Thursday, September 13, 2007

Two young men from Mauban

There is no shared, larger vision to unite and propel us forward, only unfinished wars and vendettas to which our youth are separately being mobilized. With their innate idealism, their anger, discontent or just the basic need to survive channeled to war efforts, our youth end up pitted against each other. By MIRIAM CORONEL FERRER "Eyes see" ABS-CBN Interactive

AN UNFINISHED LIFE: The vigil for 2nd Lt. Charlie Anthony Camelon is held in his unfinished house in Mauban town, Quezon. The only officer of 27 soldiers killed in Jolo, Camelon was only on his first assignment after his PMA graduation when killed in action. The town is proud of its first-ever PMAyer. DELFIN T. MALLARI/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON

The death of 22-year old 2nd Lt. Charlie Anthony Camelon from Mauban, Quezon reminded me of another young man born in the same town, Mauban. His name is Rodelo Manaog, a former classmate who joined the underground and disappeared in 1984, never to be found again.

Charlie was the platoon leader in the Army’s 33rd Infantry Battalion assigned in Sulu. He and 15 others died in a clash in Maimbung, Sulu on August 9. Charlie just graduated from the Philippine Military Academy in March this year, the first from his hometown to do so.

Like Charlie, Delo was a pioneer in Mauban. He was the first student from the town to pass the entrance test to Philippine Science High School. He entered high school already mulat (socially conscious), courtesy of an older sister who was a student activist. He was active in student politics at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos (UPLB), a time known in the campus as the dark period, when many activists went missing. From writing in student publications, Delo progressed to organizing farm workers in Southern Tagalog. He was last seen in a mini-mart near UPLB.

Charlie and Delo are one generation apart. Given the age gap, the former could have been the son of the latter. That their stories can now meet, even only in paper, tells us that not much has changed in our state and society in the last 30 years.

The two men represent one type of Filipino youth – those who chose to stay in the country to wage their respective struggles.

Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair was quoted as saying: “A simple way to take the measure of a country is to look at how many want in … and how many want out.” As we might be missing out on the bigger chunk of the population who do stay put, we may well add another yardstick: Of those who stay in, where do they stake their life?

Charlie chose to be a soldier, Delo an activist. One was defending the state, the other subverting it. Both believed in the rightness of their cause and endured hardships to pursue their goals.

Charlie’s written words posted in, shines with this youthful patriotism, long lost to those who have grown flabby in their chauffer-driven cars and airconditioned offices:

I stand a proud guardian of my country and the people. I am awestruck and dumbfounded by the magnanimous duty that the people have bestowed upon me, the duty that binds me to be the protector of the free, the duty the drives me to endure days without food, traverse the inhospitable terrain, through typhoons and searing rays of the sun. … the duty that dislocates my normal life, separates me from my family, live humble means and simple ways and be the epitome of the ideals of katapangan, integridad and katapatan.”

To this words, Delo could have added (there was no friendster at that time, only small folded paper notes kept hidden and worse, eaten, to avoid detection): “Para sa bayan, … ang mamatay ng dahil sa iyo.”

Full military honors capped Charlie’s untimely demise. Delo’s name has been preserved on the wall at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani, where he shares space with others who shared his beliefs and met the same tragic fate.

Because they died young, they will forever be symbols of untarnished idealism. Yet, though from the same town and fired by the same spirit, in death they will remain separated by a yawning ideological gap that has kept our country at war.

Meanwhile, in another place, a young Moro fighter also lies dead, on wet grass, with only faith in martyrdom and heaven to console those he leaves behind.

When a country sheds its youth to fight against fellow youth, what kind of country is it? When fathers and mothers bury their children, instead of children burying their parents, what sense can we make of these untimely deaths?

That we are a nation choking in our own hostilities. We are a country where violence is handily used to commit wrongs, but also injudiciously to right wrongs. The leaders in society and government are divided, torn apart by ideology, beliefs and ambition.

There is no shared, larger vision to unite and propel us forward, only unfinished wars and vendettas to which our youth are separately being mobilized. With their innate idealism, their anger, discontent or just the basic need to survive channeled to war efforts, they end up pitted against each other.

The deaths of our youth, like that of Delo, Charlie, the Moro fighter, should be our distress call. True, the Filipino is worth dying for, as another victim of political violence, Ninoy Aquino, said. It’s about time we turn that around and say, the Filipino is worth living for.

24 August 2007
These articles was originally posted in ABS-CBN - " I see " by Miriam Coronel Ferrer


  1. My brother's sacrifice was not in vain... thanks a lot for remembering the memories of Rodelo Manaog. I was just in my teens when i last saw my kuya Delo!(Noyee)

  2. Even for chidren and young adults...tito delo's influence is never lost. His kindness and eloquence has captured my memory even at the age of five.He is the kids'hero.
    The family felt too much loss for his disappearance. For being a good leader that he was, he could have been a big uniting factor, to me he is a very influential leader.Sadly,we missed him!!!