Farewell for now, Sis. Pat
Filipinos of a certain age still remember the scene at the airport when a number of our countryfolk decided to bid the departing Beatles a most fervid “farewell.”
Claiming to be incensed at the way the Fab Four had “offended” the sensibilities of the First Family, particularly Imelda Marcos and
her children, when they allegedly snubbed an invitation to join the Marcoses and their friends at a get-together in Malacañang,
“concerned citizens” lined up all along the exit route of the world-famous band and inflicted physical punishment on them. The Beatles
were kicked, pummeled, pushed, abused and cursed, chased to their plane seats and given indelible memories of Filipino hospitality.
Perhaps this won’t happen when Sister Patricia Fox leaves the country as scheduled either today or tomorrow. But given the treatment
she’s received since President Duterte ordered the Australian missionary to be investigated (and briefly detained) in April, she has treated
with unrelenting abuse from the government, albeit couched in civilized and legalistic language. She may look fine and bear no traces from
the outside of bruising or broken bones. But the scars surely remain imprinted in her mind and heart.
This is especially true because, when “Sister Foxy,” as friends call her, decided to make the Philippines her home 27 years ago, she did so
with the dream and vision to work and live among the poorest, the humblest, the most powerless of Filipinos. It is a decision she did not make
casually or lightheartedly. It required her to live a life of penury and hardship, and at times put her in the crosshairs of the powerful, among them no less than the President.
Indeed, it was Mr. Duterte himself who summed up most succinctly Sister Pat’s offense. She deserved to deported, he said, because of
“disorderly conduct” and having a “foul mouth” (provoking thoughts about the pot calling the kettle black).
“You come here and insult us, you trample with our sovereignty. That will never happen,” he said in April. “I assure you, if you begin to
malign, defame (the) government in any of those rallies there, I will order your arrest.”
To sure, plenty of others have rushed to Sister Pat’s side, the latest being Bishop Arturo Bastes of Sorsogon who said it “wrong”
for the government to identify the 72-year-old nun as an undesirable alien. “I am very disappointed with the unfair and unjust deportation
of Sister Fox, who has sacrificing her life and using her personal strength and efforts for the upliftment of the life of fellow ‘lumad’
Filipinos, the genuine and original inhabitants of our God-given land,” said Bastes.
Killing of innocents
Sister Pat’s “crime” it seems, is not so much speaking out in rallies where she denounced the killing of innocents and the harassment of
tribal communities. Rather, it is daring to question the prerogatives of government when it goes against the helpless and the poor, particularly
in violating the rights of lumad communities who are merely defending their ancestral domain.
That Sister Pat happened to be here on a “teacher visa” amid her almost 30 years of administration is a detail that the administration’s legal
advisors abused to the full. Her “outsider” status rendered her powerless against the state’s intrigues. Be that as it may, such huge numbers
of others, in spite of their being Filipino residents, have in like manner paid the cost for being straightforward in their dispute—including, it must
noticed, a definitive discipline of death by deadly gunfire or correctional facility time in our congested detainment facilities.
Sister Pat has said that regardless she would like to return and resume her all consuming purpose when and if conditions turn to support her. Meanwhile, as she gets ready to fly out of the nation, essentially shooed out by a legislature apparently in mortal dread of a fragile, calm 72-year-old religious recluse, she merits a “pabaon” or token: the appreciation of a thankful country contacted by her commitment to her central goal and her tolerating love for Filipinos. The memory of Sister Pat’s quality and great deeds are a motivation and precedent to every upright Filipino to battle on, particularly in the interest of their kindred nationals who can’t battle for themselves.