Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ah, Motorcycles!

I got from the news last night that Michelle Yeoh,- my long-time crush, of “Tomorrow Never Dies” fame came to Manila for her global campaign for road safety and warned my fellow Filipinos that deaths and injuries from road accidents, specifically those involving motorcycles, were reaching epidemic levels. Ms. Yeoh, a Malaysian-born actress is an ambassador for the “Make Roads Safe” campaign. In her speech to international transport forum sponsored by Asian Development Bank (ADB), the “Silver Hawk” said, “There is so much we can do to save lives on our roads." My “amen” on that.

I cannot help but remember a catch phrase from female members of a US-based motorcycle club : “Put something exciting between your legs.” And the statistics on motorcycle accidents do not bring excitement but horror in many ways.

As early as 2007, the World Health Organization or WHO considered deaths and injuries from motorcycle accidents as a "public health epidemic" in many countries in Asia, including in the Philippines. WHO Healthy Settings and Environment regional adviser Hisashi Ogawa reported that, "most motorcycle deaths are a result of head injuries. While wearing a helmet correctly can cut the risk of death by almost 40 percent...many countries do not strictly enforce laws covering the use of helmets," he pointed out. The WHO said that young men were more likely to figure in road accidents than young women : "Males account for 75 percent of all road traffic fatalities among those under 25 years of age. Young males under the age of 25 are almost three times as likely to be killed as female counterparts."

Here in Occidental Mindoro, people belonging to low- and medium-income families use motorcycles not only as a family vehicle but the most common means of private transportation. Those from affluent or wealthy families,- especially teenagers, use expensive motorcycles to show off to their friends and some of them are involved in illegal drag racing. "Young motorcyclists make up a significant percentage of injuries and fatalities among road users in many Asian countries. Factors such as speed, no helmets, risk-taking behavior, and drunk-driving contribute to the rising trend," the report said.

To solve this, there is a dire need not only for infrastructure development, but also for behavioral change. It would be helpful if, for example here in San Jose,- motorcycles and bicycles would be provided separate lanes, instead of motorcyclists fighting for space with tricycles, power tillers, cars, trucks, and buses,- exposing them to danger. But people should also be encouraged to strictly obey traffic rules and road safety precautions.

A friend of mine also tremendously suffered such tragic accident sometime last February 22, 2010, but he is now almost back in shape. He even sipped a little alcohol and tried a small puff of nicotine and always burst into laughter will all his heart when we visited him. “This man came to life again”, I told my self when we came by surprise to his parish yesterday. Yes, Fr, Giovanni “Jojo” M. Gatdula is now back to his priestly function since Tuesday. Not taking medicines anymore but still doing some self-help therapy. With all our prayers he survived.

So, what else can I say : “We are glad you are back, Fr. Jojo!”

(Photo softlinked from ABCNews)

Friday, May 21, 2010

Meeting of Two Artists

“I know him and I know his place. It is my pleasure and honor to get you there.” I told our guest,- a bespectacled man with gray hair, inquiring about Ruben “Nonoy” Casuncad where he could buy Mangyan products and other souvenir item. Nonoy, my compadre, is one of most brilliant visual artists in our place.

Our guest is one of the facilitators who conducted the three-day seminar on what they call Subtle Attack Against Family Explained (SAFE) program which is the main pro-family and pro-life program of St. Michael Retreat House of the Diocese of Antipolo. The SAFE training was conducted last Wednesday and Thursday,- May 19 to 20, 2010. The man, I think, in his late ‘50s dwelled on the topic “Pornography and Violence in the Media”. His name is Jess Abrera, my favorite editorial cartoonist. Creator of characters “A. Lipin” and “Guyito”. Right at the pages of the Philippine Daily Inquirer or PDI.

I introduced the master cartoonist to my Pareng Nonoy and while they shook hands, I suddenly felt out of place for I know nothing about their art. Nonoy gladly showed him his crafts and allowed him to take pictures of his drawings and woodcarvings while Mr. Abrera,- father of equally-talented young artist Manuel "Manix" Abrera, giving him some tips on packaging or marketing his products. They talked about arts and life for more than forty five minutes. Nonoy giving him a “lightning seminar” on Mangyan calligraphy and culture while Mang Jess is all praise to the handiwork of Yobhel’s godfather.

Jess Abrera was born in 1945 and finished Art Studies at the University of the Philippines (UP). He grabbed Catholic Mass Media Award in 1986 and the National Book Awards from the Manila Critics Circle in 1997 because of his “Pinoy Nga” collection.

I met Nonoy in 1989 while he was working as an artist in the Vicariate-owned Verbo Tuo Printing Press while I was with the Human Development Office or HDO erstwhile name of the Social Services Commission (SSC). We were still bachelors then. Beer, gin and discussion about politics made us friends. In 1998, he decided to pursue with his craft and he started an art shop called Ligad. Ligad, if my memory serves me right, according to Nonoy, stands for “Likhang Guni-guni at Diwa”. Ligad has an accreditation with our provincial Department of Trade and Industry Office or DTI. At present he is more involved in wood carving and many of his clients are tourists,-both local and international, and some wholesalers from Manila. His works always find place in trade fairs and art shows here in our locality.

Mr. Abrera came home with memorable work of arts from San Jose specially the "sagwan" (paddle) and some wooden fishes which passed by the creative hands of my Pareng Nonoy.

But for me this is the most important thing : I acted as bridge to a short but memorable and wonderful meeting of two great artists that I know...

(Jess Abrera's photo softlinked from

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Remembering My Captain

He was just an ordinary laborer,- a mechanic, at the Salt Industry of the Philippines or SaltPhil way back in the late ‘50s. I am referring to Pantaleon S. Novio, Jr.,- my uncle who served as Barangay Captain of Brgy. Bubog for more than 20 years during the entire administration of Pres.Ferdinand E. Marcos. But he was more of a look alike of Constabulary chief Fidel V. Ramos. Those were the days when the Local Government Code is unheard of. The days when our village officials do not have allowances and perks but despite of this, they work selflessly and dedicated most of their time to public service. He gave me my very first taste of public service when I was just in the elementary grade.

We, his nieces and nephews, call him Tito or Papa Addie. Strict, disciplinarian but full of heart and compassion for the poor specially the needy. I remember him carrying his "buntot-page" whip imposing discipline to vagabonds and justice to their victims. I remember him being a chainsmoker and a lover of suspense-thriller pocketbooks and Hollywood war movies.

Though he never finished any college degree, unlike those who administered after him, he gained respect not only because of his power and authority but for his morally upright examples, both in private and public life. And I cannot help but remember him today. I will tell you why later.

Today, May 15, 2010 is also feast day of our patron saint Saint Isidore, the Worker also known as San Isidro Labrador. You know, in 1930, a group of farmers from Camiling, Tarlac, headed by Pedro Luis came to my place and later convinced his fellow farmers and all the barrio residents then to make San Isidro Labrador our patron saint. Luis, in 1949, when then San Jose Mayor Isabelo Abeleda, Sr. approved the petition making Bubog as one of the barrios of said town,- was appointed as the first barrio lieutenant.

When I was young, I had a feeling that the story I’ve read from the books about the life of San Isidro Labrador was just a fairy tale. It never happened. It’s just a product of fancy imagination. Imagine, the angels went down from heaven to help him plow the field and all those sort of things? Isn't it a fairy tale material?

But I am (hopefully) a mature man now and I came to realize that those stories really happened in real life in Madrid. And today, the message behind the life of Isidore,- for me, is much clearer now : Even a simple laborer can achieve sainthood. Also, physical labor has dignity and sainthood does not stem from status. The life of Isidore and living during my childhood days in Brgy. Bubog taught me that contemplation does not depend on learning and the simple life is conducive to holiness and happiness. Legends about angel helpers and mysterious oxen indicate that Isidore's work was not neglected and his duties did not go unfulfilled. The life of Isidore constantly reminded me this: “If you have your spiritual self in order, your earthly commitments will fall into order also.”

I was informed that there will be a big thanksgiving celebration tonight and I am just wondering if St. Isidore will be given equal respect and adoration by the jubilant residents and officials in my home barrio viz-a-viz their victorious political patron. Nevertheless, happy fiesta to all of you!

By the way, my uncle succumbed to heart attack and died on the eve of the Feast day of Saint Isidore, the Patron Saint of our beloved barangay some six years ago. I do not wish to elaborate but he died on the road while extending a helping hand to neighbors in need. And I am saying a little prayer for him today.

Papa Addie was firm in his decisions without being arrogant. He did not amass wealth despite of many opportunities that came his way as a public servant, for his only wealth and most cherished possessions are his family, friends, an out-modelled Yamaha motorcycle and an old toolbox.

Isidore was totally unselfish. He was a loving and compassionate human being, not unlike my beloved Papa Addie

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Reviewing “Of Missions and Destinies”

Call me a gatecrasher if you wish. I came uninvited to the book launching of “Of Missions and Destinies” last April 21, 2010 at the main lobby of the Sablayan Convention Center. The book is a collaborative endeavor of the out-going mayor of Sablayan, Godofredo B. Mintu and Marian Regina M. Layug. It was published by Mintu Rice Mill only this year. Ms. Layug is not a resident of Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro but a freelance writer. She is a Journalism graduate of the University of Sto. Tomas and a former Assistant Information Officer of the British Embassy in Manila.

Around one hundred people from all walks of life attended the book launching headed by Governor Josephine R. Sato and Vice-Governor Mario Gene J. Mendiola, Mintu’s political allies in the local political scene. In the book’s foreword, Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel has this to say : “Even without the benefit of past political experience, Godofredo Mintu was able to achieve the transformation of a community, a transformation that is evident in the confidence, the energy and the love for the community that distinguishes the people of Sablayan. This book is also a homage to these beautiful people as well as the fascinating account of their beloved mayor.” The book talks a little about Sablayan but a lot about Mayor Mintu. Mintu by the way is about to retire from politics after a lengthy tenure as the town’s chief executive and the province’s vice governor. His wife, Mrs. Edna N. Mintu at present Barangay Chair , is vying for the mayoralty post of said municipality this coming election. While their son, Edwin, is seeking for his third and final term in the Sangguniang Bayan.

The book “Of Missions and Destinies” is divided into eleven chapters : A Day in the Life of the Mayor, Introducing Sablayan : The Dormant Municipality, The Mintu’s of Cavite, The Man and the Municipality Meet, Enter the Mayor, Six Times A Mayor : Sablayan Awakens, Power to the People, The Builder of the Future, Caring for the People : Social Services, Man of Action; Man of Peace, and Recognition and Legacy. Around fifty photographs can be seen in the book featuring mayor Mintu's achievements and personal photos. Nowhere in the book dwelled with Mintu’s stories about his former wife but filled with stories being told by his close friends and allies. According to Norma Ordenes, former Election Officer of Sablayan : “In the early ‘60s, when I try to recall the kind of politics that existed in Sablayan, all I know is this – the local leaders were product of homegrown “politicos” of the then undivided province of Mindoro : clannish, traditional and parochial.” The book likewise failed to magnify the main author’s personal view on the issue of political dynasty.

Mintu before transferring to Sablayan in 1975 is already financially capable and infact he had business in Mindanao and the Visayas. According to the book, he had a ranch in Bukidnon and was engaged in tobacco business, travelling all over the two regions as official market distributor of US tobacco imported cigarettes. In 1988 he ran for mayor under UNIDO's gubernatorial bet Pedro Medalla, Jr.

I remember the late homegrown political scientist, Prof. Remegio Agpalo in one of his books on the political realities in Occidental Mindoro saying that a new social force ("Big Money"), which has its basis in industry and commerce, challenged the traditional one ("Big Family"). The best example according to Agpalo is the victory of Pedro Medalla, Sr, in the congressional elections of 1965. Pedro Sr. is the father of Mintu's political ally, Pedro, Jr. commonly known as Peter Medalla.

The book also present many historical facts about said town. I came to know that in 1902 Sablayan was separated from Mamburao and the municipality was legally born. It was said that the Visayan root of its name is “Sablay”, which, according to the book, politically means “where the waves” meet. That the Sablayan Penal Colony was erected under the Pres. Ramon Magsaysay’s administration in 1956 under then Mayor Loreto Urieta. “Of Missions and Destinies” is a must-acquire material for our students, local historians and academicians. A well-written book about a developing town of Occidental Mindoro and the man who claimed that he started it all.

Here is a worth-reflecting quotation from Mayor Mintu himself : “Usually the greatest men are not the politicians but the nonconformist. I think it is true that to be good is to be misunderstood.” Though I think that Gen. Douglas Mc.Arthur also said something to that effect, this “nugget of wisdom” is still relevant specially in our political situation today.

Without doubt, “Of Missions and Destinies” is indeed one of the legacies of Mayor Godofredo B. Mintu of Sablayan. So far, Mintu is the only political figure in my province who have written a full length book as good as this.

Will Edna N. Mintu will be able to continue her husband’s legacy in case she win? Nobody can tell …

(Photo from