Thursday, February 19, 2015

See Abdul run

Running has always been my go to activity when I need to think of something to write about.

Studies have shown that increased blood flow to the brain enhances the cognitive process, as what happens when you engage in cardiovascular activities like running. A recent report on cites a U.S. study as saying "activities that maintain cardio fitness - such as running, swimming and cycling - led to better thinking skills and memory 20 years on."

Running helps clear the mind and allows the flow of ideas. It works for me.

Running early on a cold Wednesday morning, I recall seeing on social media posts about a major running event in Manila being dedicated to the "Fallen 44," the members of the elite Philippine National Police Special Action Force who were killed in an encounter with Moro fighters in Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The run gathered together, according to reports, some 15,000 runners who "saluted the SAF commandos carrying the portraits and the names of their fallen comrades at the first few meters from the starting line."

It indeed would have been a spectacle to see, and a memorable moment one would cherish to be part of.

And running on alone on fluorescent-lit streets on that cold Wednesday morning, my thoughts shifted to the other victims of that tragic incident in Mamasapano -- 1,986 children, according to data gathered by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Humanitarian Emergency Action Response Team, displaced from their homes, deprived of the opportunity to learn because their schools had to be closed.

I remembered hearing a participant of the People's Fact-Finding Mission in Mamasapano share some of their findings during the tow-day data-gathering activity.

"In Linantangan Elementary School in Tukanalipao, only 200 of the 600 children have returned to their classes. Of the 12 teachers in this school, only 7 have had the courage to resume teaching."

That was as of Wednesday last week, February 11.

Children run primarily as play. But on that early morning of February 25, those children of Mamasapano, along with their parents, ran for their lives, to safety. A few of them were not so lucky. One got hit by a bullet while trying to go back home to check on their carabao. He was lucky to have survived. Sarah Panangulon died from her gunshot wounds. She was only eight.

As I ran, I thought how easy this is for me. I run for leisure, for fitness, at my own unforced pace. Many of those who ran that big event in Manila run for the same reasons I do. Running for your life, running as bullets zoom past, running as explosions wrack your nerves, running carrying whatever possessions you can take with you away from danger and destruction, that is an entirely different story. If it is difficult and traumatic for adults, how much more for children?

For quite a long while, children in this oft-disturbed land have ran primarily for play, just as they should, thanks to a ceasefire agreement resulting from peace negotiations between government and Moro rebels.

As I ran, I prayed that day will come, soon, when these children will no longer run because of fear of being caught in the crossfire.