Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Book By Frank

I've read 'Tis by Frank McCourt.

The book gave me a lot of inputs about Ireland and the Irish.

I have heard much about "Angela's Ashes" even before I heard that it was also a book by Frank.  I never got the chance to see the book when I was out of the country.

But I managed to get this book from a sale in one of our local bookshops.  To tell you honestly, I was surprised to see the book there at all.  I couldn't put it down even though I know that I didn't have a budget for books this month.  But it was such a good price that I couldn't resist.

By Frank McCourt
Type of Cover: Trade Paperback
ISBN: ISBN 0-684-84267-X
Purchase Date: October 2010
Place: Pandayan Bookshop, Philippines

     The smoking brought on Nora's cough and she told Mam the fags would kill her in the end, that there was a touch of consumption in her family and no one lived to a ripe old age, though who would want to in Limerick, a place where you could look around and the first thing you noticed was a scarcity of gray hairs, all the gray hairs either in the graveyard or across the Atlantic working on railroads or sauntering around in police uniforms.

     You're lucky, missus, that you saw a bit of the world.  Oh, God, I'd given anything to see a glimpse of New York, people dancing up and down Broadway without a care.  No, I had to go and fall for a boozer with the charm, Peter Molloy, a champion pint drinker that had me up the pole and up the aisle when I was barely seventeen.  I was ignorant, missus.

Down For The Second Time

Well, I really tried.  And I tried again.

But it seems that there are so many books still on the shelf or for whatever reason, I again ended up putting "The Last of the Mohicans' down after the first five pages.

With the next book on hand, I managed to hold on to it (looking forward to the story) until page 26 and it was just the first time.

I know that there is more to the story of the "The Last of the Mohicans."  But I just don't know why I keep on putting it down.

Sometimes, the long sentences made me grasp for air, as if reading it aloud.  Maybe the book is too deep for me.  I guess this is just one of those books that I cannot finish.  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Getting Back To Where I Stopped

So, this is the book that I put down for a while and started and finished "In The Presence of My Enemies," by Gracia Burnham.

The Last of the Mohicans
by James Fenimore Coopers
Edition: Penguin Popular Classics
Type of Cover: Mass Paperback
ISBN: ISBN-0-14-062045-1
Purchase Date: June 2010
Magrudy's Bookshop, Dubai

"Wtih joyful pleasure do I consent," said David, adjusting his iron-rimmed spectacles, and producing his beloved little volume which he immediately tendered to Alice."What can be more fitting and consolatory, than to offer up evening praise, after a day of such exceeding jeopardy."

Alice smiled, but regarding Heyward, she blushed and hesitated.

"Indulge youself," he whispered. "Ought not the suggestion of the worthy namesake of the Psalmist to have its weight at such a moment."

There Was More of Chapter 21

That was 376 days in captivity.

Although I have always known it, it was a different thing reading about their ordeal and getting out of it.  Especially the last parts of their journey.

I won't forget about one of Gracia's wishes when she was finally rescued.  She wanted to meet the family of Ediborah.  She wanted to tell them, especially Ediborah's children, what a brave mother they have.  It is always difficult to be the bearer of the bad news, but Gracia's intention of meeting her children was of different nature.  I'm sure Ediborah's children made them proud of their mother.

The end of the book led me to the Gracia's website.  It was only then that I learned that there were parts of Chapter 21 that were edited from the book.  You can read about the rest of the chapter in her website.

After The Ransom

The last three hostages had a hard time during the last part of their capture. At one point, the three became four when, as they trekked toward their freedom, met a civilian who the Abu Sayyaf couldn't let go because he had seen too much.

Before they 'mobiled' towards their freedom, their food supply became good that they realized that their stomachs already forgot how to accommodate big servings. When the Abu Sayyaf got their ransom, they feed the hostages somehow. Gracia said the the rumors of the ransom was true, disputing the news that it wasn't.

Since they came into this island that was more of a logging town than an agricultural town, Gracia knew the hazards of spending too much time on the road than hiding in the foliage of the desert. But, she also knew that the Abu Sayyaf couldn't do anything even after she tried to confront them suggesting that they shouldn't walk too much on the road. But what happened was they spent most of the night walking, since the AFP are all sleeping at night.

Then, that rainy morning came. They heard gunshots and being a hostage in the forest for over a year, her instinct told her to duck down, as most of the others did. She heard Ediborah shout, "Mart!" which was the last word she ever heard from Ediborah.

A second after that, the gunshots stopped.

She looked around and saw Martin lying with his eyes closed, and blood starting to soak his white shirt.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Last Few Chapters

Finally, I am just at the last few chapters of the book, "In The Presence of My Enemies."

I said it was tiring to just read the book and read about the Dos Palmas hostages ordeal.  At this point, only three of them remain, Martin, Gracia and Ediborah.  Reina, earlier, was 'sabayaed' by the leader Sabaya and no mention of her being with the group as of this last chapter.  See, time and again, the hostages were to be divided into two groups and then meet again and then divided again.  This is a strategy that the Abu Sayyaf did to confuse the AFP.

So, right now, I only read about Martin, Gracia and Ediborah.  Lately, Ediborah has been bothered because one of the captors is also 'proposing' that they get married when Ediborah is already married.  Just like what happened to Reina, she has left with no choice and I think, although she's been able to avoid the circumstance, it was just like her lover was just waiting for the mangoes to ripen.

Looking at the other side, the book wasn't about the ordeal at all.  I think Gracia wrote it to serve as a model of faith and trust.  I am overwhelmed every time both of them would come up with a good thing out of a bad situation.  Although I said the book was tiring to read, you put it down after a few pages, tired.  But after all, you emerge with a stronger faith after reading about the couple's positive outlook.

At this point, they have been receiving a lot of food.  They wondered and later on found out that the captors are coming up with the deal with the AFP.  The AFP was negotiating as to how much percentage they will get once the Abu Sayyaf people gets the ransom money.  Can you believe that?

But somewhere along the way, their food supply went scarce again.  This time, they discovered that the deal was off because the AFP wanted to do it 50-50 with them.

I leave you with this thought and this maybe one of the last few posts left of this book.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Promise

The hostages have never been this hopeful.  Someone made a promise that they will be ransomed for $3 million dollars.

The Abu Sayyaf was just as excited because the situation is not favorable to them, too.  Like their hostages, they were also suffering from hunger.  In fact, some of them will ask permission for a sort of a day's off and never came back.  Some even went AWOL.

As the promise seemed to be true, they 'mobiled' and moved towards the place where they had been instructed. I guess by this time, all of them, captors and hostages, were hopeful that this will be the end of their ordeal.  Then, as they moved, the news of the 9/11 bombing came.  For some reason, I never read anything about it anymore.  They continued to move only because they are avoiding being tracked down by the AFP, but now, not towards the agreed location.

They got through the end of the Muslim Ramadan season and spent Christmas sleeping somewhere in the woods.  Gracia said that in the States, it was a custom that people ask each other how's their Christmas after the day.
"Yes, Martin and I had a good Christmas.  Why?  (1) We had something to eat, and (2) We didn't have to pack up and hike.  In our minds, that made the day positive."
Eventually, the promise of ransom was said to have fallen apart.  But I guess it's not a surprise for any of them at all.

The Only Way

The sat-phone broke.

It's a good thing there was a cellular phone that they could use to communicate with President Arroyo.  But of course, before this transpired, Martin was briefed of the complaints of the Abu Sayyaf.

Within the conversation, Martin pleaded for the AFP to stop the raids because it only puts the lives of the hostages on the line.  He made sure that it was known that only negotiations will stop all these.
"The Abu Sayyaf is going to survive this operation, but the hostages will not.  Eventually, the hostages are going to succumb to sickness, and eventually some of the hostages are going to be killed."
But that same day after the conversation, the firefight with the AFP and the Abu Sayyaf continued.  This is something that even the Abu Sayyaf people did not want and did not expect.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Pressure Is On

The bad weather and my satisfaction on the way my three blogs look like gave me more time to read.  This book has been long overdue.

Last night, I realized that maybe another reason why I have been putting the book down more often is that I easily get tired with the story.  Tired in the sense that I feel for what the hostages are going through.  They spent most of the day walking with no definite destination.  They stopped when it's night to get some rest.  But sometimes, they also had to walk at night because they had to get away from the soldiers.

But what the book has made me realize so far is the awesome faith that both Martin and Gracia have.  They find goodness in every situation, even though how hard it was.  It's not easy having to deal with what they were going through and Martin and Gracia knew it wouldn't be easy.  But as they went along, every hard time is an opportunity for them to see God's grace.

Somehow, no matter how they kept on walking, they are being tracked down by the AFP soldiers, forcing them to be 'mobiling' most of the time.  Meanwhile, the third of the three Americans, Guillermo, was taken by their captors and haven't been back.  They weren't sure if he was killed or what, but they definitely haven't seen him so far.

I don't know if this was every Abu Sayyaf's dream, but one of Gracia's guard told her that his dream was to die in a holy war in Afghanistan.  Because he believes that dying in a holy war is the only way to get him to rest in paradise.

One of the hostages seems to have suffered from Stockholm Syndrome, and I have yet to find out if Gracia will be able to persuade her that what she feels might just be temporary and might not be the same feeling once they are rescued.  For some late bloomers like me, Stockholm Syndrome is when the hostage gets sympathetic with the his/her captor and/or even falls in love with him/her.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

First Encounter

After their first night at House 125, the Abu Sayyaf people seemed confident that they will not be tracked down in their present location.  There weren't any soldiers so far.

This is good because House 125 seemed perfect place for them to stay while they do their negotiations.  It was near a village where they could get all the things they need and not very far from a river where they can do stuff that need water.

Here in this house was where they talked to ex-President Arroyo for the first time.  I believe this is the first talk they had with the president.  Previously, two of the hostages were ordered to talk to ex-President Arroyo to stop the firefight.  But I didn't think there were any contacts between the Abu Sayyaf and the president before this time.  On the sat-phone was Sabaya, the leader.

He asked ex-President Arroyo for one million dollars in exchange for the release of Martin Burnham and his wife Gracia.  He also asked for the Malaysian citizen to be the mediator and not anyone else.  If the Malaysian will not be the mediator, he will kill one of the three Americans they have in captivity - Martin, Gracia and Guillermo, who was a Filipino who just got his citizenship thirteen days before they were captured.

Gracia was totally shocked hearing this in the conversation.  Not only because of the fact that one of them will be killed, but because she knows what the word 'kill' means to these people.

The Abu Sayyaf has a trademark procedure of taking someone else's life.  It's not just a bullet in the chest, as Gracia said, nor a knife through your stomach.  They are known to behead people.

Monday, October 11, 2010

House 125

By this time, I have observed that the only way for them to survive was to keep on moving.  Along the way, they happened to find two huts which were good enough for them to stay for a long time, but whenever they stopped to spend the night, the soldiers get to them the very next day.

On the second house they found, the firefight led to the death of three AFP soldiers.  They were all beheaded.  From these soldiers, the Abu Sayyaf found a medical bag which might be useful in the future.

But the most important 'loot' they found was a set of paperworks, which outlined all the military's plan against the Abu Sayyaf.  These paperworks was complete with a map that details all of the AFP's plans and the list of all the battalions that were deployed in connection with this effort.

They again continued 'mobiling,' the term that their captors used in moving around.  Again, they found a hut which Gracia came to call House 125.  The term, Gracia said, came from what remained of the census sticker she saw in front of the house.

House 125 is a typical hut.  It stands five foot off the ground because of the bamboo stilts that they were built onto.  It has two rooms but no electricity nor plumbing.  Between the ground and the house flooring should be the place to grow chickens and the pigs, but this time, it was a perfect 'room' for their captors.

It seemed to me that they would be staying here in House 125 for a while - at least longer than those two huts.  They were able to make sleeping arrangements at the order of the Abu Sayyaf - Martin and Gracia, being a married couple, is to sleep in the middle, thus, creating a divider between the men and women hostages.  This was done 'to preserve descency,' Gracia said, because the Muslims believe that men and women who are not married are not to sleep together.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hospital Attack

The firefight compelled them not to stay in one place.  As their first and supposedly only stop, they chose the hospital somewhere in Lamitan.  Their captors strategically picked out a hospital to stay in and start their negotiations.  The Abu Sayaff people believed that the government would not fire at them or the hospital where they stay.  I also believe that it's a logical decision for them.

But they thought wrong.  I was as surprised as Gracia when the armed forces of the government started firing at the hospital  Gracia could not believe that this was happening.  That the government didn't even think about the welfare of the patients in that hospital.

Again, their captors ordered one of the hostages, this time a lady, to call ex-President Gloria Arroyo - using the Abu Sayaff's sat phone - to tell her to stop shooting at them and the hospital.  And then, again, when the shooting stopped, they also couldn't tell if the president heeded to their call or if it was something else.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

The Didn't Know Where They Were

The road to Lamitan was bumpy, due to either the inexperience of the driver or his over-confidence on his skill. Sonny, Eldren and Armando - the employees of Dos Palmas Resort - were all left behind when the hostages were ordered to ride that jeepney (a local means of transportation for us, Filipinos).

Later on, it was told that two of the men were beheaded:  Sonny and Armando.  They also tried to behead Eldren, but for some reason that wasn't told, he survived and escaped with wounds on his neck.

Before they left Basilan, they were caught in a firefight.  Ironically, this was how Gracia found out where they were.  Members of the CAFGU (Citizen Armed Force Geographical Unit) were able to intercept and discover their location.  The firefight ceased when Sabaya asked one of the hostages to radio then-president Arroyo and asked her to stop the men.  Although it couldn't be confirmed whether the radio message was what made the men to call off the shooting.

I wanted to know what stopped it.  But it seems that that's all there is.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Martin's Role

Martin Burnham was a key person for the missionaries serving here in the Philippines.  He was a pilot and his main task is to transport all the goods these missionaries need from as basic as food to books.  He makes sure these things get to these missionaries who live in different parts of the islands.

From ketchups to mails to fuels, he picks them up and delivers them, hopping from one island to another in the course of a day.  Without him, these missionaries will have an even more difficult life than the already difficult life they are living as missionaries in these islands that are sometimes isolated from the city.

Martin and Gracia lived here in the Philippines for eight years.  And during the course of time, Martin learned how to make do of what he has.  This means that he sometimes have to land a plane on strips of only about three hundred meters, with trees on both sides.  This needs a lot of skills and practice to get used to.  At times, he does this not because of any reason except that he had no choice.

Funny how I sometimes think that creativity manifests itself at its best during difficulties, if not poverty.  We discover a lot of things from having less.  We learn things from not having enough.  We do not have to do more because we simply have to do something to make our lives worth living.

The Sounds I Wake Up To

Gracia woke up to the sound of roosters crowing.  She was even a little surprised that she can hear these sounds in the city of Manila.  And she didn't like it that well when she first came, I guess.

But for me, it was the other way around when I was out of the country.  I was looking for this particular sound.  I am used to and amused to waking up to the sounds of nature, like the roosters crowing, the birds tweeting and other sounds most birds do.

This morning, I woke up a little earlier than my usual biological clock.  A lot earlier.  As I lay down still hoping to find a little more sleep to take advantage of the cold weather before daylight, I savor these same sounds, and I thought, "even if life is not that easy, it's still very fulfilling to wake up to these sounds."

"That happiness is not dependent on our circumstances but on our attitudes."

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