BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Missing Words

I long to write. To write again. To write after a long time. To write because I know no other recourse. No other way to weave portraits of my dreams. Or to bade my nightmares goodbyes.

Because today, more than yesterday, the dreams are worst than nightmares. The voices reverberate like monkeys on my back. Like two headed monsters threatening to devour every piece of me. This fragile soul. Usually in small bits and pieces until not a trace is left, like in a crime scene splattered with blood.

It is the wee hours between yesterday, today and tomorrow that are most unbearable.

And so I long to write. I write to remember. I write to forget. I write to tame the monsters. To color. To scream. To dance. To rejoice like lovers when they make love.

I write to be lost in silence. In the noise. In the wild rumpus.

I write to keep still. And to capture the poetry that allows me to be.

The soft kisses I get on the road in between the heart of an enigmatic young boy and in a paradise of a beach called Puka.

The morning coffee, shared under a yellow sun. Holding hands. Half awake, half asleep.

The infectious laughter of a little girl. Her smile. Her tantrums even.

Then there's the poetry of the sound of the rain, splattering on the roof.

Of sunrise. Sunsets. Of roosters, crowing at dawn, slicing into the stillness of the night. The sound of hope. Of new beginnings. 

Of road trips and border crossings. Of moving from one time zone to another. Of falling in line at passport controls knowing that Jes will be waiting on the other side.

Java, Indonesia. Tea pickers. The massage. Drinking tea in a warm place in the middle of the heaven, in a mountaintop.

The laughter of two children whose language I don't understand.

Waking  at dawn to witness buddhist monks in their orange robes whisper their morning prayers.

To see stretches and stretches of vineyards from Paris to Italy. In a bus. Traveling alone.

To be in a paradise of a beach and know that the anchor will keep me in place. Safe and sound.

Of the ebb and flow of the daily grind. Of the struggle to beat the deadline. When the clock reads 3:30. Or 4 pm. And a good story has been sent. There is poetry in this often messianic ritual. Messianic, yes but good.

I find poetry in stringing words together.

Like wearing an unwashed coat during winter, or the comfort of clean sheets. Like a bowl of Tomyum when I am sick and the thermometer reads 38. Or a hot shower when it is freezing cold. Like a duvet in a foreign land.  Or a cup of warm cappuccino where there is none. 

Most of all, I find poetry in knowing that love fits like second skin.


But the words are lost today.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

INSIDE THE LION'S DEN appears in the the April 23, 2012 issue of the Philippines Graphic. Thank you to Alma Anonas-Carpio for this review. 

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Sun, Sea and Our Oars

In Vietnam, there is a saying: "Standing on top of one mountain and gazing at the top of another, you think you'd rather be standing on the other mountain."

In this age of Facebook and Twitter and the narcissistic world that it has created, a lot of people these days end up stabbing each other's backs, pulling peers down to their levels, driven by envy and the need to nurture their bruised egos.

It's all over. I believe social media has made people more envious of others, more narcissistic than ever and disgustingly more disconnected from one another.

As what Stephen Marche said in this insightful piece, Is Facebook Making Us Lonely?, the world that Facebook has created has endangered the real world that we live in. There is that evil of comparison as photos and Facebook statuses of everyone else but one's own seem to be better -- the perfect family, the perfect vacation, the best kids one can have or the best school.

Individuals with tendency to be insecure become more insecure while others in need of pat on the backs for their wounded egos turn to Facebook for comfort. This government official Tweets about his weekend activities more than he does about his crucial role in government. Yesterday, he referred to himself in the third person. What can be more narcissistic than that?

Facebook can create photographers out of individuals who just pretend to be as such. You'd think that when you post a photograph and you get 100 likes, you can submit it to World Press or to Natgeo. Little do you know that for every one "like" you get, you'd probably have 10 "dislikes" for the same photograph.

On Facebook, you can form a cult of like-minded individuals who excrete the same shit. Those in need of blow jobs can get it from Facebook or Twitter, 24/7.

You'd think because you have economic journalists following you or are "Friends" with you on Facebook, you can get away not covering your assignments and just fishing stories from your so-called friends.

But disconnection and narcissism are not my main points. They're just drops in the bucket. What I find lamentable in this digital age is how technology has given people more reasons to stab each other.

It has made the world worst that in it is, making innately envious people more envious than they were ever before.

You see someone's status and you end up feeling sad because you're not on the same boat. You see someone's wall and wonder why you didn't get that assignment or trip. You see a workshop and you come up with an absolutely hilarious narcissistic thought that it should have been you giving that workshop.

Facebook or Twitter are not the main culprits, though. Everything lies on the individual. Evil intentions will manifest so long as they are there innate in you, whether it's in the digital or the real world.

And that is the most lamentable fact. The world is worst than it is. It's a dog-eat-dog world, now filled with carnivores lurking in the digital universe.

The good news is, it's still in our control. It's a huge world out there. There is room for everyone, there is room for all 6 billion people to have a space in the sun. There is space for contentment. For love. For genuine connections. For friends. No need to gaze at the other mountain and feel sorry that you're not standing on top of it.

Go out to the sea and paddle your own oar.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Bloggerstatements zum Thema "Menschenrechte und Internet"

The Google Collaboratory Project is out. Below is the video that includes my blogger statement on human rights and the Internet.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Edith Burgos: It's All About Money and Greed

April 28, 2012, less than fifteen days from today, marks the fifth year since the abduction of Jonas Burgos. This is the story of Edith Burgos' continuing search for his missing son.
It was around lunchtime in a crowded mall, a place of leisure, when a young activist named Jonas Burgos was abducted. Witnesses say he was dragged from the mall to a parked vehicle in broad daylight and in full view of hundreds of people. Investigations point to the military as the culprits. Since that day in April 2007, five years ago, Jonas remains missing.
His mother, Edith Burgos, has gone to all the government agencies that she could possibly seek help from, but the promises ‘to do something about it’ from the powers-that-be turned out to be empty words.
‘I went to all the agencies. I went to the police. I went to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and I was told that it was the intelligence group who abducted him,’ Edith says one quiet afternoon in March inside an office that serves as her safe house. Edith, who has been pointing to the military as responsible for the abduction of her son, has found herself being followed by unknown individuals many times.
But Edith is unfazed. She will keep on searching for her missing son.
‘A simple mother would go all the way to look for her son because that’s what mothers are made of,’ she insists.
Edith says she will spend the rest of her life searching for her son until she finds him, dead or alive. In the deepest recesses of her soul, she knows he is out there, waiting to come home.
But Edith has no illusions that Jonas’ case, and those of hundreds of other missing activists, human rights workers and journalists, will be solved soon. As long as people remain hungry for power, a culture of impunity will remain, she explains.
‘It’s really all about money and greed. People in government would like to stay on for as long as they can. And to do that they must hold to the other powers-that-be, like the United States. To be able to get more aid, they must follow the demands of the donor. One of the demands is that they fight insurgency. They must fight terrorism. What they do is to abduct, kill or get people.’

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Full Moon in Palawan

                                VIEW SLIDESHOW

We arrived just as the sun was saying goodbye. And before I could get off the boat, I froze at the breathtaking view of the crimson sun disappearing into the horizon, leaving a glitter of what seemed like a million diamond studs on the deep blue sea. 

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Fighting Impunity in the Philippines

by Iris Gonzales

One death is too many. As I write this, human rights organizations and loved ones of victims of enforced disappearances and extra judicial killings continue to cry out for justice. 

The numbers are stark and telling: 150 journalists killed since 1986; at least 206 cases of enforced disappearances; and 1,206 cases of extra judicial killings since 2001, according to data from the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines and Karapatan. 

Fighting impunity is an uphill battle but the people are not giving up. Everyday, in the courtroom, in unknown places, through images and various campaigns, the struggle continues. 

The Internet, for instance, is also used as a tool to raise awareness on the situation in the country and to bring the perpetrators to justice. 

But this is not enough. The Aquino administration must make true its promise to address the problem of impunity in the country.

Until then, the number of deaths will continue to grow. And one death is too many.

(This multimedia project is part of Google's Collaboratory Project on Human Rights and the Internet launched in Berlin, Germany in March 2012. Thank you to Jes Aznar, Edith Burgos, Kiri Dalena, Angelica Carballo, JB Deveza of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, Angge Santos of Karapatan, Linda Cadapan,  Connie Empeno, Krissy Konti and Rorie Fajardo for the invaluable assistance). 

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Philippines Must Dismantle Private Armies

My latest blog on The New Internationalist:

Philippines must dismantle its private armies!

Next year, the Philippines will again hold local elections. People from far-flung villages and remote areas will be casting their votes in the hope that whoever they vote for will help improve their lives.

But elections in the Philippines are not just about leadership changes and ballot counting.

Elections in the Philippines come with a high price. Things get violent as desperate people cling to power, and one huge factor that contributes to violence during elections is the existence of state-backed paramilitaries.

And the gruesome 2009 Ampatuan Massacre happened exactly because of that.

Two years ago, on an ordinary Monday morning, in a province they called home, some 58 people were massacred in what would be the most gruesome election-related violence in the Philippines in recent years.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch has said that it is important for President Benigno Aquino III to ban all paramilitary forces in the Philippines because of their long and continuing history of serious human rights violations.

Furthermore, the group said that abuses by these paramilitary force members are rarely investigated or prosecuted.

‘President Aquino’s promise to dismantle “private armies” is a necessary step to end election violence in the Philippines. But he should go further and disband the state paramilitary forces that are frequently as abusive,’ said Elaine Pearson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

The Philippine president that the police have already ‘neutralized’ at least 28 private armed groups, as of June 2011.

For its part, Human Rights Watch urged the police to publish the full list of private armies and explain what steps have been taken to address state involvement in these groups.

‘Elections in the Philippines are often bloody, with the violence mainly carried out by warring political factions with the support of private armies and state-backed paramilitaries,’ the group said.

Human Rights Watch also notes that paramilitary groups are formed not just for elections but also for mining companies and against the communist New People’s Army.

The human rights violations committed by paramilitary groups are grave but often ignored by the state, leading to a culture of impunity.

Because of this, the group said there should be a systematic disarming of all these private armies.

‘Dismantling private armies should be more than a PR exercise,’ Pearson said.

‘The failure to address paramilitaries as well as private armies puts political opponents and ordinary civilians at continued risk from powerful local politicians.’

Indeed, only with the abolition of private armies can the people score in the fight against impunity.
 Photo of a Filipino solider by Jayel Aheram under a CC Licence.