaga Lumberjacks and Madayag Village. But Paciente’s height and brand of play suits the Senior Division. Bubog teams were categorized only to Junior A and B divisions. According to him, he only prioritized his individual growth as a ball player than any other. Paciente only ended his basketball when he worked fulltime at the Philippine Virginia Tobacco Administration (PVTA) (now National Tobacco Administration) in the early 80s as watchman/clerk and now a retired employee. Paciente only played for an all-Bubog cagers team Jaravata Furniture (JarFur) then archrival of Panaderia de Oro whose main players are also young dribblers from Bubog in Nunilon "Nonie" Novio, Santos Abad and Alejandro "Dong" Asenjo. The JarFur line-up consisted of the left handed forward Hermie Lopez, the fast dribbling a long shooting guards like Totoy "Baka" Alorro, Pet (+) and Buboy Artoz, including Vic Asenjo, and center-forward powers like Terry Abad and Norbing Torribio. I was already in highschool when an all-Bubog team, The AGPACON Builders, reinforced by Rudy Alindato from Manila and Chito Plaza from San Pablo, Laguna, grabbed the Junior A championship trophy. The Bubog teams fielded in the annual SJSBL are alternately coached by Honesto "Boy" Zausa (+) and Melvin Artoz.

Bethany Book Store, Bubog Athletic Club, Bubog Hawks (pronounced "Bubugoks") were the teams where they played. They became the idols of many kids from the barrios of San Jose and the town proper alike. Kids like me who idolize strong and determined men like the Toyota Comets.

Though not many of the teams won championships, the Bubog dribblers displayed the patience of a fisherman and hard work a farmer in their every game…

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(Photo from Facebook : Francis Arnaiz of Toyota and Freddie Hubalde of Crispa)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Winnability Sucks


Sometime in September I was enterviewed for a news story on Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III's presidential bid. It was published in Asia Calling that can be read here written by a journalist friend of mine. I mentioned a sentence or two on why I won't go for Noynoy and fearlessly announced why I was very happy to know that Nicanor Perlas will be gunning for the top political post in the country. My thoughts on Perlas and his recent decision appeared in my previous blog post that can also be revisited here. I am not surprised why only words pertaining to Noynoy came out of my Asia Calling enterview. I know that the whole story is about Noynoy,- Kris' elder brother and only son of Ninoy and Cory Aquino, both icons of democracy, and not someone else's. And primarily due to these biological truths, Noynoy Aquino,- they say, is the most winnable candidate for the presidency.

Through thick or thin, better or worse, I will go for Nick Perlas come 2010. He is my candidate. I follow his blog (that can be accessed from the side bar of this blog) and read some his books on various topics, especially elite globalization. I've known him only through his writings. I don't give a damn if he had a nil chance of winning. That is not my problem as a voter. I am leaving this issue to their (candidates') campaign strategists, propagandists, publicists and all the partisan women and men around them. Of course, including the candidates themselves.

All I have to keep in mind as a voter is the platform and character of a candidate and I would not waste my time thoroughly figuring out her or his track record in public service. Indeed, track record is important but not equally important as platform and character. Platform and character goes hand-in-hand in complementation. If a prospective public servant is truly a woman or man of character, he/she will bring out S.M.A.R.T. platform or vision that we believe (s)he can flesh out.

I don't mind people telling me that I just wasting my vote on such candidate. Nor waste my time entertaining such traditional concept brought about by traditional politics and politicians. Besides, I am pretty sure that voting a perceived "non-winnable" candidate is not one of the Seven Deadly Sins! Or considered by my faith as a sin at all. Also, aren't we playing God if we are to declare who is winnable or not? Who are we to declare if a candidate is winnable or not? Leadership in general is all about political programs and character, integrity and credibility. It is certainly beyond winnability.

I am so sick of the media,- local and national, making reports and coverage only on candidates they believe have winnability or those who are in the so-called front lines. Or those belonging to mainstream political groups in Occidental Mindoro like the Dream Team and Performance Team. What frustrates me most is the media's inability to focus on issues and platforms when they report something regarding a candidate or when they are covering election campaigns. Where a complex political event,- like what a prestigious group of journalists have stated, is reduced to a funfare and the most vital institution of democracy, the election, is trivialized. Let us all wake up at put non-trapos to power. For,we, Filipinos have been suffering from this choking reality for so long.

As choking as the longest word in the dictionary : pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis ...

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(Photo credit: http://pagodkanaba.blogspot.com)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Boxer-Advocates


According to a news account of Marv Dumon at Examiner.com, pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao reportedly voiced his opposition against the construction of Kamanga Power Plant (KPP),- a 200-megawatt (MW) coal-fired power plant in Sarangani Province, his home province. Pacman tied-up with civil and religious groups there to prevent the proposed large-scale project being pushed by the Conal Holdings Corporation (CHC). CHC is a joint venture with Thailand company Egko and Mindanao-based Alsons Consolidated Resources. That is Manny Pacquiao, the politician (or celebrity advocate), for you. As we all know, after his fight against Miguel Cotto this coming November 14,- win or lose, the Filipino boxing icon would be very busy preparing for 2010 local elections. Can Manny be a successful boxer and at the same time a productive legislator? Of course, the answer lies in people of Sarangani. Including performance and credibility of his political rival. Is his anti-KPP stance just for (political) show? I can’t tell you. You be the judge.

The most prominent professional boxer turned politician is Alexis Argüello from Nicaragua who allegedly committed suicide only last July 1, 2009. As a boxer, he was a three-time world champion. After his retirement from boxing, Argüello became active in Nicaraguan politics and in November 2008, he became mayor of Managua, the nation's capital city. Argüello is ranked 20th on Ring Magazine's list of 100 greatest punchers of all time. Alexis Argüello was accused of “dagdag-bawas” (vote-rigging).

On being a celebrity advocate, I am thinking of a boxer other than Pacquiao. How about the unbeaten and WBA International Super Flyweight champion Drian Francisco,- pride of Sablayan, would stand against the Mindoro Nickel Project (MNP) and other foreign and large-scale mining projects in Occidental Mindoro? Though I am just toying this idea in mind, I think there is nothing wrong if Francisco show up in rallies and other mass actions protesting these projects (of course subject to his availability) and insist that the companies should comply for the mining moratoria in the province. People close to him who are prominent personalities or anti-mining advocates in Sablayan, should let realize that mining is likely to damage his town’s important food production capacity, its eco-tourism potential,- among others. May his townspeople make him aware of the issue and together we would “sing” Kenneth E. Bouldings “A Ballad of Ecological Awareness” with these words : “There are benefits, of course, which maybe countable, but which/Have tendency to fall into the pocket of the rich./While the cost are apt to fall onto the shoulders of the poor./So cost-benefit analysis to neatly always sure/To justify the building of a solid concrete fact./While the Ecological Truth is left behind in the abstract..” Words as powerful as Argüello’s left hook that floored Mexican Ruben Olivares in Los Angeles during their prime.

Advocating for or against a certain socio-political issue and agenda like the MNP does not make a celebrity (in this case a boxer) a politician. This is not a case of mixing sports with politics. This is different from what Manny Pacquiao did and still want to do : to climb the political ring and directly participate in the battle. And the coal mining plant as one of his political campaign agenda. Manny is also politician, remember.

That is only if Drian Francisco is willing. That is only if such action is permitted and would not hinder ,- in one way or another, his boxing career. That is only if Jong has other things in mind other than fighting WBA champ Nobuo Nashiro or any other opponents. That is only if Drian Francisco loves his province and Mother Nature just like how much he loves boxing.

And in times like these,- we need dedicated advocates, not nihilarians …

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(DZVT File photo: Lloyd Francisco, Drian "Jong" Francisco, me and Daisy, the round (bellied) girl...)