Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Burma, pag-ibig at katarungan

Sayar Wai Min (left) was my interpreter
all throughout the entire school term and during
the school ceremonies. 
Mahabang panahon din akong hindi nakapagsulat sa blog na ito. Ang dahilan ay nakapokus ako sa aking seven-month stay sa isang paaralan malapit sa border ng Burma at Thailand kung saan naging bahagi ako ng isang political school bilang academic coordinator at political science teacher.

Isang karanasan ito na hindi ko malilimutan. Marami akong natutunan. Sa tingin ko nga mas marami akong natutunan kaysa sa aking mga istudyante lalong lalo na sa Burmese culture dahil lahat ng aking istudyante ay mula sa Burma-Myanmar. Mga kabataang naglalayong palayain ang kanilang bansa mula sa military junta na 50 dekadang naghahari sa bansang ito.

Nagtapos ang aking pitong buwang pakikisalamuha bilang learning facilitator sa paaralang ito nitong Enero 31. At nais kong ibahagi ang aking maikling talumpating inilahad sa closing ceremonies ng paaralan.

Mingalabar. Sawadeekap. Good evening. And in Filipino, Magandang gabi.

First, I'd like to recognize the presence of ye baw Min Lwin, head of the school administration committee, Noe Noe Thet San, head administrator of the school, Maybel Htoo, the project manager, distinguished guest Mann Shwe Hnin, Headmaster of the Children Development Center.

I'd like to also recognize the visiting parents and guardians, who like my Filipino comrades from Akbayan Party and Active Citizenship Foundation namely Arnold Tarrobago and Marianne Bahalla and the delegation from SSU composed of Darina Agha, Max Dahlback and Malin Hanson traveled far and wide in order to witness this incredible and wonderful event.

On behalf of my fellow teachers Saya Wai Min, Saya Tin Aye, Saya Saw Naung, Saya U Htut former teachers Sayama Serina Flores-Fish and Wendy Khan, volunteer teacher sayama Johanna Edith Qvist of the SSU and former volunteer teachers Jan Dacumos and Elaine Roa from the Philippines, I'd like to congratulate everyone who worked tirelessly and contributed immensely in the success of this year's school term.

In particular, I would like to mention the three women from whom I learned the true meaning of the word devotion.

I'd like to thank school cook Htwe Htwe. Her labor of love kept us fed whether it was raining and flooding. Even when the temperature was soaring to more than 36 degrees and we were all sweating. Or even when the bitter wind of winter is biting. Thank you Htwe Htwe for never letting us go hungry.

Then there is That Zon who consistently provided guidance in ensuring that the vision and goals of the school are achieved. But best of all, she showed that things can be accomplished with a whip of comedy. There was never a dull moment when you work with That Zon. Kyayzuutinpartal (jezutinbade).

Of course, there is miss do-it-all Tin Tin Nwe. If you want to experience working with a super woman, then you need to work with Tin Tin. Her energy amazes me and she reminds of Energizer batteries, because she just keeps on going and going and going.

Kidding aside, Tin Tin, whose job is to manage the day-to-day activities of the school, work beyond expectations. She is the trouble shooter. If there is something going wrong, rest assured that she will look into it and act on it. She is always just a phone call away.

On top of this, she acted as our official Thai interpreter, liaison officer with the local Thai officials, tour guide and even as a guidance counselor to some students. In Filipino, Maraming salamat Tin Tin.

Let me also take this opportunity to state, on behalf of Akbayan Party and the Active Citizenship Foundation, our expression of gratitude in further solidifying the solidarity and comradeship between our political parties and nations.

On a personal note, I'd like to say that never did it crossed my mind that there would be a moment in my life that I will be directly involved in Burma's democratization movement.

This involvement changed me forever because I believe that during my last seven months here,  I have fallen in love again.

Yes, I have fallen in love anew. Athit ta youk ko chit tal (ati ta yo ko chi te).

I have fallen in love again with solidarity – nyi yinn ko ta youk lo yaing pinn ku nyi tal (nyi yin ko ta yo lo yaing pin ku nyi te). The word solidarity may have been vulgarized a thousand times, nay, a million times. But real solidarity is what I experienced here. People helping people. Humans caring for humans. Political parties working and cooperating with other political parties. In this school I saw how like-minded people from different nations inspired by the vision of a better world worked collectively. And from where I stand I believe that this is real solidarity.

I likewise have fallen in love anew with humanity – lu thar chin sar nar tae sate htar (lu tar chin sa na tey sey ta).

Humanity has many faces. That face can belong to a Lahu, a Burman, a Kachin, an Arakhan, a Kayan or a Karen. It could also be the face of an American, a Brit, a Thai, a Swede or a Filipino.

But real humanity knows no nationality. Genuine humanity knows no race. In a community based on humanity there are no minorities or ethnics. There is only humanity.

I likewise experienced it here. Right in this school. I was never a Filipino. I am a member of a human community pursuing democratization and humanization of Burma-Myanmar.

Lastly, may I say that love (chit tal) will not be complete without justice (ta yar mya ta muu – ta yar mya ta mu). I believe that we must seek justice even as we focus on building a “new society” in Burma-Myanmar, in the Philippines, here in Thailand or even in other western nations.

For only in a society with genuine justice can we find genuine democracy.

So I leave a challenge to everyone here, especially the students, to continue falling in love with the values we hold dear and to fight for our humanity.

I'd like to close with a chant whom Filipino activists shout during protest rallies. The English translation of the chant goes like this “My people, my people, your fight is far from over.” In Pilipino we say, “Bayan, bayan, bayan ko, 'di pa tapos ang laban mo.”

In Burmese, “Ya yi ya, ma ya yin cha. Ya ya mayaya cha.”

Kaung thoa mingala nya chan par

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