Indian Catholic News

A mother's weapon

The reconciliation of truths gave this mother a weapon to defend her disappeared child from demonization.

 
Edita Burgos, mother of Jonas Burgos a victim of involuntary disappearance in the Philippines. (Photo by Vincent Go)
By Edita Burgos
Manila: 

I am by nature a shy and quiet person. Growing up, I was easily eclipsed by a gifted smart sister and intelligent and talented brothers. I married a naturally gregarious, outgoing and loving man.

I was in my element, silently working in the shadows, supporting my husband's work as he took the dictator Marcos "by the horns" as pioneer publisher-editor of the first above-ground opposition newspaper.

A home economics teacher more comfortable with her handicrafts, my heaven was building a home for my five children and devoted husband.

Add to this natural inclination the fact, I am a promised secular Carmelite whose disposition should be toward unceasing prayer in silence and solitude.

A week after the abduction of my son in April 2007, I reluctantly assumed the role of family spokesperson.

Speaking in public terrified me. I had to do all, guesting on radio, and television, in schools and organizations, speaking at rallies, etc., etc.

After sometime, from being reluctant, I would now be ready to speak at a moment's notice. In silence, I would seek help from above before speaking.

My prayer "Blessed Mother, may they be reminded of you as I speak."

Inside me, the butterflies fluttered non-stop. To speak was to suffer and the suffering would be the offering for the disappeared with whom I united myself.

A few months into the search for my son, it dawned on me that more than being a good speaker, what mattered was sincerity. I always follow this rule, "to say what is in my heart."

Yet sincerity is not enough. One has to be genuinely authentic both internally and externally. One has to be true to oneself to be able to speak with conviction. This was the greatest struggle I grappled with, the truths in my mind and my heart reconciled with the truths that I heard.

It was said that my son belonged to an underground organization reputed to use violent means. How could I reconcile the upbringing of my son to love peace vis-a-vis the alleged "violent ways" of this group?

I know that no matter the circumstance, no one deserves to be disappeared. Respect for life is the highest value and respect for human rights follows closely. But I was confused. Until at a hearing, this army general, called my son "devious" and "guileful."

I rebelled against this disparaging description of Jonas, my son, because I know my Jonas. I know that as Jonas was growing up, he was always kind to those with less in life.

My search has brought me to remote areas. I have met people who knew Jonas.

They told me stories about how Jonas helped construct a water system in their community, how Jonas gave medicine to the sick, how Jonas bought food for young kids and how he rewarded a child with soda (a luxury to the poor) for doing good in school, how he helped farmers harvest when the laborers were few, how he helped a tribal woman against abuse by a soldier.

Jonas did what he did because he loved and because he cared.

This reconciliation of truths paved the way for a deeper understanding of our modern-day prophets. Understanding the "whys" of my son gave birth to a renewed resolve and to hold my head up high when I spoke about Jonas' work, especially in front of uniformed men and condemning judgmental critics who boxed us in "red."

I refuse to cringe in embarrassment when asked: "What was your son doing to deserve involuntary disappearance?"

Once, in Geneva, a Filipino diplomat ridiculed the efforts of progressive groups and individuals (including Jonas) as irrelevant because they were not Christians.

Goaded into defending my Jonas, I challenged her and the audience. "Did you ever give the last T-shirt on your back to someone who didn't have clothes? Did you ever offer the food on your plate to a playmate who didn't have lunch? Did you ever give your hard-earned share of the harvest to a neighbor who lost a father?"

Then I answered my questions: "Well, Jonas did. Now please tell me, is my son less Christian than you are?"

The reconciliation of truths gave this mother a weapon to defend her child from demonization. The heart of a mother who knows the heart of her son has led to a higher moral ground.

Now not only do I have armor, I also have a consolation when someone "cruelly" insinuates that Jonas must be "gone." This consolation? "In the evening of life you will be judged on love," said John of the Cross.

Being judged on love, Jonas will surely pass with flying colors.

Then, permeated with hope, I pray, "Let us rejoice, my love, and go forward to behold ourselves in your beauty." (Verse 36, Spiritual Canticle, John of the Cross)

Edita Burgos is a doctor of education and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Gunmen — believed to be soldiers — abducted her son Jonas Burgos in Manila in April 2007. He is still missing.

Source: UCAN

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