Our column today shares a very personal and unforgettably inspiring family experience with our son Elimon on his 29th death anniversary on March 22, 2014. While this involves a deeply painful loss, more than anything else it is a wondrous meaningful event whereby God has lovingly touched our family life in the mysterious ways only deep faith can fathom. Our family, relatives and friends have been greatly enriched by this experience which coincides with this year’s season of Lent and Easter.
Our third child of five, Elimon turned 18 on May 4, 1984. Two months later, after several checkups and biopsy, Elimon was diagnosed with cancer of the lymph nodes, advanced at stage four. The world seemed to have caved in on our small, closely knit family’s orderly world. It was so tempting to ask why God allowed this to happen, particularly to a young, innocent and lovable boy. Nevertheless, we stifled our questions and concentrated on finding a possible cure for the cancer. For nine months, we struggled and prayed to find a cure. We consulted specialists; our son was in and out of clinics and hospitals for chemotherapy treatments. With relatives and friends, we prayed as we never prayed before. We also practically used up our limited financial resources. We were disposed to try anything within reason. But by February 1985, we sensed the hopelessness of the case. With the doctors nod in Manila, Elimon somehow was able to gain enough strength to fly home with us to Bacolod on March 7. On March 22, Elimon died peacefully in the hospital. With our mixed feelings was a sense of relief that he finally rested from months of suffering and pain.
We made this interruption of our column’s current discussion on the Philippine sugar industry to contribute our modest share on the historic celebration of the "EDSA People Power Revolution" 28 years ago. Basically, this unique historic event for our country has earned its rightful place in the annals of our nation because the importance of this event compares well with the significance of other equally historic events in our country. Our yearly recollection of EDSA 1986 remains unforgettable as it is an outstanding event which has greatly influenced the life of our people before and after 1986.
The basic question remains, however, as to what EDSA 1986 means to our people, especially for our coming generations. To answer this basic question, we need to recall again the essence of this event. Firstly, it was an occasion whose time had come because as experienced in similar cases by other nations, excessively oppressive public management cannot be tolerated indefinitely. As written by notable political scientists and by our own Filipino heroes such as Rizal, Bonifacio, Mabini and others, a people can only endure so much absence of freedom in their lives. This was the first major lesson of EDSA 1986.
Over the last several months of 2013, our column briefly shared some insights on historic lessons from several natural and man-made disasters in the country. Our approach in discussing these events, notably the Zamboanga conflict, the Bohol earthquake and the supertyphoon Yolanda was to suggest the convergent and universal management framework of planning, organizing, leading and control in the multi sectoral efforts to address these historic events. Today, we proceed with our mini-series on expectations of historic events for 2014 from which our people can also derive historic learnings. As we indicated earlier, we will include historically notable events affecting our country this year including various socio-economic, political, cultural and related other local or national events.
"Chiaroscuro", the dedicated title of our column, has never been so relevant with the events of the year 2013. To briefly recall, we chose this title for our column on our belief that so much of human history has been a "blending of light and darkness" or in practical terms, many events of the past have been a combination of positive and negative circumstances. Indeed, the various notable disastrous events of the outgoing year 2013 have been such a historical blending in our country of the positive and negative aspects of human life, of blessings and blessings in disguise.
In our November 19 issue, we gave a brief review of some initial historical insights on the impact of the November 8 "Super Typhoon Yolanda" which devastated many parts of the Visayas and some areas of Southern Luzon. In brief, we pointed out the "givens" or realities of the historic event which included, among others, the Philippine geographic location and history which made the country one of the world’s most vulnerable areas for tropical storms experiencing at least 20 or more such destructive natural phenomena annually over the past century. A good number of these disastrous natural events have brought untold destruction in loss of human lives and devastation to numerous physical facilities or infrastructures in many communities of the country. This particular historic factor should now more than ever make the government and private sectors, the populace as a whole, endeavor to work together to be more prepared to manage and cope better with the calamities and their destructive effects. This same historical lesson also applies to other natural calamities which have also happened in Philippine history such as earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, floods and other such disasters. Like tropical storms, the Philippines is also vulnerable to these other natural calamities due to its location and geography.
A second major historical insight we wish to focus on is the need for our people to learn to manage better the effects of the equally historic event of climate change. While the UN and other countries have been making studies, recommendations and plans to enable different nations to contribute to the worldwide effort to mitigate the harmful effects of climate change and related aspects of green house gasses and pollution, the Philippines itself needs to do more by way of mitigating the negative effects of pollution and other manmade activities which damage our air, sea and land resources, and thus contribute to the urgent worldwide efforts to prevent farther destruction of the fragile balance of nature. Again, this effort needs the concerted and sustained action of both the government and the citizenry.
As this column shared in our Nov. 12 issue, we join our people in commiserating with the terrible destruction brought to our nation by the super typhoon "Yolanda" (Haiyan in the international system) which has been described as the worst natural calamity in our nation’s history. While the initial statistics are still being tallied, the extent of devastation in many provinces of Eastern, Central and Western Visayas, plus part of Southern Luzon, clearly showed this natural disaster as the most calamitous in recent history, especially with its fearful record wind velocity and tsunami-like storm surges which destroyed many coastal communities. At this early date, the indescribable damage and especially the thousands of lives lost, hundreds of thousands injured and millions left homeless can only be documented for official, personal and historical purposes in the coming years as the relief and rehabilitation efforts continue.
At the outset, this column joins the rest of the nation in commiserating with fellow Negrenses and Filipinos on the recent historic tragedy, natural or manmade, which have adversely affected many of our people in different places in the country. From the Zamboanga conflict over the past several months, to the major earthquake which destroyed lives and properties including age-old heritage structures in Bohol and Cebu. And over the past several days, we are living witnesses to what many have described as possibly the worst typhoon (Yolanda) in the history of our country in recent times which has devastated lives and properties in many parts of Central Visayas, including areas in southern Luzon and northern Mindanao. As always, the main response is for all sectors concerned to work together to help the many people victimized to recover from the ruins left by the calamities.
Going back to the recently held Cinco de Noviembre 2013, Provincial Day Celebration, this column wishes to share with our readers relevant information and learnings or insights on the two activities conducted by the Negros Occidental Historical Council, Inc. with the support of the Neg. Occ. Provincial Government, namely, the annual "Forum on Local History and Culture" on Nov. 4 and the "On the Spot Painting Contest" on Nov. 5, 2013. To briefly summarize the feedbacks or observation of the selected fifty or so participants of the forum, mainly public and private school teachers and government and private sector representatives, the main responses of the participants to the question of suggestions for more effective teaching or dissemination of local history and culture in the province, include the following: 1. More relevant information made available to different sectors in the province on local history and culture; 2. More materials such as books and other publications, digital or social media facilities, films or audio visuals and tours or lakbay aral visits to historic sites; 3. Mapping of cultural and heritage sites and structures; 4. More relevant programs on history and culture in schools and communities; 5. Training of teachers and other sector representatives to make history and culture more interesting; 6. Integration of local history and culture in the curriculum in public and private schools in all levels. 7. Government and private sectors support for more research activities and information on Negros history and culture.
On Nov. 5 this year, Negrenses commemorate again the annual Cinco de Noviembre, our Provincial Day, and the 115th Anniversary of this historic event for Negros Occidental. In keeping with its commitment to assist the Provincial Government in its programs related to the history and culture of our province, the Negros Occidental Historical Council, Inc., with the support of the Provincial Government, is conducting its annual Forum on Local History on Nov. 4 and the "On the Spot Painting Contest" on Nov. 5, 2013 today. As in the past years, these activities are intended to help our provincemates, especially our youth, to meaningfully recall and appreciate our local history and culture and in particular, notable Negrenses who gave much of their talents, efforts and resources towards contributing to the provincewide movement to bring about a better life for our people.
In response to our column title, Negrenses today need to first clarify the convergence of local and national history. All Negrenses, as with all Filipinos, should of course be knowledgeable about our national history. However, we also need to give due importance to our local history, especially to our leaders and fellow Negrenses who have generously dedicated much of their lives to our province, and in some historical events, even above and beyond the call of duty. This is precisely the significance of our Nov. 5, 1898 uprising against the Spanish colonial command in Negros. Our people, led by Gen. Juan Araneta for the southern forces, and Gen. Aniceto Lacson for the northern forces, brought about the historic Cinco de Noviembre revolutionary events in the history of our province. The story of this exceptional event has been told and written about in media and other sources of information which we hope will be more widely disseminated among our people.
September 21, 2013 marked the 41st anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law under Presidential Proclamation 1081 by the late ex-Pres. Ferdinand Marcos. The underlying purposes of proclamation 1081 were “to save the Republic and to build a New Society.” In our column today, we will add our share in the nationwide effort to shake off our amnesia of the horrors of Martial Law, “Philippine style,” as some writers have described it.
This brief issue will attempt to contribute to the accumulation of knowledge and memory of that historic event and respond to the continuing question of a dark memory which continues to haunt our people until today. But one basic question needs to be answered. How has the specter of Martial Law brought about their fearful apparitions which remain unexorcised after 41 years. One response to this question, therefore, is to ask how the people today recall the haunting of September 21, 1972. Unfortunately, these questions can only be answered by the older generation or those who have experienced some of the terrors of those years. Obviously therefore, our younger generation today who were not yet born 41 years ago have no memories of the “dark nights” of 1972 and the following years. It was recently announced in media that the Philippine schools will now officially include the Martial Law years as learning topics from elementary to college years. Nevertheless, as Rizal’s legacy left to us, we must not forget the past, especially those that haunt our people. This anniversary is also a blessed time to remember our people who have “fallen during the night”.
In our August 20 issue, we briefly discussed the basic aspects of history: its roots, meanings and values. We also noted the focus of this writer on two historic figures who have highlighted the values of history. One was George Santayana who is widely quoted for his forewarning that "those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." The other figure is our own national hero, Jose Rizal, who also advised that those who do not look back to their origins will not accordingly reach their destination. With this brief introduction, our column today contributes its share to the current nationwide controversy on the alleged "Pork Barrel Scam" arising from the government Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) which has aroused so much nationwide indignation on the widely perceived gross abuse and corruption of this public fund in the face of widespread social and economic miseries among the people, especially the countless poor.
What are the historic roots of the "pork barrel" fund? Briefly, this can be traced from the early beginnings of government theories by ancient political philosophers in Greece and Rome. During the Middle Ages, such political incentives or misuse of government funds were already mentioned by writers such as Niccolo Machiavelli. Similar political practices were brought to America by the European immigrants and these became a common part of the political patronage system which also contributed to the corruption among some US government officials. When the Americans became in the 1900s the colonial rulers of the Philippines, the pork barrel system was also introduced to Philippine politics. After the brief Japanese WWII occupation, the early version of the pork barrel was already being followed and the scandalous abuse and corruption in the Japanese reparation funds were one of the most disgusting examples of urgent scarce resources needed by the country recovering from the destruction of the war, but with much of the fund assistance perceived to have been misused. The later versions of the pork barrel and patronage systems seem to have grown in magnitude until the more recent years with notable positive exceptions during the tenure of Presidents Ramon Magsaysay and Corazon Aquino. Today, the pork barrel system has become deeply ingrained with the political patronage system fueled by deeply rooted systemic corruption in many government and private sector areas. Thus, many public officials from the national to the local levels cannot seem to imagine a government without pork barrel funds much of which have been widely reported as outrageously misused for patronage, partisan and corruption purposes over the past decades.