Salonga and Dem Bones


I had students sing the tune I now hum in honor of the Philippines’ Jovito Salonga who recently died at 95. Older by three months to my mother who sleeps her remaining time at a hospice in Honolulu of Oahu, I had the privileged of sitting with the senator at a Cosmopolitan Church-hosted Wednesday gatherings on Taft Ave. shortly after Martial Law was declared by President Ferdinand Marcos. The son of a Presbyterian pastor, Senator Salonga shared the discussion with fellow Church member, West Pointer Fidel Ramos who later became President of the Philippines.

But Dem Bones on Saipan gathered one Saturday evening, and though I wanted to mosey over, I did not wish to be perceived as engaged in partisan politics (yup, I am political, but not partisan) especially since the focus was between Clinton vs. Sanders rather than the clash between the Obama Dem Bones and the defensive Gophers. BTW, Clinton was the CNMI’s chosen Dem for the presidential election.

The tune, The Chariots of Fire, kept intruding. Members of the Institute of Cultural Affairs attached the following lyrics to the tune, now appropriate to the memory of Salonga and Dem Bones.

Our world in transition, old forms torn apart;
Creates a new vision, demands a new heart.
A new world is crushing the one that we knew;
Our minds barely touching, the change rushing through.

But ours is a dream that gives the world,
A vision to share
And ours is a hope that gives the people,
Courage to care.

The earth is a village seven billion strong;
We’re building the home where each one can belong.
The past is behind us, we’re moving along;
our passion goes with us, all history long.

If ever a singer were needed to sing,
If ever a dreamer were needed to dream,
If ever a people were called on to stand,
T’is surely this moment, t’is surely this land.

In this season of Lent, the song is a dedication hymn to a vocation, in secular terms, a choice of engagement.

Salonga cared for a nation, not with rants but with calculated reason. What would get us to do the same for the planet? To be sure, we naturally care, a quality of our being human—from making sure that we optimize our sense experiences of sight, smell, sound, taste, touch, and compensate if something is lacking; to express as intensely as possible our feelings; to articulate our thoughts with as wide as possible the points of references; and to be comprehensive and practical in planning deeds. Everyone cares. Salonga did. I, too, and Dem Bones. Even The Donald cares.

Salonga’s senses were gravely challenged when a bomb exploded at a political rally in the famous explosion on Plaza Miranda 1971 where he lead his party for another term in the Senate. But not his sensibilities; he topped the elections that year though deeply scarred. The Senator also took time and effort to defend cases against Martial law including that of the martyred Ninoy Aquino.

He clutched on national consciousness. I have expanded it to include the time’s demand for earthrise consciousness, glad to converse with a White House that finds the image of the global village viable. Salonga’s passion was in defense of a country he loved. Dem Bones fray our borders to a wider world encompassing a planet.

I seek consensus with “glocal” citizens, a word I used at the Vancouver ’76 UN Habitat Conference. Glocal is now a word in the Oxford English Dictionary embodied in the Earthrise consciousness preceding the earthbound commitments that are deeds emerging from my guts. It is the “courage to care” in the earthrise earthwise earthbound phrase.

On Christmas 1968, earthrise consciousness intruded into my brain. I ran into a group on Chicago’s Westside early ’67 at a community project wedging across the sociological layers of the city (downtown, inner city, suburban, and exurban) into the a sociological Fifth City incarnate. I met predominantly Aryan utopian do-gooders, well intentioned but in the cynicism of the ’60s, misguided. Then I bumped into them in 1972 living in the slums of Santa Ana, Metro Manila. They held an ecclesiola (little church) in a flooded dining room with the water just below the bench seat. We carried on anyway in spite of the treat of electrical shocks. I was impressed.

Not too long after, my family moved in. We took the social process—the economic of sustenance and support, the politic of order and decision-making, and the culture of significance and meaning; we identified issues, articulated contradictions, created proposals, and honed them as maneuvers, strategies, and tactics within a timeframe at specified locations with assigned personnel, and a created a self-story of why we did the darn thing. We did this with the discipline of poverty, chastity, and obedience of a monastic Order in doing our mission.

Lent is a lifestyle all year round. It is the courage to care that Salonga demonstrated; the courage to care for planet Earth that Obama and Dem Bones want to do, and my personal call for the rest of my life.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

Related Posts

Disclaimer: Comments are moderated. They will not appear immediately or even on the same day. Comments should be related to the topic. Off-topic comments would be deleted. Profanities are not allowed. Comments that are potentially libelous, inflammatory, or slanderous would be deleted.