• Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro
  • Kim’z DreanDream
  • May 6, 2020

“FROM time to time, there appear on the face of the earth men of rare and consummate excellence, who dazzle us by their virtue, and whose outstanding qualities shed a stupendous light. Like those extraordinary stars of whose origins we are ignorant, and of whose fate, once they have vanished, we know even less, such men have neither forebears nor descendants: they are the whole of their race.”

He had leaped to the Great Beyond on May 1, 2020, leaving the “shell” (the remains) behind as the “pearl” (the spirit) is now deeply into a realm of great stillness and peace, called by the Unseen Being to live a life in a higher dimension of great power and vibrant life. That great stillness is manifested in his remains as that “shell” amazingly radiates peace. Knowing Lolong for three decades who had been oozing with love for people and the environment, even willing to die to protect Mother Earth, that struggle had loomed because that stillness of being one with all of God’s creation had been his motivating force.

Lolong had been carrying inwardly that power of stillness, endowed with the spirit of oneness with nature. In fact, that had been our battle cry then when we were mobilizing thousands of ecological people to protect God’s vanishing creation in a world that is so deeply buried in materialism and consumerism that is sacrificing the people and Mother Earth to the altar of greed and profit. Indeed, there is so much veneration to the profit motive that has captured the mindset of all institutions, all governments and all universities. Enough is enough of the denigration of the environment. Only one that has that kind of stillness, oneness with nature, as exemplified by Lolong, is willing to die for Mother Earth!

Endowed with that spirit of oneness with all that exist, that breath, and that move, Lolong was indeed right, that we are not separate fragments in an alien universe but connected as one to something that is so vast, so sacred and so immeasurable. Feel that connection with the Unseen Being, the Creator, and you have no other alternative but to stand bravely for all of God’s creation!!

The armed men of the loggers brandishing high powered guns and even throwing hand grenades had no match against his courage and determination to stop the massacre of billions of life forms, be it in the hinterlands or in the sea. From 1991 to year 2000, he had been mobilizing the more than 5,000 members of Task Force Macajalar composed of farmers, fisherfolk, women lumads and environmental activists. We had to come together to form the last line of defense to stop our accelerating drive towards ecological disasters.

Since the 50s, some 50 ten-wheeler trucks carrying illegally cut logs had been passing the highways of Cagayan de Oro from 1am to 5am while everyone was asleep. Six influential logging companies had been allowed to completely denude the 300,000 Mt. Kitanglad and Kalatungan Ranges in mockery of the pronouncement that we live in a country that followed the rule of law. That was a big lie. The loggers then were bragging that 80% of personnel who must enforce the laws were under their payrolls. A logging company would earn some 360 million pesos per shipment. No way can they be stopped but through human barricades against logging. It was my great privilege to work with the organizers who were not afraid despite threats and attempts to life. One of the amazing organizers and mobilizers is Lolong.

The advocacy of Lolong started in the late 80s when the Cagayan Corn Products had been emitting toxic pollutants causing widespread sickness especially to the children of Tablon. In fact, eight children were seriously ill and two died but still the plant continued its operation. Headed by Lolong, we barricaded the plant and the influential owner had us arrested. If not of Atty. Manuel Ravanera who courageously defended us in court, we could have gone to prison.

Lolong would join us at sea as we launched nightly sea-borne patrols to stop industrial pollution and all kinds of illegal fishing activities including the intrusion of commercial fishing in municipal waters, raking the bay of fish.

In all of our advocacy, Lolong was in the frontline even for days and even months especially in the battle to save our remaining forest by staging series of human barricades that had lasted for 10 years. There in front of the Manresa Farms in Carmen, we would dare logging trucks to overrun first our prostrate bodies on the ground before they can pass.

Lolong is an environmental activist “sui generis,” as one does not meet often people who are willing to put their lives on the line for nature’s crusade. Let us therefore pay tribute to Lolong, our “comrade-in-arms” whom we had the honor of interlocking arms in the silent of the seemingly unending night in the streets as we put-up a line of defense to bravely face these well-armed roaring logging trucks.

In 2000, no less than former President Joseph Estrada came in the barricade area and together with Lolong, we presented the people’s clamor to stop logging and he ordered then DENR Secretary to stop logging. Thank you so much Lolong as you were then all the time without fear — what greater love there is than what you had shown, defying threats and death — all for love of Gaia and the people!

We together with the kindred spirits — Roel Ravanera, Atty. Maning Ravanera, Atty. Batin, Bency Ellorin, Stan Salcedo, Cocong Corrales, Ian, Pepay, Inday, Raoul Geolllegue and all the leaders of Task Force Macajalar — we give you our firm salute and warm embrace.

As we now say our last farewell to a kindred spirit, what comes in our mind is the fourth stanza of a poem, An Elegy Written in the Country Churchyard: “Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid, a heart once filled with celestial fire. Hands, that the rod of empire might have swayed, Or walk to ecstasy the living lyre.”

Our dearest Lolong, you had walked with us with that “celestial fire” of love and courage to empower the people to save the very life on earth. Where ever you are — now with us, then with the stars and certainly in the loving embrace of the Unseen Being, be now in that great stillness and peace that you have carried and shared with us when you were with us.

We shared our utmost sympathy to the bereaved family — to the lovely wife of Lolong, Delicia “Leling” Magallanes and to the wonderful children, Ken “Kenken” Saad and Krishna Selene. Khalil Gibran once said, “Death may be stronger than Life, but Love is stronger than Death.”