Saturday, August 13, 2005

Paring Bert does Poetry at Makati Shangri-La

PAring Bert Alejo, rector of Ateneo de Davao, author of Tao Po! Tuloy (definitive study of Loob) and Renewing Cultural Energies, director of EHEM! - a nation-wide anti-corruption program, and author of so many more projects...honored us with his presence on our second to the last night in Manila. He had just flown in from an anti-corruption conference in Bali and was preparing to conduct an anti-corruption workshop for Malacanang. After the exchange of news and dinner over at California Pizza Kitchen, we went back to the hotel room. We just had to ask him to perform a few of his poems in Filipino...

Sanayan Lang ang Pagpatay -- a poem about violence (all forms) that begins with our childhood pranks (from crushing a beetle to pulling a cat's whiskers), to adult crimes committed against Nature, against other creatures, against one another. Unconscious, we do not see how the little crimes are connected to the big crimes.

He also recited a poem addressed to God: Why did You call me too soon? Before I could at least know what it means to experience the pleasures of the flesh. Now here I am, with my clenched fist, stomping my feet, asking you this question amidst my boring attempts to become holy.

I couldn't recall the third poem...it was a love poem and he asked my sister to be the "prop" for this one. I must have been distracted by the thought of a priest reciting a love poem while kissing my sister's hand...

The rest of the evening we discussed the Ehem! project's impact on participants who begin to see corruption (their own and others') from a wholistic perspective, i.e. in terms of its long term consequences on the nation, on the family, on the environment, etc. It is amazing how most people do not often make those connections as they rationalize their participation in briberies, in using "fixers;" they simple see it from the point of view of helplessness within a corrupt system ("I have no choice!"; "I'm doing this for my family").

Paring Bert says that there are many people in the Philippines who are NOT corrupt and there are many who were once corrupt and would like to live an alternate ethic. The need then is to create a visible public discourse about these efforts and the individuals and groups who are making a difference in order to counteract the impression that corruption is pervasive and endemic in the country.

He is right, of course. People like him give me hope.

It was almost midnight when we said goodbye. It was a sacred blessed night...

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