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.

Beyond memory: A testament to heroism

Photo by Frances Urbiztondo

Text by Agatha Gregorio

Razor-sharp headlines punctuate the national dailies. The newspapers, it seems, are warning us of an oncoming storm, delivering the sign of the times.

‘Malacanang declares holiday in Ilocos Norte for Marcos’ 100th birthday’

‘Marcos buried at Libingan ng mga Bayani’

“Masakit talaga na inilibing siya sa Libingan ng mga Bayani, kasi symbol ‘yun eh, that this government has recognized Marcos as a hero,” said Maria Cristina Rodriguez, a torture victim during former President Ferdinand Marcos’ administration.

A beat passed before she continued, “But in exchange, ‘yung awakening ng youth, ay hindi ko ‘yun ipagpapalit.”

According to her, monuments can be shattered and rendered meaningless, but nothing surpasses the worth of the youth’s awareness of the dark years of authoritarian rule. When she talks of the hashtags that have been spreading all over the internet such as #MarcosNotAHero and #NeverAgainToMartialLaw, there is a sense of both gratitude and relief.

People like her have recognized the need for truth to reign in a censored society, shackled within the cages of a restrained media. This, a large contrast from today’s liberty in social media expression, was the kind of world she had to live in.

Yet, people like her found ways to voice out their political concerns. Most became victim to the martial law era’s unethical, extrajudicial practices, with some leading to death.

Their stories, however, are more than deserving of the same, if not more attention than the ways in which the late Philippine dictator continues to be commemorated today.

They were, and continue to be, the heroes that have sacrificed greatly in the name of our freedom.

Mapagpalayang ‘Malaya’

Joe Burgos is known for being the journalist who established “We Forum” and “Malaya”, newspapers which have contributed significantly to the overthrow of the Marcos administration.

With print media mainly consisting of state-owned newspapers, or those established by Marcos’ cronies, Burgos had been one to pave the way towards alternative news during a time wherein press freedom was truly lacking, if not totally non-existent.

According to his son, JL Burgos, he worked at the Philippine National Oil Company, right after having written for the Manila Times. However, after seeing how the suppression of information during the Marcos administration, he left the big paychecks that came with working at the company to start “We Forum”.

It had taken some adjustments and personal sacrifices for both him and the family to start the newspaper.

“Nanay ko nagsangla ng mga jewelries para makapagtayo ng dyaryo, dahil kailangan talagang maglabas ng dyaryo na independent; na ipapakita ang human rights violations, corruption, at iba pa,” he said.

Joe had originally applied for a permit for the newspaper under the name “We for the Young Filipinos”, making it appear as a campus publication. Due to low budget allocation, campus journalists were recruited for the newspaper.

Soon enough, they began publishing articles that opposed martial law in the Philippines. One article, in particular, exposed the dictator’s medals as fake–and Marcos himself threatened those involved in the writing of the article in a press conference that followed.

A month later, the “We Forum” office was raided, resulting in the arrest of Joe Burgos and his lawyer. He was later put under house arrest, but this did not stop him from starting another independent newspaper, which was “Malaya”, in the hopes of continuing the goal to inform the public of the truth.

“Malaya”, in fact, was the first newspaper to publish an article on Ninoy Aquino’s death.

The journalistic work that Burgos had engaged in could have played a great role in the collaborative forces that came about at the time, leading to the People Power Revolution. However, there were also other actions from beyond the media that helped propagate the injustices accompanying the martial law era.

Sacrifice and Activism

Maria Cristina Rodriguez is the executive director of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani Foundation, which is dedicated to the commemoration of martial law victims during the Marcos administration. In addition to this, she had been a student activist in college, also having been a torture victim at the time.

Despite the dangers present, activists such as students had played a great role in forwarding the movement to end martial law, she said.

“‘Yung mga taga-UP, they’d leave little notes sa toilet. Gagawa sila ng mga stickers, ilalagay nila sa doors ng mga cubicles ng toilets, just to let the other person know that others are still free in their minds. Hindi lahat nabola. Hindi lahat natakot.” Rodriguez shared.

Most anti-Marcos activists had to hide out in the provinces and take up arms, despite not being trained to handle them, due to the need for protection. According to her, most of them still died under the hands of the government.

Evident in her words were admiration for their bravery and courage, as she recalls all these people had sacrificed themselves to overthrow the dictatorship, or at the very least, recognize the injustices that plague the Philippine government and its people.

She said,“Marami diyang mga aktibista, they had promising lives. They could have been lawyers, senators or successful businessmen. But still, they decided, at that time, nung panahon pa ng Marcos dictatorship, some urgent thing had to be done, and they did it.”

Testaments to heroism can be clearly seen through the youth’s slow, but steady awakening towards the truth, and to what the martial law victims gave up to earn us our freedom and our rights. And perhaps, this is the symbol of who the Filipino people truly recognize as heroes.

These people rose to the call that eventually led to a great deal of suffering and sacrifice, without thinking of the possibility of reward or recognition. And perhaps, they are without monuments or statues or accolades written and sculpted in their name. But what is there to hollow monuments without true cause for struggle?

Atleta ng Bayan: Sulong, kabataang Lakbayani

Kuha ni Keith Magcaling
Sulat ni Raneza Beatrice Pinlac

Tumatak sa isip ng madla ang karaniwang mukha ng isang atleta – tumatagaktak na pawis habang sumasabak sa palarong umaalab sa kanilang mga puso. Subalit para sa mga atleta ng bayan, ang laban ay higit pa sa hangganan ng kani-kanilang mga isport. Layon nilang magamit ito bilang kasangkapan upang magampanan ang kanilang tungkulin para sa bayan.

Sa ikatlong taon ng pagsasaganap ng sports clinic para sa mga kabataang Lakbayani noong ika-16 ng Setyembre, nagsilbing sinag ng pag-asa ang UP Men’s at Women’s Football Teams para sa 40 batang namulat sa isang mundong nadungisan ng militarisasyon at kahirapan. Kasangga rin ng mga koponan ang Gabriela Youth – UP Diliman sa kanilang matagumpay na pagkamit sa pakay ng programa.

Ilan lamang ang caterpillar drill at pagsasanay sa futbol sa mga aktibidad na inihanda ng mga organizer para sa mga batang lakbayani. IItinuro rin ng mga atleta ng bayan ang mga pangunahing kakayahan na mahalaga sa paglalaro ng kanilang isport tulad ng tamang pagsipa at pagpasa ng bola. Pagkatapos, namigay ang koponan ng mga mumunting regalo at pagkain para sa mga batang nakilahok sa kanilang sports clinic.

Madaling naaninag ang maliliwanag na ngiti ng mga batang punong-puno ng taos-pusong saya at pasasalamat sa mga atletang panandalian nilang nakalaro. Para naman sa mga atleta, pagkakataon ito upang ipadama sa mga Lakbayani ang kanilang mainit na pagtanggap sa kanila.

Ayon kay Kali Navea-Huff, punong-abala ng sports clinic at miyembro ng UP Women’s Football team, mahalagang nakikiisa ang mga atleta sa mga bata mula sa Save our Schools Network hindi dahil agad nitong mawawaksi ang problemang pasan ng mga bata ngunit upang maiparamdam na ligtas sila sa pansamantalang tahanan sa unibersidad.

Naniniwala ang mga atleta ng bayan na bukod sa pagbabahagi nila ng kaalaman tungkol sa futbol, nakapagbahagi rin sila ng pansamantalang pahinga para sa mga pagal na puso ng mga batang maagang sinubok ang hinagpis ng buhay.

“Higit sa pagpapahatid ng saya, nababalikan rin nila ang kanilang pagkabata,” pahayag ni Lian Valencia, kinatawan ng Gabriela sa sports clinic.

Namulat ang mga Lakbayani sa isang mundong puno ng takot at pangamba na dulot ng militarisasyon. Sila ay nakipagsapalaran tungo sa UP Diliman upang ibahagi ang kanilang mga karanasan sa ilalim ng karahasan at pang-aabuso ng militar. Minsan nang umabot sa kasukdulan ang karahasang buhat ng militar sa kabataan noong nabalita ang malupit na pagpatay kay Obillo Bay-ao, isang 19-anyos na estudyante.  

Nagpapasalamat naman si Ian Clarino, miyembro ng UP Maroon Booters, sa mga batang Lakbayani.

Ayon sa kanya, napaalala ng kanilang munting mga kalaro na dapat harapin ang buhay nang may pusong puno ng tapang at paniniwala na malalampasan nila ang bawat pagsubok na hahadlang sa kanilang pagabot ng kanilang mga pangarap.

Ang pagiging atleta ng bayan ay hindi lamang nasusukat ng kanilang nahahakot na panalo sa mga palarong kanilang sinasalihan dahil isa rin sa mga pangunahing gampanin nila ay ang magbigay serbisyo at tulong sa mga nangangailangan, ani Clarino.

Tunay na nakatatak sa isip ng madla ang larawan ng mga atleta na naglalaban-laban sa mga palakasan upang makamit ang kampeonato. Ngunit para sa atleta ng bayan, ang tunay na tagumpay ay natatamo sa pamamagitan ng pagiging katalista ng pasulong na pagbabago para sa kinabukasan ng ating bayan.

Sewing the patterns of struggle

Photo and text by Meeko Camba

For Gretchel Atiao, a 16-year-old Lumad student from Lianga, Surigao del Sur, clothing is more than just a form of self-expression. As a community, it is a way of asserting their identity as indigenous people.

But in their haste to evacuate after President Rodrigo Duterte’s threat to bomb their schools for allegedly teaching kids to “rebel against the government,” she and the others had to leave their homes, and this particular part of their culture, behind.

“Sa kultura namin iyan (mga damit). Bilang Lumad, ito yung sinusuot ng mga kabataan kapag may ritwal… (Gamit nito) makilala ka bilang isang batang Lumad o katutubo,” she said.

Which is why come Lakbayan 2017, a protest caravan of the national minorities which calls for the end of militarization in Lumad schools, among others, Gretchel and the Lumad youth’s case inspired a group of UP College of Home Economics (CHE) students to help out in the best way they knew how: clothes.

Being the only clothing organization in the university, the UP Association of Clothing Technology Students (UP ACTS) volunteered to make cultural attires for the Lumad youth to use in representing their community during their stay in Manila, and beyond.

“Nung una worried talaga kami kasi for one, very small organization lang kami—under 15. Kaya maliit lang talaga yung manpower sa organization,” UP ACTS President Auie Aurelio said.

Coupled with a lack in financial resources, this made them think twice about going through with the initiative.

What they did not expect was the amount of support, both in effort and in cash, they got from fellow students, faculty and alumni, as well as outsiders who heard about the project.

“Nung nagpost na kami online nung call for donations, overwhelming yung response, and kahit yung almunis [sic] naming nagsasabi na gusto nilang tumulong, magdonate at maki-sow, so we decided na kaya nating ilaban yung project,” Aurelio said.

Eventually, what started out as 20 sets of traditional clothes doubled and can now cover all the 33 lumad youths in the Lakbayan.

Each set consisted of two pieces: a long-sleeved blouse and skirt for the girls, a vest and pants for the boys.

All were in bright blood red, symbolizing their continued struggle, embroidered with rickrack patterns of white, black and yellow that represent the mountains back in their communities, Aurelio said.

Photo by Meeko Camba

 

The project began in July, a month before the national minorities arrived in UP Diliman, when Aurelio asked volunteer teacher Chad Booc of the Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development, Inc. (ALCADEV), a secondary school for the Lumad, what they could do to support the cause.

“Isa sa mga vision or mission ng ALCADEV ay mapaunlad at mapreserve yung culture ng mga lumad. Tapos part [naman] ng mission ng clothing technology na tumulong sa pagpopromote ng indigenous clothing so nagtagpo yung mission nung dalawang institution, kaya hindi siya naging mahirap na bumuo ng isang project na ganito,” Booc said.

A volunteer realigns a pattern prior to cutting the cloth. Photo by Meeko Camba.

After a two-day integration in the camps, Aurelio and the others proceeded to take the kids’ measurements, which for her, was quite a memorable experience.

“Na-realize nung mga members na yung mga batang ito, wala silang chance na may magawang damit para sa kanila, unlike tayo na nasa Manila na kapag prom or kapag may debut, nagagawan tayo ng damit,” she said.

But for Gretchel and her fellow Lumad, who merely want to return to their homes, it is rare that people pay attention to them individually, which gave the experience a different appeal, Aurelio added.

Ever since, the kids knew her and the others as “mga ateng gumagawa ng damit.”

After a little over a month of cutting and sewing, UP ACTS will turnover all 40 sets of lumad attires at the cultural night tomorrow, Sept. 15, in a special ceremony at the Kampuhan in Sitio Sandugo, CP Garcia.

For Aurelio, the project not only succeeded in reaching out to the Lumad, but also allowed them to prove that, contradictory to popular belief, clothes do matter.

“[Yung project na ‘to] hindi siya para samin or hindi siya project na parang ‘ganda lang.’ May cause siya tapos hindi lang siya nakakatulong, it helps people be awake din na there’s so much more to clothing than what people see it to be as superficial,” she said.

Booc reiterates this, explaining how clothes are deeply integrated in Lumad, and indigenous culture as a community.

“Siyempre bilang mga katutubo, ito (damit) [ay] bahagi ng kanilang identidad na mas makilala sila bilang mga lumad; bilang bahagi siya ng kanilang kasaysayan na habang umuunlad yung kanilang kultura ay napapanatili yung mga ganitong bahagi ng kanilang kultura—na nasusuot pa rin nila,” Booc said.

A thousand peso fallacy: The worth of human rights

By Beatriz Zamora

On the fifth of September, a gray sky stood witness to a boy’s funeral.

In Aliw Cemetery in Pateros, people lit candles in memory of 19-year-old Carl Angelo Arnaiz, who was killed by Caloocan City cops on the evening of Aug. 18.

On the steps of Alonso Hall in UP Diliman, hands clutched painted placards bearing the name of the same boy who walked the same halls they now stand in.

Now, his name is part of the many who have been victimized by the system these students have fought–and are still fighting–so hard against.

Both scenes happened in the aftermath of a death that was untimely and unjust. Both reminded the responsible that this was a murder which would never be forgotten, much less forgiven, along with the thousands of cases which preceded it.

Arnaiz had been missing for more than a week before he was found in a morgue in Caloocan, cities away from Cainta, Rizal, where he lives with his father and grandmother.

The police claimed the former UP Diliman student held up a taxi cab along the C3 highway and fired shots at authorities which supposedly caused them to fire back, ultimately shooting Arnaiz to death.

For the cops, this was what ensued on the night he went missing. But for those who truly knew him, this version of events was a cheap cover-up for the true story of how a boy was robbed of an entire life laid out before him.

Like any other

“Nothing but inconsistencies, clearly a fabricated scripted killing,” said Arnel Olofernes, who was Arnaiz’s teacher in math back when he was a freshman and a senior student in Makati Science High School (MakSci).

Olofernes  remembers his former student as a reserved boy. He was naturally gifted, he said, and often had to be pushed to speak up in class and give the answer to questions everybody else had difficulty answering.

Yet Arnaiz, he shared in an online interview, was a wholly different person when he was around his usual crowd. As was typical of high school students back then, the group of friends were obsessed with playing Defense of the Ancients (DotA) during after-school hours.

“Puro DotA, walang problema sa subject ko kase naturally gifted s’ya doon eh. Pero sa ibang subjects na alam mo na madaming pinapapasang requirements, doon sila nayayare kasi ‘di nagawa ng homeworks and projects kase nagdoDotA,” he said fondly.

Arnaiz’s crowd consisted of varsity players whom Olofernes also coached after classes. He was supportive of them, the teacher shared, and had been friends with them from the moment they entered MakSci.

Olofernes always made it a point to be close to his students and Arnaiz was not an exception. More than a math teacher from his past, Olofernes also guided Arnaiz with his struggles in the university.

“Actually pinayuhan ko din si Carl sa struggles nya sa UP kase ganyan din ako, three years ako sa UP Diliman e tapos sibat,” he shared.

Ardently calling him by his nickname, “Chibaku”, after Arnaiz’s favorite Japanese animated series, the MakSci teacher recalled his refusal to believe his student’s death when he found out via Twitter after his former varsity player posted the news.

“Nanlamig ako,” he said. It was a brief statement, an honest account of what it was like when he first heard that his former student’s life was cut short to 19 years.

He added, “Actually, nakakagulat kasi talaga, ‘di ba, na ‘yong mga nangyayari sa ngayon [tapos] biglang ang directly involved ay kilala ko. Parang narealize ko na bakit ganun? Ganito na kagulo, yung kay Kian magagalit ka sa balita, ‘di ba? Bakit ganoon, pero nangyari kay Carl. Putang ina, ayan ang eksaktong words.”

Likewise, Arnaiz’s high school friend Kieth Dagondong, calls for accountability from the state.

Nakakalungkot kasi sinayang nila ‘yong buhay ng kaibigan ko. Sinira nila ‘yong mga pangarap ni Carl. Nakakapanggalaiti na naging biktima siya ng pasistang estado. Binaboy siya at nilapastangan,” he said.

They initially knew each other from various competitions back in elementary school. Both valedictorians upon entering MakSci, Dagondong and Arnaiz became part of the same circle of friends who not only excelled in class but also dedicated a fair amount of their time in computer shops.

Both of them went to UP Diliman in college, and even though they were separated from their friends who attended UP Los Baños, the boys would reunite during their mutual friend’s birthday, usually a sleepover.

He further continued, “Mas nagbibigay siya ng drive para ibigay ung hustisyang nararapat para sa kanya at matigil na ang ganitong sistematikong pagpatay.”

Today, Dagondong gives tribute to the memory of his friend through fighting for justice and civil liberties as a member of a mass organization. “Sa pamamagitan siyempre ng pagmumulat sa masa at pago-organisa para matigil na ‘to,” he said.

Systematic injustice

But Arnaiz was not an isolated case. Just two days before he disappeared, 17-year-old senior high school student Kian delos Santos was made a victim of police brutality when officers mercilessly shot him to death.

Before his death, delos Santos was very vocal about his dreams of being a police officer because he was scared of drug addicts. Little did he know, being tagged as his worst fear would get him murdered by the people he aspired to be.

Just days after news on Arnaiz’s death broke out, the lifeless body of his companion surfaced in Nueva Ecija who was identified as 14-year-old Reynaldo de Guzman. De Guzman was tortured, according to experts, and was stabbed at least 25 times before his body was thrown into a river in Gapan, Nueva Ecija.

Both Arnaiz and delos Santos were accused of firing at the authorities, thus seemingly making their deaths justifiable. The two cases are attributed to police precincts within Caloocan.

With the awarding of Best City Police Station to the Caloocan City Police on the day of Arnaiz’s death, the message could not get any clearer.

The city was lauded for having the highest number of targets “neutralized”, as well as the highest accomplishment rate for Project Double Barrel, according to a statement released by the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO).

Pinatunayan ng magakakasunod na parangal mula mismo sa DILG at NCRPO na ang magandang koordinasyon ng pulisya at lokal na pamahalaan ay magbubunga ng epektibong sitwasyon kaya nga ang Caloocan police ay tumanggap ng parangal bilang Best Police Station,” read a statement published on Caloocan City Mayor Oscar Malapitan’s Facebook page.

But in the wake of the killings, one message remained strong: change is not coming. At least, not from the very hands which restrain it.

Anakbayan CHE Chairperson Jasper Villasis strongly believes in the power of youth and collective action to fight for the justice the state deprived of Carl, as well as the thousands of others who were also victims of Oplan Tokhang.

Instead of responding to the people’s demands for their rights, the government answers with brute force.

“August 18 ng madaling araw kinaladkad si Carl, pinosasan, pinaluhod, binugbog at tsaka pinagbabaril nang ilang beses. At sinong matinong ulo yung magsasabi na justifiable ang Oplan Tokhang?” he said in a speech last Sept. 5.

Only earlier today, the House of Representatives approved the meager amount of P1,000 as the budget of the Commission of Human Rights (CHR) in 2018. One of the cited reasons was the agency’s ineffectivity in addressing human rights abuses committed by terrorists. But what many fail to understand is that the CHR only has jurisdiction over rights violations made by the state.

The Commission was created during the late Corazon Aquino’s presidency, when the country was only recovering from Ferdinand Marcos’ tyranny. It was a response to the Marcos dictatorship to decades of government abuse.

Reminiscent of the years the country has spent under Marcos’ military rule, the people are again made victims by the same institution that has vowed to protect them.

“Sino ang magsasabi na tama ang ginagawa ng estado kung sa araw-araw ay may pinapatay, sa araw-araw ay pinagkakaitan ng karapatan?” Villasis said.

And a week after Arnaiz was laid to rest, it seems, that the sky still mourns not only for those who were slain but for a state which glorifies its own sinners and preys after its own saints.

Honoring defiance against insidious sociopolitical ailments

Photo by Jerome Edward Ignacio
Text by John Patrick Manio

This year, Dulaang Unibersidad ng Pilipinas (DUP) opens the 26th Theatre Season of UP Playwrights’ Theatre (UPPT) – dubbed Honoring Defiance – with “Fathers and Sons” (directed by Tony Mabesa) which is a stage adaptation of National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquin’s short story entitled Three Generations. “Fathers and Sons” and its Filipino counterpart “Mga Ama, Mga Anak”, translated by National Artist Virgilio Almario and multi-awarded writer Jose F. Lacaba, is staged in honor of its author’s birth centennial.

Apart from the masterful direction of Tony Mabesa and the spectacular and engrossing performances of each of the cast, “Fathers and Sons” – being a brainchild of Nick Joaquin – delves deeper into the inner workings of the Filipino family and culture. Supported by intricate characterization and inter-character tension, it will make the audience think of their own dealings with their family as they see themselves in the shoes of the play’s characters.

Set in the 1970s, the play follows a day in the life of the Monzon family and focuses primarily on the relationship between the former “Caritela King” Zacarias Monzon and his son Celo Monzon, as tension arises when the former persisted to retain his concubine go-go dancer Bessie in their house. Patriarchy plays heavily into the Monzons’ family dynamic and is the central point of criticism in this play. Its most featured prop, although physically absent in the stage, is a long wooden table that symbolizes the looming power and legacy of the father figure in the respective household, much like an artist’s painting of himself in another Nick Joaquin play, A Portrait of the Artist as a Filipino.

In line with the season’s theme of ‘Honoring Defiance’, the defiance comes heavily from Celo as a victim of his father’s abusive and machistic nature. All throughout the play, we see glimpses of his past that build up his disgust towards his father, his thirst for vengeance only increasing. This psychological turmoil then turns into a hindrance for Celo in his rocky pursuit of being a better father to his own son, Chitong, who needs moral support in his vocation as a church novice.

Another unknowing victim in this family’s patriarchal setting is Celo’s sister, Nena, who dismisses the notion of getting a family of her own in order to serve and take care of her father full-time. She lives with his father and is there whenever he is in need, even tolerating his desires of living with his concubine up to the point where she considers Bessie a part of their family. This begs a critical lens into the ‘traditional’ Filipina daughter who is unhealthily tied to her family, thus neglecting freedom to her own life.

Even Bessie, although outside of the family unit, is victimized by the patriarchy. But ironically enough, it is through Zacarias that she finds her worth outside of her scarlet-collar job. This paints a fascinating insight: the patriarchy does not stem from the family and its father figure but is imbued within the culture and belief system of a society – an inherent ailment that affects every individual. With the death of Zacarias, Celo finally finds reconciliation with his father but it is only through the destruction of the wooden table that he and the rest of the characters achieve true inner peace. This bit proves that patriarchy, symbolized by the table, really is just a looming construct waiting to be abolished by the willing who have had enough of its tormenting clutches.

Another angle that could be seen in this play is the vicious cycle of oppressed-becomes-oppressor, as evident in the characters of Zacarias and Celo. Zacarias was once the son of an impoverished father and his obsession with wealth, especially that of his long wooden table, has been to compensate for the lack of food that they’ve experienced in the past. Now, he could accommodate three dozen people at his table at once. What he gained physically, however, he lost morally.

Celo’s struggle of becoming a proper father to his own son translates into his biggest fear of becoming similar to his father – an ordeal that is not so impossible. While being consumed with depriving his father the presence of his concubine, Celo lashes out at his son, doing the exact same thing his father once did to him as a child.

Given that the story was set in 1974 during the height of Martial Law, the concept of the ‘vicious cycle’ could be incorporated in this context to generate a critique of the Marcos administration’s harsh and oppressive nature and the promise of the next’s emancipation which in hindsight, we all know was short-lived. Even with the advent of the 1986 People Power Revolution, human rights violations had prevailed and disappearances had continued. Those who promised to alleviate the ailments of the masses had, in some degree, made it worse – whether through intention or failure to adhere to pressing issues. In this way, the oppressed becomes the oppressor.

The phenomenon of sons avoiding the path their fathers once chose could also be observed during the last election where Bongbong Marcos ran for Vice President in the precedent that he would not be as tyrannical as his father, even teasing the promise that he would right the patriarch’s wrongs. While to critique both issues may not be part of Nick Joaquin’s original intentions upon writing for they are anachronistic at the time, it is interesting nonetheless to delve upon these angles to connect the play to timely and relevant topics in order appreciate the play’s timelessness as art.

Overall, “Fathers and Sons” is not only an entertaining production but an effective and thought-provoking piece and critique on traditional and contemporary Filipino culture. Actors like Leo Rialp and Candy Pangilinan own their characters to the point where actor and character seem inseparable.  More than simply being a play, it served as a window where the audience could see a glimpse of real people enacting society’s bittersweet reality.

Shows will run up to September 24.

The burden of memory

By Jo Comuyog

The year 1977 was no year for criticizing the government what with the nation blanketed by a quiet and fear-stricken political climate. Everyone knew that speaking out against the dictator could land you in the torturous hands of the military and your name on the long list of the disappeared.

Only five years earlier did then president Ferdinand Marcos declare martial law to subdue any form of dissent. Yet it was not enough reason to stop Bonifacio Ilagan from becoming an underground UP student leader against the Marcos regime.

Like many, he fell victim to the military’s many human rights violations during one of the darkest ages in our history. In response, he turned to the arts as one means of communicating many pressing truth.

Despite its probable consequences, Ilagan went on to write an iconic political production opening Filipinos’ eyes to the national situation titled “Pagsambang Bayan”.

Decades after the bloody years of martial law, many of the messages it propagates still proves relevant to the nation’s issues.  

Under the direction of Joel Lamangan, the revival of “Pagsambang Bayan” undertakes a revitalizing integration of digital images, contemporary music, and today’s most burning political issues. Having started this August, the Tag-Ani Performing Arts Society, in cooperation with the Jovenes Foundation and Erehwon Center of the Arts, was able to once more stage this increasingly relevant production in its 40th anniversary.

The cast was comprised of 18 parishioners – professionals, workers, farmers, students, indigenous folk, and the urban poor – along with a chorus, and priest, played alternately by rock icon Eric “Cabring” Cabrera and renowned tenor Conrado Calnea “Dondi” Ong III.

Along with its candid allusions to the Marcos regime, “Pagsambang Bayan The Musical” retained its liturgical influence in modeling the show after a Eucharistic celebration. The production took various biblical imagery and references to new heights of social and political relevance.

However, instead of portraying a priest-dominated ritual, the Mass became the platform for the many sectors in the congregation to voice their grievances to the community. Accompanied by original compositions by Joel Balsamo and Lucien Letaba, the narrative went back and forth between past and present problems faced by the people. Special emphasis was put on the juxtaposition of Marcos’ and President Rodrigo Duterte’s Martial Law as well as the destructive political environment their administrations had in common.

The production also tackled the injustice of recognizing former president Ferdinand Marcos as a hero despite having permitted and committed countless atrocities during his administration. “Kahit soldier pa yan,” members of the congregation asserted, “kailangan pa ring ‘good role model’ ang bayani!” (“Even though he was a soldier, a hero must still be a good role model.”)

Issues on the increasing number of political prisoners, the continued land-grabbing and contractualization were also altercated by members of the congregation from the specific sectors concerned.

Overall, the emotionally charged back-and-forth between the people and their religious leader was able to pose questions and initiate discourse about why we are plagued with our nation’s problems (“Ano ang ugat ng problema ng bayan?”), our accountability as citizens (“Walang sinuman ang nabubuhay para sa sarili lamang!”), and the importance of engaging in the fight for a just and free Philippines (“Kung hindi tayo, sino? Kung hindi ngayon, kailan?).

It was clear that, more than anything, “Pagsambang Bayan” was a call to solidarity. Watching this musical provided a good briefer on the nation’s many societal ills while the play’s interaction with the audience showed how it aims to bring people beyond simply knowing.

When the cast members would invite the audience to sing along and partake in its titular public worship, the viewers were effectively urged to empathize with the plights of those from the different sectors in society.

Amidst a sea of revisionism, productions like “Pagsambang Bayan” pull us back and serve as a reminder of our role as makers and rememberers of history.

The production was a holistic portrait of poignant yet empowering political theatre. “Pagsambang Bayan The Musical” not only prompts us to reflect on our history and recognize the urgency of the issues it raised, but also reignites in its audience a perhaps long-gone sense of nationalism and appreciation for the arts in times of national crises.

“Pagsambang Bayan The Musical” is set to show on the following tour dates: September 8-9 in La Consolacion College Auditorium, Mendiola, Manila; September 14 in Holy Angel University Theater, Pampanga; September 21 in the Cultural Center of the Philippines Little Theater, Pasay City; and September 29-30 in Sta. Cecilia’s Hall, St. Scholastica’s College, Manila. For inquiries, the Tag-Ani Performing Arts Society can be contacted via tagani2003@gmail.com, 09228252604, 09228995754, or 09088124781.

Alab ng panawagan: Ang pagsalubong ng UP sa Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya 2017

Photo by Keith Magcaling

Text by Andrea Jobelle Adan and Jemelle De Leon

Kasabay ng paglubog ng araw ang pag-angat ng libo-libong mga kamao, paglakas ng mga panawagan at paglagablab ng mga sulonagliliyab tulad ng diwa ng bitbit nilang mga kwento, karanasan, kultura at panawagan.

Narito na muli silanarito na ang sambayanan.

Mainit na sinalubong ng komunidad ng Unibersidad ng Pilipinas – Diliman ang humigit kumulang tatlong libong miyembro ng pambansang minorya na naglakbay mula pa sa iba’t ibang rehiyon sa bansa upang dumalo sa Lakbayan 2017. Dito nagkakaroon sila ng pagkakataong palakasin ang kanilang panawagan para sa hustisya, sariling pagpapasya, kapayapaan at karapatan sa lupang ninuno.

Sa nagdaang dalawang taon, nagsilbi ang Lakbayan bilang pagkakataon para sa mga pambansang minorya, na binubuo ng mga Moro, Lumad, katutubo sa Kordillera at ibang mga grupo sa Luzon, Visayas at Mindanao, upang direktang ipahayag ang tunay na kalagayan ng kanilang komunidad at manawagan sa gobyerno.

“Kaya ako sumama dito [ay] para bigyan ng hustisya ang nangyayari sa amin sa Mindanao,” giit ni Bai Jocelyn Agduhan ng Tribal Indigenous Oppressed Group Association mula sa Bukidnon. Sa harap niya, tuloy sa pagbaga ang siga na ginagamit tuwing nakakatamasa ng pagkapanalo ang unibersidad sa mga larong pampalakasan.

Ngunit sa kasalukuyang dinaranas ng iba’t ibang komunidad sa bansa, mahaba-haba pa ang laban patungong tagumpay.

Isa sa mga pangunahing panawagan ng Lakbayan ng Pambansang Minorya ngayong taon ay ang pagpapatigil ng batas militar sa buong Mindanao. Mariin nila itong tinututulan dahil lalo lamang nitong pinalalala ang pang-aabusong dala ng militar at paramilitar; bala ang nagiging tugon sa kanilang mga lehitimong panawagan.

Ayon kay Geming Alonzo, mula sa Center For Lumad Advocacy Networking and Services Incorporated, 33 eskwelahan ng mga Lumad ang sapilitang ipinasara sa Sultan Kudarat. Kasabay pa nito ang pag-aresto at pagsasampa ng gawa-gawang kaso sa anim na boluntaryong guro. Dahil dito, kinailangan munang maudlot ang pag-aaral ng 1,328 na estudyanteng Lumad.

Buti na lang at sa pamamagitan ng Lakbayan, nabibigyan ng pagkakataon ang kabataan makapag-aral nang hindi nakukulong sa libro at silid-aralan.

“Nakikita nila na iba’t iba ring mga tribo ang apektado na iba’t iba ang isyung binibitbit, importante yan sa mga bata lalo na sa social studies na subject nila kasi hindi natin nilalayo yung mga kabataan na malaman yung tunay na kalagayan ng lipunan”, sabi ni Alonzo.

Para naman sa isang 17 taong gulang na Moro, ang Lakbayan ay isang pagkakataon para maituro sa iba ang katotohanan ng kanilang dinaranas sa Zamboanga.

Sariwa pa sa alaala niya ang pagkakadakip ng kanyang tiyuhin, pinuno ng kanilang komunidad. Kinuha umano ito ng mga armadong grupo, tinawag na miyembro ng Islamic State at inilayo sa kanila. Higit tatlong buwan matapos ang insidente, hindi na ito muling nakabalik pa.

“Isa siyang mabuting pinuno na pinatay na walang kasalanan. Lahat ng ginagawa niya ay para sa ikabubuti ng kanyang pinamumunuan,” giit niya. Naririto siya upang malinis ang pangalan ng tinitingalaan niyang tito. Naririto siya upang sabihing makatulong sa pagpapaliwanag sa ibang hindi maintindihan ang kanilang pakikibaka.

Sagot ng sambayanan

“In many ways, kahit na wala pang declaration ng martial law nationwide, marami ng katangian ng dictatorship ang openly nagagawa ni Pangulong Duterte,” paliwanag ni dating Bayan Muna Representative Teddy Casiño.

Ayon kay Casiño, kahit limitado sa Mindanao ang deklarasyon ng batas militar, marami sa nangyari noong panahon ng dating diktador at pangulong Ferdinand Marcos ang nangyayari muli ngayon sa pamamalakad ni Pangulong Duterte, katulad na lamang ng mga extrajudicial killings, pagsasampa ng gawa-gawang kaso, at pinatinding giyera sa kanayunan