‘Kalayaan, Atin Ito,’ our youthful heroes
FIRST OF all, let me congratulate Coach Nash Racela and his never-say-die Tamaraws for winning the recently-concluded UAAP Season 78 Men’s Senior Basketball Championship.
After a heartbreaking, emotional Season 77 where they lost to the National University Bulldogs after initially winning game 1 of the championship series, they showed the fighting spirit of the true warrior by coming back from defeat to take their 20th basketball crown, making them the winningest team in the UAAP circuit.
Only a great champion can come back from the depths of defeat to reach the heights of supremacy in his particular field of combat. Many individuals who suffer from a stunning debacle often lose their bearings and are unable to make the slow and painful adjustments needed for recovery. But Coach Racela did it in spectacular fashion, showing us how to overcome adversity, sufferings and misfortunes, to finally conquer all.
Coach Racela’s roots can be traced to the small town of Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, where his great-grandfather Ramon Racela was one of the leading members of the community. Former Court of Appeals justice Jose Racela Jr. is also from the same town. After his wife Connie passed away, Joe has kept much to himself, enjoying the company of his grandchildren. My father, Modesto R. Farolan, is a Racela on his mother’s side. So, somewhere along the line, we must all be related. Unfortunately, I have never met Coach Nash but it gives me great pride to be able to mention that I am a relative, although distant, of one of the country’s great coaches.
A note for our readers: When you are wealthy, famous or politically powerful, everyone in town is your relative just itching to do your every bidding. But if you are none of the above, your relatives may be difficult to find, as they are either in heaven, in hell, or in hiding.
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Last Nov. 9, I reported the planned deployment of several hundred youth volunteers, members of the “Kalayaan, Atin Ito” Movement, to Pagasa Island. I lauded the actions of the group, saying that it would show the world that our youth understand and appreciate the stakes involved in the West Philippine Sea dispute. We cannot match the firepower and military strength of neighborhood bullies, but this does not mean that we should just sit down and wait for a UN arbitration tribunal to hand out its verdict on the matter. And by the way, China has already announced that it will not abide by any decision rendered by the UN court, and is intent on presenting the tribunal and the whole world with a fait accompli. Hence, it continues its reclamation work.
The latest reports indicate that Vice Admiral Alexander Lopez, head of the Western Command (Wescom) in Palawan, denied the request of the students for support, saying that “their activity was uncalled for, or not timely, given the situation.” He spoke of “the perils of the sea at this time of the year,” as well as the possible negative reaction of China. His attitude reminds me of the difference between an optimist and a pessimist. The optimist sees opportunity in every danger; the pessimist sees danger in every opportunity.
Perhaps, Wescom is not the place for Admiral Lopez who is retiring in May 2016, just five months away. Unlike one of his distinguished predecessors, Marine general Juancho Sabban who ordered the arrest of Chinese fishermen caught poaching in Philippine waters, Admiral Lopez is not going to undertake any controversial initiatives that could jeopardize the processing of his retirement papers, including his benefits. The AFP should give him some other assignment that would allow him peace of mind and comfort. A young, gung-ho naval officer in the mold of Sabban would be more ideal for this critical post facing the disputed islands. We need to continue to focus world attention on what is happening in the West Philippine Sea. The opinion of the international community remains one of our strongest weapons against rascals in the region.
Allow me to refresh our memories with some of the more famous protest actions in the world that forced stronger nations to respect the rights of others.
In March 1930, Mahatma Gandhi led a march from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad, to the coastal village of Dandi near the sea, a distance of 390 kilometers. His purpose was to produce his own salt, thereby avoiding payment of the salt tax. The English had established a salt monopoly and Gandhi’s march at the head of millions of Indians represented a challenge to British authority, and Gandhi was arrested and jailed. But his “March to the Sea” would eventually draw worldwide attention to the Indian independence movement.
In May 1963, more than a thousand young black students, mostly teenagers, decided to skip classes in Birmingham, Alabama. In a march known as the “Children’s Crusade,” they peacefully went into the white business area and entered stores and restaurants that normally did not cater to blacks.
In response, Birmingham Police Chief Eugene “Bull” Connor readied his fire hoses and police dogs. At the next encounter, children who were not arrested went home with soaked and torn clothing, some with their flesh bitten by police dogs. A black-and-white photo of a Birmingham police officer encouraging his German Shepherd to take a chunk of the stomach of a black high school student appeared on the front pages of the New York Times and brought the issue of discrimination to world attention. (“Killing Kennedy: The End of Camelot” by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard, pp. 165-168.)
The march of the young blacks that was disrupted by stinging water cannons and snarling police dogs caused outrage throughout the country, and contributed to the passage of the Civil Rights Act by the US Congress in 1964. A year later, the Voting Rights Act was passed, guaranteeing for all African-Americans the right to vote without the restrictions of the past.
There is always some risk and some danger when we fight for our rights, for our national resources, and for our country. The fight is not limited to the strong and the able-bodied. It concerns all of us, young and old, rich and poor. Doing nothing and keeping quiet will not advance our cause. We need all hands on deck.