BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Support the Ericson Acosta Legal Defense Fund

Below is an appeal to support the Ericson Acosta Legal Defense Fund from the Free Ericson Acosta Campaign.

Dear Friends, 

Last February 13, former UP activist, journalist and cultural worker Ericson Acosta was arrested by the military in San Jorge, Samar on the suspicion that he was an NPA rebel. He is currently detained at the Calbayog sub-provincial jail and faces trumped-up charges of illegal possession of explosives. Contrary to the AFP claims, Ericson was unarmed and in the company of a local barangay official at the time of his arrest. He was held for three days without charges and was subjected to continuous tactical interrogation by the military.

Ericson was a former editor of the Philippine Collegian in UP, a former chair of the student cultural group Alay Sining, and a former chair of the campus alliance STAND-UP. He is a writer, journalist, poet, thespian, singer and songwriter. His works remain relevant on and off campus. Since his UP days, Ericson has worked closely with the poor and oppressed.

We his friends, together with his family and human rights groups, are working for his immediate release and for the dropping of all the fabricated charges made against him.

We appeal for your support for the legal defense fund which we have put up for him. The funds raised will go to Ericson’s legal defense and medical needs. There are the inherent difficulties faced by the family who are based in Metro Manila while Ericson is detained in Samar.

Through your help, we can see to it that Ericson will be released and be reunited with his family and the people he serves.

You may donate through the account:
Isaias Acosta
BDO The Block SM City North branch
Savings Account # 0251065464

For international donations:

Isaias Acosta
BDO The Block SM City North branch
Savings Account: 00-0251065464
Routing #: 021000089
Swiftcode: BNORPHMM

Thank you for your support!

Statement of Support Calling for the Release of ERICSON ACOSTA

We, University of the Philippines alumni, academe, artists, writers, students, friends and colleagues of Ericson Legaspi Acosta, call for his immediate and unconditional release from his current illegal detention.

Ericson is a, cultural worker and writer and a former UP activist. During the ‘90s, he served as editor of the Philippine Collegian, UP’s official student publication. He is a former chair of the student cultural group Alay Sining, a former chair of the campus alliance STAND-UP and member of the UP Amnesty International.

His works as a writer, poet, thespian, singer and songwriter have remained relevant especially to the succeeding generations of UP activists in and out of the university. His bias for the poor and oppressed dates back to his campus days.
Last February 13, soldiers in San Jorge, Samar arrested him on mere suspicion that he is a member of the New People’s Army. Ericson was unarmed and was in the company of a local barangay official when he was arrested without warrant. He was held for three days without charges and was subjected to continuous tactical interrogation by the military. He has been charged with illegal possession of explosives and is detained at the Calbayog sub-provincial jail.

His rights continue to be violated each day he remains incarcerated. The fabricated charges are intended to keep him under government’s control and scrutiny. His frail appearance in the photo released to media by the AFP heightens concerns for his health given the conditions in jail.
The road to genuine and lasting peace cannot be paved with government’s continued iron-fist policy of arresting its perceived enemies on mere suspicion. It behooves the Aquino government to forge favorable conditions in the conduct of its peace efforts by releasing political prisoners.

Ericson has dedicated his life to serving the people. We, his friends, colleagues, family and supporters, call on the Aquino government to effect his immediate release by dropping the trumped-up charges.


Liwayway L. Acosta
Isaias P. Acosta
Dr. Bienvenido Lumbera
, National Artist and President, Concerned Artists of the Philippines
Fernando C. Josef
, veteran actor; former VP & Artistic Director, Cultural Center of the Phils.
Bibeth Orteza
, screenwriter; UP Regent
Carlitos Siguion-Reyna, 
film director
Pen Medina
, TV and stage actor
Bonifacio Ilagan
, actor and screenwriter
Rolando Tolentino
, Dean, UP College of Mass Communications; critic and author
Dr. Alice Guillermo
, art critic
Dr. Gemino H. Abad
, poet and literary critic;
Leonilo Doloricon
, former Dean, UP College of Fine Arts; visual artist; CAP
Gelacio Guillermo,
 poet and critic
Prof. Ramon Guillermo, 
Prof. J. Neil Garcia
, poet and author;
Alfredo Juan Aquilizan
, visual artist; faculty Griffith University QCA;
Jesus Manuel Santiago, 
poet and musician;
Marra PL. Lanot, 
poet and author;
Joi Barrios, 
poet and author;
Rody Vera
, veteran stage actor;
Egai Talusan Fernandez
, visual artist;
Julie Lluch
, sculptor;
Pablo A. Tariman
, music critic; 
Dennis Longid,
 former UP Student Regent;
Norman Bordadora
, journalist, Collegian '94
Rep. Antonio A. Tinio
, ACT Teachers Party-list; 
Rep. Raymond V. Palatino
, Kabataan Partylist; USC chair UP Diliman,00-01;
Renato Reyes, Jr.
, UP Alay Sining ’94; BAYAN;
Richard Gappi,
 poet; Collegian ’94; Neo-Angono Artists Collective;
Nina Ricci Alagao-Flores, 
visual artist; Bb. Pilipinas Universe 2000;
Prof. Sarah Raymundo, STAND-UP ’97; 
Prof. Roselle Pineda
, Alay Sining ‘94;
Prof. Rommel Rodriguez
,Alay Sining ‘96;
Prof. Mykel Andrada, Collegian '99, All UP Workers Union;
Katrina Stuart Santiago, arts reviewer;

Ninotchka Herrera
, faculty, MSU-Marawi;
Teresa Lorena Jopson, 
Collegian '99; Faculty UP Manila;
Kiri Dalena
, filmmaker;
Aba Lluch Dalena
, visual artist;
Aika Udaundo
, Young Artist’s Studio
Bang Dizon,
 Young Artist’s Studio

Avie Felix
Young Artist’s Studio
Crown Dolot
Young Artist’s Studio
Randel Urbano
Young Artist’s Studio
RG Cruz,
Young Artist’s Studio;
Lyte Seneres
, visual artist, faculty PHSA;
Biag Gaongen
, danseur, Ballet Philippines;
Karl Castro
, visual artist; former EIC Collegian;
Axel Pinpin
, poet; KMP;
Nicolas Gloeckl
, IBON Int’l;
Lyn Pano;
 IBON Int’l; 
Kristine Alave,
 Collegian ’02;
Isa Lorenzo, 
journalist; Collegian ’02;
Atty. Jocelia Bighani Sipin
, UP-Amnesty International '90, UP USC '93-'94
Jun Cruz Reyes
, fictionist;
Mideo Cruz,
 visual artist;
Boy Dominguez,
 visual artist;
Sigfried Barros Sanchez
, filmmaker;
Brutus Lacano, 
rock musician;
Chickoy Pura
, rock musician, The Jerks;
Monet Pura, 
manager, The Jerks;
Eric Cabrera, 
rock musician, Datu’s Tribe
GJ Herman Gomez,
 flutist;Luisito Queano, musician;
Amie Maga
Aaron Ceradoy
Peter Chua
Baltazar Pinguel
Rey Asis,
 Asian Students Association;
Regiben Romana
, visual artist
Nani Gonzales, Matang Araw Productions

Farrah Osio

Rowena Bayon, visual artist; UP Alay Sining ’94;
Dr. Mira May Magsino,
 UP Alay Sining ‘97
Cheryl Mirasol-Malacaman
, UP Alay Sining ’96;
Ina Alleco R. Silverio
, Collegian ’94;
Amy V. Padilla
, Collegian ’94;
Kim Nepomuceno,
 Collegian ’94;
Verk Magpusao,
 Collegian ’94;
Mike Ac-ac,
 former EIC, Collegian ’94;
Anna Leah Escresa,
 STAND-UP ’96;
Noel Colina,
 STAND-UP ’96;
Mary Jane Alejo,
 Alay Sining ’94;
Marfred Waddell, 
Eleanor R. de Guzman
Marc Funcion
, KM 64;
Sarah Katrina Maramag,
 Alay Sining ’98;
Raphael Joseph Maramag, 
Alay Sining ’99;
Suyin Jamoralin,
 Collegian ’99;
Jon Corsiga, 
Alay Sining ’98;
Ayan Tolentino,
 STAND-UP ’96;
Kristine Bugayong
, former UP Student Regent;
Mayo Uno Martin,
 Collegian ’99;
Allan Popa,
 poet; Amnesty Int’l-UP; High Chair;
Jayson Fajarda, 
former EIC, Collegian 
Nerve Macaspac
, Alay Sining ’97;
King Catoy
, May Day Collective;
Herb Valencia
, May Day Collective;
Carlos Maningat
, UP CMC Journ Rep ’07;
Karl Ramirez,
Hilda Nartea, 
Collegian '99;
Ron Magbuhos Papag
, POV Prods.;
Norman Wilwayco, 
Dr. Karl David Alva,
Vic Mallare,
 UST Archi '94;
Vincent M.L. Borneo
Rolando Libang;

Frank Lloyd Tiongson
, Collegian ’02; UP faculty
Tom Estrera III,
 visual artist; Collegian ’01;
Carlos Piocos III,
 Collegian ’01,Fulbright scholar;
Dada Docot,
 filmmaker; Collegian ‘99;
Adjani Arumpac, 
Che Marty,
 UP Diliman;
Richard Ducat,
 LFS- University of Manila;
Kristina Yumul-Abueg,
Glenda Gonzales Lamog

Reggie Gonzales-Songco

Janet Guinto-Baz
Jun Yumul
Frances Yumul
Budz Gonzales
Alexander A. Gonzales
Karla Flor
Christine Bellen, AdMU, Hong Kong Baptist University
Tinay Palabay,
 Karapatan; KASAMA sa UP '98;
Nene Montes,
Lisa Ito,
 Collegian; Alay Sining '00;
Anya Mendoza,
Mabi David,
 AI; High Chair;
Ayer Arguelles,
 AI; High Chair;
Ramon “Chitoy” Zapata,
 Neo-Angono Artists Collective;
Jed Aquino
, KARATULA National;
Taren Lulu,
 Alay Sining;
Iris Pagsanjan,
 Collegian '01, GMA News;
Louise Amante
, Collegian '01;
Soliman A. Santos, poet and journalist,

Kenneth Roland A. Guda,
 Collegian '99,
Joms Salvador,
 Collegian '99, Gabriela;
Jennifer del Rosario-Malonzo, Collegian '94;
Raphael Rios, Collegian '94
Romie Malonzo, PAGBABAGO!;
Elizabeth Lolarga,
CJ Despuez,
 Alay Sining '99
Carl S. Bordeos, Christ the King College
Dr. Levi Oracion

Iris Cecilia Gonzales,  Journalist, Collegian '98
High Chair
The 50th UP National Writer's Workshop
Migrante International
Kilometer 64 Poetry Group
Neo-Angono Artists Collective
Concerned Artists of the Philippines (CAP)
Philippine Collegian 2010-2011
Alay Sining UP Diliman
Kabataang Artista para sa Tunay na Kalayaan (KARATULA)
Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP)
College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP)
League of Filipino Students (LFS)
National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP)
Kaboronyagan Cultural Network
Congress of Teachers and Educators for Nationalism and Democracy (CONTEND - UP)
Student Alliance for the Advancement of Democratic Rights in UP (STAND-UP)
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN)
Alliance Of Concerned Samarenos (ACOS)
Samar Civilian Authority Network (SCAN)
Katungod-Sinirangan Bisayas
Kapawa Weste Samar
Sagupa-Sinirangan Bisayas
Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace

Friday, May 27, 2011

Families of Victims of Summary Killings Feel Ignored by the State

A project for Target EJK:

(Sharing the grief: Children of slain journalists come together yearly for the Saranggola Summer Workshop, the NUJP's program that enables them to share experiences and listen to others as part of their healing process. JES AZNAR)
Of the five children of slain radio broadcaster and anti-mining advocate Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega of Palawan, it was only his second daughter -21-year old Erika who saw the bloodied body.
The eldest daughter, 22-year old Mika was in Manila while his younger children were kept from the crime scene.
A lone gunman shot Ortega in the neck in the morning of January 24 in Puerto Princesa City. He died on the spot.
Four months on, Erika still struggles to understand what happened. She is still asking her mother, Patty Ortega when her father will be back.
“There is still no acceptance for her,” Patty says in a recent interview in Palawan with Target EJK.
Patty says that when time permits, she intends to take Erika for counseling.
“I need to do that soon,” she notes.
Her other children, although spared from seeing the actual crime scene, are also left dealing with pain and trauma.
Sophia, 13, told Target EJK that she dreams of her father wearing the shirt that he wore the day he was killed.
“It’s difficult,” she says.
Patty says there has been no state intervention or assistance as far as psychosocial therapy is concerned.
For now, the Ortegas have their hands full pursuing the person they believe was behind Gerry’s murder, former Palawan governor Joel Reyes.
Patty says that Reyes had sufficient motives to have her husband killed. But Reyes strenuously denies the allegations that he was in any way responsible. “It is simply irrational and unfair to link me to the killing…regardless of whatever criticisms he might have hurled against me,” Reyes has said in a statement issued to the media.
The case is still ongoing with the Ortegas urging the Aquino administration to help bring the perpetrators to justice.
In the meantime, Patty says she and her family need counseling help.
Experts agree. Father Ben Moraleda, a marital and family counselor and a faculty member of the Ateneo de Manila University’s Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM) works to help victims of trauma.
He tells Target EJK that families of victims of summary killings end up “deeply traumatized.”
And in a recent article he wrote for the March 2011 issue of The Voice, a publication for the Asian Federation against Involuntary Disappearances, Moraleda maintains that most victims’ families end up in denial over what has happened to their loved ones.
He believes that many of them have not had the chance to “process” events and so therefore have not been able to move on.
“Most if not all of them had either ‘forgotten’ the event, or denied or trivialized its effects on them. The most common reason for these varied reactions is, he believes, because the victim-families were still living in the same oppressive political, economic, social conditions which caused the disappearances of their loved ones.
Thus most of them remained a victim or took on a victim mentality. Most victims feel a loss of trust or a deep sense of not being safe, from anyone, including oneself.
“This is surely one of the gravest wounds inflicted on the family of the disappeared. Therefore, the process of ‘recovery’ must start there, in helping the ‘victim’ to regain trust and to start believing again that one is protected and is safe,” he says.
Therefore, he says, healing workshops and counseling should be provided.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) says that there are not enough interventions for the state for families of the victims of EJK.
“What the government provides is very limited,” says Rowena Paraan, Secretary-General of NUJP, in an interview with Target EJK.
She says that even the “first-aid” provided to the families of the November 23, 2009 Ampatuan massacre was provided by NUJP and the Children’s Rehabilitation Center, a non-government group.
Immediately after the massacre, the two groups flew in psychologists to Mindanao from Manila to help with the counseling of roughly 140 relatives of the victims.
The Department of Health had its own initiative for the Ampatuan massacre victims’ families but Paraan said this was limited to one day and that counseling was provided only to one member of a victims’ family.
Letty Batul, sister of Palawan-based journalist Fernando “Dong” Batul says that in Palawan, no support is provided by either the local or national government as far as counseling is concerned.
“We are on our own,” Letty laments.
Her brother Dong was shot dead in 2006.
A local court last April 11 has acquitted the police officer Aaron Golifardo who was charged with being the gunman hired by a senior local politician.
NUJP’s Paraan says that with the high number of EJK cases in the country, there is a need for the government to step up and exert more efforts to help the families that are left behind.
On its own initiative, NUJP regularly holds a summer workshop for the children of slain journalists.
For five years now NUJP has been organizing the Saranggola Summer Workshop, which consists of field trips and psychosocial sessions.
Around 40 children and their mothers have been going along.
Paraan says that the workshops have been very helpful for the victims as the families realize that they are not alone and that hundreds of other victims share their experiences.
“Friendships are formed,” notes Paraan.
Last April 15 to 17, the NUJP held this year’s workshop at Pook ni Maria Makiling in Los Banos, Laguna.
The NUJP gathered 20 families for this year’s event. They came from different provinces and most of them looked forward to seeing each other again, May Rodriguez, NUJP director who heads the project, tells Target EJK.
This year’s event had different sessions and each session was presided by psychologists from the CRC. The breakout sessions included art, theater and writing workshops.
“The workshop is a way they process their grief,” says Rodriguez. She says it was a way for the victims’ families to express their emotions and pent up grief.
The Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance of Australia, a union of journalists and artists in the Asia-Pacific country, funded this year’s Saranggola Summer Workshop.
Aside from psychosocial assistance, Paraan says the NUJP, with the help of different funding agencies, provides scholarships to children of murdered journalists.
To date, NUJP has been sending some 76 children to different public elementary, secondary and tertiary schools.
These initiatives, Paraan says, should be the responsibility of the state.
Unfortunately, Paraan says, the help provided by the state is limited.
“There should also be humanitarian assistance,” Paraan says.
In a separate interview with Target EJK, Precy Villa, chief of the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s (DSWD) Public Affairs and Advocacy Division, said that the agency provides a so-called Critical Incident Stress Debriefing for victims of traumatic events such as typhoons, deaths and other calamities.
The program, conducted by DSWD social workers and psychologists, is generally a psychosocial intervention that is provided by the agency immediately after the crisis.
Its goal is to maintain the safety of the victims and to help them return to their levels of functionality before the onset of their crisis.
“We provide critical incidence stress debriefing so lessen their trauma,” said Villa.
DSWD also helps the victims of traumatic events get access to livelihood programs of the government.
“We have micro enterprises and other livelihood assistance,” she added.

(Among those who took part in this year's Saranggola Summer Workshop were the children of journalists George and Macel Vigo who were both slain in June 2006 on their way home to Kidapawan City. JES AZNAR)

Scholarships are also provided to children of victims of trauma or crisis but with the help of the Department of Education.
Villa said DSWD refers them to the Department of Education. 

She urged victims in need of help to go to any of the 16 regional offices of the DSWD nationwide. TARGETEJK

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Our lives. Our anger

My latest post on The New Internationalist:

The little girl – she is four years old – slumps on the bathroom floor and cries nonstop. Her mother, in a fit of rage that has not happened in a long time, is angry for reasons unclear to the child. Perhaps it’s another case of transference. The mother hates herself for screaming at the hapless little one.

The boyfriend slaps his girlfriend hard on the face and hurts not her cheeks but her ears. The slap is so hard that the pain is now piercing. He drives her to the emergency room of a nearby hospital. He regrets what has happened.

The wife points a kitchen knife at her alcoholic husband. She is ready to kill him, at least on that dark moment. The children are in full view. The wife breaks down. She’s so sorry it has come to this.

The female owner of a brand new sedan lashes out at a bunch of construction workers onboard a truck. The truck accidentally bumped the car from behind. The driver is an old man. He could barely see the road.

We scream. We hurt our most precious ones. We curse. We throw bottles. We exchange invectives. We scream on the top of our lungs. We throw ourselves in a rage. We go ballistic. We run amok. We go mad.

I read fellow blogger Mari Marcel Thekaekara’s latest blog post Mayday on May Day and I was blown away. I totally agree with the part about a lot of ‘anger in people’ nowadays. ‘Yet, I see a simmering anger in people,’ Mari writes. I totally agree. Mari and I believe that this anger is brewing amongst everyone around the world and is affecting our personal lives.

There are countless reasons to be angry nowadays over the way the world has become. And I don’t think it’s just my imagination. The world is more screwed up now than it was before.

As Mari notes, for instance, corrupt bankers are driving away in their Porches at the expense of pensioners and their hard-earned money.

But it’s not just that. The stories are numerous – and they are evil and harsh. Pharmaceutical giants are funding maternal health campaigns just so they can rake in billions in profits from the sale of their contraceptive pills; health insurance giants care no more than bloating their claims; cellphone companies are faking their consumers’ bills hoping they could get away with it; a private hospital conducts a medical procedure that costs hundreds of dollars just to detect a simple case of sinusitis; patients are dying on the cold floors of government hospitals because corrupt politicians are pocketing part of the budget; innocent lives are lost in roads because employees in regulatory agencies are taking bribes from greedy bus owners; 57 people are massacred in broad daylight with hundreds of witnesses around and not a perpetrator convicted even more than a year later; and the most evil deed of all, priests are molesting children in between preaching the Holy Eucharist.

Who wants to be angry with the world, with loved ones and even with oneself?

Nobody wants to be angry. Anger is destructive and it hurts our most precious ones. But when we are angry or frustrated over the world’s follies, we are forced to let the steam off elsewhere. We lash out inside our homes. We hurt. We rob. We kill. We do what we can to fight for what is right. We demonstrate. We protest. We break down. We break up. We divorce. We run away. We abandon.

Indeed, when the greed in the world is larger than the world itself, people are bound to explode.

One can only take so much.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I was beet red as I stood there in front of the bank teller, counting the last of my money. I needed to deposit P6,600 in my checking account. The day before I issued a check worth P6,600 as downpayment for my child's tuition.

For months, I prepared for tuition time but each time I am able to raise a significant amount, an equally important matter comes up. It's a never-ending list of expenses for a single mom like me who is trying to raise to the best of her ability a four-year old little lady.

And so there I was with P6,500. I was short by a hundred pesos. My two ATM cards had been wiped out. I turned my bag inside out searching for whatever money I could find. Every pocket was turned upside down in full view of the very patient bank teller.

Finally, I found a 50-peso bill here and two crumpled 20-peso bills there. I opened my coin purse to fill in the balance and after about 15 minutes inside the bank, I was able to fund my check.

My check will not bounce and my daughter will not lose her slot in the preschool that we applied for.

I left the bank feeling so frustrated. Why does tuition have to cost that much? Why do parents have to send their children to private schools? Why is the quality of public education in the Philippines so bad?

But after a few seconds of ranting, I realized that I and my little girl are still very lucky. Other mothers will not be able to send their children to school at all.

I long to see the day that every Filipino child will be able to go to school and have access to quality education.

For this to happen, every centavo paid by taxpayers must go to state coffers and not to the pockets of corrupt and greedy officials.

Now, that would be the day.

a person's person

(Written on May 24, 2011. Medical City)

For hours, I sat there and endured the freezing temperature in the emergency room of a private hospital. The beds, covered with green sheets were all filled up. The nurses and orderlies were busy and the phone just kept ringing. The only doctor on duty looked as stressed out as someone about to perform an open heart surgery.

On one of the bunk beds, I noticed an old man lying helpless under the green sheets. An old lady sat beside him, caressing his gray hair. On another bed, a mother was closely watching over her son who at that time was vomiting endlessly.

Two long-haired teeny boppers in short shorts and dainty slippers entered the room looking for someone. They were looking for their father.

As for me, I was there waiting for the results of a CT scan.

All of us patients were waiting for something, one way or another -- the result of a test, the doctor's word, a nurse's attention or an operation.

Most of us were there with someone -- a child, a parent, a loved one, a friend, a life partner -- A person's person. They are there for you no matter what and they will stand by you, beside you and with you no matter what. It is in these times that you will especially feel the presence of your person.

Because this is the beauty of the human spirit and the human soul. When it comes to caring for loved ones, there are no boundaries, no limits. Love and compassion are larger than life itself.

Monday, May 23, 2011

"No. No thank you"

"No. I don't like today. I will not say thank you," the girl said in a quivering voice, her cute little eyes trying to fight back tears.

"But why?" asked the woman.

Almost every night without fail, before she goes to bed she would say thank you for the day, be it just a boring rainy day or a hectic day of play and children's parties.

"I don't like today. You were so mad," the girl, her eyes angry now, said sternly.

And try as she could, she could not take away the pain. The damage has been done. The wounds of past hurts have opened.

Almost twelve hours before, the little girl slumped on the bathroom floor sobbing uncontrollably.

"Why me?" she must have thought.

Nobody is too young to understand transference. She cried and cried and almost vomited.

The older woman cried, too. She cried for being the kind of angry person whom she long resented in her mother when she was growing up herself.

Twelve hours later and more than a dozen artworks and lots of laughter, the little girl has not forgotten. She is angry. And tonight, she will sleep as such.

And for sure the little girl will never forget this, the image of her sobbing on the bathroom floor. It will be vivid in her mind even after the older woman is long gone. It will be as vivid as the older woman's memory of anger while she was growing up. There she was on the kitchen floor retreating as she pleaded with her mother to stop the hitting, the screaming and the shouting. There she was curled like a ball, begging for mercy.

In many households, in dark rooms, on empty lots, online or over the phone, the stories of anger are endless.

What is anger?*

Anger is a deluded mind that focuses on an animate or inanimate object, feels it to be unattractive, exaggerates its bad qualities, and wishes to harm it. For example, when we are angry with our partner, at that moment he or she appears to us as unattractive or unpleasant. We then exaggerate his bad qualities by focusing only on those aspects that irritate us and ignoring all his good qualities and kindness, until we have built up a mental image of an intrinsically faulty person. We then wish to harm him in some way, probably by criticizing or disparaging him.

Because it is based on an exaggeration, anger is an unrealistic mind
; the intrinsically faulty person or thing that it focuses on does not in fact exist. Moreover, as we shall see, anger is also an extremely destructive mind that serves no useful purpose whatsoever. Having understood the nature and disadvantages of anger, we then need to watch our mind carefully at all times in order to recognize it whenever it begins to arise.

This explanation of how to overcome our anger through practising patience is based on Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life, the famous poem by the great Buddhist Master Shantideva. Though composed over a thousand years ago, this is one of the clearest and most powerful explanations of the subject ever written, and is just as relevant today as it was then.

There is nothing more destructive than anger. It destroys our peace and happiness in this life, and impels us to engage in negative actions that lead to untold suffering in future lives. It blocks our spiritual progress and prevents us from accomplishing any spiritual goals we have set ourself – from merely improving our mind, up to full enlightenment. The opponent to anger is patient acceptance, and if we are seriously interested in progressing along the spiritual path there is no practice more important than this.

Whenever we develop anger, our inner peace immediately disappears and even our body becomes tense and uncomfortable.

Anger is by nature a painful state of mind. Whenever we develop anger, our inner peace immediately disappears and even our body becomes tense and uncomfortable. We are so restless that we find it nearly impossible to fall asleep, and whatever sleep we do manage to get is fitful and unrefreshing. It is impossible to enjoy ourself when we are angry, and even the food we eat seems unpalatable. Anger transforms even a normally attractive person into an ugly red-faced demon. We grow more and more miserable, and, no matter how hard we try, we cannot control our emotions.

Effects Of Anger

One of the most harmful effects of anger is that it robs us of our reason and good sense. Wishing to retaliate against those whom we think have harmed us, we expose ourself to great personal danger merely to exact petty revenge. To get our own back for perceived injustices or slights, we are prepared to jeopardize our job, our relationships, and even the well-being of our family and children. When we are angry we lose all freedom of choice, driven here and there by an uncontrollable rage. Sometimes this blind rage is even directed at our loved ones and benefactors. In a fit of anger, forgetting the immeasurable kindness we have received from our friends, family, or Spiritual Teachers, we might strike out against and even kill the ones we hold most dear. It is no wonder that an habitually angry person is soon avoided by all who know him. This unfortunate victim of his own temper is the despair of those who formerly loved him, and eventually finds himself abandoned by everyone.

Behind intense anger is deep and profound endless love.

source: *

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Roving Ampatuan Massacre photo exhibit to be staged at the House of Representatives

Photos from the site of the November 23 Ampatuan Massacre will be
exhibited at the House of Representatives (HOR), in another leg of the
roving exhibit organized by the National Union of Journalists of the
Philippines (NUJP).

Titled “Never Forget: The Ampatuan Massacre,"

the exhibit at Congress
will start on May 23, exactly a year and a half after the killing took
place, and will run until May 26.

The photo exhibit will be staged at the Congress’ North Wing Lobby. It
will formally open at 10:30 a.m., with House Speaker Feliciano
Belmonte gracing the ribbon-cutting ceremony.NUJP partnered with the
office of House Deputy Speaker Erin TaƱada to bring the exhibit to

Veteran photojournalist Jes Aznar curated the exhibit and edited the
photos, which were contributed by members of the Philippine Center for
Photojournalism (PCJ).

Together with PCJ, the November 23 Movement and the Economic
Journalists Association of the Philippines
, the exhibit was initially
brought to schools such as University of the Philippines and
University of Santo Tomas.

To follow shortly is a commemorative program, where media
practitioners and relatives of the massacre victims will give messages
of thanks and solidarity.

An update on the status of the legal case and the campaign for justice
for the massacre victims will be provided in the program, as well.
Also to be provided are updates on the contempt charges the Court of
Appeals (CA) is planning to file against Monette Salaysay, widow of
massacre victim and Clear View Gazette Publisher Napoleon Salaysay,
and Rowena Paraan, NUJP secretary general.

Considered the single worst killing of journalists in the line of duty
in recent years, the Ampatuan Massacre left 57 dead, 32 of which are
media practitioners.

(This statement is from the NUJP. Photo by Jes Aznar)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Of corruption, tired bus drivers and the killer highway

This post is for Filipino journalist Chit Estella and others who suffered the same fate on that highway. R.I.P.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Cinnamon sticks, white seagulls and wastewater

Text and photos by Iris Cecilia Gonzales (The Philippine Star) Updated May 15, 2011 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Fourteen hours in a plane’s economy class is no laughing matter. I was groggy by the time I got to my final destination and my stomach was grumbling from free beer and the smorgasbord of dishes served on board. But the crisp evening air that greeted me as I stepped out of the Lisbon Portela Airport jolted me out of the jetlagged state.

I finally arrived in Portugal in the western part of Europe, a charming country of 11 million people, nestled in the Iberian Peninsula and the Atlantic Ocean.

It was a long way to go for a field trip on water and climate change but I didn’t mind.

I was eager to learn about pressing global issues such as water management and climate change adaptation but to do it in the quaint country of Portugal makes it all the more engaging.

The reporting trip, organized by the Netherlands-based European Journalism Centre (EJC), brought together journalists and bloggers from mostly European countries, to raise awareness on the two key issues of water and climate change.

The trip is the culminating activity of Think 5, EJC’s latest round of global blogging competition wherein bloggers from all over the world discussed the different aspects of water and climate change adaptation.

EJC wasted no time. We were asked to be at the waiting area at 8:30 in the morning on the first day of the trip. I was exhausted from the long trip and needed more sleep, but my excitement prevailed. I crossed the street of the famed Avenida da Liberdade, one of Lisbon’s famous avenues which is lined on both sides by giant trees and the most luxurious shops of European brands.

We headed to the Fundacao da FCUL Auditorium in the University of Lisbon.

The first day established why we were there. We listened to lectures on the effects of climate change in Portugal and mitigation strategies.

The first to speak was Tiago Capela Lourenco, project coordinator of the Foundation Faculty Sciences of the University of Lisbon. Armed with a slideshow presentation and boredom-killing visuals, Tiago discussed the floods that hit Portugal in recent years that clearly showed the impact of climate change.

At the very building where we were in Campo Grande, Tiago said the waters rose fast when it rained.

In major tourist spots, he said many tourists – local and foreigners alike – were stuck because of the floods. The vehicles too were all swept away, literally.

Upon hearing this, I remembered the scenes of typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” which battered the country in 2009, attributed also to climate change.

Rui Cavaleiro Azevedo, press officer of the European Commission Representation in Portugal, did not have a power point presentation but when I interviewed him after his lecture, he provided concrete steps on what citizens in developing countries like the Philippines can do to help reduce carbon emissions.

He said doing baby steps such as commuting, sharing car trips or carpooling, using solar panels and other forms of alternative energy will all go a long way in helping reduce carbon emissions.

“The better option for Europe is to go for renewable energy. It’s going to be difficult but it would significantly reduce carbon emissions,” Azevedo said.

He said that among the strategies the Philippines may develop is to fully tap wind and solar energies.

“In the provinces, the Philippine government can invest in solar energy panels that would help utilize solar energy, save on costs and reduce carbon emissions,” Azevedo said

From the university, we went on a 20-minute bus ride to that part of Lisbon where we saw its deep blue waters.

We lunched al fresco as seagulls flew above us. After a sumptuous array of Portuguese dishes, we went to the European Maritime Safety Agency where we listened to the importance of European maritime safety and environment protection.

Think oil spills, said Andrea Tassoni, communication advisor of EMSA.

Oil spills, he said, are among the worst enemies of the environment and the only thing worse than this is the nuclear crisis in Japan.

In the days that followed, the program went beyond the usual lectures. We visited one of Lisbon’s best-kept secrets – the aqueduct and the Museu da Agua.

The aqueduct may be likened to our very own Walled City in Intramuros. However, it has a labyrinth of pipes.

According to GoLisbon, an online sightseeing site, the aqueduct was built in 1746 to bring the city its first clean drinking water.

“Lisbon’s remarkable aqueduct is made up of 109 stone arches, which were the tallest stone arches in the world when they were built. Its total length is 58 kilometers but the most visible are the 14 arches crossing the Alcantara Valley (the best views are from Campolide train station), the tallest of which rise to a spectacular 65 meters from the ground with a span of 29 meters,” it said.

We then went to the water museum, which I found to be a very quiet and serene place. The place is like a small church with a body of water inside.

In between, we dined in a traditional dimly lit Portuguese restaurant, which, according to the owners, used to be an old tavern where construction workers would hang out, drink beer and be merry.

And when I thought these visits were already a treat, we were off to Monserrate Palace in Sintra, an hour’s drive from Lisbon, tucked in the middle of a huge garden, right at the heart of Sintra, a place of cobble-stoned streets and quaint houses.

The palace is enough treat for the senses with its Moorish and medieval architecture.

According to Lonely Planet, the park is a 30-hectare garden with dragon trees, palms, agaves, camellias and Chinese weeping cypress.

On the way back, we stopped for coffee at the famed Cabo da Roca, a hilltop that represents the westernmost point of Europe.

I moved to the viewing deck to see for myself what the herds of tourists were gasping about and I, too, was at a loss for words.

There in front of me lay a blanket of emerald blue waters, as far as the eye could see, glistening under the yellow sun like a carpet of diamond studs.

It was a picturesque view of rolling hills and seascapes and a quaint little lighthouse sitting on a grass-covered hill.

I felt the sea breeze on my face as the sound of the waves smashing the rocks down below reverberated in the air.

We drove back to Lisbon in time for dinner in another fancy restaurant, the Restaurant Adlib of the luxurious Sofitel Hotel.

Dinner, Portuguese style, starts with soup, bread and a bowl of salad. The soups range from extraordinary (strawberry soup) to the usual onion soup while salads can be as exotic as an octopus salad or the usual Ceasar’s. The main dish – duck, meat, fish or a vegetable dish – is usually just as it is and is not, unfortunately for an Asian like me, served with rice.

Dessert is usually my favorite – tiramisu, ice cream, tarts or chocolate cakes. And then coffee or tea, with coffee usually served with cinnamon sticks.

The next day, we went outside Lisbon again. This is the part which many of the participants really enjoyed, mainly because they are mostly Europeans and don’t get to enjoy the warm sun onboard a sailboat.

Yes, we hopped onboard a catamaran, my very first sailboat ride.

We stayed in the middle of the ocean for several hours to wait for dolphins. Just when we were about to give up, we heard a sound and then a splash. By pairs, they came in and out of the water, to the delight of the whole group. Not surprisingly, cameras clicked endlessly.

We stayed for a while at Portinho da Arraida in a place called Setubal. It is a breathtaking coastline dotted with boats, beach houses, restaurants and pristine white seagulls hovering above.

Typical Portugese fare consists of green salad, a dessert of strawberries, and a platter of cheese and cold cuts.

The weeklong trip’s culminating activity was a visit to a wastewater treatment plant.

It seemed like an unpleasant way to end an educational field trip but it turned out to be an educational experience just the same. From this part, I learned how the European government puts value on the need to treat wastewater before pouring this back to the environment. They invest the equivalent of billions of dollars to maintain such a facility, something that many countries like the Philippines do not always have.

Another fancy lunch and a bus tour around the city on the last day of the reporting trip made the experience more than perfect.

It was a learning trip and a wonderful journey all together, giving me the opportunity to learn about pressing issues such as water and climate change and, more importantly, it gave me the opportunity to see yet another part of the world, to discover new things, taste new dishes, feel the crisp air and marvel at the breathtaking beauty of Portugal.

As noted travel writer Pico Iyer once wrote: “We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next, to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate.”

And in this part of the world, I again had the privilege to discover the foreign – from cinnamon sticks used in cappuccino to pristine white seagulls pleasantly hovering above me as I listened to the sound of waves smashing the moss-covered rocks on the Portugal coastline.

(The author, who covers public finance for The STAR, is among the winners of THINK 5, a global blogging competition on water and climate change organized by the Netherlands-based European Journalism Centre. The reporting trip to Portugal is part of the award. The blog platform may be viewed at

Saturday, May 7, 2011

At the awarding ceremonies of the Red Cross' Awards for Humanitarian Reporting

Thank you Red Cross for the recognition but most of all, thank you to the people of Mindanao for sharing your stories. Congratulations to the winners and finalists!

Photos by Jes Aznar (first two), Froilan Gallardo (third) and me (last)