Willing to be Illuminated and Pierced

Posts tagged ‘humanity’

Book Review: Captivated by “Room”

“Today I’m five. I was four last night going to sleep in Wardrobe, but when I wake up in Bed in the dark I’m changed to five, abracadabra.”

Hearing a child speak sounds good to hear. It’s because they see the world as pure and simple, even if it is already hostile from the beginning. That’s how five-year old Jack came to know Room, which ironically was a prison for his Ma. 

Ever since he was born, Jack’s very world is the Room. His friends are Meltedy Spoon, Bed, Duvet, and Wardrobe. Skylight gives him a glimpse of the sky and God’s face (which is the sun and the moon). TV is his only window to the Outside. Besides all these, he has his Ma with whom he shares his love and companionship. 

Because Jack was raised in love and joy, he did not see the horror behind his existence. As soon as he was learning the truth behind his Ma’s story and why mean Old Nick would keep them from Outside, he would not believe it at first. 

This book actually tackles the dire topic of abduction, rape, and slavery, along with recovery and treatment. Bringing it to the voice of an adult would be depressing. But writer Emma Donoghue excellently brought it to light through the voice of a five-year old. The story is very linear yet it is very engaging because one would anticipate what Jack would think and experience on the moment they made their Great Escape. It does not matter if Jack himself may be grammatically incorrect for schooled adults but he was able to communicate the joy, the pain, and the struggles he went through as he finally touches Outside.

I must admit I was captivated by this book. Even as it ends, I want Jack to talk more. I felt attached to Jack while I listened to him recount a story that is riveting and touching as well.

Dare to enter Room. Once you do, you don’t want to get out of it until the last page.

Leveling Down the Contention of Words

This is what Typhoon Yolanda left in this once thriving city of Tacloban, Leyte. Photo by Carlo Damalerio

This is what Typhoon Yolanda left in this once thriving city of Tacloban, Leyte. Photo by Carlo Damalerio

“There has never been anything at the magnitude of what we are trying to do now,” Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras told palace reporters at a press briefing last Nov. 13, “Not in size, not in volume, not in even the breadth of it.”

As the national government admits being appalled at the disaster left by Typhoon Haiyan (or Typhoon Yolanda as its FIlipino name) ten days ago, the rest of the world feels mutual. It’s like watching a horror movie, except it is in the primetime newscasts. However, being in the very scene of it still feels surreal to me.

I would have loved to tag along with one of our teams assigned to Tacloban City last week. Tacloban, Leyte was one of the greatly devastated places left by Yolanda. But considering the place’s limited necesities for a woman like me, only an all-male team was sent.

As first hand witnesses to a storm’s aftermath, I tried to understand the hardships they experienced. They had no place to stay, no food and water to sustain them (as they have given their provisions to the Tacloban people), and they have to endure the stench of the dead and of human waste. But how much more I tried to feel the heart break for the people who endure the loss of what they have owned and the loss of their very loved ones. What was left was their very existence, coping with the last strain of humanity nearly being snatched from them. They try to survive in a desolated town unfit for living.

It might be easy to say that the rest of us who stayed wish to come to

The people of Tacloban almost at a loss as they have lost their homes --- and even their loved ones. Photo by Carlo Damalerio

The people of Tacloban almost at a loss as they have lost their homes — and even their loved ones. Photo by Carlo Damalerio

Tacloban just to give out a hug…or maybe a small act of kindness through food and water. But how far are we willing to go? How far would we be willing to sacrifice time and your comfort zone to feel their pain. Living there sounds too inhumane for most of us. Helpless, all we can do is sigh and speak out our thoughts and symphathy.

As I watch from afar, it’s a pain to hear criticisms and politicizing at all sides. There’s this underlying contention between the main government bodies, the private entities, and the vox populi. We can talk too much. It’s easy to give blame. But can’t we just shut up and try to feel the pain of the victims themselves? Perhaps, it’s easy to make conclusions in what goes on in their everyday life. But can’t we think of focusing at their basic needs first? These people, are just like us — human, limited, and in need of one another.

Perhaps, most of us can never understand how it is to be in their shoes. For us living far from them, we try to comprehend what flashes through our screens or what blares through our airwaves. But we can never see the whole picture. Who are we to judge conclusions, then?

Perhaps, some of us can never get the chance to reach them personally. Perhaps, most of us might never understand the whole picture of what’s happening and why it happened. But setting aside our own conclusions and criticisms might help rebuild a new future. A little grace, a little love, through our what-we-have can uplift their spirits. Behind the camera, must be a more drastic story beyond words.

Capturing the Broader Perception

May bayad po yung bata (Is the seat for the child paid)?” A pregnant lady asked another bus passenger rather loudly, her voice sounded quite scandalous in the fully loaded bus to Manila.

Sitting comfortably with a little boy beside her, she said “Oo (Yes).” I was ignoring them until an older lady sitting with the boy and mother began to retort.

Kaya nga nakaupo yung bata kasi binayaran (That’s why the child is sitting because his seat has been paid)” She said in a croaked voice. Now the pregnant lady was already given a seat by a younger man. She heard the old lady’s loud murmur and answered back. “Nagtatanong lang naman po (I just asked).” But the old lady kept on murmuring and even called the pregnant lady crazy.

Now, I wondered to myself, if she, a grandmother herself, had she not been into the pains of childbirth, too?

Besides, all the pregnant lady wanted was a seat, as she was already heavy with a child.

But instead of offering her a seat, she was shunned away…maybe offended at the tone of her voice or her seemingly strong presence. The woman was trying to be strong though I’m sure was feeling uneasy.

But sadly, the grandmother seemed to have lost the broader perspective.

I understand they have paid the child’s seat, and the boy deserve it in place of that payment. But should these people have had the broader perspective of understanding the pregnant lady and her condition, I guess, they would have been even more blessed.

Most people have lost the broader perspective and have only focused on themselves. We have the right to for their rights, to shun off every offense, but we don’t see the need of others.

The Bible tells us to regard others better than ourselves. The call of humility is easy to scream at, but the endowment of this trait into our system is not that easy.

We have been taught to get our rights, but our culture has not taught us to open our eyes and be sensitive to the needs of others.

Thus, we fight against each other to get our rights, like dogs eating each other for a piece of stale bread.

How should we get a broader persepective? Only when we silence our own selfishness, try to get into the shoes of others, and sacrifice even a little bit of ourselves for them.

I admit, I’m still at this battling stage. And with this society, the need to learn humility, as my fellowmen also has the same needs and rights as I do.

And as a fellow human being, I must not disregard to my fellow man their needs and rights as I do have.

But it’s a long road before everyone in this society, even me, to capture the broader perspective.

But let’s begin that journey now.

Love in the Midst of the Danger

At NLEX northbound: Braving the way home

At NLEX northbound: Braving the way home

I never learned. I guess this is how hard-headed journalists can be.

For the sake of duty, I braved my way through the strong, heavy rains this morning. Just like August last year, torrential rains caused by monsoon rains (or habagat in our Tagalog language) are causing floods in much of Metro Manila and the National Capital Region (NCR). Since Saturday, the rains did not stop. But I felt no fear as I took a van to work. Only discomfort because of the cold. I’m quite used to this though. For me, it’s not an obligation, but an honor to be part of a team who will bravely go out and witness history.

But due to lack of so many things, operations have to be cancelled. And just like last year, I received the announcement when I am already in the office. *Sigh*

On the positive note, I hitched a hike with people who are going the same way…unlike the last year when I was stranded for hours before getting a bus home.

Almost the same scenario but I never learned. I had this mindset that I have to move towards something unless it’s really impossible. Deep inside I have this fighting spirit that keeps me moving despite of storms or unkind circumstances.

It’s just too bad not to out into the field today. I don’t know why. I love danger. It’s not because I love to see humanity suffering. But I love to see how love is poured out from humanity when the danger sets in.

Marikina River yesterday at below critical level. However, due to continuous rains, the water rose up again

Marikina River yesterday at below critical level. However, due to continuous rains, the water rose up again

Volunteers at Marikina preparing food for evacuees. These guys were opening cans of sardines for lunch. (8/19/2013)

Volunteers at Marikina preparing food for evacuees. These guys were opening cans of sardines for lunch. (8/19/2013)

In my coverage yesterday, I saw a glimpse on how the Marikina government was looking after its people, especially the evacuees who had to flee their homes because of the rising river. The city administrator explained to me how 50 volunteers were able to serve breakfast, lunch, and maybe dinner for about 2,400 evacuees. Most are already leaving the evacuation centers as the waters were beginning to subside. Seeing the ratio of volunteers, I wonder how much grace and patience they have to give to serve more than a thousand.

But the weather seem to have gone worst today. I just haven’t seen how things have been now.

With memories flashing back, I will never actually forget the horror of being a stranded passenger last year. No other way to go home, I walked meters to find a ride that would at least make me come closer to home. I’ll never forget the regret and frustration I felt that made my head swirl a lot. I felt so embarrassed for looking so lost and drenched while being too well-dressed. And most of all, the fear of not knowing what’s next as the waters were rising.

But it is at these moments when strangers, who might because have this empathy of being lost too, would try to share a seat in the bus or spare a space for you. Some of them would even offer you their only bread — their lone meal for the day. I wanted to cry, because of the goodness I felt in the middle of a cruel situation. They don’t know how they have become heroes in their own small way.

Such is the heroism of humanity. With this, I salute my fellow workers who brave the torrential rains just to bring in fulfillment in their duties; the media who go into danger just to update the public on the latest news, the store owners and sellers who opened their stores to offer food and shelter to stranded passengers, the rescuers, military and those involved in disaster response management just to rescue thousands who are trapped in their own homes, and the unknown volunteers, just like those in Marikina, who are ready to leave their homes and families just to serve the needy and the lost.

Workers like me might never learn to stay at home in dangerous times in order to fulfill duties. But I hope we should never set aside to give sacrificial love for the sake of our fellowmen.

Where Are the Real Men?

I’m being led to the belief that no gentleman ever exists in a public transportation. It’s rare to see a man giving a seat to a lady, more so to old people or pregnant women. It’s irritating to see big burly men pretending to sleep while their earphones are stuck in their ears.

Somehow, I could say that most women are more respectable than a lot of men today. I remember an incident back in 2007 when I was going home from my night shift duty in a BPO company. The bus was so full that morning because people are flocking back to their provinces for the Holy Week vacation. In my observation, 90 percent were occupied by men. Just then, a petite mother carrying a toddler came in. She stood among the standing passengers for all the seats were full. There was no one with her. She looked tired because of the heavy luggages she had. I waited, expected that one good man would offer her a seat. Good heavens, there was no one. In my sympathy, I offered her mine. All throughout that bus ride, I stood up despite being tired from an all night’s work. I gave my usual sharp look at the men around me, but they tried to avoid my eyes (or they were just stupid enough not to know these signals).

It’s a shame that we’re loosing real men these days. I have heard of similar stories from friends. I wouldn’t mind that I won’t be given a seat because I’m young and capable. What makes me angry is when they don’t give a seat to others like this poor mother. I’ve seen how on most occasions, it is the women who give their seats to elderly ladies or pregnant women. Sometimes, when a seat becomes vacant, the men near it would not offer it to the nearest lady. He instead would race for it like an impatient, little kid.

It’s a shame how it is us women who seem to act more gentlemanly than these men. I wonder if this society has lost their respect on women. Somehow, I observed that most men today thought that just because women today are capable of doing a man’s job, they won’t give the respect and rights that women deserve. Most men today have lost their sense of authority, thus losing their responsibility to protect the women in society.

This culture of urban comfort has poisoned our identity and position. By observing the pretentious sleepers, I was thinking that these kind of men are the first to back out when war arises. Where’s the sense of courage? We need to regain them back. We have to break out from our sense of complacency. With this, we have to deal with the weakened character in us.

We have to understand our roles in society and the rights and privileges of each individual. Women deserve respect and honor, while men should stand as responsible stewards of women as they are the ones in authority. By that kind of culture observed in buses and public transportation, it’s a hint that only a few men understood the value of women, more so their role as men.

Darkening the Depth of Humanity in “Zero Dark Thirty”

While watching “Zero Dark Thirty”, it left me the impression that there’s no work and life balance in being a CIA agent. The tortures (which sparked controversy) and the manhunt operations seem to leave you with almost nothing but danger. Still, I find the film quite intriguing in a way, especially its main character.

Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenplay writer Mark Boal had complimented well to bring up together the unspoken cringes of history and humanity in this docu-drama film. The film, I find, is not solely on victory of an operation alone but on how history can never be founded solely not on the cold texts of words but from a silent litany of humanism that tries to be hidden in a harsh world.

While much points from this film is worthy of discussion, I’d like to focus on Maya’s character. Actress Jessica Chastain had pulled well such a character; the humanity of a woman covered beneath a steel-like character in order to prove herself in the tough world of men.

Maya is one tough CIA agent whose determination to get Osama Bin Laden (who has been code named as UBL) tend to show her as hard as she can be more than the men around her. The film seem to have emphasized her to be of a stronger personality even over her male superiors. While one played golf for a pastime in his office and the other passes a few minutes by talking idly on the phone, Maya is the one pictured as totally focused on the manhunt for the notorious leader of the Al-Qaeda group.

I find her character almost inhuman; her focus on her job gave her no time for a lovelife or even having friends. When she arrived late at a dinner in the before-then bombed Mariott Hotel in Islamabad because of delays over checkpoints, her colleague reminded her “We’re socializing; be social”. At the run of their conversation, she was asked if she had any friends at all; to which her silence marked “yes” as her reply.

Here is a woman who was willing to disregard feelings to make sure they would find what they was looking for. In her disappointment that no team was deployed at Rawal Pindi to search for the man linked to Bin Laden, she told her team, “I don’t really care if you guys get sleep or not”; even though the team leader told her that to look at such a place is dangerous and that how tired they were. She told the Navy Seals who were to pull off that operation that would be the death of the Al-Qaeda leader, “You’re gonna kill him for me.”

Yet, in the end she reveals herself as a woman, almost broken because of the cruelty of such an operation. No matter how she was bent and focused to make sure that the one she was looking for was found after more than a decade, she did not gave herself regards when the body was brought to their camp. Rather, she cried over the ordeal that was crushing her humanity within her from the beginning.

Maya, as she cried alone in the plane, must have not told anybody how heavy the weight of this manhunt operation had been on her. She lost colleagues and the few friends that she had, pushed away the balanced normal life anybody could have, while maintaining possessiveness on this mission. I just got lost on what pushed her to be almost obsessive in this mission for all those years. She could have left herself almost nothing just to make sure it’s done. I just wonder after all that manhunt ended, how her life would be after?

There’s humanity in every one of us. Whether one is a soldier or a terrorist, he’s still human. No matter how we make ourselves look tough or cold before the public, there is still the soft edge within us that make us human. We are not created to be emotionless as machines. Maya tried to disregard emotions as she focused on the strength of her mind. Although she got what she looking for, in the end, I believe she was never fulfilled at all.

We might have been totally focused in our tasks. It’s good to be determined, tough, and focused. But though being successful in what we’re doing, if we don’t have the most important things in life, there is never a balance. It has always been said that the most important things in life are unseen. The mind, the skill, and your career may be lost but yet recovered again. But love, friendship, hope, and peace are just some of the things that will forever stay…unless disregarded in vain.

The manhunt operation was a success. But if Maya had balanced herself with the friendship and love of the people around her she might have been a stronger woman from within. But I guess she had another secret for this  she did not want anyone to be weakened by revealing her weaknesses as a woman. Rather, in order to see this operation pull-off in success, she sacrificed herself much…for her country and for her people.

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