Some kind of harsh ‘hospitality’-A A +A
Bahin sang Bubay
Friday, March 1, 2013
THE noon day sun was sizzling hot as I entered what looked like a garrison along Suazo Street in Davao City on the third day that the aggrieved people of Compostela Valley and Davao Oriental were holding their ground. My purpose was to find out about their situation there, realizing that they were in a very vulnerable situation.
Human that I am, I was gripped with trepidation at the sight and gut feeling of intense pressure, not only on the part of the women, children and men waiting, restlessly moving around, but likewise on the part of the police headed by Davao City Police Office Director Ronald de la Rosa. Repeated saying “Sobra na ang maximum tolerance nga ginahimo namo...” (We have been affording more than the maximum tolerance that we can give...), the police chief was like a string that was about to snap. Ironically, I sympathized with him as I could see the seeming ‘bomb’ that was about to explode.
But he said he was considering that there were many women and children among the protesters on the streets, and that was what kept him from going forward with the dispersal as ordered by Mayor Sara Duterte.
Then a wish came to my mind: how I wished that all the government officials, the DSWD officials, the City officials headed by our lady mayor with an iron-hand, and the rest of the people’s SERVANTS in this big beautiful city of Davao including the so-called members of the established media would just come even for just a few minutes and talk to the people, feel their pulse and genuinely listen to their woes, and ignore the so-called militants in their midst.
Wouldn’t it have made a lot of difference?
That painful three-day stand-off would not have happened? The good people in this paradise city in Southern Mindanao would have been spared of those uneasy nights that left us sleeplessly thinking about dreadful thoughts of blood bath and women and children sleeping on the hot pavements unprotected from so many dangers surrounding them.
The women that I talked to were hesitant as I showed them my identification as a member of the Press. Warily, they peered at me with suspicious eyes, unable to hide their fear... I asked them if they have eaten earlier and they nodded. I could not help feeling their hurt as they gradually opened up about their difficult situation.
Agripina, the 34-year-old Manobo-Matigsalug who was standing near the corner along Uyanguren and Suazo streets along with other women from Bermuda, Compostela Valley intimated that they haven’t slept for two days already. It was partly because there was no banig on which they can lie on, or even trapal to cover their heads. It was scorching hot and the women looked haggard and stressed.
The women said they had walked seven kilometres from their hinterland barangay to the town centers just to come to the city, as they have wanted to tell DSWD that they have not received food assistance since “Pablo” uprooted everything, including the kamote and balanghoy (rootcrops).
What worries them was that they were running out of mama (betel nut) to chew on and tresby (tobacco) that could help ease their restlessness and hunger. How I wished I had some of these things to offer them, just to show them that I meant well. The Lumad hospitality has a lasting impression on me whenever I have the opportunity to visit a community school in Malabog. They never run out of ‘bottomless’ native coffee that smells and taste so sweet. I would always feel at home with them.
The kind of ‘hospitality’ that our local leaders welcomed our ‘visitors’ speak so clearly of the indifference and double-standards that we have, nothing more, nothing less. Sadly, we cannot even offer them a place to stay, or something to give them peace of mind and make them comfortable, to effectively douse the heat of anger and hunger that they are feeling.
Come to think of it, had the City welcomed them differently, like, if they were treated well and their needs addressed at once, wouldn’t it have ended peacefully and fairly well? I would just want our government leaders to think about this. Would the so-called militants, as government leaders’ fear and suspects, be triumphant in doing what they did instead? But then, as I saw it, the so-called militants were there to accompany them in their search for redress. They are not the issue at hand, as I could see.
They say you do not douse fire with equal fire, as common sense dictates. Or have government leaders run out of that most COMMON of all senses because of dread of the worst to happen, and that is, that they will be caught flat-footed with what they are hiding, which is already happening?
Transparency and honesty are such lonely words indeed!
Published in the Sun.Star Davao newspaper on March 02, 2013.