I realized I hadn’t written about the US-backed Israeli attacks on Gaza. I was busy reading and learning, so the silence was unintentional. But Teo rightly points out how only a handful of Filipino bloggers have expressed solidarity with Gaza and Palestine. So this is me adding my voice.
In the mid-1980s, my dad made a living by exporting Pinoy food for Filipino contract workers in Saudi Arabia. His partner, Tito Ahmed, would visit Manila and take our family out for McDonalds during the long stretches that my dad worked in Jeddah. One day, over fries and a milkshake, I mentioned that I could not find his home country Palestine in my atlas.
Tito Ahmed got agitated, a marked contrast to his sweet disposition. When I was a boy, he told me, Israeli soldiers came to his farm. His family had to relocate for a few days. No, they were told, you could not bring your animals. Just leave them enough food and water for two weeks, then you’ll be back. The family spent their last day in the farm shoveling feed into chicken coops.
That was almost forty years ago, he told me. They never did see that farm again. He would need a visa to even set foot in the town where he was born. A visa, he yelled, pounding the McDonald’s table with his fist. It’s like you needing a visa to visit Laguna.
Why would anyone need a visa to visit their home province? It was a question that my twelve-year-old brain filed away. I never really understood until recently that Tito Ahmed and his family were displaced by an occupation. Based on the number of careless rehashes of “Hamas fires rockets from their civilian areas so Israel has to defend itself,” the fact that Palestinians are living under a US-backed Israeli occupation still eludes many Pinoy bloggers.