The news could have been titled “Diwalwal and Death.”
This search for gold in this mountain that has become a terrible killer of dreams is a metaphor of every impoverished Filipino’s search for something that he can hold on to everyday.
Something concrete. Something real. Anything—as long as it is something that feeds on those dreams that will give him some chance to improve his lot.
At Mt. Diwalwal, the gold panned and dug up from holes could have saved many families from ending up in despair and disappointment. This is every poor miner’s view.
As in the past, the mountains in the country have given the miners’ some ray of hope, with some kernels of the prized metal spelling out some gantas of rice to tide the poor miners over until another kernel is found.
In this mountain where gold is found, there is also misery.
In this Diwalwal where dreams are made of sterner stuff and where the hope for finding the mountain of gold springs eternal—with the poor miners eternally trying to coax the mountain earth to yield to their wishes and show them at last where the gold is—there is death.
This story about these deaths is not new.
It happened a number of times.
Here we go again in this circle of putting a stop to the cottage-kind of mining for the gold in Mt. Diwalwal by simply driving the people away from the place without offering them an alternative livelihood.
The solution will be knee-jerk: Ban the mining there by simply saying, “No hungry miners allowed.”
The government can even deploy some soldiers to assure itself and the public that the ban is implemented.
Or deploy some personnel from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to watch the mountain as it prepares to give the coup d’grace for the next destruction.
This knee-jerk reaction is the same tactic the Philippine government did when the war in Iraq broke out.
The government made it clear: That lives will be lost when contract workers would be deployed in that country.
Many workers responded by saying that they “preferred to die in other lands and eking out a life there than dying in the country without having the chance to hope for and dream of a better life.”
That situation was pathetic.
It held the government hostage to the contract workers’ dreams of the good life for their families.
It held the contract workers hostage to the government’s attempt to be so suddenly concerned with the safety of the contract workers even if its unwritten policy is to keep on sending and deploying OFWs—overseas Filipino workers—to many countries, war or no war because at home, it cannot create jobs that yield good wages.
It is the same thing with those who have opted to live in dumping sites because there, among the garbage and refuse of the rich and the powerful, there is at least that opportunity to find some semblance of the mountain of gold, some form of a promise of possibility that can be drawn up from finding a whole piece of chicken which spelled sumptuous dinner for hungry children as was the case of a father from Cavite who re-cooked the chicken he found and served his children.
We can imagine here the lusty joys of his children as they visually feasted on that food they had not had the chance to have.
We can imagine the father here as he saw his children filled with that joy he had never seen in a long while. The following day, a number of the children were dead. The food was poison in much the same way the Payatas dumpsite was a graveyard and Diwalwal was a graveyard.
Diwalwal or Payatas—or some such other places of the sordid and grim—these must be looked into with kindness and concern by the government. We need concrete action here. We need to draw the miners away from the mountain by giving them decent livelihood to provide for their families.
We cannot keep on offering lives in the name of learning our lessons on how to give justice to our long-suffering people.
In fact, we do not need to give justice at all. We owe it to our people.
Pub, INQ, v1n19, Nov 2005