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.)

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