Martha, her twin sister, is a student activist and she knows that in many aspects, she is superior than she is. Martha is very intelligent young woman and oozing with strength and dynamism. While she, a polio victim, cannot walk straight and her muscles are tight and weak. She often experience joint weakness and pain, general fatigue and exhaustion after minimal activity including muscle atrophy and decreased tolerance of cold temperatures. They are both 20 years old and living with their mother who is selling dried fish in the market. But Maria silently admired Martha not only because of her intelligence but her courage as well. She really wished to be in one of the rallies and mass actions her sister is frequently participating. She is so proud of her but does not have an opportunity to say or to prove it. All she could do for now is to pray for their safety and the realization of their goals. Maria is a prayerful woman.
One thing she hated so much about Martha is that she is so involved in serving other people especially those who are deprived of justice but he cannot even find time to earn money for their needs. Why not help her during days without classes by selling bread to fishermen every morning at the fish port like what she’s doing? That way, they could help their aging mother, a widow at that, in their financial needs. Martha’s deep involvement in activism even kept him away from praying and going to church. But that does not bother Maria that much. What bother her most is how to show her oneness with her sister in her struggle and her noble cause in a very special way she can despite of her limited capacity and her disability.
Martha is presently involved in a struggle against the intrusion of a multinational mining firm. Martha serves best for the sake of the people and the Mother Earth. Ninoy Aquino was assassinated just a year ago and militarization in their province been so intense. Farmer leaders opposing the project are kidnapped, tortured and detained without due process by the police and the military. Militarization and abuses are the rule of the day especially to those who oppose development projects which are aggressively pushed by the government. Martial Law indeed is a law thus a legal instrument being the Presidential Proclamation 1081. Maria even in her crooked posture can straightly declare that Martial Law is the greatest proof that not everything that is legal is moral and permissible. Maria wished that she could join Martha someday. But the question is how?
Martha at present, together with around 30 protesters are having a barricade and trying to block the coming of heavy equipment to start a mining operation in their area. They have been there for almost a week. From a distance is a mobile van from a local radio station. The security guards from the firm previously deployed by the company, along with some policemen, set a checkpoint and blocked the road from both ends not to allow food being delivered to the demonstrators from the town proper. The proposed mining site where Martha and her companions were situated more than 20 kilometers of muddy and rough road from their house.
The rain fall incessantly coupled with cool wind. Huddled under a tent, the protesters haven’t taken any food for two days now. They are chilling and being starved to death. Maria knew about their pain and hunger. Those who tried to deliver food yesterday for the group was caught and severely beaten by the security men. “The time has come”, she told herself.
Back at the barricade site, Martha felt so helpless. She knew that they are all about to die if they will not be given food tonight. Their lawyer contacts from Manila will be coming the day after tomorrow. There will be an initial talk and the food blockade will finally and surely be over. Then it is the first time in years that she prayed and she sing a song of praise and suddenly all of the protesters found themselves singing the song in chorus. All of them who are too absorbed in political discussions and serving the masses that they have no time to sit with Jesus and learn His lessons!
Maria prepared a large amount of fish and bread, put them in a big and empty can of lard and tied it at the back of her late father’s bicycle and then rode the almost 20 kilometer muddy and dangerous road to the proposed mining site. She crawled in the wilderness to pass the checkpoint along the road. And when Maria finally managed to reach the protesters and deliver them loaves of bread and fishes, she timidly apologized to Martha for not doing any worthwhile thing for the cause of the people and the preservation of their natural resources. Martha said nothing. She’s so voiceless and so quiet. She just embraced and kissed her twin sister with tears of gratitude running down her cheeks thinking of hardships and sacrifices Maria had overcome that night. Her prayerful sister who just found out that cold and rainy night that activism is also a concrete expression of loving our neighbor and the environment, thus loving God.
In the next morning, radio newscasts as usual aired different stories. Ferdinand Marcos’ heroic deeds last World War II is being featured in the state-owned station. He is portrayed as a true hero along with some decorated Filipino war veterans, the celebrated former priest who joined the New People’s Army just been killed in a gun battle with the military and proclaimed martyr and hero by his comrades. They are all considered heroes that deserve to be remembered and their heroic deeds to be commemorated one day. They are men and women in Philippine history whose acts of courage enabled the Philippines to grow as a nation.
However, not a word about the story of Martha and Maria was heard. It had no news value in the eyes of the media. It is not heroism...
(*An adaptation of Nil Guillmette’s “Two Copper Coins”, part of his book “Wipe Every Tear”)
(Photo : Sysiphus-Angrynewsfromaroundtheworld.)