At Large

There are no words

Voices have been raised pleading with the Filipino public—with the media, specifically—to give the family of a recent teenage suicide some space and privacy.

Allowing the family to grieve and not disturb their natural craving for silence and peace may be a little difficult, given that the member of the family who took her own life was a show biz figure and that her parents are themselves actors, acclaimed and respected ones at that.


Already, we have seen on social media samples of the young woman’s art works which hint at a dark, morbid side. Certainly, it takes more than macabre drawings and despondent musings to conclude that the artist was depressed, or planning to take her own life. Yet these hint at something bothering her—but whether these were signs of “typical” teenage angst or a deeper, more desperate sense of meaninglessness, only her loved ones can tell, and this only in retrospect.

Indeed, when people ask “Didn’t anyone see this coming?” they must assume that depression and suicidal tendencies are easily communicated, easily appreciated. And indeed, mental health authorities say that the words and actions of those attempting or contemplating suicide can sometimes be taken for “cries for help,” and that interventions may actually be justified.


But, how do you know? When does a parent, who has little or no training in psychology or counseling, know if an adolescent’s blues are temporary and fleeting, or if they presage a plunge into dark territory? And what do you do? What do you say?

This is why every parent dreads the onset of the preteen and teen years in their children’s lives. Suddenly, the child with the sunny, precocious disposition morphs into a sullen, secretive creature. Almost overnight, she begins to lock her bedroom door and resents any attempt at establishing a connection, accusing a parent of prying.

Parents recoil in pain and resentment, not wanting to rock the boat, and giving the child plenty of space. But we are told we should reach out and persist in our questions, our attempts at reestablishing the bond. Many times, the situation is resolved, and one magical day, the sullen teen is taken over by a mature, open-minded young adult. Other times, the distance and silence of the teen years are never mended or bridged, leading to estrangement and continued resentment. And in rare instances, the bond is forever broken, leaving only grief and loss. Indeed, there are no words.

* * *

Those were interesting words, by the way, used by Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario calling the attempts by China to establish de facto ownership and sovereignty over disputed islands part of a “salami slicing” and “cabbage” strategy.

The culinary metaphors describe the stealthy approach taken by Chinese authorities to establish themselves in the disputed islands, reefs, shoals, and outcrops in the West Philippine Sea. “Salami slicing” is by way of describing the strategy to take small, covert steps to assert sovereignty, such as planting a flag or surrounding an atoll with buoys, without arousing international attention or controversy. The “cabbage” strategy means to “wrap up” territory, slowly, leaf by leaf, again without being too drastic about it so as to arouse indignation.

The metaphor was used by Del Rosario in his opening speech before the United Nations tribunal to determine if the international body has jurisdiction over this dispute.


The disputed territories, mere specks of land and reefs in the vast ocean, nevertheless attract much speculation and attention because of reports that they may harbor vast deposits of oil or natural gas, giving the successful claimant a potentially huge source of income.

But even today, the Spratlys and Paracels and other disputed territories play a valuable part in the economies of China, Taiwan and Southeast Asia as they are said to serve as “nurseries” for the fish and other sea creatures on which Filipino fishers depend.

Indeed, part of our protest against China’s construction efforts on the islands under dispute is that these have already begun the destruction of coral reefs, thereby endangering Philippine fish and sea life, an important source of food and protein for the growing population.

So it’s not just national pride or sovereignty at stake here, but Filipinos’ very survival, as well as those of our neighbors. As it was once famously asked: “Can’t we all just get along?”

* * *

It seems it was only just a few days ago when we were loudly complaining about the weather—how hot it was, and how long it was taking for the blessed relief of rains to come. Authorities even warned of water shortages and power outages because dams throughout Luzon were or had reached critical levels, leading to the reduction of water for household use as well as power generation.

But the TV news just the other day sounded a different tune. The rains had come, in the form of two back-to-back typhoons, bringing with them sudden floods, downed lines and horrendous traffic—the usual items in our rainy-day menus.

Even more amusing was news that La Mesa Dam, once the source of concern given its low water levels, was again the center of attention, but this time because it was feared that water would soon overflow its banks. Truly, if it’s not one thing, it’s another.

But that’s what global warming has done to us. No longer can our seasons be neatly classified into “wet” or “dry,” because heat and rains seem to alternate willy-nilly these days, with areas which had once rarely, if ever, experienced extreme weather now subjected to typhoons and drought with regularity.

The “new normal” is upon us with a vengeance.

Click here for more weather related news.

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TAGS: Albert del Rosario, China, Depression, Family, Flood, La Mesa Dam, Paracels, rain, South China Sea, spratlys, suicide, weather, West Philippine Sea
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