WHEN I woke up on Saturday morning after less than three hours of sleep, I turned on YouTube for an inspirational song. I needed something to perk me up. What has become in the last few weeks as a nightly midnight travel from the hospital, where my cancer-stricken sister has been confined, to home was longer than usual on Friday night. When I arrived home at past 1 a.m., I still had to make a final exam questionnaire for my 9 a.m. class. (I teach at The Manila Times College.) That explains the short sleeping time and my need for a perk-up music.
Oh boy, it really woke me up. I ended up shedding tears too early in the day. The first song on my playlist hit me hard because it was exactly what I was feeling at that moment. The song was Jamie Rivera’s “Heal Our Land.” Then, the “Jubilee Song” and “God Will Make a Way” followed.
All the three songs relate not only to our country’s very fragile political situation but also to the crisis our family faces over my sister’s health condition.
At times when things appear hopeless, depression sets in. But I thank my parents for bringing me up with strong faith in God. Once I feel hopeless over something, like how I was feeling that morning, I kneel down in prayer for guidance. Then, I get up again with optimism.
On my way home from the hospital on Friday night, I was feeling down. I was tired from school, and my sister was still in excruciating pain from aggressive cancer cells that have metastasized to her bones, brain and, lately, liver.
Doctors could still not discover the cause of her frequent vomiting. She was feeling too uncomfortable with the nasogastric tube (NGT) the gastroenterologist inserted through her nostril down to the esophagus, and into the stomach. The intubation is necessary for feeding and administering medicines because she was throwing up anything that gets through her mouth.
It was depressing. It has just been three and a half years ago when we lost our eldest sister to gingival cancer, and what she went through was far more difficult than what my second sister is going through. I was getting scared. I was getting hopeless. I was praying that my second sister would be spared from more pain, and that negative thoughts would not cross her mind again.
Just a few days ago, she already wanted to give up. Her health condition has rapidly deteriorated since March. This is her third hospitalization since the first week of April. The previous one lasted 17 days, and on her third day at home, she said she has decided to just wait for her time there. She said she has grown tired, and the pain of cancer seems unending, plus worries over the huge cost of treatment. Thank God again we prevailed upon her to continue getting treatment and to keep the faith.
While we are going through this yet another trying time as a family, we are as much aware and concerned over the political turmoil the country is going through. We are concerned about the future of our young nephews and nieces, with ages ranging from four to 30; they who did not experience martial law and have no idea how it was like to be restrained from speaking and expressing publicly what they feel, see, and think.
We have taught these children that cursing is bad. We try hard to show them good examples so they would grow up with good manners and right conduct, respecting others and being respectable, and responsible members of society.
Most of these children have social media accounts and they are confused, many times even shocked at how Facebook, for instance, has been swamped with political garbage, including video clips of a presidential aspirant publicly cursing and forcing his dirty mouth on some women. They are puzzled over the seemingly appreciative audience of this candidate and over the endorsement by some religious groups for this presidential aspirant.
These children know that killing is a mortal sin. Most of them went to public and Catholic schools. They are wondering how someone who boasts of killing at least 1,700 people is not in jail and is even enjoying the endorsement of religious groups.
They are confused how a candidate who vows to kill criminals without due process have rabid followers on social media who sound and act like criminals by uttering cuss words, cursing, and wishing women who disagree with them to get raped and killed, and who have come out with memes of faked endorsements by the Pope he had cursed on his first public speech as a presidential candidate, by US President Barrack Obama, and other known personalities.
In the same breath, they are asking how someone who stands accused of massive corruption has kept saying that he had answered the allegations by merely insisting that these were politically motivated and part of a black propaganda.
They are disturbed that most of the candidates for national office have been giving motherhood statements and promises that would most likely end up being broken or forgotten.
They are aghast at the name-calling.
For instance, a niece is wondering if any of the candidates has a program that can turn her Lolo’s farmland productive again. The farm, on which we used to have picnics during summer, and which was planted with rice when the rains come, has become idle since several years ago because of the higher cost of farm inputs than the income from harvests.
My nephews and nieces take from the good examples of their elders. From politics to food on the table, we try to inculcate in them positive values.
For this, I asked a niece, who sits with me at my sister’s bedside in the hospital as I write this piece, to share a valuable learning from her mom, my sister who had lost the fight to cancer in Oct. 2013.
“My mother instilled in us the value of consuming food we have on our plate. Even the smallest grain of rice should be eaten for reasons such as 1) the process of planting and harvesting the rice (palay) is extremely tedious, as they witnessed the difficulty my grandfather experienced as a farmer, and 2) there are so many unfortunate children on the streets with nothing to eat while we are very lucky to have regular decent meals. She used the most effective way of teaching us this lesson by attacking our conscience,” 25-year-old Christine Alzona shared.
The children, particularly those who have started working and those in collegiate courses, are conscientious. They are politically and socially aware. We talk about politics at home and they read and watch news and TV talk shows. In short, they are informed. Sadly, though, the pieces of information they get are quite confusing and, many times, contradicting.
Sometimes I feel embarrassed to admit that I, too, am confused and unsure about the truth or falsity of what we read, hear, or watch in media.
We teach them the values of life, respect for one another, and being respectable.
In the last few days of the campaign, the bickering among the candidates as well as their supporters has become insidious, and too dirty that concrete platforms of government took a backseat, if they had any.
With all these things playing out on my mind, and as Jamie Rivera was singing, “Hear our cry and turn the nation back to you,” tears were falling down my face.
These lines from the Jubilee Song likewise moved me: “It’s a time of prayer, a time of praise, a time to lift our hands to God, a time to recall all our graces. It’s a time to teach, time to reach those hearts that often wonder, a time to bring them back to God’s embrace.”
The third song on the playlist, “God Will Make a Way,” described exactly how I was thinking. Part of the lyrics goes: “God will make a way where there seems to be no way. He works His ways we cannot see. He will make a way for me. He will be my guide. Hold me closely to His side with love and strength for each new day He will make a way, He will make a way.”
Where do we go from here?
Like the cancer cells that have been destroying my sister physically, dirty politics has been tearing down the positive values we have painstakingly inculcated in minds of the children. Dirty politics has indeed become a cancer to society. The cancer is getting more treacherous.
But whoever gets the most number of votes in today’s balloting, let us reflect on the message God is sending us. If the winner happens to be not our candidate, we cannot always be complaining and ranting. After today’s balloting, we ought to join hands, move forward for the country’s sake, for the future of the younger generations.
Let us pray that there is still cure for political cancer. Let us stop the blame-game. We cannot always blame somebody else for our miseries. We cannot keep on expecting too much from the government while we sit by idly. Real change should come from within us. Let us strive to become better persons and work for a better Philippines, the only country we’ve got. Let’s do our part in the healing process. Start healing your personal pains.