Monthly Archives: September 2015

How to build a training ground for rebels: #StopLumadKillings

How can you build a training ground for rebels so that the strife in Mindanao will continue and the rest of the Filipinos will be convinced that military presence is necessary in the area?

Simple. Just follow this simple solution devised by the Philippine military.

  1. Occupy their communities. After all, what do they know? They are just illiterate, ignorant Lumad. Indigenous people with a different language and culture of their own, alien to yours and to the civilized world. If operatives have informed you a rebel sighting near a Lumad community, immediately presume that these rebel scums are just manipulating their little minds and you must put an end to this. By occupying their communities and imposing military rule, you are preventing them from being influenced by rebel scums. After all, what do these poor indigenous people know?
  2. Shut down their schools. Knowledge and education is a powerful thing. Education opens their eyes and makes them aware of the situation, their ancestral land, their rights as a citizen of this nation and their inherent human rights. It is in your best interest that they go on without knowing anything. Those rebel scums and communists are enough. If they are uneducated, they will bow and submit without question. If they uneducated, they are powerless.
  3. Incite fear through summary executions of their tribal leaders and educators. This is how you make it known to them that you mean business. By killing their own kind and their leaders without due process of law, you are making it clear that their lives don’t mean anything, that they remain an insignificant sector of the society in an island that has always been riddled with strife, violence and exploitation. After all, they are nothing but pawns and supporters to those rebel scums. Better silence them off before they become a threat to society.
  4. Displace them. Let them live like homeless nomads they are. They will only get in the way in your mission to eradicate all the rebel scums. Who cares if their properties and their means of livelihood are destroyed? Who cares if their children cannot go to school? Make them feel that that their lives aren’t worth anything.
  5. Watch the world forget. The media will later feature their stories and condemn the killings anyway, especially with the advent of social media, news will spread everywhere, to Luzon, to the Visayas and to the world. But the spotlight will not focus on them forever.  People will forget as easily as they know. Let their stories be buried under the piles of showbiz news, variety shows, election campaigns and the mere trivialities in the life of an average Filipino. They will soon forget and move on with their lives. After all, what can the Filipino people do? What can the whole world do?

Those rebel scums don’t have to do anything to incite people to join to their cause. With just these transgressions, you are now effectively turning them into the enemies you want them to be. The Lumad boy whose father and relatives were killed before his eyes will be the young man who will stalk you in the belly of the jungle of Caraga, eyes leveled on the gun pointing at the camouflaged uniform that is supposed to be a symbol of safety and security for the citizens of this country.

Under the shadow of the forests of war-torn Mindanao, let the dance of violence and death continue.

BACKGROUND: Last September 2015, uniformed men occupied and shut down ALCADEV, or Alternative Learning Center for Agricultural and Livelihood Development built by an international NGO for the indigent Lumad youth in Surigao, Mindanao. They soon executed tribal chairman Dionel Campos and his cousin, Bello Sinzon, around dawn. The executions are witnessed by the teachers and students of ALCADEV. 

The school’s executive director, Emerito Samarca (Tatay Emok for the students) was found dead in his room, his throat slit open, his hands and feet bounded with rope. 

The ongoing military presence and the string of murders by unknown gunmen forced some 300 Manobos to leave their villages for fear of their lives. Among the incidents are the brutal massacre of five Manobo clansmen in Bukidnon, including a blind 72-year-old man and his grandson, a 14-year-old boy. 

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Traveliries: Being humbled by Mt. Pulag

My philosophy in life is to reward myself in every milestone I gained, big or small. Having your 23rd birthday is a major achievement (since you’re still here and all) and what could be a better way of celebrating one’s 23 years of existence than getting your 23-year-old heart to pump faster and your 23-year-old lungs to wheeze harder as you climb one of the highest peaks of the country?

Mai and I decided to climb Mt. Pulag on September 19-20, with her fresh from her climb on Mt. Daraitan and with me just eager to do something different for my birthday. It took every last ounce of willpower to convince my parents to climb on the day of my birthday, but they gave up in the end (happy birthday to me!), deliriously ignorant of what Mt. Pulag has in store for me.

Day 1, Friday, Mai and I meet up with fellow climbers at Cubao Terminal where we’re going to take a van going to Baguio city. From there, a jeepney will take us to Kabayan, Benguet. I had my dinner at Tropical Hut first, aware that this is going to be my last good dinner before the climb since Mai and I have decided to stick with the good ol’ Century Tuna Paella while hiking.

I remembered Mai asking me if I brought an emergency blanket or a sleeping bag. I said I didn’t, since my bag is heavy and bulky enough. Now this is a lesson we will soon learn: A heavy bag is not a problem, but if you come to Pulag with the mindset of ‘The cold never bothered me anyway’, you’re in for some serious frozen hell.

We slept mostly through the van which took off 10PM in the evening. By about 3AM, we reached Baguio and hopped into the jeepney taking us to Benguet. After 2 hours and a half of travelling, our companions had their breakfast at Jang Jang eatery while Mai and I sauntered off to the famous Jang-jang Bridge located behind the eatery.

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We proceeded to DENR office to attend a brief orientation about Mt. Pulag. Now for some trivia, Mt. Pulag is the 3rd highest peak in the Philippines and the highest in Luzon. It is world-renowned for its captivating ‘Sea of Clouds’ at its summit. There are four trails to the summit but the two well-known are the Ambangeg trail (for beginners) and the Akiki trail (the killer trail)

Needless to say, we will proceed through the Ambangeg trail. If you’re only interested with the summit, go Ambangeg. If you want to be challenged by the mountain (as if the cold isn’t enough), Akiki is for you.

At the DENR office, we passed by a store selling insulator pads and I thought of buying it just in case. I consulted Mai but in the end, we decided that it will add more bulk to our baggage. Besides, we won’t be using it anymore after the hike. This, kids, is mistake #2.

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Sights we've seen while riding the top load on the jeep

Sights we’ve seen while riding the top load on the jeep

We started our climb roughly around 10AM. The sun is shining bright and it looks it’s going to be a sunny climb for us. We barely passed the Ranger’s station when we experienced Mt. Pulag’s volatile weather. The fog soon engulfs the sun and we prepared our raincoat once the downpour begins.

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This should be the Before photo

This should be the Before photo – before the cold eats her soul away

I lumbered off to a slow start, enjoying the cold and the sights. Mai is haggling me to go faster but I don’t. I think most of our conversations are spent on arguing which is more efficient: climbing and resting at your own pace or climbing faster than you should and taking only minimal breaks. None of us wins since we were both dead tired in the end anyway.

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IMG_0105IMG_0107While climbing, I always have a problem with steep parts of the trail (I mean, who hasn’t, other than Mai and her iron legs) and I would always consider them as a major pain in the neck. Later, the mountain would help me realize that an arduous journey uphill is just a temporary struggle. Later, as you go down the mountain, those steeply-inclined paths will be your source of relief. As the famous line goes, it’s all pretty much downhill from here. Pretty much like life, I guess.

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As you climb further and further, the changes of Mt. Pulag’s topography becomes clearer. Here’s a mountain which can’t decide what it is: Pine trees and mossy forests at the base, grassland on top. One of our companions said that when you take the Akiki trail, the stark contrast of the morphing landscape is more evident.

Somewhere along the trail, I found myself walking alone. I told Mai to go on ahead. The weight of a 15-kg baggage is making my knees tremble. I’m now feeling sharp shots of pain in my shoulder whenever I adjust the weight of the bag. The thinning air of the high altitude is not helping either. I’ve always thought climbing in cool temperature is way easier than hiking under the scorching sun but the cold presents an unlikely adversary. I have to rest every 20 minutes and I swear if there are indeed spirits residing in Mt. Pulag, they would probably be angry at my loud, asthma-like panting.

After about four hours of panting, wheezing and almost dying, with my shoulders crying, we finally reached Camp 2.

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Setting up the tent

Setting up the tent

After setting up camp and resting for a bit, Mai and I decided to explore the sights around Camp 2. Seeing the running hills leading to the summit evokes a certain kind of solitude and renewal that only getting closer to the heavens can bring.


IMG_0125IMG_0146IMG_0136IMG_0142Just after we were having our dinner, it rained. Hard. One of the seasoned climbers said that the rain is actually a good thing. One of the recipes of Sea of Clouds is to rain the night before, but raining till dawn will present a big problem.

Because of the rain, the temperature plunges down. Mai and I settled inside our desolate shelter we call our tent. Without blankets, without sleeping bags, without an insulator pad, we are done for. The cold seeps inside our tent like a Dementor sucking all the warmth in our bones. Mai is already wearing three layers of clothing and still, she feels her feet are frozen inside an ice block. We’ve managed to distract ourselves from the cold by laughing at our own stupidity and making jokes about why our feet is so vulnerable to the cold. Mai, being a professional physical therapist, stated  dead serious that unlike hands, you cannot warm your feet under your armpits. I quipped that we should have conditioned our body through Yoga instead of running to prepare for this trip. We were laughing pretty loud and I’m thankful that the campers near our tent didn’t kill us in our sleep.

Day 2: After sleeping fitfully, we awoke at 3AM for our trek to the summit. The rain had just stopped and the night sky greeted us with a wonderful view of the stars and the faint section of the Milky Way. I swear if my camera was as good as a DSLR, I would run out the space on my card of pictures of the night sky than the sunrise.

The trek to the summit lasted about one hour. As expected, it is a long climb and the only source of light we have is our flashlight. I did some breathing exercises, concentrated on the path I’m walking on, but upon reaching Peak 2, I turned my head to the other side and froze on my tracks. The faint rays of the coming dawn offered me a glimpse of mountains drowning under the sea of clouds. If it wasn’t for Mai calling me from above, I would have stood there, transfixed, and waited for the sunrise there.

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The last step to the summit is always a memorable one for me. It felt like I overcome something I never thought I could, but it’s far from triumph. It’s more of submission, a tranquil sense of fulfillment and gratitude to the mountain and heavens above for allowing you to glimpse this wonderful view, infusing you with warmth that rivals that of Pulag’s relentless cold, and keeping this memory for you to remember as many sunrises go by.

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Mai turned to me and grinned, ‘Happy Birthday!’ I smiled. As far as birthday goes, this is certainly going to be one of the best I’ll ever have.

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Our trip is organized by a cool Facebook page called Happy Trail. Check it out here: Happy Trail

5 reasons why every Filipino should watch Jerrold Tarog’s Heneral Luna

All my friends know that I rarely write a review about books and movies but after watching Jerrold Tarrog’s Heneral Luna, I seemed to have been possessed by an overwhelming urge to spread the word on how brilliant and powerful this film is. Much like the historical figure himself, the movie exudes pure bad-assery with its strong visuals, fast-paced dialogue and a theme that strikes you in the gut (you can even feel its impact moments after the credits roll)

Now allow me to share the five reasons why every Filipino should watch Heneral Luna:

  1. The cinematic effects are comparable with that of Hollywood’s. The battle scenes are just right (not too cheesy/dramatic nor bland) and you can tell that it took a lot of hard work and thorough editing to stitch it clip by clip….blood and tears were literally shed to create these powerful scenes.
  2. The movie is packed with heavy symbolism and strong imagery that would leave a lasting impression in your brain. I don’t want to spoil anything but I just want to say that if you have to watch this film, just don’t focus on the story but also on how why the scenes are made that way. We had fun finding these Easter Eggs and it adds another dimension of enjoying this movie as a whole.
  3. Although it is a work of fiction based on facts, the movie remained anchored to the historical materials related to Antonio Luna and the events preceding and during the Philippine-American War. It is a creative and powerful re-telling of history that had long been forgotten…and one that we need to remember. I especially love that it was set during a blotted period of our history, the Philippine-American War, as it is overshadowed by the events of World War II, but one that definitely needs a re-visitation and critical reflection by today’s generation.
  4. Although General Luna is considered as a heroic figure, this movie is far from a heroic film. It doesn’t glorify our history, in fact it exposes its darkest deeds and secrets that had been swept behind the curtains for many years. It challenges and openly criticizes a mentality that is strongly rooted to our system – our strongly familial, tribal and regionalistic culture which, in some cases, perceived to be good but ultimately affects our way of thinking as a people brought together under the same flag. Much like Peque Gallaga’s classic Oro Plata Mata, the real conflict wasn’t with the Americans or any other foreign power, but with ourselves.
  5. It has a clever pacing and dialogue that will engross you to the very end. It is worth noting how the scenes are stitched together, exposition-wise. Jerrold Tarog’s effective use of tracking shot and continuous dialogue without cuts (I just know there’s a production jargon of it somewhere) is worth noting. Magnified by this style, the acting skills of the artists completely stand out. It is well-casted and brilliantly played.

As a fan of historical films (and local cinema), this film exceeds my expectations. I had the impression that profit is the last thing the creators of this film want when it was finally released to the public; what they want to leave us is a message and a challenge to deconstruct our perspective as a nation. It aims to leave an impact that is good and though-provoking to its audience (one viewer in particular stayed up until 12 AM to finish this post) In the end, isn’t it the main reason why films are made for?

Students can avail 50% discount when purchasing tickets 🙂 To the young readers of this blog, don’t miss the chance to have your minds blown by this epic movie. 

What about you? What do you like most about the film? 🙂

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