‘Gaba’

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014


GABA is the punishment primitive tribal Filipinos feared from their gods (anitos) after having displeased or disrespected them, their appointed representatives like religious elders or their abodes like maybe some big trees. The Spanish friars conveniently built on this primal fear to scare religiously illiterate Filipinos into submission to their foreign masters.

Thus, to encourage belief in gaba is to slow down people’s growth towards religious literacy and maturity. It was, therefore, a sad day in religious Cebu when a priest was reported not only to believe in gaba but also to use it to scare folks into submitting to his absurd premise that the life of aging and sick trees is more valuable than the life of men, women and children these trees have killed in the past and will kill in the future.

Even granting for the sake of argument that gaba exists, what makes Fr. Robert Reyes think that mas makagaba ang pagpatay og akasya kay sa dili pagpanalipod sakinabuhi sa mga tawong mamatay sa ilang pagkatumba? Dili ba diay siya gaba-an sa mga tawo nga makabsan sa kinabuhi niining mga kahoya?

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Man is at the top of the food chain. This nature’s given essentially means that, barring irresponsible abuse of his prime position, man can use plant and animal life to serve his needs of food, clothing and shelter. The other way around is simply untenable that man’s life should be sacrificed for the life of plants and animals, no matter their heritage, medicinal or other values.

No value really can be added that would render a tree’s life more valuable than man’s.

Not environmental because a tree can easily be replaced with the same or better kind. DENR Secretary Ramon Paje, to whom the job of growing trees properly belongs, can easily order his department, not the DPWH whose job is to construct roads, to plant tree replacements.

Not heritage either. Haven’t we been replacing the foreign names of many of our major streets with names of native sons and daughters because we want for our heritage the positive contributions of the latter to our deliverance from colonial bondage and subsequent development? So, why don’t we replace with native narra these aging and sick acacias from South America that only serve to remind us of an oppressive colonial past?

(Two or three trees left standing inside the widened highway look too young to have heritage value.)

Man’s life is absolutely more important than a tree’s. And belief in primitive religion’s gaba is a form of religious illiteracy. To use this primal fear to make people value a tree’s life more than man’s is at best an inordinate emotional attachment. Hopefully, it is not what at worst it can be, a case of intellectual dishonesty.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 13, 2014.

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