If blogs have birthdays…

If blogs have birthdays mine celebrates its first one today. A year ago, on Adee’s 10th birthday, I wrote my very first post and it was about him. After 365 days, 103 posts and 131,860 hits my blog has become what it is today – one that suffers from constant hibernation, erratic and and irregular posts. It was not always like this :).

This blog almost became synonymous with one of its controversial posts – the Mahaderang Matapobre sa mga OFWs (who would forget Ms. Malu Fernandez?). Almost one year after the article was posted the Mahaderang Matapobre still receives at least a dozen hits dailt.

For a time this blog covered controversial issues of the day – the Erap plunder case and the subsequent pardon, the ZTE deal and the political crisis that ensued when it broke out and the Sumilao farmers’ campaign.

I have not felt the passion for blogging for some months now. Maybe it is because for the past 7 months I have been focused on a couple of issues and have not really kept tab with the various events that have come to pass. Maybe I was just to lazy to write about things that interests me and share them online. Maybe I have grown more passionate about other forms of political expression that I almost forgot about the value of blogging.

I cannot promise this blog will regain the fiery passion that used to consume it. I cannot even promise that it would recover from its present state of perpetual convalescence. All I can promise is that the passion and idealism behind this blog will not fizzle out and die. and while the fire within me burns, this blog will continue to carry posts, albeit irregularly, that will express the heat of the embers burning within the author’s heart.

Happy birthday Nomadic Thoughts and may your journey continue on.

A feather on her bonnet…

Today, at the Henry Lee Irwin theatre of the Ateneo de Manila University, a Special Academic Convocation will be held by the Ateneo community to confer 5 Traditional University Awards to people of distinction. I shall be a guest to this afternoon’s affair. I will not only be an ordinary guest… I will be a PROUD guest for among today’s honorees of the Ateneo are special people who I hold dear. This year’s Ozanam Award will be conferred to the Sumilao farmers and their lawyer, Atty. Arlene “Kaka” Bag-ao. I have written so much about the Sumilao farmers and what they have accomplished both in this blog and in the press releases I have written for their campaign in the last 9 months or so. So today I will not write about the Sumilao farmers.

All throughout the long 13 years that the Sumilao farmers struggled for their land, one person have always been their constant companion. She rarely shared the limelight with the farmers, but she shared their miseries, their worries, their fears and their sacrifices. For most of the last 13 years, she was invisible to the eyes of the public, a silent co-traveler of the Sumilao farmers.

I met Atty. Kaka Bag-ao, one rainy day in 1995 at the foot of Mt. Banahaw in Barangay Consolacion, Sariaya, Quezon. I was organizing a group of agrarian reform farmers there as part of my training in community organizing. She was our resource person in one of our paralegal clinics with the farmers. Little did I know that one that rainy day in August 1995 i will come to know a friend who will touch my life immensely. We met a couple of times more for paralegal sessions. I ended my stint in Quezon a couple of months later and returned to my work in Mindanao. A year later, I learned that she has moved to Cagayan de Oro City to work for an NGO working with agrarian reform farmers. We rarely met then until I got drawn into the hunger strike of the Sumilao farmers in October 1997. By then she was already in the center of the Sumilao campaign as their lawyer, tactician, sister, daughter and friend to the farmers.

I rarely meet someone who can both challenge and question my ideas and opinions and build on them as she does. I challenge and build on hers too. Our arguments during tactics sessions are animated (and at times heated). She inspires me like very few people do. I have worked with Kaka in several other cases in Bukidnon but the Sumilao has always been a special one. Working with Kaka, Jun g., Nenen and several others on the Sumilao case and other cases in Bukidnon made me choose to work as an agrarian reform advocate.

In the Sumilao case alone, I have witnessed Kaka’s agonies and heartaches – losing 2 beloved friends Attys. Bob Gana and Caloy Ollado to the Cebu Pacific Flt 387 crash while they were on their way to Sumilao; losing a the Sumilao case in the Supreme Court on a mere technicality and thus experiencing the worst of our pro-rich judicial system.

Kaka was also instrumental in making me decide to join Akbayan, a decision that made significant changes in my life. Somme of these changes made us drift away from each other for a number of years.

The 1,700 kilometer walk of the Sumilao farmers late last year reunited me to the rest of the Sumilao campaign team. Parang di kami nagkahiwalay ng mahahabang taon. I got reunited with Kaka and Jun G. and got to know people who have since become my friends – Jane, Marlon, PI, Jemro, Bro. Javi, Bro. IJ, Tinx, JanJan, Aison, Soc and the people from Ateneo-OSCI.

If only San Miguel Corporation knew how our campaign plans were developed and evolved, they would not have taken this collection of jologs seriously. Our huntahans and Starbucks sessions spewed tactics that shook San Miguel and brought it to the negotiation table. The support of heavyweights like Cardinal Rosales, Bishop Pabillo, Christian Monsod, Fr. Danny Huang made the settlement with the Sumilao farmers compelling for the Asian brewery giant.

By hindsight, our ragtag team of jologs was a dream team of sorts. Our humor and laughter melt tiredness and weariness away. Our warm friendship made our daily pamorningan sessions not only tolerable, but most of all, something to enjoy and look forward to. We were never a bunch of grim and determined cadres, we were just a collection of friends who can find something humorous in the most serious of things. Kaka Bag-ao, co-honoree of the Sumilao farmers in this year’s Ozanam Award was the spirit that held us together (i.e. she was the jologest of us all).

Kaka kong mahal, sana’y wag kang mapapagal, Sana’y wag kang magsawa. Sana’y di ka mauubusan ng tawa. Always remember that the stars are brightest in nights that are darkest, that the pangs of labor give birth to new life. You taught me those things dear friend, and i am just reminding you of the lessons you so lovingly (and funnily) taught me.

The Sumilao victory, the Ozanam award are just a few feathers on your bonnet, and by God you have enough feathers to make a good feather duster.

Congratulations my dear.

The mute shall speak… and the deaf shall listen

I am not talking about miracles nor am I talking in parables.

A few months ago, when the Sumilao farmers made their historical 1,700-kilometer march from Bukidnon to Manila, some declared their act of sacrifice as a mere ‘gimik’ to get media mileage. That is always said of the poor, like the farmers, when they make dramatic statements and actions that catch the attention of the public – cheap gimmickry in an attempt to grab media attention. If only these people will try the so-called ‘gimiks’ that the poor had to resort to, maybe they will be a little bit wiser. Walking 10 kilometers is not an easy thing to do, let alone walking 1,700 kilometers. Skipping a couple of meals discomforts many, try starving yourself for a month like the hunger-striking farmers. In a country where the media is fond of the sensational, you cannot blame the poor for amplifying their plight through dramatic actions.

The question I think is not whether these actions are cheap ‘gimiks’ or not but why do they have to make unthinkable sacrifices to get the attention of the powers that be. In a society where silence is imposed on the poor (in many cases violently) and the ears of those in power are plugged, these protest actions are inevitable.

LISTENING TO THE POOR is the theme of the 2nd National Rural Congress (NRC II)which is being held by the Catholic Church for the next couple of days moment. It has been 41 years since the 1st National Rural Congress was held in 1967. Such was also the theme of the Supreme Court’s Forum on Increasing Access to Justice – a teleconference held last Monday.

While these are positive breakthroughs in two of the country’s powerful institutions, the results remain to be seen. How will listening to the voice of the poor affect the country’s judiciary’s decisions on cases involving social justice and the rights of the poor? How will listening to the voice of the poor influence the Catholic Church’s quest for a faith that does justice?

The Church does not have to wait for 41 years to listen to the poor. The church need not call a national congress to listen to them. Parish churches stand amidst rural and urban poor communities. Priests celebrate masses with the poor every day. It does not take much to listen to them. But it takes so much to BE with them. They need not look far for an example, at the center of each church is an image of a man who took the side of the poor two thousand years ago.

The Supreme Court need not call a nationwide forum to listen to the poor. They only need to delve into their dockets and sift through the thousands of cases involving the poor rotting in their midst.

Last Saturday, volunteers from De La Salle University and students and seminarians from Ateneo joined the Calatagan farmers in building a fence around the disputed lands in Barangay talibayog. It was a rare opportunity for students not only to LISTEN but TO BE with the farmers in struggle. It was because of my experience with the farmers in Bukidnon who fought the expansion of Del Monte 21 years ago that has politicized and educated me and led me to choose the path through life I am living right now. I can only hope that last Saturday’s experience will touch the lives of the students profoundly and influence the choices of their hearts for life.

In the meantime, the farmers and other poor sectors will still need to make dramatic actions to be heard and listened to. We can only hope that each step we take in our a million-and-one-kilometer journey will take us nearer to our dream – a society where the poor are not mute (better yet, where no one is poor) and a society where the State is not caught in the claws of the deaf and the rich.

Too much love will kill you

This is an excerpt from the concert-tribute to Freddie Mercury of the Queen. He is the all-time best lead singer for me.

I’m just the pieces of the man I used to be
Too many bitter tears are raining down on me
I’m far away from home
And I’ve been facing this alone
For much too long

I feel like no-one ever told the truth to me
About growing up and what a struggle it would be
In my tangled state of mind
I’ve been looking back to find
Where I went wrong

Too much love will kill you
If you can’t make up your mind
Torn between the lover
And the love you leave behind
You’re headed for disaster
‘cos you never read the signs
Too much love will kill you
Every time

I’m just the shadow of the man I used to be
And it seems like there’s no way out of this for me
I used to bring you sunshine
Now all I ever do is bring you down
How would it be if you were standing in my shoes
Can’t you see that it’s impossible to choose
No there’s no making sense of it
Every way I go I’m bound to lose

Too much love will kill you
Just as sure as none at all
It’ll drain the power that’s in you
Make you plead and scream and crawl
And the pain will make you crazy
You’re the victim of your crime
Too much love will kill you
Every time

Too much love will kill you
It’ll make your life a lie
Yes, too much love will kill you
And you won’t understand why
You’d give your life, you’d sell your soul
But here it comes again
Too much love will kill you
In the end…
In the end.

…para sa isang kaibigan

Pakikiramay…

Ka Crispin Beltran

Lider Manggagawa, Kongresista

tagapagtaguyod at tagapagtanggol ng uring anakpawis

Pagpupugay sa isang haligi ng uring manggagawa,

Taas kamao, nagwawagayway na pulang bandila,

mga kahanay at mga kauri, sa paglisan nyo’y naulila.

Sa dilim ng kahirapan, buhay nyo tila isang tala.

Ka Bel, magkaiba man tayo ng paniniwala

Di man tayo magkahanay, magkaiba man ang ating bandila,

Sa inyo’y mataas ang aking paggalang at ako’y lubos na humahanga.

Sa inyo yaring aking taospusong pagpupugay,

sa mga kaanak, mga mahal nyo at kilusang inyong inulila, aking pakikiramay.

Cavatina

Any one who knows me well knows that I am not a sucker for music. There are songs that I like but I don’t really go crazy about bands, singers nor their songs. Di ko lang talaga kinahihiligan ang music, maliban na lang kung ito ay may special meaning sa aking ginagawa o sa aking karanasan.

There is this one song, however, that really touches me to the core every time I listen to it. Its mellow and flowing notes never fail to settle me down. Kahit anong pagod, galit, inis, saya ko lagi akong napapakalma ng musikang ito.

Cavatina is the theme from the 1978 film Deer Hunter (starring Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken, Meryll Streep,). The song is from Stanly Myers and is played on classical guitar. There are other versions on other instruments but I love the classical guitar version most.

I don’t really know what magic this piece of music has over me. Every pluck of the guitar strings sends the note straight into my heart. Lagi ko ngang sinasabi sa mga kaibigan ko na ito ang musikang gusto kong maghahatid sa dulo ng aking paglalakbay. Habang malayo pa yun (sana hehehe) gusto ko lang itong pakinggan nang paulit-ulit at walang pagsasawa.

Below is John Williams playing Cavatina on classical guitar with The Sky. Whoooaaaa!!!! para akong naka droga :D

Ano naman ang tunog ng Cavatina sa isang solo classical guitar na tinutugtog ng isang babae… mas romantic kaya at mas touching? Here is Ana Vidovic, a Croatian classical guitarist, with her rendition of Cavatina…

Paano naman kaya kung nilagyan ang Cavatina ng lyrics at kinanta ni Paul Potts, ang nagwagi sa unang series ng Britain’s Got Talent noong 2007?

If there is heaven on earth… listening to the song is my small corner of heaven amidst the struggles in this world.

31 Days

I woke up at around 4:30 am today to do some writing on the Calatagan case. I have picked up the habit of working early dawn when I had to do double work in the midst of the  Sumilao campaign.  I scanned the news and wrote a press release release for today. I have already emailed the PR to my mailing list when I noticed the date today – May 5, and I suddenly realized that in 31 days birthday ko na ulit. I just sat staring at my rainlendar staring at the date for a couple of minutes. Joskopo taon-taon na lang ako nagbibirthday hehehe.

I don’t usually celebrate my birthdays, they are just like any other ordinary day (except for a few occasions when friends insist on  having a get-together). I guess my birthday next month won’t be any different, gaya ng dati, ordinaryong araw lang ito para sa akin. Pero di ko maikakaila na na may something talaga pag nagkwakwarenta ka na hehehe. Mas napapaisip ka. What have I to show after 40 years?

Di naman siguro natutuwa sa akin mga magulang ko. Lahat ata ng ambisyon nila para sa akin ay sinuway ko. I didn’t even graduate from college, which I guess broke my father’s heart kasi kahit in the middle of his struggle against cancer a couple of years back, lagi nya akong kinukumbinsing ipagpatuloy ang college ko. Gusto nya talaga akong maging abugado. Lord, Dad, kung ganito na nga ako na out-of-youth (walang kokontra!) ano na lang kung may Atty. pa sa simula ng pangalan ko hehehe.

Di rin ako magaling na tatay na ikakatuwa ng anak ko. Madami akong pagkukulang bilang ama sa anak ko. Pilit ko man gawin ang lahat para maipakita ang pagmamahal ko sa kanya, I know that our circumstances make it not only difficult for the both of us but also confusing for him. I wish he would grow up to be a forgiving son.

My life has always been a cycle of impossible dreams and impossible causes. I do not know what exactly made me choose this kind of life but I cannot imagine myself living any other life. Adik ata ako sa sa mga imposibleng mga kaso. Maybe I am addicted to insurmountable odds and heartaches.

i am happy with my life. I may not have the material things nor the academic degrees to show, but I am rich in terms of battle scars and impossible victories (however few they might be).

Thirty-one days to go. Forty-years in the making.  Hay buhay, ba’t ba ako napapa-isip :D

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