Wandering in the desert
We have been told many Biblical stories by the church and the schools. They are not just about history or religion but political dynamics as well. Knowing how people and tribes or countries, relate to one another shows us recurring behavioral and political patterns.
At this time, I am strongly reminded about the story of Moses and the Israelites, how they were driven out of Egypt, and how they wandered around the desert for forty years. Those who have visited the Middle East, especially Israel and its neighbors, can see how deserts both connect and separate one another.
The story goes on to say that the great prophet and leader, Moses, was not meant to reach the promised land despite forty years of trying. A next generation leader, Joshua, was the one who did bring his wandering people to their promised land.
I cannot help but think of the Filipino people. For a few, they had wandered in their desert for the proverbial forty years. But for most, forty years had extended for over five hundred years. Colonial masters had driven Filipinos out of their own country by taking total control over their lands. Since then, most Filipinos have been wandering around their desert.
The desert has been the separation of the Filipino from his land, from relating to it in order to develop his mastery over his own capacity to produce and prosper. It is not just about being homeless, a native without a true home in his motherland. It is really more about being landless, a native without his patria, his source of patriotism. Instead, that separation from his land has given him a terrible inheritance called poverty.
I am told that Israel as a state owns the majority of its lands, about 80%, and its laws prohibit the sale of those lands. There is private ownership because Israel honors the historical property rights of some people who acquired it before Israel became its own state. I received this information from an Israeli guide assigned to our group during a pilgrimage there.
Because it was a short background that the guide had shared when I asked about land ownership in Israel, I am sure there was much more that could have been said. But I was not interested in the details. I was interested in how a state’s outlook on land and private ownership could be – and I got the gist of the state’s policy. Israel chooses to provide long-term leases but kept the land in its fatherhood or motherhood state.
In other words, the billions or trillions of any currency could not deprive citizens from having a piece of land under their control, from which they could have security of tenure and opportunity as sons and daughters of the land. In other words, the land that is father or mother to its children is simply not for sale. The land is the home – guaranteed. It is not a monetary asset, it is a non-disposable family heirloom.
What about the Philippines as the motherland of its sons and daughters? Why has the motherland, through the power of the state, denied its sacred inheritance to the majority of its own children? Why has it chosen to regard its sacred land as a commodity for sale knowing most of her own native children would not afford to buy it? Worse, many leaders openly propose to allow foreign ownership when the majority of its own has no legal right to be anywhere in the motherland.
Like the lost people of thousands of years ago, the Israelites had their Moses. At least their Moses was wandering in the desert looking for their promised land, not their real estate. Filipinos, too, lost as they are in their desert of poverty, have been looking for their Moses to lead them. Unfortunately, all the leaders who have tried to play the Moses role were not looking for any land. It seems no god or Moses had land for the people in mind.
I have tried to look for our Moses but instead have found only good hearts with ignorant minds who cannot equate the development of man as indivisible from his divine relationship with land. Imagine an animal with no land, fish with no water, birds with no air – unless they can afford to buy the very environment they need to exist in. Comic and tragic to think that we decry the lack of food in one of the most fertile earth in the world.
Land is the shelter, the playground, the school, the farm, and the factory of man. Land is the home of the human being, of all creation contained in the planet. Even the ocean and the air reachable by birds cannot exist without land. Yet, the government, along with the rich and powerful, act like gods dictating how their fellowman should live with the strictest limitations imposed on land.
Moses of the Israelites did not reach the promised land, and neither will Filipinos find Moses among our leaders today who can show us the way to unfettered access to our motherland. Only powerful political leaders and titans of industries can do that – and they will not. Our only hope is a Joshua generation whose minds are wise beyond their years, whose hearts are kind yet brave as lions, and whose spirits remain one with the higher purposes of creation itself.
It is too late for me and my generation. It is even too late for my children’s generation although they have more promise than the debacles we are leaving them with. Maybe, just maybe, with painful lessons they can learn from us, the grandchildren generation will be Joshua themselves.
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