Today we commemorate the ties that bound us forever, ties that have shaped us for three hundred and thirty-three years, ties that are seemingly gone yet are very much alive in the culture that we live and breathe upon…
Yes, it’s that time of the year again when the cities of Manila and San Juan del Monte, both of which are in Metro Manila, busy themselves with festive celebrations. The former commemorates its foundation anniversary today while the latter celebrates the feast day of its namesake saint, Saint John the Baptist. But I and a very few others (sadly) remember June 24 quite differently. For us, that date is when our country, Filipinas, was founded. In brief, Manila was founded on 24 June 1571 not only as a city but as a capital city. But a capital city of what? Now that, ladies and gents, is what they (whoever they may be) are not telling us. So once and for all, let us all join hands in petitioning Malacañang Palace to make this hallowed date an official one. Please sign the petition by clicking here.
In the meantime, let me greet my beloved country a big Happy 444th Birthday! May the Motherland find the peace, unity, and progress that she deserves. Amen.
At first, shocked as I was, I really thought that it was just a freak accident. Until my daughter Krystal reminded me that this “accident” might have something to do with the quarrel between parish priest Fr. Von Arellano and Mayor Bienvenido Dimero. It’s because the latter entered into a questionable water supply project that sought to supply Tagaytay City with 10,000 cubic meters of potable water to the detriment of Indang’s residents. Just last year, thousands of people from both Indang and nearby Náic gathered in front of this church to protest this unpopular and dull-witted project. And the last time I talked to my father-in-law about this subject, he did confirm to me that Indang is having problems with its water supply since then.
In other words, Tagaytay, a major tourist spot in Cavite Province, now has more water supply than Indang even though the former sources its supply from the latter. The irony of it all.
Because of my daughter’s heads-up, I started to examine the photos of the accident. Now I have a hunch that she could be right. Besides, I’ve been to this church a couple of times already especially since my father-in-law still resides there. I am familiar with the church’s surroundings. The church itself is SEVERAL meters away from the road, and the narrow pathway leading towards the church’s antique doors is surrounded entirely by a cemented raised-bed garden. The driver could have easily skidded his vehicle against this raised platform to put a halt to it, or at least to slow it down. But he didn’t. Other than that, this “accident” happened at around 1:00 AM this morning, when the steel gates to the church grounds are already closed. Ramming straight into those gates would have slowed the vehicle down. But it didn’t.
That is why I do not believe that this was an accident.
Fr. Arellano, by the way, is an officer of the Save Waters of Indang Movement, the group opposing Mayor Dimero’s unpopular move.
Sayang.Me and my family were at this church just last March 22. We, most especially my wife, marveled at the antique and stylish interiors of this Caviteño heritage site. And now this recklessness happened. I remember when, in 1897, Andrés Bonifacio allegedly attempted to burn this House of God should government forces recapture the town from his fellow Tagalog rebels. Even in the past, this church already figured in political controversy. Then as now.
Is this church, now led by an implacable priest hostile against the local government’s (alleged) greed and stupidity, under attack? I’m inclined to think so, but I honestly hope that I’m wrong.
Look at all this extensive forest cover behind the town of old Sariaya in Tayabas Province! Do we even still have such scenery in that province, let alone in the rest of the country? The photo’s in sepia, but I could imagine how awed the photographer must have been to see a world blanketed in and endless sea of green at the foot of Monte Banajao.
Sadly, this scene is no more.
I only get to see scenes of towns standing beside huge forests in movies filmed abroad. But in our country, it’s deplorable. I remember scaling one mountain in Batangas years ago and was aghast to find a ramshackle house in the middle of an upland forest there being maintained by a family with kids who still go to school every day. And the house’s surroundings have been cleared off for farming. That was almost a decade ago; I start to wonder if they have neighbors there now. Our country has lost so much forest cover because of capitalist activities. Back then, one could really say that our country was really paradisiacal. But when rapid commercialization crept in at an alarming pace, only a few places, many of which are now privately owned, are left to enjoy.
In my opinion, nature is what attracts tourists the most. All else is secondary. Therefore, aside from tangible heritage, our natural surroundings are what our country should value the most. Our government should learn how to strike a balance between industrialization and environmental protection. A well-conserved forest cover side by side with built heritage will definitely bring our country to places in the tourism scene.
¡Feliz Día de la Tierra!
Today is the birth anniversary of Paz Márquez de Benítez (1894–1983), a fellow Tayabeña. She hails from Lucena City, Tayabas Province where I was born. With Spanish being her first language, Márquez deftly produced what National Artist for Literature Nick Joaquín aptly described as a literary gem from the U.S. occupation period: “Dead Stars”. Published in 1925, it is considered as the first Filipino modern English-language short story. It is one of my favorite short stories of all time. The tale’s denouement will leave a shock of emotion, a void in the chest, an emptiness of the heart which one has never experienced before. It is one of those love stories you wish you have never read but will keep on rereading.
Paz Márquez de Benítez is now among the stars of our country’s literary firmament. But her light sure ain’t dead. Click here to read the classic Filipino tale.
In the aftermath of the bungled mission to capture high-profile terrorist Zulkifli “Marwan” Abdhir, the Aquino government is now facing a morality crisis for failing to save the #Fallen44, the now famous dedicatory hashtag symbolizing the heroic 44 members of the Philippine National Police — Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) who were brutally massacred by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) last January 25 as they were attempting to capture Marwan who was found out to be hiding in Mamasapano, Maguindanáo Province. Recent reports have surfaced that Malacañán Palace, including the president himself, were aware of the PNP-SAF operation. But adding insult to injury, the president himself still insists on passing the divisive Bangsamoro Basic Law inspite of the obvious disrespect to the ceasefire ban on the part of the Muslim militants. Hence, his dilemma: an angry Filipino nation.
We are already aware of these infuriating facts. So let’s just tackle least talked about but pertinent (and intriguing) side issues relating to this second Maguindanáo Massacre which all concerned Filipinos ought to know. Let’s make this quick and straight to the point.
First off, where was the president on the day of the massacre? He was in Zamboanga City, just a few provinces away from Maguindanáo. Remember that on January 23 (Friday), a bomb placed inside a car exploded in Barrio Guiwan, Zamboanga City, leaving one person dead and more than 48 injured.
Two days later (January 25), President Noynoy Aquino and some of his staff visited the victim and the survivors of the blast. Something rare. If memory serves us correct, the president never did this in previous bombing incidents. Did he even care to visit the victims of another bombing in Maramag, Buquidnón (the real spelling of Bukidnon) last December 9? That bombing took more lives (11 dead, 43 injured) than the recent Zamboanga blast and was even caught on video, but the president was nowhere in sight in the aftermath. This leads us to ask what was special about that Zamboanga bombing which prompted the president to visit the victims?
Also, it is already made known to the public that Malacañán Palace was aware of the PNP-SAF mission. It appears that they have been planning for Marwan’s downfall for months (or perhaps even years). They even have a name for the operation: Oplan Exodus. But this should come as no surprise; take note that Marwan was no ordinary criminal. He’s on the list of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted Terrorists. And since he’s included in that “prestigious” list, a $5-million bounty was placed on his head: that’s roughly ₱220,477,500!
It is hard to believe that everyone involved in Oplan Exodus, from the president himself down to the PNP-SAF frontliners, didn’t have the booty in mind. This is not to say that the $5-million reward was the sole motivator of the operation. Ending Marwan’s despicable deeds, of course, count the most; his bomb-making skills have killed hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of innocent lives. However, we cannot discount the glaring fact that $5 million is $5 million, even though there are rules that only the witness or the person who pinpointed the whereabouts of a wanted man can receive the booty. Ending terrorism still has its monetary benefits albeit under the table, and there’s nothing wrong with it.
It only becomes wrong when greed gets in the way.
We already heard the story of how the PNP-SAF, in the ensuing 11-hour “misencounter”, radioed the military for help because they had been overwhelmed by the (allegedly) combined forces of the MILF and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters. But no help came. Later on, the military used the “ceasefire” clause as a cowardly excuse for snubbing the PNP-SAF’s call for help). Pretty strange, if not pretty dense.
To reiterate: President Aquino was in Mindanáo, at that precise moment when the PNP-SAF forces were being mercilessly obliterated one by one. It’s pretty mind-boggling for the commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and one of the main architects of Oplan Exodus at that, not to know the dilemma being faced by the PNP-SAF forces in nearby Maguindanáo.
Was the military snub deliberate? Were their hands really tied by the ceasefire clause despite the obvious fact that the extremists were already violating it? Or better still, was the ceasefire clause simply used as an excuse to somehow enable the extremists to… get rid of the PNP-SAF forces? After all, once the PNP-SAF had arrested or killed Marwan, they would have divided the prize money among themselves.
Politicians remote-controlling the operation from afar (or from Zamboanga?) simply wouldn’t have none of it. The greed of some of these politicians are already common knowledge.
To make matters more confusing, another twist popped up: that Marwan’s death during the firefight could not yet be determined. Does that mean that Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmín’s (imaginary) informant will have to wait? We do know that the privacy of the informant should be respected and protected. But in the light of this huge money issue relating to the arrest of one of the world’s most dangerous cowards, a thorough investigation of Oplan Exodus’ architects is in the offing, especially since Uncle Sam’s troops seemed to have some sort of involvement (as always).
And on top of this all, why President Aquino’s continuous support for the passing of the Bangsamoro Basic Law when its main supporters, the MILF, have brazenly violated the peace talks by meddling in the arrest of a terrorist?
Pardon me, but I smell a rub out.