Dear classmates and friends,
Hello! I'm back again and finally, i finish the first draft of my frontline article. Sorry for this much delayed. Just having hard time to catch up with the deadline due to many unforeseen events in our country and to my personal matters. Anyway, if you can find some spare time giving some comments for my article , I'll be very happy to submit my final paper soon as possible, I'm still thinking of my title.
Congrats to all of you!
Former President Corazon Aquino, the first woman president not only of the Philippines but of Asia who ousted the two decade US- backed Marcos dictatorship in 1986 passed away last August 1 after her long battle against cancer. Her last letter dated June 10, 2009 to the Filipino people, strongly called the Filipino people to defend the freedom won from the Marcos dictatorship against shameless act of President Arroyo to stay in power beyond her term in 2010 through Charter change. The millions of Filipinos nationwide gave their final respect to this woman who consistently stood her ground in fighting tyranny and dictatorship up to the very end.
Memories of War and Violence:
With my teary eyes witnessing the final rest of the icon of democracy I can’t help but cried. My thoughts fly back to my own beloved 83 year old Nanay who is living in our home place in Mindanao which is very far from where I am now. A deep nostalgic feeling of my childhood and teen-age days quickly flashed in with colorful shades in a conflicting world of war and poverty. I was born and grew up in Mindanao, during the darkest years of Martial Law in 1970’s and 80’s. I had lived life for nineteen years in war-torn community where killings and bombings became a natural phenomenon everyday of our lives. I was five years old then when Martial Law was declared in 1972. During those times, we rejoiced whenever we hear sounds of exchanging bullets and bomb explosions and feel sad when bullets and bombs are silent in the air. Though, I remember, when I was six years old, whenever we heard news of Muslims attacks anytime in the night I was constantly shaking of nervousness and Tatay had to wrap me in a blanket just to keep me warm and stop me from shaking. Soon, I grew up witnessing killings right in front of me both from military men themselves and military killing and abusing civilians in our community in broad daylight. An estimated of 150,000-2000,000 lives were lost in three years from1972-1975 described Guiamel M. Alim, Executive Director of Kadtuntaya Foundation, Inc. in his paper “ The Bangsa Moro Struggle for Self-Determination.”
Love in War and Survival Against Poverty:
I thought about Nanay of how she managed to take care of us, protect us and
love us in times of poverty and war during those years. When I was a kid, Nanay always told us her story of the hardship they’ve been through, the times when they had no food to eat, when they had to go around the neighborhood asking a ganta of rice, when nobody from their relatives lend them money when they need to buy milk for us, when Nanay was paralyzed due to giving birth of my elder brother and Tatay (A Filipino term which means Father) didn’t had the money to buy her medicine.
Until my primary grades, it was Tatay who lulled me to sleep; he sung songs of poverty, songs of friendships and songs of survival. He told me stories of how he and Nanay struggled to put up our family, how he worked in Guam, USA as a driver at a very young age of twenty and returned here in the Philippines with nothing at all. Both of them told us stories of how they survived the Second World War, the stories of the terror of Japanese occupation in the Philippines, the killings of babies and children, raping women and young girls and persecuting Filipino men.
I grew up with their stories of poverty, exploitation and survival. Its realities pained me in the midst of war and made me understand what poverty is all about. All my life, I remember Tatay and Nanay worked hard day and night at the wharf and I together with my elder brother helped them earned a living . Since I was six years old, Nanay usually woke me up as early as three in the morning to help her sell coffee, eggs, bread and other food stuffs for the workers and passengers in the port. My elder brother as young as he is, already worked as a laborer in the wharf. Two of us were buddies of Nanay and Tatay in making our living until we finished our high school.
The aspirations of every Filipino parent of sending their children to college as key for a better life was in the heart of Tatay and Nanay even it meant separating from them and facing humiliation of borrowing money from there capitalist employers, The pain of my memories is still fresh remembering a time when Nanay was crying and felt so hurt telling me that she was not able to borrow money from Tatay’s employer for my transportation and tuition fees. She told me that Tatay’s employer yelled and insulted her in front of others telling her how ambitious she and Tatay were of sending us to college in distant universities while we survive only through borrowings. I never forgot that episode in my life and I promised myself and Nanay to graduate college and show those arrogant exploiters capitalists that we have dignity and we can dignify ourselves even in the midst of poverty.
My college life in Iloilo City was a continuing struggle for survival against poverty and hunger. There were times I escaped meals because my allowance was very limited. One time, I collapsed in school because I didn’t have my breakfast. During school awarding, my classmates just lend me clothes and in my travel course requirements such as field exposures, my classmates contributed for my expenses. It was hard but it never came into my mind to quit school.
The Road Less Traveled By
How many stories such as mine keep on repeating as pages of history unfolds? Others may sound worse or much better compared to mine but the story of poverty and war is a continuing ordeal of the majority of the Filipino and women in particular which keep on worsening day by day. We are considered as one of the richest country in the world in terms of our natural resources. We have extensive deposit of gold, nickel, silver, copper, lead and chromium. Our marine biodiversity is considered one of the richest in the world which can supply the whole population including exports to other countries. As an agricultural and rice producing country, the Philippines population can be supported ten times fold. Then one may wonder why do we have to suffer this way? Why do seven (7) out of ten (10) Filipinos died without access to medical care? Why do women go overseas and take care of other children while leaving her own?
It is a glaring reality of contrast of natural wealth and poverty under the present dispensation of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the Philippines ranks number five in world hungry countries. There are 7.7M Filipinos goes hungry everyday not able to eat at least three times a day. In the 92 million Filipinos, 52% or 47.84 M are poor and 4M children are malnourished. The Philippines belong to the 10 Asian countries with highest rate of malnutrition rate. The Philippines ranked as the most corrupt among thirteen nations in Asia by Political & Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC).
The Bureau of Treasury as of April this year showed that the net worth asset of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo increased by 114 percent from P66.8 million to P143.54 million. While millions of Filipinos are hungry, President Macapagal-Arroyo spend million of pesos dining in expensive restaurants in her recent US visit to President B. Obama costing more than US$19,000 or almost P 1M .
When people suffered so much, the tendency is to fight back and seek solutions. My experiences taught me how to fight back, our history as a Filipino people taught me find the right way and heal all these miseries in life. I took the journey on the road less traveled by - the journey of activism embracing my family and all poor Filipino families with my love for freedom and social justice.
I am traveling far and wide, rising and falling, with tears and laughter, alone and in groups soaring the storms of state powers, where violence and bullets cowed and silenced those who work for social justice. One of the many fallen travelers was my first husband who had been missing twenty years ago at the age of twenty eight years caused by the remnants of Martial ruled. Still, under the Arroyo government, the climate of terror and impunity still reigns in her undeclared Martial ruled where political killings numbered 1,013, 392 victims of enforced disappearances and 119 are women including two of my friends and 23 women political prisoners under the US- back War on Terror of the Arroyo government without bringing the culprits to the halls of justice.
I have survived several attempts in my life; the recent was in November 2007. My life as an activist is always under threat but my conviction to serve the women and children and the Filipino people remains steadfast. Working full time in activism is a commitment with no monetary compensation and with our limited financial resources I tried to survive and hold on to the principles of serving the people, especially the women and children no matter how difficult it is. Friends, my sisters and sympathetic people came to my rescue in times of crisis but coping with the limited resources is a daily struggle.
There is always hope for women and children and the Filipino people amid these miseries. The movement for social change is consistently and resolutely fighting amid political persecution. People’s organizations, non-profit organizations and church institutions that provide assistance to the grassroots women to rise above poverty and participate actively in the pursuit of social change are growing. International support is also swelling in support of the women’s movement and the people’s movement .Political killings was exposed internationally with the help of international churches, members of US Congress, Filipino International Solidarity networks and international human rights organizations.
Women participation in social change is gaining grounds everyday. The two day protest march in July 26- 27 here in our region participated majority by peasant and urban poor women against the President’s State of the Nation Address was a reflection of the sentiments of the people against the present regime. The hundred of thousand Filipino women who joined the funeral march of the late President Cory Aquino last August 5 is also a symbol that the Filipinos wanted and deserve a better president and a leader than President Gloria Macapagal –Arroyo. The ultimate hope for us Filipino people is ourselves, to hold on to that belief that we Filipinos can make social change as revealed even in the most darkest years of our history. This is where I draw my inspiration and happiness in life that sustains my activism especially in my vulnerable times.
I strongly believe that we can heal our ailing economy freeing ourselves from the paradigm of globalization. We need to nationalize our basic industries from multinational and big business control. We need to have genuine land reform for food security rather than converting our lands to subdivisions and biofuels plantations. We need to defend our Constitutions that provide protection against 100 % foreign ownership of our lands, business and social services. We need to defend our Constitution from tyranny and dictatorship. We need to have government of the Filipino people not of the ruling elite and foreign interests.
In my journey, I believe that the Filipino women and people deserve to be free from poverty, exploitation and oppression and a better future. No matter how long, bumpy and risky the road to freedom but activism is an empowering and liberating journey of a woman not only for her family but a collective journey for peace, freedom and justice for humanity.