YOU

For all the times I heard you say “I love you”
And silently exclaim “why not me?”
When I chose to love countless others,
but failed;

For all the times you tried to hold my hand
And touched my back,
And brushed your hand through my hair,
And leaned your body against mine;

For all the times when you would talk to me
And share your stories with glowing eyes
And excited breaths and expressive hands;

I wonder,
What really did you want me to feel?
What really did you want me to say?

Did you want me to say “I love you” back
Or tell you it had been you all along?

When truth is, I was afraid
Afraid that I would get hurt
By whom I’ve written these poems for
For years — a decade even,
And sang these sad songs for.

Three Stars and a ‘K’

First published in Pinoy Weekly.

—–

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Three Stars and a ‘K’

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Youth activists in the US of A: militant and proud of heritage. Photo courtesy of Anakbayan USA

Red flags with yellow print of three stars and a “K” — the Baybayin letter “K”, that is (for“kabataan” or youth).

Seeing videos of eleven of these with the name of each chapter at the bottom of each flag (and one with that of League of Filipino Students-San Francisco State University) waving in unison to the tune of Tambisan’s“Dakilang Pakikibaka” (Great Struggle) at Anakbayan USA’s second National General Assembly gives me so much hope for the motherland’s future.

One might think these ‘kids’ gathering now in Seattle, Washington, USA would be your typical Fil-Am cousin, nephew, niece or grandkid whom you find entertaining when trying to talk in Filipino with a twang while having their family vacation in the Philippines.

But then, you hear them chanting “Lumalakas, lumalawak, lumalaban, Anakbayan!”,“Imperyalismo, Ibagsak! Burukratakapitalismo, Ibagsak! Pyudalismo, Ibagsak!”“Makibaka, huwag matakot!”“Mag-aral, maglingkod, mangahas na makibaka, LFS!” and “Kabataang Makabayan, Lumalaban! Kabataang Lumalaban, Makabayan!” — in crisp, straight, without accent, Filipino way.

I bet you’re thinking, “Do these kids even know what these words mean?” Big words, right?

More than 200 Filipino youth and students are gathering this weekend of January 16-18 for the conference entitled Kabataan, Magkaisa! Strengthen the Unity of Filipino Youth to Build a Brighter Future”. They will be tackling socially relevant issues such as Philippine sovereignty, the state of education, im/migrants and workers’ rights, women and LGBTQ rights, indigenous peoples’ rights, relief and rehabilitation for disaster-stricken areas in the Philippines and what it means to be in solidarity with other ethnic groups and nationalities, including our African-American and Central American sisters, brothers, friends and comrades. So it would be safe to say that yes, they do know what they are chanting about when even as youth and students, they are already confronting these kinds of issues, big as they are.

Two years from now, I will be crossing over the United Nations’ stipulated age limit (35 years old). But as early as now, I am already comforted by the fact that there are younger people out there who are already thinking beyond themselves and who are also taking up the fight for Philippine national liberation and democracy – despite being miles and miles away from the motherland, and more so, despite being right in the belly of the imperialist beast.

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Photo courtesy of Anakbayan USA

They may still be young and in high school, in college, out of school or working their asses off in offices, restaurants, institutions or not-for-profit organizations aside from organizing within their mass organizations. But seeing the membership of Anakbayan USA grow from 5 chapters (when I was still a part of Anakbayan New York/New Jersey a decade ago) to 11 chapters in key cities throughout the United States, and with the perspective of rebuilding Sandiwa, the national alliance of Filipino youth and students in the US, makes the future really promising — not just for them, but for the communities that they serve as well.

Some may consider them progressive, leftist or call them “activists”, and that may not suit well for the elders, but wouldn’t you at least be proud of your kids that they are doing something socially relevant with their lives instead of getting wasted or spending all their time in front of computers or video games (not to say that it’s bad to engage in these activities every once in a while)? That they are trying to learn more about their roots and history as a people and that they are trying to change the world for the better with as little or much experience as they have?

Some parents may be against these young peoples’ activism, but having experienced this within my own family during my first few years of being an ‘activist’, I personally totally feel you. We truly do. And we are not actually asking for your concern for your children to waver. The love for our children and the feeling of getting worried for them will always be there.

But equally, or more than this, let us support them and be proud of them. That at a young age, they are already thinking about the future – both theirs and ours — and that they are realizing the power of collective action and are nurturing their sense of community. If there is also one thing that I have learned in my youth as a member of Anakbayan, it is that the youth cannot accomplish anything on their own without linking arms with other sectors of society, especially the workers, the peasants and the most marginalized, oppressed and exploited members of the society who comprise the majority.

The fact is, no matter what we tell them to do or what we want them to pursue, they will create their own path, and, cliché it may be, their own experiences will still be their best teacher. And wouldn’t the youth’s experience be more empowering and less burdened if we are all in this together and we extend our support to them in these endeavors of protecting our communities, our rights and our future? We are, after all, also a receiving end of their arduous efforts.

If I were to have my own children, I would want them to be a part of Anakbayan USA’s 50th, or maybe even 100th, chapter. Or to push it even further, when time comes that we can all come back home to the motherland, be part of Anakbayan Philippines’ what, 1,000th chapter? That is, if it hasn’t even reached that number of chapters yet as of this writing!🙂

So, for all of you, young people, who are now in Seattle, be bold and daring and show us, older people, that you are responsible enough to build a new world! There are tens of thousands of us out here who got your back! And thank you for being the young people that you all are.🙂

17 January 2016

Para sa iyo, 2015.

Para maiba naman. Isulat-kamay natin. Hehe. Hapi nyu yir, Pilipinas! Habol kami mamaya! 😄

———-

PARA SA IYO, 2015.

Salamat. Hindi mo ako binigo. You weren’t the best, but you were good enough.🙂 And you were somehow better than the previous year. Kung may pinatunayan ka man, iyon ay ang kaya kong tumayo muli at magsimula nang panibagong paglalakbay – maaaring may mga panahong mag-isa, pero mas matingkad iyong kaagapay ang mga kasama.

Nariyan iyong mga panibagong hamon – nagsimula sa trabahong housekeeping sa simula ng taon, bumukod at lumipat sa bagong komunidad kasama ang alagang pusang si Pancho (na isa sa mga pinaka-masasayang nangyari ngayong taon), at ang paghamon sa sarili na muling pik-ap-in ang bisikleta at gawin itong regular na parte ng halos pang-araw-araw na pamumuhay (well, maliban ngayong winter). Nariyan din ang unang beses na mag-whitewater rafting at ang unang pagkakataong makapunta sa Northern California. Maaaring sa iba ay maliliit na bagay lamang ang mga ito, pero ilan ito sa mga highlights ng taong ito sa personal na lebel.

Pero higit sa mga ito, nariyan ang kampanyang #SaveMaryJaneVeloso na muling nagpatunay sa lakas at kawastuhan ng sama-samang pagkilos at ng proletaryadong internasyunalismo.

Naganap din ang International Peoples’ Tribunal (IPT) na, bukod sa marami na namang mga bagong kasamang nakilala at muling nakadaupang-palad ang mga kasama noong nasa unibersidad pa, ay lalu pang naglantad sa kabulukan ng estado at nagbigay ng pag-asa na makakamit din ang hustisya sa hinaharap.

Nariyan din ang kampanyang #StopLumadKilllings na umani ng suporta mula sa mas malawak na hanay (sa tulong na rin ng #AlDub, ngunit lalu nang mahusay na pagdadala at pagpapatakbo ng kilusan sa mga kampanyang masa). Ipinakilala rin nitong lalo ang kagandahan, kasaganahan sa likas na yaman at lakas ng mamamayan ng Mindanao, na patuloy na binibiktima ng terorismo ng estado. Sa kabila ng pagmamalupit na ito ay nakilala rin natin ang mga pinaslang ng mga elemento ng estado na tulad nila Tatay Emok, Ka Onil, Datu Bello, at NPA Commander na si Ka Parago – na sa libu-libo ay nagbigay ng pag-asa at nagsilbing inspirasyon upang patuloy na itayo at ipaglaban ang isang lipunang mas maaliwalas. Ilan lamang ito sa mga tampok na aral, kaganapan at mga pangyayari sa taong nakalipas.

Ang 2015 ay taon ng pagsasaayos sa mga nararapat ayusin, pagkokonsolida, puspusang pag-aaral, pagtatasa, paglalagom sa mga karanasan, pagpuna at pagpuna sa sarili, at pagpapatuloy nang mas masikhay sa mga gawain. Ito rin ay taon ng mga bagong silang (literal, dahil maraming ipinanganak.. hehe).

Tulad nang unang nasabi, ang 2015 ay “good enough”. Bakit hindi the best? Dahil “the best is yet to come!” At ‘yan. ‘Yan ang panata sa darating na 2016.🙂

ISANG MAPAGPALAYANG BAGONG TAON SA LAHAT!

HELLO, 2016!

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“Allegiance”

Today, I watched my first ever Broadway show (I know, I’ve been living in NY for many years now and sure, I’ve seen off-Broadway shows, but never really made the time and never had the money or even saved up for those real ‘Broadway’ shows all these years). But today, I finally watched. Salamat, Mama Renz, for the tickets (she gave it to my mami as a gift and I got tagged along — well, that’s another story so I’ll just let my mom tell hers). As for me, though, thoughts were already running through my mind all throughout the show. My love for theater has once again been fired up and my dream to direct a play/show or even act in one resurfaced once more. Theater arts was actually my third choice for college (after Fine Arts and Journalism, as my first and second, respectively), and I’ve always said that had I not been active with the student council in college, I would have joined the UP Rep. I guess it also helped that it was “Allegiance” and Lea Salonga and George Takei were the main performers. I especially loved Lea’s character, her husband in the play, Frankie, and her father. I won’t spill any more, but I do recommend for folks to watch. Aaaanndd.. I’d have to admit it was a good one for my first Broadway show.🙂

PS: Plus the production design was also amazing! Looks simple, but amazing.🙂

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3 years!

Tito Boy

Every Filipino clan, they say, has its own version of Tito Boy. Ours just passed away last night due to heart attack. Tito Boy, Alfonso Bagtas, is my mom’s youngest sibling (my mom is the eldest of 8).

Tito Boy had been the most ‘malambing’ tito, always the emcee at family reunions and one of the tito singers of the family but one who would always join singing contests and, as I remember, would always have duets with my mami. The total performer, as they say. I would have to give him the credit for instilling in me that one has to always be at performance level when singing/performing (although sometimes, I’m not at par).

He was also one of the 2 most visible titos while I was growing up (I only had the chance to know most of my relatives from my mom’s side, and by ‘visible’, meaning aside from family reunions), since both our families lived in Mandaluyong at the same time. And even when we moved to Pasig, and they, to Laguna, we would still see each other at school retreats and functions since he was teaching at the Dominican School of Sta. Rosa Laguna and I was studying at UST High School, which is also run by the Dominicans.

I can just imagine how hard it would be for an eldest — the panganay — to lose her youngest sibling — the bunso — who treated her like his second nanay after my lola, that I had to travel 3 hours back to upstate NY on a weeknight, on peak hours, also having to miss work the next day, and be with my mom when my eldest sister delivers the news to her. That sacrifice, though, is minuscule as compared to my mom not being able to come home for her youngest brother’s — her original bunso’s — wake or funeral, for obvious reasons that she’s thousands of miles away and that scarcity in resources is something that migrant workers also have to contend with (contrary to what kababayans in the homeland might think that ‘OFWs’ have a lot of money in hand). In her absence, all she hoped was for some of the contents of the balikbayan box that was meant to be for my tito could have reached him in time for Christmas, especially since she reprimanded him a few months back for something he was not able to deliver. But that won’t happen now.

Standing in front of the house where my mom takes care of an elderly (mind you, she, herself, is turning 70 this month), waiting for her to open the door knowing she wasn’t expecting me and that I just had to be by her side when my ate tells her the news, was probably one of the longest seconds of my life. But more than grief, this propels me to ask friends, and everyone, actually, to think of a future wherein millions of Filipinos would not have to go through something like this again. This may sound too preachy or cheesy, however you would like to take a look at this. But I really do hope millions of Filipinos would not have to learn about a death in the family this way, stuck in the thought that nothing else can be done and that we can’t see family members one last time before they’re sent to their resting place. Let us please change this and let us not allow this to continue. Our OFWs, our migrant workers, our families, deserve better.

Salamat, Tito Boy, sa lahat. Pasens’ya na rin at naging reflection post pa itong post ko tungkol sa iyo. Pero pahinga ka na. At tuloy ang kantahan kung nasaan ka man ngayon! Salamat din sa huling comment mo sa post ko last week. Mami-miss ka namin!

On Lumads, Dumagats and Indigenous Peoples’ Resistance

It’s past 4:30 am and I just can’t sleep thinking about our Lumad brothers and sisters who are being displaced, killed and raped as we write and speak. I remember the indigenous children and organizer I met way back in 2007 and the stories they shared — the shock, pain, fear and instability that the Philippine military and government have sown in their minds and hearts, but at the same time, the strength and resistance as a community these state harassment, terrorism and militarization have instilled and cultivated in them.

8 years and under a new President, but the same ‘counter-insurgency programs’ are still being implemented by the Philippine government — Oplan Bantay Laya under Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s time, Oplan Bayanihan under Benigno Simeon Aquino III’s — all for the sake of profit and subservience to their imperialist masters.

The Dumagats are from the North, while the Lumads are from the South. But they have the same government, only under different names, whose perpetual goal in life is to kill any form of collective resistance by the people — because it could not provide what these communities can for their own, because it cannot accept the fact that the communist rebels have done more for these communities than any of their leaders combined.

‪#‎SaveOurSchools‬‪ #‎StopKillingIndigenousPeoples‬‪ #‎StopLumadKillings‬‪ #‎EndImpunity‬

———-

Avatar in Real Life

NOTE: This was written originally in Filipino. But English translation is provided below for those who cannot understand Tagalog. Whew. Nosebleed. Hehe.

———————–

Dahil magba-bagong taon na naman, naisipan kong mag-ayos ng mga gamit. At nakita ko ang isang notebook kung saan naroon ang ilang mga naisulat ko noong 2007 na hindi ko na naipasok sa blog.

Ilan sa mga ito ay ang mga linyang tumatak sa isip ko mula sa mga naging pag-uusap namin ng isang organisador ng mga katutubo at ng isa sa mga batang Dumagat (katutubo mula sa Quezon) na naging estudyante namin sa Kampo Sining Pambata (KSP)* noong May 2007.

Heto ang ilan sa mga sipi mula sa mga pag-uusap:

“‘Yang mga kapitalista na ‘yan, sana masubukan nila ang kumain nang gabi lang. Tumira sila sa amin para maramdaman nila ang hirap.” – Ka Pio, organisador ng mga katutubong Dumagat

“Mas takot pa nga ang mga tao sa sundalo kesa sa NPA (New People’s Army). Ang mga NPA nga, ‘pag nakikidaan, walang dalang mga baril. Tinuturuan pa nilang magbasa ‘yung mga bata. Samantalang ‘yung mga sundalo, hinahabas pa nila at tinatapak-tapakan pa ang mga tanim naming mga palay. Pati ‘yang mga dayuhang monopolyo kapitalista na ‘yan, magpapatayo sila ng dam pero ang totoo, gusto lang nila minahin lahat ng ginto na makukuha sa lugar namin. Tapos, paaalisin nila kami sa mga tirahan namin. Saan na kami pupulutin?” – Ka Pio

“Ay, ‘pag binaril nila ang kapatid ko, iiyak talaga ako. Barilin na lang din nila ako.” – ang batang Dumagat na si Lerma, nang marinig ang kwento ni Grecil Buya, isang batang pinatay ng sundalo dahil pinagbintangang NPA

“‘Pag pinaalis nila kami, lalaban na talaga kami.” – Ka Pio

Mahigit dalawang taon na ang nakaraan pero patuloy pa rin ang malawakang displacement at ang pangangamkam ng estado at monopolyong kapitalista sa mga lupaing sa simula’t sapul ay inalagaan, kinalakhan, at tinirhan ng mga kanunu-nunuan pa ng mga kapatid na katutubo.

Pero habang tumitindi ang panggigiit at panlalapastangang ito, hindi rin mapipigilan, at sa halip, ay patuloy pang lumalakas ang pag-oorganisa ng mga katutubo [http://katribu.org], kasama ang buong sambayanan, upang labanan ang mga sakim sa yaman at kapangyarihan.

———————-

Because it’s new year once again, I decided to clean up. And I found my notebook on which I have written some things in 2007 that I wasn’t able to post on my blog.

Some of these were lines that stuck in my memory from my conversations with an organizer of indigenous peoples and with one of the Dumagat kids (indigenous from the province of Quezon) who became our student in the Summer Art Camp for Kids* in May 2007.

Here are some quotes from the conversations:

“Those capitalists, they should experience eating only during the night (or not really sure if by ‘gabi’, he meant ‘taro’). They should live among us so they would know how hard life is.” – Ka Pio, organizer of the indigenous Dumagat

“The people are more afraid of the military than the NPA. The NPAs, when they pass by, they don’t carry arms. They even teach the children how to read. While the military, they ruin and step on our crops. Even those foreign monopoly capitalists, they said they will build dams, but in reality, they only want to mine all the gold that they can find in our place. Then they will tell us to leave our homes. Where else do we go to?” – Ka Pio

“Ay, if they shoot my sibling to death, I will really cry. They can just shoot me, too.” – the Dumagat kid, Lerma, upon hearing the story of Grecil Buya, a child who was killed by the military and was accused of being an NPA

“If they tell us to leave, we will really fight back.” – Ka Pio

It’s been more than two years but the widescale displacement and grabbing by the state and the monopoly capitalist of the lands, which had been nurtured, inhabited and where even the ancestors of our indigenous brothers and sisters were raised in, still persist.

But while the harassment and total disrespect intensify, the organizing by indigenous peoples cannot be preempted and instead, continues to strengthen [http://katribu.org], one with the whole nation, in fighting against those who thirst for wealth and power.

Dumagat kids: Lerma, Mariel, Cecil at Jennifer &=)

Dumagat kids: Lerma, Mariel, Cecil at Jennifer &=)

Dumagat kids, mga kabataang katutubo mula sa Quezon na naging estudyante namin sa KSP, habang nasa art class.ü

Dumagat kids, mga kabataang katutubo mula sa Quezon na naging estudyante namin sa KSP, habang nasa art class.ü

Area assignments sa tulugan.ü

Area assignments sa tulugan.ü

*http://jonnabebeh.multiply.com/journal/item/52/Bata.

**http://jonnabebeh.multiply.com/photos/album/80/Kampo_Sining_Pambata_2007#

On Syria and Lumads

Let us not pit against each other the issues of the Syrians, the Lumads, the refugees and migrants being driven out of their lands. They, we, are all victims of imperialist wars and plunder, all for the sake of amassing more profits and territories — all for greed and desire for greater economic and political power. Let us unite, stand up and fight against these evils and struggle for a just and a more humane society!

IAMR: International Assembly of Migrants and Refugees, International Migrants Alliance – IMA, IMA USA International Migrants Alliance – USA Chapter

There are approximately 4 million Syrians who are now trying to escape death in Syria. Many are stranded, lost,…

Posted by Lemees Ys on Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Tatay Emok

Tatay Emok

Some may find me posting this as offensive. But I enjoin everyone to look at this photo, however visually unappealing, and try to look beyond what you see.

This is Emerito Samarca, Executive Director of the Alternative Learning Center for Agriculture and Livelihood Dev’t (ALCADEV) in Han-ayan, Liangga, Surigao del Sur. He was brutally killed inside the school by the elements of the 75th and 36th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Special Forces and bandit-paramilitary group of Calpit Egua, Marcos Bocales and Marcial Belandres. Two more were killed on the same day, Dionel Campos and Aurelio Sinzo, and hundreds more were evacuated due to the havoc caused by the militarization of Lumad communities.

What I see beyond Tay Emok’s lifeless and tortured body is a whole population of indigenous peoples struggling to fight for basic rights and services — health, education and livelihood — being systematically erased by the Philippine government in favor of big profits from large multi-national mining companies taking over the lands of our people — lands that they and their ancestors have nurtured for hundreds of years — to the extent of their own lives being taken away by these greedy, inhumane, monstrous politicians and big landlords and big comprador bourgeoisie.

While we may go about our own usual businesses of looking into our closets to decide on what to wear to office the next day, or checking out what movie to watch this coming weekend, hundreds of Lumads in another island of the Philippines are forced to move from barrio to barrio — for hundreds of kilometers each day — looking for safe havens to keep their families away from the fascist hands of the military operating under the chain of command of the President. All under the guise of Oplan Bayanihan, a “counter-insurgency” program devised to hunt down what they call “terrorists”. Is Tatay Emok a “terrorist”? Are Dionel and Aurelio “terrorists”? Are the Lumads “terrorists”? I’m pretty sure anybody who’s had the chance to meet them would shake their heads in indignation.

This is Tay Emok’s lifeless and tortured body. What do you see beyond the blood?

———-

Image from Rmp CenVis. Caption reads:

EMERITO SAMARCA, Executive Director of the ALTERNATIVE LEARNING CENTER FOR AGRICULTURE AND LIVELIHOOD DEV’T (ALCADEV), DIONEL CAMPOS, Chairman of MAPASU and his cousin BELLO SINZO, were killed by ELEMENTS of the ARMED PARA-MILITARY MAGAHAT/BAGANI FORCES @4am today, Sept 1, 2015 at the ALCADEV compound and km 16, Han-ayan, Brgy Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

The School and community was occupied by elements from 36th IBPA and SF, telling them to evacuate with in 2 days or they will be massacred. Residents are now in KM 16, asking for help.

STOP THE KILLINGS!
DISBAND AND PROSECUTE THE KILLERS!
STOP THE COLLUSION BETWEEN ARMED PARAMIL AND THE AFP!
JUSTICE FOR EMERITO, ONEL AND AURELIO!

PLS Spread!!!

F*ck you.

Seven out of twenty days just this month, I had dreams. In all seven, they had you. 

Please stay away from my dreams. They’re all I have.

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