Kundiman: Undying love of country

Photo by Keith Magcaling

Text by John Patrick Manio

It is interesting to look at Art and social media as means rather as ends in themselves, especially in Art.  Regardless of age or generation, Art exceeds beyond mere form.

To Maestra Adela, played by Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino, this form is the kundiman. Its transcendental life is its power to resist and to inspire others to do so. She is pulled out of retirement by the activist Bobby, played by Kalil Almonte, to share with the new generation the almost forgotten power of the kundiman.

The Kundiman Party closes Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas’ (DUP) 42nd Theatre Season and UP Playwrights’ Theatre’s (UPPT) 26th Theatre Season, celebrating the tagline of Honoring Defiance. Directed by Dexter M. Santos, it is playwright Floy Quintos’ last jab at writing for theatre after a 10-year run.

A recurring theme throughout this season is the lingering persistence of the dark past, and the current efforts of resistance. In this instance, the dark past is in the essence of the Marcos administration that lives in the present in the form of the current regime.

The play follows Maestra Adela as she reviles having gained prominence through the influences of the Marcoses, notably Imelda, the infamous Iron Butterfly.

However, she had dedicated the last years following her retirement to amend for this fact – using her talent and craft to fight against the inhumanity of the Marcos regime, sacrificing grandeur and artistic merit to the elite and hurting her career in the process.

Now, with the tyranny looming, Adela joins with Bobby and the rest of the Kundiman Party to brace a different generation. The Kundiman Party is comprised of fellow kundiman artists and activists who supported Adela in her tirade against the Marcoses and are still active in activism in the present. She returns to a world where the art of the kundiman is almost forgotten, while fearing the lost of its and her relevance to the changing world.

The stage set is adorned by the relics of Maestra Adela in her prime, haunting her of the images of what she could have become if she had not utilized the kundiman for political agenda. The production design was made specifically to highlight her lifestyle as a recluse, isolated and left behind by an ever-changing world.

And an aspect of a world in which Adela barely knows is the advent of social media. It is constructed, like art, as a medium and means for ideas, therefore a weapon for propaganda. And like art, has been used by the state for such, also. With the efforts and knowledge of tech savvy Bobby, the Kundiman Party has honed the power of social media to magnify their reach to the public and get their message across.

The aspect of using art to further socio-political agenda is not new. The context of the play in weaponizing Art served as counter-culture to the infamous state-funded Arts for the same function of propaganda in the heydays of the Marcos administration.

From the construction of the Manila Film Center, the Cultural Center of the Philippines, and the Philippine International Convention Center to the establishment of the Manila International Film Festival and the Experimental Cinema of the Philippines along with other works of ghostwritten autobiographical literature and self-centric films, the Marcos stain was everywhere. The holding of massive events like the Beatles concert of 1966, the Miss Universe of 1974, and the Thrilla in Manila boxing event of 1975 also support the claim that the Marcoses utilized the Arts for their own gain with other purposes as mere fronts.

The most well known, however, was the incorporation of the Malakas and Maganda folklore to the creation of the Ferdinand-Imelda mythmaking in the public sphere.

Veering away from the elitist and exclusive type of Art that Imelda nurtured, Maestra Adela instead ventured to the more accessible and mass-oriented Art that seeks to capture the human condition. This choice and sacrifice makes her worthy to be deemed as the successor of the legacy of the legendary sarswela performer Atang dela Rama, a fellow artist and humanitarian.

Floy Quintos and Dexter M. Santos weaves a narrative about the weaponizing power of Art in the socio-political stage. Their storytelling is coupled, enhanced even, with an artist lineup that did not fall short of the technical skills required for the elaborate play. It is not an easy feat, after all, to breathe life into written names and characters.

The Kundiman Party boasts a powerful ensemble of stage veterans who are more than capable of getting the message of the play across. Playing the lead is Shamaine Centenera-Buencamino as Maestra Adela and Kalil Almonte as Bobby.

Joining them is the titular Kundiman Party played by multiple renowned stage actresses. The play was also blessed by the presence of Teroy de Guzman, playing Bobby’s father, who graced the stage for a short but pivotal scene. It is also worth noting the skill of on-stage pianist Farley Asuncion, playing Ludwig – Maestra Adela’s companion. The musical director is Krina Punsalan Cayabyab and the production designer is Mitoy Sta. Ana.

The Kundiman Party will run until May 6, 2017 at the Wilfredo Ma. Guerrero Theatre, 2F Palma Hall Building, UP Diliman.

Tony Takitani, an ode to loneliness

Text by Audrey Kho

“Loneliness is like a prison; that’s how Tony saw it.”

On March 16, the Haruki Murakami Festival in Manila, organized by the Japan Foundation, brought Murakami films to the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman. The UP Film Institute held a free screening of Tony Takitani, the first full-length adaptation of a Murakami story.

Tony Takitani is a quiet, enchanting film about the pangs of loneliness and coping with grief. Adapted from the similarly-named novel of acclaimed writer Haruki Murakami, the film delicately touches on the emptiness that comes with being alone, filled with slow-panning scenes and haunting, evocative piano music. It is a subtle, beautiful translation of Murakami’s writing style to the film medium, a movie that is the epitome of minimalism and simplicity, but still leaves viewers curiously satisfied at the end.

The film tells the story of Tony Takitani, a reclusive technical illustrator who has lived most of his life alone. Early on, he was unable to meaningfully connect with anyone around him, resulting in a withdrawn, antisocial disposition that echoed in the art he drew and in the way he lived his life.

Being alone was the most natural thing for Tony, until the young, beautiful Konuma Eiko showed him what it was like not to be. Though Tony was fifteen years her senior, they happily got married. There was but one hiccup: Eiko’s all-consuming obsession with clothes.

Fans of Murakami’s books will be pleased to know that the film is utterly faithful to the book, as it captured the essence and the feeling of the story, the characters and the overall aesthetic of the tragic tale.

Narrated by Hidetoshi Nishijima’s captivating voice, the film played out like a love poem to loneliness, much like Murakami’s lyrical writing style. Enjoined with the aesthetics of the film, the camera movement, and the raw, truthful performances from the cast, Tony Takitani presents us the full package of a film one would like to delve deep into, and surface with an aching but content heart.

Terrifying loneliness and the pains of grief

The film presents a realistic account of grief and loneliness one can feel throughout his life. For a plot centered largely on losing a loved one which could have easily turned into a cliche drama, the film balanced equal parts true-to-life and daydream aesthetic.

Helped by the poetic narration of the story, the plot moved unhurried, succeeding in telling a story that developed such as life usually unfolds: day by day, slowly, unrushed. Though realistic, the pace of the film added a daydream-like quality that made viewers feel as if they were floating through someone else’s life just watching from the sidelines.

However, note that one would need some degree of patience to get through this movie, because it really does develop quite slowly. Camera positioning and movement were very consistent, had little variation, and were taken from angles that suggest viewers were watching the plot unfold from afar, panning ever so slowly to the right to signify the passage of time. The reality of the plot and the rawness of the film’s emotion, however, is worth the relatively slow pace of the film.

The score of the film was the golden nugget in the center of the otherwise washed-out colors of the movie. It was largely comprised of slow, melancholic piano music that, though quiet and subtle, added to the magnitude of loneliness the characters felt. The music was sad all throughout, helping to key in that the film was meant to make viewers feel the same way.

Equally important as the score were the moments of silence. Some scenes were entirely silent but were just as heart wrenching, proving that one does not need to do much to say a lot.

Last, but not the least, the performances from the cast did not fall short of stellar. Issei Ogata, who plays Tony Takitani, adapts this stoic expression for Tony that was so convincing, it becomes alarming to finally see him smile around Eiko’s presence. Ogata also plays Tony’s father, Takitani Shozaburo, and there is such a striking difference between the emotionless Tony and the happy-go-lucky Shozaburo it takes a while to realize they are played by the same person. Rie Miyazawa as Konuma Eiko was less awe-inspiring than Ogata, but her subtle facial expressions and body language created a hauntingly beautiful character one could simply not forget. Their extraordinary performances created characters so grounded and layered, that one could not help but empathize with them throughout the film.

As a love story, Tony Takitani does not exactly qualify as realistic; however, as an account of loneliness and grief, it is one of the most realistic films out there. Director Jun Ichikawa has blessed the world with a truly haunting account of what it is to be alone, a film that renders a viewer aching for more while simultaneously content with the outcome. After all, life doesn’t really have endings nor beginnings – it simply continues to unfold, unhurried.

How the past bites back

Text by John Patrick Manio

President Ferdinand Marcos’ infamous martial law regime had brought the Philippines to one of its lowest points in history. Since then, it had been then the material of reactionary directors who would since bring the most prolific period in Philippine cinema.

This period saw directors such as Ishmael Bernal, Lino Brocka, Behn Cervantes, and Marilou – Diaz Abaya who made classics which sought to criticize and oppose the strongman rule of the administration. They stood their ground in creating films that not only promoted Filipino values but also sought to destabilize the institutions that corrupt it, not fearing the dangers their profession could bring.

Now, under a different administration’s myriad of corruption, human rights abuses, and  historical revisionism, a fellow director as critical and as competent as those mentioned above has stepped forward from the shadows to make another masterpiece of his own.

Citizen Jake marks the return of renowned Filipino director, Mike de Leon, after an 18-year absence on the big screen, this time, arguably more politicized and better than before. De Leon brought us classics like Sister Stella L (1977), Kakabakaba Ka Ba? (1980), Kisapmata (1981), Batch ‘81 (1982), and Bayaning 3rd World (2000), all of which sought to deconstruct Filipino society and its ailments with wit, cunning, and even farce.

The Past Haunts the Present

Atom Araullo stars in the leading role as Jake Herrera, a citizen journalist haunted by the misdeeds of his family and the disappearance of his mother. It is his debut performance as an actor.

He delivers a raw, powerful, and sincere performance in the movie, partially because he, like Jake, is also a journalist who has experienced his fair share of trauma in the profession. Adding to that is the real life experiences of Araullo’s mother,an activist herself during martial law.

The characters and theme in the movie share a unifying message: the present is always tied to the past. This shows an almost philosophical debate on whether characters act wholly on their free will or on the inevitable consequences of their previous experiences.

Throughout the movie, Jake insists on staying in his mother’s house in Baguio, away from the clutches of his father and brother, politicians who benefitted and are benefiting from their crony days under Ferdinand Marcos. In real life, this house was the ancestral home of Mike de Leon given to him by his mother.

Jake’s arc revolves around three aspects: protecting his mother’s house from abolition, finding the whereabouts of his disappeared mother, and exposing his father and brother from their corrupt leanings. All of these shaped Jake to be who he is in the present.

Even the setting of Baguio was scrutinized from the lens of the present to the past. The movie dedicated an ample time to inspect Baguio’s evolution from a serene vacation spot to a loud and dirty metropolis. But above all, Baguio was deconstructed as an American colonial city, with the colonizers actively claiming it for their own as natives and indigenous folk were left alienated and later objectified. This inspection from the city’s core was contrasted by the romanticization of it by the characters themselves.

Mainly, the film looks back at the legacy and implications of the Marcos regime. Characters like Lou Veloso’s Lucas interrogates the success of the People Power revolution. Are we really free from the grasps of the abusive ruling elite? Why are the Marcoses’ cronies still at large, with some even still in position?

Ferdinand Marcos’ bust, which was erected and later demolished in La Union, looms, reminding Jake and everyone else that power had remained to those willing to abuse it for personal gain. Cronyism in Jake’s family is what haunts him throughout the movie.

Victims Turned Predators

Characters’ histories revolve around a circular path of moral dilemma. Most characters have experienced being victimized in the past before being portrayed as guilty themselves.

One of these characters is Cherie Gil’s, Rosemary Velez. Velez, unlike any of the other characters, is directly victimized by President Marcos himself, being a fictionalized version of one of the starlets that he took to be his mistress.

In the movie, Velez has gone to become a pimp for the elite, victimizing desperate and struggling women to join her prostitution ring. She does this as a resentment to her days of acting as a prostitute to Marcos herself. Her actions and ‘business’ reverberated to other characters, extending the morality play to them.

Towards the end, Jake comes at a crossroads. He faces his past to overcome his demons only to end up being one himself. The movie forces characters to not only wallow in the past, but also to be consumed by it, changing them unwittingly or not. As a recurring line goes, “Kapag umikot ang mundo, kami naman ang nasa tuktok!”

Ultimately, Mike de Leon delivers a message through the film: one must know the past, and confront it in order to be free from its clutches. In the age of post-truth and historical revisionism, it is incredibly important to look at one of the country’s darkest years to know that we are again going on the path we took almost 50 years ago.

Like Mike de Leon’s past works, Citizen Jake breaks the fourth wall to let the audience know the anguished cries of its director.

This time, however, De Leon held nothing back.

He made the main character talk to the audience multiple times and even showed behind-the-scenes footage, insisting that what they are seeing is only a movie and that the stage and the injustices seen in the film extend to the real world. This approach is ingenious, as it inadvertently shattered the illusions of an escapist film to be replaced by one which is polemic in full effect.

Citizen Jake is not only the director’s message to us, but also his own action to this message himself. Going out of retirement, he made one last wake-up call to the Filipino audience. Citizen Jake is a splendid, thought-provoking, and gripping send-off by one of the masters of Philippine cinema.

 

Diliman joins thousands in national walkout vs. Duterte admin

Photo by Maegan Gaspar

Text by Nacho Domingo, Nica Rhiana Hanopol and Edelito Mercene Jr

Vacant classrooms abound in the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman as hundreds of students took part in an emblematic gesture to lock down the gates of Palma Hall.

On February 23, the Diliman community denounced President Duterte’s anti-people policies such as Oplan Tokhang, charter change, and martial law in Mindanao, among others.

“Yung mga Iskolar ng Bayan, malinaw sa kanya, may grounds, kung bakit kinakailangan niyang lumaban, at never ‘yun naging mali para sa kanya,” said UP Student Regent Shari Oliquino.

The National Day of Action for Freedom and Democracy last Friday also aimed to condemn Duterte’s jeepney phaseout program, the Tax Reform and Acceleration (TRAIN) Law, jeepney phaseout, and efforts to revoke news outlets such as Rappler and InterAksyon.

Over a thousand students, jeepney drivers, vendors and members of mass groups took part in the nationwide protest.

“Nawawalan kami ng buhay at hanapbuhay dahil sa jeepney phaseout ni Duterte. Nagpapasalamat kami sa mga iskolar ng bayan na tumitindig kasama namin,” said one of the drivers invited to speak at the event.

Despite threats from President Rodrigo Duterte to kick students out of the university, UP Diliman chancellor Michael Tan expressed his support for them, saying there is a “sharp discrepancy” between what is taught about morality and democracy and what students see in practice.

He then urged faculty members to excuse students from their classes if they choose to join the protests.

Anakbayan UP Diliman member Nickolo Domingo also slammed President Duterte’s previous threat to dismiss students who walk out of their classes to protest.

“Sabi ni Duterte na kung mag-walkout tayo ulit, tatanggalin niya tayo sa paaralan,” Domingo said. “Pero nakikita naman natin na kahit anumang sabihin niya, basta ipinapatuloy niya ang mga anti-mamamayan niyang polisiya, hindi titigil ang laban para sa pambansang demokrasya.”

On the wrong end of modernization

The crackdown on jeepneys was one of the issues tackled in the nationwide anti-Duterte policy protest.

Jeepneys aged at least 15 years old were set to be removed by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) as part of the government’s transport modernization program.

This prompted many jeepney drivers in UP Diliman to stop operations on Feb. 9, in fear of getting charged with an unreasonable amount of P5,000, five times the amount of their take home pay, if deemed having a defective and smoke-belching jeepney unit.

“Hindi tayo tutol sa pagmodernize ng jeepneys, ang tinututulan natin ang porma ng pagmodernize ng jeepney ngayon kung saan tinatanggalan sila ng hanapbuhay at binebentahan sila ng jeepneys worth 1.5 million to 1.8 million,” said UP College of Social Work and Community Development Student Council chairperson Mayo Mendoza.

“Hindi lang naman jeep ang matatanggal sa ating mga drivers; pagkain na rin sa kanilang mga mesa, pati source na rin ng education ng kanilang mga anak ay maapektuhan ‘pag tinanggalan mo sila ng kanilang hanapbuhay,” Mendoza added.

In response to DOTr’s modernization program, the UP Asian Institute of Tourism organized a forum on Feb. 22 for UP jeepney drivers to voice out their complaints on the ‘Tanggal Bulok, Tanggal Usok’ campaign.

“Ang sabi ni Duterte, dapat daw tanggalin ang mga bulok, sino ang bulok? Si Duterte at ang kanyang mga polisiya, kaya dapat siya ang dapat nating i-phase out,” said Oliquino.

History repeats itself

On February 1971, the UP student council led the Diliman Commune in condemnation of the three-centavo oil price hike during the Marcos administration.

Two decades after, students rallied together with transport workers against the tax reform law of the Duterte administration, which is expected to impose higher fuel prices in the coming months.

An effigy entitled “DuterTerorista” was also set ablaze last Friday as a symbol of their collective dissent. This mirrored the burning of a similar effigy that took place during the September 11, 2017 commemoration of Martial Law.

“The more things change, the more they stay the same. You have to be the change you wish to see,” said martial law veteran Boni Ilagan in the local protest action at UP CMC, citing the importance of the youth’s role in large scale mobilizations.

CMC students also taped their mouths in their outcry over attacks against press freedom, such as the recent barring of Rappler reporter Pia Ranada from Malacanang Palace.

Meanwhile, Enrique Navera of League of Filipino Students UPD emphasized that this broad mobilization aims to isolate Duterte as the mastermind of atrocities that have culminated in the last year.

“Tapos na ‘yung panahon ng pagiging defensive, ang hinihingi sa ’tin ng panahon ngayon ay lumaban na talaga against Duterte,” he said.

Today marks the 32nd anniversary of the EDSA Revolt, but UP students have only one answer to the past lurking behind them – never again.

She resists, she rises

Photo and text by Mayumi Paras

Filipina poet Joi Barrios once wrote, “Ang pagiging babae/ ay walang katapusang pakikibaka/ para mabuhay at maging malaya.”

Now in its sixth year, the 2018 One Billion Rising (OBR) movement chooses solidarity as its primary campaign theme –– urging women to Rise, Resist and Unite against the fascist, imperialist, and neo-liberal attacks prevalent in society.

Solidarity indeed was evident last Feb. 15, when students, faculty members and women from other sectors took part in the One Billion Rising 2018 dance protest at the Palma Hall steps, organized by Gabriela Youth UP Diliman; from there, the group marched to Quezon Hall, where a cultural program took place and the dancing resumed.

“Nais nating iparating ang pinakamalakas nating tinig ng pagtutol at paglaban sa lahat ng anyo ng karahasan sa kababaihan at iba pang kasarian.” Dr. Nancy Kimuell-Gabriel of the UP Gender Office began in her opening remarks. “Ang OBR 2018 ay isang okasyon ng pagsasama-sama, at pagkakaisa, laban sa lahat ng anyo ng opresyon at diskriminasyon.”

Dr. Kimuell-Gabriel introduced the UP Laban sa Opresyon at Diskriminasyon (UP LODI), as well as its four calls to action: to end all violence against women; to end all violence related to gender and sexuality; free education for all; and to regularize workers enslaved under contractualization.

Almira Abril from Gabriela Youth UPD emphasized that being a woman activist goes beyond fighting for the rights of women, and equality between sexes; being a woman activist is to devote oneself to the plights of the masses, becoming one in the fight against industrialization and oppression.

Ang OBR ay simbolikong pagtindig ng mga kababaihan laban sa patuloy na opresyon na nararanasan ng lipunan.” Abril added. “Worldwide, binubuklod ng OBR ang tinig ng mga kababaihan; ipinapakita na tuloy tuloy ang struggle ng kababaihan kasabay ng pag struggle for genuine change.”

Present, perpetuated discrimination

Despite our society’s attempts at development and progress, mistreatment and discrimination towards women today remains ever prevalent. In fact, the Women and Children Protection Center of the Philippine National Police released a report stating that the number of cases involving violence against women, ranging from rape and abuse to abduction or kidnapping, has risen from 6,271 in 2004 to 23,865 in 2013.

Worldwide, the numbers are equally alarming.

The United Nations first reported in 2012 that one in every three women will have experienced physical or sexual abuse at one point in their entire lives; looked at on a global scale, the number reaches over a staggering one billion women worldwide.

It is this same daunting statistic that incited what is now known as the One Billion Rising movement, whose primary aim is to put a stop to sexual harassment and violence against women from all walks of life. More than 200 countries have participated in this annual protest, making it the single largest global action taken to end violence against women.

Misogyny – and his name

Under the Duterte administration, however, fighting for women’s rights becomes a much more difficult task.

Dr. Kimuell-Garcia was unafraid to call out the president and his government, stating that “walang katulad na pambabastos, pagmamaliit, pangiinsulta, panghihiya at pagdudurog sa ating pagkatao.”

Shown to have little to no sympathy to the plight of women in the country, and branded as a misogynist since before he had been elected, Duterte was once again under fire for an instruction he had given to his soldiers when dealing with women soldiers and guerilla fighters: “We will not kill you … we will just shoot you in the vagina,” adding a little after how a woman is useless without hers.

Duterte’s threats of violence have proven to be more than mere empty words; November 28 of last year saw the death of fifteen suspected members of the New People’s Army in Nasugbu, Batangas. Of the fifteen fatalities, five were women –– inlcuding Jo Lapira, an activist formerly from the University of the Philippines Manila.

As a former secretary-general and deputy secretary-general for Gabriela Youth in UP Manila, Lapira was one of the voices who emulated the spirit of women activism, relentless in calling others to militant action.

Dr. Kimuell-Garcia declared Duterte was the embodiment of sexism, machismo, and fascism, claiming that not only did the President belittle women and their struggles, “pinagmumukha niyang tanga ang mga kilusang ito.”  She also reasoned that it is the president’s very behavior that enables government officials, “mula sa taas hanggang baba,” as well as the military, to perpetuate this culture of violence and oppression against women.

Mabangis si Duterte laban sa mga mamamayan, lalo na ngayon na matindi ang paglaban kontra sa mga anti mamamayang polisiya ng administrasyon. Dinadagdagan pa ng pagiging bastos ng bibig ni Duterte laban sa mga kababaihan.” Abril said, “Minamaliit ang kakayahan ng babae at ng mamamayan na lumaban.”

To rise, resist, unite

The President’s words, however, do not deter these women, persistent in their fight for liberation.

With movements like the 2017 Women’s March aimed at then newly reinstated US President Donald Trump, campaigns like the #MeToo hashtag that spread across social media platforms against sexual harassment, and events such as the One Billion Rising protest itself, women have asserted their rights as equals –– thereby demanding the respect and visibility they deserve.

Truly, in spite of these hardships, women activists continue on in their pursuit of justice –– not only for women worldwide, but other marginalized sectors who are equally mistreated and oppressed.

“We fight against sexism, patriarchy, and imperialism,” said Monique Wilson, global coordinator of One Billion Rising. “We are rising and resisting against our own president, who doesn’t seem to know how to respect women’s vaginas.”

With the call of “Rise, Resist, Unite,” women on campus and around the world are stirred to action, overcoming whatever hindrances in order to stand –– and dance –– in solidarity and in protest for the one billion whose voices demand to be heard.

Sa araw na ito, muli natin isasagawa ang sayaw ng protesta, ang sayaw ng paghihimagsik,” said Dr. Kimuell-Gabriel, “at muli’t muli natin ‘to isasagawa hanggang mananatiling makabuluhan ang paglaban natin sa karahasan sa kababaihan. Mabuhay ang ating pagkakaisa.”

Rouse from routine: A step towards freedom

Text by Abby Zara

Maricon Montajes found it strange to plan her own day for the first time after seven years.

More than a thousand days behind cold bars and a mandatory routine did not prepare her for the freedom that came with rightfully having her life back.

“Naalala ko nung unang week ko paglabas, nagulat talaga ako na pwede na pala akong gumawa ng sariling itinerary or personal plans for myself. Yung konsepto ng pagpaplano para sa sarili bagong-bago talaga,” Montajes said.

The UP Diliman Film student spent seven years in jail for trumped up charges: illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, illegal possession of explosives, and violation of the omnibus election code.

Montajes was integrating in a peasant community in Taysan, Batangas when members of the Philippine Air Force surrounded the house they were staying in for the night, showered them with bullets and arrested her and two others: Romiel Cañete and Ronilo Baes. The three were then known as “Taysan 3”.

Montajes became a “mayora” for the women she lived with in jail. Part of her role was to oversee the completion of inmate tasks.

“Three times a day may headcount, may cleaning duties, kitchen duties at cooperative duties. Part ng routine ko i-make sure na gumagana ang lahat,” Montajes said.

Montajes was finally freed last July 21, 2017 after posting more than P600,000 for bail. Freedom came at a high price. But even beyond prison, restrictions still abound.

After seven

Montajes did not qualify for free tuition in UP Diliman. Students who fail to complete their degree within a year after the prescribed period are not covered by the free tuition policy. Her seven years in jail had robbed her of that chance.

“Yung kahirapan lang talaga ngayon ay yung malaking tuition na kailangang bayaran kasi hindi ako qualified for free tuition or even sa STS,” Montajes said.

The right to free education in UP remains unavailable to law students and masteral takers as well.  A whopping sum of more than P25,000 is being demanded for Montajes’ 15 units this semester

“Pero there’s an ongoing appeal for my tuition at may initial talks na and the Office of the Chancellor, OVPAA (Office of the Vice President for Academic Affairs) , OSSS (Office of Scholarships and Student Services), and OVCSA (Office of the Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs) and other offices are open to help regarding the tuition,” Montajes said.

Montajes is partly relieved. At last, she gets a chance at continuing her education, at having a hand in what she chooses to do with her life.

At last, she returns to the College of Mass Communication (CMC).

Back at it

Montajes, however, is returning to a college that she has not seen for a thousand days.

“Maraming nagbago at maraming hindi. Una sa structure ng college nagulat ako dahil dati naabutan ko pa ang media center na hindi pa nagagamit at medyo bumabaha pa sa baba. Ngayon nag-improve na yung istruktura niya,” Montajes said.

Aside from the college’s many structural alterations, it is not populated with students Montajes no longer recognizes. Her batchmates, the people she has spent years working and learning with, have left the institution a long time ago.

But if there is anything that hasn’t changed in the college it is the students’ longing for true societal change.

“Ang isang napansin ko maintained pa rin ng mga studyante yung pagiging involved sa mga issues locally at hanggang national,” Montajes said.

CMC students are currently fighting for the junking of the repressive Faculty-Students Relations Committee (FSRC) Manual and rental fees, among other local issues.

They are vocal against President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration and the continued crackdown on media outlets that are critical of his rule.

“Imaintain lang nila ito at paunlarin pa. Pag aralan paano pa i-engage ang karamihan,” she added.

Montajes herself is an activist, part of movements that fought for some privileges in the college, including free laptop charging in the lobby and the construction of org spaces.

Again, in service of the people

Being an alagad ng media is powerful, Montajes said. She recognized its ability to influence, to mobilize.

“Aralin natin ito nang mabuti at gawing makabuluhan ang bawat likha,” Montajes said. She hopes that students in the college recognize the chance to become storytellers for the sectors being deprived of a voice in society.

Montajes also called for the continued support of the College of Mass Communication and its students in fighting for the freedom of political prisoners.

“Kahit andito na’ko sa labas ngayon, hindi parin natatapos ang kaso namin. Hindi pa tapos yung kampanya para sa kalayaan at hustisya,” she said.

Romiel Cañete and Ronilo Baes, two thirds of Taysan 3 are still imprisoned, along with at least 400 remaining political prisoners in the country.

“Suportahan, kalingain, bisitahin, alamin ang kalagayan at tulungan natin sila na makamit ang paglaya at hustisya” Montajes said.

To be free is to break routine. Montajes is rebuilding her own after seven years.

She challenges every media practitioner to do the same: expose the rotten system that we have come to know that deprives the youth of their right to education, keeps workers contractuals and struggling for minimum wage, kills farmers on their own lands.

To break free is create works that will contribute towards freedom from this system — and as Montajes did, to live and fight with the masses in order to truly be one with their struggle.

 

 

ERRATUM: The amount of Montajes’ bail was updated from P400,000 to more than P600,000.

On a cold Christmas Eve

Photo by Maegan Gaspar

Text by Jobelle Adan and Beatriz Zamora

 

In a kingdom where the iron fist reigns mighty above all men, the winds of an absent winter echo the mourning of the families of the slain.

Good tidings foregone in the aftermath of their loss, tradition binds them to celebrate the festivities they once found merry.

What they wish for, the world denies them.

“Sana wala pang Pasko,” the fallen man’s daughter prays. “Sana wala pang new year.”

December 25 would mark the first Christmas since the tragedy that has struck them. A chair sits empty on the eve of the 25th in honor of those they have lost while the man in Malacañan sits on his throne, fingers drenched in the blood of those he deemed unworthy of living.

“Kung mayroon lang sanang hustisya,” she hopes.

Wounded hearts

Tomorrow night, the yuletide lights will not shine in a distant corner in Butuan City.

“Masakit eh. Parang walang Pasko sa amin. Ang hirap tanggapin kasi,” says 29-year-old Jovie Mejorada.

The wounds of her loss are fresh. Mejorada witnessed her father pass away at the mercy–or lack thereof–of armed men who ravaged the peace and quiet of her provincial home.

Vivencion Sahay, a religious man, kept to their house and the church. As far as they were concerned, he had done absolutely nothing to deserve an untimely death.

She still recalls vivid images of the morning of November 23. A man in a black hat, head wrapped tight in a gray bonnet. Black clothes and a slingbag. Shades which showed off all the colors in the spectrum whenever the sunlight touches them.

Most vivid of all, a gun.

“May kunin ako tas may narinig akong putok, tatlong beses. Na-ano si Papa, parang napahawak sa ulo niya tas napa-upo,” she recalls.

Mejorado did not see her 53-year-old father fall to the ground. She had followed his lead and ducked, her seated position the only protection from men who were clearly out to kill them.

A minute or two later, Mejorada was able to escape. But not without having fear instilled into her.

Three gunshots, then one. Mejorada  planned to run back home yet the man followed her still.

“Humingi ako ng tulong,” she said, “pagsigaw ko, bumalik siya sa daanan niya.”

Why guns were trained on Mejorada’s family, however, they have yet to find out. A month after her father’s death, the night before Christmas, no trace has been tracked.


Mysterious and brutal though it may be, this killing is only one of thousands that have left broken families in its wake.

There has been no shortage of deaths recounted in the daily news, its sickening normalcy dawning on many. If a country’s history binds its people, the Philippines is then tightly bonded in a rope of carnage.

Bodies have been piling up in the streets for the many wars being waged against the people this government once swore to serve.

“Masakit eh,” Mejorada said, her brief statement caught between shaky breaths. She does not elaborate. There is no need. Yet hers echoes the story of hundreds of families ravaged by guns and bullets.

Bullets, not bells

Bodies have been piling up in the streets for the many wars being waged against the people this government once swore to serve.

One is the war ravaging Mindanao, a war on the people and their land disguised as martial rule meant to protect the people.

The other is the war on dissent, leading to disappeared, jailed, or murdered activists.

And finally, the infamous war on drugs, leaving thousands slain, be it men, women or children.


All of them, according to the police, fought back and earned their grave, even when the police reports fail to add up.

One such case is that of Carl Arnaiz.

Months after the case, justice remains a mere Christmas wish to the family.

The administrative case filed against the police involved in Carl Arnaiz’s horrendous killing has last been updated in November.

“Bale yung recommendation ng IAS is tanggalin na sa serbisyo yung mga pulis, pero na kay (PNP Chief General) Bato pa rin daw yung final decision,” Eva Arnaiz, Carl’s mother, explained.

She said they hoped to hear news around December, giving the government weeks of leeway.

But the carols are nearing their end and the month’s final week is fast approaching with no justice in sight.

Naughty and nice

The hard work to get the case where it is now was nothing, Eva said, but the agony lay in the empty hours spent in between.

Naiiisip ko rin yun, na matagal, pero ang nilalagay ko nalang sa isip ko rin na di bale nang matagalan basta makuha namin yung para kay Carl,” she says.

She speaks with a steady voice, untinged with the strain that the past new months had burdened her with. Still, despite the promise of Christmas, the silences in between the forced holiday cheer are heavily filled with what had been lost.

Not that they were lavish when it comes to Christmas celebrations anyway, she explains. But small families held on to the simple joys of intimate moments and Carl’s last Noche Buena was what his mother remembers as the best.

Cold weather and all, Carl had been busy making bread rolls for anybody who was interested, in exchange for a small sum of money. Before his final stop for Christmas eve dinner at his own house, he had been stopping over at his friends and relatives’ homes to do what he did best.

“Masaya siya nung last year na Christmas e. Isa sa pinakamasaya niyang Christmas yun kasi nagstart na rin siya nung magbusiness. Yun siguro mamimiss namin, kasi yung last Christmas niya memorable na sa amin yun e,” she says.

Tonight, on the eve of the twenty-fifth, there is nothing more that Eva wanted than her son to come home through their front door; happy and content, no different from a scene in Christmas past.

Another wish denied, along with those of the many mourning families from this land.

On the other side of the fence, others will be celebrating a Christmas happier than most; their circumstances brought about by a all too familiar combination of political influence and wealth.

This Christmas eve, a man accused of stealing from his people will be allowed to spend the holidays with his family. Bong Revilla and his former aide will sit warmly in their own homes tonight, basking in the luxury they always had and always will have.

“In the spirit of Christmas”, Aegis Juris leader Arvin Balag, is set free, the case of Horacio Castillo dishonored and left to dust.

As with years before, that several powerful families will celebrate in the multimillion confines of their homes, feasting and bathing in power while the impoverished are left with scraps for Christmas eve dinner.

These are the stories of a cold Christmas eve, in a land where snow does not fall but blood runs like a river.

Fearless plights for self-actualization

Photo grabbed from Si Chedeng at si Apple’s Facebook page

Photo by Carlo Tabije

Text by John Patrick Manio

The Cinema One Originals Film Festival celebrates its 13th year with the tagline: “Walang Takot.” Nine feature films were showcased in the Narrative Feature Category of the competition under this theme.

In line with the theme, a timely issue to explore would be about the courage and fearlessness of coming-out in a heteronormative society.

One film that piqued the interests of many filmgoers was “Si Chedeng at Si Apple”, a film by Fatrick Tabada and Rae Red, who achieved previous success and fame earlier this year with “Patay na si Hesus”. A road movie which uses travel to encourage self-discovery, Patay Na Si Hesus, also fearlessly transgresses against societal expectations and tradition for self-realization.

Si Chedeng at si Apple, however, focused on gender, narrating the plight of a late-of-age woman who never truly expressed her sexuality to the public—all in a dark-comedic approach. It follows the titular Chedeng (played by Gloria Diaz) as she searches for her long-lost love, Lydia, whom she let go during her youth in fear of society’s judgement. With her is Apple (played by Elizabeth Oropesa), who is the only one aware of her sexuality apart from Lydia and is on the run from authorities after she killed her abusive husband in self-defense.

The current generation is fortunate that the awareness for LGBTQIA+ rights and its acceptance in society is growing. The youth is now, slowly but progressively, gaining freedom to express their sexuality–a luxury that Chedeng and others back then had no access to.

Chedeng, a victim of temporal circumstance, was forced to remain silent due to the cultural climate of her times. It was only later in life that she finally had the courage to come out. This prolonged and agonizing hiding of one’s identity then becomes the film’s main thematic drive.

Looking at the external aspects of the film, meanwhile, also provides several points of discussion.

It is a curious point to ask why the leading star, Gloria Diaz, a beauty queen (with Elizabeth Oropesa also being one), took up the role of a lesbian, a direct opposition to the heteronormative implication of her title as ‘Miss Universe’. As in gender studies and queer theory, one’s gender is only constructed by society and the individual himself through the roles one perform and the language that shapes him.

And in Si Chedeng at Si Apple’s universe, Diaz the beauty queen was nowhere to be found.

The fascinating facet of Diaz’s role boosts the film’s hype due to it being divergent to gender roles. This is also why people with gendered roles and professions transitioning across genders were sensationalized by the media due to their former ‘masculine’ roles being deterred by their sexualities. There is something in these that begs the question.

The sensationalization of gendered roles of a ‘beauty queen’ and ‘action star’ converging with queerness asks how and why patriarchy and heteronormativity have assigned femininity to the beauty queen and masculinity to the action star in the first place. While Gloria Diaz the straight beauty queen in a queer role may seem to break gender roles, we must ask why society deems it to be so subversive in the first place.

To look at Elizabeth Oropesa’s character of Apple, on the other hand, is to scrutinize a different issue of a similar origin – the dominance of the abusive male and its oppression of the female.

The film has portrayed masculinity as antagonistic to the story, a mere secondary element. Apple, while not being queer, has been searching for a way to escape the oppressive patriarchal configurations she has had to live with, her abusive spouse in particular. Her chains are broken only after the murder of her abusive spouse and her refusal to be in a relationship with any other man, a considerable development on her character.

This is not to say that the death of the male is key to the emancipation of the female, but to position that the abusive tendencies of masculinity is only a symptom of a system of beliefs that has been ingrained in Philippine society: the patriarchy.

Patriarchy and its close relative, heteronormativity, leads to the systemic victimization of the queer and the female. Even cisgender males are adversely affected. Toxic masculinity and dominance are made prerequisite to legitimate manhood, imposing images of savagery and solitude on men.

And like the many people who have had enough of such a violent and limiting system, Chedeng and Apple chose to counter the patriarchy.

Their detachment to the rule of the male began when they cut off the literal phallic symbol of their oppression and repression–the penis of Apple’s husband. It is fully realized when the two then threw the severed member in the waters, carrying it with them in their journey–an effective running gag in the film as it shows how the duo trivializes such a morbid act.

Overall, ‘Walang Takot’ is realized not only with the actions and realization by the characters in the movie but with the filmmakers’ guts for creating a film that goes against patriarchal beliefs, leading to the emancipation of the marginalized and oppressed. And that, is truly fearless.

 

 

Reconnect: Mental health in the age of apathy

Photo and text by Kristine Chua

To have your suffering invalidated is an almost unbearable form of violence.

For the six million Filipinos who suffer from mental health disorders, it was a sucker punch to hear Joey De Leon treat their reality as his favorite genre of entertainment–comedy.

“Filipinos are still backwards in viewing mental illness,” said Marc Eric Reyes PhD, a clinical psychologist, during a panel discussion centered on raising awareness on mental health organized by the UP Psychology Society to celebrate National Mental Health Week.

“Which is why what Maine Mendoza did, when she shut down Joey de Leon and defended mental health, was an immensely powerful thing. Millions of people saw that,” Julia Maan̄o, a journalism student in UP Diliman, said.

Maan̄o was diagnosed with depression when she was only 13 years old. She mentioned that her mental health state can be traced from their family’s predisposition; her mother’s death nine years ago also contributed to it.

“I’ve sent too many apology emails to my professors na ‘sorry ang dami kong absent, daming kong missed deadlines,’” Maan̄o shared, explaining how the pressure at the university overwhelmed her.

System error

Millions of Filipinos, however, suffer not only verbal invalidation but systemic as well.

Only about seven percent of all public and private hospitals in the Philippines have a psychiatric unit or ward. Up to now, mental health has not been included in any insurance packages offered by the government.

Filipinos may have to wait a couple more years for a health package that includes a little more sprinkle of support and care from the government.

Depiction in the media is another problem altogether.

“Media can make or break,” remarked Felicitas Soriano, MD, acting chief of Veterans Memorial Medical Center.

Inaccurate depictions of mental health on media can lead to further increasing the stigma that already exists. Media plays a major role in educating the public about the reality of mental health and how it affects the lives of those who suffer from it.

58-percent of the Philippine population are active social media users on a monthly basis, the 15th highest penetration rate in the world, the study said.

Television shows and movies such as 13 Reasons Why and Last Night received critique as they were said to contribute to the growing stigma that surrounds mental health. Hannah Baker, the main character in 13 Reasons Why, was bullied and assaulted when she was still alive. The show centered on how she left tapes for the people responsible for her suicide.

13 Reasons Why also glamorizes suicide, with decorated lockers, pep rallies, students taking selfies by Hannah’s locker, mysterious packages, audio taped travel hunts, and even flashback scenes that keep Hannah “alive” in the series,” Psychology Today reports in a review of the controversial series.

“Mental health shouldn’t be exploited or commercialized,” Reyes said. People suffering from mental health illnesses should be portrayed more than their diagnoses, Jarvin Tan, RPh, the Director for Research at Youth for Mental Health Coalition said.

Likewise, Maaño said that private individuals and even media could battle stigma.

“Negativity should stop with you,” Reyes stressed. He advised everyone in the room to avoid posting or sharing negative content that can possibly harm or offend others.

Sown In Solidarity

Photo by Jobelle Adan

Text by Agatha Gregorio

You reap what you sow.

The words ring a sense of familiarity in most people’s ears, but it is nothing but cruel humour for the Filipino farmer. 40-year old Adelfa Alvarez toils everyday for her harvest, bending under the scorching heat of the sun as a coconut farmer in Camarines Sur. In exchange, she earns an average of P2,000 every three months.

P14,250 is the current daily minimum wage in the capital, a far cry from Alvarez’s average profit in a month, being P667. With the Philippines being a dominantly agricultural nation, one would think that farmers would be given more priority and financial security, or at the very least, rights.

This is only one of the many pleas she, along with farmers from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao have been forwarding in the “Kampuhang Magsasaka sa Department of Agrarian Reform” that happened on Tuesday.

The event was merged with a Grand Solidarity Night, organized by the Kilusang Mambubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) to showcase their advocacies with performances from musicians and dancers alike.

Alvarez, a member of Gabriela Women’s Party, has been joining the collective protests for five years now. She still fights against the same repressive policies against Filipino farmers.

Some farmers are burdened with having their lands and harvest taken from them. Abellardo Delos Reyes, a 39-year old farmer since he was 12 years old, joined the protests for the first time, having experienced the struggle of having what he had sown and harvested taken away from him. Retaliation, however, came at the expense of people’s lives.

“Maraming namamatay dito sa amin, dahil kinukuha nila ang niyugan. Ninanakaw nila. Ang gustong sabihin namin ay ibalik sa amin. Kawawa naman kaming magsasaka. (Many people die here in our area because they take the land from us. They steal it. What we ask for is that they return it to us. As farmers, we are unfortunate.)” Delos Reyes said.

A sign of refuge came in the form of a man who, like them, also knew what struggles and injustices farming in the country posed. He was appointed for a position that could have changed farmers’ lives, even having engaged in free land distribution with at least 300 titles given to farmers during his term.

Rafael “Ka Paeng” Mariano, the former Chairman of KMP and former Secretary of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), was recognized for his strong passion towards genuine agrarian reform for farmers. On Sept. 27, he was rejected by the Commission on Appointments, much to the disappointment of most Filipino farmers.

Additionally, there have been talks of junking a number of the administrative orders he had issued during his term, namely those that have been of great assistance to local farmers.

However, Mariano still trusts in the department’s ability to implement policies addressing farmers’ concerns with integrity, saying, “Ipaglalaban nila ang patuloy na pag-iiral at masugid at malaganap na pagpapatupad ng mga sabing mga mahahalagang DAR administrative orders and issuances na aking pinirmahan at inilabas sa panahon ng aking mahigit isang taong panunungkulan bilang secretary ng DAR. (They will fight for the continued existence and strong and pervasive implementation of the important DAR administrative orders and issuances that I have signed and released during my time of over a year being the secretary of DAR.)”  

Until their concerns have been entirely addressed, farmers continue to gather in the name of their rights, in hopes that the higher powers of the nation will hear and attend to their pleas. With colourful banners splayed out in a space of ardent expression for the significance of activism, the Grand Solidarity Night stood for a variety of advocacies, written out in paint, saying, “Stop tyranny!”, “End Martial Law!” and “Stop killing farmers!”

Having seen students and other members of the youth partaking in the activities, current KMP Chairman, Danilo Ramos expressed gratitude in the increasing awareness among Filipinos about the plight of farmers.

“Ang usapin sa lupa at reporma sa lupa at pambansang industriyalisasyon ay isyu ng taong bayan, (The issue of land reform and national industrialization is an issue of the Philippine people.)” he said, regarding the significance of the farmers’ struggles and call for collective action.

The national farmers’ struggle remains prevalent, as they continue to be deprived of land, and their labour consequently fails to translate to earnings, to reaping.

Still, there is a glimmer of hope reminiscent in the collective people’s march towards the equal treatment of national farmers.

“Naniniwala kami na magtatagumpay ang nakikibakang mambubukid. Magtatagumpay ang nakikibakang mamamayan para sa lupa, para sa pambansang kalayaan at demokrasya sa ating bayan. (We believe that the farmers in protest will succeed. The people in protest will succeed for land, for national freedom, and democracy in our country.)” Ramos said.

And oftentimes, it is the sowing of unified ideology that reaps the most bountiful of harvests.

Silakbo ng panawagan

Kuha ni Mikee Garcia
Panulat nina Jobelle Adan at Red Carao

Hindi na bagong tanawin sa Quezon City Circle ang parada ng pula’t dilaw. Gabi-gabi, maaaninag ang dagat ng pulang bituin sa kalsada dahil sa humaharurot na mga dyip at daan-daang mga kotse. Dadaan, aalis.

Ngunit isang gabi, dala ang nag-aalab na mga panawagan, pininta ng mga magsasaka ang QC Circle ng pula ng mga sulo. Bawat apoy, isang bituin. Bawat mukha, isang kwento ng pakikibaka. At nitong Lunes, dinala nila ang libo-libong mga kwentong ito sa Maynila para maghayag ng iisang mensahe:

Patuloy man ang pagtalikod sa kanila ng estado, hindi nila isusuko ang paglaban para sa lupa at karapatan.

“Sa araw na ito, libo-libong mga magsasaka, agricultural workers, mga sakada, peasant women, mga mangingisda, maralitang lungsod… Determinado tayong isulong ang ating laban hanggang sa tagumpay,” pambungad na mensahe ni Danilo Ramos, tagapangulo ng Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas.

Kasama rin ni Ramos ang iba pang tagapangulo ng iba’t ibang sektor sa agrikultura upang ipakita ang iisa nilang panawagan sa tinaguriang Lakbay Magsasaka. Dito, nagtipon ang mga magsasaka mula sa iba’t ibang rehiyon ng bansa, pinagkaisa ng iisang panawagan para sa lupa’t hanapbuhay.

Binubuo ng maraming sektor ang Lakbay Magsasaka tulad na lamang ng kabataan, mangingisda’t kababaihan.

“Kung hindi kikilos ang kababaihan, hindi pwedeng magtagumpay ang anumang kilos sa kanayunan,” paalala ni Zen Soriano, tagapungulo ng Amihan, pambansang kilusan ng kababaihang magsasaka.

Lumalaki ang panawagan para sa pagkakaisa, hindi lamang dahil sa patuloy na pang-aapi sa uring magsasaka, kundi dahil na rin sa tahasang pagbingi-bingihan ng estado.

“Nagpatawag nga ng dayologo itong si OIC Rosalino Bistoyong, ang pumalit kay Ka Paeng (Mariano),” anunsyo ni Jun mula KMP, “Pero hindi nila isinali ang organisasyon ng Kilusang Magbubukid sa Pilipinas at yung mga kasamahan natin sa Mindanao na mahigit isang linggo nang nagkakampuhan dito sa harapan ng DAR.”

Si Secretary Bistoyong ang pumalit kay Rafael ‘Ka Paeng’ Mariano nang ito’y tanggalin ng Commission of Appointments sa pwesto niya bilang kalihim ng DAR.

Mindanao ang may pinakamalaking ambag sa produksyon ng coconut, mais, saging, at iba pang pananim na madalas ilabas sa bansa, ayon sa Philippine Statistics Office. Hindi magiging posible ito kung wala ang libo-libong magsasaka sa rehiyon.

Dagdag pa ni Jun, pinag-uusapan raw sa DAR ngayon kung papaano matatanggal ang mga administrative order na tinakda ni dating DAR Secretary Mariano, ang kauna-unahang secretary na nanggaling sa hanay ng mga magsasaka.

Liban pa sa kawalan ng lupa, dala dala ring panawagan sa Lakbay Magsasaka ang pagpapatigil ng walang habas na pagpatay sa mga lider magsasaka sa kanayunan, na nangunguna sa laban para sa kanilang mga batayang karapatan.

Iniulat ng Karapatan, isang organisasyong pangkarapatang pantao, na 91 na ang mga magsasakang napapaslang sa ilalim ng administrasyong Duterte.

Isa si Rose Lammawing sa mga magsasakang naglakabay mula sa kanilang probinsya patungo sa Maynila. Siya ay kalihim ng Innabuyog, isang organisasyon ng mga babaeng magsasaka sa Kalinga, Cordillera.

Sa kanilang lugar, talamak ang pagpatay sa mga diumano’y drug suspect, ngunit ang pinupuntirya naman ay puro magsasaka. ‘Di man sila nakararanas ng mismong presensya ng militar at pulis sa kanilang komunidad na sa ibang rehiyon ay pumipigil sa mga magsasaka na magorganisa, mayroon namang nabiktima na ng Oplan Tokhang sa kanilang lugar.

Dalawampung taon na si Lammawing sa Innabuyog, at sumali siya rito bilang isang ina na nakakaranas ng kawalan ng tulong mula sa gobyerno lalo na sa pagpapagamot at pagpapaaral ng kanyang mga anak.

“Kulang na kulang ang budget sa amin sa Kordilyera. Lalo na sa edukasyon. Kulang ang classroom at mga guro,” aniya. “Karamihan pa ng mga eskwelahan ay malalayo. Ilang oras ang nilalakad ng aming mga anak para lamang makapasok.”

Nananatili ring luma ang proseso ng pagsasaka sa Kordilyera, ani Lammawing. Wala silang ginagamit na modernong kagamitan, at sariling lakas lamang ang nagtataguyod ng produksyon sa kanilang lugar. Mataas din raw masyado ang halaga ng pangsaka nila’t mababa naman ang presyo ng kanilang produkto.

Ganoon pa man, tuloy lamang raw sila sa kanilang pag-alpas at pagtuligsa sa binging estado. Hanggang sa tagumpay.

 

War on the innocents

Photo and text by Michelle Co

The story begins with a man, a leader from Kalinga. His name is Macliing Dulag, and in this region from Cordillera, he lived and served the people. He did all he could to protect them. So when the government required them to give up their Chico River in order to make a dam, he was a staunch opponent. Giving in would mean losing their ancestral land, homes and livelihood, displacing them all. And so he was steadfast in refusing this project despite bribes, harassment and threats from authorities.

Unfortunately, unlike stories where the hero comes home to a peaceful life, this one ended in his murder.

This was the price for standing his ground, staying true to his principles, and protecting his people.

Written by Luz Maranan, the tale was read by the author at the Kwentuhan at Kathang Sining sa Kampuhan last Sept. 17, 2017, an event organized by Karapatan, an alliance of human rights organizations, where children from different backgrounds came together in solidarity in line with Lakbayan 2017.

But this story isn’t some masterpiece of the creative mind. Macliing Dulag did defend his people, losing his life in the process. This is a story some of those children were all too familiar with- militarization, threats, attempts to steal their ancestral land, and more.

This was a reality that even kids no older than 13 had to deal with.

For the indigenous children who took part in this year’s Lakbayan, threats to life and livelihood were some of the very reasons they were driven out of their homes to take refuge in Metro Manila. Unsafe in their respective communities, they journeyed to the city in order to call for attention from the government, as well as to keep themselves safe from the military who have been hampering their communities with threats, harassment, and intimidation.

In the attempt to gain control of the land, the military has been infiltrating communities in different parts of the Philippines in order to intimidate and force indigenous people to flee.

Sometimes, however, the military does more than just intimidate, as was learned in the stories of teacher Arjay Perez. In his mere four years of teaching in Southern Mindanao, he says, he’s experienced more than he had expected to.

Recounting instances of violence and harassment by military in his school, he mentioned that two years ago, members of the military entered their school with no warning to ask if the school was legal or if it was created by the New People’s Army (NPA). Days after that, the military men went around the school. This, he says, was a show of power towards the people in that community, as it frightened them, especially the children. By this time the lessons could no longer proceed properly. After the community left, the schools were then occupied and made into barracks by the military.

“Walang teacher o estudyante ay gustong magturo at magaral kung may mga militar na may dalang baril na nasa sa loob ng iyong paaralan,” Perez said.

“Nagbabakwit kami, pero pagbalik namin sa komunidad ay sira na ang paaralan namin.”

He also spoke of a colleague, Teacher Miguel, who was shot thrice during a physical education class he was teaching; the bullet missed him, and instead it hit one of his students who was rushing to flee after hearing the gunshots.

“Ang mga eskwelahan ay hindi NPA school, hindi terrorista. Kaming mga teacher ay hindi terrorist. Pero bakit pinapatay ang mga magulang ng Lumad? Bakit may pinapatay na estudyante?” Perez added

Children are dropping out because of militarization, he said. Of the 200 schools in Mindanao, 39 of these were forced to close because they were occupied by the military who threatened the teachers not to come back to the community.

Now, in the city, the teachers have been trying their best to continue the students’ education in what is now known as bakwit schools. Although the dismal conditions- not to mention pollution, heat, and humidity- are not conducive to learning, Teacher Arjay can’t deny that they are safer here.

“Napipilitang huminto ang mga Lumad na sana’y nakakapagaral na ng maayos mula sa kanilang komunidad, at kung hindi huminto, sila’y napipilitang magbakwit sa siyudad para dito magpatuloy ng kanilang pagpapaaral.”

They are here indefinitely, as they cannot yet return to their community in Southern Mindanao. That is, if there is anything to return to. The military remains there, occupying their land, their homes, and their schools.

These are among the many issues that the organizers of the event wanted to shed light on. Roneo Clamor, the Deputy Secretary General of Karapatan and one of the event organizers, explained that wanted to raise awareness on the situation of children in Mindanao whose schools are under attack, children who are caught in the crossfire of military operations, and those victimized by the militarization in their communities.

“We organized this to bring the issue to the government, especially the kids in Mindanao whose schools are under attack.” Clamor said.

Since they wanted this event to bring solidarity towards children, they invited not only the Lakbayani children, but also children from various daycares in Metro Manila, and those whose families were affected by the human rights violations committed under the current administration.

Karapatan, an alliance of human rights organizations, maximizes all means and forms of campaigns possible to bring attention to pressing issues that are often not accorded enough importance.

“Bilang suporta sa mga schools na pinapasara saka sa mga kabataan na di na nakakapagaral dahil nga wala na silang mapasukan, gusto rin naming maexpose ang ibang mga bata na ‘di mga Lumad, at maka-halubilo yung mga Lumad na bata para malaman din ang plight ng isa’t isa,” Maria Sol Taule,  event organizer and legal counsel for Karapatan said.

This, she says, is important because instances like the forced closing of schools are not often reported on in mainstream media.

Rolando delos Reyes II, the Guidance Services Specialist in UP Diliman agrees that utilizing arts is a form of psycho-social support intervention that the children are in need of, especially because these children oftentimes suffer from trauma.

“Regarding adverse effects of militarization at ung nangyayaring kaguluhan sa Mindanao particularly to children, the primary effect is the post traumatic stress disorder that they are experiencing. This would manifest through panic attacks or anxiety attacks particularly kungyari, may natumba na gamit, tapos may dating sumabog, they will associate this with sounds that they’ve heard before.”

He applauded the activity, saying that having an arts and crafts workshop is a start in the healing process for these children, especially since this allows them to express what they’re not often able to.

That Sunday was unlike most days that these children are used to. A small portion of the camp had been transformed into a play area for them; mats were laid down, paint, brushes, colored paper, and bottles were used by the children to make their very own creations. Volunteers surrounded the children, talking to them, guiding them, and helping them unlock their imaginations.

The children were simply being children- a luxury that they often cannot afford in this day and age with all that they have been experiencing. They are learning, once again, what it means and what it feels like to be a child. Carefree, safe, and protected, they are able to laugh and play without fear of being attacked.

But this is not something that should remain a rarity for these children- they deserve better. They must be protected, their rights upheld. This is something that members of Karapatan, teachers like Arjay Perez, and many others remain steadfast in fighting for.