Thursday, August 16, 2007

This Is Called Human Security?

In the ninth decade of her life, my mother had chosen to turn away from the world. Only when I called out –“Mama!” -- did the butterfly of her soul return from its fluttering from memory to memory; she would look out of her eyes and break into a smile, saying “o, ano? (How’s it?)” I would become five years old again, innocent of borderless wars, assassinations, disappearances, women exported into unspeakable conditions, life in another country…

This was what I lost when the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo government of the Philippines chose to harass three women, myself included, under its Human Security Act. The first impact of the HSA upon us was instant insecurity. In the middle of a typhoon, with everything flooded, I burned interview notes, documents and pictures – all moist, the air itself so laden with water matchsticks would not ignite – for fear of endangering those who had spoken to me. Afterwards as we ran through possibilities with GABRIELA Philippines, Gabriela Women’s Party and GABNet members, I was shocked to learn I was in the most vulnerable position. The consensus was I could be detained and/or arrested or assassinated.

Throughout meetings, all I could think of was my mother. Because I couldn’t stay for long periods at her house (it could be watched, could be raided; I could be ambushed), our interaction was reduced to a “hello, mama” upon arrival, “goodbye, mama” a few minutes later as I rushed out, carrying a change of clothes. I had planned to spend time with her, have the house repaired, pretend, as it were, that my fate had been that of a dutiful daughter, even if only for the week following the end of WISAP10, the bi-annual conference sponsored by GABPhil. Alas, it was not to be.

I had only one instance of sustained interaction with her. Still imperious in her wheelchair, she had watched as I drunk coffee and then pointed to the cup. I said no, this was bad for her. She pointed to it again. It’s bitter, I said. She pointed. I took a tablespoon of coffee to her lips. She sipped, made a face and then stuck her tongue out. Bitter, bitter. Thereafter, each time I said bitter, she stuck her tongue out. It didn’t matter that she barely recognized me. It was enough that she was happy even with the stranger I had become.

Bitter, indeed, was this recent trip to the homeland; shocking, indeed, to find it still in the grip of such poverty that tyranny had become a necessary component of the social order. A slow balkanization of the archipelago is underway, as more and more Filipinos leave for work overseas and more and more “foreigners” enter: a hundred thousand Koreans are in the school system; thousands more of Taiwanese; Mindanao has become the land of banana plantations edging out poor communities; educational tourism, medical tourism, sex tourism, military tourism (which is what the Balikatan exercises are), tourism everywhere while Filipinos watch television shows with unfamiliar faces, strange histories and different mindsets, imports from other parts of Asia, imports from the US, with Filipino actors re-cast in local versions of the American Idol, Big Brother, and so on. In the 7,100 islands, the process of dispossession is on-going, slow but certain.

Throughout all this, the Macapagal-Arroyo government's hatred remains directed at those who would affirm that there is such a country as the Philippines, such a people as Filipinos, such women as Filipinas, who are due genuine independence, freedom and rights.

Underpinning it all is the madness of the unjust, the puppetry of the greedy. It would not be far-fetched to think of the Philippines as slowly disappearing, an entire country disappeared, murdered by war and occupation and dispossession. Then, the souls of the millions of us scattered throughout the world will be as butterflies flitting from memory to memory, lovely but easily crushed. -- ##

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

beautiful, ninotchka. people look at me like I have two heads when I express the same sentiments as yours.

I sit here in a cafe in Iloilo, biting my tongue so as not to verbalize my observation that the people of the Philippines are all drinking from the same poisoned well.

Now that I have made correspondence with you, I wonder if I will be allowed to return to JFK next week.

DW said...

Welcome back, Notch!

Anonymous said...

I'm a Filipino living in Canada. I cannot think of anything sadder than to be denied the time to spend with one's family. All we do overseas is work and send money home and save for that trip back so we can, once a year or every two years, become human again, not just slaves in factories, in households, in offices. I hate the Arroyo government and all governments of the Philippines. They take our money and then punish us in 10,000 different ways.

kiita said...

Elegiac, beautiful and enraged -- a stunning post.

anak mo Pinas said...

...

that was just sad. (T__T)

It's difficult to accept the fact that our country is dying. It's even more difficult to give a soothing reply to Filipino children who, at the age of 10, talk about our country with poison in their tongues and so much anger in their eyes. I want to tell them that there is still is hope, although deep inside i

I was hoping that our country could answer for herself when her children would look at her with disdain and ask why she turned on them... on herself?

nakakaiyak naman...

So it has turned into a major nightmare eh?

I guess i have to pray harder now.

Do take care Ninotchka.

P.S. I still love our Inang Bayan though... today i will try to help wipe her tears... tomorrow, i'll join with others in trying to heal her wounds.

*sighs*

...

Tonyo said...

Congratulations to the Gabnet 3 and all patriotic and decent folks who helped trash the watchlist!

Twas a fantastic way to end a visit to the Philippines -- by telling the Arroyo government to respect human rights and showing the world that we don't tolerate official perfidy.

Ninotchka Rosca said...

The whole incident was absurd I'm thinking of hosting a costume party with burqas. How could the Philippine government enable those crazed guys at DoJ, BID and NICA to turn it into the world's laughing stock?

Ona said...

It has been hard to return from what we all saw during this last trip to the Philippines. There is an individual element of this experience, one that is filtered through each person's dynamic essence. But there is also an element that is communal. Thank you for articulating everything Notch. Thank you for revealing the relationship between the two. I am so glad that you are home.

Anonymous said...

A fourth of a century after Marcos and the country's in the same rut. When are you Filipinos going to get your act together? You keep blaming the US but it's your own people shoving you into the mud.

Anonymous said...

Inay

Mabuhay ka!

ang anak mo rito sa San Diego

Sudy said...

Mabuhay.

Anonymous said...

When is your party? I want to be there. I promise to bring lots of eats. I will grow a beard and wear a headdress, I swear.

Blackamazon said...

This is beautiful , and necessary to hear is it all right if i include this in a Blog compilation on Radical knowledge ?

Neznayka said...

I am Soviet-born American currently studying medicine in the Philippines. I was wondering if you could elaborate on your claim that my "educational tourism" contributes to the dispossession of the Philippines. I was genuinely surprised to see a fellow New Yorker put forth an argument against diversity especially in places of higher learning. In my time here I've learned to appreciate and admire the people and culture of the Philippines. By completing a course of study in your country, how am I endangering the self-determination of your people? If I am causing harm, I want to understand how so.