West Philippine Sea: These are Our Islands.

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These are my Islands.
‪#‎westphilippinesea‬ ‪#‎WestPHsea
Digital paint/ Cintiq
2016 Arnold Arre

It really reads like a good bedtime story. One such tale I sorely needed told to me as an adult living in this strange world. When the verdict arrived at sundown, I was caught in monster traffic looking out my window at the faces of tired Filipinos waiting to get places. It’s the same story day in and day out, at least in the metropolis. The city grates at us. Few things seem to work in our favour and all of us little Davids fighting our Goliaths are feeding off each other’s fears and anxieties everyday. Yesterday I ran a quick survey to ask how people formed opinions and how they got themselves informed about issues and things. The general sentiment (though I still have to do ground work across classes and sectors) was that we don’t trust the information we get. We are uncomfortable to rely on institutions, be they media, the police, or the state. We are somewhat paranoid, quick to react, and have no real sense of whether what we know is true. We’re lost for the most part but not without opinions.

But you know, for good or bad, we rely deeply on each other–to be informed, to belong, to matter.

That sense of solidarity is what makes tonight special for me. Tonight I choose the bedtime story over the lengthy FB analyses of ‪#‎CHexit‬ and everything else. I celebrate the victory of a little country out in the Pacific to assert itself in a fair, legal fight against a world superpower. I credit the small but bright, Team WPS, for their gutsy move at the Hague to remind us of our rights. I cherish the valor and courage of quiet men and women who patrol our borders day and night, sometimes aboard a rusty ship. I think of leaders like retired Lt. Gen. Juancho Sabban who, in 2013, despite little direction from above, chose to err on the side of duty and declare the Spratlys’ as ours. His men stood their ground. No fanfare, no applause, just a sense of right against immense might.

The decision comes at a strange time too, when, in the same breath, I am thinking of immigrants challenging the necessity of borders in Europe and counting the few nations where Filipinos cannot be found. Do these places exist kaya? I wonder. The hypocrisy of nationalism has also been a mainstay in the papers, in the gestures of many over time. How many more wars to raise flags that are eventually draped over the coffins of those who fight? And what of the faceless nameless many, young and old, whose beings are shattered by taxpayer’s bombs? How many more insults hurled at people because we are too fascinated by our spectacles that color others white, black, yellow, Muslim, terrorist?

I worry about these things everyday because this is all I feel I can do to keep sane and afloat, connected to humanity, warts and all. But on nights like this one, I’m grateful for the giddy cause for pause. It’s a brief reminder of the faith I have in the good men and women of these islands whom I am lucky to call my compatriots, fellow Filipinos.

Mabuhay, and good night!

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