I’ve complained many times about Christmas songs being played in the malls as early as September, but last Wednesday I found myself moved, together with others in the audience, when renowned violinist John Lesaca played a medley of these carols.
It was an event at the College of Education in UP Diliman, meant to commemorate Sept. 21, not as the anniversary of the declaration of martial law, but as UN Peace Day (the college billed it as “Teach Peace Day.” It was also meant as a kind of rededication for a Peace Rock sculpture put up by the UP Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity, first built some 16 years ago and renovated last year with the addition of that universal symbol of peace, a dove by sculptor Ral Arrogante, who used copper discards for his artwork.
I’d seen the Peace Rock when passing Benitez Hall (College of Education’s main building) but didn’t quite know what it was, and when I got the invitation to a rededication, I thought it would be a good time to learn more about it, and to share some thoughts about peace.
Frats and rebels
In its 108 years of existence, UP has seen much violence, sometimes even on its own campuses. The Philippine General Hospital, within what is now the UP Manila campus, was heavily shelled, with many lives lost, during the Battle of Manila. UP Diliman was not built as a university campus originally, but as a US military camp which was occupied by Japanese soldiers during World War II and used to incarcerate, torture, and execute Filipino guerrillas.
UP, too, has produced the likes of Nur Misuari and Jose Ma. Sison, and others who took to the hills. Still others joined them, seeing armed struggle as the only solution to inequity and injustice.
Now, with peace negotiations between the government and insurgents like the National Democratic Front, hopes for peace have returned. But people are not naive; they know that an enduring peace will not come without much needed social changes.
APO’s Peace Rock was originally meant to commemorate a yearning for campus peace, an end to fraternity clashes. But it takes on new meanings now with the peace negotiations between the government and rebel groups.
I had told the audience how old I was, and that John Lesaca and I came from the same bell-bottoms, long-hair era when “rock” was both a noun and a verb—you know, as in rock ‘n’ roll and “rock me, baby.” So a Peace Rock for us can also mean Hey, man (and to be politically correct, Hey, woman), peace rocks, peace is cool, awesome cool, and not chill out cool. (See me flashing the peace sign?)
Lesaca’s performance wasn’t just an entertainment number. He spoke eloquently in behalf of APO, explaining that we can’t just talk about peace but need to live it. He called on his brods, and other fraternity representatives who attended, to cosponsor projects to help out the university, to get into projects to promote peace.
And the songs he played—Christmas carols and John Lennon’s “Imagine”—set the mood for people to think peace. When we gathered around the Peace Rock, which is outdoors in front of Benitez Hall, I also thought a rock is a rock, which brought back memories of frat rumbles where brods waged war with all kinds of weapons, including rocks.
Peace Rock sculptures should be accompanied by rituals of commemoration and of commitment, times when people can be reminded that rocks, rather than being weapons, are there to build sturdy structures, even monuments. The Peace Rock in Diliman also has river stones around it, which create another ambience—that of fluidity and serenity.
After the ceremony, I did some research to get more information on the Peace Rock project, and found that APO first built it because of the gruesome murder of a UP student—Niño Calinao in 1999, which reminded APO of an earlier killing, in 1977, of one of their brods, engineering student Rolando Abad.
I had to move from one internet site to another to piece together the story of Niño Calinao, and thought it is worth retelling in relation to the Peace Rock:
On Feb. 19, 1999, Calinao, a 21-year-old journalism student, was sitting with friends on a bench along a walkway at Palma Hall (or “AS Building,” as it is better known) when someone named Resurreccion Ranin Jr. approached him and, using a .45 pistol, shot him twice. Calinao slumped to the ground and Ranin pulled the trigger again, and again. Four bullets.
A security guard, Lina de Castro, tugged on the shirt of Ranin, telling him to stop and that the student was dead. Ranin turned to the guard and aimed his gun at her, but didn’t shoot. He then fled the scene. Calinao was rushed to a hospital and pronounced dead on arrival.
Ranin was eventually arrested, together with three other men who were in the area and were apparently his lookouts. (Ranin and the three lookouts were not UP students; they were from Barangay Culiat in Quezon City, an urban poor area known for drugs, and hired assassins.) Based on the testimony of the security guard and other witnesses, Ranin was found guilty of the murder of Calinao and sentenced to death in 2004. His lookouts were acquitted.
Ranin’s case went to the Court of Appeals, which upheld the verdict of the lower court. The case was then elevated to the Supreme Court, which promulgated a decision in 2006 upholding the guilty verdict. But by then capital punishment had been abolished, so Ranin’s escaped the death penalty. His sentence was reduced to life imprisonment without parole.
When the tragic story of Calinao is told, it’s simply with a one-liner, one which I had heard as well: It was a case of mistaken identity. He was an innocent victim in a fraternity conflict. Some will add: Calinao was the son of a jeepney driver, the hope of the family. Ranin, his killer, was told to pay his family P42,000 in actual damages, P50,000 in moral damages, P75,000 in civil indemnity, and P25,000 in exemplary charges.
Calinao was not a member of a frat, but he was sitting near the hangout of Scintilla Juris, a frat that had been involved in clashes with Sigma Rho a few days before he was killed. The son of a politician, a member of Sigma Rho, has been named several times, with suspicions that the killer was hired to do the job on someone from Scintilla Juris.
The story has dead-ends. I could not find new leads on the politician and the son. Neither could I find recent leads on Ranin, who should be in the national penitentiary. I wonder, too, about Calinao’s family. If he hadn’t been killed, he would be in his late 30s now, perhaps a practicing journalist.
The Peace Rock, spurred by Niño Calinao’s death, should remind us that we can’t talk about peace without justice, with all its often tragic “what ifs.”
* * *
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.