Beyond the dichotomy of animal/human rights

There is controversy over the film Oro, which narrates the gruesome massacre of four small-scale gold miners in Barangay Gata, CamarinesSur last March 22, 2014. It is a recounting of the incident of a group formed to stop illegal logging and mining activities, and which is connected to the provincial government, armed and pretending to be environmentalists, causing tension between people fighting for their livelihood while the other using the guise of 'environmental protection' to take over operations.

In the movie, we learn later that a dog was slaughtered on camera for a scene.

It sparked outrage. It ought to.

Our myopic sense of devaluing the life of both people and animals for our petty pursuit of gold, power and hedonistic satisfaction under a capitalist-consumer society commodifies human and non-human life.

The death of both human and non-human life is tragic. Environmental plunder that puts gold over people is unjust; in the same way killing dogs for the sake of artistic authenticty is equally wrong. The challenge is for all of us to recognize life's sanctity as something that transcends beyond the human specie.

Holy $#*%! A Christmas reflection

“Christmas reminds us that we are usually looking in the wrong place for hope.1” 

God’s humour and wisdom stands out in the Christmas narrative with his response to the question: Where is God? He is in the midst of nobodies accompanied by livestock in some back-alley stable reeking of camel dung and sewage.

Pleased as man with man to dwell Jesus, our Emmanuel2!

Cardboard justice

The enormity of the drug problem also correlated to complexity of the historical, social, cultural and most importantly economic conditions that created the problem in the Philippines. The rise of killings of 'supposed' drug suspects warrants the question:

  1. Does the scope of the drug problem warrant the decision of sanctioning death to whoever fits the stereotype of a pusher/user/trafficker? (Given that majority of the killings happen before arrests were made hence not providing sufficient space for forensic investigation, and judicial processing based on rule of evidence and due process.)
  2. Should we condone vigilantism and support actions that make another person as judge, jury and executioner without legal authority to do so?
  3. Have we exhausted other measures such as jobs and decent living conditions for all; properly funded rehabilitation centres, drug exchange schemes and support for all addicts, whether of legal or illegal drugs; resources to be provided for youth facilities?

A proportional response to the drug problem goes beyond intervening in the supply and demand chain of the drugs itself and definitely pointing guns based on anyone based on suspicion does 't make the mannace go away I think the current strategy of shoot now ask questions (if at all) later approach delivers little the change, reaps multifold body counts and a whole lot of collateral damage not only to those of mistaken identity but also to the spouse, parents, children, sibling and friends of those killed without the due process of law.

Take sides

Luke's account of the Christmas narrative begins with Caesar Augustus' census and ends with the shepherds praise of the messiah, giving us insight into how the child Jesus enters history and turns our preconceived notions of power.

On one hand there is Ceasar Augustus, the Roman Emperor who at that time is believed to be god-incarnate ruling over the known world under Pax Romana. Conquering lands and exerting military might that they may be subjugated to the uneasy peace under the Empire. On the other are the shepherds: nomadic wanderers tending to livestock that heed the angelic proclamation of the messiah's arrival, who after coming into an encounter with the Christ-child return to their lot rejoicing.

Here we see the startling contrast of how God's gracious condescension breaks into history with his arrival at the height of the Empire's power, choosing to arrive through a human family of middle eastern peasants and the company of livestock with no one but shepherds to call as guests of honors in a marginal town in Roman Judea.

In that little town of Bethlehem we come face-to-face with a God who takes sides and favors the company of the poor and the lowly. Veiled in the fragility of an infant Jesus, the Immanuel reveals himself in a back-alley manger to an unwed teenage peasant couple, livestock and herdsmen. Brought forth in frail humanity, the king of kings and the lord of lords enters history with the message that true power lies in our willful relinquishing of it for the sake of the Other.

The story of Christmas bids us to take the side of the lowly and to be open and vulnerable for it is the vessel upon which we can encounter the divine and live up to Jesus' edict to care care for “the least of these”(Mt. 25:40), and come out of the ordeal as the shepherds glorifying and praising God for all the things we had heard and seen.

When Harry Lee died

When Harry Lee died his neighbors from the north east cried and wished they had a leader much like him because he ushered progress by wielding an iron fist.

While we mourn his death and celebrate his achievements. Let us remember that Singapore's history cannot be simply reduced according to the account of its leader. Nor should we forget that this progress  also came at a significant cost for human rights...

It’s very dangerous to think that countries, especially those that that have little semblance with Singapore’s, size, geography, economy, ethnicities, and history, could benefit from a leader like Lee Kuan Yew.

Morality won't help her when she lies silent in a morgue

Jennifer is dead and the people won’t mourn her death. Because she was gay. Because she was a prostitute. Dead at the hands of a murderer.

At the end of the day what we can be said is that: Murder is wrong. Subjugating people for sexual gratification is wrong.

The tragedy in Jennifer’s death is that we live in a society where economic conditions force people to sell their bodies for money.

The injustice is that prostitution is reinforced and legitimized by Jennifer’s clientele.

Finding meaning in uncertainty

2000 years ago something life-changing happened to a young couple. It was news of a child. It was news unexpected. It wasn’t something they prepared for.

Yet it was welcomed with meaning in the midst of uncertainty. It was looked upon as a blessing from the Divine: a child born of a virgin. Little did they know that this child was the embodiment of God’s gracious condescension to actualize love in tangible terms as, Immanuel, among the presence peasants, foreigners, an unmarried couple and a flock of livestock all outcasts under the shadow of the Empire.

In the obscure little town of Bethlehem, everything came to a halt as heaven and nature sang a joyful chorus to celebrate the arrival of new life.

The Christmas story reminds us that our response to the anxiety of the present, finds cosmic meaning when we look at the unexpected, as a gift that invite us into a journey of encounter with the divine. It challenges us to not be distracted from the unnecessary pageantries that come with the season and calls us to relinquish control and to trust that all things work out for good.

Maybe the banner was meant for them?

I start this blog with a heavy heart knowing that friends in Greenpeace might be offended with opinions that will be stated here. Also I do not have any internal information as to how the recent Greenpeace action that happened in Peru, came about, so what I say here is based on what I see as an outsider to the organization who has been exposed to the public materials made available in the media and through official Greenpeace communication about the incident.

I have worked for the organization close to a decade and I left because I wanted to pursue a different direction as an activist, but also because it no longer felt like the family of equals that I came to know when I joined in 2005. It became more certification driven, in fact it makes me wonder that if ever I have been an applicant to the role I had when I entered Greenpeace now, I wouldn’t probably get accepted for the role if they were to look at my professional credentials.

Nevertheless, as someone who has also been a part of Greenpeace, the Nazca Lines fiasco comes as no surprise: My theory is that the organization’s thrust in recent years to professionalize1 itself requires it to open up the organization to many professionals who for better or worse are professional in their field of expertise but have lacked the vision and heart to see their work as a vocation. Professionals who will likely spend less only 6-10 months at a given office detached and uninterested with the work, the kind that's present on meetings but never on activities (action or otherwise); professionalism that doesn't go beyond office hours or on weekends;  has an expertise in skills but lacks heart or interest in the issues Greenpeace works in; present stirring up structural changes backed with data on how we can supposedly increase our effectivity in terms of media coverage and online-to-offline conversion rates.

GOO: In Goo We Trust

Around the start of 2014 I started skateboarding again.

What made it worthwhile for me aside from the immediate benefit of getting physical release from work related stress and the work out that comes along with that activity, is that skating provided me again to listen to music from the context of albums which has been mostly downplayed by our fascination with mp3s and playlists.

One constant staple in my skating soundtrack is Goo’s long-awaited album, in Goo We Trust, which I got from their album launch last December 22, 2013 at Chrome Box, in Marikina City.

The record comes as a classic example of what a proper punk rock record sounds like, thanks to the recording and production prowess of Ian Cuevas, who has finely and respectfully captured the singular intensity of passion and sound that flows from the instrumentation of the individual band members in the recording.

The Skeleton Years: Between Lunacy & You

It was a little more than a year ago when I had the privilege of watching them on their first gig and I was immediately hooked with the fascinating blend that somehow combines the post-punk sensibilities of Joy Division and the melodic melancholia punk rock of Alkaline Trio.

Thankfully a few months later they decided to release their debut EP Between Lunacy and You in an event, which also launched the music video of their song in an event which I sadly missed because I spent most of my time last year living on a suitcase traveling because of my work.

It wasn’t until November that I was finally able to secure a copy of the CD when my band Death To Puberty again had the chance to be in the same line up with The Skeleton Years, at IDB.

Upon opening I was floored by the quality of the packaging , design and liner notes that also included the lyrics, and acknowledgement to which Death To Puberty was included by the band in the list of artists that they are thanking ( a gesture for which I am thankful to the band as well).

Musically I enjoyed all the tracks, and the record itself is presently my skateboarding soundtrack. Songs that personally standout are Through, Dead Night and Fade particularly because of their catchy hooks and the brilliantly written lyrics of Darwin, not to mention the genre bending guitar exchange courtesy of Ebong and Sharen.

This record stands as one of the shining moments that restored my faith in the creativity and musical potential of the underground punk scene in the Philippines.