Tin Bartolome

Posted at Sep 06 2015 03:01 AM | Updated as of Sep 06 2015 11:01 AM

Pamana—the word itself makes one feel worthy—of taking on an important role, succeeding someone respectable, being endowed with a mark or sign that guarantees good qualities and of course, an assurance that all will be well.

Not so for the Philippine Eagle nurtured and set free, only to be shot down after two weeks. It is strange how civilization has given us the power to destroy and even rule over other creatures of God!

I would like to believe that the more educated we are, the less we tend to be violent, less prone to hurting others. However, sometimes, education feeds our ego, making us believe that we are not merely superior to other creatures, but are also entitled to treat them whichever way we please.

Many times, culture and the environment are so intertwined that destroying one necessarily damages the other. The rice terraces, for example have always been under the care of the mumbakis of the Cordilleras. The decline in the number of mumbakis has put the rice terraces, long considered a world heritage site, in great danger.

On a shoot in Kiangan about a decade ago, village elders told us that in the past, their surroundings provided everything they needed. The rice terraces, most especially, not only provided rice, but vegetables and fresh water fish. No fertilizer or pesticides were used then, so everything was safe to eat. We were there to document a ritual for getting rid of pests that was to be performed for the first time in fifty years. The organizers requested that we start early as the mumbakis had to go around the entire village to drive away those pests. But the mumbakis were ageing and came well after sunrise, some still shivering from the cold morning air. One did not choose to be a mumbaki because the title was handed down from one generation to the next. Seeing that there were no young ones among those who filed in, it struck me then that the mumbakis were disappearing fast, endangering not only that aspect of their culture, but the rice terraces as well.

In "The World We Have: A Buddhist Approach to Peace and Ecology," Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh writes, “We classify animals and other beings as ‘nature’, a thing apart from us, and we act as if somehow we are separate from it… We should deal with nature the way we deal with ourselves: non-violently. Human beings and nature are inseparable… To harm nature is to harm ourselves and vice versa”

Even the Dalai Lama has this to say: Since I deeply believe that basically human beings are of a gentle nature so I think the human attitude towards our environment should be gentle. Therefore I believe that not only should we keep our relationship with our other fellow human beings very gentle and non-violent, but it is also very important to extend that kind of attitude to the natural environment. I think morally speaking we can think like that and we should all be concerned for our environment.”

In the Bible, the book of Ecclesiastes 3:19 says, “For what happens to the children of man and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and man has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity.” I have encountered many who seem to think that creation was made for us—I would like to believe that we were made with it, that we are a part of it and while we have emotions and our thought processes seem more advanced than those of the animals, we have greater responsibility to care for the environment and not appropriate it for ourselves. After all, wasn’t original sin committed because of the desire to be on the same level as the Creator? We often forget that humility is part of the equation.

I consider it arrogance to snuff the life out of other creatures for fun. The death of Pamana is a reminder of our violent selves, of the arrogance of our self-proclaimed superiority and of wastefulness. Reward money has been raised to find Pamana’s killer. In the meantime, people express their shock at what had happened.

“I, Jose Romualdo Baldillo Cumagun, shot Philippine eagle Pamana. I say so because my best efforts to learn about him weren’t good enough… I am the man who shot Philippine eagle Pamana; I have killed myself, ” writes author/publisher Rom Camagun who posted this picture on his site.

The statement is a dire warning for us and the generations to come. Pamana is not only the name of an eagle, it is our heritage and our future as well.

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.