Thursday, July 26, 2012

Reflections Brought About by a Photo of a Mangyan Boy Eating Dirty Ice Cream

You can bring canned sardines and instant noodles in the mountains but certainly not an ice cream in a cone, a foodstuff my children loved very much. If only your forefathers did not take advantage of our ignorance of the laws and legal systems, we would not retreat to the interior, to the mountains and forests. We are peace-loving and that’s what we did to avoid conflict. The dirty ice cream (it was called as such because of the way it is handled when sold) that made my children salivate whenever they are in town is as tempting as the greed of those people who drove them away and grabbed their lands. The concept of land ownership, then and even now, is alien to us like an ice cream being one of the manufactured foods for which the listing of ingredients is not commonly required on the package label. You took away our land like how a school bully takes away an ice cream from the trembling hand of a nerd.

But our race survived through the centuries by running away, by letting you educated, civilized and God-believing kind of human being insult and discriminate us. By being source of cheap labour in your ancestor’s farms, ranches, factories and other economic fronts in exchange not only of important things like bolo and salt but fancy foods like … ice cream. We have to retaining that peaceful co-existence with you and every material thing that are attached to your being in order to survive. Anyway, we share the same Mindoro, the same island and the same dream.

In an article written by a certain V.A. Ruff in 1957 which appeared in p. 39 of the News Report Magazine, he vividly described his first encounter with our kind : “Our first stop was a little village on Otoyan, near the crocodile-infested Caguray River. We were met by a long-haired Mangyan who turned out to be the head of the place. “Lungao” was his name and not a surprise was his ability to speak Tagalog, which he learned when he used to work as a cowhand, he told us. We distributed candies, matches and beads to the half-naked children, men and women that crowded around us. He invited us into his one room abode and as we squatted on the bare floor I saw monkey skulls grinning at me. They we hanging all around the ceiling. Monkey meat it seems, is a favourite menu. I also saw an old woman feasting on a huge bat – just whole solid barbecued bat, no sauce. I got a fistful of salt from my bag and handed it to the woman who quickly jumped at it. And to say I was amazed when I saw her sucking at the salt resting on her open palm as if were candy, would be putting it mildly.” We may be different in what to eat and how to eat them but we share the same reason why we eat and that made us the same.

Every food sharing or every table fellowship, like what your religion have taught you, be it noodles, sardines or … ice cream and even salt, with your less fortunate brethren is a guarantee of peace and trust. In these giving-receiving/receiving-giving acts, in a way we celebrate what you call the Eucharist. The real presence of that Man who is also in G-strings and nailed to that wooden thing you call “Cross”.

In exchanging something to eat we are one in hoping for a bountiful table each day even though we both live in the world enslaved by disparity and discrimination.

A situation that can be compared to a child eating dirty ice cream while walking totally nude under the extreme heat of the sun, barefooted at the downtown’s hot cemented road…

(Happy Birthday to Rev. Fr. Gerry F. Causapin on July 29, Sunday. Fr. Gerry is the Parish Priest of San Sebastian Parish in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro.)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Abraham Lincoln and the Vampires

Now showing in Philippine theatres is a movie about United States’ 16th president entitled “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter” directed and co-produced by Timur Bekmambetov, written by Seth Grahame-Smith from his book with the same title. Lincoln, played by Benjamin Walker, is portrayed in the novel and the film as having a secret identity as a vampire hunter. Now I understand why my daughter asked me the other day if it is true that the famous American who abolished slavery and preserved the Union really became a vampire-busting hero. I told her that that’s the biggest joke I’ve ever heard. But nowadays they are making movies out of a historical joke, aren’t they?

True, Abraham Lincoln is the most prominent figure in America’s history. Many authors wrote about that mysterious man. Sadly, Lincoln’s politics remained in his time and only few understood it today.

Lincoln was both a pundit in politics and a stern advocate of a principled cause. Not only that, even when dealing with his political rivals, he sincerely considered them friends and did not maliciously and arrogantly attacked them. It was said that during the Civil War Lincoln had occasion at an official reception to refer to the Southerners as erring human beings rather than as enemies to be exterminated. An elderly lady, a fiery patriot, rebuked him for speaking kindly of his enemies when he ought to be thinking of destroying them. "Why, madam," said Lincoln, "Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?" Politicians as some of us are, we must keep our sanity intact in dealing with our rivals and critics. Personal political vendetta would just make us sacrifice the good image we have cherished since the time when the Mangyans still lives in the lowland and the population of the Tamaraw was still high. People of this breed, no matter how high the positions they occupy in the government, are like vampires that suck the blood of good values running in the veins of our youths. Ours is a situation where contradictions divide us thus never forming a coherent whole.

A truly respected politician, even in the middle of a criminal or administrative case, real or otherwise, must find ways also to promote ideals for friendship. As public figures and public servants, we have to put friendship in a high place. Let us learn to teach and practice friendship to our children and children’s children.

For such trait, Lincoln was respected even by his detractors. Even in times of crises he remained firm and calm, polite and friendly. I want to see him leading the league of politicians who practice “free- for-all” friendship in public office and not with Buffy and the other vampire hunters. By the way, coming up next is another movie called “Abraham Lincoln Vs Zombies” directed by Richard Schenkman.

With these, I would not be surprised if in the future, after the independent film “Noy” in 2010 starring Coco Martin, a Filipino flick on the president fighting the “aswangs” and “manananggals” would hit our cinemas!

Seriously, publicly demonstrating our arrogance is the biggest horrible joke that we encounter today. It’s the longest running joke in the province’s political scene, too long that cannot be captured even in a full length horror movie…

(Photo: from movie stills)

Friday, July 6, 2012

Stories of Inawa Panaynep

“Inawa Panaynep” is the Alangan term for English “Fulfilled Dream” and “Natupad na Pangarap” in Filipino. And this is also how the around a hundred of Mangyan dwellers in So. Calamansian in Brgy. San Agustin, Sablayan here in Occidental Mindoro describe the two (2) main construction projects in their community.

Last July 4, 2012 the Ground Breaking Ceremony was held for the One Unit Two Classroom School Building intended for the IP pupils in said area. Also that day, the inauguration and turn-over of the almost 2 Km. Inawa Panaynep Road came into reality. The access road is a project under the Kalahi-CIDSS-Makamasang Tugon Project under the Department of Social Services and Development or DSWD. The more than P1M worth project was funded by the US-based Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCF) where LGU-Sablayan also placed a counterpart. On the other hand, the building for Calamansian Minority School came from the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s (DILG) Performance Challenged Fund or PCF. The P1M fund utilized for the project actually came from PCF as prize money when LGU-Sablayan bagged the Seal of Good Housekeeping in 2011. The award is annually given by the DILG to deserving LGU’s nationwide to recognize their exemplary performance in terms of transparency in governance. In whole Occidental Mindoro, Sablayan is its first recipient. LGU-San Jose and the Provincial Government just followed the trail.

The visiting officials from DSWD and DILG national offices consist of DILG Assistant Regional Director James F. Fadrilan, CESO IV and Octavio M. Tamondong, Chief of Project Development Management Unit of DILG. Also present are DSWD’s, Deputy Kalahi-CIDSS Coordinator Joel Mijares, Ms. Ligaya Morales, Deputy National Community Development Specialist and Ms. Angelica delas Alas, Social Marketing Specialist III. They, along with his department heads, Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano, together with MGLOO Jerry V. Santos and Hon. Ruben P. Dangupon, IP/ICC Representative to the Local Legislative Council initiated and witnessed the twin ceremonies. San Agustin Brgy. Chairman Rolando G. Felipe and his council hosted the two momentous events in the life of the indigenous peoples (IPs) of San Agustin.

In a little ceremony held direct at the heart of the community under the rain, Chairman Felipe remembers how they collectively prioritized the project through series of consultations, assemblies and other community driven development (CDD) approaches and ultimately been qualified for the project and became one of its eight winners from Sablayan’s 22 barangays. He even mentioned how the IP themselves came up with the name of the road. The project is seen as symbols of Captain Felipe’s and Mayor Gadiano’s genuine concern for the Alangans or the Mangyans of Sablayan in general, and of Brgy. San Agustin in particular.

Arsing Sarmiento, a tribal elder, likewise extended his word of thanks to the concerned government officials. He even recalled that it has been a long time since they have ventilated to then leaders of both national and local government their dream of having an access road for swift delivery of their produce to the market and for easy access to the town proper or urban centers. He added that the road will be used not only by the residents of Calamansian but by other nearby IP villages. Sarmiento extended his words of commendation to the LCE whom he knew since Gadiano’s NGO days. That was long before the mayor entered into politics.

The following day, we came to witness also the inauguration and turn-over of the Road Construction with 3-Barrel Box Culverts in Brgy. Paetan. The group is welcomed by Barangay Chairman Rodolfo S. Jacinto. The amount of project extended to Paetan is the biggest among the 8 Makamasang Tugon “winners”. Paetan residents tediously followed the CDD process specifically in attending meetings and assemblies and maintained the 100% attendance rating. The savings that incurred from the project was utilized for rip-rapping and construction of a waiting shed nearby.

In his Paetan speech, Mayor Gadiano reiterated that the recipients should monitor and assist in maintaining the project. He also stated that his government will also be employing the CDD process in allocating the LGU’s 50% of 20% Development Fund (DF) amounting to P24M. The total 20% DF of Sablayan is posted at P48M. Mayor Gadiano gave the assurance that 14 barangays who did not make it to the Kalahi-CIDSS will again be processed and be given projects since they have already complied with the initial requirements. At present, 7 different projects are on their way coming from said fund.

The Paetan project is indeed a solution to the community’s long and perennial rainy-day problems which make the lives of the people very difficult. Now they will no longer be disconnected to adjacent barangays especially during floods. Brgy. Captain Jacinto said that the project was a fulfilled dream.

Not unlike in San Agustin, this one in Paetan though not directly an IP project, is in a way another “Inawa Panaynep”

(Photo: File)