Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Peace in P5 million

It was very disconcerting to read in The Manila Times how President Noynoy Aquino handed a staggering P5 million to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Chairman Al Haj Murad Ibrahim in their last secret meeting in some shady hotel in the land of Tokyo Japan. It's as if like it was only yesterday when we threw criticisms as to the secrecy of such talk as we demanded the full disclosure of it. After all, we don't want another Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain glaring all of a sudden on our faces, just like what the previous Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo did.

First, the Malacanang won’t validate nor deny such story. Palace deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte was even quoted saying, "if President Aquino did gave P5 million to the MILF leader, it would be for social alleviation, education and other needs of the Muslim people.

But later, after torrents of criticisms and the rapid spread of the story in e-mail and text messages, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, in an interview over dzMM admitted that the MILF was handed P5 million pesos, but not in the so-called secret meeting of President Aquino in Tokyo, Japan with MILF’s Al Haj Murad Ibrahim and that the president did not hand the money himself.

Implying that the release of the story in time when the nation is incensed with anger over the killings of more than 19 soldiers and police elements in Basilan, Zamboanga and Lanao del Norte is malicious, Lacierda explained that the money was wired through Peace Panel Chair Marvic Leonen in a meeting with his MILF counterparts in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia last August. Apparently, the money is to be used for a so-called Bangsamoro Management and Leadership Institute and more importantly, it was part of the agreement of the MILF with the previous Arroyo administration.

But of course, media sources tell otherwise. The said money was said to be used for purchase of ammunitions and trainings of their armed men.

Not only the Palace is hiding again behind the shadows of Arroyo’s crimes, they are actually trying to make sense the giving of the P5 million which by the way came, obviously, from the national coffer. The defense used saying the money was used to fund trainings of young Bangsamoro leaders is either plain naïve or just blatant stupidity, again from the administration’s mouthpiece. Since when was when was MILF building schools, giving out food for the impoverished Muslims and promoting the welfare and Mindanaoans? If so, then they would be peacefully campaigning for posts on ARMM and not busy themselves by building cells, camps and communicating with the Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) which coincidentally functions as al-Qaeda's arm in Southeast Asia.

That P5 million appears to be a way of buying out some time for the government, like some cheap token so a carousel ride would keep on going for a definite period of time. And why was it given when the ceasefire agreement was not yet in motion? Why all this secrecy?

Isn't it painful to hear that the bullets that killed the 19 soldiers in the past encounter in Al-Barka, Basilan as well as the other soldiers and police in Lanao and Zamboanga came from the very same government they are serving?

This is why the MILF leadership and its numerous renegade groups are getting cocky. They see our president as "easy." And this is why there are silent cry for mass resignations as well as coup within the AFP today. The recipe of it all are present no matter how soft they seem to be as of now and another wrong move could lead the entire country crashing into wild avalanche which not even the entire Presidential Communications group can undo.

The status quo is no longer a political circus were men ride in colorful wagons trying to outshine one another. It is no longer a simple matter of overhauling the government's image and pin pointing of who's behind the agenda or not. Our sovereignty is being threatened and for so many years already. Don't we think it's time to live with our anthem "aming ligaya na 'pag may nang-aapi ang mamatay ng dahil sa 'yo"?

What the administration did is what you would call "framing the argument." When the president said "we do not want an all out war" against the MILF, he provided only two choices as to the matter: it's either you're pro war or not.

There are definitely many choices we could act on right now instead of thumb twiddling and creating raucous which could lead us to what Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago called "a failed state." Like the temporary halting of the peace talk and the re-framing of the boundaries of ceasefire. Who are we talking to? What happens if not every demand of the MILF is agreed upon? Would there be another splinter cell the way the current MILF sprung from Nur Misuari's MNLF? Do these Muslim rebels even consider themselves as Filipinos?

In the larger picture, we are forgetting the other Filipino inhabitants of Mindanao like the Lumads, Christians and other Muslims as well. Mindanao is not owned by the Bangsamoros. There maybe contesting to this as to certain juridical territories but Philippines is owned by no less than the Filipinos. What the P5 million symbolizes right now is the buying of time by the president over the MILF and giving in to their demands. Are we to fear these armed groups and deny lasting peace and justice for our Filipino brothers in Mindanao?

For Mr. Conrado de Quiros, this is clearing thinking. Thinking long term solutions not by surrendering via certain amount of money and thinking for the majority of Filipinos. Thinking of the possible international implications of a government scolding its soldiers instead of the enemies and thinking for our last resort in case everything fails and being prepared for it. And most of all, we could not win a war with only a single ball dangling malignantly.

Now, there’s the rub for you.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The two year rape of Désolé Boy

   I was raped. I was raped too many a time that I already lost count. Sometimes, when I strip naked and see myself in the mirror, I still see the marks they've left. The scratches of their fingernails sprawling from neck to chest, the purple bruises from several hard punches and the scarlet scars of blades on my thighs, everything, still fresh as if its only yesterday, as if they were never really gone. 

   To admit the rape is difficult; living after is the toughest. To admit is to recall everything, how I cried and beg them to stop though they never did. To recall is to smell once more the acrid stench of induced drugs, their beaded sweats falling from their brows and how you shiver in plain terror. 

   In my country, the women are always the victims; the men, oblivious; the gays, the willing. In my rape, the goons are never really goons. They wore respectable clothes, in whites like demigods; some in their mighty horses and glorious capes, others bringing the entire band with them. They spoke the sweetest of words and the promise of eternities. They master the sorcery of lying with honest eyes and lure you with the false pretense of their self-confusion, pseudo-philosophical excuses and addicting illusions. 

   After they tore your clothes out, after they savage your innocence and suck out everything that is good in your world, after they’re satisfied and cooled down their libido, after you’re fucked – you become nothing. You try to escape, but there’s no more turning back. 

   Wipe the tears and move on. Look into the future and not what the past brought you. You’re young, you’ll find yourself the rightful one in the rightful time. What’s important is you learn after; move on. 

   So sayeth the wise. Easy, the words maybe; tough were they not to live by? The thing these wise men forget is that each bucket fills differently. And sometimes, if not most, nightmares would come. You wake up, crying out of dread, afraid to once again close your eyes, afraid that the horror only just begun. And their advice – move on. 

   The rape would begin with a predatory look. Then they would creep on you, only to smash you with an iron rod in the head so you can scream no more. They would tie your hands and feet to limit your moves. And their play finally begins. Kick, punch, two by two, a water hose stuck in your nose, chains, boots on your face, a baseball bat pushing in your anus. Then they would piss all over you, reminding you that you were good for nothing. And then you will ask the grey heavens above, "why can't I die?" 

    Raping someone goes with the same principle as massacre. My mother was raped, since I am a son first. My sister was raped, since I am a brother. My friends were raped, since I am a friend too. Now tell me, how can we all move on at once? 

   The most heinous of crimes are the ones that are unspeakable, those that are not tackled in courts and justice halls. We learn by this rape that not every rape include engorged penises forced into someone’s orifice. Sometimes, the rape involves men raping other men; an iron clad fist digging through your chest, piercing all throughout your soul. 

   Everyday, you see the same men living like the innocents do. They walk the same road as the victims, talk the same words the preachers do, rise the same time the sparrows do. They are oblivious, swimming in the fine lake of peace in their muddy clothes; the blood of their victims gushing away, fading with the sparkling crystal of the blind water. 

   Someday, Désolé Boy will write you happy stories. Those with happily ever afters and those that got singing mermaids in them. But for now, this is his story.

The title is inspired by Patricia Evangelista's article for Uno Magazine "The rape of Raymond Manalo." For other reactions on this article that you wish to privately address, you may e-mail me at Suggestions are also welcome. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

The mourning that never comes

     I could never mourn for Steve Jobs’ death, co-creator of Apple, as I never had any of his creations, like most of you do. I am, after all, nothing but a simple white collar worker who can’t speak of iOS updates or any application making the world squabble into mad frenzy in present state. In fact, I never knew the man before the massive reports on his death. But I do lament the fact that he passed away, not only because of his contributions to modern technology, but because a world died with him. 

     So I’ll mourn instead for simple people like me whose lives quietly lived though never had the chance to be heard the way Steve Jobs’ was, those who crave nothing but chance to live though denied, those who passed away that are not remembered and those who don’t get 10, 000 tweets per second, mourning about their death. This is for them. 

     Who would’ve thought that a Boy Scout’s uniform would mean so much for a kid like Ramsel? He was a 6th grader in Cebu, and in school, he was probably the subject of the other boys’ teasing for a mere crime of not wearing the honorable scout uniform. But Ramsel couldn’t do anything about it. His parents are away and he used to live with his grandmother and two other siblings. His teacher recalls him saying in Cebuano, “Ma’am, I want to be with my Mama and Papa.” The next morning, Ramsel was found hanging lifeless from a mango tree inside the school compound, a nylon rope tied around his neck. 

     Then there were stories of those who didn’t survive while simply trying to survive. Like the one that happened in Calumpit, Bulacan. As the flood surge into countless homes and fishponds and rice fields, Fred Tolentino, clutching a plastic-full of food for his trapped relatives, was overpowered by the raging water. He drowned. 

     The same fate met the three siblings from Iloilo. Eagerness to attend school despite the staggering distance from their home, brought demise, sending what seem to be an entire family’s dreams into crumbling dusts. 

    The teachers sent the kids home early to avoid the dangers the coming storm might bring. Michael, Mark and Marielle’s parents were late for fetching, so they opted to walk the muddy dirt road and braved cross the river. Sadly, they never made it. The waters of Nagpana River claimed the young lives of the three, as well as the other four. One body still isn’t found by the rescue team up ‘till now. 

    While others died nameless, others die without knowing their name. Just recently, a vagrant or what we locals love to call “taong grasa,” while trying to cross the wild traffic of EDSA, probably still lost from swirling thoughts that was never known, was crashed into death by a blazing Mitsubishi Pajero. But some stories cast a faint ray of hope in a clouded gray sky of misery. Like the one that continuously try defy death. Take Pao-pao’s story. 

     Pao-pao is a mischievous kid. He smiles like an ordinary kid would do. He jumps and run around like any other kid would do. At first glance, he looks like an ordinary 4 year-old kid, the one that smiles a lot and the one that loves playing with fellow kids. But Pao-pao was born with a congenital heart disease. His heart got two holes in them. 

     “We did everything,” Pao-pao’s mother, Mia, said. They couldn’t understand at first why Pao-pao, their first and only child after eight years of trying, had to endure such kind of suffering. At one point, Pao-pao was pronounced dead by the doctors after a serious attack. Only seconds later, his fingers miraculously moved, and he was revived. 

     Any time soon, Pao-pao is about to undergo his total correction open heart surgery; hopefully his last. “He seems to be fighting bravely,” Mia said. So she and her husband Joseph are also fighting bravely. 

     Mia got many dreams for Pao-pao. “When he grows up, I just want him to be helpful of the others and always God fearing,” she said. 

     I do not wish to belittle Steve Jobs’ death. But I find it more lamentable that every day, many people die of poverty, of injustice and of selfishness and no one seems to care. Their names might not be as huge as Steve Jobs’ but their lives are as significant and as great. We may not have iPhones, iPads and Macbooks but our stories are just as inspiring, though sadly, no one cares to listen. 

     Steve Jobs’ said, “no one wants to die.” “Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to do to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it.” Reading this, I had a curious thought that maybe, Steve Jobs’ understood all lives are just as equal and just as sad as it fall into reality of death. I just wish more of his followers and sympathizers are the same.

With reports from dzMM and Philippine Daily Inquirer. Pao-pao's story is taken from ANC's Storyline. Watch Storyline on ABS-CBN every Wednesday after Bandila and every Thursday 9.30 PM with replays on Saturday 8.00 PM and Sunday 3.30 PM on ANC 

For other reactions on this article that you wish to privately address, you may e-mail me at

Sunday, October 2, 2011


     More than a year ago, I left television production, where every day I had to deal with the Maja Salvadors and Coco Martins of the splendidly sparkling yet superficial universe of the local showbiz scene, only to try and become a serious journalist.

     At the risk of sounding cliché, I thought I could serve more the people of this nation who paid for my four year education by giving them information they deserve as well as providing space for their stories than feeding them with tearjerker soap operas and morbidly deranged fantaseryes nightly.

     Aside from the disappointments I gave my directors, producers and mentors and the abrupt slide of the digits on my BDO bank account, I thought everything is good.

     People call us many things. Being a journalist, one day you’re the nation’s hero for exposing a huge scandal dragging the entire government only for the next day, you become the netizen’s target for their criticism for a few things that did not appeal to their tastes. Then follow your shrieking editors, your alarming deadlines not to mention your frantic mother calling you, asking why you’re not yet home at 9 in the evening.

     In the end, it is not these trivial things that worry me. When you sit inside your service vehicle and eat with the rest of the crew while seeing the squabbling mob outside clamoring for a few packs of noodles and cans of sardines, you stop unknowingly, thinking about something that is totally unthinkable.

    Sometimes, a certain interview would haunt me even to sleep. I would often wonder how Edita Burgos, mother of Jonas Burgos, is faring, fighting a tough battle of searching for a son for four years already. Whether he’s in detention by the army, or killed, or currently in the mountains being a rebel, Edita Burgos wants only one thing. “I want him back,” she said.

     I’ve seen reporters cried silently after a devastating coverage. Like the one that happened two years ago with Ondoy and now with Pedring and Quiel. I watched those nameless staff, crews and writers working behind the cameras of news programs – the silent journalists, gather clothes and goods for families living in shanties and under bridges and victims of typhoons, still, away from the rolling cameras.

     It is difficult to do a job that forces you to face a blunt reality. There’s more to seeing a smiling young boy running around the church, wearing an oversized muddy trousers, barefoot, than people would often think there is. What the picture often misses to tell is that the young boy’s smile came from a different world he inhabits, a mother that died giving birth and a father that scavenges the entire city to scrape a living.

     They say truth must be accepted, although sometimes, one could not avoid but challenge its glaring fangs to try and ease out the clouds of miseries. Most ask, not a charity, but ears and time to tell their stories. Others just want to know that they have an ally in their fight for daily survival.

     People asked me if this is what I’ve chosen in exchange of glamour and glitter. Truthfully, sometimes I don’t know how to answer this. What I’m doing, I know, won’t make any difference in the world, but I noticed when you seek out to help others, you end up helping yourself. Maybe because I see myself in them, these people, and in doing the very little thing I can, I see myself helping myself.

     I have a terrible pay, there’s no security and no definite working hours. I’m not sure if I’m entirely happy and I’m also not sure if this is what I want to do for myself. But this, I think, is what I have to do for now. And in the world where money counts and beauty and fame matters, I think I’m more than willing to stay on the sidelines, this time for the real Maja Salvadors and Coco Martins of the streets and cardboard homes.


The title may or may not have anything to do with the entry. Although if you’re interested to know, my heart is literally aching as I type this. Dunno why.

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