Saturday, October 26, 2013

Commending Domogan

This might come as a surprise to some people, but I do want to commend our mayor for a job well done at the public market, which has always been my favorite place to visit in Baguio City. I have been away for most of the last couple of months and couldn’t believe what I was seeing when I went to market the other day.

First stop, the fish and meat section and I was surprised to see the road going down towards the Baguio City Market Superintendent’s Office completely cleared of illegal vendors. Market goers walked around easily, not having to squeeze themselves in between Divisoria wares and ­ukay-ukay garments spread on the pavement.

From there, I walked up towards Hilltop, usually stopping briefly at that side-street on the left, the only place where I can get salmon. My children dread entering that street when they come with me to the market – aside from salmon, that’s also where one can find meats that perhaps not even a seasoned chef would be able to identify. I always thought that perhaps after the choice cuts are delivered to the meat section, all the other parts go to this area. And while I did miss the out-of-this-world tableau worthy of a scene in a macabre film or novel, having so much breathing space and clean walkways blew me away. Even the passageway at the ukay-ukay alley had much more space now.

I turn towards the new blocks on the block – were those blocks 3 and 4? – which were really nicely laid out and organized. Plus I discovered a new place where one can stop for a quick bite or even a full meal that looked really clean and the sight of igado, dinardaraan and dinakdakan almost made me forget that I had to get home in time to cook dinner. I walked on down towards the hangar market to get my fresh highland produce, reminding myself to return for that pickaxe I saw at the tools section, I need that for the garden.

Not much salad leaves at the hangar the other day, and the ones available didn’t look very good and were very expensive. Still, I got a handful each of ice lettuce, lollo rosso and romaine. Stocked up on garlic, onions and tomatoes too and got a bit of fresh basil and some coriander.

We still had coffee, so I walked past my suki to get some chicken for pinikpikan, and after that, a coconut for gata and unsweetened peanut butter for kare-kare. And with my bayong full of ice cream containers that I use to put meats and fish, reusable bags for the vegetables, I walked up the pedestrian overpass to cross towards Malcolm Square to wait for my jeep home.

With that, I have to give it to the man in City Hall, Mayor Mauricio Domogan, for doing a good job of cleaning and clearing up the market. I surely hope that we can keep the market this way. See, Sir, I simply write about what I see around me – bad or good. This time, it was something really good, and you deserve to be congratulated.

It took me more than an hour to get a ride home, so now I hope that instituting positive reforms in the city’s public transportation system is also in the mayor’s plans. Let’s talk about that next week.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Katarungan para sa mga kababaihan

Nagkataong mayroong press conference nung nakaraang biyernes sa Luisa’s CafĂ© sa Session Road habang naroon ako. Panauhin si Monique Wilson, kilalang artista sa entablado at masugid na tagapagtaguyod ng karapatang pangkababaihan at LGBT. Si Monique din ang punong tagapagsalita ng One Billion Rising, o ang malawakang kilusan para sa pagsulong ng mga karapatang pangkababaihan.

Ang pangunahing paksa ng press conference ay hustisya para sa mga kababaihang naging biktima ng karahasang tulad ng pangaabuso sa kamay ng kani-kanilang mga asawa at panggagahasa. Nakakapanlumo ang kwento ng mga tagapagsalita sa press conference, na kinabilangan din ni Mila Singson, ang Secretary-General ng Innabuyog-Gabriela, alyansa ng mga organisasyong pangkababaihan sa Cordilera.

Palala ng palala ang mga insidente ng panggagahasa sa Cordillera. At ang masaklap pa dito, dahil na rin sa kahirapan, madalas na nalulusutan ng mga maysala ang kanilang krimen sa pamamagitan lamang ng pagaalok ng maliit na halaga sa mga biktima. Hindi rin natin masisisi ang mga biktima sa pagtanggap ng mga alok na ito – dahil sa kabulukang umiiral sa ating sistemang panghustisya, karamihan sa kanila ay tuluyan ng nawalan ng tiwala sa ating mga hukom, at dala na rin ng kahirapan, marami ang napipilitang tanggapin ang alok na kabayaran.

Sa hukuman, madalas tayong makarinig ng mga kwento tungkol sa mga biktimang muling nabibiktima ng pambabastos at pangaalipusta sa kamay ng mga hukom at mga abogado. Sino nga namang biktima ang hahayaang muling yurakan ang kanilang dangal at pagkatao habang dinidinig ang kanilang kaso?

One Billion Rising for Justice – pagaaklas ng isang bilyon para sa hustisya, ito ang kampanya ng kilusan para sa darating na February 14. Ngunit makamit man ang pagbabagong hinahangad sa ating sistemang panghustisya, malayo pa rin ang paglalakbay upang makamit n gating mga kababaihan ang tunay na kalayaan mula sa karahasan. At mahalaga ang papel nating mga kalalakihan para tulungan silang makamit ito. Ilang beses mo na bang narinig ang birong “pambayad utang” ang isang anak na babae? Ilang ulit mo na bang narinig, o binigkas, ang mga katagang “kababaeng tao pa naman?” Parang ang isang pagkakamali ay mas malala kung babae ang gumawa. Ilan lang ito sa mga halimbawang nagpapakita ng ating baluktot at maling pagtingin sa mga kababaihan.

Sa ating bansa, malawak pa rin ang pananaw na ang mga babae ay parang bagay lamang na pagaari ng mga lalaki – mapa-ama o tiyuhin, asawa o kasintahan. At dahil sila ang “nagmamay-ari,” maaari nilang gawin sa mga babae anumang gustuhin nila. Ang isang lalaking nakipagtalik sa isang babae ay pilyo, naka-iskor, o macho. Samantalang ang babaeng nakipagtalik sa isang lalaki ay “nagpagamit.” Ang ganitong maling pananaw ang nagbibigay lakas-loob sa mga tarantadong kalalakihan na abusuhin at lapastanganin ang mga kababaihan.

Hindi lang pagbibigay kapangyarihan sa mga kababihan ang kailangan, mahalaga ring baguhin ang kamalayan ng mga kalalakihan dahil mkamit man natin ang repormang hinahangad sa sistemang panghustisya sa ating bansa, magpapatuloy pa rin ang mga abuso’t iba pang uri ng karahasan habang naririyan ang mga tradisyunal na pananaw na matagal nang dapat nabuwag.

Tinanong ako kung ano para sa akin ang ibig-sabihin ng tunay na hustisya para sa mga kababaihan. Medyo nahirapan akong pag-isipan ang sagot. Ano nga kaya ang kailangan upang makamit ito?

Tunay na pagkakapantay-pantay.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Defending Domogan, Mayor of a quarter of Baguio City

*My column in the Oct. 13 issue of Cordillera Today 

A meme floated around social networking websites showed a signage at Burnham Park purportedly warning park-goers that a permit is necessary when exercising at and taking pictures of Burnham Park. This altered photograph was shared around online and that’s how I got to know about it. For those who don’t know what a meme is, defines it as "an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture." In this case, it was an altered image of an actual signage located at the newly-built fountain of what was once known as the Rose Garden. That photo of the actual signage was shared around too online too, and that’s how I got to know about it.

The first photo is an expression of a sentiment: Burnham Park must remain free and open to the public. It came about after people learned of the charges being imposed by the City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO) on exercise groups that use various areas of the park every morning. They are led by volunteer fitness instructors who, in turn, get a little compensation for their effort from donations from mothers, fathers, senior citizens, in fact people of all ages who attend these exercise sessions. A great alternative to enrolling in any of the swanky expensive fitness gyms in the city that charge an arm and a leg for one to get toned arms and legs. At Burnham Park, one gets to exercise amidst the scent of pine and warmed by the bright Baguio sun rise, for a song, really.

They are making money, and they should pay, was basically how CEPMO summed up their defense of the charges imposed on the groups. Otherwise, individuals who wish to jog around the park or do any other exercise, or hobbyists who wish to take photos of Burnham Park, are free to do so.

Former local media man Jogin Tamayo, now based in Canada, but whose continued advocacy of relevant issues in Baguio makes it seem like he never left, is among the loudest voices protesting this move by the city government. Ryan Olat Mangusan, the Mayor’s “punong-abala” did not take this sitting down, and now the words “libel” and “politically motivated” are being thrown about between the two.

Mangusan’s defense of Domogan was shared around online too, “BURNHAM PARK IS FREE FOR ALL, except those who use the premises for commercial purpose or simply those activities that require paying of fees,” his online announcement claimed. That makes sense, except that the exercise groups do not “require fees,” and thrive on voluntary donations. Besides, we’re not talking about millions of pesos for ERS machines here, nor tens of thousands for a failed fake snow show on Session Road – now these are the things that should merit a charge, a court charge that is.

And who are “these people?” They are citizens of Baguio City, of which Mauricio Domogan is the Mayor, also considered as the so-called “Father of the City.” But the words coming out of City Hall are all but those coming from a father. Mangusan must remember that his boss isn’t only the Mayor of those who voted for him, but of every single citizen of Baguio. Go ahead and enjoy the praises being heaped by your minions, but it is your responsibility to address the issues of everyone else in the city. Remember that only roughly a quarter of the city’s voting population chose our current Mayor, three quarters either chose someone else or did not bother to choose. I remember the barbed words that came out of the Mayor’s office, and family, when people criticized the move of Domogan to unilaterally remove Baguio geographically from Benguet and defied Malacanang’s suspension of classes due to heavy rains not so long ago – these “children” were called “bobo” and “tanga” for looking up to their father for guidance.

Mangusan took offense when the altered photo of the signage at the park spread like meningococcemia online. But really, how different is it from the signs that City Hall put all over the city labelling Baguio as “clean and green?”

So Mangusan, on Domogan’s behalf, launches an attack – against his own boss’ “children.” This just reinforces the belief that our current Mayor is only the Mayor of those who voted for him, those who always agree with him, those who toe his line. And those who show a hint of dissent? They are considered the enemy.

That is not leadership. That is dictatorship.

Oh, and by the way, referring to it, as I did earlier in this article, as “what was once known as the Rose Garden” was not a mistake. It really is hardly a Rose Garden anymore. But that’s another story, but one that’s not too different.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

My high

Newly elected senator, Grace Poe, is reportedly mulling the legalization of marijuana. If this actually gets to the senate floor at all, we can expect deliberations of the same intensity as the debates on RH Bill. I’d love to hear what Tito Sotto would have to say about this. Not.

Off my head, no pun intended, the justification that would be most argued by the pros would be that alcohol, in fact, does way more damage than weed – both on a person’s physical and mental health. The church would probably bring up the morality card again, which would make me wonder why they don’t bring up the same card to call for the banning of alcohol, or public office. Both have been known to result in immorality.

I once puffed and I inhaled, unlike Bill Clinton. Was never a big fan of it, even if, no use pretending otherwise, the beautiful grass grows abundantly in the art community. But whatever effect it’s expected to have, I’ve discovered that a good cup of Benguet coffee brew on a cool yet sunny Baguio morning brings the same kind, in fact even a better high. Or a good book or a good song. All the latter, in fact, never results in a bad trip, unlike the former.

But despite my agreement with some of the pro-cannabis arguments, right now I am against the use of marijuana, let’s get that out. I won’t argue the pros and cons of smoking pot, won’t entertain comparisons between that and any other mind-altering substance. And while I’ve had so many talks with my own children about it, I don’t and won’t judge those who just can’t live without it.

But as far as my own children is concerned, my argument against marijuana is simple: right now, it’s illegal, and to me, the high just isn’t worth the risk. Getting caught with 5 grams or so of it, that’s probably enough for a couple of joints, or one fat one if you’re in the highlands where they commonly come from, can get you more than a decade in jail. Getting caught with more of it, enough to be classified as a pusher or dealer, and that would mean spending the rest of your life in jail. I don’t think freshly brewed Benguet coffee is easily available in Muntinlupa, neither do good books – and it’s really hot in there.

But I am looking forward to how Poe would proceed with the possibility of legalizing pot. But in the meantime, the law says no, and it’s just not worth the risk. Besides, a kilo of Benguet coffee beans is only P200.00, and I don’t have to hide to enjoy it.