Domestic Violence Is Not, Never the Way to Go
A Solver Agcaoili
(Note: This is what I am going to say at the Men’s March to be held at the State Capitol, October 9, at noontime, in celebration of the Domestic Violence Month. I thank the organizers, specifically Joe Bloom, director of Caritas Hawai’i, for including me as one of the speakers. The Men's March Committee has been doing the men's march since 14 years ago. Many organizations will join the march, with speakers from the State House of Reps, the prosecutor's office, the Honolulu Advertiser, local community leaders, and the Domestic Violence Action Center.)
I come before you wearing many hats.
Ever since that death that made my stomach churn—the death of Erlinda Adviento—things have never been the same for me.
As a poet, domestic violence has become for me the antithesis of the poetic: it snuffs out the life of words, it snuffs out the healing power of words, and it snuffs out the redeeming power of words.
In death, there simply will no longer be a speaker. Word will be absent.
In death, there simply will no longer be a listener. Word will be absent.
Speaking and listening—the very heart of a healthy relationship—will simply not happen.
I tell you my story: I am a husband.
I am a father of two daughters. I am a father of a son.
Like every husband and father, I go through a lot but I pray that anger will not get hold of me, that rage will not get hold of me, that destruction will not overcome me. And I am here to say that domestic violence of whatever form is never ever the way to go in resolving domestic conflicts even if in life we have a good share of them, these conflicts that if we only know how to resolve them will make us stronger, wiser even.
In that ping of a computer on that dark night that I first heard of Erlinda Adviento’s death via e-mail, I remembered my wife. I remembered my two daughters. I remembered my son.
I looked out the window of my office in the stillness of that dark night, a late night, and in the silence, I could hear the weeping of children, the weeping of mothers, the weeping of women, and the weeping of those who loved the dead woman.
I have not heard of Erlinda Adviento before—and she probably had not heard of me. But on that late and dark night I knew, I knew that the only way to get out of the cauldron of mixed emotions that gripped me was to translate these emotions into a creative rage, into a poem, a poem for this dead woman I do not know, a poem for all the other Erlinda Advientos that came before her and that came after her.
In that poem is the covenant that I have with all people who go through hell because of domestic violence.
In that poem I asked Erlinda and all the women why did you stay?
But in that poem as well, I asked men—my manner of asking more and more and more of incomprehension and disbelief—the men like me, why, why did you hit? Why, why, why did you kill? Why, why did you use the gun to settle your domestic differences?
In all these incidents, this epidemic of domestic violence, I think of my wife, and I tell myself, in a prayerful wish: domestic violence will not be our route to make peace, in our home as well as in our heart.
I think of my two daughters, and I tell myself, in a prayerful wish: domestic violence will not get into your heart; it will not get into your homes; and it will not blight the beautiful lives you lead.
I think of my son as well, and I tell myself—and I tell him in a prayerful wish: domestic violence will not reside in your heart. You will not use those hands that I held with care when you were young, hands you used to hold onto me so you can hold onto the world and see for yourself the beauty of life. I tell him you are going to use those hands not to hit anyone but to take good care of everyone.
I have witnessed enough of domestic violence and I do not want to become a witness to another one.
For each death that I come to know on the papers, there is sorrow that builds up upon my chest, and the sorrow swells, and the sorrow becomes a volcano until I cannot write a poem any longer.
All I want is the fundamental poetry of life.
All I want is the hidden magic of words that come from the lips of people who know peace and quiet, people who know justice and love, people who know what care and kindness are all about.
All I want is the magic of those words that will save us eventually from the hell that is domestic violence.
All I want is the magic of those words that will reveal to us the surprises of what love can do to heal all of us, words that will teach us what gracious kindness can do to our communities so that we all become aware of our duty to take good care of others.
I come here to speak as a Filipino as well: we all know that many of those who have died in the hands of their intimate partners, their lovers, their husbands, or their relatives are women of Filipino descent. Of those Filipinos, majority of them are Ilokanos.
This reality hits me hard in the way every one of us is hit hard: why, why? What is the connection between being an Ilokano and Filipino and this ugly business of domestic violence? Pray, tell me, what?
Deep within, this is what I know: we need to get educated to the challenges of putting an end to domestic violence—and Ilokano men and women must join hands to finally say, Stop the Violence.
Our men also love—they know how to love, this I am sure.
But our men are hitting their women—and some kill them as well.
This abomination has nothing to do with our ethnolinguistic community; it has something to do with us as men; it has something to do with that lack that we have in our heart as men; and it has something to do with that lack that gnaws at our soul. Sure, we can blame society, but the blame game boomerangs on us.
In the attempt to offer a healing covenant with our women, we need to name that lack in our heart, that void in our heart, that darkness in our heart and say, with finality, that domestic violence, indeed, is not the way to go.
In our attempt to become one again with the community of women and children we have hurt, in the attempt to heal our hurts as well, we need to look at our soul again, and fill that lack that gnaws at our soul with a love that heals and that makes us whole again.
This is our solemn vow now: to commit ourselves to ending this crime against our women and against our children and against ourselves.
May all men grow in wisdom to know the difference between a loving heart and a violent one.
Mahalo and good day.