Monday, July 31, 2006

Food for the Gods

Rhymes for Rockman Pace

One o'clock, two o'clock, three o'clock, ROCK! Four o'clock, five o'clock, six o'clock ROCK!

Radio listeners in Davao del Sur's sleepy town of Digos have been used to hearing this familiar nursery rhyme precedes the program of "Rockman Pace," followed by his scathing remarks as he used to go on air. He was known all over Digos as "The Rockman," a hardhitting broadcaster, the Digos counterpart of the anti-communist crusader Juan Porras Pala, who died several years earlier from the hands of unidentified gunmen.
One afternoon in July, the Rockman went out of the radio station to buy chicken for lunch. He fell on the pavement near Digos' BPI Bank Building when a shot rang out and two gunmen escaped on a motorcycle. He was ninth in the list of journalists killed in the Philippines this year, according to the list of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
It was eerily quiet in Digos city the following day. Nobody was playing the rhyme on the air. For a while it looked like everybody was saying that the Rockman never criticised anybody on the air, that he mellowed down a bit in the last few months in the radio station where he worked. Until one noted the gestures, the shrugs, the frowns, the smirks from the people's faces when they talked or stopped talking about him.
"He must have angered 'someone big,'" a peddy cab driver blurted out as his vehicle swerved into the gravelly path leading to the Rockman's house.
In the town of Digos, like in most of the country's small towns, one begins to be aware of 'big people' and 'small people' all around. For their own safety, 'small people' are aware of their smallness. They are careful (and think they have to be careful) not to anger 'big people' who can do anything to them. They're saying: Look, what happened to Pace! See??!
No wonder nobody is talking.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Leizel survives Jogjakarta!

Leizel's email on May 28 almost shook the SEAPA fellows dispatched to different parts of Southeast Asia for the one month coverage of their proposed stories in the second country of their choice. In Malaysia, I was wondering why Leizel--the third fellow from the Philippines dispatched to Indonesia--felt she was "so blessed to be alive." On her email, the story began to unfold.
"When I left Baguio (for the SEAPA fellowship), I told myself I’m going for an adventure of a lifetime. And I guess I got what I was looking for - to be right in the middle of a disaster while writing my story. Jogja was in chaos a few hours before I left last Saturday. People were crying and running in the streets, thinking that a tsunami would follow. I really thought it was the end of me. (I just amused myself with the thought that my mother would get an insurance money after I die. Hehe!). Bantul in Southern Jogja, was the most hardly hit. I was there the whole day on Thursday, two days before the earthquake struck.

As I was riding on a taxi to Solo, I realized that good people are everywhere. And they appear when you need them most. I met Moslems and Christians (3 Catholics and 2 Evangelicals) who generously gave their time to make my stay in Jogja meaningful. Eventhough it was my first time to meet all of them, they took a lot of effort to make sure I would leave Jogja fast. Well, I just couldn’t imagine myself dying in a foreign country with nobody to identify my body."
We read the rest of the story in the headline stories of that day. Leizel emails on to say that these Merapi shots were taken by Purwani Prabandari ("Dari"), one of Tempo's editors with whom she stayed with in Jakarta. Purwani took the pictures from Klaten, her hometown.