Friday, November 10, 2006

City of Gentle People

This is the story as I heard it: Death came during an early evening meal. The gunman, it was said, came from behind, pulled out his pistol, and pumped several bullets into the young man. No greeting, no warning, no threat. One shot to the head splattered blood all over the food. The murder took place in a restaurant -- an eatery, as they like to call it in these parts -- in full view of spectators.

Then the killer, no older than his victim, walked over to his partner on a motorcycle. They rode away. Thus, on a Friday evening, Death came and went. It took place just a block away from the police station.

That's the story that I heard, a story that happened last week in this City of Gentle People.

There are other stories, too. On Halloween night, a young woman was stabbed in a dark alley. By a drug addict, they said. Not too far away, because places are never too far in this City of Gentle People, another young man was killed. A drive-by shooting it was, and it wounded three others. A few days later, a gun deal took place in broad daylight at the corner of a hotel.

And still there are more stories from this City of Gentle People. Six, if you count only the bloody Halloween week. Twenty-two, if you count from the last two months. Many more, if you count farther back.

Dumaguete, some would like to say, is no longer the City of Gentle People. And they would be wrong.

Because Dumaguete is still very much the City of Gentle People. This is its problem. It is too gentle.

There are two greatly different kinds of gentleness. One kind stems from wisdom and understanding. Out of this gentleness comes equanimity in the face of adversity; from this equanimity comes resolution; and from this resolution, perseverance and fortitude. This is a gentleness that springs into action with grace and quiet dignity.

And there is the other kind of gentleness, a gentleness in the extreme. It is the gentleness of affected gentility, aspiring merely to pretentious politeness and elegance. In the face of adversity and threat, a gracious swoon is the appropriate response. If it could, it would retreat into a cocoon of comfort, for its supreme virtue is its own gentleness and therefore, ignorance is bliss.
"Ay, wala man mi kahibalo ana."

"Wala man mi labot ana. Sila-sila ra man na."

"Di mi manghilabot ana."

"Unsa-on ta man...?"

"Ing-ana man gyud na."

"Wala man tay mahimo."

Welcome to the City of Gentle People.