Saturday, 19 March 2011

Two Simple Steps

Let go of the past. The cancerous one that destroys the present and the future.
Go on with your life, with a smile. And with a heart that feels light and definitely ready to be happy.
I’ve read a book that tells a story of how my people have suffered in the past...
My ancestors who were reduced to being slaves to the Spanish conquistadores.
Yes, the famous conquerors who called my people savages...
Only because we wore different clothes...
Only because we didn’t have the same habits and customs...
Only because we were not like them.
For these conquerors my forefathers seemed nothing more than a herd of wild horses to tame...and then to dominate. The fact that they were humans too, despite physical differences and a different way of life, didn’t seem to count at all. And even if it did, it would seem that the great conquistadores shrugged it off and insisted on their roles as the chosen ones to promote civilization and/or Christianity.
Yes, those conquerors who did much more disgusting things than when we “peasants and savages” eat with only our hands.
It’s ironic how, while their noblemen were talking about culture, courtesy and good manners, with a beastly greed they took our lands and whipped to death whoever dared to refuse, while their priests, who preached hell day and night, raped our young women, poor lambs that served as offerings on the holy altar.
They made us slaves in our own home. They robbed us of our own land, of our dignity, of our natural rights... in the name of God and of that thing they called Civilization.
They brought us hell that didn’t even exist before.
I used to think that, maybe, if those missionaries didn’t come with their stories of the perfect paradise and the eternally burning kingdom of the damned...maybe just like our earlier ancestors who worshipped the trees, the sun, the wind, the rivers and the earth...maybe just like them we would not be afraid of the life after death, and perhaps even face it with peace in our hearts because dying means going back to being one with nature again...and being pure once more.
The warriors of the rising sun say that men who bow to conquerors without resistance
do not have honour.
But who am I to judge my forefathers, whose biggest fault was to be naives, trusting the “palabra de honor” of those pale skinned, strange-coloured-eyed brothers of the west who talked about trade and brotherhood one day, who drank from the very same cup of mixed Asian and European blood, but who secretly came back later that night with their weapons, ready to claim our beloved land as another trophy in the seemingly endless competition of the great nations,
better known as colonization?
What could their bows and arrows have done against those long stems that blew fire and irons?
Of course, death is much more preferable than a life as slaves but in times like those, can a father really be so selfish as to mind his own virtue while his child is crying, begging for another chance to see the wonderful dawn and the golden sunset?
Is it so wrong to swallow one’s honour for the sake of his loved ones?
Is it a mortal sin to hope that the day after, a miracle could happen and they would wake up to another ordinary peaceful and warm tropical morning?
We were taught never to abandon hope... never that.
Just some time ago, I was almost ashamed of the fact that in our history my people have always been an easy prey to conquerors... Spaniards, Japanese, Americans...
I feel sorry that most of our stories were about being captured and turned into slaves.
(And that it continues to this very day, seeing as how the term Filipino is usually a connotation of the word “domestic helper”. It almost makes me wonder if being “humbled” is really the only thing we’re good about.)
There were, of course, rebellions and resistances, but as it happened, very few of those succeeded, and even fewer still were won without outside help.
It was sadder still to realize that the rate of success could have been higher if only there weren’t traitors and “weak links” within us.
Fellow Filipinos who betray their own kin.
But then I realized some things.
We may never have been people strong enough to conquer other countries,
or rich enough to expand.
Yet our forefathers, at least some people, like our first national hero Mactan Island Chief Lapu-Lapu who, on April 27, 1521, won against the Portuguese Ferdinando Magellano who tried to conquer his island by force.
There's also the young and brave general Gregorio del Pilar who sacrificed himself in the battle of Tirad Pass to enable President Aguinaldo's escape from the Americans.
Not to mention the sublime paralytic Apolinario Mabini... brain of the filipino revolution.
And even the simpleton but nonetheless brave Andres Bonifacio who, inspired by our national hero Jose Rizal’s writings about our country’s freedom, founded a secret society called Kataas-taasang, Kagalang-galangang Katipunan ng̃ mg̃á Anak ng̃ Bayan (High and Honorable Society of the Children of the Nation) on July 7, 1892...
And of course the brave Gabriela Silang, symbol of the filipino women's strength, who continued her husband Diego Silang’s mission after his death and who died too, fighting for the Filipino freedom ...
Heroes like them fought to protect the people they love and their homeland.
This, for me, is priceless, for what could be nobler still
than giving up your life for your loved ones?
The conquerors may feed their egos with the trophies of the places they have taken...
but I do wonder if they were also proud of the fact that they have massacred so many lives and destroyed so many families and futures?
I wonder how they sleep at night.
Or maybe it was as natural as another end of the day for hunters.
No thoughts of the hell they unleashed and unbothered by the destruction they left behind.
Uncaring of the suffering they have caused.
Also, my ancestors have done something I couldn’t do, at least not yet: Those two simple steps.
Letting go.
And moving on.
Yes, I have my own nightmares from a not so distant past and it haunts me still, hindering me from trusting not just other people but even myself. Letting go is never easy...
But my forefathers have suffered a great deal, as well.
And probably, or better still...surely, they have had terrible nightmares too.
Yet, somehow, they have found a way to wake up, lift one foot and put it forward...
One foot followed by the other one.
A step and then another... away from that horrible past.
Starting with two simple steps, they were able to walk away and start anew.
There were dark clouds covering the sun but they had dreams and hopes they used as lights to guide them through the darkness.
And if these weren’t enough, they had their loved ones to hold their hands.
This is not an accusation. I have written this for myself.
And I only want one thing:
To give the past one last glance... and to bow once more before those who have suffered...
Those who have given up their lives in the hope that that nightmare will never happen again.
Yes, one last glance... and a goodbye.
And at the end...
No, I’d rather say for a new beginning...
Two steps forward. Two simple steps.
A tribute to my forefathers... the past sons and daughters of the Pearl of the East, who bravely defended their home and gave up their lives for the sake of their loved ones.

<<I’m proud to be from the country with the warmest smile in all of South-East Asia>>

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