grief, remembering


Image“To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.”

-Arundhati Roy
grief carves deep into me. and it holds me close to dexter, my beautiful Ati brother. the bullets shot into his body could not possibly, could never ever possibly, kill his enormous light.
with him laughter would rise bubbling up from our bellies. his long kinky hair always caught by the sea winds. yellow polish on his nails, i would tease him for. the mounds of rice we shamelessly ate, giggling, after a long day’s work. i loved being near him. he was sweet lightness, but also a felt and very respected presence. happiness was so so easy for dexter, even if long years of backbreaking and heartaching work have been set on him. as he helped bring his people together many years ago, the Atis of Boracay Island for the first time dared to dream that they can, and rightfully so, live on their ancestors’ land.
my grief is not for dexter: i know, i know he is oh so alive!
this grief is instead for the unspeakable violence that breathes all around us. how corporate greed and economics have turned into power, hoping to kill the strength of cultural wisdom and the human spirit. dexter knew of injustice very well; he and the Atis live it every day. but he never could accept it. and i too promise to never look away.
to stand in dexter’s light, and to be in solidarity with the Atis, join the Boracay Ati Community page, and share it!

fractured and whole

a circle bounds this overcongested city. it keeps the smog in, and wraps our eyes closed. an invincible line of billboards and shopping centres walls the metropolis in from remembering the miseries created by this same madness in the rest of the islands. it only takes me a flight out to remember that worlds exist beyond this bubble.

outside of manila we continue, deliriously, to draw lines on our maps. we continue to break the earth into fractured bits. Lupa. she is to be to divided, cut up, and taken over. peoples too are fractioned into “us” and “them”. even bodies are mapped apart from the ground that feeds them.

ImageTayo ang bubuhayin ng lupa,” Tatay Emok reminds us in the island of boracay, “It is us that the land allows to live.” our arrogance has made us forget.

there is a shameful scramble to own every square inch of the island. even where the waves roll in, winds and waters cannot be left alone by commercial marketing schemes. the turquoise blue ocean is policed against those who are of darker skin and kinkier hair –those who have long since sung and danced in awe of all this creation. as palaces keep rising on hilltops and restaurants choke the shore, old burial grounds are dug up and living people shoved back behind new ghettos.

i come back to manila, again unable to forget the pains caused by fractured lands, and fractured peoples. how can we come back whole? somewhere in silence we know that all our borders, all our imagined geographies, lose their reality. boundary lines become just scribbles in the sand. land titles turn into paper play. and we remember that there is nothing natural about injustice.

when i read Tatay Emok’s words on the papers piled on my desk, hundreds of miles of waters apart, i hear of a truer way to live. a way of life where we can come back more whole.

{join the Boracay Ati Community and share their story!}