Monthly Archives: July 2012
There is no denying the fact that the happiest is also the luckiest and vice versa. This can be gleaned from any of the following instances: winning lotto, passing the board/ bar exams, getting a hefty bonus, or promotion or recognition, receiving a scholarship, pension or surviving the Big C. But wait a minute, there is also one sector to be considered and this can be found in the loneliest place in the planet—prison. Those acquitted and those paroled may also be considered happiest and relatively speaking in contrast with above, may prove to be the happiest of them all.
Among those who may be considered in this batch is a certain released prisoner, Danilo Carandang Guillen. He was made to account for the failure of Marcos government in its program of Masagana 99 despite the fact that Danny was just a lowly bookkeeper in charge of listing projects. He was made as the face of failure and was charged and eventually sentenced to serve 600 years in prison. During the EDSA revolt, he slipped out of the penitentiary and surrendered to the new government. He was again brought back to serve his time in the penitentiary. After a few years, government decided that there was injustice somewhere and he was released. Danny from that time on believed that there is indeed justice and since then, with such thought, became the happiest guy in town.
The point is, it is not wealth, it is not health, it is not the future that makes one happy but freedom.
People flock to the medicine man when sick. Not necessarily to alleviate pain but to get well. The idea is to prolong that period whence one can enjoy life without any inconvenience. There is therefore a million occasions when one can really appreciate everything; from surroundings to interaction, from strolling to traveling by land, air and sea. On the other hand, there is a handful of reasons why some people terminate life but these are exceedingly more pressing than appreciating life. Worst, they have forgotten what made life great and would rather feel that there is nothing fulfilling in life at all.
In other countries, where faith in life hereafter is more pronounced than life here and now, death is an invitation, an exciting period to proceed. Accordingly, when one dies, heaven is celebratory. If the cause of death is a sacrifice to faith, all the angels and everything in heaven are all rejoicing. Hence, recruiters of suicidal missions gather their members from the ranks of these believers.
Filipinos have never shown devotion in this kind of conviction. For them, life in here and now is the most important. This notwithstanding the fact that for hundreds of years, they were taught the catechism of heavenly bliss in life hereafter. And why should they die to enjoy when they can have their cake and eat it too in present times. Never mind a miserable, exploited and at times enslaving situation. Never mind poverty, grinding hunger and pangs of want. Never mind abuse, maltreatment and neglect. Life is still preferred than death. This is because the Filipinos subscribe to the belief that there is no such thing as impossible. They trust in blissful hope more than anything else. And it is that which animates life.
Because they have this predisposition, they likewise adhere to an ancient art science wanted to discard, the art of healing.
Early Egyptian priests, Indian monks, African voodoos, Chinese herbalists and Christian workers have explored and finally accepted as precept and truth the reality of healing. They have incorporated it in rituals, in ceremonies and related practices. It has become a routine in their basic custom, in their tradition that one cannot dissociate healing unless it is clothe in some kind of a religious convention. Filipinos had their history influenced not only by a confluence of invaders and merchants but also by conquering armies of countries with multinational persuasions. They have integrated some basic understanding of imported belief systems into their own and what remained were snippets of thoughts, witticism and yes, a survivor instinct. A pillar of this consideration is healing. It remained in their consciousness along with customary expressions. It has become a part of their awareness.
But healing can stand on its own whether it is conducted by a man of the cloth or anyone with a different outfit. Stripped of habiliments and props, incantations and related booboos, healing, as it should be in its simple form should appear or should be practiced in the following.
Essentially, here is the manner how it is to be done.
- 1. Believe that your subject, the person to be healed deserved healing.
- 2. Believe that you can heal the person.
- 3. As you go through the motion of healing, stretch both arms and open both your palms.
- 4. Be sensitive to your hands, to your palms most specially.
- 5. In your mind, try to feel your stretched palms and once you feel stillness, you are ready for healing. By stillness should mean, there is no remarkable feeling obtained.
- 6. Focus your hands on the person to be healed. Feel your palms. Focus it until you feel the warmth of the person’s aura. The feeling of warm air means that the defect or cause of sickness has already been extracted and magnetized by the hand.
- 7. Focus on your hands until you feel cold air passes through. Thereafter, re-focus your hands in another direction possibly in a blank corner or in an area that leads outside (if you are conducting from inside a room, or if outside, to an opposite area).
- 8. Believe that the warmth air you felt is what ails the one you are healing because it really is. Once you have repositioned your palms, the ailment flies away.
- 9. Try to experience a relatively cold air gently swishing briefly on your palms. That means, you are through with healing.
There is nothing supernatural or mysterious about it. As a matter of fact, it could just be a part of conversation or some kind of a friendly gesture. There is actually nothing magical in it. But I have as yet to get a correct term to define the procedure. While there were attempts to introduce this into a laborious, arduous and lengthy ceremony by enterprising people, the sensitive part of feeling the warm and cold air component, significant as it were is never experienced. That virtually removes from the rite the healing per se.
I know, because I have observed this among healers, those who are genuine and those who are not. Various shaman, spiritual gurus, conventional priests, pastors profess this skill but all would rather invoke religious piety for the sake of recruitment and yes, commercial gain. As far as my education in this not so mysterious process is concerned, I merely took note of a lesson shared to me incidentally in one of my adventures. A forsaken old lady, abandoned by her children and relatives, passed on to me some kind of a healing aptitude. I was a young med-rep and unappreciative of anything I cannot grasp at that time. What was important to me then was to help a grandma I encountered in a remote area of Bicol when in the course of my charity she would oftentimes insist that the medicine I was distributing is useless unless the sick deserves to be healed. Here she disclosed to me how to heal oneself and others. She gave a series of techniques. The background of the exposure is very interesting but it deserves another story. At the moment though, and for this explanation, I have simply applied what was taught (that which I spelled out above) and amazingly, those who went through its routine were healed.
Organized crime in the Philippines began to permeate the fibre of social consciousness in its complex form after World War II. Although nationalism as a crusade was constantly nipped every time it manifests even during the period of foreign occupation, predating World War II, it was a seed that has grown and diversified according to its parochial requirements extending its tentacles even in such unholy and unpatriotic organizations like gangs. Nationalistic fervour in its parochial or provincial expression transcended over the years until it progressed up to the present. Gangs, like any nationalistic crusade or group, maintain a certain belief which is central in their collective outlook.
- The sense of exclusivity, of clannishness, of having a strong tie within neighbourhood, is a characteristic variable that defines oneness or belongingness to a specific grouping. It binds them to form a very cohesive organization. Intrusion into this grouping is considered invasive and therefore dealt with severely through violent means. This is also the essence of gang organization. It has its historical roots and familiar backdrop along political lines. It was imbibed indirectly until it became social.
- Understanding gangs in the free community however is a complicated process. It has to be studied in isolation to determine with precision its effect on the individual and in the community where it is interacting with.
- Gangs as purveyor of organized crime must be seen in vitro so to speak and one of the simplest approaches is to examine it in prison. Gangs were not only in the middle of brokering peaceful co-existence with prison authorities, it is also in the middle of self imposed exploitation. Gangs has advanced the cause of sexual derangement to the level of abnormality to gain a certain measure of sanity in the daily conduct of prison life. Sodomy has been embraced as a way of life.
- In Philippine correctional facilities, in the National Penitentiary to be exact, gangs gave birth to a number of sub-groupings which later became virtually a powerful crime syndicate that dictates the tempo of Metro Manila public safety.
- In the early 60s, there were only two gangs. The OXO or Original Exconvict Organization (sometimes understood as 0 times 0 equals Nothing) was predominantly an exclusive domain of the Visayans. Their counterpart was Sigue-sigue Gang, composed mainly of convicts from Manila. People from Manila at that time had that cultural superiority over Visayans, since Visayans were recruited by Manila denizens to be the latter’s helpers.
- The OXO and Sigue-sigue gangs were always at odds with one another and their differences were always expressed with fatal consequences. Their strength was measured in terms of how they would deal with each other in riots. The National Penitentiary in the 60s was defined in terms of its violent upheaval. At the center of this communal breakdown was a series of deadly and horrific riots. Scores of deaths on each side were always registered and a veritable episodes in the deadly history of penal administration in the country.
- The violent saga of OXO and Sigue-sigue would also be imported in other penal establishments in the country. In Davao penal colony, the confrontation would even yield a veritable horror where each gang would decapitate the head of any opposing member caught in the crossfire of their competition. Deaths daily was noted in double digit numbers.
- The two pioneering gangs became a benchmark in the organization of other groups which later would challenge the hegemony of well established gangs. Those that broke away formed a faction which became a stand-out gang in the hierarchy of the prison camp. Hence, from Sigue-sigue gang came Sigue-Sigue Sputnik, Sigue-sigue Puso and Sigue-sigue Commando. These were sub-groups that specialize on something absurd or commonplace in the prison camp. The “Sputnik” group came about during the time when the famous outer space exploration featured the jet propelled satellite called Sputnik. The members were those prisoners tasked to throw out sackful of rejected or left-over prison food ration over the fence where prison guards await for its delivery for maintenance of their small scale swine production project. The sight of sacks being tossed out over the fence pejoratively reminds one of the Sputnik satellite on space cruise!
- Then came a number of other gangs emphasizing on the basic provincial partisanship of its members. Hence, for those who came from northern Luzon, there was the Genuine Ilocano Gang (GIG). Those from bicolandia were called BRM or Bicol Region Masbate. From Cebu, there was Batang Cebu (or BC 45—the number there indicates their favourite weapon, the calibre 45 pistol). From those at city jail, mainly from Manila Jail, there was Batang City Jail (or BCJ). There was also the group called BATMAN or Batang Mananalo. And, BM or Batang Mindanao. Other street corner gangs became a fad and initiated formally in jails and in prisons. These are the HGL (or Happy Go Lucky gang), BNG (for Bahala Na gang), BSL (for Batang Samar Leyte), BLQ (for Batangas, Laguna, Quezon gang).
- Gangs in prison are predictable to a certain extent. There are gangs that promote violence while others are merely on-lookers. Not that these gangs do not share sympathy with the greater gang network, but some gangs are just not designed for violence. The Batman or Batang Mananalo comes to mind. It is one group that never participated in any trouble in prison. They can never even be convinced to take up arms against anyone in the prison community. Their only focus is to escape. In the free community, their only professed mission is to snatch, pick pockets or get into a lot of rackets or scams using wile and sleigh of hand.
- Gangs in the Philippine setting, as viewed in isolation (prisons) is an innocent representation of basic and common rights which a prisoner seeks from penal administration, but for lack of funds or policy, the gang complements. There is the matter legal assistance, financial support and most of all, a ready shoulder to cry on.
- For a person to be introduced to a new experience like incarceration with all the tell tale signs of torture, cruelty and deprivation, of outright imposition of rules restricting movement and even in the matter of seeking succour as when one is sick, membership or having allies as when one is a part of the group, becomes a convenient consideration.
- Gangs elect as leader (they refer to them as “bosyo”—a corrupted street lingo for boss or leader) those whose brutality is beyond compare. They are mean, nasty and merciless, if not downright ruthless and callous. Well, that should be his record as far as dealing with the outside world is concerned. While maintaining his organization however, he should display compassion, benevolence and gentleness. He should be a Dr Jekyll with his gang mates and a Mr Hide as far as his gang’s opponent is concerned. Even on the matter of dealing with erring members also.
- Leadership in gangs however would have its template renewed in lieu of the changing times. While before, those who are bulky and mean-looking, not to mention the number of “kills” the fellow has committed could easily be a credential for the post of being “bosyo,” the social evolution of gangs predetermined the type of leadership it would elect. The admission of political prisoners within the prison camp literally changed the complexion of gang related interaction. Those with a high degree of education, one with a capacity to express, write or negotiate— a skill which activists have, were qualifications enough for gangs to renew its strengths by electing them as leaders. In the 70s, gangs were led by the so-called intellectuals. There were lots of haggling and negotiations. For the gangs, it signalled a new era of their control of the prison camp. They have succeeded in bargaining for the entry of visitors into their respective dormitories. That provision reduced stress in the prison camp and, it goes without saying, abuses among prisoners as a consequence of sexual derangement. In the same vein, riots became a thing of the past.
- In the 80s, gang leadership took another paradigm shift. Not only were the most intelligent or intellectually endowed chosen to lead but also those with the same qualification but that time, those economically endowed also. The gang leaders were exuding with shrewdness. They were well read and they have the means also.
- In the 90s, another batch of would-be leaders would be introduced into the gang organizations. These are not only the rich and the thinking class but the so-called super-rich, those with a name, a celebrity status, at times hugging the political limelight and with connections and influence, on top of resources which they can easily tap. They were not voted as bosyo, but these inmates would control the prison camp nonetheless because they have the means of buying out the gangs, bosyo and members included!
- These personalities who were able to buy out the gangs would reinvent the organization and would even submit it for proper accreditation if not outright registration as formal organization. There was a time when SEC has recognized as a non-profit organization the gang of Sigue-sigue Sputnik Brotherhood! It became a fad to register gangs as a brotherhood and all of these organizations successfully got their SEC approved document/ recognition.
- Other known personalities that figured out in sensational cases stood out in the evolution of gangs. They would reconfigure the gang system and would reorganize an eclectic one. Break away factions from a couple of gangs would reunite to form another gang with innocent tags like “Temple of Man”, “Love Foundation”, “Sheep of the Lord”, etc.
- Gangs, in effect, as an organized crime vehicle has two fronts—the legitimate side which is in accordance with its sworn brotherhood mission; and, the illegal side, since most of its members, leaders even and connections lay underground, or situated within the abyss of the underworld.
- Gang connections with the underworld is perplexing and too complex for a layman to comprehend. Leaders and would be leaders are spending/ serving time in the penitentiary yet they are reckoned, their instructions strictly followed to the letter and their plans, the precise policy which the underworld denizens must abide and defer to.
- Gang leaders inside the prison camp manage the underworld with the efficiency of the private sector and with the brutality of law enforcement. Once a member is caught, prosecuted and convicted, he is immediately ushered into the gang controlled prison community. The convicted member gets the necessary education much like a religious initiate inside the seminary. The member is taught the menacing mechanics of crime, the skills needed for evading conflicts, the competence of sustaining a conscience-free work load. He is also exposed, as the fellow has been exposed earlier during his youth in a deprived environment, to the basic physical demands of fulfilling an offense.
- The member’s physical conditioning is a compulsory regiment, a must course, so to speak. He is screened also for any possible forte he may have shown. If he looks mean, he is given an assigned task of casing and bullying, if not in the field of harassment but onwards also to attacking a target opponent or victim. If he has the physical attributes or endurance, he may even end up as a fighting cock in the boxing arena, where as expected games can be fixed through their member.
- If the fellow looks good, he becomes an understudy outrightly for the sex starved lieutenants of the gang leader. In the past, the fellow becomes the wife of the gang leader and required to have his body tattooed with the leader’s name, indicating that the good looking fellow is taken already and that the fellow is the respected “wife” of the gang leader. The virtual first lady of the gang!
- Hence, when a handsome hunk disp0lays a good number of tattoo in his body and these are names, most likely, the fellow has spend a good deal of time incarcerated and while serving time, was a good wife to a number of gang leaders.
- These incidents, however, if at all obtaining at present is already an exception. Visitors, specially the family members, friends and close allies, to include the opposite sex, are allowed to get inside the prison camp together with the person they are visiting.
- Gangs are ahead, well almost, in everything. They control prison. Inmates are assigned in various prison offices when they can snoop on everything—from simple plans to grand projects, from the psychology of personnel to the outlook of authorities. Their network is not parochial since it extends to the free community. Gangs have subdivided the country into regions they can control. And these are mostly in urban areas. Gangs have discarded control in remote areas except when for purposes of seeking protection or hiding their bounty, they needed some places to take cover. When a crime happens, chances are gangs know something about it. Their intelligence network at times is even tapped by seasoned law enforcers.
- On the whole, gangs have retained the services of good lawyers or law firms. Most of the time, the law firms are sent as courtesy assistance of some big names whom they have offered protection while serving time.
- Gangs are there to protect the uninitiated and offer assistance for those helpless or traumatized by prison condition.
- Since gangs have almost all the necessary wherewithal to commence or compose any action, they are instantly the most effective organization or if their specialized lines could no longer be concealed, they comprise as the best crime vehicle of all time. They can even profess effectively than their prison staff, or law enforcement, even the private sector counterparts.
- Gangs are sustained by protection fees paid by the regular prison visitors. Although from the distance, the fees are miniscule, the volume of visitation projects a greater amount at the end of the day. Gang mates operating a criminal outfit in the free community would continually sustain also the gangs inside. Gangs associated with KFR (Kidnapping for Ransom) offenses are the most pampered.
- Gangs still have the power to call shots even if majority of its members are serving time. While gangs can supply the necessary information on what crimes to expect, it is also wise to obliterate these mechanism in penal establishments to control and handle public safety properly.
- Davao Prison and Penal Farm is one such penal facility where there are no gangs.
Prisoner, this is your first day in this facility. Forget time, forget freedom, forget life outside, forget emotion and most of all, forget everything. Also, bear this in mind. You were never invited here at all. You simply appeared before us because that is what our justice system wants. Both of us therefore do not wish to be with each other yet here we are in front of one another, well that is fate.
First of, there is only one requirement here to survive. We expect everyone to be humble. Ignore it and you are a goner. Ignore it and life would be miserable. Ignore it and you will never be sane for the rest of the time you are expected to serve here. Deception is the order of the day but never, never allow yourself to conduct your routine in our presence using it as medium. Remember that deception is not an attribute of humility. You will perish if you do just that. Be true to yourself and if in the course of your detention you must have to deceive, deceive yourself first and from there stop deceiving. There is wisdom in said action. You will be able to resist the irrational nature of communal life and in the process; you would gain entry into a period of creativity.
You have plenty of rights. It is not true that there is no such thing as human rights for prisoners. It is gibberish a thought. Not because the fountain head of human rights—freedom— has been stripped off from your being, you lose all human rights. That is pure myth. Lights, potable water, faith, education and work are human rights in the prison community. You can determine a right from privilege. A right is something significant, something that could not be taken away, even if freedom has been removed. A privilege on the other hand is something granted and can easily be taken away. Prison life is a dynamic interaction of rights and privileges. You have it and it is there always. It is however up to you to sustain it for your purpose. It simply means that you adhere to prison rules.
I tell you what. Prison is not a place where offenders are to be punished. The criminal justice system imposed incarceration to offenders, separating them from the free community for a period depending on the offense, as a matter of penalty. That is the punishment. The segregation is the punishment in itself. Ignore the thought that commencement of punishment begins in prison and that my role is to pound you continuously as punishment. I am here to oversee your welfare even if society has shunned you already. I am one part of society though that believes in the goodness of man. As a matter of fact, government pays me to make such concern a career. Cooperate therefore. Let your goodness reflect through every activity you are given to perform with humility on top of everything. I tell you, incarceration is not that unfortunate at all.
Of course, there are drawbacks in communal life. You will be forced to live and share everything with all your fellow inmates—stories, life stories including communal odor. The scent of communal life is overwhelming but it is something you can live by. There are occasional threats to your sanity, like loneliness and enforced discipline, as in regular headcount, food distribution and even in evening taps but you can adjust to it. Remember that prison life is also akin to living in the free community. Every segment in your waking time is an occasion for intrigue and blasphemy. What differentiates your community with the one you left behind however is the fact that you are within a social system which is the exact inverse of the free community. What makes you smile outside, it will make you sad inside. Try to think of your loved ones and you will get my point. Everything therefore that matters outside is pure fleeting moments that are useless inside. Acquaint yourself to it for a period of time. It will help you find your humanity intact.
Prison is a make or break affair for you. You adjust and you are fine. You find difficulty in adjusting, you are broken. It is as simple as that. The barb wires around your facility are not exactly a sight to behold if you are trying to make something of yourself. I understand your predicament. But I am always there to cushion your life. Make me a friend and an elder brother and things would turn out right. Treat me as your foe then you will never achieve peace of mind. We will only be forced to accept our relationship in terms of violence. Remember that we are constantly living in a world where violence is understood as a common language. Let’s change it.
Tomorrow will be any other day. Everything from hereon will always be familiar. The same routine, grinding slowly and almost customary. It tames the wild and exploits the tamed. It is circular and cyclical. Life revolves in a seemingly endless schedule. It is out rightly monotonous and boring. Learn to read or read during your spare time. Do something worthy like writing or praying. Rehabilitation only means a state where one gains respect through humility. Be respectful of others and be understanding and you will lessen the dullness of your surroundings. That way, it will sharpen your mind and make you stronger as you reach the end of your prison term.
You need it once you leave the facility and begin to exercise love. Meanwhile, while serving time, forget love. Everything in prison is about rules.
- The President issued EO 79, s. 2012 regulating the exploration of lands for mining purposes.
- Several Presidential Proclamations likewise were issued purposely to transfer NBP to another site. Accordingly, funds derived from sale of NBP estate will be used for development of new prisons.
- Notwithstanding readiness of all government agencies involved in the transfer program, the issue of funding is a recurring challenge to overcome.
- Even granting for the sake of argument that funding can be sourced through PPP procedures, the problem of acceptability of site is the usual obstacle to be resolved. Even if it is to be situated within a military reservation, still, political consideration must have to be reckoned.
- Since mining activities can be found in almost all regions of the country, and every mining area has vast tracts of land contracted for the purpose, mining companies can be encouraged to build penal establishments within their respective areas.
- Hereunder are beneficial considerations:
- A Memo of Agreement (MOA) will have to be forged.
- The MOA spells out the responsibilities of both parties: the Bureau of Corrections on one hand and the Mining Company on the other hand.
- The Mining Company builds a penal institution within its vast tract of land.
- The Bureau of Corrections declares the facility as a regional prison.
- As to be agreed upon, prisoners will be conscripted in a mining training program (where prisoners will be trained as mining workers)
- The production share of the regional prison shall be treated as an amortization to the building of the penal establishment. Note that government has not spent anything in the process.
- The production profit share of the Mining Company is submitted to the Bureau of Corrections as government revenue. Said revenue to government may be treated as additional fund for its rehabilitation/ reformation projects or submitted to proper government agency as appropriation to be paid to prison workers.
- More so, there are no political complications from the host area since the Mining Company sustains the local government programs through its taxes.
- In other words, government can build regional prisons without spending government fund, and prison operation including administrative concerns can be sustained by the productivity of the mining activity.
- Furthermore, there is no need to sell the NBP estate since the agency can expand at no cost at all.
My dear sister Doris,
I heard that you are not in your best element yet. That you are still in pain. You have never suffered any disorder before, especially in our youth, and I just could imagine how horrible for you to have been pinned and almost forced to be bedridden. I wish to see you but I do not want to see you as someone helpless. I know you can overcome everything and that is the time I wanted to see the victor in you. No, not that I try to evade visitation by being absent near you. It is just that I do not want you to see distortions on my face as if grimacing once I see you in such a difficult situation. Besides, I am not a physician and I am as helpless as anyone given the situation. I do not even know whether my prayers would be heard. Nanay tried that in the face of her assailants.
Nanay was very religious and I have never known anybody who had something against her. In other words, she is almost a saint. The gods must be with her always. She must be in communion or probably in communication with her angels. But during that fateful day, not even luck was beside her. She passed away, abandoned by her gods. And her assailants leaving her without breath, walking slowly onto freedom probably aided by the same luck that absconded her. She must have prayed knowing her. But her prayers went nowhere.
She taught me to fight early in my toddler years. When she saw me about to rumble with a playmate, she goaded me to fight. She never intervened and I learned a lesson there. Never depend on anyone except on oneself. Nanay taught me never to rely on anyone except on myself. She showed me that I can hold on all by myself. Of course, at that time, I needed help, any help will do, I was thinking that the bully might ruin my cute face. That the fellow could kick my bones into smithereens. I was watching whether my mother was beside me to lend a hand, ready to pounce on the big fellow also. No, she wasn’t. She even closed our gates; although I could still feel her peeping through a small gap. I was also trying to read the body language of my opponent at the same time. His face looked like a ripened tomato and my playmates that had encircled us were of no use either except to push the two of us in the center. I must confess that I do not know how to fight. I could not even bring my arms to a boxing pose because I have never fought nor boxed anyone in the first place. I looked awkward in my mind if I will try to look like a martial artist. I merely stared at my opponent hoping that he would melt. No I never showed cowardice, neither expressed fear. I probably looked lost at that time but I was composed. Should he lung at me, I would merely dance around. Should he try to kick me, I will just move on the other side. I must be quick and agile. I know how to avoid and evade a blow but my problem that instant was to go for the jugular. I cannot hit and I do not intend to hit the guy. Not that I might get hurt in the process, but I was thinking what if I hurt the guy and kill him. I was afraid of doing harm against anyone, even against an opponent. I was 9 years old then. To cut the story short, our fight was postponed. My playmates could have faded in the scene. They probably could not stand a fight where one of the protagonists was never in his element to fight. My opponent also lost his steam. I just could not remember vividly how it ended. All I knew then was the realization never to join my playmates in the street anymore.
My point here my dear sister is this. The fight is yours alone. You must depend solely on yourself. Not that we will never help you but the better part of fighting is your capacity to win. It is useless for us to pray and ask that your sickness be distributed among all of us to relieve you of discomfort. It just won’t stick. We can only offer some solace, a tap on the shoulder, a little coaching but the fight is yours alone. You must win according to your style. Believe that you can win against all odds. I know for a fact that you loved your health very much. That you are conscious of everything you eat. You loved good and nutritious food. Sickness is farthest from your memory. Hygiene is foremost in your list. A healthy lifestyle is always a principal consideration. You have never even tried extreme sports that invite accident. You were designed to appreciate the world through your well developed intellect. The academe and not anywhere else is your world. It is a place where peace and stability reside. Nowhere in that world will threats disturb you.
You were given a chance to see the world. And you travelled almost twice or thrice a month for a number of years at that, circumnavigating Southeast Asia and even the western world. Travelling makes a person whole. It could also be tiring and medically troublesome. It is tiring because the stress of flying is there. It is medically unfortunate because you must force yourself to hold on your bladder for hours before you relieve yourself. That is what makes a traveler an heir to internal ailments. And distant traveling has a toll on our internal organs. You must have to sustain and hold on for hours before you can be back to comfort. Our body is not designed to sacrifice. Only our mind is.
But let us not despair in the belief that once our body gives in there is no recompense already. No. The mind can heal the body. The mind can convince the body to heal itself. It can even dictate on how it should heal the body. That explains why some physicians would try to becloud a patient’s mind so that it would follow what the doctors impose rather than on what the mind should offer. I know how it works. I have been a medical representative once before I became a prison officer. I know how the medics perform their jobs. There is commerce once in a while. But all of the medics would profess that healing is a major role to be performed not by medicine or skill but on the will of the patient alone. There is no argument there. Except that no one will volunteer such kind of prescription. It takes the profit out of the profession.
So my dear sister, don’t be sad. You must already have acquainted yourself with pain. You must probably felt terrible every time your body is invaded by steel and chemicals. That is how medicine works. Now, let your mind work for you naman. If you think that you are about to be swallowed by difficulties, shout in your mind “NO, NO, NO! (or, to be effective since our body and mind understands vernacular more than any language “HINDI, HINDI, HINDI!)” Let your mind takes over your body. Dictate on your internal organs; tell you kidneys to work properly. Tell your stomach to work regularly. Tell your pancreas to work hard to maintain your body chemistry. Tell everything there inside you to restore itself back to normalcy. It is not the doctor, neither the medicine that could do it, but your mind.
I have had a series of ailments before. I had some bad accidents. I was also at times messy with my meals. I have a tendency to abuse my health. I smoke horrendously like the smokestack factory in 19th century England. I have never been kind to my body for quite some time. I thought that I might end up where my peers would find themselves in—at the emergency hospital. I never had a date in a hospital and was never confined at all. I had that much exposure before when father and mother almost simultaneously would be admitted. But I never had an occasion to be seen up-close by a doctor, not in my imagination, well, except when I went through circumcision. But I would have given in, almost. I had palpitation occasionally, that is, if my coffee would reach the consumption tipping point. I had vertigo, enough force that could send me flying while driving my big bike or careening carelessly in my sports utility vehicle. Well, I had one horrifying vehicular mishap before, when the vehicle I was riding flipped out and turned turtle five times, landing on my side where sparks of metal sheered my shirt. All my companions at that time were sent to the emergency room for broken bones and torn skin. Luckily, I never suffered any bruise at all. When one sees the vehicle we used, one would conclude that not even a fly inside could have survived the impact. Well, I was luckier than a pesky fly at that time. Probably my time has not been defined yet.
Our physical being has an uncanny way of communicating with us. It makes us feel what should be done. And we must always be attentive to its language. It never repeats what it intends to say. If it does, it has cost you something already. But you should be a little bit discerning. Not everything that we feel is something your body tries to telegraph. Feelings can also be generated by the mind. To differentiate feelings one must know your biological make up. Adults know this very much. They know when they have reached the limits of their energy. They have already set the so called biological clock. Hunger, thirst, bladder comfort, metabolism are but settings from whence the body speaks through. It runs not within the avenues of the mind but immediately through the senses. So when you feel like peeing or defecating, lose no time. Don’t procrastinate. Never mind decency or tact. It has no place in the emergency room. Act immediately with dispatch that is the only way to stay healthy. So take note.
I am no guru when it comes to health or in anything emergency. I am just a keen observer of nature and environment. I follow closely how things are and what makes things work. I try to incorporate it in my system, always aware that at my age, anything can happen. Awareness is the only weapon we could handle to defeat any untoward incident. It’s a component of consciousness. It is the vanguard of the body against the unseen forces of nature. Nature wants to lord it over where man has already through knowledge conquered its power. Through consciousness, nature abides by its rule. The mind can bend nature accordingly. Mind over matter says an old adage and it is true. What the mind can conceive, the body can achieve says a vitamin commercial. And it is the truth. Be careful of what you wish for it might come true says another wag.
How I wish to bring this forth for your awareness as if pontificating but you won’t take it effectively yet while undergoing hospital routine. You must be very busy planning to recuperate and leave the hospital amidst the bulk of receipts and payables the family must have to hurdle. I could only send so much. I could just heave a sigh of relief having noted that the kids have travelled and seen countries abroad that foretells likewise a capability of dealing with such expensive exigencies as hospital procedure and confinement. I wish that your travail would soon pass through so that you will be back in harness to where you left off, this time wiser and more aware of your natural strength.
I am monitoring your every phase and every development from here. Remember that I am always beside you. Take good care of yourself.
Your loving brother,
(Note: Kuya Ven is Venancio J. Tesoro, a prison superintendent at the Philippine Bureau of Corrections, email: firstname.lastname@example.org. His sister, Doris Tesoro-Gayundato has just been treated with cervical cancer, when the radiation procedure exacted a toll on her kidneys. She has been back to hospital confinement for kidney treatment.)
ONCE UPON A TIME, a group of enterprising politicians from Luzon went on to explore the outback of Mindanao and discovered the undulating jungle and almost virgin forests everywhere. They settled and tried to form a small community, using government processes and went on to purchase and register lands left and right. They had been overtaken by their youthful counterparts in their former home province that is why a new territory is like a new shot in the arm. Thereafter, finding a good space, they began to map out site development; carving through from the forested area’s flat land they began a small community covering innocently an administrative facade for their properties. Unlike in Luzon, land in Mindanao could be purchased through legal machination applying homestead patent and other cheap approaches. Of course, residing in the community was a social concern to be projected to invite recognition but the hidden agenda was to mount a massive deforestation program, conduct logging concessions and amidst tribal protestations, virtually denuded vast tracts of land in the area. Result: pocket floods, climate changes, disturbed eco-system and worst, igniting conflict in the area against the nomadic denizens and minorities. That would signal the birth of a bigger confrontation which would later evolve into a war in Mindanao.
Since then, the conflict has generated and multiplied further clashes necessitating the entrance of government forces into the fray. The wealth generated by logging concessionaires further attracted more migration and as loggers and politicians multiplied, it has literally exacerbated the quarrel into the domain promoting social discord among local stakeholders and the new powerful class. This new powerful class were the educated elite from the main island and armed with legalities, they try to subdue the local population whose only claim to the exploited fields was their belief in tradition and their ancestral claims. Unable to convince the armed forces of government, they formed their own. Unable to understand warfare, government wanted a peaceful resolution through political intervention. Unable to abet violence on their ground, the people started defending themselves by attacking those outside of their tribal orientation. One fine day, an observer notes that everybody is shooting everyone already. Aggression has entered the local language.
Claims escalate, conflicts rose, divergence soared. Mindanao has become divided on several fronts. The natives on the one hand, the migrants on the other. Both citizens are both gazing at each other massacre and genocide in between. Mindanao is a promise land so they proclaimed. It has no storm. It is essentially a tropical paradise and strides along the equatorial side of the planet. It is blithely sunny in the morning and rainy in the late afternoon. The accumulated heat is always washed freshly by an evening drizzle. That is the constant weather all year round. It perfectly serves the green surroundings. It is a great vegetation basket where hunger must be non-existent. But ironically, it is also here where one finds the poorest community in the country.
The “war” has hitherto displaced a large number of its population. A swath of the island is now virtually populated by refugees. Vast tracts of land lay idle while half of it is targeted for exploitation. People have armed themselves eventually. Heads of families hugged their firearms more than their brood. Their concern is no longer to feed their families or to protect their neighborhood but to preserve that area where their houses are built.
Life in this part of the country, much like violent strife communities, is no longer sacred and precious. Destruction is a common sight. Unnecessary fatalities dot every town. Bombs used in mining, explosives used in exploration of forests, are now applied everywhere. An upsurge of hostility is the order of the day in most remote rural areas. Cruelty lurks in every urban setting. Every Pedro, Juan and Kaloy is a suspect. Every Abdul, Mohamad and Haji is presumed behind dissent. Everyone is a disputably an enemy of everybody. War is therefore implied without anyone trying to emphasize it.
Mindanao is a rich island. Its mountains have gold, several minerals, and a surfeit of rich deposits. Its rivers are crystal clear, the mineral water adjudged the best in the world; Its coastal areas teeming with marine life; Its flat lands ideal for large scale vegetation. The people are honest to a fault; and their hospitality is never suspect. This is blissful to the local population, a magnet however to criminal syndicates.
Mindanao is therefore seen as, to use a worn out cliché, the proverbial goose that lays the golden egg. It is desired and yearned, wished and craved. Peace left the place as soon as this reality has been expressed. Undeserved greed invaded the island. And as long as covetousness is there, war will never cease.
The composer, John Lennon of the Beatles, wrote the above lyrics and it became a signature song. It has become today a melodious theme of a generation about to reach the twilight zone. For those in their 50s, 60s and 70s, the words evoke emotion and nostalgia. It is about living through and passing away. It is about being left out and about departing the cognitive world. It is about leaving a memory we oftentimes but would usually forget and ignore as Love. This on the presumption that love is there all along and that it made life as it is.
I have friends for the last 50 years who have gone to the great beyond and recently, I could not but reflect on the wisdom of life, of existing, of being, of becoming, of coming into this world. One may perceive everything not in a vertical or horizontal sense but in what it really is, spherical. Life is a cycle; it’s almost circular, following the spherical flow of the solar system, the seemingly rotund orientation of the universe although as yet to be determined by latter day astrologers and scientists. Life while it is seen as progressive, ascending towards an apex, is still viewed to a certain contrary extent because reaching the zenith, it slowly (or rapidly, it depends) from its limits descend back to where it began. The Bible says “from dust unto dust.” Although some religions would try to supply a different view, the progressive view, that is from a spent physical life to the transcendental higher plane of existence on a spiritual direction. For a while, it makes sense and to a better extent, quite sensible, but everywhere one notices a beginning and an end. Where one starts at a particular point, one realizes that he also ends exactly at the same starting spot. Philosophically speaking, from a speck unto a speck.
There lies a profound consideration in the matter of viewing life and death; of living and dying. Or better still of existing and loving. Love defines life and offers perpetual memory. Love conquers life as well as death; it rearranges everything from a stale position to a complex configuration. It makes or breaks everything on its path. Life should therefore be seen as life and death on a different perspective. Life moves on until it ends. Death is another chapter that progresses onwards until oblivion. Love is common on both considerations. Love links both. Its absence makes life (or death) pure accident and meaningless. Love—call it concern, understanding, consequence, pursuit, fascination, whatever—-it is what makes everything worthy of cognition. Love preserves everything and camaraderie fulfills that life goes on, that deaths is another window and that exactly is what faith is all about.
Yes, people come and go but friends, they who shaped our minds, they who sharpened our wits, they who colored our dreams, they who fulfilled our visions—are there forever.
(PONDERING: Don Antonio O. Floirendo is best remembered as the only tycoon in the world whose heart beats for the poorest of the poor, the prisoners. At 96 he succumbed to pneumonia. I remember my colleague and loyal friend, Romy Chavez, 68, who gave up after a ruse in a vehicular accident. I recall a former classmate since my elementary grades, Gilbert Miranda, 59, a year short of reaching senior years, struggling to meet both ends, folding up as a consequence of a massive stroke. There was a college buddy, Atty. Eduardo Garcia, 58, a constant caller, surrendering after a bout of lung cancer.
And of course, I am reminded of Davy Jones, 66, the lead singer of The Monkees, his voice still fresh while singing “I want to be free.” Donna Summer,63, as she defined and gave melody to the adventurous youth of 70s. Robin Gibb, 62, of BeeGees and Whitney Houston, 48, offered timeless beats for mankind . All of them in the first semester of this year, 2012, became a part of living memory.)
I had a rare privilege of meeting Don Antonio Ocampo Floirendo. He is better known to his business colleagues and corporate lieutenants as AOF. He is an engineer by profession and hailed from Northern Luzon who braved the southern part of Mindanao in search for some options to carry on his ideals. The sturdy folks of which Ilocanos are known for must have rubbed off, as he explored areas to develop. Ilocanos were known to have volunteered as kinsmen when Hawaii was an island outback. They were explorers conquering every opportunity whether it is business or politics. He was one of them. And he went to Mindanao to prove his point.
There were stories of his youth in his chosen province. He opened a small stall he amusingly called Davao Motor Sales. (Later it would be abbreviated as Damosa, an informal locale more known than its formal municipal title.) It is of course a store for car parts. AOF relished on restoring vintage vehicles, restoring its glorious look, giving it more luster and life. And every politician of Manila visiting Mindanao, passing through Davao, would be met by a dashing young man, with a spanking vehicle ready to tour and service the newly arrived VIP. One of these constant visitors was an equally dashing politician who would become President one day: Ferdinand Marcos. It was this friendship that would change the mindset of AOF. Both were hardy Ilocanos to start with and both were singular of mind when it comes to their destination. Marcos was to politics, AOF was on commerce. Both reached the apex of their dreams through sheer hard work. Marcos however never made it good in history.
I have known AOF since 1994—a good 18 years, to date —a generation actually, and from then on, I never left my awareness, studying the brilliancy of the man. And since then I have heard a lot of anecdotes on how the man moves around. According to his staff, his prominence allows a certain degree of respect even from traffic cops manning intersections. They would allow his vehicle to pass through. But when AOF inspects the vast banana plantation where there is criss-crossing of cable wires along the path towing a bunch of banana, his vehicle grounds to a halt until the last bunch passes through. That is, I suppose, only driver-talk and a bit apochripal. Besides, it is no-brainer.
But listen to this. A group of soil technicians were huddled for a conference, discussing how to vacate a patch of banana farm if only to improve its soil condition. A spirited group of scientists argued that spraying the soil with carbon will enhance the nutrients of the loam. Another group of veteran agriculturists, having noted that the soil is already “tired” must be given a fresh swish of fertilizers. Several other proponents were submitting one approach with another, until AOF dropped by to listen to the discussion. All the recommendations bordered on a funding facility worth millions, an expense which may prove economical in the long run according to computations. AOF was a bit exhausted from his regular farm visitation and it’s understandable since he has celebrated his 95th birthday a few days after. AOF nonetheless listened intently on the deliberation and after hearing every suggestion, offered his gut advice: “Why not bring the inner soil atop; it is not tired, it is nutrient filled and fresh. More so, there is little expense on our part.” That ended the half day conference and the farm had fresh soil after a couple of days of tractor cultivation.
I was privileged to have been personally invited by AOF for a number of occasions. For someone to have walked with dominant people in the corridor of power, for a man who have literally strolled with Kings and Monarchs of the world, sauntered with almost all men of substance in the planet, to be called and be consulted is an honor by itself. To be up-close with the man is already a badge of reverence. There were even instances when he would request for my attention and support. I could just imagine how Jose Rizal felt when government built him a monument in Luneta. The feeling is the same.
I shared something in common with AOF. Both of us smokes a lot. But here lies his difference with the rest of us, ordinary mortals. He is a man not alarmed by his lonesome. He works hard and thinks hard at the same time. He may choose to be recluse and may at times be gregarious. He can be both ways—contemplative and also sociable. He is strict to the point of being a disciplinarian when it comes to work and he can also be playful to the point of losing some games.
AOF traveled around, unlike his wealthy friends, encircled with security personnel with bulging waistlines indicating holstered firearms. He was also assisted by personnel except that these guys were all trained physical therapists! AOF gets a regular dose of massage anytime he repairs in one corner. One never hears his voice increase in crescendo. It is so low that you must have to listen intently on every word he utters. There were neither excitements nor flowery words except for a few lines delivered with a smile.
This is precisely the kind of persona, a cool and stable personality, not given to excitation or provocation that made his senior years stretched to a considerable length. All his peers were of the forceful, assertive and hard hitting kind. He was on the subdued side always. It is only when he decides on something that one comprehends his firm character. At that rate, he has outlived his peers for a considerable period.
He never flaunted the fortune he amassed from sheer hard work. His wealth is reflected on the number of jobs he has created. All by himself, he wiped out unemployment in several towns of Davao. And despite his advancing age, he never slowed down. He wanted to generate more employment, he wanted more lives to save, and he wanted more people to help.
He even gave integrity and introduced work ethics among hundreds, if not thousands of prisoners in Davao Penal Colony.
His crusading spirit knows no bound and notwithstanding his weakening body, he would rather see his people, flourishing in that idea he created for them. Truly, the man is a masterpiece of creation itself. In reality, he never left us. He became a part of everyone, a living part not only of history but of life itself! And life is perpetual.