Monday, March 12, 2007

Dom An, Fighting Violence with Art

They were three females, one who seemed to be in her mid-thirties and two young girls. Could they be sisters? Could one be the mother and the other two her daughters? Where is her husband, the father?

These were the questions I asked on the first two days of my stay in a retreat house with my parents. From our table as we sat and ate our meals we would always see three females sitting and eating opposite us. The two young girls were full of life, constantly exchanging banter while the older woman moved with a certain gravity about her.

Eventually one of the nuns explains who the three were. The older woman is the mother of the two girls. Her husband had been killed by hooded men last year. She had opted to work as an OFW in Hong Kong but decided to go home after the misfortune of getting a bad employer. On the day of her flight home she had warned her husband to be careful since they bought knew he was already on the military’s so called “order of battle.” The husband was the Northern Luzon lay coordinator of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines. He had just finished giving a workshop to a group of farmers and was preparing to take the bus to Manila to fetch his wife. He did not go very far. With deadly precision, hooded men on a motorcycle suddenly appear and pump bullets into his body.

Instead of being welcomed by a happy and longing husband, she was welcomed by the morbid and gloomy air of a tragic wake. She was deeply hurt by the lost but not really surprised. Her husband had been receiving death threats. Both of them knew the dangers and risks of a missionary’s life. In spite of these, her husband was unflinching. He believed in his mission. He loved his work of peace education and the promotion of human rights. To this dedicated church worker Christianity was not mere devotion and fulfillment of church obligation. Christianity was a life of committed and passionate witnessing. It was the life of a martyr. Thus his life flowed and finally ended. He loved his work for justice and peace. His work became him as he offered his very life as fire and flame to light the gloomy, fear and death laden horizon.

Since her husbands death and burial, Dom An with her daughters had to leave her home. Now that her husband is dead, there is “collateral damage” to worry about. She must live not only for her daughters but for the truth that her husband lived and died for.

She now goes from place to place a veritable fugitive hounded by the minions of the police state. But she prefers to call her journey the “ war widow’s pilgrimage towards justice, truth and peace.”

After the nun’s explanation, I was introduced to Dom An who did not waste time to share her life and soul to someone she says she quite identifies with. Smiling and with eyes that understood, she affirms me and says, “pareho tayo Father…” (We are the same father) And so I thought that though I may not be a widower, I am somehow a victim of “collateral damage.” Justice, peace and human rights advocates are marginalized if not murdered in the Philippines. So many are now pushed to the fringes and forced to live like fugitives by a pretentious and hypocritical government concealing the torture and murder machinery of a virtual police state.

Before she began her story she offered to play the nose flute and recite poetry. The music from the nose flute was sad but determined. Her poems were the words of an indignant widow turned prophetic witness. Dom An has started going around bringing her music and poetry to announce the good news of God’s justice, truth and peace. She reaches out most specially to war widows like her and hopes to bring them together into a force of healing and justice. Her music and art, her song and poetry do not only announce but denounce the arrogant “Kings and Queens” of power and violence.

As she played her flute and read her poems, I felt a definite presence full of courage and faith. It was Dom An’s husband alive in her music and poetry. He lives through her art fighting violence, resisting death….

Fr. Roberto P. Reyes
March 12, 2007


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