Mindanao Martial Law: A Mindanaoan Trying to See from Different Perspectives

I grew up in Mindanao during Martial Law days. I have a lot of memories of truckloads of soldiers passing by my grandparents’ house that sits along the highway somewhere in Davao del Norte. I am used to hearing gunshots even in Davao City. I have seen dead bodies with gunshot wounds or riddled with wounds from a machete.

I am no fan of Martial Law. I have heard of the atrocities it has caused. I know of military abuses. I have listened to stories of people who have become victims by it. I have seen my share of abusive paramilitary groups. And I have lost friends in summary killings — killed and buried in shallow graves for their ideologies somewhere in the hinterlands.

I have several military friends and teammates who are either military men and women also serving as national athletes or have been recruited to the military through our sport. I’ve heard soldiers lament about why they feel like human rights advocates are deaf to their own suffering in the hands of the enemies.

I may not be politically savvy. But my interactions with people who have different views and experiences with Martial Law helped me gain a broader perspective on the issues related to it.

I am against Martial Law because of what it represents to me. I fear for the possible repercussions of the recent proclamation covering the entire Mindanao region. I could not help but look back to the realities and the stories of the past.

But as a daughter of Mindanao, living in a region that has been largely neglected by the central government, I also understand that this time the threat is even more sinister. Local groups that have long been identified as terrorists have openly proclaimed allegiance to ISIS. They seem to be growing in numbers. And even more alarming, reports of them uniting and collaborating to pursue their cause have been surfacing since last year. And if the recent skirmishes in Marawi City indicates, these groups are indeed working together.

I see Martial Law now from the perspective of someone living in a land of so much promise but trapped in a seemingly never-ending conflict. A place of possibilities long hindered by underdevelopment, poverty, and lack of opportunities. An island where most people are really just trying to live peacefully together regardless of differences in cultures and beliefs. The promise of solutions to the terror problem makes Martial Law seem appealing, especially if you are looking at it through a lens that fails to capture the risks and dangers it may pose to the marginalized and the most vulnerable — people from far-flung areas with no access to government IDs, the uneducated, and the uninformed about their fundamental rights.

But fear from the growing threats from terrorists who have repeatedly shown how savage they can be seems to make a lot of us here in Mindanao blind and deaf to reason.

I have been silent about the issue since the president proclaimed Martial Law a few days back. Not because I do not care. But because I may be among those who are still trying to process everything in a place where the safety and security threats are much too real. I am in that place right now where emotions seem to trump logic. I am trying to put myself in the shoes of people who have direct experience with the continued war against local terror groups, those who live in remote areas who have no access to government services and aid, and everyone who has no benefit of the privileges many of us enjoy. With so many factors at play, I begin to hesitate more about saying things I may not truly understand.

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INTJ Struggles I Can Totally Relate To

Screenshot from https://www.16personalities.com/intj-personality

I’m an INTJ with Type 5 Enneagram who has a longstanding fascination with zodiac signs. And no, I don’t think that astrology or personality types should shape and define people’s lives. But I’m a great believer in the insights they give to help me understand myself and others better.

I’ve long been interested with astrology. I even know what my moon sign is and has been in countless conversations about the topic with friends. It helped me gain a better understanding of myself and the people around me. It helped me in times when I just want to make sense of people’s actions and motivations. But this interest did not extend to psychology’s different personality types until much later.

I first heard of the Myers–Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) in high school when the guidance office administered the test to us. The result indicated that I was an INTJ but it was something that was really not clear to me at that time. Fast forward to college, I took the same exam at the university equivalent of a guidance office and I still got the same result. Still, it was not something that I gave much thought about.

In recent years, I noticed an uptick of interest on these topics. I often see a lot of Facebook friends’ post about their zodiac signs and MBTI types. I started to develop a keen interest on my MBTI. I took some of the online tests I came across and was surprised to get the same result. I’ve heard of friends whose MBTI type changed over the years. It seems that I’m so set in my ways that even after all these years, I’m still an INTJ.

Lately, I’ve been in a most frustrating situation. It has been building up for almost three years. And I don’t know if it’s a good thing, but the last straw happened. I’ve been through similar frustrations on this particular issue in the past which prompted me to step away from the least empowering environment I’ve been in. But there has always been a part of me that still felt like I was not ready to completely let go. This time though, something just snapped that I could almost literally feel it. The first thing I did was to disconnect from all the people associated with it. I even deactivated my Facebook account to give myself time to process things without coming across anything that might fuel all the negative feelings I had at that moment. I didn’t plan to go offline for long. But curiously, one day stretched into almost a month, give or take three days, and I still don’t feel like activating my Facebook account again. And I realized that even in the past, it’s that feeling that indicates that I’ve reached saturation point.

Looking back, here are some of the INTJ struggles I can totally relate to in the context of my personal experiences in that environment that I now choose to leave behind.

Being judged for not being “friendly” or sociable
I’m not really good at social settings. Some people may think that I use this as a psychological crutch or an excuse not to try. But I do try. But expecting me to be as bubbly and “friendly” as everyone else will not change who I really am. I’m more of an observer. And I don’t enjoy gossip and neither am I good at small talk. My keeping to myself or not joining conversations is not arrogance. It’s just my default mode, especially when I’m focused on the task at hand.

Some people assuming I’m a cold and heartless bitch
I find it easier to deal with logic than emotions. But that does not mean I lack empathy. I just show it differently. I can actually relate with a lot of things people around me go through. I may not be good at offering words of comfort. But I focus my energy on how I could make things a little bit better for others. And if I could improve something in my environment that will make it a better place for others, then I will gladly take on that challenge.

Being misunderstood
I’m used to being misunderstood. I can’t really blame people when I find it difficult to articulate what’s truly on my mind. And talking in a straightforward and cold manner only adds to the impression that I’m a bitch.

Focusing on logic and issue rather than emotion and personality
Fighting with someone who focuses on personality rather than the issues at hand is extremely frustrating and draining. It doesn’t make sense to me why someone has to focus on my negative traits and personality when I could easily do the same to that person. I find it mindboggling how my personality is more important than the issues when even without me in the picture the same problems that affect other people still exist. I didn’t even create those problems and yet I’m made to feel like it’s my fault for being a bad person. And the most frustrating thing was I began to believe those things being thrown my way. It made me feel helpless and unhappy. But thankfully, I got to realize that there were many people around me who actually believe and support me in their own quiet ways.

Dealing with a person who gossips and says a lot of bad things behind people’s back
I recently learned that the person who attacks my personality every time we have a rift has been saying a lot of really bad things about me behind my back. This was even after two years have passed since our last major rift. And for someone in a position of power to do that to someone who chooses to keep silent about the issue is not only unfair. It also eroded whatever little respect I was trying to preserve. I don’t have to like you to work with you. And I will tell you what the problem is in your face. That’s how I tend to approach anything that needs to be done. So I find it difficult to understand how some people can attack from behind instead of confronting the person head-on.

In the end, there are some things that just don’t make sense that are better left behind. If it’s not helping me grow or become a better person, then it’s high time I remove myself from that situation — to heal and devote myself to things that support my growth.

KDramas I’m currently watching

Japanese and Korean dramas are among my guilty pleasures. But I have not written much about the ones that I like. The first and last time I wrote about something I watched was back in 2012 soon after I finished watching Warrior Baek Dong Soo. In the past few weeks, I have been following K-dramas currently airing. Here are my top five picks:

5. Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Lovers:_Scarlet_Heart_Ryeo
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moon_Lovers:_Scarlet_Heart_Ryeo

Genre: Historical drama, Fantasy, Romance

One name: Lee Joon‑gi. The first teaser of this drama popped up on my radar a few months ago. And I was hooked the instant my eyes clapped on Lee Joon‑gi. I have been a fan since his stint at My Girl in 2005. There was a lot of hype surrounding this drama months leading to its first episode. I find it a tad disappointing though. With so many actors at play, there were certain episodes that it felt like the lead actor was left at the sidelines. It was tedious and heavy at some points. But things seem to be picking up lately. One thing that keeps me happy is that Lee Joon‑gi never fails to deliver.

4. Moonlight Drawn by Clouds

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_in_the_Moonlight
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Love_in_the_Moonlight

Genre: Historical drama, Coming-of-Age, Romantic-Comedy

It took me a while to check this one out. I decided to make a quick peek out of curiousity. I was not really expecting to get past the first episode. But I was surprised how it somehow got to me. It has all the makings of a cliche but Park Bo-gum and Kim Yoo-jung pulled it off. I stopped watching on the 10th episode not because I was no longer enjoying it. Limited time and that feeling of dread that it will not have a happy ending made me stop. But only for now. I intend to finish it when I have the time.

3. The K2

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_K2
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_K2

Genre: Political drama, Action, Romance, Thriller

I am a Ji Chang-wook fan so it makes sense that I would watch this. I also like Im Yoona so that makes two reasons already to get me curious. But the biggest draw is that its being an action drama. I am a huge fan of action, adventure, detective, mystery, and thriller dramas so there is no way I am going to miss this.

2. Woman with a Suitcase

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_with_a_Suitcase
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Woman_with_a_Suitcase

Genre: Legal drama, Comedy, Drama

This one was another surprise. The curious cat in me just wanted to know what it is about. The lead actors (Joo Jin-mo! and Choi Ji-woo) are rocking it. It has an interesting cast with Lee Joon delivering like he always does.

1. On the Way to the Airport

Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Way_to_the_Airport
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Way_to_the_Airport

Genre: Romance, Melodrama

The last drama that I started watching turned out to be the one I like best, at least for now. It took me a while to finally decide to see it. But it has been an INTENSE ride right from the first episode. The extra marital affairs theme is touchy. But the writer and production group seem to be pulling it off splendidly. I am into this for the rawness of emotions it squeezes out and the complexities surrounding the lives of the characters. Kim Ha-neul and Lee Sang-yoon are superb in making their characters come to life. I also love how Lee Sang-yoon does this romance thing. He has a knack of making me fall for him in every role that he plays. I am not sure if rooting for their characters to end together is bad. But that is what I have been doing from the get-go.

Here’s why I’m not talking

I have two states of being: talkative and silent. I can talk for hours with anyone about a lot of things. I’m comfortable with absurd, deep, silly, pointless, and whatever type of conversation a moment calls for. I can also be silent not only in my regular forays into solitude. I tend to choose silence when I don’t see the value of talking. If I’m not talking it’s probably because:

1. I have nothing “cool” to say

I’m one of those proverbial pegs that don’t easily fit in certain circles. I’m cool with being “uncool”. I believe that we all have tribes where we fit in seamlessly. I may not get to see the people in my tribes as much or as often as I like, but I take comfort from the fact that they empower me.

2. I’m thinking of how to say things without offending anyone

I tend to say things in an honest and straightforward manner. I come across as cold and logical which baffles me because I’m more like the opposite of that. I do think things through a lot and I’m not afraid to call out any bullshit when I hear it which may be the reasons why I’m sending out this heartless bitch vibe.

3. I’m trying to get a feel of things

I’m slow to warm up. Engaging in small talks is the equivalent of me walking through a field riddled with landmines. But my ignoring anyone isn’t about arrogance which seems to be the conclusion some people jump at. I’m cautious, wary, and unsure of how to deal with people who may be too sensitive for my brand of honesty.

4. It takes time for me to connect, if at all

I find it hard to maintain a conversation with anyone that I can’t connect with even at the most superficial level. There are people I can connect with in an instant. Some of the friendships I’ve been lucky to have over the past years have been built on instantaneous connections. But there are just some people I can’t seem to reach no matter how hard I try. And I guess it’s futile to lament or dwell on that fact. The best thing I can do is move on and let things be.

5. I’m done talking

There’s a limit to the amount of crap I’m willing to take. I’ll try hard to let my voice be heard, especially on matters that could potentially affect not just me but other people around me. But I know when my views aren’t welcome. If I were those who deliberately ignore or try to silence me, I’d be less worried if I voice out contrarian views. What would be more worrisome is when I go silent. And when I say silent, it’s a silence so profound that my ability to care is buried so deep. I’ll have no qualms about quietly watching and doing nothing while everything burns.

Words of Advice from a Brod

Joining a sorority in my first year in college not only meant being part of a sisterhood. It also gave me the opportunity to meet some of the best male friends I have from our sorority’s partner fraternity. One of the things I like about my brods, especially the ones I’m closest with, is their brutal honestly. I can rely on them to call me out on my bullshit and dish out sage advice if needed.

Nates_editedOne brod has become a coach and confidant over the years. He was the one who got me into arnis. And I remember that time when he had enough of my wallowing over my first heartbreak so he brought me to his dragon boat training. He was also my teacher in capoeira. As a longtime practitioner and teacher of martial arts, he’s been one of the few people I can really count on when I need someone to talk to when I’m having a tough time in kendo. When it comes to words of advice, he unfailingly gives me a lot to think about:

I think you are being too dependent on what is taught in class. Do you train morning and night on top of the regular class? It’s not about 1 hour before class additional training. It’s about lifestyle. Are you thinking like a kendoka? Or as someone who does kendo. You were an elite rower. You know what it takes to be elite. Apply your knowledge from other disciplines that you have been elite in to this one. The formula is the same.

Complacency kills. Keep the edge sharp. Train like the old men of war. They survived real combat. Not like this pretend fighting crap. Read Musashi and his book of the 5 rings. There is real wisdom in there.

you don’t do a martial art. you are the martial art. you don’t wield a weapon. you are the weapon. you don’t have a rank. you are the rank.

“the true master of an art reveals it in every action” – samurai maxim from the book ” zen in the martial arts ” by Joe Hyams

Actually having too many techniques for attack is not an advantage. It’s about how many techniques you have mastered. In tourneys I have a maximum of 3 techniques that I have mastered. The trick is having a defense that can’t be breached. When you can’t get hit, you’re only concern will be scoring.

Find the strike you like. Then create a defense based on that strike

Just train until your art is your philosophy. You need to be the sword .

A Samurai will recognize a fellow samurai among simple swordsman.

The body mind and spirit must be one in a fight. You need to allow the art to take over. That is Why you train to embody the art so that you can move without conscious thought. If you are focused on making something work then that is conscious thought.

Skills will tell everyone how to identify a senior. Not skill because of power , strength , and speed but because of simplicity and effortless ease of movement and execution with intent. You can be in a corner alone and your movement will show who you are. I repeat. Work to understand your art. Find the essence of it

A martial artist’s road is a solitary one sis. Who cares what anyone else thinks? You are your own sword . They will not wield yours and vice versa.

And it’s not a sport. It’s a way to enlightenment via understanding the blade. Never degrade your system by calling it a sport.

It’s the mindset sis. The objective is to kill your opponent without getting hit. So how do you that? When you know what method of killing your opponents you prefer then you practice it to the point that it becomes second nature for you. When you fight or spar you will be responding without conscious thought.

What running teaches you

Have you ever ran so far that you begin to wonder if you would ever make it back? When pain dogs your every step that it becomes a constant struggle to the finish. When you eventually find yourself learning to cope because it is either that or crumble on the dirt road.

Running changes you in many ways. Subtle changes that may go unnoticed for a while. But sooner or later, you begin to see the telltale signs of a different you.

One day you will realize that you are not the person you used to be. You begin to yearn to be out on the road and watch the world come to life. And regardless of your skill level or the distances you run, you feel a strong sense of kinship to every runner you pass or see on the road.

You learn that the only way to finish what you set out to do is to ignore that annoying voice  that tells you that you can’t do it. You drown the voice by focusing your mind to the beauty you see around you. The subtle shift from dark to light as the sky welcomes the sun. The silence gradually broken as everything around you stirs in preparation for a new day. The soft caress of the wind as it hits you from all sides and the way it makes every nerve in your body come alive. All that and more are the sights and sounds that you begin to look forward to each time you run.

The struggle between your mind and body is still there. But you begin to live with it. You know that it is the ever present challenge that would define your decision to stretch yourself beyond your limits or not. Then it just happens one day that you realize the voice in your head urging you to stop and rest have gone quiet. It is as if by sheer will and courage of spirit you were able to silence it.

But perhaps the most amazing thing about that sense of quiet you achieve is that you’re now able to listen to that part of you that pushes you to go farther. It tells you that you’ll always find a way to go back no matter how far you go. That the only way for you to know how far you can go is to not worry about how you’re going to get back. Because you will.

Only after you’ve gone and pushed yourself beyond your limits that you’ll realize you had it in you all along. The ability to make it happen.

[Posted on my other blog last January 29, 2011]

A Better Experience in Voting this 2016 Philippine Election

election 2010

My experience voting in yesterday’s election was better than six years ago. I only had to wait for three hours to cast my vote. The voting process itself only took me about less than five minutes.

It was a definite improvement from 2010. But there are still many things to improve on. I hope they can fix the current system to further cut down waiting time.

As for the teachers and volunteers, they really are the silent heroes in my eyes. I observed many of the volunteers yesterday who passionately did their jobs despite the challenges. I was impressed by how they managed to stay professional and upbeat despite the problems that came up.

When Discernment and Sport Collide – The Wisdom of Yuzuru Hanyu

I am a huge Yuzuru Hanyu fan. Win or lose, he has never failed to amaze me. I find his performances inspiring regardless of the results. His tenacity and ability to bounce back quickly from falls and defeats are just some of the things I like best about him. But it is his wisdom that really get me. He has this uncanny knack of saying things that exemplifies the true heart and mind of a champion in sport and in life.

I came across this collection of Yuzu quotes in the past. I decided to repost them here to remind me of the good things and the possibilities when discernment and sport collide.

(Source: SEIMEI)

http://ice-kingfisher.tumblr.com/post/107498192418/yuzuru-hanyu-quotes-2014
http://ice-kingfisher.tumblr.com/post/107498192418/yuzuru-hanyu-quotes-2014
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The Long Road To Understanding Traditional Martial Arts

I have shared in previous posts how I was perplexed by some people’s interpretation of traditional martial arts. Some invoked those three words as a sort “simple explanation” to address my questions on health and safety related issues during training. This only fueled my curiosity more. I wanted to look for answers that could help me wrap my head around the responses I got.

I recently stumbled upon an article that made me understand what one of my long-time Filipino martial art practitioner friend has been telling me. It echoed what he said and more.

Reading the article made me think beyond martial arts that evolved into more of a competitive sport. There were several things mentioned that struck a nerve. To quote one of them: “Sport and budo (budo is the term I use to differentiate a martial art from a martial sport) have a few things in common, but not much; although enough, it would seem, to cause confusion. The pursuit of sport karate requires that you win over others. In fact, your success in sport karate, or any sport for that matter, is a direct result of your ability to defeat other people. This mindset runs completely contrary to budo thinking. In sport karate there are winners and losers, but in budo karate there are only doers. Without sounding too esoteric here, the aim of sport karate is to win, while the aim of budo karate is to not lose. As hard as this idea may be to grasp for a ‘newbie’, budo training, pursued with sincerity, leads to the avoidance of conflict; if you don’t fight, you never lose, right? Sport karate does not hinder traditional karate training, it’s a completely different activity altogether.” ~ Budo or Bust by Mike Clarke

I think I understand a little of what he was trying to say here. But I would like to believe that there are many sport practitioners out there across different disciplines who live by the same beliefs and rules that traditional martial arts uphold. Olympism is at the heart of the Olympic Movement. And it shares similar ideals.

Screenshot from http://www.olympic.org/olympism-in-action
e Screenshot from http://www.olympic.org/olympism-in-action

Sadly, competitive sport has evolved in such a way that seems more focused on winning. There are often many factors at play that could explain this. Winning sometimes dictate the level of support like government funding, sponsorships, and more that athletes and their support system can get. That often puts a lot of pressure on athletes to win. But I also know many elite athletes from different sport disciplines who exemplify the values that Olympism promotes.

I believe that this is where the quality of instruction comes in. Finding the right mentors and ensuring that the values are ingrained during training could develop more athletes and martial arts practitioners who embrace the ideals that the two sides of the spectrum represent.

It is always inspiring for me to find people who have journeyed enough in their respective martial arts to gain a better understanding of what it is about. I want to be around people like them. I think our sensei, in his own ways, is on the same path. I am also fortunate to have met many visiting senseis whose actions imparted invaluable lessons on budo. Now, more than ever, I need to pay attention to the ones who get it and try to learn the unspoken lessons from them.

Finding a New Happy Place

It is not every day that I find a Happy Place to add to my list. Maybe it is for lack of trying on my part for I do not venture out much. Or maybe, that inexplicable feeling that hits me when I find it does not surface easily. I prefer places away from the crowd or big enough to give me plenty of personal space where I could experience simple joys.

Among my happiest places in the world include the lakes where rowing has brought me over the years, the parks where I do my daily runs in The Hague, the pathways of Tokyo, the quiet roads of Aioi, Aizuwakamatsu and Minimi-aizu. The tree-lined streets of Jongno-gu, the old post town of  Ouchi-juku, the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao, and the old village inside the vast park in Mungyeong likewise give me that deep feeling of contentment. The quaint cafes and restaurants found in towns and cities I have wandered into are also on that special list.

Manga Toshokan is a new addition to my happy place list. I have been planning to visit it soon after it opened last year. But I never got around to doing it.

Just one of the bookshelves in the cafe filled with manga I couldn't wait to read.
Just one of the bookshelves in the cafe filled with manga I couldn’t wait to read.

The place is a book cafe with an extensive collection of manga as well as some good selections of classic and contemporary novels. The omurice I ordered was delicious and filling. The desserts were tempting. I opted for the chocolate chip cookies, which I found satisfying. The iced cafe latte could have been better. But I had no complaints. I was there for the manga. I did not do much reading though. There are plenty of time for that in future visits. Instead, I soaked in the simple pleasure of being there.

I do not know how different the experience would have been if the place was busy. But the quiet time I had there was a big draw for me. I can imagine myself spending hours there. I just have to time my visits well to avoid the crowd.

Area where the cubicles are located.
Area where the cubicles are located.
One of the cubicles in the cafe.
One of the cubicles in the cafe.
More manga
More manga

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Location:
Manga Toshokan is located at Doors 4 and 5, Belfran Bldg., Palma Gil St. cor. CM Recto St., Davao City
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