Friday, September 30, 2011

Enemy of Enjoyment

The TV ad is very helpful especially for a parent like me who has two teenage children. Almost all of us now are familiar with the lines, “Sabi ng tropa, ang tunay na lalaki ay binibinyagan muna bago magpakasal” and “Ang tunay na lalaki ay marunong maghintay.” Indeed, the message is getting more meaningful every time we watch the commercial which is actually a component of the Lucky Me! advocacy campaign called “Kainang Pamilya Mahalaga". It aims to encourage parents to frequently eat dinner with their children and be involved in their lives. Click here for further information.

Allow me to have a clarification and a confession. What I will be declaring in this entry are not mine alone but taken from the book “The Ten Commandments: A Modern Interpretation” by Prof. Theodor Herr and translated from German by Fr. Leo Muehl and published by the Divine Word Publication in 1995. Second, when I was young, the succeeding topic is no big deal for me.

Pre-marital sex is very prevalent today and as if already the “rule of the thumb” and no longer considered as forbidden but propagated- especially by the macho culture- as a desired aim. New norms more or less sound like this: Do not suppress the sexual instinct but let it free, let it soar high and burst it freely and live it fully. People of today, not only the young ones but even their parents, believe that self-realization and even freedom can fully be achieved by living to one’s (sexual) wishes and to them, restraining human desire is inhuman and repressive. Of course sexual desire is part of human being’s existential condition and disposition; it is the expression of love. But all human desire, not only those are sexual, at the same time, is an ambivalent phenomenon. It can take on destructive forms and degenerate into unrestrained sexual passion, into greed of possessing things and people into self-destroying desire for pleasure.

The book pointed out with precision: “Human beings obtain sovereignty in the use of her/his freedom, not by full consent giving in to momentary feelings, to spontaneous wishes and instinctive impulses. On the way to full human self-realization, the way of control and cultivation of the forces cannot be by-passed. It is not a question of body-hostile suppression but a liberating culture of sexuality. But this cannot be obtained without a prudent asceticism that mean, without self-renouncement, without hygiene of the imagination and without discipline.” To us grown-up and mature people, the author, Prof. Herr, has this to add, “He who keeps this truth from the young, seeking men (who are still on the way), has done them bad service.”

The way I see it,the message of that TV ad is this: “Let you not be dominated by you desires and passions! Do not indulge yourself to a thing so entirely that afterwards you cannot get rid of it, thus losing your freedom.” I'm sure I am right this time for I've already been wrong once in my life.

At least I know now that to wait for the right time is a big deal because being in a hurry is a mortal enemy of genuine enjoyment. …

Monday, September 19, 2011

Sharing Electric Dreams with Women of OMECO

While sitting in a meeting of the provincial Multisectoral Electrification Advisory Council or MSEAC held in Buenavista, Sablayan last Saturday, September 17, as guest together with three women employees of Occidental Mindoro Electric Cooperative (OMECO), I began to read the pages of a book co-authored by Edicio G. dela Torre, ex-priest, one time leader of the National Democratic Front (NDF), a native of Naujan in Oriental Mindoro, ex-political detainee and former TESDA chair during the Estrada administration. I have known the man since my early years in the (human rights) movement. Our man of the hour was already laicized so I call him “Manong Ed” and every time he addressed me as “Mr. Pamatok” is an affirmation that I am indeed a blogger. Truly, he is one of few former national democrats that I admire and respect most and became an avid follower of his blog called “Between Honesty and Hope”.

The book is called “Electric Dreams” and it has two sections. Its first section deals with de la Torre’s experiences, insights and reflections being an advocate for rural electrification. Generally it provides a look-back on important events of the rural electricity in the land. It also deals with the sweet-bitter "love affair" of the NEA and the ECs. Actually, it is written to commemorate the 40th anniversary of rural electrification in the country. No doubt that “Electric Dreams” is for member-consumers especially to those who are willing to step forward, to those who walk the talk, as leader-advocates for the cause of electric consumer protection just like us members of Serve OMECO Movement or SOM. Manong Ed hit the nail right on its head: “Ordinary consumers do not usually get involved in the affairs of the electric cooperatives (ECs) or consider themselves part of a national rural electrification movement. Their interests are simple – access to reliable power, the lowest possible rates and quick service response to any problem.” Manong Ed is the lead convener of ECAP (Electric Consumers’ Advocacy in the Philippines) where my big boss, Bishop Antonio P. Palang, SVD is the interim national chair.

On his title of choice, de la Torre explains, “It [Electric Dreams] describes what the dream is all about. But there is an added reason for choosing it, and it is in another line of the song: “We’ll always be together/However far it seems…”

The second section of the book is equally interesting for it talks about struggle of women in the electric field. To me as a student reader of “Mulieres Dignitatem”, it is the first book that I’ve read mentioning women as pioneers and pillars of rural electrification in the country. The section entitled “Iluminadas” (“lumen” in Latin is “light”) is written by Marianita C. Villariba. By the way, “Electric Dreams” was published by Education for Life Foundation (ELF) in 2009. To Villariba, “Iluminadas” tells herstory that made the role of Filipino women more visible and valued.

I gladly shared the outline of the book part to Elsa Bawayan, Mylene Acotina and Marian Gotoy, the three OMECO women employees I am with and jokingly asked, “How about if I write a book on OMECO women employees?”, and they just smiled at me. And my follow up question, “How about womanizers in OMECO?” they all laughed in gusto. I immediately informed them that I’m not serious with it but already sensed what made the question very funny.

Ms. Villariba’s part was divided into 4 sub-parts: Women in Electric Cooperatives; Women in the National Electrification Administration (NEA); and, Women’s Leap into the 21st Century. Among other relevant information on the subject, Ms. Villariba made me aware of women around the world that made exemplary achievements or inventions in the electric domain such as Herta Aytron (1854-1923), Mary Ebgke Pennington (1872-1952), Beulah Louise Henry (1887) and Edith Clarke (1883-1959). “Iluminadas” also featured 13 short stories about women who pushed rural electrification and the cause of electric consumers in their respected provinces in the Philippines from the 70s’ to the 80s’.

The story of the struggle of the women employees of Benguet Electric Cooperative (BENECO) in 1986 brings inspiration. BENECO men and women held a protest action carrying placards and steamers declaring, “BENECO, milking cow of BENECO Board.” A woman labor leader named Myla Salbador led the rally from Magsaysay Road to Session Road. In retrospect Salvador said, “We are protesting against unnecessary expenditures, questionable contracts … activities detrimental to survival of cooperative.” The BENECO women were at the frontlines of the barricades that they set against the military and armed men of Aboitiz Group. The BENECO employees are against privatization attempts by the said corporation that time.

In “Electric Dreams” Manong Ed is very hopeful that the struggle for electricity and electrification can be an open door to other dimensions for he wrote, “There is also possibility that as our member-consumers become more active and aware, their experience in participating in the processes of the EC may inspire and enable them to apply what they have learned to their role as active citizens …. Is that too much to hope for? That can be part of the future that is bigger, better than our past.” And that is the reason why I did not turn down the invitation of Ms. Corazon Agustin, OMECO’s membership services division (MSD) to attend the MSEAC meeting. If I may add, half of the provincial MSEAC participants are women. They all have potentials.

In the book twice quoted these words from Clay Shirky, “Revolution doesn’t happen when a society adopts a new technology, it happens when society adopts new behavior.” Women and men of Occidental Mindoro should always be “together in electric dreams” more than their sweet embrace in the darkest hour of power outage….

(Photo from file of Malu Sarmiento and Kristine Cajilig, also women of OMECO handling the employees cooperative)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Three Cross Nails of Mining

Anawim, my 18-year old daughter, and I were watching our favorite soap over ABS-CBN Channel 2 when the TV ad of Philex Mining Corporation appeared on the screen. She looked at me teasingly and said, “See, Tatay, There’s Life in Mining.” Said mining corporation recently launched an advertising series on what they call as “responsible mining” dubbed – you’ve guess it right – “There is Life in Mining”. In a news report, Denis Lucindo, vice president for business development of Philex Mining, stressed the importance of mining in one’s life, “A lot has been said about mining with diverse opinions regarding the industry and its impact on the country.” According to Victor Francisco, vice president for environment and community relations of the company further said, “Responsible mining is the kind that values the environment, the community, the safety and welfare of the people involved in the mining projects. It adheres to the law and is intent on giving back to the host community and the environment.” But is there really responsible mining in the Philippines, really?

Here in Occidental Mindoro, one of the towns that will be hit best by the Mindoro Nickel Project of Intex Mining Corporation is Sta. Cruz (where the company’s plant is targeted to be constructed in Brgy. Pinagturilan) and today, September 14, is the parish’s feast day. Yap, today is the Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (or Triumph of the Cross) and today we Catholics honor the Holy Cross by which Christ redeemed the world.

Before going further, happy fiesta to people of Sta. Cruz!

The impact of mining operation in the Philippines is three-pronged like nails in the cross and the “There’s Life in Mining” ads over ABS-CBN failed to expound on these:

Nail one. Economic benefits (or should I say “life”) are raked by mining corporations. Consider that 100% foreign ownership of mining projects are allowed in the Mining Act of 1995 allowing foreign company to have concession area of up to 81,000 has. on shore and 324,000 has of shore. Philex Mining may not be a foreign corporation but I am more referring here to foreign companies such as Intex and Placerdome. This includes 100% repatriation of profit, a five-year tax holiday later to be extended to eight and deferred payment are allowed until all cost are recovered by the mining company. They also have the enjoyment of easement rights and other auxiliary rights in the mining concessions. Mining lease for 25 years is allowed extendable to another 25 years and losses can be carried forward against income tax, among others. On the other hand, affected areas and communities remain in the quicksand of impoverishment.

Nail two. The impact of mining is irreversible and places the environment at risk even increases the vulnerabilities of people and communities. Philippines is one of the 18 megadiverse countries in the world. Majority of plants and animals species are unique and cannot be found anywhere else. The country’s species are among the world’s 10 in terms of endemism. Unfortunately for us, mining is being done in key biodiverse areas like here in Mindoro and Palawan. A study commissioned by the European Union in 2005, “showed that legal and illegal mining operations posed serious threats to forest and local rivers because of forest clearing and release of toxins.” It was also indicated that many of these concerns stem from the failure of many small and large-scale mining companies to adhere to globally defined standards of “responsible mining” if ever there exist of such a word.

Nail three. People still pay the cost of externalities through taxpayer’s money when among other things our government has to respond to disasters induced by mining, consider the Rapu-Rapu and Marinduque disasters.

These “cross nails” are not originally from me but from one of the speeches of Mario Ebite Maderazo of the Philippine Misereor Partnership (PMP) Inc I just read from the PMP Newsletter. The partnership supports the struggle of affected communities in the context of large-scale mining operations in various parts of the country.

All I can add is this : The cross of Jesus Christ must be our constant source of inspiration against mining and other environmental threats because it is also the burning focal point of our renewal as His disciples.

And Anawim already knows that, I am sure…

(Photo from

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mary : Born This Day

Today, 8 September, is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the source of the story for her birth cannot be found in the Bible but in the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal gospel written about A.D. 150. From it, we learn the names of Mary's parents, Joachim and Anna, as well as the tradition that the couple was childless until an angel appeared to Anna and told her that she would conceive.

Based on what we have read from various authors, Mary was a daughter of middle-class family who is unimportant social status-wise, in this equally unimportant town of Nazareth as the elite of Jerusalem would call it. She’s quite unknown outside this little town though she was completely familiar to her neighbors in their district. While Mary had the advantages of staying in the Temple, her education had been like that of any other Jewish girl of her time. In the Temple, though her main task had been to keep the sanctuary tidy, she had a great, happy chance of being exposed to the truth of the Scriptures. And, lo and behold, she practiced her faith wholeheartedly!

Since we have a very little or limited accounts of her birth, we can only speculate little Mary was an exquisite child who bring joy and cheers to her aging parents, not unlike Sophia, my youngest child. As it was in the beginning, Mary’s “only” goal in life was to be a child that God wanted her to be: to be a perfect person. And again, lo and behold, she achieved it with flying colors!

She was with her Son when he came into this world and built the entire economic system on the existence and inferior position of the poor and the downtrodden of their time. Since the wedding at Cana, Mary brought Jesus to the concerns and issues of society and not only to the world. Just like Mary, we are duty bound to bring Jesus in our every struggle, say against abusive power-wielders here and now. If we bring the incarnate Word in the unjust situation that we are currently in, we are assured of victory simply because we let Him in.

In our struggle against the dark forces (who are the main culprits why we are experiencing the power shortage that we are currently in Occidental Mindoro), God is with us. I am sure for it is obvious that Jesus’ agenda for us people who are facing the hardships of life and powerlessness (both electrical and political!) be redeemed from the claws of greedy bureaucrats-capitalist in our midst, especially those in the energy sector (others prefer to be called mere “talkers” than to be in the company of those people). And the most powerful expression of this Gospel truth is the Magnificat, that startling song of Mary: “He has put down the mighty from their thrones and has exalted the lowly and has filled the hungry with good things and set the rich way empty” (Lk 2:46-55).

Mary as a mother, I just presume, fully realized that the gracious power of Christ cannot be limited to the personal and interpersonal realms alone, but include the body politic, the socio-economic system that we are in, which we create and which in turn form us …

(Photo from Catholic Resources)

Friday, September 2, 2011

Of Ceasefire and Rheumatism

Almost 25 years ago and that was November 1986, the Occidental Mindoro Provincial Ceasefire Committee (PCC) composed of provincial multi-sectoral representatives formally launched series of meetings and consultations and the first major activity along the goal of getting into the peace process was the holding of an activity at the San Jose Town Plaza. The vent became my first and only encounter with then two of the top New People’s Army (NPA) cadre operating in the whole island of Mindoro, namely (and obviously these are aliases or nom de guerre) Ka Adong and Ka Bambi together with more than half a dozen of other ranking guerillas carrying and slinging high-powered handguns, rifles, grenade launchers and assorted ammos. The supposed ceasefire with local communist forces lasted for about 60 days. The Marxists-Leninists-Maoists armed groups just capitalized the occasion for their show-of-force parading both their potent resources in firepower and manpower. Representatives from the now defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC), the Philippine Army and the Integrated National Police (INP) commands didn‘t show up and it became an all-NPA “roadside show”. Instead, government security forces and their officials sent intelligence operatives and undercover agents to spy on for perceived sympathizers for the reds fighters especially those belonging to student and farmer groups among the crowd. Both the security and the rebel groups accused each other of insincerity. As we all expected, the talks and the ceasefire went puff like a plastic balloon, so to speak. I was a teenager then working as a newsman of our campus paper and my well-oiled knees are still in order.

Now that I am just a year shy from half-century mark and already suffering from rheumatism, though the possibility of outright cessation of hostilities between forces of the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front Philippines (NDFP) is almost impossible, I believe that peace is our right as a people and peace-building is a responsibility of all and not just those people who carry arms. I, too, believe that the observance of the ceasefire during the peace talks is imperative. The former increases trust and confidence for both parties. This situation is also favorable to the people living in far-flung communities, especially in our case, the Mangyans. The peace process must also be open and transparent and mechanism towards this end must be set by two parties.

Last 25 August 2011, during the National Assembly of Sulong-CARHRIHL Partners held at a fine hotel along E. Rodriguez Avenue in Quezon City, no less than political analyst Ramon Casiple, executive director of Institute for Political Reform (IPD) shared with us the prospective and perspectives of the GPH-NDFP peace talks. According to him, “Every conflict has to end and range of courses should be mapped out. It is time now to find middle ground or neither side can win…” In Casiple’s mind, it is now high time for the CPP to go on political reforms by joining the electoral processes. He even added that the Philippine political atmosphere is no longer revolutionary. But is the NDFP, the CPP and the NPA are ready to accept this? Things hang in balance for them: parliamentary struggle or armed struggle? Casiple informed us further that in Nepal, Communist Party members recently won the parliamentary elections.

On the other hand, in a statement dated 20 August 2011 of Fidel Agcaoili, spokesperson of the NDFP negotiating panel accused the GPH in prolonging the peace negotiations through long interruptions and violations of agreements since September 1992 when The Hague Joint Declaration (THJD) was signed by both parties. Part of Agcaoili’s statement reads: “The GPH must exercise strong political will in addressing the roots of the armed conflict. It must agree to carry out basic social, economic and political reforms in the country… It should formally reply to the proposal of the NDFP for a round of formal talks in Oslo in September 2011 and to the other offer of the truce and alliance on the basis of the ten-point Concise Agreement for an Immediate Just Peace or CAIJP.

The success of every peace effort and peace talks lies in the genuine engagement and sincere commitment of both parties. We citizens should claim our voice on the process and stand up and be counted.

Stand up even when we are already rheumatics...

(Photo from OPAPP)