Kahigwaos

Niana nga hapon, mibati siya og kahigwaos, kalit lang. Mikunsad kaniya nga sama niadtong gabon nga iyang giobserbaran pila ka tuig na ang milabay sa usa ka hilit nga dapit sa amihanan. Namugnaw ang iyang panit og miusbong ang singot nga bungot sa ibabaw sa iyang ngabil. Apan giuhaw kaayo siya, ang iyang tutunlan diha-diha miuga nga daw basakan nga gibisita og hulaw. Gipaspasan niya ang iyang paglakaw, kumpas sa nagtagubtob nga dughan. Taud-taud, miabot siya sa utlanan. No trespassing. Private property. Apan unsay pribado? Unsay pagpanag-iya? Iyaha ba gyud ang iyang kahigwaos? O hinulaman sa kagahapon nga naglakag kaniya?

Anxiety

That afternoon, she felt uneasy, all of a sudden. It descended on her like that fog that she observed some years back in a remote place in the north. Her skin turned cold and a sweat-mustache grew above her lips. But she was so thirsty, her throat immediately parched like rice terraces visited by drought. She quickened her steps, in cadence with the clamoring in her chest. Soon enough, she reached the borderline. No trespassing. Private property. But what is private? What is property? Is her anxiety really hers? Or is it borrowed from the past that is haunting her?

October 2019: Baguio City

Pag-unong

Tingali duol sa kasingkasing sa bulan ang mga tawo nga nagmingaw ug nag-inusara. Sulayi og lakaw sa awa-aw nga lugar sa panahon nga daw gipas-an nimo ang kalibutan. Hangad sa langit, ug kun masuwertehan ka, wala siya gibukot-bukotan og dag-om. Tutoki lang siya ug taud-taud imong mabatyagan: ang iyang pag-unong. Kuyogan ka niya bisan asa pa man ka mahisuok. Muhunong siya kun kinahanglan nimo muhunong. Mamati sa kahilom kung gusto nimo isiyagit ang imong kasubo. Lamdagan niya ang imong dalan hangtud ikaw mahiuli, maulian.

Steadfastness

Maybe the moon has a soft spot for the lonely and solitary. Try walking in a deserted place at a time when you feel the weight of the world on your shoulders. Look up to the sky, and if you are lucky, she will not be obscured by gloom. Just stare at her, and soon it will be revealed to you: her steadfastness. She will accompany you to wherever you find yourself. She will halt when you will halt. She will listen in silence if you want to shout out your despair. She will light your path until you are home again, and yourself.

(for JA)

29 May 2018: Bokod, Benguet

Nalumos

Nagdahunog nga gianunsyo ang imong pag-abot

Ug ikaw mitagbo kanako nga nagkagubot gikan sa layo.

Akong gisugat ang imong gahum nga di masanta,

Nagtuo nga dili matarog ang akong mga tiil sa yuta.

Apan nahugno ko sa imong paglamba diha kanako

Ug gianod ko sa imong makusganong pwersa.

Nagkapuliki ko, nagpunga-punga

Naningkamot makabawi, gipangita ang yuta.

Apan nahanaw siya dungan sa akong kahingawa.

Bisan ang adlaw inanay nga nahanaw

Parat, nagtuyoktuyok, aliluyok sa akong mga mata.

September 2016: Surigao del Norte

Who Owns the Land?

A friend lamented how she couldn’t understand how “squatters” stubbornly refuse to move out of their communities. Another friend commented that “squatters” should know they should move out because it’s not their land to begin with, and they should not be choosy about relocation sites to boot. I didn’t reply to the (Facebook) thread because I don’t want my friend to be defensive on her own wall. Whatever their class consciousness or political orientation, I am always a civilized debater with friends or foes. But I cannot be silent on things that I feel passionately about. After all, it’s human rights and urban poor week!

I will divide this response to that post into three questions, which I will answer one by one.

1. Do we have a right to decent housing?

2. What are the factors that gave rise to “squatting”?

3. Who owns the land?

Okay, now. First off, according to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, everyone has the right to decent shelter, a.k.a housing. Unless we aren’t humans, then this is a basic right. But apparently, government doesn’t think all of us are humans. The poor are subhumans except on election campaign period. Government chooses to overlook the fact that it is their duty and responsibility to ensure that EACH of their constituents has a decent life.  

Am I saying that government should ensure all squatters should have a house? Yes. EACH one of its constituents. No exemptions. No favorites. HUMAN RIGHT remember? 

Some sputter back: But, but, price for urban land is sky-high, government can’t afford it! So who sets the price in the first place? Who establishes how much land is worth and what it should be used for? Should it be used for malls and office buildings for capitalists to earn more money off the sweat and tears of the poor? Do you know that we have more malls than parks in urban areas in this country?!

But before I start on the evil consequences of mall-sprouting consumerism in the Philippines such as disappearing vistas and heavier solid waste generation, let me go to the second question. How did “squatters” come to be?

Let’s go back 300+ years for the answer. Historically, our country was an agriculture-based economy. But with colonialism, rural and agricultural lands started going to the wealthy and politically powerful. First it was the Spanish friars grabbing the land from the natives. Then came in the American capitalists who wanted to exploit our natural resources. Land is required to produce more capital. Land is required for mining, monocropping, and other capitalist ventures that milk out our people for more profits. Thus our people lost their rights to the land. 

After hundreds of years of feudal exploitation and capitalist glamorization of urban living, the rural folk dreamed of greener pastures in the cities. To their dismay, life was harder in the city. Again, more intensely, they realized that land still belonged to the rich. And life, from the countrysides to the cities, is hard for the poor. They still cannot claim the right to a decent life. Much more to own land of their own. So they squat. Get demolished. And if they protest, they get a bullet in the head. No, they aren’t victims. They’re criminals. Illegal settlers. The term “illegal” gives me goosebumps. But hell, unfortunately, there are people who own the land and the law protects them.

SO WHO OWNS THE LAND? The answer is obvious: THOSE WHO CAN AFFORD IT! Who dares to demolish and kill people to evict them from their ancestral lands? Those who can afford it!  Can the poor afford to contest this fact? No. They cant pay for lawyers and worse, they get killed to contest it. Hacienda Luisita. Zamboanga, Mindoro, Surigao commercial mining interests. What do they have in common? Capitalists who can AFFORD to kill protesters and PAINT BLACK whoever who opposes them! 

Seen from a sociological perspective, urban migration is a complicated phenomenon. It is influenced by economic, political, and psychological factors, which a truly humane and pro-people government should study with gravity. While its true that the urban poor DON’T own the land (which is questionable by itself considering that only 1% own the land in this country), resorting to demolition is, at the very least, a band-aid solution, and at the most, a violation of human rights. Provision of a relocation site is just a basic requirement. There are more: housing, livelihood, and accessibility to health and other social services. The poor is “choosy”? And why shouldn’t they be? When the relocations sites don’t take into consideration their livelihood opportunities?

Unfortunately, in a capitalist world order where the interests of the rich and powerful weigh heavier than gold that the poor can only dream about, it’s all about private property. At the economic level, makes me want to ask, with skewed distribution of wealth, can the poor buy land when they eat only once daily? At the political level, why is fighting for basic human rights answered by violence? At the species level, who gave humans the right to claim land as their own? Furthermore, what right to we have to assign values to land? To say which land is pricier than another? God or self-serving men? Lastly, who gave humans the right to denigrate their fellow human beings and label them as illegal settlers? How just is it for Filipinos to be called as “squatters” in their own land? 

I come from the upper middle class. My parents own land. But I denounce my claim to land that my family cannot work on. I denounce my claim to land that generates more income that we need to live comfortably. I denounce my class and the rest of the upper class’ claim to own land that we don’t till and yet still get the bulk of the income from.

Many of us are misled by the propaganda of the capitalists. We think that the poor are lazy. That farmer families who rush to the cities and become impoverished squatters are too lazy to till the land. Who wants to till the land when they only get a pittance for it? When they’ve been tilling it for generations and they still get a pittance for it? 

Meanwhile, the landowners stubbornly refuse to let go of their land or justly compensate their tenant farmers. They say that they PAID for their rights. LEGALLY. What a sham/e. 

I challenge all my readers, especially the youth, to read more. Read on land ownership in the Philippines. Overcome centuries of mind-conditioning against the poor. Unlearn. Let our lost generation find its way home to the earth and the masses. Our true and only home.

Kahidlaw

Matag buntag uska panon sa langgam

Muagi babaw sa among balay nangita

Og gugma ug mga damgo sa lagyo nga lugar.

Mahimuot ako kun diin kaha

Nga tagong suok o salag sila muhunong

Ug kun nganong dili gayud sila magpabilin. 

Matag gabii mubalik sila

Paspas ug itom sa kilomkilom

Tagbaw ug andam sa bag-ong adlaw.

Longing

Each morning a flock of seabirds

Flies over our house to find 

Love and dreams in far-off places. 

I can only wonder to which 

Secret nooks and nest they tarry

And why there they never stay.

Each evening they come back

Fast and dark against the twilight

Satiated and ready for another day.

Tinubdan

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Ang kabukiran anaa aron magpahinumdum kanato nga adunay mga butang nga nagpabilin nga ligdong. Kita tanan konektado sa yuta. Siya anaa lamang sa atong tiilan, usahay makalimtan. Apan sa atong paghangad sa nagbalud-balud nga kabukiran, makapahinuklog kita — kabahin siya sa tibuok kayutaan nga naghatag kanato og kinabuhi. Ug diha nato kuhaon ang atong resolba nga mubarog, mubakod, aron atubangon ang bag-ong adlaw. Tinubdan sa atong kusog.

Explaining boobs to a 9-year old

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When I started writing this blog in 2005, my first post was about my daughter. She was just over two years old then. Now she’s pushing 10, growing boobs and asking difficult questions! Like why she is restricted from watching rated movies, why she needs to sit properly, and why she’s going to be menstruating soon.

IMG_1094Lately, she saw a picture of fertility goddesses from a Negros museum I visited and she wanted to know why the sculpted women had huge boobs. What is fertility, she asked? Do women with big boobs get more children?

RH advocate that I am, I was exasperated to find myself fumbling in explaining sexual matters to a child. I mean, I’ve used the term “age-appropriate sex education” in many RH discussions but I never really bothered to read up on the specific techniques and how-tos until now.

So here are some of the things I learned, in a nutshell:

1. Sex education is done differently for the following age groups: infancy, early childhood, middle childhood, tweens, and teens.

2. Toddlers should be aware of the difference between male and female.

3. From 2-5 years old, children should be taught about their body parts and who is allowed to touch them, and how.

4. When children start schooling, they will meet other little boys and little girls. They should be able to understand that people can be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. They should be able to respect all human beings regardless of sexual orientation.

5. As your children move towards puberty, they will start to notice bodily changes. They soon will have “crushes”. Answer on a need-to-know basis. Start with the reproductive system and if the need arises, discuss sexual intercourse.

My daughter is obviously maturing fast. She might be getting her menstrual period within the year. When that time comes, I would have to sit down with her and discuss sex in a scientific manner. That includes safe sex and contraception.

I believe age-appropriate sex education should be championed by Filipino women. Not only will we be empowering our children with the correct and scientific data, we will also be smashing the conservative and discriminatory attitude of most of the country towards RH. It’s not true that such knowledge will lead our children to promiscuity or juvenile delinquency. Maturity and responsibility is our objective in sex education, not ignorance and superstition.

Would we rather have our children know from their peers? Often, this source of information is not accurate and shrouded in malice and myths. Do we just shrug and tell ourselves they will find out anyway sooner or later? Well, that’s true enough. But why wait? Isn’t it our responsibility as parents to ensure our children are equipped to face the world away and outside our homes? My parents never talked to me about sex. So all I got was feedback from peers. And when social pressure lead me to try it, I was unprepared. And traumatized. This I don’t want to happen to my daughter.

So I’m starting to make a powerpoint presentation for my daughter. Hopefully I will finish it before I need to buy her a 32A bra. If you have kids, I suggest you do the same.

Grind

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In the city, time moves

to the beat of rushing footsteps

along busy and crowded streets.

Here, every minute, every second,

is counted and exchanged as gold.

In pursuit of this, we rush through days,

hurried, harried by bosses

hundreds of miles away.

We race through hours

and steal breaks just long enough

for an iced coffee. Just long enough

to keep our sanity.

 

And we pretend we are okay.

No. We are fab! Tomorrow is payday!

Tomorrow we can forget that

there is no such thing as free time.

In the city, nothing is free.

 

So we scoff at the loves, lives we left.

In this café with the yuppies in and out,

you and I talk of our hometowns’ dead,

bad, and newly married.

Small town! Thank God we left!

 

And we feel entitled to our gold.

After all, we rose above the dirt

of sleepy, poor, rural towns

that corrupt politicians remember

only every six years.

 

So we shake our heads sadly.

At the poor farmers who lost

crops to typhoons.

At the poor in general.

As if we have been rich

all our lives.

As if we will be rich

for the rest of our lives.

 

But coffee break is too short.

There is no time to speak

of neighbors who eat only once a day.

There is no time to speak

of rural relatives who never

finish grade school.

There is no time to speak

of the muddy paths

that connect the hills to the towns.

 

On these paths time does not fly.

On them the poor carry the world

in sacks on their shoulders.

 

Unsay tambal sa insecure?

Duna’y mga adlaw nga magdag-om og paglaum,

Diin ang mga gagmay ug dagkong paglaum

Mahimong panganod nga magtapok ug magtigum.

Nianang adlawa, biya sa comfort zone.

Pag-atang sa gawas.

Ug kun mubundak, ayaw pagduha-duha:

Sawra.

Dayon imna aron ikaw maluwas.

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 Translation:

There are days when it threatens to rain hope,

Where the big and small hopes

Become clouds that gather and meet.

On that day, leave the comfort zone;

Watch and wait outside.

And when it pours, don’t hesitate:

Catch it in a cup.

Then drink to get well.

*photo credits to my brother: Blue Pax