Wednesday, November 3, 2010

FIGHT, FIGHT, FIGHT! (October 11, 2010)

October 2 is just another day for women.

Except for some, who consider it a D-Day, or perhaps a B-Day as in Britney, since it was when Ms. Spears was ordered to give her children to her ex-husband Kevin Federline after a judge orders her to submit to alcohol and drug testing and give up her joint custody privileges three years ago!

However, our University of the Philippines students tried extra hard to make our October 2 historical.

Or shall we say hysterical.

Before we could explain why “hysteria” comes from the Greek word for “uterus,” we were able to start turning last Saturday into our extension of the International Day of Older Persons celebration last Friday.

Our project was in Proj.3, Quezon City.

Our destination, or destiny, was the Lila Pilipina, or Liga ng mga Lolang Pilipina.

Not just to recognize the contributions of the elderly there, we were there ever since to examine issues that affect their lives.

And our lives, too.

Almost less than a hundred Gen Y, or Z, teenagers, from the U.P. National College of Public Administration and Governance to the U.P. Asian Institute of Tourism, enrolled in our Filipino 25 and Malikhaing Pagsulat 10 classes, trooped to #120-A Narra Street.

Thirteen years or so, while its office was still along Matimpiin, when we started with our personal advocacy, we were usually expecting around 50 lolas to welcome us.

Lately, it would be impossible to see them all, or at least half of their number.

Now, whose species are endangered?

According to their Executive Director, Mrs. Rechilda Extremadura, all in all there are 178 Filipino comfort women, but only 113 of them are still alive.

One of them is Felicidad de Guzman, or Lola Fely, who was born on 23 November 1927 in Masbate. When the Japanese Imperial Army invaded the Philippines, she was able to attend a class handled by a Japanese teacher. She enjoyed his class. However, her mother could not take it, especially when she began to speak Nippongo. A good student that she was, she became her teacher's pet. After taking part in a program for the soldiers who recently arrived, she was invited to go to their garrison right at the back of their school. Alone, she was nervous as she followed her teacher's instruction to enter a room. There, her hands were held forcibly by those militarymen whose kicks and slaps rendered her unconscious. When she woke up, it was a nightmare! She stayed inside that dark hell for three days as a sex slave. Her molesters allowed her to leave the moment she fell ill. As Lola Fely quietly cried as she picked bits and pieces of her sad story from her bad memory, one of our students tearfully made a promise to herself to teach others the lessons she learned from her newfound grandmother: “Bilang bahagi sa mga taong nagkaroon ng pagkakataon na mapakinggan ang mga kuwento nina Lola Fely, malaki ang papel na magagampanan ko sa pagpapaalala sa iba. Kung darating ang panahon na mapaglipasan na sila ng paghihintay, nasa ating mga kabataan ang susi upang ituloy ang kanilang nasimulang laban.” Her name is Ai Katagiri, a daughter of a Filipina who fell in love with a Japanese. Like Ai, Agnes Uzochika Aja is a product of a mixed marriage. She, a Fil-Nigerian taking up European Studies, cried a river outside after listening to Narcisa Claveria. Lola Isang admitted that she was raped not only by the Japanese soldiers but also by their Filipino collaborators in 1943 when she was barely 14 years old. Agnes, who grew up in the United States during the infamy of weapons of mass destruction, was torn between tears of joy and sorrow: “Masaya ako dahil nalaman ko ang kuwento ni Lola Isang dahil sa kaniya ko nakita ang masasamang epekto ng gera. Nasaksihan ko rin sa umagang ito ang katibayan ng loob ng mga lola. Ito ay isang umagang mananatili nang matagal sa aking kaisipan.”At first, fear hounded Mara de Guzman's heart and mind while all ears to the angry words of Ortencia Martinez, or Lola Orten, who was caged like a pig in a ship for three months. This Spanish mestiza -- who volunteered to go to Divisoria with her Tsinay friend, Julia Chu, to buy gifts for the lolas – tried to keep the faith to the lolas' cause: “Nakalulungkot na malaman na hindi pa sila nanalo sa kanilang laban sa korte. Sana makatulong ang aming pagpirma sa petisyon. Magkakaroon ulit sila ng laban sa Disyembre. Ipagdarasal ko na sana manalo na sila.” While some of them blogged or youtubed their stories, others published it in a literary folios. Our MP 10 students will their masterpieces tomorrow during the regular Conspiwriters' Tuesdays at the Conspiracy Garden Cafe. Only a dozen of the lolas made it to the Lila Pilipina's office that day. To this day, they are all benifitting from the sacrifice of Ma.Rosa Luna Henson, the very first Filipino comfort woman to surface, who in March 1993, attended the first International Public Hearing on Military Sexual Slavery by Japan, organized by concerned Japanese citizens, that urged the Japanese government then to admit, after six months, that the “Japanese military was directly or indirectly involved with the comfort stations. Lolas who are in their 80s or 90s are still weeping for justice: (1) from the Japanese government if and when if will issue a formal apology to the lolas dishonored by sexual violence; (2) from the Japanese government after it finally includes in their history books the reality of military sexual slavery during World War II as a crime against humanity; (3) from the payment of compensation as penalty to the lolas and their families. After 17 years, these 12 elderly women have been fighting for their lives to tell. The morning we visited the lolas, one of our students jokingly asked us: “Sir, why are you late?.” We simply smiled without telling them our own little battles. That before we could leave the house, we had to give a mom a bath. A doctor, our 81-year old mother is now a patient with severe Alzheimer's disease.

Recently, another group of strong women, led by curator Norma Liongoren and critic Prof. Flaudette Mae Datuin -- waged war against cancer.

Artists, students and other supporters have organized Go, Jigs, Fight! in honor of painter/professor Yasmin Almonte or Jigs who is battling an extremely rare Stage 3 sarcoma that originated from her jawbone. To help her carry the load of expensive chemotherapy procedures and reconstructive surgery, her friends create the following fund-raising activities: (1) nude and portrait sketchings at Liongoren Gallery on October 23, starting at 2 p.m.; (2) exhibit and silent auction of donated artworks, and the products of the said session on October 24-30; (3) an afternoon of socials and raffle of artworks, October 30, 2 p.m. onwards. Raffle tickets are now available at P5,000 each. Tickets are now available at Liongoren Gallery, 111 New York, Cubao. For more details, please call Erika at 912 4319. Some of the people responsible for this endeavor are the same good soul behind the success of Future Ko! A Fund-Raising Doll Fair at The Podium Activity Center 2008. One of the artists -- like National Artist Abdulmari Imao and Mauro Malang Santos -- who made the dolls for underprivileged kids was Prof. Almonte herself.

Dr. Gil Vicente, the Philippine Society of Oncology's Committee on Social Responsibility chair, told us that PSO is in fullsupport of the use of graphic health warnings on cigarette packages. He reminded us PSO believes in such activities as the implementation of the World Health Organization guideline of placing pictures of the ill effects of smoking; the banning of smoking in schools, hospitals, government and private offices, entertainment centers and similar places; and the conducting of anti-smoking campaign seminars for students and other interested parties. By the way, it was Dr. Vicente who in early 2000 fulfilled our dream of giving PSO-sponsored expressive arts therapy sessions for cancer survivors with the late Wilson Ma, another wounded healer.


Q. Most boat owners name their boats. What is the most popular boat name
A. Obsession


Go through life like a child.

Always trusting,

Always full of simplicity and humility,

Content with everything, and happy in all circumstances.

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