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PRIDE, SADNESS, AND HOPES OF A SAMARNON IN CALIFORNIA

By: By CESAR TORRES*



March 26, 2004

For a true and concerned Samarnon and a proud Filipino, to be at ease wherever one maybe is beyond our wildest imagination. For those who are a little more discerning and reflective, we will never be free of Samar.  We will never be free of the Philippines except perhaps, beyond the grave.

Our sojourn in the Golden State of California is a testament to our unceasing restlessness.  In our waking moments, there is a never-ending parade of images and emotions on Samar where the past and the present are one.  But the future seems bleak, enshrouded by dark and gloomy clouds of uncertainty.

            Every now and then, our thoughts wander into the hills, valleys, and plains of the Samar mainland and the islands, the bays, and coves and the blue waters off Maqueda Bay.  We remember the azure skies, the white-capped and angry waves smashing on the seashores during the Habagat monsoon season, the soothing and warm raindrops falling on our skins, the houses teetering on the seashores lapped by the waves.  

            We remember the fresh and exotic shellfish and the harvests from the Maqueda Bay, food for the palate which are not available to most of us in California because the prices would be prohibitive.

            Despite the massive destruction of its rainforest, we are still amazed at the lush greenery in the mountains and the hills, the swaying fronds of the coconut trees, and the promise of more food for the Samarnons if we can maximize the utilization of our land.

            I remember keeping my silence, adjusting and swaying my body to the constant shaking of our car when traversing the terrible roads from Tacloban to Catbalogan and vice versa (at least when I was there in August-September 2003 last year), the blown tire of the passenger vehicle we were riding with cousins from Calbiga along the “Death Road” connecting the Pan-Philippine Highway to Villa, my 24-hour worry that Lydia and her cousins have been ambushed or had met with an accident or were held up by drug-crazed minions of the Lost Command while coming back from Tacloban to Calbiga when it turned out that the car they were riding had only conked out because of the road  thus giving them the opportunity to renew family ties with their aunt in Guinkasang-an and to stay the night in a community which could be labeled a “liberated area”.

            From Villa, we rode the motorboat to Catbalogan early in the morning in the company of some professionals and teachers, the leadership of the town, students, and ordinary citizens.  The boat ride was gratifying and the conversation — despite the noise of the motorboat engine — was enlightening.  Viewed from the sea, the islands seemed so green, and the distant shores so calm. With a jolt we recalled that in Metro Manila we passed by sordid and squalid areas which my brother pointed out to me as communities inhabited mostly by Samarnons, some of whom were originally from Villa and Catbalogan.  And we wondered why they would continue to live in Metro Manila as squatters or as garbage scavengers in Payatas when Samar was so beautiful, so inviting and full of promise, from the distance anyway. Why? Oh why?

Despite our absence of eight years from Catbalogan, we were not expecting any dramatic changes in the town.  But we were still hopeful that under the leadership of Jesse Redaja, in whom we had high hopes when he presented himself as a leader of Samar’s capital town almost a decade ago, Catbalogan should be able to show some improvements.  When we had anchored, the wharf was a beehive of people, and tricycles, and motorboats.  But someone forgot to collect the trash and the garbage on the side of the pantalan, the same situation as in Villa.

As to our hopes for some changes in Catbalogan, sure enough, there was an imposing white structure on the side of a hill and a lovely house protruding to the seashore.  We saw a tower.  We were told that this was used for telecommunication. In the area of Information Technology, BBCS Data Systems, an Internet Service Provider, had state-of-the-art computers. It was bursting at the seams with high school students.

The streets of Samar’s capital town were congested. A canal where we used to swim during high tide was littered with trash and garbage. Many shanties were perched precariously on the side of the hills.  But despite the occasional frown and far away looks of the people and the students who came from all over the island, we could read on their faces their determination to strive, to persevere, and to surmount the challenges and difficulties confronting them.

We marvel at the graciousness of the Samarnons (including the Branch Managers of the Metro Bank in Tacloban and Catbalogan and the chief of the Security Unit in the Tacloban airport), the passion, the commitment, and the concern of some leaders — in Samar, in Catbalogan, in Villareal, and Calbiga — who unfortunately were not in positions of power and authority.  We were convinced of the esteem and the high regard accorded to us by the educators and mentors in our hometown, and the loyalty and the unabashed nostalgia of bosom friends.

In the midst of all these competing images, the image of the wan and mournful smile of my five-year old nephew, who is dying of leukemia in Silanga and whose parents will not have enough money to buy drugs that will ease his pain while on his way to the Great Beyond, continues to haunt me. I do not know what to think.

I cannot articulate our despair and hopelessness at the incredible expectations of us by our cousins and relatives; my silence and the idiotic smile on my face because of my inability to say anything to cousins informing me that an attractive niece had become a Japayuki (“Kapit sa patalim…”, rough translation: “Grip the edge of a razor blade to survive…”, as her widowed mother who cared for my children in the UP sheepishly admitted to me).  From statistical data available to us, we knew that poverty in Samar and the Philippines is so endemic.  But it was still mind-boggling when the stark faces of poverty are reflected on your loved ones, on our destitute cousins, nieces and nephews who could not be employed despite college degrees and who were at a loss what to do with their lives.  How did they survive from day-to-day?

Wherever we went, there was always the yelling of the multitude of children some of whom will grow up to become drug addicts and drug pushers, menials and servants around the world in this Philippine Diaspora, high school dropouts, jobless and unskilled members of the labor force in an economy buffeted by “The Clash of Civilizations” which could escalate into a fight to the finish for contending systems of belief that could end contemporary civilization as we know it, potential gangsters and possible kidnappers, canon fodder of the military, or idealistic cadres and fighters of the protracted guerilla war for “national liberation” of the National Democratic Front.

Nor can I shake away the lilting and haunting melody of our Samarnon love songs and the coy and winsome smiles of the Samarnon lasses and the passionate and fevered glances of their suitors.

This passion for Samar reached fever-pitch when we had to leave the Philippines in late 1985 for fear of the unknown and the very real perils that could have befallen my loved ones and myself.  I was not proud to leave the Philippines at that time.  But leave we did, arriving in San Francisco, the so-called “City-by-the-Bay”, reputed to be the “Most Beautiful Place” on earth, with $10 in my wallet.

The Fiesta as Our Entry Into the Samarnon Community in Northern California

After months of humiliation, hopelessness, frustration and constant desire to go back to the Philippines except that it would have been embarrassing to admit defeat in America, we were finally able to establish ourselves, thanks to the unselfish help of a fellow Samar High alumni from Calbiga.  We then gravitated to our fellow Samarnons in San Francisco.  Our mood of entry was through the pearly gates of heaven, the Samarnon and Catholic fiesta celebrations.  In Manila we only attended one fiesta celebration — just the Villahanon fiesta. In America, I could not believe the number of fiestas I attended.  We even went as far as Canada to attend a fiesta of the Basaynon Katig-uban.  In my entire life in the Philippines, I never danced the curacha.  But I loved to watch those graceful curacha dancers, anyway, clapping my hands to the beat of the music, sometimes sung by Joseph Uy. I would even toss a gala every now and then. In California, I could not believe that I had to dance the curacha as a matter of honor and as a duty, an integral and unavoidable part of the self-imposed burden of community leadership.

Attending fiestas broke the monotony and the homesickness of being strangers in America. The celebrations also afforded us the much-needed break from the constant demands to speak English with our Samarnon accents, interspersed every now and then with “You knows…” and “Gonnas…”.

We were invited to all conceivable Samarnon fiesta celebrations.  We prayed, we attended fiesta masses, we marveled at the food which were so plenty. In one fiesta in San Francisco, I counted 17 courses!  One in Los Angeles, had seven lechons. During the eating (referred to us “luncheons”), we would glance at our fellow “Patronizers” who would heaped so much food on their plates but would only eat one-third of the food they got and just eat the crispy skins of the lechons, not the meat.  The uneaten food would be left on the tables or thrown to the garbage cans.  And I would remember the simple, the naïve, the malnourished, the emaciated, the sickly, and poor believers in the Catholic Saints in Samar; and the burning lines of Pope Paul VI’s encyclical, Populorum Progressio which outlines the sacred obligation of the Catholic Church to help the poorest of the poor.

Our experience with Samarnon fiestas is difficult to explain.  One time in Los Angeles during the Catbaloganon fiesta, the organizers were fined some $700 or $800 dollars by the administrators of the public hall that was used as the venue of the celebration.  The infraction?  A guest was seen drinking Budweiser beer by the public facility administrators.  Since, alcohol is prohibited when using public facilities in Los Angeles, the believers in St. Bartholomew had to pay.  Imagine, how much $700 or $800 can do to help the aged and the homeless children in Catbalogan.

During one Villahanon fiesta in Los Angeles which celebrates the feast day of the first saint in all of America, the Sta. Rosa de Lima of Peru (sometimes I wonder which is poorer, the Philippines or Peru), the venue of the celebration was in a hall in a very lovely park.  It had blue ponds with swans gliding on the water, flowering plants, trees, well-kept lawns, and colorful birds chirping on the branches.  It was truly a beautiful place for a fiesta celebration. A mass was celebrated by three priests.  When that part of the mass where the worshippers would give their offerings of money to the priests came about, five uniformed security guards descended on us.  They forced the priests to stop the mass.  We were of course very angry and on the verge of declaring a second Filipino-American War in Los Angeles except that Gen. Aguinaldo and Gen. Lukban had already surrendered to the Protestant American soldiers. The reason for the apparent insult to the Catholic “Little Brown Americans”?  The rules for the use of the park prohibit the solicitation of money inside the park. Our one-dollar offerings were construed as money-making by the park security guards. So it was illegal.

We were allowed to continue with the mass.  But the hermano had to make some $250 offering to the guards in the park. After the mass, we moved over to the dining hall which was part of the park facility.  Since alcohol was prohibited, what we did was to transfer the whisky to coca bottles.  From there, we poured them to paper cups.  We were at a loss what to do with the curacha since a Samarnon fiesta without curachas and galas is unheard of. Since money-making or solicitation was likewise prohibited in the dining hall, what we did was to place a box in an area of the hall which could not be scanned by the moving video camera.  With our galas clutched in our clinched fists, we surreptitiously dropped our dollars inside the box while looking around if the guards had seen us.

Since the dining hall was so crimped, we eventually moved to the house of the hermano and the hermana bringing with us the two untouched lechons, lots of other foods, and cases and cases of Budweiser and other hard drinks.  There we ate, and drink, and danced, and talked up to the wee hours of the morning.  Nobody mentioned the guerillas of the Sindero Luminoso or the Tupac Amaru in Peru who were fighting the establishment so that they can live a Christian life in the birthplace of the Sta. Rosa de Lima.

During a Calbiga fiesta in Los Angeles, we expressed our admiration at an hermana who came with her family all the way from Australia so that she could sponsor the fiesta celebration to the Lady of the Annunciation in Los Angeles.  We wondered:  Would her entry into heaven be less assured if she just used her Australian dollars to help the very poor in Calbiga or to try to convert the prospective Muslim suicide bombers in the Middle East to Catholicism?  I am still searching for a theological explanation for that admirable show of faith.

Involvement in the Non-Religious Organization Samareños of California

But fiestas, for all their divine promise of going to heaven for the avid “Patronizers” including us, were not psychologically and intellectually fulfilling. Besides, I had the suspicion that the fiesta organizers just wanted to ensure that the Saints intercede for them with the Virgin Mother, with St. Peter and the Lord so that they are forgiven their lapses and human frailties here on earth.  Hence, we were flattered when the remnants of the leadership of the Samareños of California, a group organized in 1969 or 1970, invited us in 1989 to help them revive their organization which had gone into hibernation for 10 years in some nooks and crannies of the foggy and fabled hills of San Francisco.

The organization was formed by a group of first generation Samarnon immigrants representing the entire island of Samar – the North, the East, and West.  

The simple Constitution and Bylaws that the pioneers of this organization crafted together was not ambitious. It did not speak of a “vision” and a “mission” for the organization.  There is nothing that addresses the need to help each other in this “land of milk and honey”, to link their arms together in the struggle against discrimination and underemployment, nothing about programs and projects to help Samar, and nothing about enhancing and maintaining the desirable and functional civic, cultural, and artistic practices of the Samarnons.

But the compelling desire to be together was irrepressible to assuage their nostalgia and homesickness.  So they organized.

For nine years, the organization limped along.  In that period of time, they organized parties in hotels in San Francisco. The ladies wore their ternos and their brilliant gems.  The gentlemen wore their ill-fitting suits and unattractive ties.  They danced the curacha, visited each other, occasionally back stabbing each other, had home parties and prepared kinilaw, invited some priests from Samar, and boasted to the ruling White politicos in San Francisco that the leadership of the organization could mobilize hundreds of Samarnon voters for or against a politician in San Francisco, thus flexing their muscles to pursue the goal of Filipino empowerment in America. We are unaware if they undertook some socially-redeeming projects back in Samar.

From 1989, the year of our involvement with the Samareños of California, up to the present, a period of 15 years, this organization has survived.  We may not have rocked the foundation of Samarnon culture and society whether in America or in Samar.  But at least when Samarnons meet in the streets of San Francisco, we do not meet as strangers. And most importantly, we talk about Samar.

Given our limitations and the Samarnons’ peculiar civic culture and intellectual orientation, what else have we accomplished aside from our claim that the dancing parties and the beauty and popularity contest  — where several mayors from Eastern Samar attended the coronation of Her Majesty, Queen Patrocinio Figueroa-Masi I — we held three or four years ago indicate that the organization is alive?

Over and above everything else, we wanted to proclaim that we were relevant, that we personified the best qualities of the Samarnon.

How did we flesh this out?  For a start, we have sorted and packed books, magazines, and journals for the Books of the Barrios Program which were shipped to schools in Eastern Samar. We have participated in a “Pistahan” festival sponsored by the Philippine Resource Center in San Francisco enabling me to ride a float in a parade in downtown San Francisco as some kind of Apolinario Mabini.  In 1998, among the many provincial and regional organizations in Northern California, it was only the Samareños of California which participated in the Centennial Celebration of Philippine Independence through the efforts of Outstanding Samar High Alumna nominee, Beatrice Duran.

In July 2000, we were the only provincial organization which co-sponsored the symposium on Mindanao and Sulu, the first such symposium to be held outside of the Philippines. This symposium and the ensuing mass action where my one-year old grandson sat on the shoulders of his father while brandishing placards against the political and governmental leadership in the Philippines at that time may have signaled a change in the direction of contemporary Philippine history.

In November-December 2001, we were one of the sponsors of the UP Staff Chorale Society, the Philippines Ambassadors of Goodwill, during their concert tour of the US and Canada dubbed “Songs of Love and Healing”.  Dragging ourselves fearfully, in the aftermath of September 11, 2001, when the world was reeling with the carnage of September 11, 2001 where poor victims were jumping from the 112th floor of the Twin Towers in New York to die by being smashed to bloody bits and pieces on the streets below so that they could escape certain death by being incinerated to burning flesh and bones in the top floors of the Twin Towers, we exerted every effort to make the UP Staff Chorale Society’s concert tour a success, especially in Los Angeles when our fellow Samarnons opened their hearts and their homes to the 27-member choral group.

We have honored outstanding and highly accomplished professional and young Samarnons.  We have undertaken a search for the Most Relevant Samarnon Hometown Association which was won by the Guiuananons of Northern California.  We have assisted in enhancing Samarnon art and culture back in the home island.  We have intermittently published a newsletter, “Tingog Han Samar in California”.  But the pinnacle of our passion to help our fellow Samarnons was our miserable attempt in shipping two container vans of hospital and medical supplies intended to the provincial hospital in Catbalogan in 1997.  There has yet to be a closure on this sensitive issue which dramatizes the administrative incompetence of our leaders and the nauseating corruption of the Bureau of Customs.

We had other plans, but they have been relegated to the cobwebs of our fading memories, which included the aborted plan to sponsor an epic poem based on the legend of a giant in Eastern Samar, Makandog.

The Siren Call of Samar to Alienated Misfits in California

Our contention that we represented the best of the Samarnons, would invariably force us to situate our boast with the quality of our leaders in Samar, the select group who are entrusted with power, authority, and the responsibility of administering and managing Samar and the Philippines so that we are not the “basket case of Asia, one of the poorest countries in the world, maligned and constantly insulted by other nations, the source of servants, menials and ladies of the night, the place where the vacuum cleaners with sexual organs come from, and a nation where some Filipinos have been referred to by CNN as slaves”. Did these leaders in Samar exemplify our articulated statements that we in America, the Samareños of California personified the best qualities of the Samarnons?

The linkage was inevitable.

Moreover, our interest was not exactly without any selfish motivation.  Without letup, our cousins, relatives, nieces, nephews, friends, and alumni associations would pepper us with letters asking for our help.  They would call us long distance, collect.  We reasoned out that if the Philippine economy were progressive, if Samar were progressive because of competent and effective leaders, our cousins, relatives, nieces, nephews, friends, alumni associations would not be pelting us with their constant supplications for assistance. So it was logical that we had to take interest in what was happening in the Philippines, in what was happening in Samar. Even if we are here in the Golden State of California speaking ungrammatical English with an atrocious Samarnon accent, we could not sever the ties that bind us to our families in Samar and the Philippines. They are invisible, but they are stronger than steel.

Moreover, after years of associating the stupid lines of a stupid movie to us Samarnons, we have ultimately stopped being amused at the inane expressions: “Waray-Waray, Waray Bugas, Bahala na Bukas, Manigas” (rough translation:  “We have nothing, we have nothing, we have no rice, let tomorrow take care of itself, die if you have to die through apoplexy”).  When viewed side by side with the unflattering image of Samarnons as squatters and servants in Metro Manila, of being the No. 1 denizens in Muntinglupa or Bilibid, of being categorized by the NEDA as one of the most depressed regions of the Philippines, our feeling of self-pity engendered by the connotations of being “Waray-Waray” needed some psychological outlets.   [I had a long-running debate with one of my esteemed leaders of the Philippine political system in the Internet, the re-electionist Senator Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel, Jr.  Stumbling in the Internet on a speech he delivered at the Ateneo the Manila University on the various linguistic groups in the Philippines, where he referred to the Samarnon linguistic group as “Waray-Waray”, I asked him as a Cebuano-speaking Cagayano how he would like to be referred to as a “Way-Way” the Cebuano equivalent of “Waray-Waray”, how the Taga-ilogs would react if they are referred to as “Walang-Wala”, how the Ilocanos would react if we refer to them as “Awan-Nga-Awan”. I have become closer to Senator Pimentel since last year when he honored me with his invitation to have breakfast, dinner, lunch, merienda with him in Metro Manila.  I even organized two forums in San Francisco where he was the resource person.  I have not heard him say, “Waray-Waray”, at least not in my hearing.]

We had to clutch at something that could buoy up our sagging spirits, that would solidify our pride in ourselves, so that we could diminish our despair and sadness in being Samarnons and in being  disrespected Filipinos. We had to comfort ourselves that despite everything, there is hope for a better tomorrow if we could only have role models for our people, exemplary Samarnons whose examples can be emulated, leaders who can articulate the agenda for progress, who can mobilize us, and inspire us to do the best we can to ensure a better future for their children and their children’s children.

Contemporary Samarnon Role Models

In contemporary Samar, we had some vague ideas of some outstanding Samarnons. From 17,000 miles away across the Pacific Ocean, we have read and heard of Deng Coy Miel who is with the Singapore Straits Times and the fame and acclaim that he has achieved not only in the Philippines but internationally as well. He is a shining example of the best among the Samarnons.  We have heard and read of the sacrifices of Charo Nabong-Cabardo, how she has offered the ultimate to the Filipino people, her life, how she has gone back to Samar from Metro Manila so that she could devote her talents and unwavering commitment to the island of Samar and its people by initiating the organization of the now-famous Tandaya Foundation.

In the not-so-distant past, there was Senate President Jose Avelino, a summa cum laude graduate of the Ateneo who went to the Pontifical University of Santo Tomas. As a student, he had an enviable scholastic record at the Ateneo that favorably compares with or better than that of Dr. Jose Rizal. In 1934, he was the most highly educated public figure from the Samar-Leyte Region and even the entire Philippines. No wonder, he had the confidence to offer himself as President of the Philippines.

Here in America, we have the Doroquez brothers. We dream that one could be a potential candidate for the Nobel Prize in Medicine in view of his current researches with probity into Genetics and the uncharted waters of Genomic at one of America’s foremost research institutions, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

How about Raul Daza?  A lawyer and a certified public accountant who passed both examinations with flying colors, he also captured the imagination of freedom-loving Filipinos when he fought against the conjugal dictators by escaping to California.  Some thought that he was a highly principled leader and a true alumnus of the University of the Philippines. However, in the not-so-distant past, some Samarnons have expressed their disbelief at the track record of Daza in the political and legal realms of the Philippines.

 There are Samarnon writers, artists, journalists, revolutionaries, politicians, and princes of the Catholic Church. There was the Villahanon priest, Fr. Rudy Romano whose abduction — and torture because it seems his tongue was cut and he was drowned alive somewhere in the Visayan Seas — in the hands of still unknown elements has rocked the international religious and political order from the European Union to the US Senate. Others have been invested with awesome power and authority. But could they serve as role models and examples to our youth? We take note of the contributions they may have made to Samar and Philippine society. But have they captured the imagination of Samarnons and the Filipino people? Unfortunately, we think not.

Could Eddie Nachura Serve as a Role Model?

In ranging far and wide, in going back into our history, in reflecting on the leaders of Samar in contemporary times, Eddie Nachura exemplifies, somehow, the qualities that make him stand out as the most preeminent Samarnon of this generation.

How do we justify this assertion?

In sticking our neck out for Eddie Nachura, we judge him on his uncommon intellect, his writing abilities, his survival instinct, his infinite patience and unwavering commitment to serve the Samarnons despite continuous repudiation of his extraordinary qualities and qualifications, and of course the accord that he has been invested with by his peers, by the legal profession, and the rest of Philippine society.

First, there is Nachura’s academic achievements.  In the Samar High School — once the pinnacle of both public and high school education in the third largest island in the Philippines — he had the distinction of graduating as Valedictorian, Editor-in-Chief of the school paper, and President of the Student Government. These achievements might be dismissed as sophomoric but I don’t know how many outstanding graduates of Samar High School have been able to do what he did.  We can even ask that poor movie actor how difficult it is to finish high school. Compared to Eddie Nachura, we can assume that he did not have the brains and the intelligence good enough for high school studies, the diligence and the discipline, and the perseverance to study, attend classes, take innumerable quizzes, take departmental examinations when our hands would shake with anxiety and nervousness, for four years.    And yet he has the temerity of offering himself as the savior of the poverty-stricken and internationally maligned 83 million Filipinos.  [An intellectual ninny as leader of the 83 million Filipinos might be a blessing in disguise, though.  We don’t need to waste our hard-earned money and our time by studying in high school.  With a high school dropout at the top of Philippine society, a high school diploma and a college degree would be insulting to him.  We can tell our children to just finish with their elementary studies so that they will not insult their leader. Instead of wasting their time going to high school and dreaming of college education, they can start planting camote, bilanghoy or going through carrion and garbage in Payatas or sniffing shabu when they are done with the elementary grades.]

An unfortunate incident in the UP disqualified Eddie Nachura from continuing with his studies in Diliman.  He probably became a rake in Catbalogan where he pursued his AB in Samar College after being kicked out from UP.  But he did graduate; he then proceeded to the San Beda College of Law, where he graduated with honors.  He was one of the bar topnotchers in 1967.  In conclusion, he might have been a drunkard, but he was not an intellectual moron.

Still as a lawyer:  Eddie Nachura was Dean of the Arellano College of Law, a prosecutor of the House of Representatives of the Impeachment Trial of President Joseph Estrada, Undersecretary of Legal Affairs of the Department of Culture and Sports, a Professor of Law and Bar Reviewer of the best colleges and schools of law in the country, i.e., San Beda College, University of Santo Tomas, Arellano Law Foundation, UP Law Center, Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila, Manuel L. Quezon University, and San Sebastian College. He is the author of the best selling “Outline-Reviewer in Political Law”, and editor of the legal tract, “Liberal Views on Constitutional Reform”.

He is of course the incumbent chairman of the House Committee on Constitutional Amendments.

The House of Representatives may not be our dream of a collection of the best brains in the country.  But not all of them are intellectual nincompoops either. Hence, it is still a distinction for Eddie Nachura to be elected Chairman of the Committee on Higher and Technical Education.

We adverted to his incomparable patience and humility in serving Samar despite successive heartaches in the hands of the very people he wanted to serve.  If Samar’s political culture is not warped and the political and social standards of its leaders are not distorted, under normal circumstances, Eddie Nachura could have become a delegate to the Constitutional Convention in 1971 because of his intellectual brilliance.  But he was cheated by the trapos (rough translation: “traditional politicians” or “dish rags”).  Successively, he presented himself as the Samarnons’ representative to the Congress of the Philippines.  But the naive, ignorant, selfish, and greedy political culture of our people could not appreciate his qualities and the potential contributions that he presented to them.  Again, he was successively repudiated, trampled politically, and derisively pointed out as an abnormal aberration by the triumphant victors and their followers in a god-forsaken-society.

These successive political debacles should have given him pause that perhaps God did not intend him to become the leader of the Samarnons, as someone who personifies the better qualities of our people.  In 1993, we were witness to the lament of Chit Nachura. Almost in tears, with a voice choking with anguish and profound unhappiness, Chit expressed her terrible sadness at the kind of people we are when even the mentors of our youth in Catbalogan did not hesitate to ask for some “gifts” from Congressional candidate Eddie Nachura before they would perform their duties. But Eddie smiling sadly, calmly countered that in his case, no matter what, he would continue to offer himself to Samar and the Filipino people to his dying day.

Finally, as if Divine Providence had finally concluded that Eddie Nachura had passed the divine test of infinite patience and perseverance flung along his way,  he finally won a mandate from the electorate of Samar in 1998. He earned another mandate in 2001 when he was pitted against two Samarnons who unfortunately were associated in one way or another with the two most corrupt institutions of the Philippine bureaucracy, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs. The two gentlemen may have excelled in their respective endeavors at one time or another. But as prospective statesmen, mentors, leaders, and mobilizers of a feudal and a traditional community for rapid change and development, I am frankly at a loss to understand why they would think that they had the qualities needed for such critical and urgent tasks. Be as it may, Eddie Nachura had to triumph.

We are a proud Samarnon and Filipino, but terribly unhappy with the conditions in the island, which, of course cannot be dissociated from the rest of the Philippines, and the international economic and political order. Despite the constant lamentations that we hear, we are still hopeful that we can avoid going in the direction of a Rwanda where rivers were pouring rotting corpses instead of clean water, or a Somalia which has reverted to a brutish society of thugs and lawless chieftains without any laws, or a Cambodia and its Killing Fields with its mountains of skulls. Hence, we have ventured into this unpopular and risky business of judging people.  But as that expression goes:  “Kon diri kita, hin-o man? Kon diri yana, san-o pa?” (“If not us, who else?  If not now, when?”)

In this instance, we are aware that this paean can blow up in our face.  The future is still enshrouded in a thick mist reminiscent of the fog that covers the hills of San Francisco every now and then. For all we know, Eddie Nachura might still become the greatest Samarnon scoundrel who ever lived.  After all, appearances can be misleading. And the future is yet to unfold.  Or he might just be the elitist that he is reputed to be, a misplaced legal luminary and intellectual who happens to come from one of the most depressed regions of a depressed country. Indeed, a sharp contrast.  But at this moment in Samar’s history, it is difficult not to express our admiration of Eddie Nachura and to point him out as personifying the best qualities of Samar and the ideal Samarnon.


Servants, Kidnappers, Drug Addicts, Political and Social Disorders, a Society on the Verge of a Breakdown: Is there Hope?

Samar and the Philippines are in a bad shape. In 1997, four years before the economic meltdown caused by the tragedy of September 11, 2001, almost 32% of Filipinos had income below the poverty threshold. In 2004, the data on poverty in Samar and the Philippines could be worse.  We know that unemployment is massive. Corruption and incompetence is rampant in the Philippine political and administrative system. The Philippine economy needs restructuring in the light of the impact of globalization. There is rampant criminality, drug addition, hold ups.  The Philippines is undeniably the kidnap capital of the world.  There is talk of a military junta.  We are involved in the fight against terrorism and fanaticism.  And the Muslim secessionist movement in Southern Philippines continues to fester with a possible linkage to a violent Muslim fundamentalist and expansionist group, the Jemaah Islamiyah, which makes no secret of its ultimate goal of detaching Mindanao and Sulu from Luzviminda.

And what is very sad is that more and more young people are being drawn into the idealistic and romantic embrace of the National Democratic Front. They must be prepared to offer their lives for the dream of a socialist, egalitarian, productive, and respected Philippine society.  Even members of the middle class who have so much to loss and who are totally ignorant of the meaning and significance of “national democracy” and “historical determinism”, believe that the situation in the Philippines is hopeless, that the only way by which our myriad of political, economic, cultural, and social ails can be remedied is for a national bloodbath to occur to cleanse us of our national malady.  Of course, this is easy to say if one were 17,000 miles away from the place of the carnage.

Reform or revolution?  Political and administrative competence or national meltdown?  Hope for the future or national despair? International insults or international respect? These are questions, among others, that the concerned Samarnon, the concerned Filipino wherever we are, will have to grapple with.

In the process of sifting through the complexities and ramifications of the issues confronting us, the intellect, the patience, the experiences, the passion, the leadership, and the example provided by Eddie Nachura will serve as the beacon light to the Samarnons and to the Filipinos in this generation.           
           

In our opening paragraphs we cited the difficulties, our anguish, and the hardships of our people, including those who are dear to us.  We are not saying that if elevate Eddie Nachura to a pedestal and clone him 10 times, and do the same for other competent and sincere Samarnon leaders and administrators together with the national officials, princes of the Church, members of the civil society and the battalions of our soldiers, that our pain and our anguish will disappear in one month.  We know this is not so.  It will take hundreds of thousands of us working together, guided by a common vision, persevering, sacrificing, and deriving strength and inspiration from each other for the 83 million Filipinos to dream of a better tomorrow, a society where some of its unfortunate citizens are not subsisting on garbage in Payatas and Smokey Mountain, nor sleeping under bridges or in catacombs in cemeteries or selling their bodies so that they can survive another day or sniffing drugs to quench their constant hunger. But without Eddie Nachura and people like him, our future is dark and gloomy.

On February 14, 2004, during the 35th anniversary of the annual reunion and gathering of the Samareños of California at the Gateway-Sheraton Hotel in Burlingame, California, a suburb of San Francisco, the Hon. Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura was the Distinguished Guest of Honor.  He finally graced the gathering of our group after years of repeated invitations.  Accepting the invitation was a welcome respite from the multitude of attention that confronted him in Samar and in the Philippines.  Despite numerous invitations to address a forum at the Philippine Consulate, do a radio interview for a Filipino radio program, conduct a dialogue with Filipino veterans in San Francisco, and socialize with some Samarnons in the San Francisco Bay Area, Congressman Nachura just rested and developed the theme of his discourse.

He regaled and mesmerized the more than 250 Samarnons and their guests with his extemporaneous speech concerning the need for Samarnons to look back to the land they have left behind, to assist in whatever way they can, especially in the education of the Samarnon youth, and to re-examine their thinking regarding the Overseas Absentee Voting Law and the Dual Citizenship Law which grant new legal rights to Filipinos outside of the Philippines.

His speech was well-received and highly commended.

After five days in San Francisco, he flew to Los Angeles and Las Vegas.  His visit and his dialogues with Samarnons and Filipinos were front page news in the Filipino press in Southern California and Nevada.  His media coverage by the Filipino press in Southern California was massive, a privilege not accorded to just any politician who happens to drop by California. This was solely for the benefit of the most preeminent Samarnon of his generation, Eddie Nachura.

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