by bernie lopez for Eastwind Journals
I met Maita Gomez for the first time quite recently at the Mining Conference at Ateneo de Davao University. At that time, gone were her beauty-queen glamour of younger days. Instead, she had an aura of the quiet confidence of a grandmother that elicited awe. It was perhaps partly because of her legend, but beyond that, when she spoke, she somehow commanded attention and admiration.
Her topic was on the economics of mining. She explained through a Powerpoint presentation how greedy multinationals took the lion’s share and how the government had an illusion of a cascading windfall based on the deceit of numbers presented by corporate bigwigs. Her presentation was simple and powerful and concise. She talked casually, giving jokes about her ‘arch-friends’ in the conference. I was totally mesmerized.
She gave her cellphone to me even though she really did not know me. She just knew I was in the same advocacy as hers. I asked her to be interviewed on cable television, and present it again. She declined. Instead, she passed me on to others and emailed me her Powerpoint, which for me was a treasure, a symbol of the essential Maita. I have included a link of her Powerpoint, not only as a memento, but also as a symbol of what she fought for.
That was the essential Maita, a natural rebel deep inside in her soft-spoken way. She was no longer talking of radical ideology as in the old days, but rather, hard facts, hard numbers based on an in-depth study about foreigners wanting to take things and deny to the poor Filipinos in the process. She was the mellowed rebel who put down the gun she carried during her immersion days in the jungle, and wielded an altogether different kind of weapon. I discerned her anger in her soft eloquence. Indeed, the pen can be more powerful than the sword. For Maita, the arrogance of youth gave way to the humility of age.
She became a media darling because she was the elitist beauty queen who went into the jungle and joined ‘the movement’. That was a prime media topic. There were many stories, some unverified. The rebels held her in awe but subjected her to a radical shift away from her comfort zone. But she had the valor and strength not to break down. They made her remove her nail polish. They took away her expensive shampoo. She slept on a hard bet and used their make-shift CR. That was nothing to her. She readily gave in with absolute enthusiasm and admiration for ‘the movement’ she looked up to. She had a bout with the military when she was captured and detained, sustaining sexual molestation that she did not take so lightly.
It is in this light that we say a prayer for Maita, the beauty queen, the amazon, the intellectual, the grandmother with a quiet anger for forces that molested the poor and downtrodden Filipinos she fought for.
Image credit: source