Release the Yellow Butterflies: FARC, Fidel & Gabo

Sunday Spotlight

“Tell Mauricio Babilonia, over there in Macondo, to release the yellow butterflies,
for the war has ended.”

It seems like it was just a few days ago since I finished Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, so vivid was the book and Gabo in my memory that I was part amazed, part nostalgic that the lines were what the FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) used to relay a cryptic message:

The line, a reference to Gabriel García Márquez’s foundational was a response to the public announcement that, after fifty-two years of war and four years of negotiations, the head of the Colombian delegation, Humberto de la Calle, and the chief FARC negotiator, Iván Márquez, signed the agreement at a ceremony in Havana.


FARC guerilla women

I’m particularly excited about Guernica’s The Female Fighter Series which “pairs female writers with women who are fighting, or have fought, in armed resistance movements worldwide to bring to light the distinctive personalities, politics, and circumstances of participation.”

The first essay on the series features Sandra, an ex-combatant from FARC who is now being reintroduced to civilian life following the peace accords between FARC and the Colombian government. She was interviewed by the writer’s mother, who was part of Mexico’s Zapatista movement.

What follows is an enlightening conversation between two revolutionary women, as they both try to make sense of life after their time in the revolutionary front.

“Where do you plan to start?” I ask.

“I don’t know. But I will tell you this: ‘relinquishing weapons’ is only the tip of my little finger compared to everything else that has to be done, on both sides. What has to be done implies a monumental effort; a lot of work has to be done after the peace is signed.”

I came across another article which referenced the late Fidel Castro in the realm of literature. I am a big fan of the Cuban revolutionary figure, and I think that 2016 couldn’t have been any worse until news of his death. So imagine my surprise upon finding out that Castro and Gabo were pretty close, that Castro actually worked on Gabo’s manuscripts.

The Cuban president, who died on 25 November, acted as unofficial copy editor for the acclaimed novelist Gabriel García Márquez, providing line-by-line corrections for the writer after the two struck up a close friendship in the late 1970s.


Fidel & Gabo

I think I’ll close off 2016 by rereading One Hundred Years of Solitude, and deepen my resolve and commitment to liberation movements, one revolutionary book at a time.

The Nobel Prizes: Peace & Protest

Sunday Spotlight

The Nobel Prize has always fascinated me, even as a little kid in the Philippines. I never fully understood what winning the Nobel Prize meant, but I knew that it was important. I was also slightly amused at the inadvertent wordplay: “Was it noble, or novel,” I heard my lolo muse one time.


I’ve been anticipating this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature since the announcements began last week. This morning, I manage to rouse myself at 5:00 AM to see who was awarded. First it was shock, then mild confusion — Bob Dylan? I scrolled through my Twitter feed to see what people were saying, and it was a mix of ~finally!~ and “When is Stephen King going to win the Rock’n Roll prize?” I came across Bob Dylan’s Secret Archive from The New York Times and it all started to make sense. The NYT piece alluded to an extensive archive of poetry, songs, manuscripts and other pieces of writing. My favorite line from the article: The range of hotel stationery suggests an obsessive self-editor in constant motion. I’ve never listened to any of his music before but this morning, I fell back asleep to “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right.”

The Nobel Prizes for Medicine, Chemistry and Physics were announced last week, with the Peace Prize awarded to Juan Manuel Santos last Friday. Santos is the current president of Colombia. His merits? For continuing the peace process between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).


The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided to award the Nobel Peace Prize for 2016 to Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos for his resolute efforts to bring the country’s more than 50-year-long civil war to an end, a war that has cost the lives of at least 220 000 Colombians and displaced close to six million people. The award should also be seen as a tribute to the Colombian people who, despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace, and to all the parties who have contributed to the peace process.

While voters rejected the current peace deal by a slim margin, the Nobel nod to Santos’s efforts is not unnoticed. That the Nobel Peace Prize is also “a tribute to the Colombian people, who despite great hardships and abuses, have not given up hope of a just peace” gives Filipinos like me hope.

In spite of the international media spotlight of extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, what is buried in the news are the peace talks currently happening between the National Democratic Front (NDF) and the government of the Philippines (GPH). Since 1969, a civil war has been raging in the countryside due to a host of issues affecting majority of the population. The goal of the peace talks is to end the armed conflict by addressing the structural problems of the country: landlessness, feudal exploitation, state brutality against the poor and marginalized. (See 10 Things to Know About the Peace Talks)

Now on its second round in Oslo, Norway, a bi-lateral ceasefire between the two forces by the end of October, the release of political prisoners and negotiations on socioeconomic and constitutional reforms are all on the table. It’s also encouraging that the deputy ambassador to the Colombian peace process “gave a concise but extensive sharing including what were the conditions and factors that may have contributed to the rejection of the peace agreement in a recently held referendum, ” a perspective crucial to the peace process.


NDF Consultants

The Nobel Peace Prize for Santos is a testament to the urgent need for just peace in Colombia, similar to the just peace Filipinos hope to attain. In true Nobel fashion, here’s one of Bob Dylan’s songs.

Far between sundown’s finish an’ midnight’s broken toll
We ducked inside the doorway, thunder crashing
As majestic bells of bolts struck shadows in the sounds
Seeming to be the chimes of freedom flashing
Flashing for the warriors whose strength is not to fight
Flashing for the refugees on the unarmed road of flight
An’ for each an’ ev’ry underdog soldier in the night
An’ we gazed upon the chimes of freedom flashing

* * *

To learn more about the peace process in the Philippines and to support just peace, check out #justpeacePH.