Cordillera Autonomy

One thing about watching the TV evening news is that you get bolted out of your respite from intellectual processes. History is unfurling. Dreams are being aired, and being shot down on air. And you just have to proclaim your take. Last night, I learned that discussions on Cordillera autonomy will be revived in Congress. This is in time for the commemoration of the Mt. Data Peace Pact between renegade priest Fr. Conrado Balweg and Pres. Corazon Aquino in the late 1980's.

 I do not know if the public has recovered from fatigue after two failed attempts at the establishment of a Cordillera Autonomous Region. I was a Director of the Cordillera Executive Board, the body created under Executive Order No. 220 to prepare the Cordillera Region for autonomy (Would you believe I was in my early 20's when I got the appointment? I was so eager to do something really huge. Before my appointment, I was already aware of the defects of the bureaucratic apparatuses. I thought I was ready to deal with them. Gosh, the defects were endemic, as they are now. No wonder people with vision and the heart for substantive change leave the bureaucracy frustrated.

Anyway, I saw how the last autonomy bill was crafted. Let me explain the rejection of the last autonomy law this way: The people will resist what they do not identify with. They will all the more resist what goes against their value system. That rejected law, which suffered the fate of an earlier one in 1990, did not really foster autonomy. It provided that all decisions on the control of the region's wealth will be left to the Autonomous Region. This would have been fine, if not for the provision subly smuggled within the written rhetoric that regional laws must not contravene national laws.

Very clever national government! What it professed to give with the right hand, it actually intended to revoke with the left. But we have a more clever people: they hurled the law fast into the trash bin where it properly belonged. Amen! Did those people up there not realize that what has always impelled us to assert our autonomy is the inherent clash between national laws and indigenous laws?

Autonomy must be framed within the right of self-determination enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It is not granted; it is asserted. The United Nation recognizes the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination as an inalienable collective right. The initiative should come from the people and not dictated by the national government.

 If we allow the national government to run the show, we will have a token autonomous region. We ourselves will have authored the rape of our collective right. We are for the establishment of an autonomous region, one that will allow the Cordillera IP's to chart their own destiny and wrest control over the natural resources Kabunian intended for them and their descendants. For this, we are ready to reject an Establishment-sponsored "autonomy" law.

 By the way, here is a piece I wrote way back:

Macliing Dulag’s Warding-Off Speech

If Kabunian gave you a land
 of milk and honey
 and ordered you 
to take care of it for posterity
 What will you do 
if intruders want to take it away? 
 I imagine that you will fight
 For they who do not are ungrateful to Kabunian;
 they value not His gift 
 They ignore his command
 to defend the land in the name 
of coming generations thousands of years from now 

They who do not, spit on the graves 
of  their ancestors
 who preserved the land for them
 For land is life 
For life is the land

 If you were in our place 
You would fight 
You would fire your guns as we raise our spears 
You would probably pay your way 
to the justice system t
hat does not understand our ways 

For that is what you did
 to grab the lands of people 
Like us on the other side of the mountain 

So do not be stubborn in your ignorance
Why we refuse to vacate the land
 which had always been our home

We are the Palestinians in Palestine
 The Lumads in Mindanao 
The Mangyans in Mindoro

 We are the Martians in Mars
 Go away.
 Let our people sleep in peace

And the night after.

On Grief and Recovery Part II

I am on the road to recovery from an ailment - or so I hope. The last weeks have been quite an ordeal. I thought of nothing else but health, health and health. I did a lot of reading on wellness. I went to the wellness clinics in Baguio and Metro Manila, on top of my hospital visits. Suddenly, I got interested in Atkin's diet books. For a time, I stopped reading the papers. I saved myself from a lot of heartaches, I suppose. The newspapers have a way of making me feel so depressed and angry at the same time.

So immersed I was in my health concerns ( a bit selfish, huh!) that I neglected my baby - this blog. Having gotten a bit better over the last weeks, I am now back to blogging - again, before the next hiatus.

I read just today TruBlue's permission to publish a poem I wrote based on his grief over his grandson's death. I hope TruBlue will not think that SRT shut down, after my muteness for over a month. I hope he drops by.

Much can be said when a baby dies. But sometimes, we deal with it through silence - the passing away of a life so young delivers numbing pain that even speech cannot describe our grief. On the other hand, speech helps us cope.

This piece for TruBlue is an attempt to help him deal with his sorrow.

A Full Empty Crib
(For Anthony’s Grandfather)

In the corner a crib sits.

Twice today, he touched it with a
worshipping caress
Unconsciously, he fished deep for
a sleeping baby.

How do we fail to recall what we
don’t remember?
How can’t we dredge up what we don’t forget?
Loved ones die, without dying at all
-there is always a resilient memory
that will repudiate melancholy, even the grave.
Like a baby’s perpetual smell of powder and milk.
His first awkward step. The first time he clumsily
devours his cereals by himself. The first time he sleeps
dry through the long night

And more.

Sometimes, he asks,
Why the blood of my blood,
the bone of my bone, the flesh of my flesh?

And then he is consumed by guilt for
the subliminal prayer that it were some
other baby who had to be precipitately
shipped over to the other shore.
A baby -any baby- crossing the bar
ahead of his forebears is an affront to nature,
an affront so monumental that it is imprudence
for the wisest philosopher to defend it.

It is not fair to keep remembering
a loved one in sorrow. We mourn Death.
But must we not honor Life as well no
matter how ephemeral it was?
Isn’t the cemetery also called
Garden of Remembrance?
My grandson’s was a Life the world can celebrate
with memories more than enough
to fill a vacant crib and linger up to that
moment the world will breathe its last.

He used to tell her daughter as a child:
Once or twice, I asked for sunshine
I woke up as light rays crept to my room
God, after all, does listen.

Inspired by his example,
she prays, prays, prays
her son will come back
from the grave
The prayer is her mantra

Her son will not ever amble like a wobbling penguin
on my living room floor -the same floor his
grandmother had been obsessively burnishing
with red wax before he graced our lives
and became the focus of our thoughts and decisions
Now the floor is red and shiny once more
His grandmother and I have gone back to rubbing
methyl salicylate on our arthritic arms and legs –
a necessary routine we had to abstain from when
his small form with a sensitive button nose
would cram the near-fictional space between us
The two Chinese jars handed down by my grandmother
from her grandfather have recouped their exalted
realm in the staircase landing after years of exile in
the attic store room.
I rest easy my children will
receive them from me in one piece.

Yes, I wish I could go back to a
painful, methyl-salicylate-deprived existence
Or walking on lackluster living room floor
Or agonizing over what posterity will have to say
if I bequeath to them broken jar pieces crafted by
gifted hands during the age of the Jurassic Park,
not to mention the wrath of my ancestors’ spirits
for decimating by neglect the proof of their erudite chic
(How will everyone in the world tell from remnants of
porcelain or ceramic jars that human civilization
has been moving backward rather than forward?)

That is far –or near- as wishes go. Reality bites.

How do I tell my daughter that
Death is not an end
but the beginning of Life from
this world to the next?

She will never embrace her son here again.
Someplace else. She will.

As I will.

He looks at the crib.
Not empty.
Not mute.
For it bursts with a chubby form -
little hands outstretched
plainly expressing hunger for a cuddle
The musical gurgle of a baby permeates
every air space and drives away the dust,
even of desolation.

The grandfather weeps in utter elation
in honor of a long, brief life.