When light shone on us on Aug. 21

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Thursday, August 21, 2014


WE ALL have stories to tell about life as a young reporter. Mine should start with an interview with the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr. inside his room at the old Rajah Hotel. I was with three other journalists.

There were no tape recorders then so, like everyone else, I had to depend on my notebook. It was a struggle because he talked so fast but I managed to jot down the facts I thought I needed in writing my story. When I got back to the office, however, I discovered, much to my horror, that my notebook was missing. I had to write from memory but not after I got a nice lecture on how not to lose my notebook from my editor.

Horror was also what I felt when I learned about Ninoy’s assassination. I was watching basketball that Sunday afternoon when the University of San Carlos gym went abuzz about Aquino being killed. I thought that they were talking about Dodong Aquino, the ex-coach of the USC Warriors, but who would dare harm such an amiable and fatherly fellow?

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It wasn’t long before I was able to piece everything together. My initial shock turned to grief and then to anger. Little did I know that millions of other Filipinos shared the same experience.

One cannot talk about Aquino’s assassination without mentioning the Marcos martial law regime. The two are intertwined and always will be.

I was a junior in law school when martial law was declared. The announcement was done in the afternoon of Sept. 23, 1972. Classes were suspended. I welcomed the freedom from the oppression of the classroom on the fourth floor.

It had not sunk on me then that that very same day the Filipino people have been robbed of their freedom. In the days that followed, we were forced to sport a uniform haircut and wear an ID and discouraged from group discussions outside the classroom.

Philippine Constabulary men invaded our college, lectured us on the importance of discipline and dragged some schoolmates to the stockade for some unexplained reason while our professors watched helplessly.

That was how it was when Ninoy was assassinated at the airport that is now named in his honor. His death brought us a new dawn. If Sept. 21, 1972 was the day Ferdinand Marcos blanketed us in darkness, August 21, 1983 was when the light we thought did not exist shone on us. That day, the fate of the dictatorship was sealed.

***

The regional office of the Department of Education (DepEd) has ordered the removal of hazardous trees inside the campuses, The Freeman reported yesterday. Careful, Director Carmelita Dulangon. One of these days, you’d find strange people within the school premises, daring you to cut the trees with their bodies tied to the trunks.

The protection of the environment is a legitimate and serious concern but I never realized until recently that it sits atop the totem pole of priorities, even higher than the preservation of human life.

Thus I am glad that Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma has added his sober voice to the discussion on what to do about the trees. Keep the people safe from falling trees, he said.

They’re not opposed to cutting the trees, the activists will protest. They only want to make sure that the trees are indeed beyond saving before they are condemned to their death.

The appropriate government agency, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), has already determined the trees to be dying but the activists refuse to take the DENR opinion at face value. They even brought in their own expert who predictably pronounced the trees to be in no danger of falling down anytime.

Now, I read that they and the DENR have agreed to bring in another, a neutral, expert.

Nothing wrong with that unless in the meantime one of the trees falls down, seriously hurting, if not killing, people. In that event, the blood of the victims should be in the activists’ hands.

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 22, 2014.

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