Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Manny Pacquiao’s Foot Locker Ad and Online Eavesdropping

Aside from climbing up the ring and exchange punches with Chris Algieri for the WBO welterweight crown in Macau on Sunday, November 23, though outside of the ring, there’s another big event in line with Manny Pacquiao’s (56-5-2, 38 KOs) episodes of money-making efforts as a product or company endorser. On that same day while Manny is busy  with things related to his fight against his American rival Christ Algieri (20-0, 8 KOs), the American shoe store chain Foot Locker will be inaugurating its commercial via the so-called “Week of Greatness” promo. But aside from Pacquiao, the ad campaign has also featured mainstream sports stars like NBA players Derrick Rose, James Harden and Tim Duncan, plus WWE wrestler John Cena. OK, watch this video and see for yourself, so just click THIS.

Foot Locker Retail, Inc. or Foot Locker, Inc. is an American sportswear and footwear retailer and in service in more or less 20 countries all over the globe.

You have probably watched the ad by now and as you have seen, it begins with two men in a gym talking about the chain's "Week of Greatness" promo while all of a sudden an eavesdropping Pacquiao appears over the ring ropes and said, "Wait, wait. So the thing the people wanted is finally happening?" Pacquiao then gets excited, exclaiming "He's going to fight me!" over and over while shadowboxing. The ad is funny, except of course to Floyd Mayweather Jr., and his supporters!

Though the ad is about the chain’s promotional sale, allow me to lead you to the bit mysterious human phenomenon called Eavesdropping.

Netizens as we are, whether we admit it or not, are involved in eavesdropping specifically over Facebook forum and discussion threads that are gradually turning into a hotbeds of bad behavior specially when we comment and post on socio-political issues. One cannot avoid eavesdropping and commenting in a venue where stupidity, bragging, bashing and all the crimes against grammar, among other misdeeds that even myself at times is guilty of, are tolerated. A space where the prevailing mantra is this: “Engage in the social media conversation” according to Martin Miliev, writer at Perceptica. So be it.

Social communicators like me cannot afford to restrict our mind when crowded with people who are afraid of or allergic to profundity. But just like in real life, in order to have a quality conversation, one needs to learn to listen (or in this case, read) first. Aside from active reading, the objective eavesdropper comment only on what s/he perceives as the most relevant social topics at hand. S/he responds to people whom s/he knows personally and vice versa, and not be obsessed with nonsense metrics and knows how to ignore those posters under fictitious identity, then there should be a quick examination of conscience before we click the “Enter” key.

I am a little nosey (though my seasonal/perennial rhinitis lately sidelined me) since birth and in this positive sense, I love eavesdropping.  

Meanwhile, as a boxing fan and a compatriot of Manny Pacquiao, I am wishing him a convincing win over Algeiri on Sunday. Without it, the Pacquiao-Mayweather mega dream bout would make the grapevine soundless about it and that moment would be doomsday for the eagerly anticipating eavesdroppers in boxing today…

(Photo; Rappler)

Monday, November 10, 2014

Alien Trees and the NGP

I am a dumbbell when it comes to forest biodiversity but as a pro-environment advocate, I am trying to grasp it little-by-little and to borrow from the Beatles, with a little help from my friends in the forestry sector like Charlou Ormega of Haribon. Allow me to take off from National Greening Program or NGP. The NGP is a massive forest rehabilitation program of the government established by virtue of Executive Order No. 26 issued on February 24, 2011 by President Benigno S. Aquino III. It seeks to grow and maintain 1.5 billion trees in 1.5 million hectares nationwide within a period of six years, from 2011 to 2016. The intention is sacred but its malevolence lies in its specifications.

Allow me to say this as a starter: The NGP only made worse many reforested areas because biologically diverse forests have been replaced with single species planted for commercial purposes such as palm oil, rubber and cacao plantations. Fast-growing exotic and invasive species like large leaf mahogany and eucalyptus included. Deep inside our forests, these “alien” species have invaded us!

Only last year, even the Intex Resources Philippines, Inc. a Norwegian nickel mining company based in Mindoro initiated the “Livelihood Enhancement through Agro-Forestry” or LEAF saying initially that it’s the company’s response to government’s call for private sector participation in the NGP. Last year, in Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm (SPPF), a total of 17-hectare demonstration farm and nursery for coffee and rubber trees can be found. Also last year, Intex received a certificate of recognition from Mines and Geosciences Bureau Region IV-B Director Roland de Jesus, for the company’s “continuous support and very satisfactory accomplishment in the implementation of the National Greening of Program of the Administration of President Aquino geared towards poverty alleviation in the countryside and climate change mitigation and adaptation.” Nice achievement though at hindsight. Like mining, these species tend to ingress our forests and other natural resources.

The NGP the way it is implemented then and now is not reforestation but plantation. Aside from being a reforestation initiative, it is also designed to reduce poverty, providing alternative livelihood activities for marginalized upland and lowland households relating to seedling production and care and maintenance of newly-planted trees. But the question of sustainability and its contribution to biodiversity need concrete answers. As mitigation strategy to climate change, the NGP is no doubt helpful and the DENR deserves a tap on its shoulder for that.

But since the NGP holds true to the concepts plantations rather than reforestation, it produces negative effects in terms of biodiversity. The exotic and evasive species that the NGP are propagating are vulnerable to pest attacks and unable to restore the old, endemic rain forest species. Problems have only gotten worse in many reforested areas because biologically diverse forests have been replaced with single species planted for commercial purposes.

Invasive species are a major threat to our environment because they can change habitats and alter ecosystem function and ecosystem services; crowd out or replace native species; and damage human activities. In fact, the most common species introduced through the NGP are considered a greater threat to biodiversity by causing disease, acting as predators or parasites or as competitors to endemic species, altering habitat or hybridizing with local species.

In 2004, DENR issued Memo Circular No. 6 saying that it is state policy to manage and restore “forests approximate their original structure and functions, and conserve the biological diversity.” But that is only on paper. Denuded areas were instead planted with fast-growing exotic species from big-leaf mahogany teak to Moluccan sau or falcata and eucalyptus.

The NGP is true to its name for it concerns only in greening…

(Photo : Sablayan Herald)

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stories of Sablayan's Magnetism

This is the first story. Silly as a little child, I was made to believe that there’s a certain portion in the mountainous part of Sablayan that, according to some accounts, “magnetized” the Philippine Airlines’ DC3 Flight No. 785 which crashed into a ravine of the northern slope of Mount Rabañgan in the 60s. The mountain is believed to be part of Sitio Yapang and inside the property of the Sablayan Penal Colony just like the marvelous Libuao Lake shown in the above photo. It was the most tragic air accident in Occidental Mindoro’s history. It happened Wednesday morning, June 29, 1966 when a horrible event took the lives of 26 people including its 4 flight crews. I was only 5 years old that time but stories about the plane crash survived for decades especially in San Jose where many of the victims are residing or working, my mother told me.

Based on the investigation conducted by authorities, the PAL DC-3 took off from Mamburao Airport, which was actually came from Manila before its stop-over at the capital town, and was bound for San Jose Airport. Official document has it that the probable cause of the accident was the "misjudgment of the terrain clearance of which resulted (in) the collision with trees." One of the two lucky survivors is an Engineering student at FEATI University and a son of a farmer from Barrio Bubog named Federico Aguilar. The other survivor is a farmer also from San Jose identified as Donato Magpiling. The ill-fated aircraft which was found by the rescuers beyond repair first flew in 1944 was a twin engine Pratt & Whitney R-1830-92. According to Rodolfo M. Acebes in his book “Stories of 100 Families”, “He (Aguilar) survived because of the fresh water he drank from the Rayusan River.” Aguilar’s story instantly became talk of the town in Bubog, the place where I grew up. How he survived for days with wounds all over his body before he was found by the rescuers.

My childish imagination then made me believe in the urban legend saying that there is indeed literal “magnetic” forest in Sablayan causing the tragedy. But now that I am a grown-up man based in this town, I am still a believer of Sablayan’s magnetism but in its figurative sense. This paved the way to my second story of the town’s “magnets”.

My definition of “magnetism” here simply means “attraction”. Every single thing in the world, people, events and places included, has the capacity to attract or to magnetize both “gold” and “garbage”. Or garbage that looks like gold!  

As reported by the Tourism Development and Promotion Division headed by Ms. Sylvia T. Salgado, 3 national media networks stormed this year to Sablayan to feature the town’s tourist destinations. We, without doubt, have “magnetized” those journalists to introduce to the world the amazing-ness of this municipality aspiring to be the economic and political center of the province in the years to come. Our Tourism Office is under the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO). But we are not complacent for we are still aiming to “magnetize” many investors, tourists, local entrepreneurs including projects and programs coming from public and private entities here and abroad and forge sustaining partnership with them as envisioned by Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano and the rest of the LGU officials.

But magnetism isn’t just a phenomenon. Any human organization has to work for it. Aside from places and events, economic opportunities and richness of culture and natural resources, the practice of good governance can be a magnetic material as long as its people mutually has these: vision, expectation, contribution and commitment. To paraphrase an old saying, this kind of magnetism isn’t like that of a vacant lot or a vacant mind. The lot filled with “majoras” (improvements) won’t attract garbage!

Anything we have in common is a potential magnetic field, so to speak…

(Photo : Sablayan File)

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Lesson from Sarita Devi

I have now a new boxing heroine and she’s from Asia. Her name is Sarita Devi, the Indian who lost a controversial lightweight bout against South Korean Ji Na Park in the Asian Games at Incheon recently. Several dailies around the globe featured a crying Sarita on the front page, claiming she had been "robbed in the ring" by "biased" judges. Said the report that can be accessed HERE.

Before Devi’s emotional outburst during the medal ceremony, I happened to see the live telecast over Channel 5 on how our Filipino boxer lost to another Korean via same controversial match. I almost fell from my seat and shout to the heavens when Filipino flyweight Clark Bautista lost to hometown bet Choe Sangdon last Saturday. Choe was visibly rubber-kneed in the end and very lucky to finish the fight standing. Referee Michael Gallagher called a KO on 3rd round but the 5 judges favored Choe via UD, scoring 30-26, 29-27, 29-27. Five judges are assigned for every fight but a computer randomly selects which 2 scorecards to eliminate.

Ed Picson, the supervisor of the Philippine Boxing Team in Incheon almost filed a protest but he did not. Why? Because according to AIBA rules, said Picson, it is not allowed to file a protest on a decision. He stressed further that, “You can only file a protest on something the referee did to affect the outcome of the match”. So, one cannot file a protest if it concerns the score of the judges as stated HERE. Well, you may call her gesture as unsportsmanlike or plain emotionally- charged action, I understand what Sarita Devi is feeling right now. One thing is certain: She and Clark Bautista are victims of this semi-crazy rule!

With that explanation from Picson, I understand now why the Indian sports officials that went to Korea are mum on the issue. Picson even said on Bautista’s feat, “[I]t would just antagonize the officials if we pursued a protest. We made our message clear to (Tournament Supervisor) David (Francis of Wales) anyway and I’m hoping he appreciated our position.” Therefore, making the message clear to game officials is sufficient enough. But my heart bleeds with Sarita Devi when she cried, "None of the officials who came with me protested. I have been representing India for 14-15 years now but no one supported me when I needed it the most". What a sad, sad thing. "I have sacrificed for my country, whatever I did, I did it for my country and other players so that they don't go through the same thing again," she concluded as reported in THIS news item.

Many will say that the action made by Devi at the medal ceremony is not right and an uncalled for decision. An irrational decision maybe but certainly it’s triggered by emotion. An emotional decision made by a human being who felt robbed and became victim of injustice in a noble sport called sweet science. At age 32, she is not getting any younger for she's in a sport where age and agility matters most. A sport she truly love. 

As of press time, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) had been requested to decide on the matter. Francis said in a statement, “I had to request OCA to review this incident, so any boxer or athlete in other sports will not follow in her footsteps by respecting the spirit of fair-play and sportsmanship of the Olympic Movement." Well, that’s it. Disciplinary action from OCA may or may not come soon.

This is the lesson I learned from Sarita Devi’s story: Heroines and victims do not need medals, anyway. And in times of scandals and controversies, heroines and victims, like whistle-blowers, need to rock the boat…

(Photo :

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Filipinos Soon in Space?

Congratulation to my cousin Eunice Barbara C. Novio for coming up with an article at Rappler titled “Coming soon: Filipino food in space”. Please click HERE and read and at least be informed on how Filipino delicacies would invade the space soon. This is a story about NASA Filipino scientist Apollo Arquiza working at the space agency’s Advanced Cookware and Techniques for Food Preparation for its Mars Space Mission in 2030. Reading her story, I became curious to know how the astronauts poop and pee in space. If Eunice’s story is about food preparation for Mars Expedition or on making possible cooking in space, mine is about poop-ing and pee-ing or the "human waste management systems" in outer space.

I did a little reading and "consulted" Cecil Adams, my ever trusted “straight doper”. In the early years of space missions, according to him, “waste management systems” were primitive. The feces were collected in a plastic bag (AKA “Apollo Bag”) that is glued to the astronaut’s behind during poop-ing and when pee-ing, a hose attached to a bag was worn by the spaceman. How about in women? Adam was adamant (?) in that aspect.

Then the Skylab came and later the space shuttle, a “space toilet” was designed by the NASA people. As our teacher in elementary science taught us that there’s lack of gravity in space and the fact that while gravity plays an important role in unloading poops and pees on earth, that would be a big problem up there. But modern space technology made this easy. Here’s the LINK describing vividly how “space toilet” works then during Adams' time in the 1990s.

In the Mars Mission which is set to embark in 2018, Taber MacCallum, member of the Inspiration Mars planning team, said in THIS report that human waste makes great radiation shielding, so it’ll be stuffed into bags and then lined along the walls of the ship. Their poops will stay with the astronauts for 501 days until they come back to Mother Earth. This is the yuckiest: The human poops will be dehydrated, so the waste water can be recycled for drinking. The solid part would remain in the spacecraft but controlling the smell is at present being taken care of by the team.

In that same news report by James Plafke posted March 4, 2013, he explained, “On a spacecraft, there isn’t exactly a plumbing system that leads to a large plant somewhere upstate, so there isn’t anywhere for urine or fecal matter to go.” But it would be fixed in the future, I am sure.

Just for laughs, I imagine, too, Malabanan soon in space …


Saturday, September 20, 2014

A Martial Law Painting

This painting sums up all my recollection of the Martial Law years and this inspires me to no end. Not only because it is one of the masterpieces of a man whom I know personally, born and raised in Mindoro but because it's message is still relevant after 42 years of Pres. Ferdinand Marcos’ Proclamation 1081 in September 21, 1972. The painting, “Notes for a Theology of Struggle” was created inside the prison cell in Bago Bantay, Quezon City by Edicio Dela Torre, former SVD priest and one of the pillars of the Christians for National Liberation or CNL. According to him as he cited in his blog, the reason why he painted a Christ figure with the right hand stretched out in resignation, even unto death, while the left hand is a clenched fist of resistance is, “[t]o portray the tension between our understanding of Christianity as a call to struggle for justice and the more dominant interpretation of Christianity as a consolation for the poor and oppressed who bear their suffering patiently.” Suffering, without doubt, can inspire artistic expression. But also true with comfort. Unluckily, the Christ image that dominates us is the suffering Christ and not the Christ who rejected the dominant religious and political systems of His time. The clenched fist of Jesus at the left side of the cross in Manong Ed’s painting.

When asked about the meaning of the figures at both sides of the cross, Dela Torre explained, “I decided to add leaves sprouting from the left arm of the cross, beyond the fist of resistance. Although the theology of struggle focuses on resistance, we do not need end there. We believe that new life will rise, like the leaves, from the dead wood of the cross. It adds the perspective of hope. To balance the leaves on the left, I filled the space beyond the right arm of the cross with leaf-like patterns on jungle uniforms of the military, and the face of a frightened child.” The “Notes for a Theology of Struggle” is an unfinished work of art and still an opus magnum in progress. Despite of the horrors of Martial Law, the painting comforts us for it leaves us a message that Christ shares in our suffering and struggle.

The turbulent times brought about by Martial Law in the Philippines gave birth to excellent works of art,- movies, novels, music, etc. that are too many to mention. Men and women who lived through it at least have a story or two to tell or re-tell. We need to keep alive the works of progressive artists coming from those dark sides of history when more than 3 thousand people have been killed and faced death. Their works are essential not only to inspire us though the struggle for justice and lasting peace is not yet over, but to celebrate that we, the “Martial Law babies” or survivors, are still alive. And the Generation X to be thankful for they are not yet born during those times. Those victims of "veneration without understanding" and "miseducation", as how nationalist historian Renato Constantino calls them. The "neo-Marcosists" as others would call them. 

The democratic space and the incomplete freedom that we are experiencing after EDSA, should not hinder budding artists here and now, to show their talents along this social or mass line. Pure entertainment is a staple of mass media nowadays without considering its redeeming social and literary value. We need works of art which depict the lives of ordinary people living in poverty, powerlessness and short-mindedness. These are the present-day artists’ battlefield. This must be their desk, studio and workshop aside from city streets and meeting places in the rural areas.

Now is the time they must even simply share artistic “notes” (not manuals) of struggle in case another Martial Law in whatever form and substance, threatens us again or in keeping up flame of freedom against this prevailing “selfie” mindset of our present political system…

(Photo : Ed Dela Torre's Blog)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Exalting the Cross of Renewal and the PCP-II

Allow me to share to you that as I grow old, the Cross to me is gradually becoming a symbol, above all, not only of salvation but of renewal.  What the people in the grassroots and far-flung communities really aspire now is again seeing our local church actively participating in socio-pastoral situations and realities affecting them. My mentioning of the “Cross of Renewal” here also hinges on the belief that we, as people of faith have to move on for a new life. Let go of the shadows of the past, embrace the light to re-start from our tradition of struggling with the aspiration of the masses even those who are not church-goers (Gentiles?). Nobody can afford to just keep his fingers crossed in the face of inhuman social and political realities in our midst till Kingdom come!  

We cannot renew ourselves by discarding everything that we have started just because of the ugliness of the past. This “Cross of Renewal” is challenging us to be relevant in said context and dimension. In his book called, Called to Communion (p.142), writing as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Pope Benedict XVII taught us, “It is true that purely spiritual attitudes also have an impact on social structures. This shows that the spiritual element does take effect. It is necessary, yet it is not sufficient. There is in fact a density proper to impersonal and collective structures which has to be reached.” On the other hand, we are not suppose to forget that the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP-II) is a council of renewal renewing, among other things, the performance of her mission at the service of the transformation of the Philippine society (Well for many of us, PCP-II doesn’t ring a bell anymore). If we continue to be visible in our Basic Christian Communities (BECs) concretely struggling with the Mangyans in asserting their right to their ancestral domains or with the fisherfolks in their vigilance over illegal fishing methods and the peasants against usury for instance, we together “exalt” (rise on high) the Cross of renewal and salvation.

Call me an old fashioned parishioner but I believe that the tenets of the almost 23- year old Council need to be constantly revisited and revitalized. But it is sad to note that it seems diluted into a mere event than a tool in reading the times in the light of the Good News and “Unite all things in Christ” (Eph 1:10) as its theme have suggested. The PCP-II for me is always relevant to us Filipino Catholics. To some personal reminiscence, PCP-II was the “hot” when I first set foot at the door of the Church as a lay worker and that was 1991 until I tendered my resignation in January 2, 2011. From a radical street militant fixed to Marx’s Dialectic Materialism, I was able to gain example and inspiration of mainly from the Man “fixed” to the Cross.

The decrees embodied in the PCP-II are gems of faith but it is sad to note that it is now seldom referred to in various formation, manuscripts and homilies addressed to the people of God. Like her social doctrine, it is becoming another “best kept secrets” of the Church. The documents were crafted by the Council from January 20 to February 17, 1991. The Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose de Mindoro then is represented by Fr. Vicente C. Panaligan, Mr. Gaudencio M. Espiritu, Sr. and the late bishop Vicente C. Manuel, SVD, DD who heads the Conciliar Commission on the Religious. Fr. Panaligan, a jolly and friendly but intelligent clergy was among my early mentors on how to be involved in various active peaceful initiatives like pro-environment, the peace process and anti-illegal gambling campaigns towards putting into action the Social Doctrine of the Church. It’s the cross that we fearlessly put up high those days. It is the same cross that I am trying exalt now as a government employee and as a member of a Civil Society Organization (CSO) and as a Mindoro blogger.

Today is September 14, Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) and we Catholics honor the Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed the world. And before going further, allow me to greet everyone in Sta. Cruz a Happy, Happy Fiesta!

Here’s a little “throwback” on the Church’s history. The public veneration of the Cross of Christ originated in the fourth century, according to early accounts. The miraculous discovery of the cross on September 14, 326, by Saint Helen, mother of Constantine, while she was on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, is the origin of the tradition of celebrating the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross on this date.

As we celebrate this feast, let us all remember Our Lord’s words, “He who does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake shall find it” (Mt 10:38,39).Meditating on these words we unite ourselves — our souls and bodies — with the cry and aspiration of the Anawim right here in our diocese specially both in the rural and urban areas. We owe a preferential option for them, remember? With this, we are worthy pilgrims who walk with Jesus throughout history in this part of the universe.

People would be glad seeing our local Church taking up the crosses of renewal of our marginalized and deprived brethren by keeping alive her essential pastoral programs that deals with seminary formation and social action ministry, among other related programs or commissions.

The hierarchy has to pick up the Cross of Renewal even at the point of suffering or feeling the weight of a wounded institution brought about by our, to borrow from PCP-II’s (665) description of the Philippines, “chronic, almost compulsive dividedness”…

(Photo : Forum Andrew Gough)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Joe Francisco: More Than a Former Boxer

It’s Throwback Thursday! My office mate Jasper Francisco took the above uploaded “throwback” picture of his father and it reminded me of an equally “throwback” blog entry that I have posted some years back that can be accessed if you click THIS LINK.

To retell, the Joe Francisco-Chito Adigue fight in May 16, 1981 shattered our high hopes of seeing our local boxing hero then on top of world championship ring. In Francisco’s home court he was caught by Adigue’s left hook that landed on his jaw on the 6th round of the bout. Chito Adigue is a nephew of the legendary Pedro Adigue, the former World Boxing Council (WBC) Light Welterweight Champion in the late 60s’ and he was at Chito’s corner that moment. Joe Francisco, the pride of Brgy. Batasan in San Jose knelt  on the canvass the night he lost and the people of Occidental Mindoro wept for him.

In his early years in boxing, Diomedes “Joe” Francisco was molded and turned into a human wrecking ball by the former world champion Erbito Salavarria after the great but once controversial Filipino puncher saw Joe’s potential when Joe was still an amateur. After only 2 impressive amateur wins, Salavarria decided to “level up” his protégée to the professional level for the featherweight division. That was 1977 and he’s the Philippines’ newest ring sensation. Boxing analysts in Joe’s golden years considered him as a thinking boxer because of the way he analyzes his opponent before delivering his own killer punches. Until that heartbreaking loss from the hands, err, fist of Adigue. His second lost was in a match held at Araneta Coliseum via split decision to Gener Cruz in October 5, 1980, but in their rematch, Francisco won by points over Cruz in March 1, 1981.

But life has to continue. He married his most loyal (all pun intended) fan, the former Loyalyn “Bing Bing” Hilario of Brgy. Pag-Asa, San Jose. Bing Bing, by the way, just celebrated her 50th (golden!) birthday only last week. Joe and Bing Bing’s 4 children are all boys.

Seriously, here’s Joe Francisco’s record after his retirement in 1981: a total of 26 fights; 23 wins; 1 draw; 2 losses. Francisco was the #1 Philippine Junior Featherweight contender and #3 in the OPBF or the Orient Pacific Boxing Federation that time.  Three 3 years after that gruesome lost, Joe successfully won by way of unanimous decision in his two comeback fights but have decided to finally hang his gloves. He now has a growing family to attend to and new career path to thread.

From fistfights, Joe finally ended in public safety sector, specifically firefighting now known as SFO2 Diomedes L. Francisco of the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP). Only last June 28, he headed the Volunteer Fire Brigade of Sablayan which won the Provincial Fire Olympics and will be representing our province in the upcoming regional competition this September.

Way back in November 10, 1982, a year after his retirement from boxing, Bing Bing gave birth to their first born Drian (nicknamed Jhong) in Brgy, Pag-Asa, San Jose, Occidental Mindoro. Joe raised Drian Francisco (25-2-1) in Sablayan to be a boxer like him. Drian had been boxing for about 142 rounds now with 71.43 knock out percentage in his 28 professional fights. In Drian’s early professional bouts held here in the Philippines, Bing Bing took care of her son’s diet while Joe give pre-fight pointers and acted as physical conditioning coach in the training camp. But Sweet Science runs deep in Joe’s veins that even after he decided to quit the pugilists’ world, he teaches free boxing lessons to kids, act as referee or promoter of boxing matches in our province. He is also into street basketball as his pastime and he’s in excellent shape until now that he’s already in his mid- 50s.

Let us go back to Drian, the son, just this August he returned to the ring after one year layoff KO’ing in the 3rd round Colombian Manuel de los Reyes Herrera at the Alameda County Fairgrounds in California. A big fight for Drian, after series of fine tuning in the US, is expected to be coming up soon like what his manager Justine Fortune have announced.

And there’s another boxer in Joe Francisco’s family in a son named Lloyd. Lloyd’s first fight as a professional was in September 29, 2007 defeating Jose Ocampo at Ynares Plaza in Binangonan, Rizal. His last fight was held two years ago winning by TKO at the expense of Roger Galicia in Lipa City. Being sidelined for almost 2 years, certainly he could still comeback. In his 12 professional fights, Lloyd record is as follows: 10 wins (6 by KO) and lost twice via KO. The last time I heard he is applying for a slot also at the BFP. I am unaware if it is still Lloyd’s dream to box overseas say for instance at the Madison Square Garden in a city called “The Big Apple”.  

Only the Francisco twins, Jasper and Jarred, are not into boxing but Jarred aspires to be like his father the other way around which is to be with the public safety sector someday as a policeman. On the other hand, Jasper is aiming into something else that he cannot figure out until now. He was once a Sepak Takraw star player in college until he got a knee injury and stopped. When asked if he also willing to box or to deal with fire someday, Jasper jokingly told me that he prefers to be a porn star!

With all certainty, the Francisco siblings absorbed not only their father’s boxing ability and public safety skills but more importantly, they must learn parenting lessons from Joe Francisco,- the former fist fighter, the present chief fire fighter of our pristine town and forever father to his sons…

(Photo : Jasper Francisco)

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)