Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A visit to my old beat

After so many years, I went back to my favorite beat - the House of Representatives.

Nothing seemed to have changed - the lawmakers, the journalists, the security personnel and the congressional staff. The tables, chairs, computers and printer I used eight years ago were still there.

There was already a wi-fi connection inside the session hall and the working area for the media. New and younger journalists replaced older reporters like me who had moved on to other fields. Still some of my contemporaries and older reporters I met when I was first assigned as a newspaper reporter in Congress were still religiously filing stories from my old beat.

Nothing seemed to have changed - the stories, the issues and the concerns.

I was there today to cover the state of the nation address of President Arroyo. There was nothing significant to write about except for the promises the President delivered and the usual protest actions outside in the streets.

Still the excitement was there, the teasing, the jokes and the stories journalists share when we get together. A president's SONA is always an opportunity for us journalists to get-together. It was actually a "reunion" of sort.

Raul and Ben were still there. So were Jess and Jodeal. Fidel, Dennis and I were just visitors today. Still the welcome was warm.

It has been a long time that I have covered a beat since I left newspapering and tried my hand on online journalism.

I miss my beat. I miss the people I worked with in the past, the people who helped me become what I am today. I treasure my experience in the House. There's no way but forward, however. What is important is we do not forget.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Something to tickle our hearts
in this time of uncertainties

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master,
grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

- Prayer of St. Francis

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

What a shame!

Yes, another journalist was killed. What a shame.

Local and international media organizations have issued statements. What to me hit the nail on the head was a statement issued by Mr. Red Batario of the Center for Community Journalism and Development.

Something's Very Wrong

Once again press organizations and media associations will be condemning the latest killing of a Filipino journalist. Once again international press watchdogs will call for a full investigation. Once again police authorities will create another task force to go after the killers. Once again there will be a lot of angry denunciations. Once again nothing will happen.

The murder of community broadcaster Armando "Rachman" Pace, 51, of Radyo Ukay in Digos, Davao del Sur last July 18 brings to eight the number of journalists killed in the country this year.

"This brings the Philippines' atrocious record for journalist safety to a new low, less than a month after the shocking murder of journalist husband and wife George and Macel Vigo," said Christopher Warren, president of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ).

The statistics are grim enough reminders that something's very wrong with this country.

But do we as a nation really care about the brutal, blatant, successive, and brazen murder not only of journalists but also of activists, lawyers and others whose only crime was trying to let people know the truth and their rights? Do we in the national media suffer from selective amnesia when we forget to voice our anger because those targeted were community journalists living and working so far away from our own comfort zones? Do we as citizens care well enough to understand media's role in democracy?

These are dark days indeed for the Philippine press and the Philippines as a nation.

All of us should suffer the collective shame of allowing a culture of impunity to take root in our midst. All of us should take the blame for pretending, or at worst believing, that things will become better by doing nothing at all.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Mindanao, 20 years ago

Twenty years ago, in the mountains of Mindanao, I lived with the people.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

George and Macel

I could have written a poem like Mila. I could have written a story like Fr. Peter. But after a few drops of tears, a short statement and fewer interviews about the murder of people, work overwhelmed me. I did not forget. I just became like many of us, overwhelmed by our daily needs and preoccupations, angst, illusions and daydreams. How we wish we could have done something good for others. How we wish we could have changed our ways for the better. Then the rain came one Saturday afternoon, the moment is perfect to forget our idealism, it is perfect to just forget and cuddle with someone while listening to Bob Marley on the new ipod.

Did George and Macel had the same moments together? Did they also just lie down on a Saturday afternoon when the rains prevented them to do the laundry? They love each other, friends who knew them said. They dedicated their lives to each other and together served the people they infected with their love. Their death was not only a moment of sacrifice, it was also a moment of truly sharing the love they nurtured despite all the odds.

George and Macel
By Mila D. Aguilar

George and Macel were lovers
Four children between them.
They rode out into the night
To be shot down in broad daylight.

George and Macel were lovers of country.
They did what they could,
Peacefully. But they were mowed down,
In view of so many.

George and Macel were lovers of freedom.
Young, they never realized that
Martyrdom would be the sum
Of their quest for the Kingdom.

George and Macel were lovers of God.
Born at the end of dictatorship,
How could they see
They would die on the tail of it?

Friend, I never got to know
George and Macel. Were they
On the list you made
Of those to be wiped out?

July 7, 2006

Do not pollute the land where you are. Bloodshed pollutes the land, and atonement cannot be made for the land on which blood has been shed, except by the blood of the one who shed it. (says the Lord in Numbers 35:33)

George and Macel: United in love, commitment and death
Written by Fr. Peter Geremia

KIDAPAWAN CITY (MindaNews/29 June) -- George and Maricel Vigo came to visit me on June 19, 2006, just before being killed. Of course they didn't envision a violent death on that day. They didn't even mention threats or issues. They focused on their own personal and family concerns. It was a sort of renewal of their personal relationship and their deepest commitments.

After our long sharing, they walked away holding hands like young lovers. They looked as if that was the happiest moments of their life, a peak experience. They poured out so much affection that I was amazed.

As they rode home, they were shot down like birds flying in the sky.

A couple of days later I saw a picture on top of their coffin. They were standing together by Lake Agco, the magic lake near the peak of Mt. Apo. That's where the tribal leaders held their ritual, the D'yandi or Blood Compact, vowing to defend the sacred mountain, which they call Apo Sandawa, "to the last drop of their blood." On that spot George and Macel made their own vow to one another and to the oppressed. When I saw that picture I could feel the vibration of their burning love for one another, for the oppressed, for nature, for the values of peace and justice.

Why didn't the spirits of Nature warn them about the immediate danger to their life? Their 13-year-old son would ask, "Why were they sacrificed like innocent lambs?" I could not protect them; maybe I added to the risks they were facing. God certainly knew what was about to happen. They were chosen for the special privilege of becoming martyrs.

Those who plan to kill them knew what was happening. How many saw that horrible murder coming and did not stop it? How can they live with their consciences now? How can they look at their children and see the children of George and Macel, like shadows in the dark.

They showed they can kill even women in a public place without any fear of being stopped, as if they have a license to kill. Some say this is a warning to all activists. It is the season for hunting down popular community leaders. They say it is a national campaign funded by the masterminds of the war on terrorism, or better, the war of terror.

This is the sickness of vigilantes and fanatical groups—like when Fr. Tulio Favali was killed during Martial Law. They think atrocities will make them more powerful. And they are masters of deceit. In fact, the official investigators deceived Macel's mother to sign a statement attributing the killing to New People's Army (NPA). They accused George and Macel of supporting the NPA, then they blame the rebels for their killing. They also blame the rebels for Favali's murder, but gradually the truth was revealed by witnesses who overcame fear and threats, sustained by solidarity of many supporters who took a stand—"tama na, sobra na" (enough).

George and Macel grew up during the last years of Martial Law. During their student years, they joined our Task Force Apo Sandawa, an alliance of church groups, NGO's, and Peoples Organization (PO) committed to protecting the environment of the Indigenous People (IP) and all the oppressed sectors. They both served in the Diocesan programs, Tribal Filipino Program (TFP), and Justice and Peace Integrity of Creation Program (JPIC). Then they found jobs in various NGOs to support their growing family.

Both of them joined the Federation of Reporters for Empowerment and Equality (FREE) and they struggled to launch a local paper called "Apo Sandawa", then a second paper called "Headliner." In 2001 the offices of Headliner was burned to the ground, suspected arson attack because of their reporting. George was also involved as a local producer for a number of BBC World Service radio and television documentaries and features. He also helped produce "Islands Under Siege," which aired on America's most respected documentary program, Frontline. George became a UCAN correspondent which stands for Catholic Asian News. Their voices became familiar to the public in the local radio stations and as a journalist they constantly projected the voice of the poor, oppressed, exploited and struggling masses.

Since the time of the All Out War in the year 2000, which raged around us here, they were among the most active Peace Advocates joining in human rights investigations, relief and rehabilitation missions, peace rallies, and so on. In particular, they proposed and formed a group called Kids for Peace, bringing their own children together with others to express their expectations for peace.

They became very much involved in promoting pro-people politics through education and grassroots organizing. In 2004 they were among the conveners of KALAMPAG- Kotobatenyos for Good Government, an alliance of POs, NGOs, church-based and civic groups of concerned citizens who promote "a style of leadership respectful of all our people and to heal the wounds of the victims of abusives."

We wonder if they became targets because of their participation in KALAMPAG or because of all their community involvements. They were considered moderate activists, journalists working within the system—young professionals who cared deeply for family and community values.

George often introduced himself as my 'junior', implying that he wanted to continue my way of serving the people around us. Macel always shared her deepest secrets. Now I feel their deaths are also my death, like when Fr. Favali was killed in my place.

They can kill people like George and Macel, like Favali and other martyrs, but they cannot kill our dreams and commitments. The power of hatred can shock and scare many, but the power of the kind of love that George and Macel shared will grow beyond death. As it happened with Christ: he was condemned and crucified, but he rose to new life and he promised that all those who follow his way to the cross will experience resurrection, but I believe it is being generated like a seed underground, watered by the blood of martyrs. Those who share their spirit and their passion for truth and justice, for peace, and solidarity, will continue their struggle.

Our tribe is decreasing. So many progressive leaders killed, others paralyzed by threats, particularly here in Kidapawan. The worst trend is the indifference of the majority—from the authorities to academics, even churches and NGOs—who appear to have lost their prophetic voices. The majority of the media are used by the masterminds of deception. Even the Department of Justice and the courts make a mockery of the system of justice.

As a result a new wave of vigilantism and fanaticism is sweeping the land, and true democracy is being suffocated under blood and fear. Some say that, because of the pervasive influence of consumerism, the culture of corruption promoted by the media and internet, the commercialization of vices and the make-belief world of entertainment, many people are prevented from facing reality. Thus many families break down, the young are alienated, and very few leaders can be credible to the masses of the oppressed. Maybe now the victims or the martyrs can become the new modules for the counter culture that can fill wounds of violence and generate new Peace Advocates like George
and Macel. (MindaNews)

(Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME, is an Italian-American missionary who has worked in Mindanao since 1977. In 1985 Fr. Peter was targeted for assassination by right-wing vigilantes, who instead killed his friend Fr. Tulio Favali. Fr. Peter's name appears on military blacklists now being circulated. So did George's.)

Friday, July 07, 2006

As you grow older, remember this

Forwarded by Miss Amita

As we grow up, we learn that even the one person that wasn't supposed to ever let you down probably will.

You will have your heart broken, probably more than once, and it's harder every time.

You'll break hearts too, so remember how it felt when yours was broken.

You'll fight with your best friend.

You'll blame a new love for things an old one did.

You'll cry because time is passing too fast, and you'll eventually lose someone you love.

So take too many pictures, laugh too much, and love like you've never been hurt because every sixty seconds you spend upset is a minute of happiness you'll never get back.

Find a guy who calls you beautiful instead of hot, who calls you back when you hang up on him, who will stay awake just to watch you sleep.

Wait for the guy who kisses your forehead, who wants to show you off to the world when you are in your sweats, who holds your hand in front of his friends.

Wait for the one who is constantly reminding you of how much he cares about you and how lucky he is to have you.

Wait for the one who turns to his friends and says, “that’s her.”

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Paalala lang, kaibigan

Forwarded by Mr. R. Jimenez (Salamat!)

Wala na ang mga kaibigan mo noon.
Ang dating masasayang tawanan ng barkada sa canteen, napalitan na ng
walang katapusang pagrereklamo tungkol sa kumpanya ninyo.
Wala na ang best friend mo na lagi mong pinupuntahan
kapag may problema ka.
Ang lagi mo na lang kausap ngayon eh ang kaopisina mong hindi ka
sigurado kung binebenta ka sa iba ‘pag nakatalikod ka.

Pera. Pera na ang nagpapatakbo ng buhay mo.
Alipin ka na ng Meralco, PLDT, SkyCable, Globe, Smart, at Sun.
Alipin ka ng Midnight Madness.
Alipin ka ng tollgate sa expressway.
Alipin ka ng credit card mo.
Alipin ka ng ATM.
Alipin ka ng BIR.

Dati-rati masaya ka na sa isang platong instant pancit canton.
Ngayon, dapat may kasamang Italian chicken ang fettucine Alfredo mo.
Masaya ka na noon pag nakakapag-ober-da-bakod kayo
para makapag-swimming. Ngayon, ayaw mong lumangoy kung hindi
Boracay o Puerto Galera ang lugar.
Dati, sulit na sulit na sa ‘yo ang gin pomelo.
Ngayon, pagkatapos ng ilang bote ng red wine, maghahanap ka ng
San Mig Light o Vodka Cruiser.

Wala ka nang magawa.
Sumasabay ang lifestyle mo sa income mo.
Nagtataka ka kung bakit hindi ka pa rin nakakaipon kahit tumataas ang
sweldo mo.
‘Yong mga bagay na gusto mong bilhin dati na sinasabi mong hindi mo
kailangan, abot-kamay mo na.
Pero kahit nasa iyo na ang mga gusto mong bilhin, hindi ka pa rin makuntento.

Saan ka ba papunta?

Frend, gumising ka. Hindi ka nabuhay sa mundong ito para maging isa
lang sa mga baterya ng mga machine sa Matrix.
Hanapin mo ang dahilan kung bakit nilagay ka rito.
Kung ang buhay mo ngayon ay uulit-ulit lang hanggang maging
singkwenta anyos ka na, magsisisi ka.

Lumingon ka kung paano ka nagsimula, isipin ang mga tao at mga bagay
na nagpasaya sa ‘yo. Balikan mo sila.

Ikaw ang nagbago, hindi ang mundo.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

To Miss A... Good Luck

They’ve been in a relationship for eight years. For eight long years they shared dreams, ambitions, songs, prayers and, they believed, love.

Then one day, something went wrong. The guy had enough and walked out of the relationship. The girl said she did have mistakes but she admitted she still loves him. Tears flow. The girl’s eyes seemed to have never recovered from crying. The guy, well, he joined the barkada for a drink from time to time.

Three weeks later, she received a message. The guy wanted to talk. She said he wanted to iron things out. She was not sure whether he wanted to dry her tears and care for the heart, nay, the love, he broke three weeks ago.

When the girl came to the office this morning she tried to hide the excitement despite the teasing from colleagues. But one can see a glimmer of hope behind those tired eyes.

What will happen to their love story? Abangan!

Here’s an old email circulating in the internet about relationships.

To Miss A____ and Mr. I___, I tried to tweak the message a little bit to fit your situation.

Here’s to your love story.

EVERY relationship has a cycle. In the beginning, you fell in love with your partner. You anticipated their call, wanted their touch, and liked their idiosyncrasies.

“Falling in love with your partner wasn't hard. In fact, it was a completely natural and spontaneous experience. You didn't have to DO anything. That's why it's called "falling" in love because it's happening TO YOU.

“People in love sometimes say, "I was swept off my feet." Think about the imagery of that expression. It implies that you were just standing there; doing nothing, and then something came along and happened TO YOU.

“Falling in love is easy. It's a passive and spontaneous experience. But after a few years of a relationship, the euphoria of love fades. It's the natural cycle of EVERY relationship. Slowly but surely, phone calls become a bother (if they come at all), touch is not always welcome (when it happens), and your partner’s idiosyncrasies, instead of being cute, drive you nuts.

“The symptoms of this stage vary with every relationship, but if you think about your relationship, you will notice a dramatic difference between the initial stage when you were in love and a much duller or even angry subsequent stage.

“At this point, you and/or your partner might start asking, "Did I have the right person?" And as you and your partner reflect on the euphoria of the love you once had, you may begin to desire that experience with someone else. This is when relationships breakdown. People blame their partner for their unhappiness and look outside their relationship for fulfillment.

“Fulfillment comes in all shapes and sizes. Infidelity is the most obvious. But sometimes people turn to work, church, a hobby, a friendship, excessive TV, or abusive substances.

“But the answer to this dilemma does NOT lie outside your relationship. It lies within it.

“I'm not saying that you couldn't fall in love with someone else. You could. And TEMPORARILY you'd feel better. But you'd be in the same situation a few years later. Because (listen carefully to this): THE KEY TO SUCCEEDING IN A RELATIONSHIP IS NOT FINDING THE RIGHT PERSON; IT'S LEARNING TO LOVE THE PERSON YOU FOUND.

“SUSTAINING love is not a passive or spontaneous experience. It'll NEVER just happen to you. You can't "find" LASTING love. You have to "make" it day in and day out. That's why we have the expression "the labor of love." Because it takes time, effort, and energy, and most importantly, it takes WISDOM. You have to know WHAT TO DO to make your relationship work.

“Make no mistake about it. Love is NOT a mystery. There are specific things you can do (with or without your partner) to succeed with your life.

“Just as there are physical laws of the universe (such as gravity), there are also laws for relationships. Just as the right diet and exercise program makes you physically stronger, certain habits in your relationship WILL make it stronger. It's a direct cause and effect. If you know and apply the laws, the results are predictable... you can "make" love.

“Love is indeed a "decision"... not just a feeling.”

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

‘Death be not proud, though some have called thee’

I went to the wake of journalits Larry Sipin. Flowers with ribbons bearing the names of "who's who" in Philippine society were everywhere. President Arroyo and former President Ramos visited the other night. Family members, friends, former colleagues in the media were in and out of the room. It was like a party. Actually, it was like a wedding with all the white flowers and the beautiful people with their beautiful clothes and smiles.

To Larry and to all those who went ahead into wherever, let me quote John Donne.

Death be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadfull, for, thou art not so,
For, those, whom thou think'st, thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poore death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleepe, which but thy pictures bee,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee doe goe,
Rest of their bones, and soules deliverie.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poyson, warre, and sicknesse dwell,
And poppie, or charmes can make us sleepe as well,
And better then thy stroake; why swell'st thou then;
One short sleepe past, wee wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; death, thou shalt die.

- John Donne

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Merry Christmas

It's crazy. It's just July but I've been listening to Christmas carols over radio DZBB for almost an hour now. Merry Christmas to all of us and may God bless us as we try to survive the rest of the year.

I just love how Manny beat Oscar, and more

While on my way to watch the Pacquiao-Larios fight this morning I was thinking about how easy it is to please Filipinos. Just give us a good show, a tearjerker soap opera, a good boxing match, a Rico Blanco concert and, maybe, even a live telecast of the World Cup, and presto we all forget about our problems.

I was thinking, while driving on the almost deserted Quezon Avenue, where have all the people gone. I was just trying to entertain myself. Of course, I know where they are. They're at the Araneta Coliseum (at least those who could afford the P30,000 ringside seat), inside their homes, ears pressed to the radio set, or in front of their television sets agonizing over the many commercials between every round.) I would have preferred to jog around the Quezon City Memorial Circle or to just go around the weekend market at the Lung Center and hunt for a "Made in China" pair of shoes, but I have to watch Manny Pacquiao batter Oscar Larios. I have to upload the story and beat the competition.

While entertaining myself, I remembered a text message earlier in the morning about the burning of a radio station in Cagayan Province before dawn Sunday. Eight masked men entered the station, hogtied the staff and poured gasoline on the equipment inside the announcer's booth and the transmitter. But who cares about that faraway village in that faraway province or that never-heard station that is not even affiliated to a broadcast network. We have an international boxing fight to watch, a story to upload to beat the competition. (Unfortunately too for President Arroyo, her arrival from her seven-day trip to Europe was forgotten because of the boxing match.)

Anyway, there I was, trying to be relevant, trying to think about all the things we’ve forgotten – like the rising cost of sugpo (a kilo of medium-sized prawns already costs P480.), the killings of journalists and activists, the war in the countryside, the corruption in government, the environmental destruction, even broken-hearted friends and those who broke their heart – because we’ve been had.

We've been had, wittingly or unwittingly. We've been had because we chose to forget. We've been had because some people want us to be entertained to forget. I wonder why we hype “positive stories”, “good news”, the success of people who climb mountains because they just want to, the pride of being able to pulverize the faces of Mexican boxers, the knowledge that such a bar exists in such a place where the rich, famous and beautiful gather in the evenings to watch the World Cup, while all around us are stories of death and betrayal, of war and conflict, news of illegal deals and corrupt government officials, denuded mountains and lives of slum dwellers and farmers being pulverized and lives kicked out of existence by imported bombs and bullets.

I enjoyed the Pacquiao-Larios fight. I even rushed to the office to really beat the competition and to be able to be the first one to upload the “good news” on the internet. A good friend of mine said I should write how I too forgot, that I too am part of the system, of a situation wherein, if we are not careful, would swallow all of us alive, hair, toes and fingernails.