To what is the measure of the life we have lived thus far, and what is the measure of that which is to come? Often from students just graduating from high school or college, or turning over a new leaf with new jobs, locations and relationships, I hear the life story idiom, or a version of it: My life is an empty book, a clear slate, ready to be filled up with my life experiences. A popular song by Natasha Bedingfield, Unwritten’s lyrics follows the same theme of a book of blank pages sharing a likeness to our finite lives on earth.
The rest is still unwritten.
All men and women are created equal. As such, when all stand, all should be about the same height. In metaphor as well as real life, this is untrue. Some stand larger than others, due to genes, social status, ancestors, health or citizen status. People crowd the field and everyone’s ideas, movements and causes get heard equally. However in a stadium full of 200,000 people with each person talking at a normal voice, standing at the center cannot let a person distinguish any individual voice, let alone the speaker.
There are a few ways to advance an idea. It can done on the backs of others, through exploitation. It can be done by convincing a large group of like minded people to move en mass (either with incentives or not), or it can be done by raising up, by letting a person climb on your shoulders.
Revisiting the plight of the lumads in Talaingod as well as in Pantukan helped me refocus my sights on my life, on what is yet unwritten. Standing in solidarity is moving in the same direction. With the rest of my blank pages, I choose to dedicate them to the stories, causes and injustices of people who cannot be heard above the masses, but who ought to be. If you open my book and skip the foreword, you’ll just be reading about the rice farmers all over the Philippines, the plunder of the mineral resources in Mindanao, the struggle of the urban poor, the fisherfolks, the organizers, the human rights defenders and the people who defend those who defend others. You’ll read about Vanessa delos Reyes, a young woman who is being held as a political prisoner by the Aquino government, about Jimmy Liguyon who was victim of a military hit for refusing to sign away his land to foreign mining companies, about a fil-am Melissa Roxas who was illegally arrested,tortured and abused. About Mamanwa fleeing their homes to escape bombing operations, about schoolteachers and students under attack and harassment, about Sr. Stella Matutina who is harassed by the military for her stance on environmental protection and accountability, about the Missionary Sisters of Mary and their work to aid the oppressed all over Mindanao, about Atty. Frederico Gapuz the founder of Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, about Fr. Fausto Tentorio and others who gave their up their lives, their trappings of wealth or their desires for personal glory and dedicated themselves to champion the cause of the downtrodden, to serve the Kingdom of God and helping those people in situations less fortunate than the situation of our respective births, to strive for justice and a lasting peace.
Coming away from the past week of the 2012 Interfaith Advocacy and Solidarity mission, I feel more solid in my foundation, in my conviction to dedicate my life’s book to serving the kingdom of God, to championing the cause of the oppressed and the poor. I feel daunted by the task ahead, and afraid too. Yet I cannot help but ask myself that if God wanted me to fill my book up with my stories, why have I been exposed and moved so deeply by all the tales of people here and changed by all the lives of people I have been blessed to meet. I am afraid and daunted, for my life feels like it is short enough without dedicating my pages to something else, or to someone else.
So if in the future you try to search in my book for the pages of my life, search instead for the pages of the people who I raise up, search for where justice reigns, search for peace. Search for change.