Wednesday, March 11, 2015

My Excalibur : A Eulogy

Coming from his short stint abroad as a seafarer, his first ever gift to me was a plastic sword, its handle laced with “gems” and “stones” of different colors complete with scabbard. While my playmates are satisfied with their improvised wooden swords, I scuttle and scamper with my toy sword given to me by my Tito Baby fixed in my hand.

Neighborhood kids especially those fond of reading a certain komiks novel in Liwayway Magazine are jealous of my latest apparel. The year was 1968 and a serialized novel written by Nemesio E. Caravana and illustrated by Nes C. Ureta titled, you’ve guessed it right, “Excalibur” was one of our favorites. My playmates and I do our sword fights from late afternoon till sundown.

His closest relatives call him “Baby” being the youngest in a brood of seven boys. But as years passed by it gradually changed into other nicknames: “Bebeng” to his classmates in elementary and high school “Joe” “Jay” or “Joey” to his friends and later “Ute” (but he spelled it as “Ottie”) as a grown-up man. Before he went to college in Manila, I was told by my Mamang that Tito baby was once a junior seminarian but bolted out of the school for reasons I didn’t dare to ask. As I have told you, he have been in many countries like Brazil, Kuwait, Italy and other places in the world that I can recall from his travel photo album way back in the 70s. He was a seaman for some time and turned into businessman and eventually became a farmer when he settled down as his family grows.

My late father and Tito Baby have many things in common especially when it comes to firmness in their decisions, hard work and compassion for the needy, a sort of trademark of the Novio’s of San Jose as one of its pioneering residents. Papa and Tito used to read pocket books particularly war and espionage novels. During their younger years, separately in their lives, they have been caught up in melees and minor offenses against the law and persons of authority. Their hand writings are the most beautiful compared to the rest of their brothers.  

When he’s in his late 30's, Tito Baby encouraged me, his Kuya Manuel’s eldest, to pursue my long deferred college education. I stayed with them all through out until I finished my Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education. He stood as my second father at that time. He and Tita Nida bankrolled my studies, from school fees and allowances, all the way. I was their general factotum, like what Tita Nida jokingly used to describe what I am to them. And I became witness (and sometimes accomplice) to some of Ute’s little misdemeanors. Without the couple’s help, with all honesty I have to admit, because of my immediate family’s financial hardship, there’s no way I could earn a degree in college. I could have ended then as a career-less and jobless bum without their aid. Nobody asked me but my early poems and essays were published through Tita Nida’s portable typewriter trademarked Brother. I have learned many things about literature and writing from their bookshelf. Including baby-sitting, cooking, driving, hollow-blocks- making, palay-drying and acting as an apprentice to a canteen, to name a few.

But as a family man and as he grows old, Ute became a transformed individual. He paid a visit to my mother late last year in Bubog and that’s the last time I saw him. I only see him on special occasions because I, too, have my own family to mind and to attend to, until the news broke out the other day that Tito Baby succumbed to heart attack in Manila after few days in the ICU. The well-dressed and be-mustached man who gave me a toy plastic sword when I was 6 was gone but cannot be forgotten.

Thank you Tito Baby, for that magical “Excalibur” of “Education” that you gave me. This is a very potent weapon from pommel to point until now that I have drawn from the stone spelled L-I-F-E. Like the King Arthur legend, this “Excalibur” served me well and later I became a gallant king in my own right!

Just like how the legendary Excalibur taken back to the care of the Lady of the Lake, he, now in the hands of His Divine Creator, will remain in my memory forever…

(Photo; Flicker)

Monday, February 23, 2015

It’s Floyd Mayweather Jr.’s BirthdayToday!

Question: What do Steve Jobs and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. has in common?  Answer: They share the same birthday.

But since and our very own Manny Pacquiao (57-5-2, 38 KOs), the only boxer in history to win world titles in 8 weight divisions, and Mayweather,  the self-proclaimed TBE (The Bea.., err, Best Ever!) will meet May 2, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden, let’s set aside Steve Jobs for a while. Today, February 24, Floyd Mayweather, Jr just turned 38 but with great anticipation, he is aiming for his 48th win for his immaculate boxing record, just one win shy of breaking the 49-0 win-loss record of the legendary Rocky Marciano.

The clash of the two welterweights is expected to break financial records at pay per view, global sales and gate receipts. This fight is expected to be the highest grossing in history, at $400 million. Mayweather’s estimated income will be $120 million for the fight, with Pacquiao taking home about $80 million.

Said HBO Sports president Ken Hershman:“May 2 will be a signature moment for the sport of boxing and HBO Sports is thrilled to be a part of this spectacular event. I know the fighters and their teams will be primed to excel and we plan to work closely with everyone involved to deliver the same level of performance from a broadcast perspective.” The fight is expected to be the rarest of generation-defining boxing events, along with the likes of Sugar Ray Leonard-Marvelous Marvin Hagler in 1987, Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier I in 1971, and the most historically significant boxing event ever, Joe Louis-Max Schmeling II in 1938 when America and Germany are at the verge of war.

Pacquiao and Mayweather are the first two fighters in history to hold crowns in 4 divisions. If Pacquaio wins, he will become the first man in history to hold crowns in 5 weight classes. This fight is expected to be the highest grossing in history, at $400 million.

We, the Filipino boxing fans should thank Manny and Floyd, Jr. for making this fight happen that started with their brief meeting during a Miami Heat game at American Airlines Arena on Jan. 27. We have clamored for it for more than 5 years. I am excited seeing both Jimmy Lennon, Jr. and Michael Buffer uproar their respective catchphrase “It’s show time!” and “Let’s get ready to rumble!” standing on the same boxing ring at the same night. Let us just hope that both boxers would be safe and stay away from accident on their respective training camps or it would be a mega-spoiler. The Las Vegas boxing community,- the bookmakers, the judges and the whole Nevada State Athletic Association, will always stand by Mayweather. In order to disappoint those odds, Congressmanny must have a convincing win, a KO if possible. So the tall order for Manny is how to convincingly beat an American demigod of boxing in an American turf!

Today marks what would have been, as I have stated above, 60th birthday of Steve Jobs, the late co-founder and CEO of Apple. Both Mayweather and Pacquiao are two of the richest boxers in their respective country but we, not only “Money” and “Pacman”, but for all of us, should learn from Steve Jobs:  Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me. Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful... that’s what matters to me!”

What a "jab" from Jobs….


Monday, February 16, 2015

Priests on Trial: Gomburza

The notorious Dámaso Verdolagas or plainly Padre Dámaso in José Rizal’s novel “Noli Me Tangere,” became the epitome of priestly abuses and hypocrisy to this very day. No doubt, there are still a lot of Dámasos in our midst. We hate the modern-day Damasos but  have forgotten the martyrdom of three secular priests in Mariano Gomez, Jose Burgos and Jacinto Zamora, known collectively as Gomburza.

Today is the 143rd anniversary of the February 17, 1872 execution of Gomburza as per records of the Spanish government, but according to the La Solidaridad and French newsman Edmund Plauchut, it took place on February 16, 1872. Philippine history has it that the aftermath of the so-called Cavite mutiny was a mass purging of people who have been suspected of having led or supported it. On the day the news of the uprising reached the central government in Manila, the Governor-General immediately caused the arrest of prominent priests and civilians as conspirators of the mutiny, among them, the Gomburza.  

In an article written by Philippine historian Ambeth Ocampo, he said that during the trial, the principal witness was a certain Francisco Saldua who testified that the mutiny was a conspiracy, and confessed that he was a part of it. He wished to be pardoned in exchange for his testimony. He narrated on the trial that for three times he delivered messages to Fr. Jacinto Zamora, who had then gone to Burgos’ abode. Saldua said that the conspirators met at the home of certain Lorenzana.

Some military witnesses testified that they were told that should the uprising succeed, the president of the republic would be Fr. Burgos, parish priest of the Manila Cathedral but all were just hearsay. A fellow priest, Fray Norvel, testified that the Creoles were inciting the people to rise up in arms against Spain, and that he saw Burgos passing subversive pamphlets. Lies and unfounded information subdued the trial.

Fr. Burgos’ landlady testified as a sort of character witness. She vouched that Fr. Burgos was a peaceful man and with no liking for gossip. She said that Fr. Burgos would even advise the insurgents to seek reforms without spilling of blood or the recourse to violent means. He was the most distinguished among the three, having earned two doctorates one in theology and another in canon law.   He was a prolific writer and was connected with the Manila Cathedral, a good swordsman and boxer.  Burgos got into a quarrel more than once with his superior, Archbishop of Manila Gregorio Martinez, regarding the right of native secular clergy over those newly-arrived priests from Spain.

After eight hours of trial, according to Ocampo, the Council of War condemned to die in the garrote the three priests Don Jose Burgos, Mariano Gomez, and Jacinto Zamora. Padre Burgos’ last words are as follows:"But I haven't committed any crime!" Reportedly one of the friars holding him down hissed, "Even Christ was innocent!" It was only then, it is said, when Padre Burgos freely accepted his death.

There are present-day idiots like Francisco Saldua who, in order to save their neck, point at fellow human being with his far-fetched accusations.

There are also the likes of Fray Norvel who has the bad feeling and implicate and accuse his brother priests.

And there are still Archbishop Martinezes among us who favor friars (priests) from other places than the homegrown clergy.

They are, too, the Padre Dámasos of our time…

Friday, January 30, 2015

On Popularizing War and the Mamasapano Killing

Today is a National Day of Mourning. The whole nation is in grief on the killing of the 44 members of the Philippine National Police-Special Action Force in an encounter happened last Sunday, January 25, 2014, birthday of the late President Corazon Aquino, in Barangay Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao. Many Filipinos demanded an All-Out War against the so-called terrorist groups like what former AFP Commander-in-chief and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada did. To peace advocates, this proposal is disapproving. Let us not forget that the military victory gained by the Estrada administration was impermanent. After major military camps of the rebels fell in the hands of the government forces, MILF regrouped and gained more strength. Erap’s All-Out War became an open recruitment opportunity for the Muslim rebels.

Not few among us emotionally resorted to ethnic slurs against the Muslims and a huge number of citizens criticized Benigno S. Aquino III for the tragic incident. As sorrow swallows up the nation, innuendos and speculations came out from practically all sectors of society. There are claims that SAF’s main target, Zulkifli bin Hir alias "Marwan", Southeast Asia's most wanted terrorist with a $5 million bounty on his head is already dead but this needs further confirmation. Stories keep pouring and opinions coming from known groups and influential personalities gained media attention but those voices from civilians who are right there at the conflict areas are hardly heard.

And once again, netizens from Occidental Mindoro as it is elsewhere, barely armed with laptop computers instantly turned into military strategies and war tacticians forgetting that the horrors of war has more effect on the civilian population or the non-combatants rather than the combatants, government forces and the Muslim separatists alike. They call for an All-Out War from the comfort of their offices and homes that are million kilometers away from the war zones. In just a wink of an eye, we all became “experts” in Mindanao crisis!

We have forgotten that All-Out-War would have more serious collateral damage to the citizenry, those who have no direct participation in the armed conflict,- women, children and the elderly, Christians or Muslims, than the combatants. These opinionated and prejudiced people in cyberspace are popularizing war seeing it as the only way to end such man-made horror. History taught us that war, both internal and external and whatever scale, has tremendous effects in economy and the community as a whole. It would also drain resources, monetary and other wise, from the national coffer. War can never be a top priority in resolving social and political conflicts as stipulated in our Constitution.

As of today, no definite figures on how many civilians were killed and how much money the Philippine government has spent in said military campaign during Estrada’s time much more in almost a century long history of secessionist war in the region. As of body count, though no define figure was released, it is safe to say that it reached a couple of hundred of civilian lives!

After Estrada launched the All-Out War in 2000, number of refugees fleeing from the conflict swelled to 800,000 individuals. Imagine the anguish and pain of leaving behind almost everything you own and had worked for because of the fighting. We cannot estimate how much the government has spent in said military campaign but it is for sure dreadfully expensive. It was as dreadful as the actual battle itself. Imagine, the military deployed at least two marine and two infantry battalions, or the equivalent of around 2,400 men, not just for days but for at least over a month. Think how many ammunitions and bombs they needed, aside from other peripherals like food, fuel, among other logistics.

Every massive military offensive coming from both forces is a psychologically draining experience for every individual and family who there at the battle front regardless of the intricacies and the untold stories behind the operation and the encounter that cost the lives of 44 PNP commandos and 12 MILF fighters. All we know is this: this issue has been misted up and the public are being bombarded by confusing reports about what really happened but the investigations are going on. But we do not completely expect full disclosure on these investigations for truth, like peace is very elusive though the former is necessary to achieve the latter.

Well, based on the loud outcry of many Filipino netizens to “exterminate all rebel and terrorist groups” in Mindanao by exhausting all the military might of the Republic a-la Erap, it clearly shows our war-obsessed mentality is deeply embedded in our psyche, thus unknowingly we pass this cultural conditioning towards war and killing to our children.

As we honor our fallen SAF44, we should remember that an All-Out War would just put the lives and properties of civilians and the non-combatants or those having hors de combat status as collateral damage. Putting the lives of these gallant officers for motives and objectives only known to those who are in power and those agencies and governments which makes profit or advancement of their security interests out of war, needless to say deserves condemnation.

Will we allow our police and military men as mere chips in the game of the generals by launching another All-Out War in Mindanao and once again be betrayed by those officials?...



Friday, January 23, 2015

Wood Sawer

Nagsimula ang lahat sa Number 132 Capt. Cooper Street. Isang kalyeng nakalatag malapit sa gilid ng pampang ng ilog-Pandurucan. Samantala, sa Cádiz, Spain noong araw ring iyon ay isinilang si Elvira Lindo, isang kilalang Españolang journalist ngayon sa New York.

Nang ang kanyang nanay ay dalaga pang napadpad sa Kanlurang Mindoro, naging dispatsadora ito sa isang tindahan ng Intsik na asawa ng kanyang pinsang buo. Hindi lang ang pagbibilang “chit, ng, sa, si, go, lak, chit, pwe, kaw, tsap” ang kanyang natutunan. Marami pa. Sa bookshelf ng samu’t-sari at kakaibang aklat at magazine ay iniluwal ang isang duktor na may apelyidong Bethune na isang Canadian pero namuhay raw noon sa Tsina. May kakaibang tunog sa babae ang first name nito.

Naging suwail na mag-aaral sa sekondarya ang batang pinag-iistoryahan natin. Naging laman siya ng kalsada at batbat ng aktitud ng isang lumpen. Nakatapos nga ng high school ngunit namumutiktik sa pulang grado ang kanyang permanent record na ka-kulay ng katatanggal na sanitary napkin!

Sa tulak ng atubiling panahon noong siya ay nasa kolehiyo nang siya ay matutong magsulat ng scented pen sa stationery, pentel pen sa school desk at brutsa sa pader. Pero likas rin sa kanya ang magbasa, mula sa maliit na selyo hanggang pinagbalutan ng tinapa. Mula komiks hanggang Free Press, Catholic Digest hanggang Hustler. Sulat dito, basa doon. Basa dito, sulat doon. Dahil dito, naging totoong manunulat din siya sa wakas. Sa pang-hihimok  ng kanyang mga guro sa mga asignaturang literature ay sumali siya sa patnugutan ng kanilang pampaaralan pahayagan. Hindi napigilan ng aktibismo ang kanyang pag-akyat sa entablado para makapag-tapos ng Batsilyer sa Edukasyong Pangmataas na Paaralan at naging Manunulat ng Taon.

Hilig talaga niya ang pagsusulat gayong sa mga sinehan lang siya natutong mag-English at sa Liwayway naman ang tamang pananagalog. Mahina ang kanyang memorya kaya tulong din sa kanya ang pagsusulat. Hanggang sa nauso ang blogging. Marahil ay kabilang siya sa iilang blogger sa mundo na walang sariling laptop o desktop computer. Pwede nga namang manghiram lang.

Sabi ng paham sa titik at letra na si Mark Twain, kung ang manunulat daw ay hindi pa kumita sa kanyang unang tatlong taon, mas mainam pang siya’y maglagari na lang ng kahoy na panggatong (Tingnan ang larawan sa itaas).

Tanggihan man ng pamantayan at panlasa ng lipunan at kultura ang kanyang mga akda ay hindi siya titigil. Hanggat may gumagamit ng tungko na panluto, siya’y mag-aalok ng kahoy na panggatong na kanyang nilagari. Kahit man lang sa aporismong iluluwal kada umaga mula sa magdamag na pagbubuntis sa kanyang imahinasyon. Hanggang sa makapagsulit siya sa kanyang Dakilang Patnugot balang araw.

Kahit siya’y walang “K” na makilala man lang ng personal si Elvira Lindo ng El Pais na kasing edad na rin niya ngayon…

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Poncho-ed Pilates?

The Papal Visit to the Philippines is over and we are back to normal. For days, people practically from all walks of life, non-Catholics included, had a very wonderful experience of being blessed by God and momentarily feel moments of holiness. But how can we sustain the lessons we get from this historic and memorable faith experience as a nation?

The Philippines once again caught global attention. Images of Filipinos braving Typhoon Amang’s (Yuto) Signal Number 2 strength captured the attention of the world. The word “Amang”, by the way, in Tagalog means “Male Child”. But to Ilocanos, though in different enunciation, “Amang” means “Father”.  Coincidentally, Pope Francis said his Culminating Mass in celebration of the Holy Child Sunday at the Luneta. Sto. Niño for Filipinos is truly a Child and a Father (read: Lord)!

Many of well-to-do individuals and central figures of faith from my place went to Manila and wear ponchos all the way to meet the Pope. Of all people, our bishop was not there to meet the Holy Father. I do not know why our priests left their local ordinary behind while the momentous event is unfolding.

Pope Francis’ visit has ended and the disposable ponchos have dried (I am sure that the disposable yellow ponchos were not disposed for it would serve as a symbolic souvenir from the event). We are again back in being a worldly man like Pontius Pilate. We are returning to our normal ways of yielding easily to pressure from those people who are superior to us in many aspects and social structures that are making us hostage of. The systemic corruption, the dangers of the electronic media, the subtle attacks on the family, the prevailing social ills, subhuman conditions, moral decadence and yes, environmental degradation are still a reality. Like Pontius Pilate, we surely again easily give way to something that we do not like when our position and comfort, life and limbs are at stake or threatened.  

Pilates we all are in this sense.
In Tacloban, the Holy Pontiff, perhaps, had his first experience of saying the Holy Mass in the middle of the storm and driving rain which is held in an open space. What a wonderful symbol of solidarity with the agony of the victims and survivors of Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) right there at the middle of ground zero. This would bring us to the issue of climate change and ecological challenge, its causes and the impending disaster that it would bring.

By way of a joke, Pope Francis asked two requests from his audience at Palo Cathedral the other day: “First, pray for me, and second, be silent.” People in my place are praying for the Pope, no doubt, but amid threats of all those structural problems, many men and women of faith, both the clergy and laypeople, fell silent. Perhaps, like Pilate, we are afraid of pressures coming from those who make this evil structure continue to exist. These are the pressing problems of the poor in our midst that many of us Catholics do not seem to care or understand.

As such, we are but a collage of photos of Poncho-ed Pilates….



Friday, January 16, 2015

Is Pope Francis Leftist?

Right after his visit to the Philippines and meet the thousands of still agonizing Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) victims in Leyte last 2013, Pope Francis is bound work on with his first ever encyclical on environment hinged on environmental issues such as climate change. It is expected to be released by June or July this year. Environmentalists are hopeful that Francis' encyclical will jump-start the next talks of the United Nation (UN)-initiated climate change negotiation after the last round of in Lima, Peru, failed to reach an agreement. The pope is scheduled to deliver a speech at the United Nations in New York in September and expected to take the global stage taking off from his upcoming encyclical. Please read THIS report coming from his mini presscon while on board going to the Philippines yesterday afternoon.

Lolo Kiko pledged on his installation as Vicar of Christ to make environment a priority. Firmly Francis once said, "The monopolizing of lands, deforestation, the appropriation of water, inadequate agro-toxics are some of the evils that tear man from the land of his birth. Climate change, the loss of biodiversity and deforestation are already showing their devastating effects in the great cataclysms we witness." This stand of the Pope irked the rightists all over the globe saying that climate change is essentially a fraud.

They do not believe that climate change is man-made. Frank Walker writing for said that, “This [Pope’s stand] is the essence of Socialism. It’s just simple oppression imposed in the name of justice and it has nothing to do with the charitable teachings of Jesus and his Church.”  Another writer, Gerard Caplan wrote that, “Pope Francis is the most prominent leftist in the world.” True, he recently reinstated Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockmann, a practitioner of Liberation Theology who later joined the revolutionary, left-wing government of Nicaragua's Sandinistas in the 80s’. d' Escoto is criticized by the Vatican for allegedly importing Marxist values into the church. Nobody asked me but my first taste of such theology came from the book “Ang Kristiyanismo ay Rebolusyunaryo” by Fr. Pedro Salgado, OP way back in college.

If indeed the accusation is true that the Pope is the “most prominent leftist” in the world today, he cannot be compared to his Argentine compatriot in Che Guevara. Guevara blasphemed Jesus when he said, “In fact, if Christ himself stood in my way, I, like Nietzsche, would not hesitate to squish him like a worm,”  while Francis endlessly reminded that Christ is the center of this visit and not him. That is why personally, Che is not my “rockstar”. It’s Bishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, a Latin-American like Che and Francis.

Speaking of Bishop Romero, in August last year, Pope Francis lifts Vatican- imposed ban on the beatification of Romero, who was shot dead while celebrating Mass in 1980. Beatification is a step towards sainthood. Pope Francis said this after his recent trip to South Korea: “For me Romero is a man of God. There are no doctrinal problems and it is very important that [the beatification] is done quickly." Amen. Is the Pope Leftist? I do not care. All I hope is his visit would change us Filipinos and revisit our faith.

Well, whether Francis is indeed a supporter of “radical leftist green movements” or a leftist himself as alleged by haters of the Catholic Church, the Rightists and the capitalists,- if our systems still neglect the environment the moment Lolo Kiko has left us, our Church leaders, lay and clergy alike, and not nature deserve “a slap in the face”...



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Nasa Ecuador Sana Ako Ngayong Bagong Taon

Kakaibang pagsalubong sa Bagong Taon ang ginagawa ng mga Ecuadorian. Parang street demonstration lang ang peg kumbaga dito sa ‘Pinas. Dinadala nila sa kalsada mga effigy ng mga pop culture icon, cartoon characters, super hero, mga showbiz personality na kina-aasaran nila para sunugin. Pero ang mas cool (?) ay ang pagsunog sa mga effigy ng mga pulitiko sa kanilang bansa. Ang mga effigy na ito na pinapalaman ng mga fire crackers ay gawa kadalasan sa recycled na materials. Ang tradisyon ng pagsusunog ng “Año Viejo” o “Lumang Taon” sa hatinggabi ay sumisimbolo sa cleansing ng mga masasamang kaugalian na nangyari sa nagdaang 365 days. Naniniwala ang mga Ecuadorian na kung hindi nila ito gagawin ay babalik ang mga kamalasan at karumal-dumal na kapalpakan na hatid ng mga pangyayari, bagay at taong naging laman ng mga balita at mass media.

Take note, kumpetisyon din ang Año Viejo. Mula sa mga rehiyon sa kanilang bansa, taun-taon ay humihirang sila ng mga pambansang winners. Sabi DITO, “[A]s a ritual of purification and renewal, a cleansing of old, negative energy, individual and collective failures, regrets, bad habits, bad luck and evil from the previous year. Oftentimes, the effigies are heaped together in big piles to create large fires in the middle of the streets. It is said that jumping over the burning effigies brings good luck to those who successfully accomplish this feat.” Ka-ige, hane?

Kung may ganito lang sa Bayan ni Juan, palagay ko, walang magtatangkang gumawa ng effigy nina Alan Peter Cayetano at Antonio Trillanes III maliban sa mga taga-UNA ni VP Jojo Binay. Siguro ay malaking karikatura ni Janet Napoles ang ipaparada at lilitsunin ni Benhur Luy at sasahuran pa ito ng timba para sa tumatagas na sebo. Baka kasama rin ang mga effigy nina Bong Revilla, Juan Ponce-Enrile at Jinggoy Estrada para tustahin to be fair.

Pero ililigtas ko sa apoy si Rose Fostanes (kahit medyo ka-look alike niya si Napoles) na isang Pinay caregiver sa Israel dahil sa kanyang pagkapanalo sa X-Factor sa bansa ng mga Hudyo. Pero ‘yung kay Delfin Lee ng Globe Asiatique baka suplete rin ang abutin habang nananalangin na ang Bagyong Glenda noong Hulyo ay hindi na maulit.

Malamang din, kung may ganitong tradisyon dito sa ating bansa gaya ng sa Ecuador, siguro ang susunuging effigy ni Mommy Dionesia at Buboy Fernandez ay ang kay Kim Henares habang walang mangangahas na sindihan ang manikang kamukha ni Henry Sy na last 2014 ay siya pa ring pinakamayaman na tao sa bansa, ayon sa Forbes Magazine with an estimated net worth of $12.7 million.

Pero sayang din kung isusubo sa darang ang kalunus-lunos na mga replica ng nag-iisang medalyang ginto at tatatlong silver medals na nakuha ng bansa sa 2014 Asian Games na pababa ng pababa na ang ating kartada. Yung paper mannequin na lang kaya ng mga opisyal ng National Sports Associations, madabdab kaya gaya ng uling ng ayo at bakawan?

Pero kung ang tsinelas ay magandang pampa-dingas sa kahoy na gatong sa kalan, natural mas epektib ang  gasolina lalo na kung kasama pa ang motorsiklong pala-semplang. Peks man. Itanong nyo pa kay Korina Sanchez at Mar Roxas.

Ako, ang susunugin ko na lang ay ang effigy ni Bob Arum. Mismatch talaga ang Pacquiao-Algieri. Lutong Macau talaga!

Kayo, kaninong effigy ang susunugin ninyo sana kung may ganitong pagsalubong dito sa Bagong Taon katulad ng sa Ecuador?...

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Visible Ray

My cousin Ray was never been invisible. He loves to be around and do something for his close friends and relatives. He’s there during birthdays, weddings, reunions, fiesta celebrations and anniversaries lending a hand especially in preparing and cooking dishes. Whenever we have visitors from Manila, especially our aunties, he’s always the designated driver. He knows acupressure and lately he’s into selling food items including traditional food supplements or herbal medicines. Riding his mountain bike usually in the morning and his father’s jeep the rest of the day or simply walking, most of the time we could find Ray practically in every nook of the town proper each time he’s done with the household chores. He has friends from all walks of life, from the street smarts of Malvar, the rural toughies to the town’s intellectuals, businessmen, politicians, artists and yuppies.

Even without apparent reason or agenda, he would just appear just to say his hello or bring something for your kids, or let you engaged in a chat usually over a bottle of brandy and talk about the good old days and everything under the sun.

Because he’s the Visible Man, he’s everywhere. That was before and he’s gone now. He was shot dead by an assailant just few meters away from the newest, the biggest and the most structurally-advanced municipal police station in the province.

Hours before his tragic death, together with his girlfriend and a friend, an OFW from Hong Kong, Ray helped in packing relief items and gifts that are supposed to be distributed the next day to the Yolanda victims in Brgy. San Agustin. It is New Year outreach project of the HK-based Occidental Mindoro OFW association.

He’s always there to lend a hand not only for private occasions but also for such community cause. He is most of the time in the company of local musicians in their gigs. He’s an alumnus of Divine Word College of San Jose who finished his elementary in 1979, graduated in secondary education in 1983 and got his diploma in Bachelor of Arts in 1988. He was born February 2, 1965. He once ran but lost in barangay election in Pag-Asa some years ago and he even had a dream of trying it again in Iling in 2016. Ray’s simple and not so complicated plan for the future is higher than his desire to be with people always when you need him or even when you don’t. For him, there’s no substitute for physical presence, for just being around.

Not anymore. Our family’s ray of visibility just faded away.
When they finished packing the relief goods and gifts, he and his girlfriend, along with a young friend, was waiting for a tricycle along Mabini St. fronting Caimito Road in Brgy VII when a motorcycle man with a woman riding at the back passed by then they exchanged words. The guy parked the vehicle nearby and the two groups again exchanged harsh words and then blows. After the altercation, the riding couple left. After 5 minutes or so, the man came back alone but this time with a pistol. The man poked the gun at Ray’s young companion and pulled the trigger but Ray quickly intervened and he was hit, though indirectly, in the arm. His girlfriend then turned hysterical while he tried to grab the weapon from the man. Trying to protect again his companion, the three of them, Ray, the suspect and his young friend wrestled again and the moment they hit the ground, another two gunshots were heard. The incident happened around 1:30 in the morning of December 28, 2013 and that was Saturday. It was barely 3 nights before New Year Eve.

Sketchy reports revealed that my cousin suffered 3 bullet wounds. Each in both arms and the fatal shot is the last one he caught the right side of his abdomen. The slug that entered into his torso was not recovered during the autopsy. At 48, he was 3 years younger than me. He was declared dead on arrival at the St. Magdalene Hospital. Some says it’s Colt .38 others says its 9mm. Three empty shells and two slugs were found at the scene including a live bullet along with other physical evidences like a scarf, soap bar and pair of slippers.

There were two major accidents that nearly caused Ray’s life before. When he was 4 or so, he climbed their glass jalousie window wanting to have a clear vision of a chopper hovering above their place. He fell and got a deep and long ugly wound on his right jaw. The scar is still visible even when he’s already a grown-up man. In his late 20s’, he met a motorcycle accident and was airlifted to Manila the next morning while one of the victim’s legs was amputated. But as far as I could remember, he’d never been involved in any trouble and he has no criminal records at all.

With the long list of unsolved killings happening in my hometown since I was a kid, we are hoping that Ray’s life would not be wasted by becoming just a small dot in the galaxy of numbers of unsolved murders in this part of the universe. The list is endless and it’s still counting.

Ray cannot easily be angered by people, events or anything. His words were never been wayward or arrogant specially when talking with people even when under the influence of bottled spirit.

Ray could have a chance going out of the country or work somewhere. He preferred to stay here in San Jose when Yvonne, his eldest daughter, finished her studies and already got herself a good job. Some may doubt or question his priorities in life but for him life must be lived each day to connect with people as much as he can no matter how they feel about him and his presence. He ever cherished doing dirty works for his loved ones. The man at any time of the day would just appear at your door just to greet everyone especially during weekends. He loves to stay around and to simply make his presence felt.

The Visible Man who just joined his Invisible Creator will forever be missed….


Today is the first death anniversary of my cousin Ray and I remember this eulogy I wrote but I was not able to say it during his funeral for I was on official travel that time. Instead, I asked my eldest Yobhel to read this in my behalf as his father’s tribute to his Tito Ray.

The night before when Ray was murdered, I was with Jhong Lagrado and Mon Paquing at a watering hole in Aroma Center having a couple of beer. At around 1:00 AM we went home tipsy.

Very early in the morning my wife received a call from Jhong while I was still in bed asking how I was in a very calculating voice. Jolly person as she told him that I’m still sleeping and after some pleasantries both of them said their goodbyes. Barrage of messages and calls coming from different people, friends and acquaintances, came in asking the same question. It was around 9 AM when Jhong called me. “Sino yung Novio na binaril na dati raw taga Bikaryato?” There are only two Novio boys once employed at the Apostolic Vicariate of San Jose: me and Ray. My hands trembled, my heart pumped hard. I uttered a prayer.

Here is the latest on Ray’s murder: The suspect to the gruesome killing of my cousin was arrested in Laguna in another crime and sometime mid of this year, he was turned-over to PNP Occidental Mindoro. He was arrested by police elements in Pakil and was transferred to Magbay Provincial Jail last November 17, 2014. The arrest is made through the PNP e-Warrant System and this database enables the PNP to easily and quickly verify names of persons with arrest warrants. The wheel of justice is about to grind.

You may now rest in peace, Ray…

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Ang Nosebleed at Si Lourd de Veyra

Hindi ko alam kung si Rufa Mae Quinto nga ang dahilan kung bakit ang salitang “nosebleed” ay palasak na palasak ngayon. May mga pelikula kasing may pamagat na “Booba” at “Bobita Rose” na nagpapakita ng mga scene na kapag may nag-i-ininglis na kausap ang karakter ni Rufa ay dumudugo ang kanyang (Rufa) ilong. Pero kung  naniniwala tayo na ang kahinaan sa English ay nakaka-balinguyngoy, sana ay nakita na natin si Lito Lapid o si Ramon Revilla, Sr. noon, na may pasak na sanitary napkin sa ilong habang naka-upo sa Senado.

Ngayon, hindi lang patungkol sa pagsasalita ng language ng mga Kano ang naka-no-nosebleed sa marami. Magsalita ka lang tungkol sa Higgs Bosom, sa mga akda ni F. Sionil Jose, kay Aristotle, sa teolohiya ni Elizabeth Johnson, ng mga artikulo sa Strange Notion, ng mga balita galing sa Al Jazeera, character sa Greek Mythology, etsetera, #nosebleed kaagad ang majority sa young Pinoy Twitters o Netizens . Sila ang mga kabataang mag-aaral na hindi na nasiyahan sa kani-kanilang pinapasukang kolehiyo ay nag-cross enroll pa sa Facebook kung saan mas marami pa silang gustong makuha o ibahaging impormasyon kaysa sa mga titser (na marami rin ay nag-mo-moon lighting nga rin pala sa Twitter o/at sa Facebook). Quits lang.

Obvious na ang nag-ganyak sa aking isulat ito ay isang aklat ni Lourd de Veyra. Yung mga thunderbirds na walang internet connection at cable TV lang siguro sa Occidental Mindoro ang hindi kilala sa pangalan si Lourd de Veyra ng TV 5. Sa kanyang may kulay dugong pabalat na librong “Lourd de Veyra’s Little Book of Speeches”(2014; Summit Media; p.53), aniya, “Isa pang bagay na dapat nating pagtuunan ay ang gumagapang na espiritu ng anti-intelektuwalismo. Naiinis  ako ‘pag may humihirit ng “nosebleed.” May hindi lang maintindihan na salita, “nosebleed!”” Papaano nga ba naman maghahatak ng imahinasyon ang espiritong ito?

Kung alam lang ng maraming kabataan, mas may sense basahin si Lourd de Veyra kaysa kay Marcelo Santos III. Mas may tulak sa paghatak ng utak ang mga akda ng una kaysa sa huli. Nasa itaas nga pala ang picture ni Lourd, just in case na hindi ninyo alam na siya yung nasa Chicharon ni Mang Juan at Tanduay Ice sa TV commercial. Patunay ang sulating ito na nakakahawa ang istilo ni Lourd de Veyra sa pagsusulat.

Karanasan ko rin kahit na ako ay isa lamang pipitsuging parochial blogger ang masabihan ng, “Nosebleed ako kuya sa blog mo”. ‘Langya, iilan na nga lang ang bumabasa ng blog ko, nosebleed pa ang marami. At kapag nagpapahayag ka ng mga bagay na nagtutulak ng utak, ang malimit nilang depensa ay, “O sige na. Ikaw na!” Sabay bago ng topic tungkol na sa Christmas Sale sa Gaisano Capitol sa San Jose. O ang latest sa “Forevermore”. ‘Pag hindi ka nga naman dinugo, oo!

May katumpakang tingin pa ni Lourd patungkol sa mga kabataan ngayon: “[May] katamaran sa pag-iisip. Ayaw na bigyan ng challenge ang utak. Hindi alam kung papaano gamitin nang maayos ang teknolohiyang nasa kamay nila”. Totoo na sa kasalukuyang panahon ng Twitter at Facebook, kapwa ang guro at mag-aaral ay mauubusan na ng panahon o ayaw nang magbasa ng aklat tungkol sa ideya at mga kuwentong kanilang maiuugnay sa pagpapadaloy at pagtuklas ng kaalaman (hindi lang impormasyon, ha?) na tunay nilang responsibilidad.

Pero maidagdag ko lang, maliban sa katamaran sa pag-iisip na sinasabi ni Lourd, may sakit din tayong katamaran talaga. As in laziness sa pagkakatuto lalo na kapag nasa harap tayo ng computer. Imagine, may nagtatanong pa sa online forum sa mga information na madali namang i-Google. May sakit din tayo,- oo, kasama ako, na mga nagku-comment sa mga discussion thread na post lang ng post na hindi ini-scroll up ang previous posts at binabasa ang kabuuan ng thread. Kaya hayun, nagmumukha tuloy tayong sampitaw na engot dahil sa ating katamaran.

Tamad din tayong magbasa/manood ng mahahabang comment,- o anumang mahahaba, kaya nga walang puwang ang nobela sa kamalayang Pinoy, maliban siguro sa ibang bagay na nakikita ninyo sa net. O baka dahil na rin sa paliit na nang paliit ang mga communication gadgets ngayon kaya tinatamad na magbasa. Sa totoong buhay, hindi naman lahat ay pwedeng bite size. May mga bagay kasi na kung mouthful lang natin malalasahan, so to speak.

Sabagay, sa mass communication daw, mas epektib na strategy ngayon ay one liners, catch phrase, sloganeering, brief and concise statements or presentations. Pero hindi kaya lalo tayong ginagawang tamad ng mga ito? O baka naman kaya tayo tamad ay ginagawa tayong tamad ng mass media? O tayo mismo ang nagpu-push na maging tamad tayo? “Nosebleed na tanong ‘yan”, maibubulong ninyo siguro.

Sige na nga, i-externalize na lang ninyo at i-put into flesh ang prevailing ang most followed word of wisdom ng mga bagets ngayon: “Hindi baleng tamad, hindi naman pagod.”   

Kaya lang, malamang sa kalaunan, pati sa “balinguyngoy” o iba pang salitang sariling atin na madalang gamitin ay nosebleed na rin tayo…


(Photo: Active Vista)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Mindoro Landing Should Challenge Us

Fiesta Mood and Historical Markers

In the 1950s, according to my grandfather, December 15 each year is celebrated with fiesta ambiance. Children from both private and public schools all over San Jose and the pioneering residents from all walks of life gather at the old San Jose Town Plaza to celebrate the Mindoro Landing or what they call as “San Jose Liberation”. Musical bands are all over providing music to stage plays that depict the lives of our local town heroes like Fermin Baretto, Lawrence Cooper, Ramon Ruffy, Sofronio Untalan and Vincent Fortune, Sr., and the rest of the southern Mindoro guerrillas. These are stories that are indefatigably being re-told by our folks to their young children. Click THIS compilation of Mr. Rudy A. Candelario to know some of Occidental Mindoro’s war heroes and learn a thing or two from them.

Though my late grandfather, who came to Pandurucan (Read: San Jose) in the 1930s and later told me stories about the war, never joined any armed resistance that time. He was a medical technician battling the dreaded infected female anopheles mosquito, carrier of the killer malaria. He helped in curing the poor sacadas of the Sugar Central including those residents suffering not only from terrors of war but as well as horrors brought out by the deadly disease.

As early as 1906, the Philippine Bureau of Health established its Malaria Control Division which was tasked to conduct researches and study, history and epidemiology of malaria in the Philippines including control practices such as annual spraying of all houses in areas affected by malaria. My grandfather is one of those “soldiers” annihilating the tiny but lethal winged “enemy”.

Initiatives from the Local Government

In early 1960s, a statue is built at the entrance of the municipal compound to commemorate the historic event including the marker at the site of the landing at Aroma Beach some 2 kilometers away from the town hall.

The last time we came across to an event leading to this historic commemoration was in December 14, 2008 via a musical play held at the town plaza which was directed by the late Prof. Gil C. Manuel dubbed “Mga Sulyap sa Kasaysayan ng Occidental Mindoro”. This was a joint effort of then Gov. Josephine Y. Ramirez-Sato and the Provincial Government, LGU-San Jose under Mayor Romulo M. Festin, and the Occidental Mindoro Historical Society (OMHS).

In 2009 to mid of 2010, conjoining with the town’s centennial celebration, the marker was rebuilt and had a make-over and this project was implemented by Mayor Festin. The following year, on December 15, 2011, a full length program was held right at the landing site featuring songs, dance and speeches. This was presented by, again, the OMHS but this time initiated by then newly-elected mayor, Jose T. Villarosa.

But the people deserve more than that and sustainability is still the name of the game.

Mindoro Landing: A Look Back

Allied forces landed on the shores of San Jose on December 15, 1944. Militarily, the purpose of this landing was to secure sites for air strips providing forward Air Corp bases to support later landings at Lingyen Gulf in Luzon. Without airfields closer to Manila it would be nearly impossible to seize and maintain air superiority in Luzon.  Airfields in San Jose would be much closer to the targets on the big island.  San Jose, Mindoro is, roughly, 150 miles from Manila.

1st Lt. Donald “Don” E. Abbott was a paratrooper and Executive Officer of the “E” Company of the 503rd Infantry Regiment of United States in his article titled “Remembering Mindoro” wrote, “As we came on deck well before the 0700 HR on ''U'' Day (15 Dec 44) the invasion fleet had reached their assigned positions off shore.  The LCI's were lined up in rows consisting of the order they would be landing.  Far to the right, or South, were the landing craft bringing the 19th Regimental Combat Team of the 24th Division.  To the left, North, of us were landing craft with the 1st Battalion of the 503rd who were to land on the North side of the Bugsanga River and represent the Left Flank of our invasion.  Nearby were the LCI's of the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd.  Behind us, further out to sea were craft with the 3rd Battalion, acting as Combat Team reserve.”  

Just minutes after that historic landing, series of heavy bombardment followed. Abbot continued, “As 0700 approached landing craft, including LCI's rigged as Gun Ships began launching rocket salvos.  That was the first time I had seen Gun Ships and their array of rockets.  Each gun ship would fire many rockets at a time.  They would leave with a high pitched swoosh!!  The rockets could, clearly, be followed all the way to the point of impact.  Hundreds of these rockets plastered the beach line and a short way inland.  I'd have hated to have been in the shoes of anyone caught on the beach at that time.” And the rest is history of forgetfulness. We have forgotten how our neighborhood heroes like Fortune, Cooper, et al helped the American soldiers drove away the Japanese from the island.

70th Anniversary: Hopefully A Challenge

The 70th anniversary of Mindoro Landing is just 12 days away but nobody is excited about it anymore. Sad to tell, many of our young people of today consider those markers as mere dating places and picnic sites and fail to re-trace their historical significance. Truth to tell, in this age of celebrities and movie stars, we, especially the youth, lost our sense of history.

It seems that among teachers, students and residents of this most important town of Occidental Mindoro, the Mindoro Landing is not important anymore. The fiesta mood was gone and the markers were watered down. There were initiatives both from the government and private sectors, yes, but never been sustained.  

There are still enemies of freedom in our midst. They are those detestable cancerous figures shamelessly manipulating and destroying the seeds of liberation that was sown by our homegrown heroes.   

We do not need historical celebrations that are only confined to trivial activities and only try to re-tell and explain the past or bring false hope. Much more if we reduce history and heroism into a mere partisan political agenda. Here’s to those in public service, academic circle and the media and all the authorities who have clout and influence: Only in juxtaposition we could challenge the past from the perspective of present experiences of helplessness of our people, and challenge the present from the perspective of our memory of the past. Or else, we will have no true legacy to pass on, or past meaningful events to remember....

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ashley Madison in the Philippines, Agree or Disagree?

According to reports, around 2,500 to 3,000 Filipinos have already signed up to extramarital dating site called Ashley and quickly, justice secretary Leila De Lima said last Sunday that she is seeking to ban the website saying that it facilitates the crimes of adultery (for women) and “concubinage” (for men). Ashley Madison is a Canadian firm and recently launched their website here in the Philippines at the advent of Advent season this year. In Singapore and South Korea, the site believing that it poses threat to family values, was banned. Aside from the Philippines, they are accessible in other 5 Asian countries of Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Macau, and India.

The firm in return sued the South Korean government on the ground of “false allegation of illegal activity”. I believe that same legal argument will also be asserted here in the Philippines just in case the DOJ bans the site.

But it seems that Christoph Kraemer, the site’s international spokesman, is not worried about them getting banned in the Philippines as De Lima have warned while admitting they did not talk to the Philippine government. He said, “What we have is a legal counsel to advise us on the laws that you have here, and we’ve done what we have to do.” Kraemer made it a point that what they are doing is just to provide alternatives to those who are not happily married. He further said, “We did not invent nor do we promote infidelity. All we do is offer an alternative for those who want to have an affair in a discreet manner.” He even concluded that it could empower the feminists for giving them the opportunity to have an affair.

Fr. Melvin Castro, executive director of the Episcopal Commission on Family and Life (ECFL) of the Philippine Catholic church said that Ashley Madison is only exploiting troubled marriages for profit. Liza Masa of Gabriela, a militant women’s group, supported Castro calling it as “commercialization of adultery”. But I really doubt if the government, the Catholic Church and the militant feminist groups would seriously and act, like how serious they are about Reproductive Health (RH) Bill, against this purportedly exploitative business venture. Besides, for government officials, officers of women organizations and the Church leaders, this isn't a priority. Eventually, I think, all of this news about Ashley Madison, sooner or later, will fade out.  

It appears that here is the new norm Ashley Madison is propagating: Do not restrain the sexual instinct and without hesitation, live it fully and have an affair. We are now living in a sexually-emancipated society where the life-style of the elite is aimed by middle class and social climbers where suppression of sexuality is considered as opposed to freedom. For them, this suppression hinders the development of one’s personality. The fulfillment of one’s sexual wish is generally considered self-realization. Humans, as ever, indeed are overly overwhelmed with pleasure and desire and Ashley Madison is just one of its many manifestations but we have to brace for more!  

But the most powerful defense against this subtle attack on marriage is marriage itself. True enough, there’s no amount of extramarital dating sites could ruin a solid and happy marriage, not even the legal action to be taken by the government or the advocacy campaign of the militants and moral persuasion of the Church. News and occurrence like this, no matter how immoral or alarming they may be, in a way, do make many married couple even stronger by resisting temptation. High hope, indeed, pins on the sanctity of the individual marriage, the uniqueness of lasting union, of cycle of relationship of forgiveness, fidelity, trust and love being “one flesh”.

A Filipino marriage life that “does not conform to the standards of this world”, as what Apostle Paul have written the Romans…

(Photo: Huffington post)


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)