#NeverAgain: The Parallelism of the Suffering of the Filipino People Then and Now

Ironically today is also the #InternationalDayofPeace and apt occasion for us to go back to the history of the #Philippines at the time we were ruled by Marcos, his family and his cronies.

I was still in cloth diapers when Martial Law was declared, I was in my ruffled knickers running around when all the atrocities were happening around me, and I was in grade school when #EdsaRevolution happened. The events that happened in those times did not impact my childhood because life then was normal. You can say, I enjoyed the perks of being under the rule because as a child I am impressionable — I will agree to anything you tell me and eat whatever was on the table.

But as I grew up I realized, life was not easy, we are not rich, many more are poorer than the poor us. While those in the government are rich, and so are their friends. I soon realized there’s wealth inequality in our country and there are insurgencies in the mountains fighting for the greater good of who is still something that baffles me up to now.

I never like politics, we never talk about it, but I am not naive. Mind you my mom was a loyalist to Marcos, and we never ate galunggong and just to oppose we say we are pro Aquino but it was not true because for me they are all cut from the same cloth only some are more greedy than the others.

Now fast forward to 2018, the early part of the video – a review of how it – the Martial Law all begun seems to be repeating itself in the personality of the self-proclaimed “good” leader – the good mayor who is deluding himself as the president of the Republic. He emulates someone who had divided the country into their own pieces of Legoland and does not care if the legos are trampled upon. We’re going back in the dark times and worst, the young and the poor are being led to believe that this is the way forward, to progress.

But do you see the parallelism of then and now?

The same is happening again and maybe worst … the prices of food are soaring while our lives continue to derail. Plummeting down like we didn’t know any better. Security even inside your own home is becoming insecure and an illusion of a good life seems to be getting blurry and the dreams becoming more unreachable.

You will hear, those loyal to the Marcoses and to the current government that no martial law happened. Conditioning the minds as if all of us are demented. I suggest you watch the video.

If you can maintain an open mind or remove bias in your system, you will see the parallelism of THEN and NOW and you ask again — did it or did it not happen?

If I can answer for you … it happened, and I will tell you it should not happen #NEVERAGAIN again because we should never let it happen for us now and for the future generations (again).

Wheelchairs for the CP Warriors

I asked Dr. Ferdz … which weekend are you free to give out the chairs? The only date that matched in our calendar was 12th of August, Sunday. 

I accepted because she’s very hard to catch and she’s an essential member of the team in my plan to finally give away most of the Wheelchairs-for-Kids that has been sitting in our storage for a little over 3 years now. She’s the wheelchair expert while I, handle the rehabilitation part of the process.

At the same time, I was selecting the kids that can use the wheelchairs. I only have on criteria – that they can sit with minimal support.  I tried to be strict because there are very few chairs to give to the number of children that needs them.  These are wheelchairs that are fitted and modified to the individual needs of the user.

All that preparation was done remotely. It was easy, I had years of training working in Palestine and Turkey! 

The coordinator Miss Holly gave me the information about the kids she recommended. I selected them based on the photos and passed on to my colleague to confirm.  Once we had the list, we were all set to roll the coming Sunday.

A little sacrifice for a slice of heaven 

Thanks to a friend, I was able to link and communicate with a group of advocates who will do anything and everything for their children with cerebral palsy.  The seven kids we chose are of the mixed type of cerebral palsy, the youngest is a 3-year old, and the oldest was a 7-year old, all non-verbal and comes with their unique temperament.

The group is called CPCARES.Ph, a newly minted NGO composed of mostly mothers who met each other in hospitals and rehabilitation centers where they get treatments. They decided to bond together and exchange information on how to support their children and each other and eventually get support like the wheelchair-for-kids I was offering.

The chair has to go, it’s long overdue 

The wheelchair-for-kids was given to me by a colleague from Rotary (WFK, Inc) in Australia. I collected them in Pampanga in 2014 to give to ten children in San Pedro. But life happens to my colleagues and to me (that’s for another story) that we didn’t get the chance to complete the donation of the chairs. I only gave one, and 9 other was stored between my house and another friends’ backroom until I find the time to give them out.

Then my accident happened this year, and suddenly I found myself with nothing worthwhile to do, I started reconnecting with my disability network. During one of my doctor’s visit, I dropped by one of the social department run orphanages (Elsie’s Gatches) in Alabang and tried to find kids that can benefit the chair, we were able to find only one.  The residents are either too old, too big or the disability is severe they cannot control their movements let alone sit without restraints.

After some time, through the mother of Gab, our very first recipient, she got me in touch with CPCARES.Ph and the rest as we say “is history.”! (Read Gabs’ latest story here)

Rain rain go away come again another day … please!

As the day of the activity approaches, a severe weather situation started happening in the metro including our province. The typhoon #Karding, though far from land was sucking the monsoon bringing in non-stop rain, and it’s putting my plans at risk of getting delayed again. I thought if I cannot give the wheelchairs away this time, I will not be able to do it ever!

I became friendly with the disaster alert, and the worst is yet to happen.

The day before the event, on a Saturday, I attended a creative writing course that puts me in the heart of EDSA, our infamous parking lot. And the day prior, I was with friends, and there was no problem with rain, but anything can change typical for this period, so I was confident the weekend will be good.

When I arrived at the workshop venue, the rain had started. I was not worried it doesn’t seem to be strong, I was wrong. At around 2 in the afternoon of Saturday all the mobile phones in the room gave out a unison fog horn sound announcing that the whole of Metro Manila and nearby provinces are on RED Typhoon Warning – it was not good.  There is more rain dropped than what can be handled by the cities and provinces – the worst flooding was imminent.

I managed to go home later that afternoon, risking walking in the rain and puddles and running after buses because I will have to get ahead of the situation.  Had I delayed even for 10 minutes I would have slept in one of the hotels nearby and not go home for the event. 

Image result for flooding in august 2018 manila Image result for flooding in august 2018 manila Image result for flooding in august 2018 manila    Image result for flooding in august 2018 manila

(Photos above are from the internet – it was what I escaped when I decided to hop in the bus to go home).

I was also on high alert. Continually checking the weather report and updating the coordinators.

My colleagues whose coming from the metro contacted me asking if the event is pushing through because people are being evacuated as the night progressed and there was a risk of the dam breaking or one of the big river overflowing if the rain continues overnight threatening more flooding.

All through the night, I was glued to the news telling people that if the situation doesn’t change I will advise postponing no later than 5.30 in the morning of Sunday. I was praying hard before sleeping, praying that when I check the news, I will have good news.

Good news indeed, the sun had shown its face … finally! 

I knew it, the moment I woke up, I know it’s a go. The RED warning was lifted, but it left significant devastation in the whole of the metro, where half of the kids and my colleague was coming from.

With God’s providence, all came, and nobody was affected by the massive flooding even if they lived in the area that was underwater. God really want these kids to get rolling in their new chairs, rain or shine.

One by one they arrived at the venue, and one by one the chairs were assembled. All hands were on deck, anticipating 3-hours each chair including fitting and adjustments, we needed to hustle.

After assembly, each kid was fitted in the chair while adjustments were made by mostly their dads. The moms were busy taking care of their kids until they are needed to sit and fit in the chairs.

Since the venue that was lent to us, thanks to another friend, was indoor we were not affected by the afternoon rain that continued to pour. It was less troublesome than it was the day before, and each one of them brought their own transport I was not worried they cannot go home with their chairs or get the chairs wet.

We finished in good time and was able to give out all the seven chairs without a hitch and immediately they were a hit to the kids and especially to the parents who witnessed the transformation of their child the moment they sat in their new and appropriate Wheelchair-For-Kids.

I think God was happy with what we had accomplished that day that the rain stopped altogether after.

Is It August Yet?

I can’t wait to be August. Soon it will be August, and my future will be bright.

Do you know how many drafts I have in my box? I think i have at least 7 that I never finished writing, either I lost the thought or I got distracted that I cannot go back to it unless I get the inspiration again. 

So for this, I intend to finish this one. 

You ask … why August?

Well, that would be the time I will finally get my final reading glasses grade so I can read properly. Right now I am struggling to concentrate on looking at the computer screen or my phone, even reading magazines and newspaper becoming tiresome. And today I am starting to feel dizzy when doing those wearing my old glasses because I have nothing else to wear. And if I don’t use it, I will end up watching a lot of TVs.

Eyewear
The glasses that don’t fit …

In August, I will stop using a progressive type of eyeglasses. My new lenses made that possible, but I will still need to use reading glasses.

I had the option to do that – I mean to not use either distance or reading glasses but my insurance didn’t cover that type of surgery so I opted for the one that I can afford.  At least I can still wear stylish and colorful eyewear as a consolation.

***

A lot of us take things for granted until it’s too late, I know because that’s how it was for me. Read this Do Not Wait Too Long

Although it was not too late, I still took my eye problem in stride only to realize that I could have had it corrected in 15 minutes (yeah true read this Windows to the Soul) over the weekend and return to work after a week. But I didn’t do that then, and if I say I regret it, I would say yes.

When my vision started to falter, I guess subconsciously I decided to stop going out at night alone. I would rather stay in on a Friday night and binge on music videos or my favorite series because I was afraid I would get an accident. Turkish driver is barbaric when it comes to driving, and they will not make it easy for you to feel safe even on the sidewalk.

But consciously I was in denial, I pretended I am just lazy, or I am saving my money, telling my bf that it’s cheaper to stay in and buy the wine we like. He bought it, never complained and then I moved out to Tunisia.

In Tunisia, walking around was never a problem. During the day I was glued to my computer, I work from home, and the house itself has good lighting, so I was not bothered that only one eye was actually doing the work for me. My stairs are well lighted, and when I venture outside, I was not afraid because the area where I lived has low traffic and sometimes I can even walk in the middle of the streets plus streets are almost well lit.

Then the inevitable happened and further delayed my surgery until late June, and now I have to endure using my old reading glasses until the lens finally reached its maximum adjustment and will not affect when I finally get prescribed my new spectacles.

That is why I am so looking forward to early August to finally get that final grade and start reading without eye strain and headache.

***

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As a Catholic Spending Holy Week in the Holy Land was the Greatest Experience I had in My Life

When I took the job for Gaza in the occupied Palestinian Territories, I didn’t know I will have the grandest pilgrimage I will have in my life.

Although I lived in Gaza most of the time, I had at least 2 weekends in a month to enjoy the old city and visit all nooks and cranny inside it. Reliving the stories I read in the bible at the same time understand the plight of my Palestinian friends against the oppression they were dealt with in this modern times.

I arrived in Israel in early February of 2016 and settled-in first in Jerusalem while waiting for my papers allowing me to enter into Gaza.  The Christian world was preparing for the Lenten season. It took a while before I was able to appreciate where I was until I get to visit around town and inside the old city. I was happy to have made acquaintances with other Catholics from Spain and Mexico who’s been living in Jerusalem for over a year and are well versed with the happenings in and around town and of course the Passion of Jesus Christ.

Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday entering one of the gates to the old city of Jerusalem
Palm Sunday
Entered the gate to welcome Jesus Christ

The feeling while in the old city at this time – at Lent was overwhelming. Like all other Christians, being in the place where Jesus lived, walking in the path he walked on meeting his disciples, and while carrying the crossed for our sins humbled me.

For a while I forget why I was in Palestine, all I can think of at that time was the Passion of Christ Jesus, relieving in my head his stories, the stories of his apostles and of Mary and the persecution they received in the hands of those who claim to be high and mighty.  It’s hard not to remember your catechism and you can only do that when you are faced with it in real-time.

I was so happy, no words can explain my feelings when I was there and all the time I was there until I have to leave Israel.

To appreciate the Old City, the Holy Land, one has to be in the moment and feel the spirit of the city speaks to you and bring you back to the time when you become part of the bible history. 

 

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Until the celebration of Easter, of His resurrection. Giving hope to the people that all our sins are forgiven and were given opportunities to become a better person for others year after year.

It was a fitting introduction to the challenges I am set to tackle accepting the job in Gaza. It was an opportunity for me to know the places and the people according to history and to the experience, I had with them daily.  The chance to work with my now Palestinian friends, to help them overcome the consequences of their situation and of the people they helped make me realize that religion knows no boundaries.

It is not enough to just say been there-done that without bringing with you the spiritual high that you experience while in the holiest of the land, the land that is full of history that had been told for centruries on. 

In Palestine, my being Catholic is no issue. Between my coordinator, also a Catholic and me, all our staffs and the people I met in the community to help and to mingle are all Muslim but it was never an issue. The Palestinians in Gaza and in the West Bank are the most progressive thinkers I met, but unfortunately, their situation is one of the world’s greatest irony – the oppressed become the oppressor.

Their experience since 1948 up to now is a product of hatred and self-entitlement of those that persecute them.  And I continuously pray that the history written in the holy book, the Bible, in the new testament and that of the Quoran will eventually come to reality in the present time and we can achieve the peace we all dream of.

Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying, Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. — Matthew 22:35-40

I wouldn’t trade this experience with anything. This may not be the best mission for me (work wise), but I can say this is the best experience I had working and living in the Middle East.

Let us continue to pray for peace and freedom to the Holy Land!

I Was In An Abusive Relationship Without Me Knowing

When I was younger, I had no concept of domestic abuse or abuse in general. I didn’t know I was in an abusive relationship until after I learned about it as I grew in my chosen career. The abuse became a byword in the meetings I attended, and it became very real when I witnessed for myself what it can do to women and families.

***

It was in late 2000 when I entered into a relationship with someone I met in the country where I was working then. He’s from my country and being new in that place, getting that much attention from men, I felt very special. But this one particular person had pursued me until I said yes.

We were inseparable. He became constant in my daily life – from waking up to sleeping. I thought it was cute, sweet and very loving. Every day I get sweet messages in my email, and at some point, I was looking forward to it and felt terrible when there was no new email from him. Every hour I get a phone calls just asking me where and how I am, that was also sweet until it was not anymore. He would show up in my office if I am working in the headquarters bringing food or inviting me out or any gifts he fancies giving me.

I live in another town, so I go home to the capital every 2-weeks to spend a weekend break and work in the HQ before I go back again, so we only see each other every 2-weeks. He didn’t like it. He wants me to travel every weekend and spend time together. I found it again sweet, thinking he cannot live without me. But going for 6 hours on rough roads twice every week was not only tiresome but also costly for the organization and dangerous for my driver and me.

I get to travel when there’s approval from my coordinator, and I have to time it with something to do in the city to not waste both time and fuel, that time back then fuel was difficult to source and very expensive in the black market because of the embargo.

He was not happy with the arrangement that’s why when I am in the capital city, he never lets me out of his sight especially after work or during the weekend. He would pick me up from my house, and we would spend the whole weekend together to the point that I moved in with him because that’s what he wanted. He was so possessive he doesn’t want me to mingle with other people when I am in town – wants me all to himself. Sweet until it became too much and when I protested, without physically hurting me, I felt beaten.

Slowly I lost touch with the friends I met there. Social media was non-existent, and SMS was a luxury we don’t have. I was not allowed to mingle with my colleagues, and he doesn’t want to join me when I invite him because he doesn’t like to hang out with other people except me. If we will accept an invitation, it was from his friends, and I cannot say no because he will get angry, so I always tag along. He would also host dinners and karaoke with people I don’t know, men with their wives and gf but we never go to their houses when they invite us.

In short, he controlled my life. He showered me with gifts and sweet messages. He provided me with luxury my organization cannot provide us because we’re supposed to be frugal and not showing off – I mean we cannot afford 24/7 generator to light the house or even to use aircon during summer. He brought me to nice restaurants and decided my life for me.

We had several fights, but I never win. We had big fights out of nothing. He will accuse me of wanting other men than him if I admire a car parked by the beach with a cute driver. Or when I was in an official party and laughing with some male guest, he thinks I was flirting with them. He almost drove off the cliff when we decided to have a romantic dinner in one of the few beautiful and expensive restaurants in the city, and we found there some of my friends from where I live that was also in town having their breaks and relaxing. He accused me of agreeing to his invitation because I knew my boyfriends (yes that’s how he called my friends) are there. When I stopped talking to him, he will woo me and say sorry, and everything will be okay until it happens again.

It didn’t help that the country where we were at that time have both development and peacekeeping action. When you’re based in the center of the country and surrounded by bushes, you’re bound to meet people from different military and country contingent with a mix of other humanitarian aid workers, and you immediately become part of the group. You form a bond because you rely on each other in case a problem arises or just to keep the boredom at bay you make impromptu events and own places to be the “place to be” (like a gasoline station because they have fuel became an impromptu bar to keep beers cold and have light) because that’s just how it was in the bush and that is what my then boyfriend didn’t understand. For him, it’s flirting, and that was a pure evil accusation.

Despite that, I stayed in the relationship. Eventually, he moved to another country but before he did that he offered marriage but with a catch! I am to become a stay-at-home mother to the family that we will raise. He converted to Islam when he was stationed in the Middle East for seven years, and he started quoting the Qoran on why I should submit to him being a woman.

I remember vividly the answer I gave him. I said

my parents worked hard to send my siblings and me to school, to good private Catholic schools so we can pursue our dreams and be better in life. Now that I am enjoying the fruits of that, why stop now to raise a family? Because I know I can be a career woman at the same time a good mother and a wife if you choose to find a family mission

He didn’t like my answer, and he didn’t like working in countries with no action. He’s one of those adrenaline junkies who like working in countries where there is always a danger of getting killed or just in the midst of it. He didn’t repeat the proposal.

I moved out of the first country myself. My contract finished, and I moved to another difficult country. We continued the long-distance relationship and spent a lot of money talking to each other over the phone even though we knew we would not end up together until we called it quit three years after we started the relationship.

We drifted apart, and myself had grown to be my own person more and more. I started to see myself as someone that can be alone, that I don’t need a man to complete me. I reached a point in my life where I stopped altogether dreaming of getting married and having kids especially when you know that by the time my kids start walking I will need an assistive device to follow them around. Not fair to them and not very healthy for me but I am sure many will disagree, and that’s fine.

On hindsight, I already survived my vicious cycle of abuse and came out victorious. I still slip up from time to time, still finding the wrong men for me to hang out with but I have no more illusions and when I feel trap I know I can always open the door and leave and stop being the victim of my stupidity.

But my relationships are not always negative, I guess in my 40ish life I’ve met the men I can say “love of my life” and could have ended up with them, but they all got away.

The first one from my country left me to marry the woman he got pregnant and had a son before I met him because the woman stalked me and threatened my life, use the kid as a pawn to guilt trip my boyfriend then. The one from Canada was diagnosed with hepatitis C, and because he loves me so much, he let go of me even though I told him I would be with him until the end. He said it was not fair to me to look after him while I am still young, I can find someone healthy and can provide for my needs – it was noble and I kept his letters. I have no information whether he survived or already moved to the next realm, and I tried to search online but no luck. And the last person I said “I love you” to was taken from me by the bad guys in 2016; he was ambushed trying to fight off criminality in El Salvador the first day he returned to work from a month-long holiday in the US. Maybe it was time for him to leave all of us he loves.

***

Writing this post I realized no one is insulated from abuse, but what is important is how one rise above it. I am incredibly grateful to the stories I’ve read in World Pulse it enlightened me and made me feel that my experience in relationships made me the strong woman I am today!

I believe and you should too that WE ARE STRONGER TOGETHER!