Implementing Rules and Regulations Consultations for Martial Law Victims Continue

Public consultation on Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) that the Claims Board and the Memorial Commission drafted is now in Region VIII, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) announced today.

 This public consultation will continue nationwide. It started in the National Capital Region last month.

 The law mandates Human Rights Violations Victims Claim Board (HRVVCB), otherwise known as the Claims Board, and the Memorial Commission, two agencies attached but not under the CHR, to recognize and give reparations to the martial law survivors, victims and their relatives. They belong to a generation who stood up for democracy and freedom against former President Ferdinand Marcos’ one-man rule.

 The IRR will spell out the features of RA 10368 otherwise known as the Reparation Law. The Claims Board has a brief two-year life.

 As soon as the IRR is finalized, there will be a six-month period for all legitimate claimants to file claims for reparations and recognition with the Claims Board. This information will be published in newspapers and announced over the radio and television. This period will commence from the time IRR becomes effective. It will be implemented 15 days after the last publication of the IRR.

 This period has not started as the nine-person HRVCB is in its organizational stage yet- setting up its office, forming the secretariat and claims systems.

 The Memorial Commission, on the other hand, is tasked to memorialize the martial law victims by establishing a museum, writing stories of martial law heroes and collecting artifacts and documents for archiving.  CHR Chairperson Loretta Ann Rosales is the present Board of Trustees (BOT) Chairperson. National Historical Commission Chairperson Maria Serena Diokno is the Co-Chair. BOT members are Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Commission on Higher Education Chairperson Patricia Licuanan, National Commission for Culture and the Arts Chairperson Felipe De Leon Jr. and University of the Philippines Librarian Rodolfo Tarlit.                                                             

 

A love story in bloodiest February

Color it red not because it is hearts month. February is the bloodiest month in Philippine history.

Mamang (Filipinas Lagasca) and Papang (Salvador Esguerra Sr.) in an undated photo

Mamang (Filipinas Lagasca) and Papang (Salvador Esguerra Sr.) in an undated photo

Mamang and Papang had lived in Manila while raising their young brood of seven. Life had been good for the family until one day, they got separated. The family had to scamper to safety. Papang died while working for the United Press International. Mamang did not know the exact date in February 1945. All she remembered was a terrible dream had awoken her and that Papang was bidding her goodbye. I never saw my stoic grandmother cry, but I caught her off guard remembering Papang one February 14.

The month-long Battle of Manila had begun on 3 February and lasted until 3 March 1945. It was the bloodiest battle in the Asia-Pacific region among Filipino, American and Japanese forces. Incessant pounding of mortars, staccato of gun fire, endless falling bombs from the sky and hand-to-hand combats with bayonets and knives had killed a rough estimate of 100,000 Filipino civilians. The US military forces reported 1,010 American soldiers dead and 5,565 wounded; 6,665 bodies of Japanese soldiers were found in the Intramuros rubbles; more were found in other parts of Manila.

Dead bodies were found under the ruins, left strewn on the streets, floating in the Pasig River, left inside homes to be dumped in scurrying rush in unmarked grounds, or burnt beyond recognition under planks of wooden structures.

Manila as the scene of urban fighting was leveled to the ground. Its death toll and devastation was comparable to US bombing of Hiroshima, political analysts say:  its ire and vengeance Japan took against the Philippines, the nearest US colony in the Pacific.

Manila after the battle in February 1945

Manila after the battle in February 1945

Mamang huddled her small children into a wooden cariton and pushed them with all her might to safety – out of Manila and trekked on foot toward Pangasinan, Papang’s province. Two of her older children, Donald and Estrella,  died of hunger, thirst and exhaustion along the way. She buried them wrapped in a banig in a shallow grave she and my father Orlino, her third child, dug in a rice field in Balagtas.

Some 4,000 Filipinos were not as lucky. Back in Manila, they were hostaged inside Intramuros and Fort Santiago from February 23 to 28. Bodies of some 1,000 women and children were found under the Intramuros ruins after the US forces shelled bombs in an attempt to extricate the Japanese forces out and had them surrender. The Japanese preferred to die fighting rather than surrender.

Today, a historical commemoration  known as Memorare Manila Monument at the Plaza de Santa Isabel, also known as the Plaza Sinampalukan, located at the corner of General Luna and Anda Streets in Intramuros, Manila reads:

“This memorial is dedicated to all those innocent victims of war, many of whom went nameless and unknown to a common grave, or even never knew a grave at all, their bodies having been consumed by fire or crushed to dust beneath the rubble of ruins.”

“Let this monument be the gravestone for each and every one of the over 100,000 men, women, children and infants killed in Manila during its battle of liberation, February 3 – March 3, 1945. We have not forgotten them, nor shall we ever forget.”

“May they rest in peace as part now of the sacred ground of this city: the Manila of our affections.”

Thank you, Mamang and Papang. My daughter and her boyfriend, and my son and his girlfriend, will be celebrating the hearts month in UP Diliman sunken garden on 14 February 2013. (Gloria Esguerra Melencio)

The babaylan lives in her story

Molo Church

The Molo Church in Iloilo. Photo by Gloria Esguerra Melencio

The word had been hushed to silence and was erased in the everyday lingua franca of the Filipino, but the babaylan tradition – through war and peace – has persisted and its legacy passed on through time.

Babaylan is a Bisayan word that evolved from proto-Austronesian words in Southeast Asia such as belian, balian, balyan, baylan and bagdan. The Subanons call them balian, balean and balayan, women who lead the religious and death rituals in Mindanao.  Its literal translation to English is ancient priestess or shaman.

The Cebuano word babay, recorded in 18th century Spanish-Bisayan dictionary, refers to a married woman. From up north up to down south, an elderly woman is respectfully called Bai followed by the woman’s Christian name: It is Ba-i in Ilocos and Bayi followed by the word Gurang to mean an elderly woman in Mindanao epics. The Leyte-Samar Waray word babayi means a woman; kababayin-an is its plural form.

While the word babaylan connotes a woman, there had also been male babaylans who were called asog in the Bisayan society during the 17th century. These male babaylans had to wear women’s clothing and pretend to be women so that the Diwatas may hear their prayers. Spanish friars described them as barren, incapable of procreating because they remain unmarried till old age, but the Bisayan society accepted them as they were, nevertheless.

The word had made a strong imprint in Dr. Jose Rizal that he had studied it as indicated in his letters to Ferdinand Blumentritt in the 19th century. In fact, he passed by the Molo Church in Iloilo on his way to his exile in Dapitan in 1896. He had known that this church has 16 female saints, standing tall on the left and right sides leading to its massive altar, a proof of strong babaylan tradition in the Bisayan region.

Spiritual leaders as they were, the babaylans had been the first to intuit and warn the Bisayans that the foreign colonizers will “uproot” them , will change their belief in the paganito, the ancient ritual worship of the ancestors, and their way of life.

Threat to the new Christian religion, the Spanish friars tried to win the babaylans with the Cross and exterminate them with the Sword. They made some of them, the maestras of datu’s children, to teach catechism; many of those who refused were chopped to pieces, thrown to the crocodiles, beheaded or burned at the stake like they did with the so-called witches in Europe during the Inquisition.

The Spanish colonizers failed to eradicate the babaylans. While the Bisayans never say the word babaylan out of fear, they continue the rituals just the same. They continued to recite repetitively gindadayaw ka namon (we praise you) despite the friars’ banning the early morning-till-noon praying and the healing tambals conducted during the cholera outbreak in the 19th century.

There arose a “political sect of women” the Spaniards called Babaylanes even after the time of Pagali, Bangkaw’s babaylan who erected their own native church in Carigara, Leyte but was pulverized with canons and burned to ashes.

Suspected Babaylanes had been imprisoned and thrown en masse with their families to Palawan, an island down south of Luzon that still bears the name Bangkaw-bangkaw as one of its localities to this day. These Babaylanes were women who were caught praying, clandestinely meeting in abaca farms, wearing white cloaks and distributing prayer booklets they called libro secreto to the consternation of the Spaniards who called them libro de peste.

The agaw-tawag-bawi, one of the healing rituals of the ancient babaylans, continues to this day in Luzon, Bisayas and Mindanao. William Henry Scott calls them “female shamans” in Bicol, who conduct religious ceremonies while wearing a small gold jewelry on the forehead, call the dead ancestors and spirits, chant and sing alternately.

The Babaylanes eventually transformed to Dios-Dios and the Pulahanes. This time they were bolo-wielding men who believed they will gain spiritual strength in the power of prayers and continued to dream of independence and self-reliance against foreign oppressors. What cannot be faced head-on due to lack of weapons is tackled with a slow and non-confrontational strategy that saves and delivers the people to a common goal just the same.

The babaylan tradition remains to be the thread that weaves us all into one cohesive personhood in times of need. This is the reason why Filipino women remain to be one of the strongest peoples in Southeast Asia.

Sources:

Alcina, Ignacio Francisco S.J. Translated, edited and annotated by Cantius J. Kobak, O.F.M. and Lucio Gutierrez, O.P. History of the Bisayan People in the Philippine Islands, Volume I. UST Publishing House, Manila, Philippines, 2002.

Salazar, Zeus. Ang Babaylan sa Kasaysayan ng Pilipinas. Lungsod Quezon: Palimbagan ng Lahi, 1999.

Brewer, Carolyn. Shamanism, Catholicism and Gender Relations in Colonial Philippines, 1521-1685. Burlington, USA: Ashgate Publishing Company, 2004.

Scott, William Henry. Barangay: Sixteenth-Century Philippine Culture and Society.  Ateneo de Manila University Press, 1994.

Cruikshank, Bruce. Pilgrimage and Rebellion on Samar (1884-1886). Wisconsin Papers on Southeast Asia Center for Southeast Asian Studies. University of Wisconsin-Madison, September 1979.

Arens, Richard. The Tambalan and his Medical Practices in Leyte and Samar, Part VI. Folk Practices and Beliefs of Leyte and Samar. Leyte-Samar Studies. Divine Word University of Tacloban, Vol. V  Nos. 1 and 2, 1971

Deportados (1872-1897). Leyte SDS 14268.

Varias Provincias, Carolinas, 1864-1895, Spanish Document Sections (SDS) 494

113 affirmative votes for RH Bill

(With 113 congressmen and congresswomen giving their winning vote for the passage of RH Bill, The Herstorian (Ang Tagasalaysay) reprints this blog that Gloria Esguerra Melencio wrote three years ago).

For Ondet and other women who died while giving birth

Lourdes Medino whom we endearingly called Ondet had given birth almost yearly before breathing her last during delivery of her fifth child in Sitio Cutay in Anahaway, an hour’s walk to Palo, a town in Leyte. She was bleeding profusely that the local male paltero was at a loss on what to do. She died a few hours later while her baby son almost did not make it.

The memory flashed back several years earlier when I saw Ondet came out of Mama Pile, her mother who was my mother’s cousin by the nth degree, as they were temporary housed in my Lola Bia’s house in the sawang or town center. Lola Bia woke me up, her vacationing grandchild from Manila, to assist her by holding the burning suga while Ondet was coming out. With the suga’s light, I saw tiny Ondet burst out and breath her first while Lola Bia was holding her upside down and spitting on her at the same time reciting a Latin litany, apparently a secret code of the Waray palteras– not knowing the fate that would befell her several years later.

There are many Ondets in the rural areas of the country who had not seen nor gotten the services of midwives or doctors because they do not know how and where to go. She is one out of the 11 mothers who died of childbirth everyday, according to the figures of Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development Foundation, Inc. (PLCPD).

Ondet had gotten married at 16 years old to another teenager her age who like her also came from a family of farmers who earn Php 100 a day when they are lucky enough. As other agricultural workers, they are lucky when an owner of a farm close by seek their services during planting or harvesting seasons. They usually eat camote, loaned rice, banaw (Waray term for bagoong) or bulad (dried fish) everyday. Feast for them are cooked rice and steaming hot sapsap boiled with tanglad, tomatoes and camote tops eaten only on special days like fiesta, birthdays or weddings.

As the PLCPD figures put it, Ondet belonged to the 30 percent of the total Filipino population who is pregnant during adolescent period, making her one out of the 3.1 million teenage mothers who give birth annually. Obviously, she and her husband did not know how to space nor limit their children.

Will the approval of Reproductive Health (RH) Bill save other women’s lives?

PLCPD Executive Director Ramon San Pascual assures that the RH Bill that is currently stalled in Congress will give poor Filipino women access to health services where they can have regular monthly check-ups when they get pregnant and have the midwives’ or doctors’ health expertise in every barangay should their due date of delivery comes.

Another service that the RH Bill provides is the access to contraceptives when the woman wants to limit or space her children, he promises.

Sex education, a necessity for teenagers, will also be given for them to learn to respect themselves and other people’s body. The myth that HIV-AIDS is a curable disease will be tackled and corrected here, San Pascual adds.

The Catholic Church meets head-on this RH Bill saying that it is pro-abortion and that its support of the use of contraceptives violates the rights of couples to decide about the number and time when to have children.

The debate between the Catholic hierarchy and the pro-RH Bill advocates rages on and on.

Meanwhile, Ondet’s husband was hacked to death by the same male paltero whose hands Ondet died during a tuba drinking bout. Their five children are now orphaned. I got to see them when I passed by their dilapidated hut on my way to Lola Bia’s lanzones grove.

Naniudto na kamo?” (Have you had lunch) I asked at two o’clock in the afternoon hoping to start a conversation.

Waray pa gad,” (Not yet) the children sheepishly chorused, including Ondet’s little boy whom she last gave birth.

While asking for their names and ages, Papa Lauren, Ondet’s father, came limping with some pieces of newly-harvested camote. The hut’s dirt-ground became busy as the two small boys whose heights prevent them from reaching the stove, climbed atop it to make fire. The two smaller girls happily went down the river to wash the reddish-white root crops covered with soil. The eldest boy hurriedly fetched water from the well.

That was seven years ago. Ondet’s two little girls must be approaching teenage years by now. Hope they do not suffer their mother’s fate.

Trick or Treat: Kantang pamatay

Noong buhay pa si Tatay, may itinuro siyang kanta kay Maui, anak naming babae, isang gabi bago mag-Araw  ng mga Patay. Isinulat niya iyon sa kapirasong papel  at ipinakabisa sa kanyang apo. Ganito ang kanta:

“ Kaluluwa kaming tambing, sa purgatoryo kami galing.

Kung kami’y paglilimusan, pakibilisan lang po.

Baka kami’y mapagsarhan ng pinto sa kalangitan.”

Nagulat ako dahil hindi niya itinuro ito sa akin at lalong hindi niya ito kinakanta sa paghehele sa amin. Pero lumabas ang kanta nang minsang tinawag ni Maui ang kanyang mga kalaro sa bahay at mag-Halloween Costume Party sila. Tuwang-tuwa si Tatay sa apong nangunguna sa pagbibihis sa mga kalaro ng damit na pang-Frankenstien, pang-kuba ala Quasimodo, pangmulto, pang-aswang, zombie at pangbruha.

Si Maui, gumaganap na witch, ang nangunguna sa prusisyon ng mga batang naka-costume sa aming subdibisyon at nagturo sa mga naghahagikgikang bata ng kantang itinuro ng kanyang lolo. Kaibahan lang siguro sa panahon ng kanyang lolo ang pagsasabi nila nang sabay-sabay na: “Trick or treat!” O baka ganoon rin ang sinasabi nina Tatay noong panahon ng mga Amerikano. sa Pilipinas.

Nakaipon sina Maui ng maraming kendi at pera. Ipinambili nila ito ng pagkain, naglatag ng malaking carpet sa aming bubong, nagsiupo, nagsihigaan at nagkuwentuhan hanggang abutin ng hatinggabi sa ilalim ng mga bituin.

Nagawang maipakita sa akin ni Tatay ang panahong kinalakhan niya sa Pasay. Hindi ko man lang ito naranasan dahil balatengga ako sa mga gawaing-bahay at sa aking mga libro.

Si Nanay naman sa Leyte, ang nangunguna sa mga dasal para sa mga patay simula noong maliit pa akong bata. Bored to death ako, wika nga, dahil sa napakahabang dasal na hindi ko naiintindihan kung para saan at para kanino. Ngayon ko na lang naunawaan ang lalim at kahulugan ng kanyang dasal. Ganito ang bahagi ng dasal ni Nanay sa wikang Binisaya o Waray:

“Salubnganan nga amon ginpupuy-an,  imo kami panabangan (Sa libingang aming kinasasadlakan, iligtas mo kami).”

May mahabang listahan si Nanay ng mga pangalan ng mga ninuno na isa-isa niyang binabanggit at hinihilingan ng kaligtasan. Isang mamaratbat (prayer leader) si Nanay na mula sa angkan ng mga tambal, hilot, partira (nagpapaanak), kantor (mang-aawit sa simbahan) at mga mamaratbat rin. Hanga ako sa memorya niya dahil hanggang ngayon sa edad 83, dinadasalan pa rin niya ang mga patay nang tuluy-tuloy sa magkakahalong wikang Bisaya at Latin.

Nakatutuwa dahil sa kasalukuyang henerasyon ng mga bata, maririnig pa rin ang dasal ni Nanay sa mga kaluluwa. Hindi ito nawawala. Alam pa rin ng mga batang parasabat (sumasagot sa mamaratbat) ang sinaunang dasal ng kanilang mga ninuno. (Gloria Esguerra Melencio)

Trick or Treat: Kantang pamatay

Noong buhay pa si Tatay, may itinuro siyang kanta kay Maui, anak naming babae, isang gabi bago mag-Araw  ng mga Patay. Isinulat niya iyon sa kapirasong papel  at ipinakabisa sa kanyang apo. Ganito ang kanta:

 “ Kaluluwa kaming tambing, sa purgatoryo kami galing.

Kung kami’y paglilimusan, pakibilisan lang po.

 Baka kami’y mapagsarhan ng pinto sa kalangitan.”

 Nagulat ako dahil hindi niya itinuro ito sa akin at lalong hindi niya ito kinakanta sa paghehele sa amin. Pero lumabas ang kanta nang minsang tinawag ni Maui ang kanyang mga kalaro sa bahay at mag-Halloween Costume Party sila. Tuwang-tuwa si Tatay sa apong nangunguna sa pagbibihis sa mga kalaro ng damit na pang-Frankenstien, pang-kuba ala Quasimodo, pangmulto, pang-aswang, zombie at pangbruha.

 Si Maui, gumaganap na witch, ang nangunguna sa prusisyon ng mga batang naka-costume sa aming subdibisyon at nagturo sa mga naghahagikgikang bata ng kantang itinuro ng kanyang lolo. Kaibahan lang siguro sa panahon ng kanyang lolo ang pagsasabi nila nang sabay-sabay na: “Trick or treat!” O baka ganoon rin ang sinasabi nina Tatay noong panahon ng mga Amerikano. sa Pilipinas.

 Nakaipon sina Maui ng maraming kendi at pera. Ipinambili nila ito ng pagkain, naglatag ng malaking carpet sa aming bubong, nagsiupo, nagsihigaan at nagkuwentuhan hanggang abutin ng hatinggabi sa ilalim ng mga bituin.

 Nagawang maipakita sa akin ni Tatay ang panahong kinalakhan niya sa Pasay. Hindi ko man lang ito naranasan dahil balatengga ako sa mga gawaing-bahay at sa aking mga libro.

 Si Nanay naman sa Leyte, ang nangunguna sa mga dasal para sa mga patay simula noong maliit pa akong bata. Bored to death ako, wika nga, dahil sa napakahabang dasal na hindi ko naiintindihan kung para saan at para kanino. Ngayon ko na lang naunawaan ang lalim at kahulugan ng kanyang dasal. Ganito ang bahagi ng dasal ni Nanay sa wikang Binisaya o Waray:

 “Salubnganan nga amon ginpupuy-an,  imo kami panabangan (Sa libingang aming kinasasadlakan, iligtas mo kami).”

 May mahabang listahan si Nanay ng mga pangalan ng mga ninuno na isa-isa niyang binabanggit at hinihilingan ng kaligtasan. Isang mamaratbat (prayer leader) si Nanay na mula sa angkan ng mga tambal, hilot, partira (nagpapaanak), kantor (mang-aawit sa simbahan) at mga mamaratbat rin. Hanga ako sa memorya niya dahil hanggang ngayon sa edad 83, dinadasalan pa rin niya ang mga patay nang tuluy-tuloy sa magkakahalong wikang Bisaya at Latin.

 Nakatutuwa dahil sa kasalukuyang henerasyon ng mga bata, maririnig pa rin ang dasal ni Nanay sa mga kaluluwa. Hindi ito nawawala. Alam pa rin ng mga batang parasabat (sumasagot sa mamaratbat) ang sinaunang dasal ng kanilang mga ninuno.

Bankaw in Samar Archeological and Cultural Museum: A Bisayan Story

dragon jar

Franciscan priest Ignacio Francisco Alcina describes Samar in his 1662 book History of the Bisayan People in the Philippine Islands as “wounded geographically, topographically and climatically.” He was one with Jesuit priest Francisco Colin in saying that the people of Samar, who were called Pintados back in time, may have come from Makassar in Sulawesi, citing the words saar and samad as both to mean “wounded.”

Noted for being warriors and juramentados in the 16th up to early 17th century, these Bisayans defended their ground against slave raiders who alternately raided and stole humans in Samar and Leyte to be sold as marked slaves in Mindanao and other nearby islands.

The bankaw, Bisayan term for spear, found in the Father Cantius Kobak-Samar Archeological and Cultural Museum in Calbayog City, is a silent proof of Samar’s struggles to survive – whatever wounds may have caused its owner. The museum founded in 1969 and later dedicated to the memory of Father Cantius Kobak, Polish Franciscan priest, houses artifacts that the historian-priest painstakingly collected from caves, burial sites, churches, private lots and even from a tuba (local wine from coconut sap) vendor.

Made of hard black polished wood that measures approximately four feet long with a one-foot sharp pointed metal at the end, the undated bankaw is the living proof of Bankaw’s defiance of the Spanish conquistadores. Blair and Robertson said Bankaw escaped the ire of attacking Spaniards in Cebu and later built his own church in Carigara, Leyte. His stronghold in the mountain was attacked with canons, his church burned down, his followers killed, and he, too, was impaled with a bankaw. His head was cut off and paraded to warn the Bisayans against insureccion and rebelion in the future.

Bankaw had never been alone. Sumuroy of Ibabao (Samar) , at the time of Alcina’s recording, had been up in arms. Dagohoy in Bohol, too. Earlier in the 16th century, Waray Tupung (meaning never been equaled), had been going around the Bisayan islands trying to shoo away both the Muslim slave raiders and the Spanish minions.

Father Kobak must be amazed with how the Samareños respect their ancestors when he found human skulls, bones, shell bracelets in urns and large burial jars. Some burial sites had already been exhausted by previous digging expeditions though.

Self-sufficiency and the spirit of the Bisayan tabo, which social scientists call barter trade, attest to the Bisayan people’s ingenuity and industriousness. The stone grinder, locally called gilingan, speaks of how early Bisayans grounded rice and rootcrops to be made into puto, suman and other native delicacies. People from up the mountains and everywhere went to the tabo to exchange their goods for products that they did not have.

Presence of ancient dragon jar and Chinese porcelain plates dated around 5th century BC reveals a lively barter trade between the Bisayans and the Chinese. Also, Chinese surnames in Samar must have come from Chinese traders who were involved in the abaca trade during the Spanish and American periods.

The rusty, ancient agungs (bells), musical instruments and paintings in the museum speak a lot about the Samareños’ own artistic talents. Christ The King Orchestra, based in Calbayog City, a first class municipality in Samar, has been making waves in the field of music around the Philippines. An art exhibit of Samar’s painters had also been launched in the museum.

Carl Sanchez Bordeos of the Christ the King College where the museum resides furnished philippinehistory.ph a copy of some artifacts found in the museum aside from the bankaw.  The Professional American Archeologists have already listed, described and dated said historical treasures.

Outside the museum, meanwhile, a street named Nijaga baffles everyone who lives outside Calbayog. It turns out that the street was named after Benedicto Nijaga, nicknamed Biktoy, a sacristan from Calbayog who became a second lieutenant in the Spanish Army and later solicited support for the underground Katipunan. He was executed and later identified as one of the Trece Martires in Bagumbayan.

Samar has sons and daughters who may or may have not seen a bankaw, nor may have known Bankaw for that matter. The Bisayan resilience and survival, however, are engraved in Philippine history.

(Photo taken by Rosa Mirasol Esguerra Melencio)