Friday, January 30, 2015

On Popularizing War and the Mamasapano Killing

Today is a National Day of Mourning. The whole nation is in grief on the killing of the 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force in an encounter happened last Sunday, January 25, 2014, birthday of the late President Corazon Aquino, in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Many Filipinos demanded an All-Out War against the so-called terrorist groups like what former AFP Commander-in-chief and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada did. To peace advocates, this proposal is disapproving. Let us not forget that the military victory gained by the Estrada administration was impermanent. After major military camps of the rebels fell in the hands of the government forces, MILF regrouped and gained more strength. Erap’s All-Out War became an open recruitment opportunity for the Muslim rebels.

Not few among us emotionally resorted to ethnic slurs against the Muslims and a huge number of citizens criticized Benigno S. Aquino III for the tragic incident. As sorrow swallows up the nation, innuendos and speculations came out from practically all sectors of society. There are claims that SAF’s main target, Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan", Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorist with a $5 million bounty on his head is already dead but this needs further confirmation. Stories keep pouring and opinions coming from known groups and influential personalities gained media attention but those voices from civilians who are right there at the conflict areas are hardly heard.

And once again, netizens from Occidental Mindoro as it is elsewhere, barely armed with laptop computers instantly turned into military strategies and war tacticians forgetting that the horrors of war has more effect on the civilian population or the non-combatants rather than the combatants, government forces and the Muslim separatists alike. They call for an All-Out War from the comfort of their offices and homes that are million kilometers away from the war zones. In just a wink of an eye, we all became “experts” in Mindanao crisis!

We have forgotten that All-Out-War would have more serious collateral damage to the citizenry, those who have no direct participation in the armed conflict,- women, children and the elderly, Christians or Muslims, than the combatants. These opinionated and prejudiced people in cyberspace are popularizing war seeing it as the only way to end such man-made horror. History taught us that war, both internal and external and whatever scale, has tremendous effects in economy and the community as a whole. It would also drain resources, monetary and other wise, from the national coffer. War can never be a top priority in resolving social and political conflicts as stipulated in our Constitution.

As of today, no definite figures on how many civilians were killed and how much money the Philippine government has spent in said military campaign during Estrada’s time much more in almost a century long history of secessionist war in the region. As of body count, though no define figure was released, it is safe to say that it reached a couple of hundred of civilian lives!

After Estrada launched the All-Out War in 2000, number of refugees fleeing from the conflict swelled to 800,000 individuals. Imagine the anguish and pain of leaving behind almost everything you own and had worked for because of the fighting. We cannot estimate how much the government has spent in said military campaign but it is for sure dreadfully expensive. It was as dreadful as the actual battle itself. Imagine, the military deployed at least two marine and two infantry battalions, or the equivalent of around 2,400 men, not just for days but for at least over a month. Think how many ammunitions and bombs they needed, aside from other peripherals like food, fuel, among other logistics.

Every massive military offensive coming from both forces is a psychologically draining experience for every individual and family who there at the battle front regardless of the intricacies and the untold stories behind the operation and the encounter that cost the lives of 44 PNP commandos and 12 MILF fighters. All we know is this: this issue has been misted up and the public are being bombarded by confusing reports about what really happened but the investigations are going on. But we do not completely expect full disclosure on these investigations for truth, like peace is very elusive though the former is necessary to achieve the latter.

Well, based on the loud outcry of many Filipino netizens to “exterminate all rebel and terrorist groups” in Mindanao by exhausting all the military might of the Republic a-la Erap, it clearly shows our war-obsessed mentality is deeply embedded in our psyche, thus unknowingly we pass this cultural conditioning towards war and killing to our children.

As we honor our fallen SAF44, we should remember that an All-Out War would just put the lives and properties of civilians and the non-combatants or those having hors de combat status as collateral damage. Putting the lives of these gallant officers for motives and objectives only known to those who are in power and those agencies and governments which makes profit or advancement of their security interests out of war, needless to say deserves condemnation.

Will we allow our police and military men as mere chips in the game of the generals by launching another All-Out War in Mindanao and once again be betrayed by those officials?...



Friday, January 23, 2015

Wood Sawer

Nagsimula ang lahat sa Number 132 Capt. Cooper Street. Isang kalyeng nakalatag malapit sa gilid ng pampang ng ilog-Pandurucan. Samantala, sa Cádiz, Spain noong araw ring iyon ay isinilang si Elvira Lindo, isang kilalang Españolang journalist ngayon sa New York.

Nang ang kanyang nanay ay dalaga pang napadpad sa Kanlurang Mindoro, naging dispatsadora ito sa isang tindahan ng Intsik na asawa ng kanyang pinsang buo. Hindi lang ang pagbibilang “chit, ng, sa, si, go, lak, chit, pwe, kaw, tsap” ang kanyang natutunan. Marami pa. Sa bookshelf ng samu’t-sari at kakaibang aklat at magazine ay iniluwal ang isang duktor na may apelyidong Bethune na isang Canadian pero namuhay raw noon sa Tsina. May kakaibang tunog sa babae ang first name nito.

Naging suwail na mag-aaral sa sekondarya ang batang pinag-iistoryahan natin. Naging laman siya ng kalsada at batbat ng aktitud ng isang lumpen. Nakatapos nga ng high school ngunit namumutiktik sa pulang grado ang kanyang permanent record na ka-kulay ng katatanggal na sanitary napkin!

Sa tulak ng atubiling panahon noong siya ay nasa kolehiyo nang siya ay matutong magsulat ng scented pen sa stationery, pentel pen sa school desk at brutsa sa pader. Pero likas rin sa kanya ang magbasa, mula sa maliit na selyo hanggang pinagbalutan ng tinapa. Mula komiks hanggang Free Press, Catholic Digest hanggang Hustler. Sulat dito, basa doon. Basa dito, sulat doon. Dahil dito, naging totoong manunulat din siya sa wakas. Sa pang-hihimok  ng kanyang mga guro sa mga asignaturang literature ay sumali siya sa patnugutan ng kanilang pampaaralan pahayagan. Hindi napigilan ng aktibismo ang kanyang pag-akyat sa entablado para makapag-tapos ng Batsilyer sa Edukasyong Pangmataas na Paaralan at naging Manunulat ng Taon.

Hilig talaga niya ang pagsusulat gayong sa mga sinehan lang siya natutong mag-English at sa Liwayway naman ang tamang pananagalog. Mahina ang kanyang memorya kaya tulong din sa kanya ang pagsusulat. Hanggang sa nauso ang blogging. Marahil ay kabilang siya sa iilang blogger sa mundo na walang sariling laptop o desktop computer. Pwede nga namang manghiram lang.

Sabi ng paham sa titik at letra na si Mark Twain, kung ang manunulat daw ay hindi pa kumita sa kanyang unang tatlong taon, mas mainam pang siya’y maglagari na lang ng kahoy na panggatong (Tingnan ang larawan sa itaas).

Tanggihan man ng pamantayan at panlasa ng lipunan at kultura ang kanyang mga akda ay hindi siya titigil. Hanggat may gumagamit ng tungko na panluto, siya’y mag-aalok ng kahoy na panggatong na kanyang nilagari. Kahit man lang sa aporismong iluluwal kada umaga mula sa magdamag na pagbubuntis sa kanyang imahinasyon. Hanggang sa makapagsulit siya sa kanyang Dakilang Patnugot balang araw.

Kahit siya’y walang “K” na makilala man lang ng personal si Elvira Lindo ng El Pais na kasing edad na rin niya ngayon…

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Poncho-ed Pilates?

The Papal Visit to the Philippines is over and we are back to normal. For days, people practically from all walks of life, non-Catholics included, had a very wonderful experience of being blessed by God and momentarily feel moments of holiness. But how can we sustain the lessons we get from this historic and memorable faith experience as a nation?

The Philippines once again caught global attention. Images of Filipinos braving Typhoon Amang’s (Yuto) Signal Number 2 strength captured the attention of the world. The word “Amang”, by the way, in Tagalog means “Male Child”. But to Ilocanos, though in different enunciation, “Amang” means “Father”.  Coincidentally, Pope Francis said his Culminating Mass in celebration of the Holy Child Sunday at the Luneta. Sto. Niño for Filipinos is truly a Child and a Father (read: Lord)!

Many of well-to-do individuals and central figures of faith from my place went to Manila and wear ponchos all the way to meet the Pope. Of all people, our bishop was not there to meet the Holy Father. I do not know why our priests left their local ordinary behind while the momentous event is unfolding.

Pope Francis’ visit has ended and the disposable ponchos have dried (I am sure that the disposable yellow ponchos were not disposed for it would serve as a symbolic souvenir from the event). We are again back in being a worldly man like Pontius Pilate. We are returning to our normal ways of yielding easily to pressure from those people who are superior to us in many aspects and social structures that are making us hostage of. The systemic corruption, the dangers of the electronic media, the subtle attacks on the family, the prevailing social ills, subhuman conditions, moral decadence and yes, environmental degradation are still a reality. Like Pontius Pilate, we surely again easily give way to something that we do not like when our position and comfort, life and limbs are at stake or threatened.  

Pilates we all are in this sense.
In Tacloban, the Holy Pontiff, perhaps, had his first experience of saying the Holy Mass in the middle of the storm and driving rain which is held in an open space. What a wonderful symbol of solidarity with the agony of the victims and survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) right there at the middle of ground zero. This would bring us to the issue of climate change and ecological challenge, its causes and the impending disaster that it would bring.

By way of a joke, Pope Francis asked two requests from his audience at Palo Cathedral the other day: “First, pray for me, and second, be silent.” People in my place are praying for the Pope, no doubt, but amid threats of all those structural problems, many men and women of faith, both the clergy and laypeople, fell silent. Perhaps, like Pilate, we are afraid of pressures coming from those who make this evil structure continue to exist. These are the pressing problems of the poor in our midst that many of us Catholics do not seem to care or understand.

As such, we are but a collage of photos of Poncho-ed Pilates….



Friday, January 16, 2015

Is Pope Francis Leftist?

Right after his visit to the Philippines and meet the thousands of still agonizing Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) victims in Leyte last 2013, Pope Francis is bound work on with his first ever encyclical on environment hinged on environmental issues such as climate change. It is expected to be released by June or July this year. Environmentalists are hopeful that Francis' encyclical will jump-start the next talks of the United Nation (UN)-initiated climate change negotiation after the last round of in Lima, Peru, failed to reach an agreement. The pope is scheduled to deliver a speech at the United Nations in New York in September and expected to take the global stage taking off from his upcoming encyclical. Please read THIS report coming from his mini presscon while on board going to the Philippines yesterday afternoon.

Lolo Kiko pledged on his installation as Vicar of Christ to make environment a priority. Firmly Francis once said, "The monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness." This stand of the Pope irked the rightists all over the globe saying that climate change is essentially a fraud.

They do not believe that climate change is man-made. Frank Walker writing for said that, “This [Pope’s stand] is the essence of Socialism. It’s just simple oppression imposed in the name of justice and it has nothing to do with the charitable teachings of Jesus and his Church.”  Another writer, Gerard Caplan wrote that, “Pope Francis is the most prominent leftist in the world.” True, he recently reinstated Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, a practitioner of Liberation Theology who later joined the revolutionary, left-wing government of Nicaragua's Sandinistas in the 80s’. d' Escoto is criticized by the Vatican for allegedly importing Marxist values into the church. Nobody asked me but my first taste of such theology came from the book “Ang Kristiyanismo ay Rebolusyunaryo” by Fr. Pedro Salgado, OP way back in college.

If indeed the accusation is true that the Pope is the “most prominent leftist” in the world today, he cannot be compared to his Argentine compatriot in Che Guevara. Guevara blasphemed Jesus when he said, “In fact, if Christ himself stood in my way, I, like Nietzsche, would not hesitate to squish him like a worm,”  while Francis endlessly reminded that Christ is the center of this visit and not him. That is why personally, Che is not my “rockstar”. It’s Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, a Latin-American like Che and Francis.

Speaking of Bishop Romero, in August last year, Pope Francis lifts Vatican- imposed ban on the beatification of Romero, who was shot dead while celebrating Mass in 1980. Beatification is a step towards sainthood. Pope Francis said this after his recent trip to South Korea: “For me Romero is a man of God. There are no doctrinal problems and it is very important that [the beatification] is done quickly." Amen. Is the Pope Leftist? I do not care. All I hope is his visit would change us Filipinos and revisit our faith.

Well, whether Francis is indeed a supporter of “radical leftist green movements” or a leftist himself as alleged by haters of the Catholic Church, the Rightists and the capitalists,- if our systems still neglect the environment the moment Lolo Kiko has left us, our Church leaders, lay and clergy alike, and not nature deserve “a slap in the face”...