For a more humane life on earth

23.01.2011 - Sagada, Mountain Province - Tony Henderson

Dom-an: …the sea of humanity is so vast… and one day I woke up to realize that I just had to embrace the fact that though I am not a good ‘swimmer’, I have to learn how to keep my head above the waters somehow.

Many times I have gone underwater, in silence… but how long could a human being really do so? I think it is against human nature… and so amidst the turbulence and violence that continues to heighten these days… it is an effort to emerge, rise up and tread calmly above the waters… and I eventually realised that I was never alone though there are lonely times… and so beautiful to be in community with other journeyers such as Ang Komunidad (the Community), and World without Wars… and many more converging onto a shared path… for a more humane life on earth…

Pressenza: What’s going on in the communities where there is a problem between the indigenous populations and where the communist insurgents as some call them are, which groups have been around for such a long time.

Dom-an: There are a lot of conflicts in the areas of the indigenous people’s because those areas that they consider as ancestral domains and territories are often considered by others as natural resources. That heightens any of the usual conflicts and turns them into political conflicts. The arrival of those other groups, like the communists, in the south the Muslims, other ideological and political groups, unfortunately these give rise of supposed reasons to militarize the communities so it’s a kind of double problem. This also speaks of internal conflicts within the communities which are brought about because of competition over the resources and besides this there is also a misunderstanding about the cultures, about the actual social system of the communities. It is complicated.

Pressenza: What about the killing of botanist Leonardo Co. What was the problem there?

Dom-an: Leonardo Co was a very independent socially aware scientist with all the skills and knowledge of a scientist who was aware of the existing contending forces in the areas where he went. That included the Cordilleras and the regions of the indigenous peoples. He wrote a book on common medicinal plants, but more than that, unlike many scientists who usually just focused on their topics of interests, whether it is animals or plants, he knew it was necessary to dialogue with the contending forces. What happened in Leyte, where Leonardo was killed, is a question still. Some say that the military were there and they say it was military fire that got Leonardo Co, but the military are claiming that it was legitimate, meaning that an encounter between the military and the New Peoples Army took place – the rebels or insurgents. Never the less, it is still really very sad, whether there was an encounter or just a one sided rain of bullets, that a man and scientist like Leonardo Co was killed.

Pressenza: who is responsible for maintaining security in those areas?

Dom-an: The military is really independent of local government. Local government is supposed to have the Philippine National Police to handle matters, but the military operates quite independently. The local government don’t have authority over them.

Pressenza: How do the police feel about that, having these matters taken out of their hands? Would the local police be more able to handle the situation themselves without bringing in the military all of the time?

Dom-an: I could not speak specifically about the Leonardo Co case but I can speak about what happened to my husband because the local police did an investigation in co-operation with the local government but it was the military that was accused of assassinating my husband. When the police realized it was their fellow state security forces that were involved, they seemed to be powerless, as also felt the many local investigators and peacekeepers . They stopped further pursuing the case. They said it was a military affair and they cannot make out who controls who and who gives the commands. That leaves the case in the same state as that of Leonardo Co, also in limbo.

Pressenza: What are the particular resources in the area where your husband was killed?

Dom-an: Basically it is land, agricultural land, and that’s also where the conflicts are arising.

Pressenza: What about in the case of Leonard Co?

Dom-an: It’s land again; it boils down to land and resources, then the military or armed groups come in, supposedly to protect the interests of those in contest.

Pressenza: Why would the military have a problem with someone doing plantation work in a place where Leonardo was? Was it a lack of care. If you see someone up the mountain you don’t just shoot them you say, ‘hello, who are you?’

Dom-an: For me, I don’t see that there should be any problem between the military and guys like Leonardo Co who was doing research and field studies on climate change and education and scientific advancement work. I think the problem was, well, of course the military claims of insurgency in the area – and they say it is part of the social environment in the Philippines – but in that instance I am inclined to believe there was no legitimate encounter and it was just soldiers, military men inside the forest who are really conditioned to think of war and confrontation within that area. Unfortunately, they may not have been aware of who it was that they killed, such a national treasure. That’s what is making the situation really pathetic.

For my part I also started doing forest reforestation and healing, doing concrete work and silently hoping to contribute some small effort but when I heard about Leonardo Co it really made me angry and indignant and I came out again making statements on our position, of stopping the war, our position of demilitarizing not only communities but also the forests.

I mean a single shot, a bomb, bullets, all scare the sacred spirits in the forest, disrupting the harmony of living elements – I appreciate the film the Avatar – and that is my stand as a flute player. That’s what I am trying to communicate in the beauty of such music, of the breath, and the sacredness of the breath that cannot be heard or appreciated if the shrieks and noises of bullets and bombs and warmongering continues. These submerge the forest voices, those gentle sounds, and it’s really sad.

Pressenza: So this where your healing side comes in. How does that work? How do you see it working in relation to flute playing.

Dom-an: From my personal experience it is as though I had reached my capacity for violence, reached a tipping point, I got my fill of it and I got tired of it and in that state I just did not want it any more. I didn’t want others to experience that kind of violence, that kind of pain, that kind of shattering disintegration. The remaining energy that I had I opted to direct it to healing, I opted to create spaces, to seek spaces that will allow us to reintegrate or to go beyond that shattering experience and not to be stuck in there or to be something that maintains that cycle of violence. I decided to make sense of that senseless violence by going into the healing movement and making my statements that it is possible to have a less violent, a more peaceful world, and a world that is much more viable than that when people just tolerate all this violence.

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