Poignant Memories of the Distant Past

Our Land Of Paradise

By: Tiger Of Serengeti



Once upon a time, many decades ago, there were these beautiful islands sitting in the middle of the vast blue ocean on the other side of the world undisturbed of its beauty. It was like a paradise. It was indeed beautiful with its lush green forest, rivers and springs flowing with fresh cool crystal clear water from the mountains, wild birds with all sorts of colors fly freely, the thundering sweet calls of the Kalaw birds, abundance of colorful fish in the Coral Sea, the tamaraw and other native animals roam the virgin forest undisturbed by humans. The native people that lived in these islands took care of this country like a delicate maiden protected and unspoiled. They built the rice terraces, not only to plant rice, an engineering marvel, but to protect and enhance the natural beauty of the landscape. They harvested trees to build their homes, but were also careful not to spoil the habitat of the native animals that lives around them. They were very aware that ecological balance has to be maintained and considered to preserve the environment they live in.  These people were uncorrupted by greediness. They live in harmony with nature. The Aetas, the Ifugaos, the Igorots, and other native tribes lived in this beautiful land long before this country was called the Philippines. The native people had taken care of this land with the best of their ability as dictated by their beliefs and conscience. Their peaceful co-existence with other tribes  were  shattered forever by  the arrival of the Europeans, Chinese, Dutch, Indians, Malaysians, Japanese, Americans, etc. and out  of these groups of foreigners, came the modern Filipino of today. I can not call the Aetas, The Ifugaos, the Igorots and other native tribes “Filipinos” because they were already here long before the country was named Philippines in honor of King Philip 11 of Spain. I will call them the natives of the “Pearl of the Orient Sea ” and I am proud of them. These people maintained their identity and never waivered to foreign pressures to change their customs, traditions and beliefs. The native tribes were driven to the mountains by the onslaught of foreign conquest. The once virgin forest where the tamaraws freely roam was inundated of  its timbers by greedy Spanish conquestadores in connivance with Filipino politicians whose main concerns was to enrich themselves regardless of the consequences it will create. ( I happened to come across an old atlas book.  Philippine was listed as the 4th largest exporter of lumber in the world as of 1944. ) Where are the Tamaraws now? They only exist now in drawings and in pictures. What happened with our beautiful Kalaw birds and other native birds that live in the once virgin forest? Sadly, those beautiful birds were on the verge of extinction. Their natural habitats were destroyed by callous disregard of our environment by our corrupt leaders. Our leaders of the government allowed the greedy businessmen to harvest our timbers for money.  Now our mountains were denuded of lush green timbers. The head of our government did not even give a thought of replanting trees to replace what was harvested. There was nobody there to speak up and voice their concern about unabated destruction of our environment. I am sure the great majority of the masses saw these destructions of the environment around them but too timid or afraid to voice their revulsions or could it be apathy?  The denuded mountains are now growing cogon. Massive landslides destroyed homes and unprecedented death and destructions as a result of indiscriminate deforestations of our mountains.  The natural topography of our plains, hills and mountains were artificially redirected and re-routed to fit our modern needs. As a result of this interference with nature’s natural curvature of our landscapes, massive flooding occurs and no one can stop the fury of nature. Our rivers were once flowing with crystal clear water, is now murky, muddy, smelly, stagnant because of piles of garbage.  It became the raw sewage disposal place, mosquito infested, polluted and indeed a very, very sad river (see the river just below R.G de Castro College) Our rice fields was once fertile and a haven for native Hito (black catfish) and dalag that borrows itself in the mud during dry season and comes out from hibernation during rainy season fills our rice paddies. My mother told me how joyful it was to see them jumping, squiggling in the mud during rice planting season. How nature preserve these wonderful fish for us to appreciate. But all of these things are slowly disappearing with the introductions of chemical fertilizers, imported snails not even edible for human consumption, and imported Taiwanese catfish that devoured our native catfish. This is indeed very sad because this catfish (Hito) existed long before the modern human were here.  Our ocean became our garbage dump. Beautiful corals that once thrive in our shores are now slowly dying from pollution and careless scrapping of the corals by illegal fishermen from Taiwan with their big trawlers. We used to have abundance of tropical fish for our consumption and for the future generations to come, but with the insensitive disregard of our country’s rules and regulations for fishing by foreign fishermen, our corals are slowly being  destroyed and so the natural habitat of our endangered marine species. Our beaches that once were clear and the pride of our ancestors are now full of debris and broken glasses scattered around. You have to be very careful where to walk. You might step on human waste or dog’s droppings. We used to have mild weather; natural plants like abaca, rattan, coconut grow very well with the kind of weather we used to have. But when people   relentlessly harvested the trees for lumber and for other purposes without replacing it, our weather changed. It is no longer the kind of weather conducive to growth of our native plants. Our weather is hotter, dryer, less rain. These are all the catastrophic results of callously disregarding the ecological balance and environmental protection of our God given paradise land. I can’t help but reflects the POIGNANT MEMORIES OF THE DISTANT PAST of this land we call home. It was a home where we can breathe fresh air, drink crystal clear water from the rivers, the soft rustling sound of the streams, the croaking of the frogs like a concerto in C minor come rainy days, the singing of the birds in the early morning sun as if rejoicing the new day, the sweet smell of the grass after the rain, the smiling people coming home from harvesting rice, proud for collecting sacks of rice for his day’s work. It was a simple life and happy. What did we do to our land? Why did we not protect our natural resources? It was GREED, GREED, and GREED by our leaders and politicians. These politicians and leaders don’t care what happen with us and our environment. We can make a big difference by starting to be aware of our surroundings NOW. Start planting trees even one tree per family a month by the end of the year, we already had planted a thousand trees; don’t throw your garbage in the ocean, beaches or the rivers. Bury the biodegradable and recycle the reusable. Don’t use our rivers as your raw sewage disposal. It creates diseases and mosquitoes will thrive in it. Look at what happened with our very own river in Bulan. It is now a dying river and it makes me very, very sad. Plant assorted vegetables in your backyard.  Fresh vegetables are healthier than junk food. TEACH the youth to TAKE CHARGE OF THEIR OWN DESTINY; don’t expect other people to do it for you. Don’t be DEPENDENT. It is a crippling disease and takes away your dignity as a person. Teach the present and future generations to care for the animals, birds and other living species.  They are very precious to me. They have the right to live in this world too and they are part of our eco-system.  Teach them to express their thoughts and feelings in a positive way and to be open minded to positive criticism. Take pride in your work. When you work, give your 100% effort. You will feel better when you are honest with yourself.  At the end of the day, you can honestly say that you earned every centavo you made that day. It is a good feeling. For once in your life, you were honest and didn’t cheat.   IT IS YOUR LIFE AND FUTURE. Take away that ugly Filipino character of ( ma-isip, ma-o-ri, orihon, tamad, the bahala na attitude, do it tomorrow attitude, ENVY , DEPENDENCY to others will cripple your ability to survive out there in the real world. Shape your own future by working on it, not depending on others to shape it for you.  Be HONEST, take responsibility of your own mistake by accepting it, correct it, and apologize. Don’t indulge in FALSE PRIDE, it will just ruin you.  ARROGANCE is just an egotistical desire for power and dominance. We can not afford it. We are too poor for that kind of attitude and will bring you nowhere but down. GOSSIPING about other people to elevate oneself plagued the minds of the people for a long time. This kind of thinking is very destructive and it hinders progress. Let us CHANGE some of those ugly characters of the Filipino that is PULLING US DOWN TO CONSTANT POVERTY.  Keep the good traits, trash the ugly ones. We have to teach present and future generations to change this kind of mentality. We have to erase it. We have to start NOW or our country will be devoured by foreigners whose intentions are to take advantage of the plight of the poor people. They already started by building their shipyard in Zambales without regards to the destruction of our forest and natural habitat of our endangered birds and animal species. The Koreans, the Chinese, the Hindus, the Japanese, the Taiwanese, pretty soon, it will be the Vietnamese are coming in droves. They are looking, prodding, calculating, conniving with our leaders, planning, exploring, the possibility of taking over the Philippine’s natural resources, gold mining, oil explorations in the Spratly Islands, the destructions  of our sea shores from  mining of margaha right in front of our very own eyes  but people seem to be indifferent.  Is this what happened many, many years ago when our environment was being destroyed by greedy politicians and nobody was there to voice their concern?  It is sad to say that HISTORY SEEMS TO BE REPEATING ITSELF because of the total indifference of the people. I did not see anybody carrying placards saying “STOP THE DESTRUCTION OF OUR ENVIRONMENT”! About the government projects involving millions of dollars, these countries claimed that they donated millions of dollars on the pretext of helping the Philippines build the roads and other proposed projects to benefit the people. The monies they gave are not to build government projects. It goes to the pockets of our leaders as largesse.  Our leaders are selling our country to the foreigners and were given a free reign to do anything they want in this country. The Korean company Hanjin knows exactly what they were doing. They will not invest billions of dollars in those massive projects and walk away. There will be exposures of bribery, corruptions, overpricing of materials, cooking the book, so they say. No matter how our people complained about the destruction of our forest, our leaders will give in to the Hanjin Company’s demand. They are arrogant and don’t respect our Filipino leaders because they know that our leaders are corrupt and can be bought and were already bought. Few years from now, we will be again the slave of foreign domination. This time we are losing our country to foreign domination by way of subtle economic exploitations.  Our ancestors sacrificed thousands of lives defending our country (We lost 2 uncles, grandfather from World War 11.) but we won the war. This time, it is a different war. A war dominated by economic exploitations of our natural resources by the foreigners in conjunction with our elected leaders of our government.  Our very own government is selling off our country to the highest bidder for their own benefits. It is dastardly sickening to see what is happening to our once paradise land. But we can save our country from foreign domination by working   together as a team. We have to be assertive and take control of the situation. Don’t let the situations control us. It will be a long haul but we can do it.      


Email: tigerofserengeti@gmail.com


The Pen or The Sword?

The perennial question involving  pen and sword: Which is mightier? Well, you have read atty. benji’s exposition about this matter in his article “badil vs. tabil“. As of now I’m inclined to say that both of them could be  useless or mighty, depending on ( or relative to ) time, place and circumstances and above all to the person  holding the pen or the sword. Let’s try first to put things in proper perspective. Let’s start with the last one- the person. The person is the most important element in this equation for he is the one that puts either the pen or sword in action. Without him both pen and sword are useless or neutral. The person defines the usage of both, i.e, depending on his motives so the usage. Either for defense or attack, to protect or to insult (pen), cut or kill (sword). Next, the person determines the quality of results, i.e., intelligence and training (background) influence the quality of the result. A genius can produce out of a cheap pen an immortal poem or create a complex mathematical equation, an excellently trained samurai defeats ten swordsmen of inferior training. Not to insult, but a pen is useless in the hands of an idiot ( mentally retarded) so as the sword in the “hands” of a totally crippled man (physically disabled). Now the two in relation to time. In times of peace, the pen is mightier than the sword, or better, the pen is used more than the sword, whereas in times of actual war or combat or immediate danger, the sword is mightier than the pen in the sense that it is the right tool for the moment. But the way the events of war or whatever social turmoil during or  thereafter are recorded by the pen could make a whole world of difference.

 A history that is manipulated can mislead generations, affect their perception, thus, their collective identity positively or negatively. In our time, the meaning of both is relative to the place. In the Philippines or Zimbabwe, for instance, or in other places where democracy is flawed or no democracy at all, the sword is the actual tool that’s employed. By contrast, in  Switzerland or Sweden for instance, or in other places where democracy lives to the fullest, the pen is the actual tool used the most. In such places, whoever resorts to the sword is an outcast and primitive and is immediately removed from the society, i.e. tried and imprisoned, no exception or special treatment, president or janitor. The sword in such places is therefore  primarily  used to protect democracy, to reinforce law and order or to protect internal security from terrorism and the national borders from outward invasions, but never to influence another by force ( intimidation ) or to attack another country. In other words reason rules as opposed to brute force. In Zimbabwe or the Philippines (especially during elections), the sword, not the pen rules. In other words, brute force ( power, money, ) rules as opposed to reason.

This is really the only small difference yet this is what separates light years away the first world from the third world countries, a categorization we dislike but has its justification for it’s a matter of conscious choice, of being able to learn lessons from the past (some countries have difficulty drawing lessons from the past; they keep on repeating the same mistakes, thus, they hardly move forward ) , that the first world countries are now harvesting the fruits of their hard work and good decision ( and not just a matter of fortune or favorable historical events. Switzerland had also suffered from wars and internal strifes and just over a hundred years ago, it is one of the poorest nations in Europe)- that of laying down the sword but instead use more the pen to deal with one another. This is the birth of democracy and of teamwork and progress. The sword cuts and divides, whereas the pen allows exchange of ideas. In the Philippines, swords are there not primarily to reinforce the written law and the first three pillars of justice-  Investigation (Police), Prosecution, Courts, but to violate them or render them ineffective ( we all know those election-related violence, for instance, where the police are reduced to lame ducks or how our presidents are using the armed forces of the Philippines to reinforce their unlawful, vested self-interests like the martial law by Marcos or Arroyo’s declaration of state of emergency in February 2006 ). Hence, the sword ( power, connection, money ) is the law, not the pen ( justice, truth,  democracy), in our country. There, as in Zimbabwe, one can rightly say that the sword is mightier than the pen. In Switzerland or Sweden, the pen is mightier than the sword.

 Now we have seen that this famous saying “the pen is mightier than the sword”, noble as it is, nor its inversion, “The sword is mightier than the pen”, self-evident as it is, cannot be generalized for it is relative to the setting of time, place and circumstance and the person (society). It was 1839, in Act II of his play Richelieu where Edward Bulwer-lytton used this saying thru his play character Cardinal Richelieu when he challenged  the monk Joseph who contrived a plot against him by saying “Beneath the rule of men entirely great, the pen is mightier than the sword”, for as a priest he couldn’t challenge him to physical fight.

This brings us now to Jose Rizal who was an adept sword athlete  himself yet was known for his statement “My Pen, The Only Tool I Had”. It was his pen, not his sword, that catalyzed the revolution at that time, it was his pen that moved the sword, it was his pen that put another hero into the limelight- Andres Bonifacio, the warrior armed with the sword! Indeed, the pen mightier than the sword? Or Rizal over Bonifacio? Now, we have entered the most debated issue in our nation: Who deserves to be our national hero, Rizal or Bonifacio? Well, as I have observed then and lately ( see Bik-Lish ) scholars and laymen alike have practically exhausted their minds in trying to answer this question. For me the reason for all these headaches is simple: The question is wrong and so was the answer. Put into proper perspective, history needed both Rizal and Bonifacio for the revolution to be initiated and culminated. Thus, seen against the background of revolution, both Rizal and Bonifacio were justified to be called our national heroes,  which means that both of them deserve to symbolize those men and women who took part in the revolution -the Rizal or Bonifacio way, or, the pen or the sword method, thus catalysing the end of Spanish regime. In short, the revolution made use of both tools, the pen and the sword fighting side by side, all the way till victory. ( Revolution must not be confused with immediate danger to life and limb as they occur in daily life, thus necessitates the sword as the right tool only. Revolution is a social unrest over an extended period of time where pen and swords find their moments of use ). Rizal ( the pen, the idea ) alone would not have realized the revolution, and so Bonifacio (the sword, the action), which tells us clearly that both principles were needed for the complete reality of revolution to assume shape.

 Rizal and Bonifacio, the two sides of the revolution. This is the way I see it. A revolution cannot be one-sided, as any reality. This myopic, one-sided thinking was a mistake for it has misled us. It divided us, the strategy , I suppose,  used by the American colonizers intelligently by sponsoring (favoring) Rizal as the national hero, thereby relegating Bonifacio, Mabini, and all the rests into the background and forcing and limiting our mind for decades to think only in one direction, one sided, as opposed to a holistic perception of our Filipino reality. The effect was devastating for it produced doubts in us. There are many among us Filipinos of today who still are victims of this “colonial mentality”, who still harbor doubts within themselves and who are still either “in favor ” of or “not in favor ” of , pro or contra Rizal or Bonifacio. This is sad for they debate on the wrong question suggested in  their subconscious by the subsequent colonizers. Psychologically we remain with  respect to this issue a divided nation of Rizalists and Bonifacians, which means colonization still has us in its grips.

We must free ourselves from this mental bondage by redefining what a hero is in our modern Filipino understanding in relation to our present goal of achieving a progressive nation, our fight against poverty and corruption, in our attempt to treat our sick nation. In truth, today we need both Rizal and Bonifacio to guide us, the idea (pen) and the action (the sword), to revolutionize our moral make up for our nation to progress. Simply put, let’s broaden our horizon and avoid playing Rizal and Bonifacio against each other for it is a waste of time, mental energy and above all an insult to these two great historical figures. For sure Rizal, if alive today, would not agree with the idea of being the national hero himself, he would refuse it, and would have a totally different answer. And Bonifacio? Although he disdained his personal hero Rizal towards the end, I still believe that he would refuse to be the national hero were he alive today and offered this honor.  We only invented this debate to repress our own doubts about ourselves.

Both Rizal and Bonifacio were true to their own personal methods of approaching a problem- and of expressing their patriotism-  till the very end. Opposing methods as they appeared to be in surface ( Rizal at that moment in time being against the revolution and Bonifacio being in favor of the revolution ), in reality, i.e., seen in totality, history needed both of them to provide us a story and a reality distinctly Filipino. And it functioned! Only that we were taught to interpret our history the wrong way- and we failed to examine what had been taught to us. That’s the effect of the mighty pen used against us- it has misled us for decades even until now.

This is the way I see it. You may disagree which means you have your own way of seeing it. And that’s good like that. This is reality. Never one-sided.

jun asuncion

Bulan Observer