|Ray June "Kid" Blancada|
When was the last time I saw you? I can't pinpoint the date. It has been so long. All I know is you went to Philippine Military Academy (PMA) after trying to work in the academe. I can only remember you with the games we played after school. You were one of those poging timid boys in the senior class. You're very responsible kuya (older brother) to Lyndel. You always fetched her when it's already late and we're still playing at the plaza. You joined in our silly games despite our two year gap and you nearing adolescence at that time. If you don't play games with us, you sat on the bench. Or you would go to our house and talk to Lola Luz. You were very polite to Lola Luz. You always do 'mano po' and joke with her. She likes you very much and talks a lot about how lucky Auntie Nena to have you. You even fetched water for us or help us pull down the heavy handle of the hand water pump. You laughed at my shortness; I laughed at your thinness. And I remembered you blushing when we teased you with a classmate you courted during high school.
We were caught up in the changes of growing up and chasing our dreams. Communication was nil.. We moved on with or lives and I heard you got married after graduating. But I got a shock of my life when I heard the news. My sister texted me about the ambush.
I immediately searched the net for news. Nothing. It was aired on ANC's news flash report, my sister said. I was in denial. We all are when death (or disaster) struck close to us. We learn that our knowledge of life is limited to death.
Kid, all I have of you are those memories. I wonder what will be your reaction when we have seen each other at this juncture of our present selves. I wonder how would you react when you knew I am an activist. I would like to see how you would react to my arguments about linear thinking in the ranks and human rights violations. I know we would argue but laugh after of our foolishness and hardheadedness for the things we strongly believe in. You after all have taken the steps after your father- Uncle Minyong, a retired solider. And you were a teacher first before becoming a soldier.
And I wonder how would you react if I tell you that I attended the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL) Multistakeholders Forum held in Ateneo de Davao yesterday. I was still processing my emotions about this 16-year old document and how both parties agreed to "humanize war." Truth be told, I am baffled by how these two paradoxical words can be used.
CARHRIHL aimed to uphold, protect and promote human rights and principles of international humanitarian laws. It does not only hold accountable government state actors for human rights violations but also non-state actors particularly the CPP/NPA/NDF. It aimed to protect the civilians caught in the armed conflict. It aimed to bring these two parties in the negotiating table. However, the negotiations have long been stalled.
I have been doing conflict monitoring Kid. I have read a lot of senseless killings as well as people dying to protect the limited resource they have and for the cause they believe in. Constant exposure to violence can make one numb.Probably, I've been numbed reading these reports. And I didn't know how to react when I finally read the news, the truth of you, so young, full of dreams for the family you are just building- all are lost in the road of Quezon Province. And you were on a medical mission together with your 3 other companions. You are not just unknown dead soldier in an encounter. You were caught in the tumultuous period of retaliation after the publicized arrest of the Tiamzon couple, one of the top ranking leaders of the Communist Party.
We talk of CARHRIHL and its legitimacy to pursue peace in the communities. And we seek deep commitment from both parties to adhere on what they have signed. But the real work to any peace process or agreements is after the ink dries up. We are talking about human lives. Yes, it is about your life Kid. Or any soldier. Or every civilian caught in the crossfire.
As one of the speakers in the forum commented, we see a lot of violence everyday. Sadly, we only react when the casualties are very dear and personal. And we ask, why why?
War can never be humane. Deaths in every attack or retaliation should not be a scorecard.
Amidst the storm of dissolution and madness of everyday forms of violence, our strength will be tested and sometimes our light for hope flicker..but we hold unto ourselves with big wide eyes into the night, that the morning awaits us.
Kid, go on. You will remain in our heart. This is a sad, long goodbye.
Let me share to you Paul Baumer's, a character in All Quiet on the Western Front lines realizing how war destroys both soldiers (him and his supposedly enemy) :
“Comrade, I did not want to kill you. If you jumped in here again, I would not do it, if you would be sensible too. But you were only an idea to me before, an abstraction that lived in my mind and called forth its appropriate response. It was that abstraction I stabbed. But now, for the first time, I see you are a man like me. I thought of your hand-grenades, of your bayonet, of your rifle; now I see your wife and your face and our fellowship. Forgive me, comrade. We always see it too late. Why do they never tell us that you are poor devils like us, that your mothers are just as anxious as ours, and that we have the same fear of death, and the same dying and the same agony – Forgive me, comrade; how could you be my enemy? If we threw away these rifles and this uniform you could be my brother..”