Saturday, August 23, 2014

SC 53/ Pitkin Oil Exploration and the Ancestral Domains of Occidental Mindoro Mangyans

To begin with

The beehive is stirred up once again when people from Provincial Government of Occidental Mindoro publicly announced just recently that Pitkin Petroleum Inc. is bound to start exploration drilling on the fourth quarter of this year.

In August 7, 2014, Gov. Mario Gene J. Mendiola sent his provincial legal officer Atty. Dan Restor and PGO-SAMARICA OIC Jun Norella to witness a tripartite meeting among the Petroleum (Phils.) or Pitkin, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the National Commission for the Indigenous People (NCIP). Apparently, what they have discussed is the conduct of Field-Based Investigation which is actually a pre-requisite to the Free Prior and Informed Consent or FPIC. I have a lot of friends who support the oil exploration project who are allied with the “Dream Team”, the political faction of Cong. Josephine Ramirez-Sato and Gov. Mendiola, and I hope we will remain friends respecting each other’s opinion despite of our opposing stand on Service Contract  (SC) 53 in particular and its impact on the lives and culture of the Mangyans in the aspect of the indigenous peoples’ (IPs) right to self-determination, among others, stipulated in the Indigenous People’s Rights Act or IPRA, also known as RA 8371.

But this writer restricts himself to some point in presenting this issue. All he intends to do for now is to give verifiable information by way of retrospect, to the best of his knowledge with the goal of educating our people about it that for sure would have impact in our lives as citizens of our province, especially the Mangyans. Further, it is not his intention to expound his own opinion on the matter.

Not yet.

SC 53 and Pitkin in a nutshell

Based on its Project Description released on October 2013, a total of 224,000 hectares of land and sea areas in selected southern municipalities of Oriental and Occidental Mindoro, particularly in Bulalacao, Magsaysay, San Jose, Rizal, Calintaan and Sablayan. It is a non-commercial fossil mining project. The exploration is consists of core drilling/sampling, exploration (drilling/testing); feasibility studies; geo-scientific, physical survey, gravity survey, and similar activities; seismic survey; and similar activities that according to the company, “with no significant earth moving activities, etc…”  

Pitkin is registered in Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) since March 19 2008 as “Pitkin Petroleum (Philippines) Ltd”. The change of its corporate name was approved on November 9, 2009 and the Department of Energy awarded the Service Contract (SC 53) to Pitkin on June 11, 2008 by the virtue of the Deed of Assignment from the Laxmi Organic Industries, Ltd. Regional Office  No. IV-B of the Department of Natural Resources or DENR already issued a Certificate of Non-Coverage (CNC) for the activities under SC 53. Their office address: Suite 2101, Equitable Bank Tower, Paseo de Roxas Avenue, Makati City, Philippines. Pitkin Petroleum Inc. PLC is a United Kingdom-based oil and gas exploration company.

And since it is a foreign company, under Presidential Decree (PD) 87 or the “Oil Exploration and Development Act of 1972” also known as the “Service Contract Law”, among other perks and incentives, the service contractors are exempted from paying tariff duties on all machinery and materials imported for their oil operations and they do not pay taxes whatsoever. They are exempted from all taxes except income tax but the latter is in fact shouldered by the government. Are the authorities have already weighted its pros and cons with regards to cultural, social and economic impacts to our brothers and sisters in upland communities and not just the lowlanders? Just asking.

Oil exploration and Occidental Mindoro’s long-lingering power crisis

Gov. Mendiola and Cong. Sato, indeed, have been pushing no doubt for a geothermal project as part of the solution to the almost a two-decade long power crisis in the province. The debacle is mainly due to the one-sided Energy Conversion Agreement (ECA) between our electric cooperative and the Island Power Corporation (IPC), a independent power producer believed to be owned by former congressman/governor Jose T. Villarosa. With this, the National Power Corporation (NPC) and other power industry players are expected to join the fray in the coming years for the power generation prospects. The provincial LGU is expecting that in 10-15 years time the power crises will be over for, with the help of the oil exploration project, a power plant, though no specific details have been given, using natural gas would be utilized in consonance with RA 9513 or the Renewable Energy Act of 2008. The exploration project is expected to augment the Naujan geothermal plant by the Emerging Power Inc. or EPI. EPI is a Mindoro-based power company which is about to operate a 45 megawatt geo-thermal power plant in said town of Oriental Mindoro. Is EPI in reality owned by a consortium of political personalities in the island? That I do not know.

The Power Supply Agreement (PSA) between Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (OMECO) and EPI was signed last February 28, 2014 in San Jose. Aside from Cong. Sato and the top officials of OMECO led by GM Alfred A. Dantis and board president Melito C. Pasol, EPI’s executive president Alfredo C. Guanzon and Cong. Rey Umali of the second district of Oriental Mindoro who chairs the House committee on energy were present on the signing of the OMECO-EPI PSA.

In retrospect, it was March 6, 2010 when Mr. Froilan A. Tampico, president and chief executive officer of the National Power Corporation (NPC) wrote to the late and then energy secretary Angelo T. Reyes revealed that Pitkin Petroleum discovered natural gas instead of oil in their previous exploration in the southern part of Occidental Mindoro. Specifically, in a Pitkin report that year, they revealed that they have drilled natural gas which they call Progreso A1X. The oil company even proposed the NPC to lease in due time natural gas generators to replace the leased diesel generators and use the natural gas from the Progreso discovery as fuel. El Progreso, where apparently they initially discovered natural gas, is a sitio of Brgy. San Isidro (Canwaling) in San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. They presented it to then Gov. Sato and then Vice Gov. Mendiola and apparently Pitkin got the two political leaders’ approval then, at least in principle, of the oil exploration project.

Pitkin Petroleum PLC believes that there is less 50% carbon emissions from natural gas compared to diesel. Also it claimed that natural gas is indigenous to Mindoro eliminating the need to buy and import diesel from other countries. It would also be much cheaper for NPC to use natural gas compared to diesel thereby reducing generation costs, they say.

Perhaps, with all of these justifications falling into place, the Provincial Government of Occidental Mindoro began to think of discussing the merits of converting an indigenous resource of natural gas to electrical power for the benefit of our residents. Armed with the noble intention and will to give the DOE and Pitkin an all out nod and go-signal to the oil exploration project which is not bad after all at hindsight, the provincial government is now with Pitkin on SC 53 mandated exploration. In fact, there were Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC )hearings  in Naujan and San Jose held last week where parties are hopeful to submit pertinent documents soon.

With this damning power crisis, who in his right mind would oppose such efforts toward affordable and sustainable electric power in this part of Tamarawlandia? Anyone, IP or non-IP, who would oppose this would be forever doomed in Hades!

The civil and church leaders’ unified response in support of the Mangyans

Prior to the discovery of the so-called Progreso A1X, then Gov Sato was also critical of certain Pitkin’s action. That was the time when the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose (AVSJ) called for the thorough examination of the project. The Social Services Commission (SSC) of AVSJ utilizing her mouth piece radio DZVT was all out in its information and education campaign aimed at Basic Ecclesial Communities (BECs) from Magsaysay to Sablayan. Nuns, priests, Mangyan tribal elders and leaders and BEC members in Vicariate Forane 1 and 2 (from Good Shepherd Parish in Magsaysay to San Lorenzo Ruiz Parish in Sablayan) were mobilized. The Taubuid leaders in Poypoy, Calintaan, even barricaded when drilling equipment were brought up to the mountains by Pitkin where a commotion between them happened. The Mangyans apparently sought the assistance of Gov. Sato to end further harm both on the side of the Tau-Buid Mangyan leaders and Pitkin workers. This prompted Gov. Sato to issue two letters dated March 23, 2010 addressed to energy secretary Angelo Reyes and Pitkin Petroleum PLC through its representative, Ms. Tessa Agravante. And I am posting it here in verbatim:

"Anent to my telephone conversation with Ms. Tessa Agravante, we reiterate our concern and dismay in the conduct of your oil/natural gas exploration in Sablayan. Reports have reached us that some of our Mangyans were hurt in the violent confrontation between opposing groups. We are likewise informed that you have not been granted any clearance/certification by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) that the Mangyans concerned have given their consent to your activities in the area.

At the onset of your activities, we made it clear that the interests of our Mangyans should be primordial concern and their rights are respected by you at all times.

In view thereof, you are hereby enjoined to suspend your/exploration in the area until all the issues are settled and the requisite clearances/permit are secured.”

On the part of AVSJ, after the Chrism Mass in 2010 where almost all of the priests of the AVSJ gathered, Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD,DD read his Circular No. 3 Series of 2010 re : Our Anti Mining Advocacy. Bishop Palang responded to Gov. Sato's request to Pitkin: "This will give us temporary lull. The ways of mining companies are deceiving which therefore demand that we continuously keep watch. I encourage our Basic Ecclesial Communities, alongside our tribal communities, to still be continuously vigilant despite this break." Those were the days when the hierarchy of our local church still has its grasp of her pastoral program, particularly the social action ministry. Those were the halcyon years when pro-environment activists-priest still around, specially the diocesan clergy. In this instance, both church and political leaders of the province considered the welfare of the Mangyans in confronting Pitkin’s oil exploration.

All we can do is to hope against hope that they still are.

Tau-Buid Mangyan’s “un-readiness “

The Tau-Buid Mangyans claimed that there was no legitimate FPIC process conducted in past. They lobbed a protest to the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) and series of hearings were held in Manila.

The NCIP set a meeting between the Tau-Buid leaders and representative of Pitkin by virtue of a memorandum issued by NCIP commissioner Dionesia O. Banua and was followed by Hon. Kissack B. Gabaen, Presiding Regional Hearing Officer of NCIP Region IV. In September 19, 2013 at Bahay Alumni inside the University of the Philippines’ (UP) campus, it was agreed by both parties, the Fakasadian Mangagoyang Tau-Buid Daga, Inc. or FAMATODI and Pitkin that the project should undergo a truthful FPIC process.
Massive community consultations were conducted by the Tau-Buid Mangyans through hopping from one sitio to another in Calintaan and Sablayan regarding SC 53 in the whole month of December 2013 and finally on April 8, 2014, FAMATODI came up with official statement on the issue. In their Position Paper it is stated, “ang aming tribo ay wala pang kahandaan na tanggapin ang panukalang eksplorasyon ng Pitkin dahil hindi tinanggap ng mas nakararaming pamayanan o wala pang kahandaan at sa pahayag din ng mga hindi pa sibilisadong pamayanan ng aming tribo na ‘di nila tanggap ang panukalang proyekto ng Pitkin..” Peping Poyngon, its chair and the whole leadership of FAMATODI told this writer that they will firmly stand in what they believe in. They will oppose any attempt with regards to the impending operation of oil exploration inside their ancestral domain.

So, the Tau-Buid ethno-linguistic group of Mangyans not yet ready. What would the provincial government, the DOE and Pitkin would do? Would the Provincial Government aggressively assert it? Does it need to be a tussle of the IPs rights over their ancestral domain against the majority of the people’s right to basic social service specifically electricity? How would the people from a certain office of the provincial government helping the Mangyans consider this stand of our IPs?   

Municipality of Sablayan on oil exploration

In March 18, 2010, the Sangguniang Bayan of Sablayan headed by its presiding officer, then Vice-Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano, through a committee meeting recommended to Pitkin that it should first secure Certificate of Pre-condition from the NCIP before they could resume their operations within the ancestral domain of the Tau-Buid Mangyans in their municipality.

But the Pitkin representatives who were invited in the meeting insisted that the MOA between DOE-Pitkin and the newly-organized groups of Tau-Buid Mangyans called AFTI, with the latter’s “Pahintulot” (“Permit to Operate’) is sufficient for them to resume their operation. FAMATODI, on the other hand alleged that AFTI was a group formed by Pitkin itself for the purpose and reportedly received an almost half a million peso worth of community projects from the petroleum company.

Earlier in February 12, 2010, in a letter signed by Masli Quilaman, Executive Director of NCIP said that there was no Certificate of Pre-condition issued by his office to Pitkin. While the Local Government of Sablayan under the current administration of Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano, the multi-awarded municipality, has an existing General Ordinance No. 2007-GO03B, an ordinance for a 25-year mining moratorium there is also a parallel legislation, the Sablayan Environmental Code known as Municipal Ordinance No. 2008-003, where extractive activities including non-metallic resources are not included. Said ordinance was placed into effect since the tenure of then Mayor Godofredo B. Mintu, a political ally of Rep. Sato.

The present Gadiano administration respect the position of the Tao-Buid Mangyans, specifically FAMATODI stating that their sub-tribe is still unready to face the challenges of said exploration pushed by our incumbent political leaders.


The Mangyans, the poorest of the poor among us, the most marginalized of our people, must enjoy the rights enshrined in the IPRA and the concerned government agencies must assure that the FPIC process would be followed.

There must not be an “all out yes” to any extractive industry coming to our fragile island, specially within the indigenous cultural communities, whether it is (mineral) mining or oil/gas exploration, whether it is under DENR or DOE. Government units and departments, especially NCIP should realize that the welfare of the people, especially the downtrodden, and our ecosystems will not be sacrificed in the altar of so-called progress or development. Without it, we will be swarmed by bees and suffer from their bites, so to speak. The police and the military, unless the actions of the Mangyans turned to violence and lawlessness is employed, armed agents of the state should keep themselves at a distance. To our people, especially those lowlanders, we have to scrutinize the project before we lob our “all out yes” to it without us understanding it thoroughly. Without considering our Mangyans, the first inhabitants of this island.  

Let us scrutinize it as meticulously as how the Mangyans harvest the sweetest honey from the beehive…

(Next : The Service Contract Law and its Marcosian Roots and Common impacts of exploratory oil drilling)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Ang Salitang “Diyos” sa Vision Statement ng DepEd

Una, ibig kong ibahagi sa inyo kung ano ang vision statement ng Bayan ng  Sablayan : “Sablayan: Sentro ng ekonomiya at pulitika, mapayapa at ligtas na pamayanan, may saganang likas na yaman at mamamayang nananalig sa Dakilang Lumikha.” Pansininin ang huling apat na salita dito.

Ikalawa, ibig kong ibalita sa inyo na kamakailan lang, ayon sa isinulat ni Rei Lemuel Crizaldo ng NationWatch, inalis na ‘di umano ng Kagawaran ng Edukasyon o DepEd (na pinamumunuan ni Bro. Armin Luistro, na isang mala-diyakono ‘yata), ang mga salitang “God-loving” sa kanila ring vision statement. Ipinapalagay sa ulat na bunsod umano ito ng pagigiit ng ilang grupo ng ateistang Pinoy na ito ay tanggalin dahil labag daw ito sa prinsipyo sa ating Saligang Batas na “Separation of Church and the State”, at kung anu-ano pang mga argumento’t punong kaisipan mula sa ilang kanluraning bansa.

Ang grupo ng mga ateistang ito sa totoo lang ay hindi naman talaga sagarang maituturing na ateista. Sila ay maaari lang galit sa mga kleriko at relihiyon, o mga dismayadong mananampalataya na hindi tanggap ang marami o lahat ng doktrina at dogma ng alinmang relehiyon at pananampalataya na dapat namang igalang at kilalanin ang pananaw nilang ito. Kabilang na yaong pinagsasabong imbes na pagtibayin ang kumplementasyon ng siyensya at pananampalataya o ang kilalanin ang ambag nito sa isa't-isa. Datapwa't aminin din natin na marami rin sa kanila ang mas makatao at matuwid kaysa sa atin. At ang atin ding hindi maka-Kristiyanong mga gawi, ang ating mga maling patakaran at kaisipan at gawi ng ilang lider ng Simbahan ay lalo pang nagpapahigpit sa pagkapit nila sa kawalan ng paniniwalang ito sa Maykapal.

Umalma sa pagbabagong ito ang maraming mga taga-kagawaran at pati na rin ang ilang relihiyoso, Katoliko man o Protestante, denominasyon at sekta. Lalo na sa mga social networking sites lalo na sa kanilang fan page sa Facebook bagama’t hanggang isinusulat ito ay wala pang opisyal na pahayag dito ang DepEd. Kung totoo nga ito, may dahilan tayong mabahala dahil baka nga naman dumating ng panahon ang isunod nila ay ang baklasin din sa ating Preamble  ang salitang “Almighty God”, ipagbawal ang mga relihiyosong simbolo at simbolismo sa mga tanggapan ng gobyerno, na ang pinaka-malapit ay ang pagpapa-alis na rin sa salitang “Maka-Diyos” na isa sa mga core values ng DepEd.

Bagama’t nababahala ay hindi dapat tayo sagarang maging affected o mangamba sa balitang ito. Maliit na bagay lang ito kung ako ang tatanungin. Igalang na lang natin ang pananaw na ito gayundin ang nasabing hakbang ng pamunuan ng kagawaran. Wala namang gaanong epekto ito sa mayoryang Kristiyanong Pilipino, hangga’t gumagawa sila ng mga bagay na ayon sa banal na disenyo at nasa ng Diyos, sa palagay ko lang. Alisin na nila ang lahat ng may salitang “Diyos” sa anumang mababasa mula sa gobyerno kung gusto nila. Bahala sila!

Pero bilang sundalo ni Kristo, dapat din nating ipagtanggol ang ating paniniwala sa pamamaraang itinuro ni Hesus sakaling hatakin nila tayo sa kanilang paniniwalang walang Diyos o alipustahin ang ating mga doktrina o kutyain ang anumang bagay na sa atin ay sagrado o banal.

Kung ang Facebook nga raw ay isang bansa sabi ni Ed Shefffer,- sa 400 milyon kataong naka-rehistro dito, ito na ang ika-tatlong pinaka-populated na bansa sa mundo. Hindi nga ba ito matatawag na prime missionary field o lugar at oportunidad kung saan tayo ay maaaring magpahayag o ipagtanggol ng lohikal o rasyunal ang ating mga pinaniniwalaan?

Hindi mababago ng balitang ito sa DepEd ang katotohanang hindi mababaklas ninuman ang Diyos sa ating pagkatao. At dito hindi magtatagumpay ang mga ateista. At ang katotohanang ito ang mas mahalaga lalo na kung isinasa-buhay natin ang ating pananampalataya.

Pero tiyak ko na walang papayag na taga-Sablayan (o kahit na aling bayan sa Kanlurang Mindoro kundi man sa buong Pilipinas) na tanggalin ninuman ang huling apat na salita sa vision statement nito. ..

(Photo: Philippine Information Agency)

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Ang Paglalakad sa Ibabaw ng Tubig at iba pang Kuwento

Marahil ay alam ninyo na may insekto na tinatawag na Water Strider o Gerridae at dahil sa kakayanan nitong lumakad sa ibabaw ng tubig ay tinatawag din itong Jesus Bug.

Pero bago yan, kung ako lang ay makagagawa ng isang Pinoy musical film kagaya nang Jesus Christ Superstar ng tukayo kong si Norman Jewison, ang awiting “Iisang Bangka Tayo” ng The Dawn palagay ko ang angkop na kanta na kakantahin ng gaganap na Hesus sa tagpo sa ating ebanghelyo ngayon (Mateo 14:22-33) na  naka-tuon sa dalawang pangyayari: tungkol sa paglalakad ni Hesus sa ibabaw ng tubig at ang apirmasyon ng mga alagad na siya nga ay Diyos.

Ang mga pari at mananampalataya ba sa ating Simbahang lokal sa layunin at diwa ay nasa iisang bangka pa rin at hindi watak-watak sa pag-timon at pag-sagwan? O baka naman nasa gitna pa rin ng unos ang sitwasyon ng pagpapalaganap ng bokasyon ng pagpapari sa ating mga kabataang taal na taga-Kanlurang Mindoro. Huwag sana, pero baka naman kagaya ng naranasan ng mga alagad ay nabubuhay pa rin tayo sa kawalang-tiwala sa ating kakayahan. Baka naman nasa gitna pa rin ng unos ang ating bangka sa konteksto ng sitwasyon na aking kababanggit lang.

Simula noong unang panahon ng Kristiyanismo, ang bangka ay isa ng signipikanteng simbolo ng Simbahan. Katunayan, ang mga sinaunang pook-sambahan ay naka-disenyo na mistulang bangka at si Kristo ang ipinapakitang kapitan at timonero. Noong taong 2012-2013 ang logo ng Taon ng Pananampalatay o Year of Faith ay kakikitaan din, bukod sa krus, ng karikaturang hugis bangka.

Sa aking pagninilay bilang binyagan ay may paralelismo ang ating karanasan bilang Simbahang Naglalakbay sa eksena sa ating ebanghelyo ngayong Linggo : Umaasa tayo na huhupa ng tuluyan ang bagyong ito. Sapagkat habang walang inisyatiba ang mga namumuno sa atin na muling mamamalakaya ng mga kabataang upang maging paring diyosesano o buhayin muli ang ating seminaryo, patagal nang patagal ang panahong hihintayin natin para sa kaganapan nito. Kapag nagpatali tayo sa unos ay hinding-hindi susulong ang ministeryo ng bokasyon dito sa atin. Alam ito ng bawat matinong timonero at peskador kahit siya ay hindi gaanong matalino. Natatakot ba tayo gayong ang ating Banal na Timonero at Peskador ay paulit-ulit tayong binibilinan na, “Huwag kayong matakot!”?

Kung tayo ay nasa bangka pa ng takot at pagdududa, umahon na lang kaya tayo at lumakad sa ibabaw ng tubig, ituwid ang mga kahinaan na may pagtitiwala’t pananalig, kagaya ng paanyaya ni Hesus kay Pedro at sa paglaon ay i-affirm ang ating paniniwala na si Hesus nga ay Diyos? Kaya, halinang lumakad sa ibabaw ng tubig na naka-pokus sa layunin o kinabukasan at hindi sa kasalukuyang masaklap na kaganapan. O itungo ang ulo sa nagngangalit na alon sa ating paanan.

Sa pag-post ko nito, kagaya ng klasikong pelikula ni Norman Jewison, tiyak na aani rin ito ng kritisismo mula sa malawak na kawan ng elitistang Katoliko dito sa atin. At muli ay may mga mangungutya na hindi naman  pari o teologo at ni hindi nga alumnus ng  Catholic school ang Norman Novio na iyan para maging credible sa ganyang mga biblikal na pagninilay kaya hayun, dedma lang sila. Isa lang ang sa akin; Halos 20 taon din akong gumaod sa iisang bangka kalakbay ang mga Pamayanang Kristiyano at natuto sa kanila hanggang sa ako’y mapilitang lumabas at bagama’t noong una ay lubog ang moral, patuloy pa rin akong umaasa na ako'y unti-unting makalulutang o kaya ay makalalangoy kundi man matapang na makalalakad sa ibabaw ng tubig katulad ng Jesus Bug !

O kaya'y patunayan sa aking bawat “homilog” (Homily-like blog) ang tinuran ni tukayong Norman Jewison na, “I think you get better as you get older.”…

(Photo :

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Treasure Finders

Have you ever heard of treasure finders named Paul and Peter?

Well, I remember the times when some of my town folks were lured into treasure hunting. That was after Rogelio Roxas allegedly found the Golden Buddha in 1971. Many people even believe that some portions of Yamashita treasure were buried somewhere here in Occidental Mindoro waiting to be unearthed or already have already been taken. Certain rumor circulated in Lubang, just a year or two after Hiroo Onoda surrendered, that a couple of Japanese nationals allegedly stayed in the island for quite some time and suddenly vanished along with their digging tools.

The story of Roxas and the Golden Buddha and the two stories in our Gospel reading this Sunday, July 27, 2014, are in some ways similar. They are both about a man and they found something very precious and of great value. Be it treasure or pearl, as we can read from Matthew 13:44-46.

The first story tells us about a man, probably a farm tenant, cultivating or digging the field until he found something beyond expectation or by accident. He is not sure whether the previous land owner have forgotten about them or perhaps the owner is now gone. In no time he did realize that the treasure has been there for very long time. He knows that he found something precious and he must keep it.

The second parable is the same yet different. Our man did not find it accidentally. He had been searching for it for a long time until he finally got it. He, merchant as he is, was looking for something real and authentic. Indeed, he knows exactly that he is hunting for fine pearls.  

Know what did they do after finding those precious things? Whether by accident or by tedious hunt, they have the same reaction: selling all they had, giving up everything else in order to get the treasure or the pearl. Many of us may think, “WTF! Did they really give up everything just for some treasure?” We may think that they are nuts, but for them, what is more important is an eternal and perpetual Return of Investment or ROI!

Jesus’ opening words in both of the story is this: “The kingdom of heaven is like…” Jesus is trying to show us here what's the worth of the Kingdom of God and what it’s like being part of this kingdom. Tellingly, the two parables lead us in knowing that Jesus is our greatest treasure.

If you would allow me, I would like to call the first one Paul and the other one Peter. Paul, not unlike our first man, found Jesus unexpectedly and on the contrary, Peter was already familiar with the Son of God. Paul (nee Saul), a former exterminator of his future Lord’s followers, found the greatest treasure on the road to Damascus while Peter discovered Jesus, after venturing on many spirituality and religious beliefs, when he journey with Him through thick and thin and finally found his pearl of great price. Ergo, Paul and Peter were both treasure finders who gave all their “T”s,- Time, Treasure and Talent, to get those divine treasures and in the end transformed by their find.

Me? My transformation is still being uploaded for I am still a freebie trying to open my search engine to find for Jesus rather than be stumbled upon the net or Googled by Him.

I am still a murky scavenger in this social garbage heap hoping to be a transformed treasure finder. Just like the treasure hunters in my place way back then...

(Photo: The Clipart Wizard)

Thursday, July 17, 2014


Right before typhoon Glenda hit the country at around 6:00 in the afternoon last Monday, President Benigno Aquino III delivered a televised speech defending the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Glenda crossed the Bataan-Zambales area Wednesday afternoon before exiting to the West Philippine Sea later in the day. Many municipalities were submerged with flood especially the coastal barangays and those near riverbanks. Classes at all levels were suspended and major thoroughfares across Occidental Mindoro were cut. Low-lying areas in San Jose are submerged with water. All over the country, Glenda has left at least 38 people dead with initial reports indicating damage to infrastructure and agriculture could be extensive.

No less than Occidental Mindoro Representative Josephine Ramirez-Sato, a staunch Aquino ally was, according to reports,  personally invited by the President to witness to the Chief Executive’s airing of 14-page, 23- minute speech. As one of her constituents, I am deeply honored seeing her with the president along with few selected officials and personalities personally handpicked by the president.

But while there are groups who believe that Aquino is liable for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust for authorizing the creation of DAP where key provisions of which have been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the president’s local political supporters are right behind him in justifying his handling of the 149 billion DAP.

Upon seeing Congresswoman Ramirez-Sato on television right there when PNoy delivered his speech, these questions suddenly came to mind: Does the president, like in his home province Tarlac, have a pet project here in Occidental Mindoro under DAP? If yes, what and where specifically are those projects? Our people would be very happy if somebody from the concerned offices would educate us on this. Budget secretary Florencio Abad and even President Aquino himself claims that the DAP was designed to stimulate the economy but the people of Occidental Mindoro have no idea how it worked here, how we are benefiting or about to benefit from it or how it would help our local economy.

Pardon me but the first thing that came to my mind last Monday when the president speak about DAP is not the boosting of local economy here in Occidental Mindoro. What I immediately realized are the big allocations of money and transfer of funds among government agencies and the freezing of millions of pesos of money in some institutions’ coffer. Like the payment by the Bureau of Customs of its P2.8 billion debts to the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. and the payment by DepEd of its P4.1 billion debts to the Government Service Insurance System or GSIS, among others. My brain maybe selective but that’s how it worked that night.

While I believe that there’s nothing wrong with using the savings of the executive department to stimulate economy (assuming that Malacanan people are not lying and in good faith) the so-called power of the purse or the national budget belongs solely to the Congress. And being a veteran legislator, our representative definitely knows that. Any realignment of budget to other projects not provided in the General Appropriations Act or GAA should still pass through Congress in the form of supplemental budget.

They, the Aquino supporters here in my place, said that DAP and PDAF are different. They say, “Sa PDAF ni Napoles may kurapsyon. May mga pulitiko at mga bogus na NGO na nakinabang, samantalang sa DAP naman ay walang pandarambong na nangyari. Hindi naman kumita dito si Abad at si PNoy!” Sorry but I am into opinion that the DAP and PDAF  are one and the same in terms of demonstrated lack of respect for public funds, social and government institutions and the Constitution. Remember, not all unethical acts and scandals are categorized as corruption!

But I am not into PNoy’s impeachment, to make myself clear. For me, it’s just a waste of time and resources since impeachment is just a political process and in the end it is only the politicians, its main players, would play the numbers game. On the other hand, I am also not in favor of the filing of TRO against the recent Supreme Court’s ruling on DAP for it would result to more constitutional and legal vacuum if not chaos. But I’ll reserve that for another blog entry.

Now that typhoon Glenda is gone, DAP is expected to storm the nation if the president and his supporters overly assert it…

(Photo: Rappler)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Of The Lover’s Dictionary and Loom Bands

I was in Manila for an official travel when my daughter Anawim (or Shida) who just graduated from college last March asked me to buy her a book. She texted me while I was at SM North. After receiving her text message I went straight ahead to National Bookstore’s customer service booth and inquired about “The Lover’s Dictionary” written by David Levithan. The clerk who was sitting in front of the computer looked at me and threw me an intriguing smile. At the corner of my eye, I saw the cashier standing nearby giggling at us. The one facing the computer monitor then called somebody through the intercom and said, still smiling, “So may stock pa. Dadalhin mo ba dito o siya ang pupunta diyan sa puwesto mo?”  The one at the end of the line probably asked how s/he could identify me so the woman at the customer service retorted, “Lalake. Hindiii…. May edad na!” I did not hear what the response was over the intercom but there’s a sudden burst of laughter which I hear from point-blank range. Sensing that the ladies see “The Lover’s Dictionary” as material for young-adult readers and not for a middle-aged man like me, I told the customer care woman with an explaining smile, “Hindi po sa akin ‘yan. Sa anak ko. Pinabili lang.” Without a word and the smile in her face now gone, she entertained another client next to me. To cut the long story short, I got my book and said my thank you. She smiled again but it’s different this time. It has, as I can feel it, being daughter of her father herself, a drop of admiration.

Here’s another story: While in a passenger’s van on my way to Sablayan for work last Monday, I noticed the lady sitting beside me, aged 25 or so, looked at the rubber accessory at my right wrist then turned her eyes to mine and again, just like the women at the National Book Store at SM North, she threw me very a silent but intriguing smile. Probably she thinks that I am either crazy or already experiencing second childhood. Wearing loom band is a fad today among children and teenagers that’s why some of my friends keep teasing me about the bracelet I am wearing for almost a week now. But I am not giving a heck and I will wear my loom band as long as I like. Sophia (or Pipay) my youngest, 10 years of age, crafted it herself and gave it to me as a gift the day I was celebrating my 22nd year of marrying her mother. Tellingly, I even stumbled upon Philippine News Central a picture of Pope Francis wearing loom band bracelets, reportedly given by poor neighborhood kids during an audience at the Vatican. Ako pa kaya!

This latest craze was invented by a father named Cheong Choon Ng in 2011 reportedly to impress his kids. So, loom band’s origin can be rooted in a relationship among family members, so to speak. 

Lover’s dictionary and loom band. Parenting for me, is sort of a dictionary that gives meaning to little things, book or bracelet, banding them together in a loom called Love….  

(Photo; Squido Craft)