Monthly Archives: February 2013

And thus, the Sabah drama unfolds

Wow, it’s been ages since I last updated. But not the even the long hours of OJT at ABS-CBN nor the stressful deadlines of articles can prevent me on giving my two-cents about the biggest headline territorial dispute since the Scarborough Issue – The Sabah Standoff. And as we meddling writers always say: What’s an exciting issue if not to write about?

The army of the Sultan of Sulu took hold of Lahad Datu Sabah as a stand for their claim in Sabah

I will attempt to illustrate the Sabah Issue in a teleserye. For those who are not familiar with the term, Teleseryes (Telenovela) are soap operas in the Philippines played in prime time, usually after the News programs (TV5 deviates with the popular rule as it airs a variety show, but who cares?) It mostly involves wives and mistresses locked in catfights at every scene, daughter-of-a-rich-daughter-being-separated-from-family-only-to-live-with-a-poor-but-happy-family, philandering husbands, swapped babies, lost babies and Mary Sue protagonists who had three or more photogenically cute boys fighting for her heart.

For the sake of simplicity, I will attempt to eliminate the politics, because the issue is one, messy affair. This is my attempt of bringing the issue in light, in the lightest way possible, but if you really want an in-depth history of the whole thing, go to Google and make yourself an extra-strong coffee to go with it.

Let us now meet the characters:

* SABAH – the heroine of our tale. She is the only daughter of the Sultanate of Sulu and the Sultanate of Brunei long before a Philippine Republic was born. Yet, out of poverty, Sulu has to bid her baby goodbye and entrust her to Aunt Malaysia before going off the plane and be an OFW. Sabah will then be raised by her rich Aunt Malaysia. They have plenty of heartfelt moments together, like Malaysia changing little Sabah’s nappies, tucking her into bed, singing songs to her and bringing her to school while the tune of Maalala Mo Kaya plays on the background. Malaysia showered Sabah with plenty of love, and Sabah like most teenagers may occasionally rebel against her but their relationship would always resume to normal, as they both understood how hard it is to be a mother/child.Yet she felt incomplete, like there’s a part of her that she should find, and that is her true identity.

*SULU – the poor, hard-pressed mother of Sabah. Right after her husband, Brunei, was abolished, she had to take care of Sabah on her own. Yet life is hard for the poor young mother, and she is forced to leave Sabah in the hands of the rich Malaysia, who was adopted by the Great Britain that time. Yet she promises she would come back for her daughter.

*MALAYSIA – the foster mother of SABAH. She may look intimidating, but has a warm spot for her only daughter. She is determined to keep Sabah for her sake. Yet, her love couldn’t stop SABAH from finding about her true self, and eventually her true mother.

The question remains: Where will Sabah stay? To whom does she belong?

Sabah history in a nutshell: Sabah, along with Palawan, was given to the Sultanate of Sulu by the Sultanate of Brunei as a form of gift. a British company “leased” Sabah in 1878. In return, the company will provide arms for the Sultanate to resist the Spanish forces and 5,000 Malaysian ringgints for the annual rental. The lease continues until Malaysia became a federal government with Sabah as one of the States. Until now, the Embassy of Malaysia pays the annual rent for the Sultanate family of Sulu. Since the Federal Malaysian government was formed, the Philippines under Diosdado Macapagal, had cut off diplomatic ties with Malaysia. Pres. Ferdinand Marcos attempted a vigilante mission to reclaim Sabah but it resulted into a tragedy called the Jabidah Massacre. Since then, Sabah became more of a ”forbidden” issue never to be talked about, an issue left unresolved between two countries, the proverbial Elephant in the room, until now, when the present Sultan Kiram III makes a stand against the Malaysian government by refusing to send his troops back in the Philippines.

Pres. Aquino pleaded to Sultan Kiram to send his army from Sabah back to the Philippines, dropping the bomb-phrase “Hopeless cause”. This drew the ire of the Sultan even more. And I can’t say I can’t blame him. Not that I agree with his reckless actions (Too much lives – both Filipinos and Malaysians- living in Sabah are at stake) but to say that is such an offhand manner, is a blow for the Sultan himself. Not that I’m saying we should fight for what’s ours (the issue won’t escalate into war no matter what, we Asians are in love with peace and harmony) but the least the Philippine government can do is to…attempt the Sabah issue inclined slightly on what the Sultan wants. He could say, “We would pursue the matter on ICJ” or “We would first talk this over with the Malaysian government” or anything that would make our Tausug brethren drew away from the standoff, thinking that the GOVERNMENT is at least helping them out with their claim. They would walk away not grumbling how the government betrayed them with this one.

I think with that phrase, the fate of BANGSAMORO is sealed. Muslim voice had long been forgotten in the government. They are now living independently from the sovereignty as possible. They live under their own terms. That’s why the Sultan wouldn’t want to hear what the President is saying. That’s why I won’t be surprised if they continuously express their sentiments of breaking away from the Philippines. I won’t be surprised if they accept Malaysia’s offer of becoming their state in exchange of Sabah’s return.

Sabah standoff is to be expected. It’s a timebomb waiting to explode. A problem both countries failed to foresee until the shrapnel hit them on the faces. As of to the question, whom does Sabah belong? Let us start first by referring Sabah not as a disputed territory, but a living, thriving land with people. How does this issue affect the Sabahnese? They are not just pieces of properties you can throw to one person and have them toss to another. It’s hard to imagine what are they going through with all the tension and confusion.

I believe peaceful negotiations can ease the tension in Sabah. As long as the parties involved are careful not to drop off words that could aggrieve one another, peaceful solutions will be made. I also implore my fellow Filipinos to meddle with this issue and come up with their own opinion, a reasonable sound one which doesn’t start and end with hollow cries like “Sabah is OURS!” The same goes with Malaysians. We must carefully study the issue and prevent further unnecessary escalations. (if ever war breaks out, Philippines will undoubtedly lose. However, let me tell you that these badass Tausug warriors are the bravest!)

And for the Philippine government, I’m not saying we should declare we will fight nail and tooth for Sabah. We should not feed the Sultan’s anger either. What I’m saying is, give our Muslim brethren a chance. If we continue to not care about them, to treat them like dirt and insurgents, then we may lose them in the run. If we continue to be indifferent for their sufferings, then be prepared to lose all our Muslim brothers altogether.

It will take only a matter of time.

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An Open Letter to my Mother

Hi ma!

Okay, I know this is kind of surprising, considering I haven’t talked to you for years now. It’s been a long time since I talked to you like this. During those long years, I admit I haven’t thought much about you either, you know, with studies and work and everything. You’ve always said I’m an ambitious kid, full of big dreams of buying my own car, having my own house and travelling all over the world. Well, the thing about dreams is they tend to get personal, and sometimes, selfish. I should know, coz I’ve been too caught up with my own to think about you and ask how you are doing.

Ma, I know you’ve been through hard times. You have to raise several kids all at once, and only a few of them can support you in your old age and weary bones. Most of them are living far away now, hoping to reunite with you but can’t, while others chose to forget about you eventually. Even us, your children living here in your home, barely have no time for you. We’re all trying to be this and that, doctors, lawyers, engineers, pilots, nurses, etc. and sometimes most of us end up with something lesser than we thought we could be. But you taught us to be resilient and content, that we may not always end up having what we want, but as long as we live in dignity and in unity, we can all leave in harmony in this big home we have.

I have something to confess to you. Growing up, I’ve not always been a good kid as I am now. I had dark thoughts, hateful thoughts that I am presently quite angry on myself for harboring these kind of thoughts in my childhood.

 I hated, no, abhorred, being born in your house.I always ask God or some Higher Power out there on why, of all places, should I be brought up here. Ma, I’m sure you know that our house isn’t always a nice place to stay. Although it has many rooms, our large family is divided by many walls and floors, physically and emotionally. We live on different floors, with many of us living on the lower floors, making the best of any tiny small space there is to squeeze in. It’s the complete opposite of those who live above, where the price of indifference is opulence. The difference of our lives is staggering and I am disgusted by both sides: the escapism and inert attitude of those below and the condescending, materialistic capitalists of the above. The floor between them is a small gap that barely supports each side and people living there have to literally live as everyday “Atlas” as they try to support the above and push their feet down below. The walls would crush them if they failed.

I wanted to get away from this crazy circus of a place. I wanted to leave you so much. I was always jealous of our neighbors and I always wonder when can we experience a good, stable home they seem to enjoy. I’ve always blamed you too, because you didn’t prepare a proper future for me so I decided to plan on my own, not in here, but outside.

But growing up did I realize how you were suffering as our mother. How you are abused, exploited, shunned by our neighbors and sadly, by us, your own children. You were the always who ended up getting hurt, getting laughed at, getting humiliated, getting scorched, while we shrink unto the walls, hoping we won’t be associated with you.

You have always been a fighter, ma. A survivor. It’s what you showed us and what we now carry everyday in our lives. You endured such difficult times,having been restrained in your room several times, manipulated by the big visitors from Outside, unable to defend yourself from all the discrimination and above all, say goodbye with your children as they pack up their large bags and try their luck outside. It’s hard to say goodbye for the ones who will go, but the pain is worse for those left behind. You experienced all of it and you stood strong, despite the scars, the tears, the pain of seeing your own children suffer and the incapacity to do something about it.

I realized later on that the root of all your suffering isn’t in your past, or the present time, or the current situations you are entangled in. It’s me and your children ourselves. From the moment of our birth, we never really identified you as our mother, and each other as part of our own. We are not united, always squabbling, always pulling someone who’s higher than the rest of us down, always talking bad about someone, hiding grudge against each other, grouping ourselves and forming status quo of exclusivity based on race, region and religion and not wholly considering ourselves as your children. We always lament about the bad stuffs, complain about the house rules, and disobey it for our own convenience. You see, mother, we work for our own selfish gains. We work hard for a few people, not for the majority. We love freedom but we are incapable of being responsible for it. We are immature, impatient and most of all, indifferent. There only remains a handful of us who understands your pain but their voice goes unheard amid the torrential noise of bickering and angry murmurings. 

In that note, I wanted to ask for your forgiveness, ma. This letter from your prodigal child wouldn’t make your condition any better, but this is my promise to you that I am not the same person before. I realized how much you need me, how much you need Us. I can’t bear the thought that you will suffer even longer because of us. I may not powerless now to relieve you of the rocks pressing against you, but I won’t leave your side from now on. I want to stay here with you. I don’t care what the world thinks of me when they see me with you in tattered clothing and unruly hair; in fact this is good chance to show to them how proud I am to you, either in high ups or low downs.  I wanted to do my share, to give back to my fellowmen, to be a part of a change, a better change for all of us.

You’ve done your best taking care of me, and it’s time for me to take care of you in my own special way.

Dear ma, you’ve always said I have big dreams, that I am very ambitious and my goals are high. Well, I just raised the bar higher. They say selfish dreams are simple to attain, like having a car, a house, travel and marvel the whole world, etc. Selfless dreams are the ones more difficult to attain, and that includes having our own personal brand of car, building a better house for all of us, and have the whole world to marvel you.

This I can do more and more for you.

I challenge my brethren to do the same.

From your wayward child,
Juan 

My harmless little rant

I just need to post this…

earlier tonight, I was riding on my grandparents’ car on our way home from the hospital. My dad has this major operation for his broken ligament and was confined in an hospital at Makati. Through our drive in Marikina market proper, my grandpa, who’s behind the wheel, narrowly missed a steel post which divides the lane for public utility vehicles and for private ones. The steel post is pretty difficult to see, probably waiting for unwary or drunk drivers to crash their cars into it. Low light lampposts aren’t not that much help either. 

My grandpa said they should out some bright warning lights on the steel pole to avoid impending accidents on those part of the streets. My grandma, who knows that my grandpa is an influential man in the local police unit and is good friends with the mayor and vice-mayor themselves,lightly advised my grandpa that he should bring this up his friends, because some parts of Marikina, other than here, can be pretty dangerous at night due to the low lights. 

And what did my grandpa said? He said it’s not his problem. That those living on that part of Marikina the ones who should do something about it because it’s their street. He’s living in another barangay (sub-community of city in the Philippines) and his concerns won’t go beyond his barangay. 

I like to point out that we’re passing through this part of the city every damn day and who knows, our car might be the first one to crash into the pole but believe me, when my grandpa’s on a gattling-vapid mood, you won’t get a chance to butt in. 

And what’s with that kind of attitude? We’re all Marikeños. Every single problem in Marikina is our problem, regardless of what barangay we’re residing, or how big our houses, or even if we have our own cars. Every driver in Marikina has an equal chance of getting into a freak accident with that stupid pole, and when that happens, we blame it on the local government unit for not putting cautionary lights on it in the first place. Why not blame ourselves first? We see the problem every day, and we didn’t do a darn thing about it. The government is no Big Brother which can see everything.

And what’s the deal with regionalism? It’s the problem I’ve observed about most of us Filipinos. On how we like to address ourselves first with the location we’re living, like Ilocanos, Cebuanos, Visayans, Tagalogs. I get the diversity of our culture and geographical differences but can’t we identify ourselves as a Filipino first before our ethnic origins? Our sense of exclusivity and egocentricity is one of the things that divide us apart as a nation. 

Now’s not the time for complaining about problems in our society. It’s about doing something about it. Even if our efforts may go in vain, or end in failure, at least we can’t blame ourselves for the consequences of that problems. And if our efforts did lead to a good solution, we can all triumph on its birth and  join in with the celebration for what we hoped as a better change. 

For the Marikina LGU, before the great intersection at Bayan, a steel pole lined up with steel barricade divides PUV lanes from that of private vehicles. The steel pole is virtually invisible during nighttime, where the roads are half-empty with cars. I wish you can do something about it to avoid future accidents from happening. I’ll try to post a picture it as soon as I can. Thank you! 

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