Thursday, November 23, 2006

My First Tribute

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.” Writer Anais Nin

I guess that makes me courageous enough to conceive.

Indeed, this is a moment of inspiration unlike any other.

Little did I know that last Saturday would make me a witness to compassion, giving and receiving. Who among the mothers wouldn’t dramatize the joy and pain of seeing a trace of the fetus for the first time via Ultrasound – so little and so fragile? So helpless but holding on. So alive yet making her way silently and uncomplainingly so.

Wasn’t I such a selfish Mama? The image of life I’ve seen became so glued in my mind for a while that those 7 weeks that I missed him/her out brought me to uncontrollable tears… :(

Indeed, some very big changes are happening in my life.

This early, it might be selfish for me to make claims on the life of this little being but I render myself completely to the union.

And I cry out of joy.

This is the great adventure I have envisioned and now it has begun to take shape.

Karl has never failed to show tender affection and support. I have great people for family and friends who are truly well-wishers; I am so blessed.

Thank you, dear God for the wonderful gift of life!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Something Close...

For another rare instance, I’ve actually sat down to write with a general conscious awareness of something way beyond myself for a personal space in the web.

Earlier, a friend informed me of an armed conflict going on in Zamboanga and that triggered me to search an online news website. (Only to find out later that it was meant to be a joke… Boom ta rat ta rat!)

Anyway, what caught my eye was this story written on June 14, 2006 at
Zamboanga del Norte is RP’s poorest province. Sure, that hit me like a bullet. Because I came from that part of the world and my ancestors were the original settlers of the area and of the neighboring towns/provinces.

The Subanen

It was the Subanen folks who named many of the barangays, municipalities and cities of Zamboanga del Norte (Sindangan got its name when a Subanen fisherman thought he was being asked by a Guardia Civil of the kind of fish he caught; a barangay in Sindangan is named after my late grandfather, Datu Tangkilan Andus; Dipolog came from Dipag, which means river in the Subanen dialect, etc.).

The Subanen dialect, to my father’s rough estimate, is being spoken to date by 120-150,000 residents in Mindanao particularly in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Misamis Occidental.

Poverty line

So how is the poverty line assessed? It is obtained by the calculation of the cost of basic food and non-food requirements by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB).

The Food and Nutrition Research Institute (FNRI) sets the basic nutritional requirements (food/subsistence threshold). NSCB computes the minimum cost of the food items needed to satisfy this threshold, which is computed separately for every province within the region, to take into account the differences in food prices.

On the other hand, using the data gathered from the Family Income and Expenditures Survey (FIES), the minimum non-food budget items are determined through the non-food expenditure patterns of households lying within the 10-percent range around the provincial food threshold. (Source here.

Poverty Encounter

Although Zamboanga del Norte, like the rest of the provinces in the Philippines, has achieved high level of literacy in English (and Filipino), that doesn't speak much of the real condition of the province in relation to poverty.

My parents – my mother from the Subanen royal lineage, and my father of Subanen and Muslim ancestry, came face-to-face with poverty while working as public school teachers in the highlands of Zamboanga del Norte.

People in these areas rely heavily on corn, coconut, rice crop, vegetables, cassava, fruits and any soil product for subsistence. Most of the able residents cultivate the land from morning till sun-down in anticipation of a good yield (my cousin comes to work even before the sun comes up!). During those periods of non-harvest or when their crops are destroyed by storms (during which time their dreams wither with it), they come to the point of – not food shortage but, SCARCITY.

This is happening so often that my parents do not wonder when some kids are missing their classes or why it takes longer to teach these kids new knowledge. There was nothing else in their eyes except THE longing.

I immediately recall this from an email: Before you complain about the taste of your food, think of someone who has nothing to eat!

But my parents, being native speakers of the Subanen dialect, have endeared themselves to them as I stand witness to all their hard works just to see these children through the school years, even acquiring new school buildings on their behalf.

Every so often, my sister and I find ourselves recognized as the daughters of The Exemplary Teachers. They have lived their lives to make a difference, professionally and beyond.

My Blood line

My relatives of father’s side come down from the highlands (mulugsong in Visayan) on fiestas or after harvest times (corn, coconut, etc) and, what’s ironic is sometimes they spend largely of what they earned on liquors and women (on bars). FYI, like Muslims, Subanen men are allowed to take more than one wife.

My mother used to resent our frequent visitors coming in different batches and spending nights out having a good time and expecting the door to be opened for them when they come home late. And not to mention my father lending his income to accommodate an entire clan. (That’s as far as I can remember.)

But my mother’s side of the family has the worse story to tell. And all that began after the great Datu Tangkilan passed away, leaving his sons and daughters from six wives to impose order upon themselves and, in effect, preserve and enrich the Subanen culture.

Critical Areas

I can’t speak much, however, about the rest of the towns of Zamboanga del Norte. Four towns have been considered critical areas, the Triple S-B area: Sibuco, Siocon, Sirawai and Baliguian. These have remained a battlefield between the military and the Moro guerrillas over the years.


Even without prior intention, when I re-read my horoscope (FYI, I’ve subscribed because I like to read about good stuffs everyday), it says: Look at the collective picture, and open your eyes to the world around you. Get involved on a community level.

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