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NO GRAVEYARDS FOR FLOWERS AND CANDLES

“It’s been a long time! Where have you beeen ? I’ve missed you so much! I excitedly hug her full of warmth for a long lost friend and a comrade. You lost so much weight, don’t you? Everybody is missing you!”

She just responds with a gentle look at me followed by a deep silence.

Tamara, her teen-ager daughter is with her. It’s a surprise visit of Luing and Tamara at my home today. Oh! you know I really cried when I saw Tamara’s few days ago. I always read her letters for you and … “Yes,” she smilingly nod at me. Understanding the pain of what she meant, I give her a smile back.

While sitting together in our bamboo sala set, Luing excitedly opens her goody bags for us and Tamara keeps talking to her. I can still see the usual Luing who is so gentle and thoughtful in her ways. She loves to bring foods as “pasalubong” (presents) for everybody whenever she’s away for days. She always brings foods for Tamara after day’s work. I look at Tamara and I can feel the high spirits of a child being with her mom. It’s unexplainable feeling of happiness being united with a mother after two long years of waiting and agonizing uncertainty.

This is the fourth time of seeing Luing in my dreams after her abduction two years ago. She was a woman activist colleague, whom I work closely in our advocacy work on human rights. In my dreams, I always talked to her and asked how she and Nilo were. Nilo was another activist friend. He was a peasant leader and we spent good and bad times together in our advocacy campaign on electoral reform before he and Luing were abducted.

Luing and Nilo are names among the more than 200 Filipino activists disappeared under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s “War on Terror”. Enforced Disappearance is one of the many forms of human rights abuses committed against activists. Activists are labeled as ‘Enemies of the State”, making them targets of political persecution. Usually, the victims are forcibly taken even in broad day light by believed military agents, are brought in safe houses, tortured, interrogated and silenced forever.

The loss of a loved one being a desaparacidos is not strange to me. I’ve suffered the loss of my first husband Sandy twenty years ago. He was a trade union activist. It was the worst feeling I ever have. Four months of being married. Four rosy months of celebration of love, then came nights of constant nightmare.

I was so depressed for two years. I can’t even laugh to the funniest jokes my friends cracked for me. I always cried, whenever I remembered him even in front of others. There’s a feeling of guilt whenever I stopped searching for him. I feel so powerless and helpless where to find him.

I didn’t stop hoping that he will surface anytime of the day. Out of desperation, we went to faith healers, card readers and palm readers just to have grains of information. Some told me he is still alive and he will be home on his birthday. Yes, I did wait and wait and wait… but no one arrived home. It took time for me to let go, though after all those years there still pain whenever I remember him.

Yesterday was November1, almost all people of the world celebrated Halloween in many special ways. For us Filipinos, it was a day of remembering our departed love ones. As a tradition, we cooked native delicacies and set servings for the spirits of the departed. We visit graveyards, light candles and bring foods and flowers. Others spend overnight for a get together.

But for families and friends of desaparacidos, it’s different. There were no gardens of remembrance to bring flowers and foods and candles to light for them. No prayers for the dead. Just prayers, hoping they are still alive or eternal peace wherever they are.

I dreamed of Luing maybe because she reminds me that she and Nilo are still alive. Maybe she’s telling me that life after all is beautiful when it is given away and shared for a greater and noble cause. Maybe she’s telling me, “It’s okay, don’t worry about us. It doesn’t matter if we have no graveyards for your flowers and candles, what matters most is you remember us.”

It’s a constant struggle of uncertainty, of choices between life and death for those who are left behind. It took time for others to move on. For others it took lifetime letting them go. But for me, there’s certainly one place of their memories. They live within our hearts and within the hearts of millions Filipinos and women whom they fought for. They are our inspirations.
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Sandy, Luing and Nilo and other fellow activists who perished without any traces of footprints are truly one of my many inspirations. Their living memories hold me on giving, hoping and fighting for freedom and a better tomorrow beyond my lifetime. They will be remembered forever in our hearts even they have no graveyards for our flowers and candles.

Comments

Tina's picture

Flowers and Peace

Dear Malaya,
This is an emotional and compelling piece which brings to mind the importance for all of us to have a place to recognize and memorialize our loved ones. I hope you will be able to find that space someday, in the meantime continue to hold onto their memory in your heart and we will remember them with you through your stories.
Tina

malayapinas's picture

Dear Tina, It's always

Dear Tina,

It's always beautiful to remember departed loves ones who had been a part of our journey. We need a short stop to remind us that remembering no matter how sad is a always refreshing and inspiring. Most of the times , we don't want to remember sad moments in our lives, because we don't want to undergo the pain anymore. But it was the pain that made us a better and stronger person. It was the pain that taught us how to live and overcoming pain showed us the beauty and happiness of life.

thank you so much for joining me in remembering!

love,
malaya

JaniceW's picture

Their legacy

There is no more powerful a legacy than the gift someone gives you of their love and friendship. Such friends do not need markers to remind us that they are no longer with us, as they live on in our hearts. We experience the pain because of the profound sense of loss, the loss of love, the loss of joy, the loss of laughter. But what we gain is far greater than what we could possibly lose, for it is because of the gifts they give us that we feel pain. I lost a cousin at sea whose body was never found and a dear friend recently but their love will never die. It's the spark that ignites the eternal flame and warms me during the darkest of nights. With love,
Janice

Beloved, in you I find
The mountains, wooded vales;
Choice islands, distant, strange.
The river's voice resounds
With ever-changing flow.
As whisper soft of breeze
Now sings our love.
~ Saint John of the Cross

malayapinas's picture

The gift of life

Janice dear,

I'm so sorry to hear about your cousin and dear friend. Yes, it's sad and it hurts. It's hurts to accept that the people we love are not in our midst anymore. It's sad , because we miss them in good times and bad times. But, as you said their lives are the greatest gift to those whom they loved and touched. The healing process may take time because they left special place in our hearts forever. Hope someday we can smile with less pain inside.

Thank you so much for sharing them with me as well as the beautiful words of St. John of the Cross. I'm so bliss knowing you here in this very unexpected place! You always brighten my day and lighten my load!

love,
malaya

olutosin's picture

NO TEARS NO NO

My Dear friend,

I held back the tears and said no, it will not drop.

I have a word for those leaders, who can kill the body and shame to them for the spirit lives on, shame to them for the passion flows in us cause we have unique blood flowing us, To my compatriots who are there, it is for a short time , we shall soon be together, they are free to spend their million years on earth, but one day they will die too, un-song, un-mourned, un-remembered.

Today, these activists are dead but alive because their works live on, they live in us too, not to die is to live in the mind of those who love and regard you, we are in the battle field, activist will never go into extinct, who said they perished? No they are in higher realm, training us on how to liberate the oppresses, strengthening our faith and spindling the web that connect us.

That is why we found ourselves here. except the world change for the best.Thank God, the fear of death cannot silent us, we are on course .

Well done my friend and sister, we are always together.

Olutosin

Olutosin Oladosu Adebowale
Founder/Project Coordinator
Star of Hope Transformation Centre
512 Road
F Close
Festac Town
Lagos-Nigeria

https:

malayapinas's picture

Greater courage

Dear Olutosin,

Your words are so powerful bringing me greater courage and hope to our struggling people. Yes, we will be free, soon we will be together singing the songs of freedom in every corners of the world. We may distance apart, but our spirit of activism and the fire of liberating our people bring us nearer to one another. We are one in our struggle for freedom! We breath the same air, giving life for others to live. Thank you so much my sister Olutosin! Keep up the spirit of solidarity!

love,
malaya

Airyn Lentija's picture

Salamat

at nakilala kita dito.Malaking bagay ito para sakin na may isang Pilipinang napakatapang gaya mo.Im also an activist,through my poetry.Ive been writing for asian human rights commission e-pub for almost two years.Most of my poems are about poverty,child prostitution....Gaya mo mahal ko rin ang Pilipinas at ang kapwa ko pilipino.

Ang ibinahagi mong storya ay isa sa mga rason na nagbibigay sakin ng lakas para pagpatuloy ang pagsusulat.

salamat at nakilala kita.

Airyn Lentija-Sloan

http://airynspoetry.blospot.com

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