Archive for January 2013

Les Miserables through the Windows of My Soul: Part 1

January 20, 2013

Les Miserables

Wednesday January 16, Girlie, Ayen and I had a family treat – watching the premiere showing of Les Miserables at Gateway.

When we were in London in the late 1980′s, Girlie and I had a chance to watch Les Mis in a West End theater and thoroughly enjoyed it. But having read critical movie reviews that compared the movie unfavorably to their experience of the theater version, I worried that I would be somewhat disappointed.

Happily I was not.

Many reviews criticized the extended close-ups in the movie. But I think that this is one feature that gives the movie an advantage over the stage version, especially in the more poignant songs.

Anyway, this blog is not a movie review. It’s a weekend look back at how the movie spoke to me, using Kahneman’s concepts of the experiencing self and the remembering self.

For me, the experience and remembrance of Les Mis illustrate Thomas Aquinas’ aphorism: “Quidquid recipitur, recipitur secundum modum recipientis.” Whatever is received, is received according to the “mode” of the recipient.

Updating the Scholastic category, let me describe the different modes according to which I received Les Mis,  as windows of my soul.

Three windows into my soul

First window:  Revolution. When Girlie and I watched the stage version, I was an “unofficial political exile” in Europe, just a few years after my release from my second imprisonment. Hence, I related more immediately to the scenes and songs of revolution, especially the rousing anthem:

Do you hear the people sing / Singing the song of angry men / It is the music of a people who will not be slaves again!

When the beating of your heart / Echoes the beating of the drums / There is a life about to start when tomorrow comes!

But I also remember being deeply moved by the wistful, funny-sad sensibility of the young rebels’ song at the barricade:

Drink with me to days gone by / Sing with me the songs we knew / Here´s to pretty girls who went to our heads / Here´s to witty girls who went to our beds / Here´s to them and here´s to you.

Drink with me to days gone by / To the life that used to be / At the shrine of friendship never say die / Let the wine of friendship never run dry / Here´s to you and here´s to me.

In addition, I was amused by the counterposing of erotic love versus revolutionary love – recall Che Guevarra’s quote about love –  in the scene of the song Red and Black:

Red – the blood of angry men! / Black – the dark of ages past! / Red – a world about to dawn! / Black – the night that ends at last!

Red – I feel my soul on fire! / Black – My world if she’s not there! / Red – The color of desire! / Black – The color of despair!

More than 20 years later, I still relate emotionally and intellectually to those three themes and songs, even with the change of medium from stage to screen.

But I have have also changed over those 20 years, which is how I explain to myself the impact of other themes and songs while watching the movie, compared to what I remember when watching the stage version years ago.

The two themes are the tragic love of Eponine for Marius, and the guilt feelings of Marius because he has survived while his friends have all been martyred.

When Ayen asked me what song I recall from Les Mis, the second song that came to mind is Eponine’s On My Own:

On my own / Pretending he’s beside me / All alone I walk with him till morning / Without him I feel his arms around me / And when I lose my way I close my eyes and he has found me…

I love him / But every day I’m learning / All my life I’ve only been pretending / Without me his world would go on turning / A world that’s full of happiness that I have never known / I love him…But only on my own

As for Marius’ song, it does not figure in my remembrance of the London stage show, but it resonated with me when I watched the movie. No, I don’t share his guilt feelings about surviving. I relate to his words and feelings because I was thinking of comrades and friends in the movement who cannot attend our Ganito Tayo Noon reunions:

There’s a grief that can’t be spoken / There’s a pain goes on and on / Empty chairs at empty tables / Now my friends are dead and gone.

Here they talked of revolution / Here it was they lit the flame / Here they sang about tomorrow / And tomorrow never came. / From the table in the corner / They could see a world reborn / And they rose with voices ringing / I can hear them now! / The very words that they had sung / Became their last communion / On the lowly barricade.. At dawn. 

Will write about the second and third windows, in my next blog.

As I sign off, I want to remember and salute Atty. Ed Araullo, who died yesterday. Mabuhay ka! You will be remembered.

Barangay Ban-ao: Between Honesty and Hope

January 14, 2013

Help Children

At the Ganito Tayo Noon reunion, I included in my   malong Timeline this poster, to represent one of our shared concerns with Girlie – the relief and rehabilitation work being done by our friends at the Balay Mindanaw group of NGOs.

After assessing the needs and their capabilities, they decided to focus on one barangay, Barangay Ban-ao in Baganga, Davao Oriental, for long-term and comprehensive work, hoping that lessons learned there can be a source of mutual learning with those who are working in other barangays.

One of the challenge in relief and rehab work is how to sustain public interest as the dramatic events and images recede from the news and our memories. Even more important is how to work out in practice the principle that we want to help people help themselves.

When I read the recent update from Balay MIndanaw, I thought of the theme that I use as the header of this blog – Between Honesty and Hope.

Thanks to our friends at Balay MIndanaw, their partners, and the people of Bgy. Ban-ao for the lessons and inspiration.

Balay Mindanaw Disaster Response Update
January 11, 2013
Dear Friends and Partners,
Happy New Year!
We are pleased to share with you the latest highlights in our continuing disaster response interventions in three communities affected by Typhoon Pablo namely Ban-ao, Baganga in Davao Oriental; Lingig, Surigao del Sur; and Sta. Josefa, Agusan del Sur. We have been with these communities right after our conduct of quick damage and loss assessment (DaLA) and human recovery needs assessment (HRNA) on 7 December 2012, three days after the disaster. And as we cited in our previous updates, we have since then focused our community-based DR work in Barangay Ban-ao, Baganga one of the worst hit barangays in the entire Province of Davao Oriental, recording 17 deaths, many injuries and unimaginable damage to properties and livelihoods.

IN RETROSPECT: We have been able to serve no less than 1,500 affected families in the above-cited communities in the form of food packs, medicine or first aid kits, non-food items, hygiene kits, kitchen wares, clothing, and shelter repair kits. We continue to do so only because of the kindness and generosity of The Johanniter, International Assistance from Germany, long-time friends, partners during Typhoon Sendong in Cagayan de Oro City, new acquaintances, new donor- institutions such as Nyima Foundation, Ortigas Corp., Ayala Foundation, and many others who wish to remain anonymous; at least 100 tent boxes/survival kits and life boxes from the Disaster Aid International and other 200 tent boxes from ShelterBox; medical missions, which consistently have been led by our ever dearest Dr. Ruben Cagape from the Office of Governor Dominguez of Sarangani; additional psycho-social interventions from both the academe and some experts; solar lanterns from the Team Energy; and the pouring in of volunteers both professional and labor most particularly for the re/packing and transport of goods, and the setting up of the tent communities.

ONE MONTH LATER
On Tent Community Coordination and Management (TCCM)
Fifty-one (51) families have already moved into their temporary homes as of today. If the weather condition continues to be favorable this week, all of the 100 DAI tents will have already been installed before 13 January 2013. All this tent building work was supposedly completed before 23 December 2012 in time for the families to celebrate Christmas in their tent houses, had it not been for the regular heavy rains with wind gustiness.

The symbolic transfer of the first 20 families was witnessed by some Balay Mindanaw partners such as the Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Councils (DRRMCs) of Aleosan, North Cotabato headed by the Municipal Administrator, Mike Estrebillo and the DRRMC-Gingoog City, Misamis Oriental headed by Mr. Bimbo; the Incident Command Post (ICP) Commander himself, Col Krishnamurti Mortela; the Disaster Aid International (DAI); and the Barangay Local Government Unit with the 7 Purok Leaders headed by Punong Barangay Mera Adlawan-Ching. These partners also accompanied each of the families into their respective tent houses symbolizing their continued empathy and support up until their recovery. Our sincerest gratitude for the Local Chief Executives of Aleosan and Gingoog City – going through the 12-20 hours of travel from their respective areas just to personally show their solidarity with the Barangay Ban-ao residents. They also brought their own share of food items, non-food items and some hygiene kits for the affected families.

On 31 December, the first 20 tent houses were provided with solar lanterns welcoming the New Year 2013 with all brightness. With Punong Barangay Mera Ching herself leading the singing of Christmas carols among children, the New Year was a moment of happiness. Teary-eyed, she said that despite the unfavorable fate they had in the past year, there is always a reason to celebrate new life, new beginning – and this should not be missed especially by the little children.

In each of the tents, Food Always in the Home (FAITH) vegetable gardens, as well as pots of flowers can already be seen. This is being complemented by the 67IB’s nursery and gardens of kangkong and camote tops near the school premise. The Department of Agriculture has also provided the barangay with sacks of rice ready for planting. In fact, three of the Tent Community residents have already started planting rice this 1st week of January.

All the 520 families are regularly being provided with food packs, non-food items, hygiene kits prepared by the BMFI Team based in Cagayan de Oro City or at the O’Carmelites Parish Relief Operations Center, San Francisco, Agusan del Sur. As per regular meeting among the Purok Leaders, the distribution of goods is now scheduled every Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays.

Thirteen (13) basic committees have been created to help facilitate smooth management of the entire tent community. Here are some of the committees identified based on the international clustering approach: relief distribution (Belen); supply management (Marife); community kitchen (Roselito); medic/health and women-and-children friendly spaces (Irene); security/protection and/or safety (James); psycho-social (Mary Ann); Water and sanitation, hygiene (Felixberto); grievance (Jimmy); data/record management (Jerrebelle); livelihood (Ben). James Mandawe was assigned as the overall team leader. Each of the assigned committee leaders have already been briefed on the tasks assigned to them.

On Water and Sanitation, Hygiene and other needed communal facilities
Bundled as part of the transfer to the tent community was the installation of functional communal facilities that include community kitchen, bathing area and toilet for boys, and bathing area and toilet for girls. For now, two sets of these facilities are being installed as the tent communities are divided with a creek – access to the existing facilities has become difficult. All this, through Balay Mindanaw’s “Engineering Brigade” headed by the boys of KPMFI (social enterprise). A bladder that supplies the daily needs for water has also been established with the Red Cross.

Women-and-children friendly spaces were not readily established due to the lack of bigger tents that can accommodate several persons inside. The UNFPA has visited to institutionalize protection against gender-based violence inside the tent community; training on anti-VAWC, supplies such as chairs and tables shall be provided by them.
Data monitoring board is now being installed for easier access to information inside the tent community.

On Purok leaders taking active roles
This to also help unload the burden on the part of the Punong Barangay, all of the seven Purok Leaders are actively involved especially on major decision-making and planning related to the tent community and the barangay in general. The seven Purok Leaders are as follows:
Purok Magtinabangay A – Nelson Calig-onan
Purok Magtinabangay B – Darwin Calig-onan
Purok Masipag A – Uldarico Limocon
Purok Masipag B – Edgar Ponce
Purok Mahayahay A – Salvador Escamillan
Purok Mahayahay B – Mark Anthony Mandawe
Purok Mahayahay C – Anselmo Rodriguez
These leaders are with us every time we do distribution of goods and even in the clearing of debris for the tent houses. Hence, the quick and more orderly facilitation of activities involving a crowd of people.
This good practice in the tent community has been disturbed when one afternoon, a relief provider went to the area with its truckload of biscuits: throwing packs here and there making everyone in panic – that instead of providing relief, it resulted in harm especially among children and elderly who also wanted to have a share of the goods.

Continued support from the Incident Command Post (ICP)
Col Kris Mortela has always been with the team since Day 1 of the entire work in Barangay Ban-ao. As cited in our previous updates, he was the very instrument why Balay Mindanaw has gone to Barangay Ban-ao, Baganga doing its community-based disaster response work. Almost every day he comes to the tent community, talking with the leaders and helping us access to some infrastructure support for the clearing of debris as well as encouraging the residents to start planting vegetables and other fast crops as early as now; this he said would help address shortage of food supply in the coming months.

Coming in of Humanitarian Assistance groups and other Partners
With the visibility now of the blue tents in the barangay, more humanitarian groups come and visit the tent residents. To cite, the ShelterBox provided us 200 tent boxes for Barangay Ban-ao. However due to the massive need for clearing of debris that took us almost for a month, and with our upcoming distribution of shelter repair kits @P4,000.00/family, Punong Barangay Ching and her Purok Leaders decided to share these tent boxes to those families from the Po island (also totally washed out) who are staying at the congested evacuation center in Barangay Kinablangan (just adjacent to Barangay Ban-ao). This was also agreed upon during the Shelter Cluster meeting facilitated by the Deputy ICP Commander and Vice-Mayor of Baganga.

The United Nations- Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance (UN-OCHA) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) were also there for possible coordination of assistance. Almost one month later, the expected coordination work among partners at the local level is starting to be realized.

Continuing support for other affected families in Agusan del Sur and Surigao del Sur
Balay Mindanaw has again facilitated the distribution of 100 food packs, non-food items and hygiene kits to some 100 families in Lingig, Surigao del Sur on 30 December 2012. A total of 100 sets of these items were also given to HEED Foundation, Inc. (HFI) in Sta. Josefa, Agusan del Sur that facilitated the actual distribution to families who are most in need. We also have personally distributed three kilos of rice, clothing, and some food and hygiene packs to 300 families in Barangays Awao and Poblacion, Sta. Josefa. Two solar lanterns have also been shared for communal use as not all of the areas have already their electrical connections back.

These are some of the major interventions and support that we have extended with your continued support and trust in us.

SUMMARY REPORT OF FINANCIAL STATUS (as of 10 January 2013)
We will upload into our website http://www.balaymindanaw.org the detailed report on donations and resource utilization.
FINANCIAL STATUS REPORT: as of 10 January 2013
AVAILABLE BALANCE PhP 9,335,995.20
Initial DR Fund in Various Accounts PhP671,108.00
CASH DONATIONS RECEIVED PhP 12,008,959.35
CASH DISBURSEMENTS PhP3, 344,072.15

LATEST CHALLENGES
There still exists the need for continued support for food, hygiene kits (mosquito nets, napkins), and kitchen wares. Medicines most particularly for fever, colds and cough, and diarrhea have become an urgent need; this they attribute to the unpredictable weather they have after Pablo.

The need for transitional shelters especially for the home-based IDPs has also been raised. We have started providing shelter repair kits consisting of 12 GI corrugated sheets, plain sheets and 5 kilos of assorted nails amounting to P4, 000.00/household; however they said they still need other materials to build back their houses. Rentals for chainsaw use and price for good lumbers despite the coconut logs around have gone very high that they do not have money to pay or could no longer afford to pay.

At the macro level, Barangay Ban-ao households are mostly situated very near to the coastal area that when gauged according to the standards on easement and safety, all these would be considered under no-build zone or at high-risk areas. This requires the entire barangay to find a secure relocation site the soonest time, especially now that it has become a favorite path of at least 20 typhoons per year. As estimated, at least three-hectare of land is needed for the present population and number of households including the basic infrastructures for the barangay site.

The need for livelihood opportunities is also being raised during the latest meetings. Quick skills inventory and other related assessments have already been conducted by KPMFI. This resulted in the identification of vegetable seeds, ready-to-plant coconut trees, and fishing boats and gears for the immediate time. Other sources of income for daily, weekly, monthly, every 6 months, and annually shall be identified in the next scheduled meetings.

These needs if not met the soonest time might lead to increased social problems including human trafficking in the area, especially among girl and boy children, and women.

The need for a more pro-active coordination among humanitarian assistance groups in partnership with the local leadership is critical and should be addressed the soonest time to help prevent or mitigate harm that would result to violence in the long run.

In the face of these challenges, we remain steadfast and committed to accompany these communities.
Thank you for being with us through the years, and for believing in our advocacy for barangay-focused interventions as a way of pursuing our work for equity, development, peace, and now to include disaster response and resiliency-building.

Balay Mindanaw

Ganito Tayo Noon and Our Imagined Communities

January 12, 2013

Ganito Dance 2013

Dekada 70 Ed

The Bohol activists of the 70s who gathered at the reunion were an interesting and inspiring mix. I recall that they included a CA judge and a UP economist, a number of mayors and former mayors, priests and ex-priests, NGO workers and organic agriculturists, a banker and returning overseas professionals.

In their brief speeches, both judge and economist said that the spirit of Dekada 70 continues to influence their life and work. They look for ways to promote social justice and uplift the poor, though their work seem far removed from the activism of our youth. Our follow-up conversations pursued the same topic, applied to the field of local governance and the role of overseas Filipinos.

Dekada 70 is more immediately associated with the struggle for social justice (for the left, a code for socialism), and what Christians call “a preferential option for the poor” – interpreted in left politics as taking sides in class struggle. The imposition of martial law in 1972 framed this in more dramatic political terms, as resistance against repression, crossing over to revolution.

Forty years later, this Dekada 70 passion for social justice and uplifting the poor needs to be reframed in the dialectics of reform and revolution, avoiding the twin pitfalls of “reformism” and “revolutionism.”

Dekada 70 and Nationalism

At some point in our Bohol conversations, I essayed that the spirit of Dekada 70 is also a commitment to the nation, national liberation, and nation-building.

We may choose to focus on local engagements, given the possibilities of participatory local governance, and the absence of a credible “general political line.” But Dekada 70 is a reminder and challenge that we must somehow relate these local projects to a national project.

Of course the project and its context are more complicated. There is the reality of globalization (and globalism as an ideology). There is the Filipino diaspora, permanent and temporary. There is the legitimate assertion of self-determination by the Bangsa Moro people, and the marginalization of indigenous peoples’ communities. The impact of climate change  is increasing in frequency and intensity.

In the face of these challenges, there is even more reason to criticize not just the abuses and corruption, but the incompetence of most of our dominant “national” elite.

What about those of us who still keep alive the nationalist spirit of Dekada 70? Walso need to rethink, and reimagine, the nation that we seek to build and transform.

In addition to the classical categories of class and state, we need to incorporate ethnicity and gender, biodiversity and culture. There is need to reconceptualize the relationship between the national and local, the national and global, the global and the local (glocal).

Our energies may be committed to specific issues, specific sectors, and specific places. Dekada 70 asks us to find ways to link them to building the nation as our “imagined community.”

Benedict Anderson popularized the idea of  “imagined communities.” Applied to the Philippines, we will never personally meet or know every Filipino and Filipina, but we include them in our imagined Philippine nation, as kababayan. He adds the qualification, often unmentioned, that the nation is an imagined “political” community that is inherently 1) limited and 2) sovereign.

Ganito Tayo Noon as Our Imagined Community

There is a passage from Benedict Anderson that is a bridge to the idea of Ganito Tayo Noon as our second imagined community:

“It is imagined as a community because, regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship. Ultimately it is this fraternity that makes it possible…for so many millions of people, not so much to kill, as willingly to die for such limited imaginings.”

Reading this evokes a double imagining: The first is about the larger imagined community of the Philippines, with fellow Filipinos singing the national anthem that ends with: “Ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo!” Or singing Bayan Ko which ends with: “Aking adhika / Makita kang sakdal laya!

Then there is the second, smaller, imagined community of the national democratic movement (expanded to include alliances).

It is this second imagined community that Ganito Tayo Noon represents and remembers. We didn’t meet or know, then or now, every participant in the movement. We did not agree, then or now, on all issues and choices. We may share a general hope and vision for a Philippines that is more just and inclusively developed, sovereign and globally competitive, sustainable and resilient. But we know that all these are contested concepts, and we do not, need not, always stand on common ground.

But still, we acknowledge what Anderson calls “deep horizontal comradeship” then, and celebrate it with both our experiencing selves and our remembering selves.

I want to end with Florante’s Handog, since its refrain can speak at many levels to activists of Dekada 70 and beyond. When I googled it, I found that Dolphy changed the lyrics of the first stanza, which we can also appropriate:

Parang kailan lang / ang mga pangarap ko’y kay hirap abutin
Dahil sa inyo / Napunta ako sa aking nais marating
Kaya’t nais ko kayong pasalamatan / kahit man lang sa isang awitin

Tatanda at lilipas din ako
Nguni’t mayro’ng awiting
Iiwanan sa inyong ala-ala
Dahil, minsan, tayo’y nagkasama

 

 

                                                                                                                          

                                                                                   

 

Ganito Tayo Noon and Our Remembering Self

January 11, 2013

Ganito Women 2013

Six days have passed since we gathered for our Ganito Tayo Noon reunion.

We have moved on since then, living our separate lives. But on Facebook, daily postings of photos and comments continue to connect us. Every time I scroll through these postings, I find some reason to smile. I usually call Girlie’s attention, and we share the chuckle.

Daniel Kahneman, the Nobel prize winner, who is one of our current and favorite reads, offers an insight into our continuing appreciation of Ganito Tayo Noon.

He proposes the idea that we have two selves – the experiencing self and the remembering self,

He writes: “It is a common assumption of everyday conversation that people can provide accurate answers to questions about their feelings, both past (e.g. How was your vacation?) and current (e.g. Does it hurt?).”

This distinction is mostly ignored, he says, but the two questions are different.

For example, during the Ganito Tayo Noon reunion, we ask each other: “Enjoy ka ba?” Our positive answers would reflect our immediate experience.

But days, and months, later, we ask each other: “Kumusta ang reunion?” Our equally positive  answers, according to Kahneman are the result of two actions: 1) accurate retrieval of feelings, and 2) reasonable integration of experiences that are spread over time.

From moment to moment: The experiencing self

He writes that an individual life could be described as “a string of moments.” A moment of “psychological presence” is generally estimated to last up to 3 seconds. That’s 20,000 moments in a waking day, and 500 million or more in a 70-year life.

What happens to those moments? His provocative answer: “They simply disappear. The experiencing self that lives each of these moments barely has time to exist.”

Alaala: The remembering self

When we ask each other, “How was the reunion?” Kahneman says that it is not the experiencing self that answers, but the remembering – and evaluating – self. This is the self that “keeps score and maintains records.”

Unlike the experiencing self, the remembering self is relatively stable and permanent: “It is a basic fact of the human condition that memories are what we get to keep from our experience, and the only perspective that we can adopt as we think about our lives is therefore that of the remembering self.”

He gives this examples of the dominance of the remembering self: A music lover listens raptly to a long symphony on a disk that is scratched near the end, producing an annoying sound. The description of the experience is that “the bad ending ruined the whole experience!” But in fact, the experience was not ruined, only the memory of it. The bad ending did not undo the listening pleasure of the preceding half hour. The remembering self confuses experience with memory.

Ganito Tayo Noon: Experiencing what we choose to remember

According to Kahneman, our remembering self does not, cannot, keep a complete record. We do not retrieve all our memories.

How does a remembering self judge a particular episode? Mainly through the “peak moments” (good or bad), and especially how the episode ends.

That offers an insight into the appeal of Ganito Tayo Noon.

Our reunion is not simply a day-long series of fun-filled moments for our experiencing self. The day-long experience is itself a way of remembering chosen peak moments of “the way we were.”

There are reunions, planned and unplanned, where our remembering selves may be tempted to declare that “the bad ending ruined the whole experience.” Good feelings about the peak moments of our shared lives in the struggle may be “ruined” by how badly a particular episode ended – EDSA 1986 removed the dictator (good) but excluded the left from claiming our fair share (bad). Post EDSA, there were debates, initially healthy (g00d), but eventually leading to mutual excommunications and hostile divisions (bad).

At Ganito Tayo Noon we remember by experiencing what the peak moments felt when we were united, not without contradictions, but by a sense of shared purpose and excitement that our struggle was advancing toward a desired and desirable future.

At Ganito Tayo Noon, we choose to experience our remembrance of comradeship as a shared identity, bound by mutual respect and inspiration,  adding meaning and value to our experiences, good and bad, humdrum and dramatic.

I think back to Rico J. Puno’s wistful lyrics of The Way We Were:  Alaala  / nang tayo’y mag-sweetheart pa / Namamasyal pa sa Luneta / na walang pera

As activists, we could feel the same as we sing: Alaala / nang tayoý mag-comrade pa / Nagmamartsa pa sa Mendiola / Na walang pera

The future as anticipated memories

One last thought from Kahneman. When we plan and look forward to a vacation (or a reunion), he says that we not only think of what we will be experiencing. We are already anticipating the pleasure of remembering.

The Way We Were (2013)

January 6, 2013

The Way We Were

Every year, on the first Saturday of January, at the Alpadi estate in Antipolo City, we gather for a day.

It’s a reunion of activists, most of us from the national democratic revolutionary movement – color coded “Reds.” But it’s open to anyone who has taken part in any form of struggle against the martial law regime.

We arrive at the place, some as early as 9 AM, register, get a name tag, pay a fee for the lunch and afternoon merienda. No questions asked about our politics then, or now.

The Ganito Tayo Noon reunion simply offers a welcoming space. It’s up to the participants to use the space and time as they please.

There is good food, enough for seconds, courtesy of our host Alex Padilla, who generously pays for what our registration fees can’t cover. There are even vegetarian dishes for those who have asked in advance, arranged by Liza Dacanay.

And like any Pinoy gathering, in addition to food, there’s music, mainly spontaneous – from those present and willing to sing. When Heber Bartolome’s band came last year, we had an impromtu jam that led to some people dancing, notably Bobbie Malay and Peter Mutuc, as the band played the pop songs of our generation. This year, with a second band Sinaglahi joining, there was even more singing and dancing.

Some ask why the Ganito Tayo Noon reunion of political activists is deliberately “apolitical.” There is no effort to  organize the whole gathering as a platform for any political project. Those seeking to push specific agenda are free to do so, but in private conversations.

Why so?

Using the language of Facebook, there was a time when we could describe our “Relationship” to one another in the movement as “comrade,” and make that a basis for accepting or asking one other to be a “friend.”

Now, the safest way to describe our relationship is: “It’s complicated.”

The reunion’s name and theme, Ganito Tayo Noon, is not a refusal to face the contradictions of the present and the recent past. We simply choose to remember the shared sense of belonging to a movement and a struggle that our generation can be proud of.

This sense of pride is obvious during the photo sessions. Participants pose in groups according to their work in the movement: Trade unions, peasants, urban poor, indigenous people, teachers, health workers, student youth (UP, University Belt, Intramuros-Taft), church people, open mass movements and alliances, the women’s movement,  propaganda and media, finance, united front, international, armed struggle. There’s good-natured heckling of those who join the wrong group, and also surprise to find out what people did in the underground.

Whatever our differences, our involvement in the struggle has “implicated” us with one another, our memories and feelings like intertwined roots and branches. We can not easily disentagle ourselves from each other, and may not really want to. Tempted to cut clean, we are averse to the loss of the shared meanings we used to have. Or  are they what we think they were?

Looking at the photos from yesterday’s reunion, I recall the song “The Way We Were.”

Scattered pictures / of the smiles we left behind / smiles we gave to one another / for the way we were

Can it be that it was all so simple then? / Or has time re-written every line? / If we had the chance to do it all again / Tell me, would we? Could we?

Mem’ries / may be beautiful and yet / What’s too painful to remember / We simply choose to forget

So it’s the laughter / we will remember / whenever we remember / the way we were.

It’s not just the laughter. More. Much more.

Let me end with Edna Aquino’s Facebook comment on one of the photos:

Behind the smile / laughter of each of us are stories of survival, of identity, of pain, trauma, celebration, joy, growth, age-ing, parenting, relationships, coping with health issues, grief, losses, anger and frustration with the injustice that we are still seeing or experiencing around us and perseverance.

Some have moved on; some have closures; others are still in the process of healing; most still persevere to contribute to that social change and that vision of society that have embraced 3 or 4 or 5 decades ago (depends on where one stands in the timeline of this movement) and in our unique ways.

The impact of that one day when we have allowed ourselves to be one – to smile, to laugh,to banter, to embrace each other, to be a child, to be in solidarity – is an affirmation of our basic humanity. It is to be cherished forever. Something to nourish our hearts and spirit – a takeaway to last our next 360 or so days and even beyond.


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