by Cesar Torres (September 14, 2005)
There is so much that the Villahanons could claim that would set them apart from the broader Samarnon society. This fiesta celebration for instance in Metro Manila is one of them. Originally, only a single hermano or hermana would be responsible for the fiesta celebration. Then, it became two, then, three, then four, and now, there are a whole lot of them. And there is no lack of volunteers.
Originally, only Villahanons residing in Metro Manila would be the hermanos or hermanas. Then Villahanons from the hometown joined in. Soon with our Diaspora, when we started roaming the world, Villahanons from other parts of the globe became hermanos and hermanas. Somehow, there was a feeling that if one had not become an hermano or hermana in the Feast of the Sta. Rosa in Metro Manila, one had not yet completed the process of total social acceptance and the sense of belonging to a community of courageous innovators and trailblazers with an intense sense of social commitment.
Originally, anyone could join in the festivities and partake of the food, the camaraderie, and the dancing, even gatecrashers. It was a fiesta after all. The celebrations were never held in ornate, and exclusive 5-star hotels unlike other Samarnon fiesta celebrations with their hilarious claims to social elitism and irrelevance reminiscent of the Spanish Frayles and the Guardia Civiles. The Villahanon fiesta celebrations in Metro Manila were very egalitarian and democratic, in the spirit of the early Christians when they were being persecuted and hiding in the catacombs of Rome.
Fleshing out the social significance of Catholicism and its religious celebrations was originally not of paramount importance. We were just concerned with going to heaven, pleasing the Church and the believers of the first saint in the Americas. But then, eating, drinking, dancing, saying the novena, taking communion, and making the sign of the cross were becoming less compelling when viewed within the context of the needs of the Villareal community. There had to be other socially-redeeming activities revolving around the fiesta.
Consequently, the gala generated through the curachas were funneled to the Parish and to other projects for the community. Indeed, they may not have been aware of it, but they were living Pope Paul VI’s Encyclical, “Populorum Progressio” and the pronouncements of Vatican II, the reasons why Fr. Rudy Romano was abducted, tortured, brutalized and rumored to have been drowned somewhere in Maripipi, between Cebu and Leyte.
But the most dramatic achievement of the Villahanons in Metro Manila was the decision to undertake a project which has never been done voluntarily in the history of the Philippines. This was to repair and cement an 8-kilometer public road connecting the town to the Pan Philippine Highway. It was going to be done through Tiklos or Bayanihan. This was going to be done without waiting for the imprimatur of two levels of Government which are generally perceived to be incompetent and corrupt — the Provincial Government of Samar and the National Government.
Spearheaded by the Villahanon Association of Metro Manila (VAMM) whose leaders and mobilizers include its President, Jun Dasmariñas, Alice Rapanan-Murillo, Elizabeth Gelera-Latoja, Yolanda Go, Maribel Sacendoncillo, Cayo Romano, Buff Seludo, Douglas Seludo, Tito Go, Boogie Zabala, Nalding Seludo, Anito R. Japson, Santi Dasmariñas, Evelyn Manalang, Ding Latoja, Bubbles Zabala, Atty. Lope R. Torres, Fr. Antonio O. Gerente, Pascual L. Seludo Jr., Anito Japson, Tarcela Simbul, Ernesto Tan, Capt. Arturo F. Varela, especially, Engr. Tim Murillo, and many, many others, they were linked to many other Villahanons through the Internet such as Ruben Gerardo in Norway who created a website just for this purpose, Jimmy and Inday Romano-Haw in Sacramento, California who have donated thousands of dollars, Victor and Dr. Mansueta Hilvano in Los Angeles, Rino and Ding Ragub and Nora Chawla in Canada, Lotlot Fallorina in South Carolina, and Paolo Lean Torres Pimentel and his brother, Anton Diego Torres Pimentel, in San Francisco, California.
The donors as well as those who have made pledges but have not been able to redeem their pledges so far are listed in the website that Ruben Gerardo has created (http://www.villa.gitsrc.net/). The list and other information concerning this enterprise are there for everyone in the world to see.
At the home front, there is of course Mayor Renato “Boy” Latorre, and Vice Mayor Babam Cabueños, and the entire municipal government. In addition, the town civic leaders and gatekeepers, even those who might make the sign of the cross and mutter a prayer once the names of Boy Latorre and Babam are mentioned, hopped on this once-in-a-century collective process. Even the very young school children are helping. And those Villahanons coming from the island barangays.
Unfortunately, these two are associated with Bayan Muna, a political movement whose members, because of their unquestionable patriotism, pro-poor, total, and unswerving belief in serving the oppressed Filipino people first are being killed one by one by shadowy figures whose naiveté and ignorance of the challenges of contemporary Third World societies are so pathetic and beyond belief. Consequently, the novelty, the profound implication, and the impact of this Villahanon social experiment on Philippine society are beyond the understanding of the ordinary bureaucrats and the incompetent TRAPOS and their minions in the military.
In any case, this collective, voluntary, Internet-driven social innovation sent shock waves throughout the Philippines and perhaps in the Third World.
Villahanons and their friends all over the world, such as the eloquent Basaynon, Adelbert Batica — through a massive use of the Internet, we have two websites anyway, with three electronic groups — donated money, cement, and labor. Where P10 million was needed to cement one kilometer of road if undertaken by a corrupt and incompetent government functionaries, the Villahanons were doing this at a cost of P1.8 million per kilometer! An earth-shaking difference in cost, indeed!
The benefit was not only in terms of saving some scarce funds and the public good that a first class road could redound to the community. There was the most vital element of all — the pride in being part of a historical process, a process that could pave the way for similar undertakings not only in road building, but also in other aspects of the Villareal community, especially livelihood projects. For once, we were showing the world that poor as we are, we are not shamelessly extending our hand begging for dole outs from a corrupt and incompetent political and governmental leadership with the inevitable corrupted portion of the public funds going to corrupt officials and their fellow conspirators. We were proud, dignified, and felt respectable.
But as we are laboring on this piece, several events in recent weeks have transpired which have an impact on the Villahanons, the Samarnons, and the rest of the 87 million Filipinos, of whom 8 million are in Diaspora all over the world.
First, there was the decision of the House of Representatives of the Philippine Congress by a vote of 158 to 51 with 6 abstentions, not to elevate the impeachment of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the Senate. This congressional action does not mean that everything is lovey-dovey with everyone. Whatever happened, this embattled President will be limping along towards I know not what. The crystal ball is murky on her fate and that of the Filipino people. And we wonder if this Government can ever contribute in finishing the cementing of the road. After all, this President has danced the curacha in the municipal plaza when reputedly her closest friend at that time was Dr. Maruja Seludo, a member of Villa’s elite families.
Secondly, for the entire Philippines, but specifically with respect to us Villahanons and our people from the Samar-Leyte-Biliran region, there is the transfer of Gen. Jovito Palparan to Central Luzon. Dubbed the butcher of Mindanao, Mindoro, and the Eastern Visayas because of his misguided obsession to eliminate everyone whom he might consider as “enemies” of the state and its government, based on his own criteria — which obviously include the incompetents, the plunderers, the thieves, and the bloodsuckers in the government — this man whose studies and training might have been made possible by the suffering Filipino masses at the Philippine Military Academy, symbolizes the gut-wrenching dilemma confronting poor societies in contemporary times, especially the Philippines. How to deal with the poor, the oppressed, the ignorant, and the exploited in our country. Kill all of them? Like Mayor Latorre, Babam Cabueños, and others who are critics of an incompetent Philippine government and an iniquitous political and social order?
Thirdly, there is the document dated August 27, 2005 issued by the National Council of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines, entitled “NDFP PROPOSES CONCISE AGREEMENT TO END CIVIL WAR AND ACHIEVE JUST PEACE IMMEDIATELY”.
Written by the NDFP leaders who are in voluntary exile in peaceful, rich, respected European country of the Netherlands, the document has an addendum by its Consultant, Jose Maria Sison. It states: “The civil war ends and a just peace begins as soon as the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) co-signs this 10-point concise but comprehensive peace agreement with the NDFP Alliance and truce becomes the modus vivendi of the GRP and the NDFP.”
This document is probably being discussed now by the flickering light of a kerosene lamp by the 8,000 members of the New People’s Army or under an acacia tree when there is a full moon and while their stomachs are rumbling with hunger, while they are almost fainting with malnourishment and fever, while the mosquitoes are buzzing around their ears, while the sick and the wounded are begging for medications, and while trying to dodge the bullets of the government soldiers in some remote mountain fastnesses of Samar and the Philippines.
If there is no peace in Villa, in Samar, in the entire Philippines because the leadership of the National Democratic Front and the incompetent and corrupt TRAPOS and their military minions have to ensure that their personal prestige and their places in the annals of history or their economic interests are protected and enhanced, what happens to the trailblazing and innovative social experiments of the Villahanons? Will Mayor Boy Latorre and Vice Mayor Babam Cabueños and others in a rumored military death list continue to be on guard and should be prepared to die soon?
But with a new commanding general in the Eastern Visayas Region, there seems to have been a discernible shift in the mission of the soldiers whose salaries are being paid by the poor and oppressed Filipino people, including the poor Villahanons and Samarnons. It seems that during the fire that gutted the elementary school in Calbiga, Villa’s sister town, allegedly due to the drunken irresponsibility of school officials, it was the soldiers who roused the town from their sleep so that the fire could be put out. Now, they seem to be constructing schoolrooms so that the school children can continue their studies. How we wish that the partisans of the National Democratic Front will work hand in hand with the soldiers to construct not only school buildings in Calbiga, but also in finishing that 8-kilometer death road in Villareal, in the spirit of Bayanihan, of Pintakasi, of Tiklos.
Unhappily, because they know more, the “civil war” in the Philippines — that means the beheadings, abductions, summary killings, tortures, ambushes, roadside bombings, people’s courts, the crying and lamentations of the orphans and widows in agony — must go on. The guns of the soldiers and the NPAs have to be fired, the bullets used, the bombs have to be detonated. There are more of them where they come from.
So we can only moan in anguish. And if we are believers, we raise our hands in fervent supplication to the Santa Rosa, the Patron Saint of the Villahanons and the impoverished Peruvians who have been rocked by a revolution similar to what we have in Villa, in Samar, and in the Philipines: “Ig-ampo kami Santa Rosa, ngadto han Ginoo, nga kalo-oyan kami nga matagan hin kamorayaw yana ngan han katapus han kinabuhi han natuod ha imo, labi na an mga kablas ngan guin tatalumpigos nga mga Villahanon ngan makalolo-oy nga Pilipino.”
[*The author is a regular columnist of “The Filipino Insider”, a monthly supplement of the “San Francisco Chronicle”, one of the major newspapers in America with a circulation of 500,000. He also writes occasionally for the “Manila US Times” which is based in Southern California. He is one of the founders and moderators of the “Gugma han Samar Cyberspace Movement”. A former Assistant Professor of Political Science in the University of the Philippines in Diliman, the author has not lost touch with his native land despite the pressures of community involvement in California, in Samar, in Villa and his employment in the State of California. He can be reached at Cesar1185@aol.com]