Skip to main content

On Reading Julia's Blog

I learned about the news that an American Peace Corps volunteer, Julia Campbell was missing after I returned to Baton Rouge from a spring break trip to snowy Cleveland right after Easter. The confirmation that she was dead came in the same week when 32 students and professors were massacred at Virginia Tech. The circumstances of their deaths are different but in some aspects the same. Their deaths were senseless and we are are left with the painful and unanswerable question "What more good could they have done, had they lived?"

In my career, I have worked with ex-Peace Corps people, as well as ex-Australian Volunteers (the Aussie counterpart of the US Peace Corps) on matters relating to marine conservation. Volunteerism is an ethos that continues in these people long after their official volunteer days were over. While some people may consider these programs as "imperialist" and that the volunteers are really spies (an unfounded stereotype), reading Julia's blog gives as the human face of what the volunteers face in a new culture. As op ed writers have said, her blog gives a picture of how life is really lived in the Philippines.

Aside from missionary work organized by the churches, Filipinos are not usually sent to other countries for volunteer work to help. A few Pinoys join international aid agencies. Some are sent as part of our government's international commitments, but in these cases, the men and women are doing their jobs.

For the most part Filipinos go overseas to reap the benefits of living overseas either as scholars or migrants. The choices are rather simple, we go overseas to live a better life and leave a lesser one in the Philippines. In the case of volunteers and missionaries, they leave to give a part of their lives, in some cases all of their lives.

I am part of the usual group that went overseas to reap the benefits. But after having seen Katrina devastated Louisiana, I was moved to do a weekend's worth of volunteer work cleaning up neighborhoods that have not yet recovered. I learned if just for one day, the difficulties that African-Americans experience, the unspoken segregation, and how people who don't need assistance get FEMA help and those who are not in need, get help.

Volunteerism if only for a day, destroys stereotypes we have of people. It parches the soul that it thirsts to set things aright. What more in Julia's case for two years?

Her blog has all the answers. But as an exile and one day volunteer myself I can only connect with what she wrote

"I am surrounded by people everyday but it is still possibly to feel lonely and isolated in a place where you really don't speak the language or understand the culture. I have moments of understanding and sometimes breakthroughs...where I think, I really get these people. And then something happens that throws everything askew."


"It's a tough reality, but I've found it's really difficult to get people to commit to something. But I am not giving up on them and I am hoping they will come through in the end..."

In a world where stereotypes reign (like the Justice Secretary saying that she was responsible for what befell her) there are places where things are turned upside down. These are the magical places of solitude one the Justice Secretary can never ever understand and all travelers and exiles seek. When I was walking the trails in the Australian bush a decade ago, for that short time, I believe that things were right. When she took that last hike up the mountain trail, I could only guess what was in her mind, maybe things did turn out right.


Popular posts from this blog

President Manuel Luis Quezon's Code of Ethics

Being a denizen of Kyusi, in honour of the man who gave my city its name and for being the most colourful prez the Philippines ever had, I have the pleasure to post Manuel L Quezon's Code of Ethics on his birthday. Let us profit from the wisdom of the Kastila.

1. Have Faith in the Divine Providence that guides the destinies of men and nations.

2. Love your country for it is the home of your people, the seat of your affection and the source of your happiness and well-being. It's defense is your primary duty. Be ready to sacrifice and die for it if necessary.

3. Respect the Constitution which is the expression of your sovereign will. The government is your government. It has been established for your safety and welfare. Obey the laws and see that they are observed by all and that public officials comply with their duties.

4. Pay your taxes willingly and promptly. Citizenship implies not only rights but obligations.

5. Safeguard the purity of suffrage and abide by the decisions of the…

Simoun's lamp has been lit, finally.. not by one but by the many!

"So often have we been haunted by the spectre of subversion which, with some fostering, has come to be a positive and real being, whose very name steals our serenity and makes us commit the greatest blunders... If before the reality, instead of changing the fear of one is increased, and the confusion of the other is exacerbated, then they must be left in the hands of time..."
Dr Jose Rizal "To the Filipino People and their Government"
Jose Rizal dominates the Luneta, which is sacred to the Philippine nation as a place of martyrdom. And many perhaps all of those executed in the Luneta, with the exception of the three Filipino secular priests martyred in 1872, have read Rizal's El Filibusterismo. Dr Rizal's second novel is a darker and more sinister one that its prequel but has much significance across the century and more after it was published for it preaches the need for revolution with caveats,  which are when the time is right and who will instigate it.

Kartilla of the Katipunan

In celebration of Andres Bonifacio Day on Nov 30, I am blogging my English translation of the Katipunan's Code of Ethics or Kartilla (Kartilya). Recruits to the revolutionary association had to learn these by heart. The code was first written by Emilio Jacinto. The Kartilya remains as relevant today as in 1896 .

My apologies for errors in translation. I know there are better translations than this one.

1) A life not spent for a holy and noble cause is like a tree without shade or a noxious weed.

2) Acts that stem from pride and selfishness do not come from a desire to help others..

3) True holiness comes from helping others, charity towards others and the measure of such is in each reasonable act or word.

4) Dark or white your skin may be, all men are equal though one may be greater in knowledge, material wealth, beauty these do not add to one’s humanity.

5) Those who are men of goodwill put honour before concern for self and those who do no good puts the self before honour.

6) For an ho…