Ivan's Place
In honor of the greatest moralist who never lived
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Tribute to Crizel
by Lawrence "Butch" Turk

Part I

Death of Crizel Jane Valencia
February 25, 2000
Rainbow Warrior

Crizel Manila, Philippines, Pier 15:

At 1445, as ship's nurse, I was summoned to the bridge to examine a child that had just arrived on board. She was one of a group of about twenty children visiting us that had grown up on or near the Clark Air Base or Subic Navy Base. Both bases were abandoned by the United States in 1992. Massive amounts of toxic materials were left at each site and each of the kids visiting us have illnesses that have been attributed to this toxic legacy. On examining Crizel my impression was that she was an extremely sick child. She was conscious and responsive to questions, but very lethargic. Her grips were quite weak, but she did follow that and other requests appropriately. She was very thin and appeared small for her six years of age although I'm not familiar with normal size-for-age in Filipino children. There was significant bruising on the visible parts of her body and her head was devoid of any hair. Her radial pulse was weak but present at a rate of 70 beats per minute. Her respirations were unlabored at 16 per minute. There was noticeable red blood slowly oozing from her gums.

In discussions with Crizel's mother, as translated by Greenpeace toxics campaigner, Von Hernandez, I learned that Crizel had leukemia, had been receiving chemotherapy and transfusions and was missing a scheduled every-other-day transfusion by coming to the Rainbow Warrior. She had bloody emesis once during the hour and a half drive to the ship and her lethargy was unusual in that she was typically a "bubbly" child. Her mother suspected that the emesis was coming from her stomach since it was "darker" than that apparent on her gums. I left room for the possibility that the blood had been swallowed from the gums then regurgitated. My feeling was that it would be best for Crizel to be taken directly to the hospital based on my cursory exam and indications that her condition had deteriorated this day. As we proceeded to the quayside Crizel became quite agitated, crying and beating on her mother's shoulder, clearly because she didn't want to leave the ship. This was to be the most energetic I saw her all afternoon.

On the dock we were met by Nerissa Augustin, a nurse and member of the 'People's Task Force for Bases Cleanup', who had accompanied the children to the Rainbow Warrior. In English, she gave me a more detailed medical history. Crizel was actually born on Clark Air Base in a community that was situated upon a former motor pool, an area that has later been found to be highly contaminated with heavy metals and other toxins. The community had been situated there after the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo destroyed their homes. Crizel was diagnosed with leukemia in March of 1999. Recently her doctor deemed the disease endstage and halted her chemotherapy treatment. Transfusions of platelets had recently become whole blood transfusions, and the schedule had just been changed from twice weekly to every other day. Nerissa's impression was that the transfusions were palliative only. She also reported that Crizel's doctor had clearly stated that doing what Crizel wanted was now more important than any medical care, and had specifically encouraged the trip to the Rainbow Warrior. After a further brief consultation with Crizel's mother, we all agreed that Crizel should stay. During this conversation Crizel vomited a small amount of red, blood-tinged, mucoid emesis.

Crizel draws Rainbow Warror Through the afternoon I discovered a bit more about Crizel and her desire to visit the Rainbow Warrior. She had learned several months ago that she was going to have a chance to see the ship and had been looking forward to it ever since. Later, she sat down and drew a picture. It shows the ship sailing on a calm sea with blue sails unfurled. The sun is shining through puffy clouds, a rainbow arcs across the sky and a flock of birds are soaring by. Four smiling children holding smiling balloons are standing on the beach. Three are boys wearing shorts while the fourth is a girl sporting a green dress and a full head of hair. Underneath the girl is the name "Crizel". The picture is titled "Rainbow Warrior" and is dated February 1, 2000. This picture ended up being used as the poster announcing the Philippine leg of the Toxic Free Asia Tour. It was Crizel who decided that going to the ship this day was more important than going to the hospital for her transfusion and she'd even insisted on getting a new pair of shoes for the occasion.

On the dock had been set up a large display about our reasons for being in the Philippines. Alongside the photos of polluted landscapes, past Greenpeace actions, and sick kids (including Crizel) from the former U.S. bases, were several crayon drawings that Crizel had made. They are full of hearts, balloons, flowers, birds, bright suns, and smiling children, although one shows a girl with no hair. I particularly marvel at the imagination of a child that can see herself standing on the back of a smiling, striped giraffe. Perhaps she would have grown up to be an artist. There's no doubt that she loved to make beautiful pictures.

After deciding to keep Crizel onboard, we immediately took her on a quick tour of the ship. This seemed to tire her, so we retired to the mess where she took a brief nap and threw up again. At about 1530 we took her, her mother, several other kids, and a couple of adults for a ride on the large Avon inflatable boat. Leaving Nerissa on the ship with the other kids, I took Crizel into the inflatable and kept her in my lap the whole time.
(Photo courtesy of Shai Yashwant/Greenpeace.)

Crizel takes a boat ride
With Captain Pete Willcox's steering assistance, the boat was mostly driven by the kids. Pete made especially sure that we passed within a few meters of the huge U.S. Navy troop transport ship, Fort McHenry. The name comes from the site of the War of 1812 battle which inspired the writing of America's national anthem, the Star Spangled Banner. Across it's stern is written "HOME OF THE BRAVE" which is a phrase from that song. Later, we found out that the Navy had complained to port security who then came over to the Rainbow Warrior to warn us that we were coming too close to the warship and that they would shoot at us. We never learned whether they meant with bullets or water cannon. In my book, wherever Crizel is is the home of the brave, not the residence of those who would threaten sick kids in an inflatable.

Although she remained quiet throughout the boat ride, Crizel said she was enjoying herself when asked. She vomited a small amount once. When it was her turn to drive she sat up straight, grasped the wheel with both hands, and even did a pretty decent job with a nice light touch to her steering. Pictures taken from the Rainbow Warrior show her eyes wide open and a half smile spread across her face.

Since Nerissa was aboard the Rainbow Warrior, I stayed in the inflatable for the three more boat rides we gave to different groups of kids. When I returned to the ship about 1650, Crizel was asleep in my bunk, her mother was in the cabin giving an interview and a volunteer was watching over Crizel. I was assured that everything was fine and no one needed anything. At 1705 I was summoned to my cabin and found both Nerissa and Crizel's mother in tears and on their way out. Nerissa stopped to tell me that Crizel was gone and that they were taking her home. One newspaper reported that medical personnel aboard the ship had tried to resuscitate her, but it would surprise me if Nerissa did that. Crizel's time had come and her suffering was finally over.

I don't know if the skipped transfusion, exertion of the drive to the ship, and excitement of being aboard used up the last of Crizel's scanty reserves and hastened her death by a few days. Alternatively, it's possible that she would have departed sooner if she didn't have the Rainbow Warrior to look forward to. I choose to believe the latter. People now far away chose to leave a toxic stew where Crizel would later be born. Crizel didn't choose to be sick. She didn't choose to die young, but how she lived, until the very end, was what she wanted. She blessed all of us by inviting us into her world on her last day. I'm glad we accepted the invitation.

The medical professional in me and the imperative to document everything got me to sit down at this computer. However, as I started typing I found that cold clinical facts wouldn't come by themselves. So, I guess this has become as much a eulogy as a medical report. I hope I've done justice to both aims. I suppose I'll pass this on to some Greenpeace folks, some shipmates, a few other friends, and possibly Crizel's mother. If I'm lucky, those reading it will understand how honored I feel to have known Crizel for the short time that I did.

I'm told that the United States left the bases in a huff after the Philippine government decided not to renew their contracts. This is no excuse for leaving so much poison behind, but even if it was, the point has certainly been made. Kids are dying now. I'm a citizen of the United States. It has given me an education, a rewarding career, and decent food, shelter, clothing and health care for my entire life. I can't describe how angry and ashamed I am that these benefits came, in part, as a result of the harm we've done to Crizel and countless children like her. The only way I can finish this inadequate essay is to commit myself to doing everything I can to get America, a country with so much wealth while the Philippines has so little, to take responsibility for it's past and finally clean up the bases, and to never repeat this horror again.

Lawrence Butch Turk, R.N.
Written February 27, 2000
?Lawrence Turk, 2000
E-mail: butch@wildrockies.org

Part II

Crizel In Song

My good friend and "hillbilly hippie, new-age redneck", Danny Dolinger has done me the tremendous honor of writing a wonderful song based on my essay and including it in his new CD, Significant Gains. He even put the entire essay in the liner notes and included a photo of Crizel, me and others in the inflatable boat. The rest of the cd is just as good with 12 other songs ranging from touching to hilarious and spanning country, rock, folk and ballad styles. I'm sure you'd like it.

From Danny's website: "Sounds like Loretta Lynn in a cat fight with Rob Zombie, and quite frankly kicking his ass."

Danny's done a really good thing for Crizel's memory, Greenpeace and the Filipino toxics clean-up folks. I hope you'll consider going to Danny's website, and buying a CD for the bargain price of USD$15. You won't be sorry.

If CD sales are reasonably successful, Danny will be donating a portion of the proceeds to Crizel's family and the Filipino People's Task Force for Bases Cleanup.

Full disclosure: While I've helped out Danny in any way that I could, I won't be making any money off this cd and wouldn't want to. Danny is a long-time troubadour for Ruckus Society/Earth First!/Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition. He has selflessly served and inspired the movement while living hand-to-mouth for as long as I've known him, and deserves every penny he can get from his art.    ——   Butch

Part III

Crizel in the News

A Google search on "Crizel Jane Valencia" will turn up a number of other on-line articles about Crizel.

Editor's note, December 24, 2010: Butch recently sent me a notice of a 10th Anniversary Memorial for Crizel that GreenPeace Southeast Asia presented on their website. (There are other links on that page as well.) Butch sent his own 10-year reflection on Crizel's life to GPSEA, which I include here as Part IV.

Part IV

Tenth Anniversary Memorial Note by Butch Turk

Dear GPSEA, RW crew and Philippines gang,

In early 2000 I was aboard the MV Greenpeace in Fremantle, Australia. We had just abandoned an Antarctic whaling campaign before we'd started, after having ice punch a hole in the hull. The weather had been miserable the whole way - one of those tours where just putting on your pants in the morning was a risky challenge. We were facing weeks of repairs and I was frustrated and depressed.

Then, Amsterdam told me that they wanted to transfer me to the Rainbow Warrior for a Southeast Asia tour. I thought that it was going to be an action-poor, public relations campaign and begged them to just send me home instead. Boy, was I wrong.

I joined just before the Rainbow Warrior left India. The Indian Ocean transit was nice and Thailand is lovely but, as I expected, we didn't do a lot of radical planet-saving. Then, we sailed to the Philippines and everything changed.

During my 5 years sailing with Greenpeace, I traveled to 40 countries or so. Around the world I met incredible people like you, all committed to our small planet and to sticking it to the corporations and governments that are working so hard to wreck it. Even among these gems, the activists of the Philippines shine brighter. I was blown away by the competence, dedication, humor, hospitality and sheer enthusiasm of the Philippines Greenpeace crew. Just being in their presence made me feel like a young revolutionary again.

Then, I met Crizel Jane Valencia. I'm attaching an essay I wrote about her, one of her drawings and a couple of photographs, if you care to look at them. That's her steering the inflatable with Captain Pete Wilcox's assistance and me holding her in my lap. I don't think that I could re-tell what happened and how it affected me any better now. Even today, 10 years later, she and the rest of the Filipinos inspire me to just work harder and more joyously when my spirits flag.

Before the Rainbow Warrior left the Philippines, we "returned" some toxic waste to the U.S. Embassy inside a shipping container dropped at their gate. This remains my only U.S. Embassy action and one of the coolest and most important of my scores of lifetime arrests.

I didn't remember or even know that our 2000 tour was the beginning of GP SE Asia. The Filipino crew was so amazingly good at what they do that I never would have guessed. I am so proud to have made my tiny contribution to the launching of 10 years of successes.

Best wishes for another 10 years to GP SE Asia, smooth seas to the Rainbow Warrior crew, and my sincere hopes for radical, dramatic, successful actions and campaigns to both. I'll try to measure up to the example that you set.

Peace, Butch

E-mail Butch at butch@wildrockies.org

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