Friday, September 9, 2011

From where we stand (Show us the elephant)

*my column in the Sept. 11 issue of Cordillera Today

Someone once asked me, after doing a couple of plays here in Baguio a couple of years since I moved here, why I haven’t done a play that touches on Igorot culture. I told her I cannot possibly tell that story truthfully then just yet. It’s been 15 years since, and I still won’t dare tell that story, not yet. I don’t know enough about it to tell stories about it.

But, I have told the stories of Jose Rizal, Antonio Luna, one Fernando Bautista, Jesus Christ, an orphan named Timoune, a beggar called Serapio, a place once known as Kafagway and its transformation from being a natural paradise to a concrete and GI sheet jungle, among others. I told these stories for I believed I could, and in most cases, I should.

The same way I felt that I should tell the story I knew of about the wall that ruptured unleashing a torrent of garbage that claimed people’s lives and homes.

We are being told different stories about the tragedy, and there may be some truth to all of those stories. Just like those men who ventured to observe an elephant – the men were all blind and as the Indian legend goes, the one who bumped against the animal’s broad body believed that an elephant is like a wall; while the second man who touched its tusk was convinced that en elephant is shaped like a spear; “it’s like a snake,” cried the third who was clutching its trunk; while the fourth who hugged the animal’s leg knew for sure that an elephant is just like a tree; the fifth blind man who happened to touch its ear assumed it be just like a fan and the sixth thought it was like a rope as he tugged on its tail.

None of the blind men lied, you see, but none of them knew the whole truth.

I acknowledge that perhaps I was like one of those men, knowing only a part of a whole. But really, has anyone come forward to tell the whole truth and nothing but the WHOLE truth about the Irisan dumpsite tragedy? Because that’s what we want, what the people of Baguio deserve and nothing less. So go ahead, tell me I’m only describing just part of the elephant.

I was invited to visit the dumpsite recently, for “you don’t know what you’re talking about,” I was told. But is seeing the dumpsite the same as seeing the whole elephant? Or is Irisan just the tail, perhaps the tusk, of a much bigger animal?

But what I talked about, I do know of. If that’s not enough, then please tell us the rest of the story. Correct me if I’m wrong in saying that the tragedy was the result of a rotten political system, a system that allows powers-that-be to get away with murder. I have said that not much was done from the time we were bound by law in 2001 to do away with the Irisan dumpsite by the year 2006 – is that not true? That the Irisan dumpsite was finally closed only in 2009, which forced the city to pay dearly to haul its refuse to faraway Tarlac – is that not true? That seeing the tons and tons of garbage that rampaged from the dumpsite all the way down to Asin Road somehow tells us, since the city has managed to stop hauling its garbage to Tarlac, where our garbage was being dumped – is that not true too?

If so, then tell us what is, but don’t shut us up just because our truth is not the same truth you want us to believe.

What we say about it, what we know about it, is simply what we see from where we stand.  

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