Reflections on ‘Lakbayan’

This past September 12-21, 2017 I relocated from Davao City, Mindanao, Philippines to the University of the Philippines  (UP) Diliman in Quezon City, Philippines.  I moved from the relative comfort of my apartment to the intense discomfort of living in a camp, the central ‘Kampuhan’ of this year’s Lakbayan

‘Lakbayan’ by Sandugo, an Alliance of National Minorities of the Philippines, is a three week long event taking place in Manila and hosted by UP Diliman wherein national minorities from all parts of the Philippines journey to Manila to air their grievances, lobby the government and affect change to administrative policies that impact their daily lives.

Artist works on Trump effigy to be used at the US Embassy protest
Artist works on Trump effigy to be used at the US Embassy protest.

‘Lakbayan’ is an opportunity for national minorities to create news in the political heart of the Philippines, to give birth to waves of change that in turn can breathe life into their traditional ways of life: traditions on the verge of being extinguished due to long practiced national policies of discrimination, oppression and impunity.

I flew into Manila airport the evening after the tropical depression ‘Maring’ inundated the National Capital Region and surrounding areas.  I was advised by InPeace (Initiatives for Peace – my placement organization) staff onsite to seek other lodging as the Kampuhan was completely flooded with 1.5-2 feet of water.  Therefore I arrived to the camp on the following day, Sept. 13.   

Immediately I noticed how large and well organized it seemed, despite not being able to find the proper entrance right away (I attribute that to my tagalog illiteracy, and my skills in getting lost when I don’t know where I am.)  I was struck by the welcoming atmosphere and the overall busyness of the Kampuhan.

Museo LumadWith the Museo Lumad flanked by the main tent & stage across from the registrar and media center,  the entrance was hopping place bustling with students, visitors and volunteers from many walks of life.

Who knows? There were probably some undercover policeman or NBI agents there as well.

I joined the Save Our School steering committee and took part of activities that the Save Our Schools network joined.  Lumad schools, and protecting them from President Duterte’s promises of violence upon them, was one of the focal points of this years Lakbayan.  There were Lumad scholars present at the Kampuhan for the duration, attending temporary classes at the participating colleges UP-Diliman and the University of Santo Tomas with volunteer teachers from the faculty of those as well as Lumad schools teachers who accompanied their students.  

Despite the many difficulties the Lumad scholars and teachers faced in both getting to Manila (some were refused entry to the airport by National Police despite having all necessary paperwork) or staying there (with the Office of the President leaning heavily on the Department of Social Welfare and Development to find reasons/made up paperwork? the children needed to return home or were ‘kidnapped’ by the people entrusted by their guardians) the Lumad scholars made a profound impact on visitors to the Kampuhan and on students and faculty of the schools they in turn visited.  

Once such school, De La Salle University (DLSU), I joined for the forum, presentation and culture night there.  DLSU is known as a prestigious school in Manila.  If not for their academics & intramurals, than it must be for their wealthy alumni and ‘elite’ student body.  I am grateful to the local DLSU students who made it possible for us to visit, and to the professors, mostly from the Literature department, for requiring their students to go. I only hope that it was meaningful, perhaps even unexpectedly so, to those who were able to attend.

United Methodists visit the Kampuhan:

United Methodists visit with different regions

On September 17th United Methodists from Manila area churches organized a visit to the Kampuhan.  It was touching for me to see that so many people in the United Methodist church are cognisant of and willing to learn more of the reality of the struggle of national minorities in the Philippines.  As a United Methodist missionary serving in Mindanao, I am saturated in the struggle of the Lumads, especially as I am serving at the Save Our Schools Network, a project of the Advance (#3022305) so it was a rare moment to enjoy the company of my fellow United Methodists while being immersed among the people I am in ministry with.  It was a blessing to reconnect with a former Global Mission Fellow, current Global Ministries missionaries, United Methodist Women, men, young people and clergy.  I especially appreciated the community (and eating!) after their visit as we joined together in fellowship, reactions, reflection and prayer.

 

One of the things that struck me from their visit is hearing directly from people how impressed they were that I lived and slept at the Kampuhan.  The conditions at the camp were hard.  I suppose they were impressed that a non Filipino, non minority, person of a degree of affluence (because I could afford a hostel if I really wanted too), would remain steadfast in those conditions.  

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It is not an exaggeration to call it squalor.  It wasn’t 100% squalor perhaps but the conditions were very hard at the camp.   I would have welcomed going home after the first day, or sleeping in a hostel and commuting every day.

 

Yet, as a Methodist missionary and a person faith I am called to be in solidarity and marching alongside oppressed people…and in the Philippines, national minorities are oppressed.  That solidarity is made stronger by sharing meals and sleeping next to my oppressed brothers and sisters.  So steadfastly, barely, I survived the relatively short time I was there through the unbearable head & humidity, the putrid latrines, the incomprehensible overnight construction, speeding and jackhammering, and the gag inducing smell of waste, rotting food and urine.  

 

While my Lakbayan experience was…difficult because of the conditions, it was necessary and good to be in solidarity with the people of Sandugo.  I was blessed to hear from fellow United Methodist who may have found inspiration in my commitment to be in solidarity with the people (although honestly a lot of it was just stubbornness to not give up right away.)  Whatever thoughts Kampuhan inhabitants and visitors experienced from my presence is not diminished by my own feelings of inadequacy or weakness for wanting to give up.  The bottom line is, I made it until the end. Sure, I switched to sleeping outside in my hammock to on a piece of cardboard for the last two days…but in a way that itself is part of the message of solidarity, the call for justice and peace, and working for God’s Kingdom on Earth.

 

It is not always easy, and I might want to give up often.  Yet others will be inspired by the times I choose difficulties, solidarity and steadfastness. Together we support each other and through God all is possible.  Even peace and justice for national minorities in the Philippines.

 

Stop Lumad Killings! Protect Lumad Schools!  No to Martial Law!

 

 

Visit the United Methodist Advance Project Save Our Schools, Protect Indigenous Life here:  http://www.umcmission.org/Give-to-Mission/Search-for-Projects/Projects/3022305

Visit my missionary profile here:

http://www.umcmission.org/Explore-Our-Work/Missionaries-in-Service/Missionary-Profiles/Shaw-Adam

 

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National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission Findings – public statement

My previous post detailed my personal experience joining the Colonsabac, Matanao team of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM.)  Yesterday I went to Ateneo de Davao University to attend the public presentation of overall findings of the NIHM to the four areas:  Marawi City, President Roxas North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Matanao.

I wish to share some of the data.

  1.  The NIHM notes a total of 325,294 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mindanao.  For scale: that is a more of the entire population of NHL champion city Pittsburgh (pop 305,412 -2014 census)  The steady increase of IDPs is a result of the drawn out Marawi siege, the AFP’s love affair with airstrikes that cause massive property destruction and friendly casualties, as well as other aerial bombardments in other parts of mindanao to suppress terrorism.
  2.  The NIHM was only able to provide for 1,222 families.  The IDP situation is made complex by the number of unaccounted home based evacuees who remain un-or underserved.
  3. NIHM medical found the top 10 diseases in the evacuation center served to be Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, Skin Diseases, Pulmonary Tuberculosis suspected (Class III) and active (Class V), Acute Gastroenteritis, Peptic Ulcer Disease/Dyspepsia, Muscoskeletal pain, Hypertension, Headache, Pneumonia, Gyne cases and Pregnancy. Pregnancy isn’t a disease but it does require attention and a more stable environment then say, an evacuation center.  Health services are scarce in the centers and the ones that do exists are stretched thin and overloaded, thereby bringing the quality of healthcare down.
  4. Aside from medical, mental health is a very real concern especially among children:

“as they witnessed heavily armed men, who they referred as ‘ISIS’, occupying their community and engaging in firefight with military elements. They express the same feeling and fear towards government soldiers. They witnessed helicopters hovering above Marawi City and dropping bombs on their communities. Their current temporary shelter in evacuation centers particularly those near Marawi City does not insulate them from the source of their fears as they continue to hear the sound of bombs especially at night time.”

In short, the NIHM finds that

  • Martial Law and the AFP’s indiscriminate aerial bombardment approach has spawned massive human rights violations
  • Martial Law’s adverse and grave impact on the human rights and welfare of civilians demonstrates its lack of effectivity and casts doubt on its appropriateness as a response to a small, armed, and foreign-affiliated terrorist group.
  • Intensified indiscriminate aerial bombardment is the primary character of Martial Law.
  • Martial Law demonstrates an anti-people and anti-insurgency motive, with the Moro and Lumad civilians and communities as its target.
  • Victims call to lift Martial Law, end aerial to aerial bombardment, and stop to militarization.
  • Alarming and condemnable criminal and terrorist acts of local terrorist groups which are reportedly funded, directed, and controlled by ISIS and foreign terrorist organizations
  • Glaring involvement and violation of Philippine sovereignty by US involvement and participation in the Marawi siege and possibly in other “counter-terror” campaigns in Mindanao

 

I’ve taken the liberty of uploading the original document.  I hope you can find it useful. Special thanks to Kalinaw Mindanao for the report and organizing the NIHM, as well as all the volunteers, supporters and donors who made it happen.

Kalinaw Mindanao Mission Statement FINAL

Inside, Outside, Dry and Wet (or a national interfaith humanitarian mission)

That about sums up my travels to and from the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM) to Matanao, Davao del Sur.

Matanao was the third site for the NIHM mission, with the first two serving internally displaced Moro people affected by the conflict in Marawi city in Iligan City and in Maguindanao.

They left at 4am on June 13. Our site was much closer so we didn’t leave until the following afternoon.  About 8 people from Davao City joined the mission to Matanao, including journalists.  The leader of our group coordinated with those already at the bus terminal to reserve spots for us, as we waited by the highway to climb aboard, all kitted out and ready for the mission.

It was about an hour bus trip from Davao City to Digos City, where we got off the bus and waited for our rides.  After about 40 min of waiting, two big trucks pulled up to the station, an army surplus and an open flat bed “Saddam” truck.

We piled on joining the 85 other folks from General Santos City and Sarangani province then continued on our way for about 1.5 hrs.  It was a beautiful drive once we got out of the city.  We drove until we arrived at Matanao proper where we stopped outside the Catholic church to greet the parish priest who would be our host for the next two days.  I joined the greet team and listened to the curfew rules that were in effect due to martial law.

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NIHM leaders and guests meeting the hospitable parish priest who was putting us up for the duration of the mission.

From there we piled back onto the trucks and continued to the actual parish where we would be spending the night.  Along the way seeing a spectacular sunset reflecting off the rice fields.  I tried to capture it one handed with my phone, as we were bouncing over some rather rough roads at speed and I did not wish to lose my grip on the safety bars of the saddam truck.  Still, the view stood still long enough for me to enough photos that one of them turned out ok! 😉

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I got lucky – the sky and earth stood still long enough.

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After arriving at the church, we broke off into our various teams.  I joined the relief distribution team.  Some of the rice needed to be sorted into the 5kg family packs still. I joined the team outside, first preparing the bags, then I served as a mobile lamp post with my headlight providing decent light to allow the packers to see while they worked.

The next morning we got up very early, loading up the vehicles.  It was a 35 min drive up into the mountains before we arrived at Colonsabac, Matanao, Davao del Sur, where we would be having the mission actual in the school gym.  As we unloaded and set up banners, displaced persons started to arrive. There were representatives of all the 183 families to participate in the mission and receive relief goods.

Programmed activities began in earnest:

-First, the human rights violations documentation teams broke off with the different ‘puroks’ (think street neighborhoods – approximately 10-15 families)

-After that was concluded there was a time of sharing from the victims, as well as from representatives of the local clergy and national indigenous leaders from Manila.

-Lastly it was time for the relief to be handed out.

Between the second and third activities a veritable  thunderstorm barreled down on us and the hot sun turned to cool wind with rain hammering down on the covered gym. I, personally, love the rain and the cool wind it brings…I did not take into account climbing back up into the now slippery and muddy saddam truck, nor having nowhere to hold on to nor room to stand. This was due to the makeshift plastic tarpaulin that covered the bed.  With nowhere to hold on, I steeled myself and sat on a banner, my poor back absorbing the shock of the bouncy road, feeling the water seep into my pants as we made our way back to the parish.

Still, this trip made an impression on me. Yes, due to the nature of my kidnap potential it was too dangerous for me to join the other relief mission locations, still, I was glad to be able to join the team to visit the Bl’aan displaced by war.  Even though I was on the relief team, I spend most of my time on a new team called the social team, which consisted of me talking to children and their parents, as well as elders from the community to share a moment of solidarity and listen to them.  It was a blessing to be part of the overall mission, joining grassroots leaders, students, farmers and other B’laan communities who had made the trip to be in solidarity with their brothers and sisters.  For me, even though I ended the trip exhausted, wet, bruised and quite probably sick (so people say after seeing my face today)  I am blessed to have been part of this experience.

 

 

 

Sowing Love, not Fear.

The question I get asked the most is:  Does he understand Bisaya?

Okay so that question isn’t directed to me, nevertheless it is about me.  The question I then get asked is “How long will you be staying here?”

The third most asked question to me is:  “What do you think about the President?”

The President in this case is the new POTUS.  I answer this question with a shrug and reply that I do not like him.  People then ask me if I voted for him to which I answer “No, I did not.”

I then get a why not?  Why don’t I like the  new Potus and why didn’t I vote for him?

In Bisaya, while I can understand and speak, I am still limited so the answer I give the questions is simple.  I do not like him and did not vote for him because I am a Christian.

I believe in planting seeds of hope, faith,love and truth.  Living my life walking in the light, following the light.  The new Potus plants fear, deceit and hate.

Yes I understand Bisaya, and I can communicate through gestures and pointing that which I have no words for.  More importantly I can speak from my christian heart which says these things happening to our neighbors in the US, these Executive Orders are wrong, and are incompatible with my beliefs as a Christian: they are incompatible with the Old Testament and the New.

This is not theology or interpretation that can be understood differently.  Leviticus 19:33-34 says:

33 When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. 34 The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.

First I am a Christian. Then I am an Earthling. A Neighbor, a brother, a son, a man, a millennial, a wanderer, an activist, a musician, a geologist. And way down the line somewhere I am a United States citizen.  My identity is in Christ first, followed by the community of Creation.  Identifying myself as part of organization and state of an exclusive nation is not high up on my list.

Yet if I stand by and am silent while these things are done in my name, I am still complicit.

I will not be silent. Even though I do not reside in my passportland.  Even though I may not be fluent in their language, I will not be idle.

Looking back

Today I am sitting in a cafe once again, reading Global Mission Fellows applications and taking in the stories of the young people who are applying this year.  Then it hit me- and I had to write it down quick.   I am content.

It has been almost 6 months since I finished my assignment as Mission Advocate at Global Ministries.  In reading these applications I was reminded of what I wrote on my cover letter when I applied to be Mission Advocate.

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To speak Good news to the greater church…

My exit interview as Mission Advocate went pretty poorly. Perhaps it was that I had lost sight of my reasons for wanting to serve in that capacity, perhaps it was the knowledge that I had fallen short of  my superiors’ expectations – goals that exponentially changed as those of a thriving product tend to do.  Perhaps it is that I take failure hard, and am predisposed to gloss over small victories and judge my work as failed.  Whatever the reason it took me until now, in catching sight of my own personal goal as Mission Advocate, to remember who I am, and why I am so convinced in the vitalness of serving as a Mission Advocate, and serving as a missionary.

There are two new Mission Advocate positions that will be filled this year. I can only hope that the two people who fill them will not lose sight, as I did, of the real reason they want to serve in that capacity.

Spreading the Good News,

A.

 

Open Plea for Typhoon Haiyan Relief donations

Sisters and Brothers in Christ,

On November 8th 2013, category 5 Super-Typhoon Haiyan bulldozed through central Philippines.  Thousands are missing and hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the storm, their homes eradicated by the most ferocious storm to make landfall in any country ever.

The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) has led our United Methodist response in the Philippines by providing a $97,000 grant. Those immediate funds were used to provide food, water and water purification tablets to 7,500 people. However that was just the beginning of our effort as an organized faith community.

Thousands of people are without relief: daily food, water, shelter and clothing.  Relief distribution has been slow and disproportionate.  Only select areas have been receiving aid.  While it is true that the city of Tacloban was one of the hardest hit areas, it was not the only area devastated by the storm. Yet Tacloban is the only area receiving international attention and international relief.

UMCOR Philippines has partnered with BALSA Mindanao (Bayanihan Alay sa Sambayanan/People’s Cooperation for the People*) to provide comprehensive grassroots relief to underserved communities displaced by Typhoon Haiyan.  Since 2012’s super-typhoon Bopha hit southern Philippines, UMCOR and BALSA have been providing funds, relief and skilled volunteers to aid, rehabilitate and rebuild hope for affected communities.

Distributing relief goods at a survivor collective after Typhoon Washi (Photo: BALSA Mindanao)
Distributing relief goods at a survivor collective after Typhoon Washi (Photo: BALSA Mindanao)

As a United Methodist Missionary serving in Mindanao, Philippines, I lived through two devastating typhoons (Washi & Bopha) and worked with BALSA alongside UMCOR to rebuild homes, lives, and hope for a better tomorrow. I cannot forget the sight of starving, hungry masses of people pressing the sides of roads holding signs that read “Hungry, Please Feed Me” with the wrecks of their homes and fields in the background.  I cannot forget that for every family that receives relief goods by the side of the road and in cities, there are hundreds more in the countryside that are isolated, difficult to reach by debris blocking already poorly maintained roads– hundreds of people not receiving relief, not receiving food, not receiving water and not receiving hope.  I cannot forget, I will always remember.

 

These are the underserved -the least of these- the forgotten victims to whom UMCOR, through BALSA, are serving as I write this.   Many more generous hearts and funds are needed to respond to the extreme devastation and aid in the survival of our brothers and sisters.

I have donated through UMCOR and invite you to join me.  I invite your church to take up a special offering through Thanksgiving and the Christmas season.  You can support UMCOR’s relief and recovery work by donating (either online or through your church) to International Disaster Response, Advance #982450.  100% of your gift will be used to help those in need in the Philippines.

You can find updates, find ways to get involved in your area and also donate on the web through Taskforce Haiyan (taskforcehaiyan.org), a grassroots network of organizations, businesses, churches, institutions, groups, and concerned individuals in the US who are moved by compassion to extend support and solidarity to the peoples and communities of the devastated areas of the Philippines affected by super typhoon Haiyan.

*For updates on UMCOR and BALSA’s ongoing relief efforts, visit www.umcor.org and www.balsamindanao.net.

Please give generously yet also pray continuously for God’s mercy, healing and hope for a people still struggling to recover from earthquakes and war, and join with us as we move towards God’s mercy and justice.

Walking humbly with our Lord,

Adam Shaw

 

Annual Conference Sharing

As promised about 5 minutes ago, below is the written script of my sharing. To listen while watching the video, click here.  Plenary 5 video, at the bottom of the page.  Scroll to 9:48 to listen.

Oh and Cal-Pac Taskƒorce Philippines’ resolutions got adopted! So cheers all around for those who made it happen.

If you are interested in further articles about my time check out this article from Global Ministries

Here are the words I spoke..sort of.  I don’t always follow exactly what I write.

Hello,

My name is Adam Shaw and I am a young adult missionary with Global Ministries. I served 18 months in the Philippines and am currently serving as Mr. Taskforce Philippines as a part of the Justice and Compassion Essential Ministry Team. I have been asked to share a reflection on what it means for me to be part of a church that offers young adults opportunities to serve:

My ministry in the Philippines began by building relationships with tenant rice farmers and urban poor communities by living with them for about 5 weeks.  With the farmers, I helped with the chores, pampered the carabao-the water buffalo and shared meaningful time with their families.  With the urban poor, I watched the children, played cards with the youth, attended organizer meetings, listened to their stories of struggle and laughed at their jokes.  I came a stranger, but I left as ANAK, as a son, as kuya, as brother, I left as family.

I also left tired.  I was so tired from being away from my room for a month, my clothes were so dirty from me trying and failing at washing them in the stream, much to the amusement of the locals.  And so when, 2 days after I got back to Davao Francis, my supervisor, said to me: “Adam, they are inviting you back for a solidarity march.” And I, my naivety on full display asked him, how long of a march?

He said,  93 miles in 5 days.

My feet hurt just thinking about it, I was still tired from my 5 week adventure, my clothes were sort of clean,  I was physically drained, mentally exhausted , my heart was homesick and all I wanted to say was No!

The B’laan Lumad tribes of Tampakan  were asking me to march with them as they publicly demonstrated their peaceful resistance to the land grabbing entry of a large-scale open pit mine in their ancestral land, a march that transverses  what is the affected watershed, the entire far south of Mindanao.

I was called to join the march.  Called, tired as I was, homesick as I was, dirty and smelly as I was.  The first day, it was hot& humid.  the second day was more of the same, plus we got rained on. by the third day I was carrying my shoes in one hand because I had blisters on my heels, and shuffling along in my flip flops because I had also blisters in between of and on the underside of my toes, and it was impossible for me to walk without pain.  By the end of the fourth day, I was utterly exhausted, sleep deprived, suffering from my recurring amoebiasis and unable to walk because of my infected blisters.  Now every night after the day’s march there was a cultural and solidarity night, as more people joined the march every day.  I usually sang.  That night however, I wrote a letter and had a friend translate it, as I read my letter aloud. It was a letter that asked for forgiveness for my state of being, and one that asked for their permission for me to stop and rest before catching up.  It was a letter of shame. I was ashamed. Ashamed because the nanay’s the grandmothers, the children, who I had marched alongside of for 60 miles, they were still going strong, going because they had to, because it was their ancestral land, their HOME that was at stake, because marching was their hope.

Marching into General Santos City, Day 3
Marching into General Santos City, Day 3

In the depths of my shame, the B’laan thanked me, and gave me grace. A Loving Grace for we had walked together, a Humbling Grace, because I could go no further.  An empowering Grace of why they couldn’t also rest.  Inspiring Grace.  Amazing Grace.

On behalf of all young adult missionaries, thank you.  Thank you so much for your love, for your prayers and for your gifts of financial support– that allows us to receive God’s Grace from people with whom we were in ministry with yesterday, and share that Grace, that same amazing grace, to those people with whom we are in ministry today.  Thank you very much.

Here we Go Again

Well. I will be the first one to say that when the going gets tough, my blog gets nothing.  After a frantic 2.5 months of preparation for many activities culminating in our attendance at the Human Rights conference in Manila next month, I can finally say that I’m on my way.  Tomorrow night, I’ll be returning to the Philippines.  It will only be for a month, but in this upcoming month I’m looking forward to renewing relationships, seeing old friends, marveling at how fast babies have grown up, sweating in the heat, riding a habal habal, not stressing for a while and experience Mindanao for the first time through the wonder and excitement of our first time missioners.

I feel like an old soul having written that last phrase.  A wise old soul with some new toys to make my trip easier.  I went to REI and finally bought a hammock, something I’ve wanted for awhile. I also picked up a water purification system, very portable, which gives my mind a great deal of ease as it filters out bacteria and virus’ (HAHA Amoeba! no joy for you!)  I also got a portable solar panel charger.  I’m usually don’t plan on bringing too many electronic devices, however, remembering past missions, I think it will be a good investment for the present and the future.  Plus it’s green energy.  What’s not to love?

This past weekend I was at the Cal-Pac Annual Conference.  It was in fact, my first annual conference ever.  Joy Prim, my dear colleague in mission wrote her a reflection of her experiences here (http://joyprim.wordpress.com/2013/06/20/the-highlight-reel/) I don’t really have many reflections about AC, rather, I was asked to do some  public reflecting in a morning Plenary session.  There is a video archive of this.  I’ll post a separate blog about what I said and link the video in there.

 

Right now, I’m just doing my laundry, trying to remember to do the things I need to before I leave, and pick out which bag I should take with me.  I’ll be adding more content to my blog once I arrive in the Philippines, about my vacation and my work, so I’ll keep you posted 🙂

 

Godspeed

New Beginning, Old Friends

Well I’m finally here.

A little over a month since I left the Philippines, flew halfway around the world and reentered into the heart of the Big Apple.  Four weeks since I reconnected with my fellow MIs and shared stories of our struggles, joys, failures and successes. Three weeks since I arrived at my parents’ home in Northern Ohio and was greeted by the cold weather and the warm home cooking, two weeks since I traveled around to supporting and other churches, sharing some of my reflections and experiences in the past 18 months, and just one day after my long awaited arrival in Los Angeles.

I was greeted at the airport by some old friends, who promptly took me to drinks and dinner.  When I say promptly, I mean, the decision was prompt, the travel was not.  Partly due to traffic, mostly just because I wanted to get a look at my new city, and definitely because the Buktaw’s were eager to share their home.  We ate dinner with other friends at a (surprise) mexican restaurant, which was delicious, notwithstanding the $2 margarita special, which was in of itself, enough reason for merriment.

As our drinks and food wound down, conversation turned more serious about issues around community organizing and mobilizing people around certain issues…and I found my spirit at peace.  While I was home, my body rested (sort of) but I missed the spiritual peace/excitement jolt, that I got from my work in the Philippines, and last night, among friends, satisfied with way to much food in my stomach and a little too much exhaustion from the day of traveling, I felt again the glow of the Holy Spirit.

I can say with certainty, that I am excited about my work here, and Mom was right to be afraid:  with people like the ones here, I may just be started on the path to ‘losing myself to the Californians’ as my work, the community of friends and faith help me to find peace, joy and excitement in the love of Christ.

 

 

 

An Open Letter to President Aquino of the Philippines

CANADA-PHILIPPINES SOLIDARITY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (CPSHR)
1-5687 West Blvd Vancouver, BC Canada
Email: cps_hr@yahoo.ca

06 March 2013

AN OPEN LETTER to His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III

RE: The extrajudicial killing of Barug Katawhan leader Cristina Morales Jose

Mr. President,

The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR) joins the
Filipino human rights defenders and international rights groups in
strongly denouncing the callous killing of Cristina Morales Jose,
Barangay Kagawad (District Councillor) and Barug Katawhan (People Rise
Up!) mass leader. She was shot dead by an unidentified
motorcycle-riding assassin around 6:00 pm on Monday, March 4th, 2013.
Cristina Morales Jose was also a leader of Bayan Muna (People First)
and member of Barug Katawhan, an organization of the survivors of
Typhoon Pablo that hit Davao Oriental last December 2012.

We send our deepest condolences to her family and the people she
served with passion, asserting that every human person has the right
to demand from the government to be provided with the basic needs for
survival such as food, and shelter, the right for humanitarian aid in
the context of disaster, without any discrimination due to his or her
race, age, class, gender and political affiliation.

As a District Councillor and community activist, Cristina Morales Jose
had exposed the food blockade and militarization of relief operations
in Sitio Limot, Barangay Binondo by the 67th Infantry Battalion of the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Together with other typhoon
survivors from Baganga, she participated in the three-day Kampuhan or
camp-out in front of the Department of Social Welfare and Development
(DSWD) in Davao City on February 25-28, and demanded the release of
relief goods allocated for the starving typhoon survivors. She had
also protested against the blacklisting of Typhoon Pablo victims by
the Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion who was at the protest.

Human rights group Karapatan Southern Mindanao documented that
Cristina Jose and all those who participated in the camp-out at the
DSWD were harassed by the Barangay Captain and by the Army’s 67th
Infantry Battalion when they went home to their communities. Under
Oplan Bayanihan, 21 military battalions from three Infantry Divisions
(ID) of the AFP have been stationed in the region and this heavy
military presence has resulted in rampant cases of human rights
violations and displacement of the peasants and the Lumad people.

With just a couple of days before the International Women’s Day, we
are strongly reminded that women are also in the forefront of the
struggle for justice and human rights in the Philippines, alongside
the peasants, workers, and indigenous peoples, and that their activism
puts them in the military’s firing line. The killing of Cristina
Morales Jose only highlights the fascist hand of the Aquino government
and its military in putting down any critical dissent, any movement
that fights for basic rights and welfare. It is also ironic that at
the rally in front of the DSWD, Cristina Morales Jose was holding a
placard that said “Bigas, hindi bala, ang ipamahagi placard.

Mr. President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines, we ask that you order an immediate pull-out of the 67th
Infantry Battalion and stop Operation Plan Bayanihan, which has
declared all-out war against the people.

We further urge your government to:

1. Conduct an impartial investigation of the 67th IBPA, the DSWD and
other government agencies with possible connections to the murder of
Cristina Morales Jose and ensure the immediate prosecution of the
perpetrators.

2. Stop to the militarization of relief and rehabilitation operations
in Typhoon Pablo affected areas. Immediately turn – over relief and
rehabilitation programs to the civilian government.

3. Conduct an independent fact finding mission composed of lawyers,
church people, academe, and other human rights groups to investigate
Jose’s killing and other violations of international humanitarian law.

Justice for Cristina M. Jose!
Stop the militarization of humanitarian operations in Typhoon Pablo Areas!
Stop the Killings!
End impunity now!

Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR)
http://www.canadaphilippinessolidarity.org/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Canada-Philippines-Solidarity-for-Human-Rights/

Member: Stop the Killings Network (STKN-Canada)/ International League
of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Canada)/ International Women’s Alliance
(IWA)/ Coalition for Migrant Workers Justice (C4MWJ)/ Mining Justice
Alliance (MJA)
Associate Member:International Migrants’ Alliance (IMA)
Proud Supporter of Bayan-Canada and Migrante-Canada