Archive for the ‘History’ category

Couples for change

September 9, 2013

In a garden full of laughter and light, Ed and I  went to the 60th birthday of Mon and Iting Isberto, good comrades who shared our decade of activism in the 70’s and have continued to work for a better country. It was an event that brought good friends to dine as one community , sing protest songs and launch Ester and Mon

Iting & Mon,Bicutan

Iting & Mon,Bicutan


‘s  Our 3rd Life, their life story.

The party got us to meet again the  family of Mon and Iting. We saw their children and grandchildren handle the whole celebration with ease and joy. I said to Ed, ” See how well the third generation welcome us seniors into their space with wit and humor.” It was  an event we enjoyed and will remember well into our 80s .

Friends and their families are like vineyards, the more they age, the more new grapes grow to make into new wine. To  enjoy  wine, am gathering the stories of couples who sowed seeds of struggle for a better nation and have taken active roles in communities Ed calls a Komunibersidad.

So friends, am going to write each of you to share a vineyard of life   so many families can  harvest  new grapes and ferment into new wine. Then we can drink as we age into our third lives.


How to rediscover oneself when turning 60

September 9, 2010

Last night Ed gave me another gift for my coming 6oth birthday. A book on “Things To Do When You Turn 60” edited by Ronnie Sellers published in 2006 USA. I read some of the stories and decided I would write what Gloria Steinem said “Aging is a journey toward self-discovery and perhaps a revolution of sorts.”

Many of my class 66 in high school ( two high schools: Maryknoll and Luzonian in Lucena City)  have turned 60 and what a joy to rediscover them again as friends. My facebook account is full of these friend-classmates and we share a variety of joys – from posting our photos and sharing music  downloaded from the 60s. A few have posted their love stories and status of  their grandchildren. I open my email and social websites daily because it is what makes my life connected electronically to many.  I cherish the face to face interaction with family and loved ones and in this age of virtual spaces, I appreciate being a member of  a global community. I cultivate a concern for everybody, a joyful act to love as many as myself.

Not only have I made  my compassion  and empathy expanding but am experiencing an inner challenge to answer the question so many have wondered : is there a consciousness beyond death?

When I turned 40, my mother  Nene asked me more often to accompany her in her round of visiting the ill and going to the wake of  relatives and friends. I was impressed with what she was doing. Later she told me it was to assist the dying to cross over. She called it “PagpapaHesus.”

Flashback to an earlier stage. When I turned five, my mother was taken ill  and my father brought her to the hospital. I was very worried and couldnt sleep.Then a woman glided into our room and said” We will pray so that your mother will return to you.” I knelt and followed her saying  a prayer my mother taught me – the Hail Mary. After that night, I found out that my mother had an operation and would come home after a week. When she was home, I approached her and pointed to a picture on the wall ” Nanay, who is that woman in the frame?” “She was my mother Beatriz,”replied my mother. My grandmother died in the 1940s and I never saw her until that evening.

During vacation when I was in my primary age 7-12 , I became immersed in the  Catholic rites of praying and followed my other lola ( my grandfather’s sister ) in her tour of the homes of the sick,dying and dead in Liliw,Laguna. I didnt understand what she was doing but I tagged along because she fed me with snacks and meals in those homes. But I was mindful of the deep respect and devotion that my lola had for all the people she prayed for.

It took  all of 50 years to discern that my mother and grandmother had bequeathed me their gift of empathy for the dying. I began to sense a message coming from people who died . At first, being a trained psychologist, I examined my own mind  and noted down if I were having delusions.  I asked Ed if I were still normal when I sense  a phenomena  called “pagpaparamdam.”  

I told Ed and my mother  what I was experiencing but kept it private. Then in 2003, the link  to this dimension became very palpable and I could no longer dismiss the call to serve. From that time on, I would be called to assist the dying to transmit their “bilins“.

In ten years of assisting the dying and the dead, I meditated daily and studied  this dimension I am becoming part of. I am a social psychologist and my studies led me to the following insights :

1. The dying person, even if comatose or in the ICU, can sense our presence. The person can feel pain when doctors conduct  invasive procedures and she/he  needs all the gentle and  loving touches. The dying can also express regrets, fears and dread. One of the things the dying is concerned with is how her/his legacy will be taken cared of.

2. Praying, laying of hands, singing and other acts do help the dying but it has to be performed with permission from her/him. The one who will perform the rites of passage need to ask permission not only from the family but from the person herself/himself.

3. Even when current medical technology indicates a flatline, the person’s consciousness is still active.  The keyword is  psyche or soul.  I quote a line from Karen Armstrong on what Socrates and Plato discovered in their time. ” Unlike the atman (sanskrit term for eternal self), psyche was separate from the body; it had existed before the birth of the individual and would survive his/her death. It enables human beings to reason and inspired them to seek goodness. The cultivation of the soul was the most important human task, far more crucial than the achievement of worldly success.”

I close this blog  for the moment so that people will have time to think and feel what resonates in their psyche.

Democracy comes after eight thousand year journey

June 30, 2010

Istanbul in seven days led me to thinking how democracy make people live better as citizens. Walking around the streets of Beyoglu, a modern district of Istanbul where independence was fought,taught me that pluralism is possible in this age. People of various races,ethnicity
religious,political and sexual persuasions live in Istanbul and it seems ethnic violence, except those of the Kurds, is at a manageable level.Ed and I saw all kinds of tolerance – from women wearing modern skimpy tops to women who wear chadors or burkas walking in public.We also saw how many merchants from other provinces of Turkey and even from Arabic countries are able to sell their wares in the markets. It is interesting to learn that the oldest mall is the Grand Bazaar and that it shouldered the cost of building the Blue Mosque and other mosques during the Ottoman empire in the mid15th century.But we also noticed that people with physical and mental disabilities still had to beg or sell token items like tissue paper and lighters to survive.We saw young  boys and old men work in the streets, selling water and carrying heavy loads . We talked to Filipina workers and they said that they had to get documented because Turkey is very strict with migrant workers . The marginalized ethnic group are the gypsies,young and old women with children begging in the streets. I asked Ed, ” how come there are so many of them begging?” Are they not citizens in this country? In Italy, the gypsies are also ostracized. I think in this age,there are still zones of exclusion,especially in large cities where the government cannot provide enough resources to meet the needs of all the citizenry. But the most important insight is that Turkey, which used to be the ancient Constantinople, took a very long journey to become a modern nation. The exhibit in Sakip Sabanci Museum gave us a snapshot of this 8000 journey. It involved the Greeks, Romans, Genoesans, Turks and they all built their empires that spanned many cultures and  eight thousand years. Hagia Sophia is the oldest symbol of the changes in perspective and culture. As we walked around its chambers, the Byzantine and Ottoman icons  and murals competed for glory. Ed and I were awed by its grandeur and when you see  its domes from the sea, land and air, the Hagia Sophia captures your imagination. I understood what it symbolized – the  power  of living dangerously and overcoming perils for 1397 years.  That is a long journey indeed!

People’s grief and power in a new way

August 5, 2009

 “Cory’s magic is back,” the PDI headline stated. I told Lynett that the august 2 sunday cover made a beautiful imprint. That’s how I want to remember Cory and Lynett said ” It took us five hours to settle for that look on the front page. We wanted the legacy look and so had to go through hundreds of  pictures and events. ” Oh, I love the legacy look.” I responded. With that thought, I went back in time to reminisce when I first met Cory. I had seen her during the wake of Ninoy but she was still deep in grief and I had no reason to approach her. Who was I, an activist and what could I possibly say that would catch her attention ? All these thoughts were put aside when  my friends gathered to discuss what we could do after Ninoy had been buried. Ninoy”s burial march unleashed a million expression of anger and protest. Women were very agitated and we decided that a march of women should be organized. I was assigned to see Cory and request her to lead the women’s march. Since we lived in Times Street then, I went to her house and introduced myself. Cory was very easy to talk  with and she readily agreed to lead the march. There was no hesitation when I showed her the draft manifesto for the women’s march.  When we finally got the march ready, Cory walked with many of our mothers, including Inay, and the various representatives of organizations. That march gave birth to Gabriela and many more new women’s protests. I didnt see Cory when she was finally inaugurated as the revolutionary President. Cory chose some of the women who marched with her as part of her cabinet. I was still in the organizing committee of many protest actions but when ed  was released from detention after EDSA, I chose to focus on solid work for women’s development as a quiet organizer here and overseas.

The next time I saw Cory was during a memorial lecture for Jose Diokno in La Salle.  She told the people she was citizen Cory .Ed and I brought Laraine to the lecture and we greeted Cory as a family. Cory paid Laraine a compliment ” Hello, pretty girl.” Laraine beamed from ear to ear. We appreciated her graciousness and  her simple gesture of  being positive, which is sometimes called ‘small talk” but with Cory, it  was  a lovely gift.

When Ed held his first exhibit last year in GSIS, we invited Noynoy to cut the ribbon with National Artist Napoleon Abueva and Governor Grace Padaca. Noynoy accepted and when he saw the paintings, he promised to bring Cory when she would be well enough. We had hope Cory would come but then we knew she was already having cancer treatments.

When Cory’s health situation deteriorated, I told Ed she would  go within the period Ninoy died. I imagined her being fetched by Ninoy and all those who were precious to her. When she died this Saturday, I was  unprepared . I searched  for signs and saw the web full of prayers. I wanted to go to greenhills and queue the way I did during Ninoy’s wake. But Ed and I had to attend to ECAP events  from morning to late evening. So I prayed and offered what I was doing to God so that Cory would have a crossing she had always prayed for. I felt Cory would have wanted to give the ordinary people more hope, rather than grief.  When I saw all the beautiful and wealthy women and men paying their respects to Cory  in greenhills and in the manila cathedral, I felt like Ed,  out in the fringe, mourning secretly. I felt I did not belong to those who can get car passes and invitations to sit with the family.

But something stirred me this morning. I wanted to say thank you to Cory in person. I remembered all the times she joined protest actions as a citizen and I wanted to show that those actions mattered to me. So I told Ed to hurry up with the meetings in MOA and go to EDSA to see the funeral march. I also texted my brother and sisters to check where they were. Finally Ed and I got to  Magallanes and joined the people. We saw my brother Phey and sister Iris. Everyone had been waiting for hours and no one complained of the long wait. Most of the people wore yellow and were carrying confetti. I wore black and carried my red shawl. Ed wore red and carried a red umbrella. When Cory’s open carriage came, I raised my clenched fist and said my thanks. I saw many waving and chanting  Cory! Cory!  I felt a whole shiver and my eyes were moist . The people marching with the carriage swelled and swept us, almost dragging us , and in that same moment, we were whipped with a heavy downpour, like  a phenomenon similar to the Nazareno rites.

When we finally got to our van, Ed , I and our driver Elmer were all wet but at peace. It was if  Cory’s passing had  taken another meaning, that we would go on with our lives with renewed vigor.  Cory’s death gave us the people power we missed but in a new way. I prayed that all the unity we prayed for would manifest with Cory’s magic, now that she has a larger role in heaven.

A Journey in Time

July 17, 2009

I have been  travelling back in time in search of evidence  that  electricity helped women  get education. Today I went back to visit the women of  Malolos, the twenty women who brought a letter requesting a night school for women. I texted  CorCor Santos whose  great grandmother  was one of the leaders of the Malolos women , Alberta Santos Uitangcoy. I wanted to find out if the appliances in their ancestral house had electricity but she was busy in their family hospital and asked for more time to help in my research. I read some pages of  Nick Tiongson’s  Women of Malolos. His narratives did not explicitly touched on electricity and its impact on women’s education . But  I was more convinced that  the  Malolos women who lived up to the 1930s had witnessed the coming of electricity. They became more active and organized Cruz Roja or Red Cross , joined the Asociacion Feminista de Filipinas (AFF) and became suffragettes. Corcor’s great grandlola lived up to 1953 and was a very articulate woman.

In the process of re-reading many articles in the web, I also found what La Gota de Leche did for women in 1906. It was  not just a place for providing milk for the poor . It was a hospital and promoted breastfeeding to help reduce infant mortality. Many poor women had tuberculosis and they did not want to breastfeed their babies. La Gota de Leche  founder, Dr. Fernando Calderon, taught women what to do with their breast milk and how to insure safe  cow’s milk. Many of the suffragettes  did not just ask for the right to vote but was keen on educating women on nutrition.

As I traced the involvement of the Malolos women, from  1865 to the 1950s, I saw that they prepared the road to women’s empowerment. I even found that Alberta’s  house  was  in a street called Electricidad street, in Malolos’ Pariancillo.

I googled all the websites that would lead me to several articles  where I could find women and electricity.  One book I found was Florence Kimball Russel 1900 ” A Woman’s Journey through the Philippines.”  She wrote in her journal all her impressions of the Philippines as she rode the cableship Burnside, a ship on a cable laying expedition from the US to the Philippines. Her stories were colourful and gave me  visually arresting pictures of  Manila, Dumaguete and Sulu. She found the women in Dumaguete more interested in Parisian clothes than the electric attraction of the ship : electric lights, fans, piano, cold storage and hot water in the bathrooms.  I wanted to read all her accounts but I had access only to reviewer’s pages .

As I went further to study how undersea cables could be powered in the 19th century, I saw that telegraphs were already in the Philippines by 1899. If the women of Malolos and the Asociacion Feminista de Filipinas (AFF) were from  families with resources, they must have access to the telegraph. From 1905 to 1937, the suffragettes must have been busy using  telegraphs and telephones  to get 447,725 women to register and vote because   women from all over the islands campaigned for suffrage. In 1937 when local elections were held, 24 women were elected and Carmen Planas became the first woman councilor of Manila.

There are so many things I am discovering about women and electricity. As of this juncture, I am electrified and will  continue to blog about women, not just as consumers but as  electric prosumers – blurring the lines between production and consumption.

In the worst of times, women built the electric grid

July 14, 2009

I am posting the personal stories of women in the electric domain. These are narratives I consider illuminating, hence the i describe the women as iluminadas, a spanish name my cousins and classmates were baptized with.

first story  is that of HEIDI CRUZ PEREZ, first woman  to lead the development of electric cooperatives  as part of the task force implementing the electrification campaign in the 1970s.


When I left the NEA in 1979, I was chief of the then Cooperative Organization and Development Division.  Under my supervision were 24 all- male Coop Development Officers ( CDO ) and 3 female clerks.

Initially, I was a desk-bound administrative assistant to the NRECA, an all- American team of advisors. Until my transfer to the office across the potted wall, the terms “military encounter” and “skirmish” were alien to me.  It was not long before I found out what these were from experience.

But first, my aborted plane trip to Capiz or Roxas City enroute to PANELCO which was a disaster.  Since I was new at the job, a senior CDO was to accompany me during the flight.   I was the last passenger to enter the plane because I waited anxiously for my escort who was no-show.  At the last minute I went up the plane only to announce to the crew at the doorway that I was not boarding, so may I please get my luggage back? To their horror, I insisted.  But they obligingly retrieved it and as I dragged my luggage down the ramp, across the tarmac and back to the terminal, an air marshal escorted me, his long firearm slung on his shoulder.  That was in full view of the puzzled pre-departure passengers who perhaps thought I was a security risk who was ejected from the plane.  Under Martial Law, many bizarre things happened.

Fast forward to Basilan. Our composite team bound for Lamitan from Isabela was ordered to stay put by the mayor because of encounter between government troops and rebels along the same route that we were taking.  At the first all clear-signal, we proceeded.   But our return trip from Lamitan to Isabela met the same fate for the same reason: skirmish along the route.  So we practically dodged the bullets.  Thanks to the derring-do of a female team leader!

My encountered memories include the day I drove without official authorization the big-size Chevrolet Suburban of the USAID from Bolinao, Pangasinan to Manila.  The NRECA advisor who drove it was a heart patient.  On the trip back he requested me to drive instead, because he developed chest pains during the drive from Manila.  No one among the 12 passengers objected and we arrived home in one piece.

There was also the “blitzkrieg” of the coop election in Camarinas Sur I where right after the lighting election in our hands, the mayor demanded another election tailored to make the local government bet  ( a loser) win a seat as director.  He “ detained” us at the Linden Hotel where he aired his protest.  The case was elevated to Malacanan which naturally upheld us.  What was doubly memorable for me was that “ blitzkrieg” earned me a promotion because it was my idea to use the strategy.  It paid to read World War II military exploits.

Then my night flight from Iloilo which climaxed my stay at the NEA.  Bad weather and poor visibility in Manila and environs forced our plane to circle the airport many times.  Some flights were already diverted to Clark Airbase.  After what seemed like eternity we touched down but the taxiing place came to an abrupt stop in the middle of the runway.  A shuttle bus ferried the passengers to the terminal.  Drenched from the bus transfer in the rain, I asked why our plane did not reach the disembarkation area.  The airport information officer simply said that the plane had run out of the fuel.  Believe you me!

My swan song was the organization of the NOCECO more than 30 years ago.  The mayor of Kabankalan ( venue of the event) and the newly-elected president of the brand-new coop were sworn political enemies.  How to get the feuding vital personalities together for the formal registration and loan signing ceremonies was a headache for me, the project leader, because the provincial VIP’s were arriving and both had transmitted negative signals to me.  So I called on Mayor Sola to inform him that Mr. Daclan, the president, wanted to invite him to the important coop event but was anxious that the invitation would be declined.  Then I proceeded to Mr. Daclan to assure him that Mayor Sola was willing to attend the ceremony and in fact was only waiting for the formal invitation.  The “shuttle diplomacy” was one big fat ruse but it led a win-win situation.  All the VIP’s were together at NOCECO’s “coming out party”.

Love, Learning and Suffrage in the time of La Electricista

July 10, 2009

I am posting this herstory to inspire people. I do not have enough electric evidence  but am blogging what could have been for women like Oryang and Rosa Alvero.

Gregoria de Jesus’s  love blossomed as the Katipunan found her.  Gregoria aka Oryang was 18 years old when she  married Andres Bonifacio in 1893 in a Catholic Church in Binondo. The Katipunan women’s chapter was formed a week later when Gregoria and Andres held another wedding that the Katipuneros approved of.

By that time, there were already some electric lamps in Manila and Gregoria could have a honeymoon with Bonifacio from early morning to late night . Manila saw electricity in 1892 with the founding of  La Electricista, which provided electricity to residential customers. With the completion of a new power plant in 1895, La Electricista began providing street lighting service to the Manila. One can imagine more women in Katipunan  meetings and  reading documents with the coming of electric lights.Their social and political life grew and  housekeeping expanded to keeping the Katipunan  a secret. In From 1893 to 1896 they were organizing Katipunan, Gregoria, kept the secret documents of the revolution and we can surmised, used them well to recruit more women.

When Bonifacio was captured and  executed in 1897, Gregoria continued the fight  for independence. She met and married Julio Nakpil, another Katipunero in 1898. They settled in the house of  Bautista  in Quiapo after 1914. Oryang’s life had become less dangerous  and the Bautista’s house had electricity since it was a plateria. She bore Julio several offsprings and became a good mother and wife.

While Oryang was four years old, another heroine was born, Rosa Sevilla Alvero in Tondo, Manila on March 4, 1879.  Rosa was a gifted child and sought to learn many things  not just for herself  but for many girls. After finishing her degree of Maestra Superior with honors in Assumption College , Rosa established Instituto de Mujeres  in 1900 and served  as directress for 45 years. By that time electric trams were in operation and women could travel faster in the city. Rosa’s teachers and  students  must have used the electric trams to get to the school daily

Also in 1903, the government of the Philippines began accepting bids to operate Manila’s electric tramway, as well as providing electricity to the city and its suburbs. The only bidder was Charles M. Swift, a Detroit-based businessman, who founded a new company, The Manila Electric Railroad and Light Company, or Meralco, the same year. Rosa Alvero started organizing  in 1903 the League of Women Voters and La Liga Damas. More single and married women wanted to vote  and be part of the public voice, just as the women were part of Katipunan in Oryang’s  generation. Mothers and their children could avail of longer study hours because  La Electricista expanded its customer base to 3,000 customers, as well as its streetlight business.

A determined educator, Rosa enrolled at U.S.T. at age 49 to get her Masters and Ph.d, then became its first dean of women. Appointed to the Supreme National Council, she spearheaded the movement to adopt Tagalog as the national language; and to the Women’s Council, to aid war victims.

Just as Gregoria de Jesus’s life became less laborous with time saving devices, Rosa Alvero’s  influence  and  her campaigns for women’s education and suffrage continued with the expansion of electrical services. In those years, electricity allowed more women time  and space to develop their minds further. There were more time saving devices and women did not have to fetch water. Water and electricity was already available in their homes. They could cook and wash faster and keep their homes clean . These conveniences generated more female energy to pursue participation  in political affairs.

By 1930s in the Philippines  more women could travel and go public with their issues.  In 1933, the National Federation of Women’s Clubs lobbying for suffrage won the right to vote– in theory, as the law was not implemented yet.

By 1935 a  plebiscite was held to gather at least 300,000 signatures in favor of women’s right to vote; the women campaign and gather 447,725.

In 1937 the  law on women’s suffrage was passed. Carmen Planas became the first woman in a city council in Quezon City.

During the thirty two years of campaigning for women’s suffrage, the electric domain was dominated by Associated Gas & Electric Co. (AGECO) of the United States. It acquired Meralco in 1925 . In1930, it inaugurated the Botocan Hydro Station one of the region’s largest construction projects of the time. The additional capacity allowed the company to expand its customers base throughout the metro Manila area. While women were exercising the right to vote for the first time in 1937, the government needed to strengthen its hand in power generation and established the National Power Corporation NAPOCOR .

All these social and political changes in the life of women like Gregoria de Jesus and Rosa Sevilla Alvero fed into a river of knowledge towards nation building, here and overseas.

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