Commentary: Without diplomacy, there’s no peace

But not the diplomacy of two-facedness, wearing suits, protocols, and hypocrisy but the diplomacy which is the art of negotiations and reconciling divergent legitimate interests.

About four years ago, whenever I would be invited to talk about my transgender experience, I stopped starting my story with “at what age I realized I was a girl.” I don’t know as that wasn’t the first memory I vividly remember. I now always start my talk with this:

I’ve been exposed at a very early age to the political dimension of our life. My first exposure was to the brutal side of humanity’s struggle for power. I grew up in downtown Manila. The Malacañan Palace, the presidential office and residence, the seat of political power in the Philippines, was just within walking distance from where my family and I lived. The historical Mendiola (now known as Chino Roces Avenue) and the bustling Claro M. Recto stretch were just a hop away.

I was four when the January 1987 Mendiola Massacre happened. At that time, I lived along Recto Avenue, just above Dunkin Donuts, across Laperal. There was a huge protest outside. The first one I could vividly remember. People were chanting something I couldn’t understand. I looked out of the window, and saw a sea of humanity, angry and defiant. Then there was a gunshot, chaos, and more gunshots followed.

My aunt pulled me away from the window and told me to sleep. It was time for siesta. I didn’t sleep long. I got out of the bedroom and saw our house packed with a lot of people I didn’t know. Our family sheltered them after they ran away from the security force that violently dispersed them. Our family gave first aid to those who were wounded. I remember that some of them came from as far away as Tarlac. The hallway of our building was smeared with blood, fresh blood. One couldn’t easily forget its smell, wet and lurid, on concrete, dripping like a forgotten faucet. That scent haunted me for a long time. Perhaps that was why that memory was so vivid—all my senses captured the moment.

When I reached puberty, I learned what had happened that day. As I grew older, I kept meeting people who were present at that protest. Those protesters had legitimate interests that diplomacy could have addressed, but wasn’t given chance. Hence, blood dripped like a forgotten faucet.

I was six when Gregorio Honasan launched a coup against President Corazon Aquino. I woke up to tora-toras hovering above our house. Uzis were being fired. Power was cut off. There was panic in our neighborhood. We wanted to go somewhere else safer, but we were stuck as all roads were blocked. We prayed the rosary and submitted ourselves to fate. It might pale in comparison to the war zones in Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, and Syria, but at that moment those sounds, to me, were the harbingers of death.

I’m not a pacifist, just a realist aware of how disasters happen; and because of that awareness, I am willing to fight hard against anyone who would obstruct diplomacy. And if there’s anything worth fighting for in this world that would be to fight against those who would lead our lives into tragedy. As someone trained in diplomacy, I take this duty seriously: Help those people who have the power to send us to our deaths understand and accommodate first the legitimate interests of those we would be ordered to kill in the name of abstractions. No more forgotten faucets, no more power being cut off, Uzis fired, panic in the neighborhood, nor waiting for your own death as you pray the rosary.

(Published in The Manila Bulletin on 13 November 2016)

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