Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Halina: 27 anyos

Halina by Jess Santiago. Cover photo by Nico Sepe and art dIrection by Fidel Rillo. 1991 Posted by Hello

May 2 klase ng kanta, sabi ni Woody Guthrie- the dying songs and the living songs. Ang dying songs daw ay mga “kanta na nagsasabing walang dapat ipagmalaki sa pagiging manggagawa, pero kung mabuti at masipag siya, balang araw maari siyang umangat at maging ‘boss’, at makapagsuot ng puting kurbata at amerikana at balang araw mga kanta ay isusulat tungkol sa kanya.” Meron namang mga ‘living songs’-- “mga buhay na awiting nagsasabing may dangal sa paggawa; mga awiting humihimok sa manggagawa na ipagmalaki ang kanyang sarili at kanyang trabaho; mga awiting nagnanais na pagbutihin ang buhay natin; mga awit ng protesta laban sa mga bagay na dapat tutulan.”

Ang Halina ni Jess Santiago ay isang buhay na awitin. Nung nakaraang linggo, 14 ng Nobyembere 2004, sa main theatre ng Cultural Center of the Philippines, lumutang at pumaibabaw sa katahimikan ng teatro at muling nabuhay sa isip at damdamin ng mga tagapakinig ang awit at kuwento ng Halina. Muling ipinakilala ni Koyang si Lina, manggagawa sa pabrika, si Pedro Pilapil, magsasaka, at si Aling Maria, maralitang taga-lungsod. Sa mga sandaling iyon, ang kanilang mga kuwento ang bida-- binalutan ng ilaw mula sa spotlight ang kanilang buhay at pakikibaka. Sa sandali ring iyon bawat kalabit ng gitara, bawat katagang binitiwan ng pabulong at pasigaw ni Koyang ay makabuluhan.

Buhay na awitin ang Halina dahil binigyan niya ng mukha ang buhay at pakikibaka ng mga karaniwang mamamayan. Buhay siya hanggang ngayon dahil patuloy ang pagsasamantala at karahasan sa mga paggawaan, sa kanayunan, at sa kalunsuran. Ngunit higit sa lahat, nananatiling buhay ang Halina dahil patuloy ang pagpupunyagi ng mga manggagawa, magsasaka, at mga maralitang taga-lungsod para sa mas magandang bukas at patuloy silang nag-aanyaya ng ating pakikiisa.

Mabuhay ang Halina. Mabuhay ka Jess Santiago!

23 November in Dhaka

I was looking for old trade campaign files from my delhi trip last nite trying to prepare for my presentation for Isis and saw this written at the back of one of the papers. I realized a bit later that it was written exactly a year ago today

23 November Dhaka airport

Joy described this airport , which she doesn’t like, as dusty. I was picturing it that way as I was disembarking the plane. What greeted me though as I stepped inside were soldiers. Their long fire arms looking more faded than their uniforms. All around you see security personnel, mostly men. I’ve seen only one woman guard so far. She caught my eye because she was wearing a blue sash over her blue uniform.

I’m seated in front of this big digital clock. 3:14 now. I’ve been here since noon. Just sitting, strying to read a book—Gabriel Kolko’s Another Century of War, a heavy read for passing time at the airport.

Some guy who I thought all the while was Indian Airlines personnel took my ticket. I was a bit suspicious and got a little worried when he took off with my ticket. He did return 30 minutes later with my boarding pass and new tags for both my checked-in and hand-carried bags. I knew this personalized service would eventually cost me something. I said ‘thank you’, when he handed over the boarding pass and tags, knowing that that wasn’t enough. He said “please give me tip sir, I am a poor man.” I jokingly said to him “ I am a poor man also. He said with a smile “ no sir, you are not poor.” I gave him 100 baht, the only other currency I have to spare.

Bangladesh is a poor country. This fact is often mentioned as a reference to to how the Philippines has remained underdeveloped or has stagnated since the 50’s. Then we were second only to Japan in Asia, so the refrain goes, now we are only slightly better than Bangladesh.

Sitting here however, in what I can describe as an airconditioned, slightly bigger bus station, like one of the bus stations serving provincial routes to Baguio or Bicol, I am tempted to think that the Philippines is much better off than Bangladesh. But measuring a country’s progress based on how its airport looks can be problematic. What if a lavish, modern airport gets erected as a showcase by a corrupt government amidst debilitating poverty? In reality majority of poor people don’t really have any use for such flying facilities.

I’m rambling, I’m really writing these thoughts to occupy my mind...

Im alone and blue in this Dhaka bus station. 3:28. The monitor has now shown the gate number for my flite to Kolkota. Another lonely, desolate place to wait.

6pm Kolkota airport

One actually has to go out of the international terminal and walk about 100 meters to go to the domestic terminal. At first I thought, “great, no walkway like the one in Bangkok”, but then I thought the one in Manila is worse, where one has to take a cab just to go from one terminal to the other.

Anyway, the walk outside Kolkata was good. It allowed me a glimpse of the place. And after 7 hours breathing dusty airport air, the air outside was a relief. As I was walking, I wanted on several occassions to get my cameras and shoot. Right outside the international terminal, I saw people doing road repair. I also saw their yellow cabs—nice, fat, yellow cabs circa 1950’s, I guessed. A little later I saw several of them parked in a single line. Nice photo in my mind. The photograph accentuated by a flock of black crows against the night time sky. More photos like these in the next days, I hope. I hope ill be able to click the shutter next time.

An orange butterfly is hovering near me. Could this be an omen? A good one I hope.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Life’s brutal ironies

Vote for peace concert in Bangkok. 30 October 2004. Posted by Hello

I was in Bangkok recently and was invited to perform at the Vote for Peace concert at Suan Santi-chaiprakarn in the old-part of town. The day I arrived, a state of non-peace greeted me as news of death and violence in Narathiwat province, a predominantly muslim province in the South of Thailand, were all over the papers. After a brutal dispersal of protestors, at least 7 people lay dead and later 78 others-- arrested and dumped face down inside a cramped truck with hands tied behind their backs -would lose their lives from suffocation. Vote for peace is a campaign initiated by United for Peace and Justice Thailand in order to make peace an election issue. It is a statement of peace groups against US President George W. Bush and his re-election bid, and a stand against the heavy handedness and militarism of PM Thaksin. Intolerance and violence took the lives of 85 people in the South, just days before the peace concert. Later that week, Bush the butcher or as Jess Santiago calls him “The patron saint of war” would get a fresh mandate from the American people.

I ended up singing just one song, Chimes of Freedom by Bob Dylan. A refrain in the song goes "Striking for the gentle, striking for the kind, striking for the guardians and protectors of the mind, and the poet and the painter far behind their rightful time, we gaze upon the chimes of freedom flashing!”