Thursday, May 18, 2006
Remarks made by the author regarding the launching of
THE POVERTY OF MEMORY: ESSAYS ON HISTORY AND EMPIRE
Renato Redentor Constantino
March 24, 2006
Balay Kalinaw, University of the Philippines, Diliman
Bismillah hirahman nirahim. Asallamu alaikum. Warmatullahi ta'ala walbarakatu. Pagbati sa inyong lahat. I am not an Arab or a Muslim or a member of the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan but, in keeping with the tradition of Isaac Deutscher, I wish to say first that, for the purposes of the anti-Muslim and the anti-Arab today, and for the purposes of the malevolent anti-Left, I am a Muslim, an Arab and a member of Bayan.
It is necessary to begin this address with such a statement. History continuously provides us with too many graphic examples of the consequences of indifference. Few among you may know Julius Mariveles. I personally have not met him. I know of him only a couple of things: that he is the news director of Aksyon Radyo-Bacolod and the secretary general of the Correspondents, Reporters and Broadcasters Association of Negros. He is also listed as a target in the "order of battle" of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
Mariveles is from Negros; he is a journalist; maybe he is a gentleman or maybe he is outspoken and abrasive; maybe he is even a sympathizer of the national democratic movement; and maybe he is also a member of Bayan, a leftwing organization with political perspectives that some of us may not entirely agree with. The illegitimate government would like each of us to delve on what makes Mariveles different from us so that we may not entertain thoughts of solidarity that have always served as an antidote to tyranny and despair. If we cannot focus beyond the things that make us different, if we cannot impart on our family and friends the lesson that the assault on others is an assault on ourselves -- if we do not stand together in these perilous times -- we will collectively perish.
In truth, we must not only stand together. If we wish to collectively construct our common future, we must also strive to remember together.
This month marks the centennial of the Bud Dajo battle, where 1,600 men, women and children of Jolo were slaughtered by American imperialist troops a hundred years ago. This March marks the 38th anniversary of the Jabidah massacre. Next month also marks the 20th anniversary of the nuclear nightmare of Chernobyl, which the big powers will commemorate by trying to build more nuclear power plants, which will create more nuclear weapons. Twenty years ago, on this month, Filipinos were still celebrating in the streets and offices and households, having broken the grip of a dictatorship and having accomplished what so many kept dismissing for years as an impossibility.
Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador was assassinated on this day in 1980, a spiritual hero not just to Latin Americans but also to Filipinos. Romero it was who promised history that life, not death, would have the last word. "I do not believe in death without resurrection," said the Archbishop. "If they kill me, I will be resurrected in the Salvadoran people." Today, Romero's light burns brighter and beyond El Salvador, among people who march freely in remembrance and in honor of his memory.
March 24 is also a day that should remind us that some lessons have not been learned. The worst oil spill in US history called the Exxon Valdez disaster took place on this day in 1989, and ten years ago on this day, a massive spill of mine tailings from the mines of the company Marcopper took place in the Philippine island province of Marinduque.
Everyday can be a day of remembering. Everyday can be a reminder that we need to do more and to remember more so that resistance against wrongdoing can be sustained and so that we may become wiser with each passing year.
A book-launching event is always a joyous occasion because it marks the conclusion of a creative process, one defined often by generosity -- the generosity of the writer's sources of emotional and intellectual nourishment. I beg your indulgence if I've to thank some people a little profusely. These are small acts of remembering that are necessary...
I thank first of all the fire-starter and patient teacher for whatever it is that one calls the tiny space I currently occupy in writing. She is not responsible for any of my faults, but she is greatly responsible for the things that have caused the creation of this book and, I hope, the things that have made this book worth reading. She represents grace in person and grace in teaching. I thank her for helping impart to me the value of love of country -- a value increasingly debauched by those who claim to be our nation's leaders. I thank her for nourishing year after year my fascination with history -- in particular, the materialist conception of the past, and for imparting to me the centrality of the discipline and order required in the craft of writing. I am referring to Dada Ming -- Letizia R. Constantino, for those of you who do not know her by the name that her grandchildren and great grandchildren affectionately call her. I thank Letty, a keeper of memory and the chairperson of the Foundation for Nationalist Studies, an aristocrat, as defined by E. M. Foster, who wrote of his abiding belief "in the aristocracy of the sensitive, the considerate and the plucky. Its members are to be found in all nations and classes and all through the ages, and there is a secret understanding when they meet. They represent the true human tradition, the one permanent victory over cruelty and chaos." Thank you, Dada Ming.
I wish to also thank two creatures called RC and Dudi, also known as my parents, for their trust and patience and support. From the time I became politically active, they have been unwavering comrades and before that, they were already my loyal, loony and loving friends. My engagement with radical politics had to begin somewhere and that place was in 38-A Panay Ave. I have been told by Dada Ming how, before I was ten, I was already asking her to recount for me the story of Palestine and the dispossession of an entire people. Political inquisitiveness begins at home and credit for such story requests go to RC and Dudi, who both brought up their family by weaving love and affection together with the concepts of fairness, accountability, responsibility and an insane hunger to discover more of the outside world -- the world outside one's home, one's school, one's neighborhood, one's country, and one's region. To find out more about the world as it existed before and why the world can and should be better, much better, in the future. The milestones that I have reached I attribute mostly to my parents, including this one. Si RC at Dudi ay walang kasing tigas ng ulo at walang kasing kulit pag dating sa kanilang mga anak at sa usapin ng ating bansa bunga ng kanilang paniniwala at respeto sa kakayahan ng kanilang mga anak -- at sa kakayahan ng mamamayang Filipino -- na mabuhay ng malaya, mapayapa, masaya at may dignidad.
The crafting of each part of this book would have been impossible without the activist called Kalayaan Pulido -- Kala to family, comrads and friends, my constant comrade and critic, my dear wife and companion forever who I love so much. I cannot thank you enough, Kala.
Profound thanks go to Chuchay Molina-Fernandez, tribune of journalism and my boss for many years in the esteemed newspaper Today and currently the chief editor the Business Mirror, for finding time to write, in the midst of her insane schedule, the foreword to my book with her trademark candor, clarity and cadence.
I thank Dodong Nemenzo for finding time in the middle of his busy regime-ouster schedule to review the manuscript of the book. Thank you also to the esteemed writer, banker and intellectual, Admiral Dean de la Paz, for writing such a generous review of the book, which came out yesterday in his Business World column.
It's a closely knit family so you will have to forgive me for thanking the painter and UP College of Fine Arts teacher Ninel Constantino for temporarily putting her career on hold in order to provide the elegant design and lay-out of the book. The same goes to Marika Constantino, business manager and painter, for meticulous task of organizing and helping edit the book.
For the happy influence they had on my life, I thank Karina and Randy -- my Nanang and Nonong. For the companionship and criticism, I thank my sister Karmina. For their effort in ensuring the publication of The Poverty of Memory, I must cite our valued caregiver, Mimi Tanoja and also Rose, Aida, Malou and Nieves, and of course for helping organize this event I thank Emily, Merlinda and Jennylyn.
I thank Jenny -- a long time activist of Courage and my best friend since our days at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines helmed by Nemesio Prudente -- along with my kumpare and fellow activist Teddy Lopez for agreeing to be co-emcees of this event. Thank you to Lyn Resurreccion, currently the opinion and science editor of the Business Mirror for her patience and support of my writing endeavors. And lastly, the biggest hugs in the galaxy to my most deliriously wonderful, top-rank activist family for six years, the Greenpeace gang of campaigners and volunteers led here by Von Hernandez and Mareng Beau.
Rebecca Solnit reminds us of an all too often neglected fact -- that "the most powerful spokespeople for hope remain those most in need of it." These are the oppressed -- and our children.
"We talk about 'what we hope for'," wrote Solnit, "in terms of what we hope will come to pass but we could think of it another way, as WHY we hope. We hope on principle, we hope tactically and strategically, we hope because the future is inscrutable, we hope because it's a more powerful and more joyful way to live."
This book is thus for Rio and Luna, my two children and daily reminders both to Kala and to myself that hope always trumps despair. This book is also for the late Renato Constantino, nationalist and historian, who I deeply miss.
So ends this speech. It's now time to sign some books I think. After which we may return to the task of kicking out this unbelievably unbearable administration.
Thank you very much. #
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1. "Article 3 slams continued inclusion of Negros journalist in government "order of battle," Article 3 Alliance press statement, 22 March 2006. See the website of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines.
2. Renato Redentor Constantino, The Poverty of Memory: Essays on History and Empire (Quezon City: Foundation for Nationalist Studies, 2006)
3. Marites Danguilan Vitug and Glenda Gloria, Under the Crescent Moon: Rebellion in Mindanao (Quezon City, Ateneo Center for Social Policy and Public Affairs and the Institute for Popular Democracy, 2000).
4. For more background on the commemorations this year, see the moving series of articles and photo essays by Greenpeace International, "Chernobyl certificate no. 000358," 27 February 2006.
5. Renny Golden, "Oscar Romero: Bishop of the Poor."
6. Greenpeace International, "Exxon Valdez disaster: 15 years of lies," www.greenpeace.org, 24 March 2004. Regarding the Marcopper disaster issue, see Vinia M. Datinguinoo, "Another disaster looms in Marinduque," Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, 2 April 2002.
7. Rebecca Solnit, "Acts of hope: challenging empire on the world stage," TomDispatch.com, 19 May 2003.