“In this world we live in, where there is no more rule of law, no wrong and no right, how would you stay alive without spirituality?” A baylan (healer-leader) asks me, looking me straight in the eyes. She did not blink, a woman who breathes the brutality of death on Lumad bodies, hers and others, and on their ancestral lands. In the first hundred days of the newly elected president, the country has been ridden with bullets and over 700 dead-heavy bodies: pedicab drivers, students, a man at the corner, at the wrong place at the wrong time, drug addicts who turned themselves in, with hands up, and shot. The poor and the Indigenous have long been marked for death by neglect and dispossession; today they remain kill-able by the Philippine State’s ‘war on drugs’ and by a society that has already sanctioned police brutality as a means to deliver the change they were promised. No, I do not consent. “The violence is rising in the cities”, I lamented. She nodded: but the terror has been all too familiar for them in the Bangsamoro.
The darkness is heavy. And despair maims all forms of activism. I am convinced the baylan, in her decades of political activism, leading peace talks, shielding her people and the sovereignty of their lands, could not have stayed alive without simple faith first in the strength, goodness and wholeness of her own inner self —lakas, kabutihan at kabuuan ng loob. I take her heed for my own medicine in Manila, where even breathing is bleak and tiring. My friend and I have this to offer, “Ang Busilak ng Panalangin Para sa Kaginhawaan”, to Filipina/os who also wish to hold themselves and others in well-being in this time of relentless impunity. – 08/16 Maynila
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