Friday, June 29, 2012

What’s in Store for Sablayan Mangyans?

Borrowing from Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill in their book I haven’t read entitled “First Things First”, this became the road map I am already crossing or trying to cross into: “Live, Love, Learn and Leave a Legacy”. Aren’t those things we ought to do in our entire life?

Sablayan Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano last year created the Indigenous People’s Affairs Office (IPAO) under his office. The IPAO has the following Duties and Functions in general: serve as the Assistance Centre of the Indigenous Peoples (IPs) to receive and acknowledge complaint or requests; make referrals to concerned agencies and departments within the LGU specifically the Mayor’s Office in relation to IP needs; coordinate with concerned offices of the LGU on the giving of financial and food assistance to transient IPs or walk-in clients on official visit to the IPAO. The office’s special functions include: conduct baseline survey/census and researches in coordination with concerned agencies both public and private; facilitate information and education campaigns on the promotion and awareness building on the Indigenous Peoples’ Rights Act (IPRA); provide direct assistance and basic social services and conduct and spearhead consultations, trainings, seminars, consultations, focused group discussions in IP communities and other stakeholders. In January, he designated me to that IPAO post.

My office’s banner programs consist of Lingap-Katutubo Educational Assistance, Socio-Economic and Sustainable Agriculture and Livelihood including Advocacy Campaign for Peace and Development. I was involved in the community processes headed by the National Commission for the Indigenous Peoples or NCIP for the mandatory IP representation in the local legislative board. Ultimately, the Philippine history’s first ever Mangyan municipal legislator finally swore in into office last February 4, 2012 as mandated in Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Memorandum Circular No. 2011-119 dated October 20, 2011. Hon. Ruben Pasajol Dangupon, 30, an Alangan Mangyan, now represents the indigenous peoples and communities (He sits by my side in the picture above). It’s he who promised his tribe to be their voice in the government.

Aside from sustaining what we have started this 2012, next year, the construction of “Balay Lakoy” (Big House), a temporary shelter for itinerant Taobuids and Alangan of Sablayan is to be established in the town proper. It’s a place intended also to be venues for their meetings and other activities. In 2013, LGU-Sablayan also intends to create two (2) IP communities into Mangyan barangays. One barangay is to be created for the Taobuid and another for the Alangan. The initial process for its creation is hopefully started next year. Having their own barangay means having their own revenue and more responsibility in terms of governance thus the move brings empowerment. This is a tedious job for we have to pass all the legal requirements towards this goal. Wish me and the Mangyan leaders and government officials who gave me this opportunity to be part of this historic cause.

In the dedication marker of the Mangyan figure tableau statue at the Plaza we can find the LCE’s message which reads in part:

"A tribute to the Taobuid and Alangan Mangyan ethnic groups, the first inhabitants of Sablayan… The people of Sablayan highly recognize the contributions of the Taobuid and Alangan Mangyans to the sustained development of Sablayan particularly in the preservation of their rich culture and tradition, tribal justice system, sustainable agriculture, care the environment and their exemplary peaceful ways of resolving conflicts and problems, and other positive characteristics that we lowlander should reflect on and follow...”

The figure tableau became a symbol of Sablayan’s meaningful journey with the Mangyans, the poorest of the poor among us. Ours is a sustained journey towards the IPs place under the sun.

A journey I am hopeful that I will simply leave a footprint, if not a legacy…

(Photo: File)

Saturday, June 23, 2012

4Ps and Muslim Women

This is the first time I am in the company of Muslim women and I’ve discovered that they also laugh at Christian men’s point blank jokes and pranks. My new friends are all from the provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao or ARMM and we are attending the Trainer’s Training on the Enhanced Family Development Session (FDS) Manual for Civil Society Organizations (CSO) at Bay View Hotel along Roxas Boulevard in Manila. Said training of trainers (TOT) is jointly spearheaded by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and a faith- based CSO called I-Help.

The FDS is part and parcel of the government’s Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) or the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program also known as 4Ps. FDS is designed to be given to household grantees or partners as one of the requirements to avail the cash benefits. Each session will run for minimum of two (2) hours every month with maximum of thirty (30) participants consist of the household grantees and their spouse or any adult member of the family with children. Surrogate parents may also attend and join them. I am wearing my other hat (or should I say bull cap?) in that occasion for I am representing KAAGAPAY NGO-PO Network the entire five (5) training days. Each session is aimed to strengthen the promotion of family life among household partners by imparting basic knowledge and skills in meeting their familial and parental responsibilities. It is also designed to build community participation and development among them and other community members. Our training consists of main topics such as Disaster Reduction and Risk Management, Child Care, Adult Learning, among others.

The Muslim women in our cluster consist of Faridah D. Alango of Al-Mujadillah Development Foundation (AMDF), Monarassana A. Muctar of WASILA-Basilan, Arfaida A. Aral of Unified Successors for Change, Noraya S. Mohamad of AMDF-Pilipina and Aivie D. Gambe of ARMM. They are of different ages and civil status but all intelligent, dedicated and committed. They are not only limitedly adhered to women’s cause but in all dimensions of the Muslim’s socio-political life especially in renouncing violence as a way to attain peace and freedom.

In Sablayan, 4Ps was already availed by 3,843 beneficiaries. More are expected to undergo this program since the municipality is targeting to serve at least 5,000 beneficiaries and getting positive response from target communities. The program will continue all over the country until 2015 as assured by Secretary Florencio Abad of budget department and P45 billion pesos is allotted for the so-called “grand dole out” for 2013. Though Gabriela Party List Rep. Emmie de Jesus lambasted the program saying that it has no positive impact, my new friends said that in their poverty- stricken and war- torn communities, the program gradually augments household economic needs. While I agree with de Jesus in saying that the government have to create and implement strategic economic programs but at the same time, temporary financial aid cannot be set aside to alleviate poverty. But there is also a grain of truth to the recent findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) when it reported that DSWD failed to validate household data which resulted in discrepancies. There is still a lot to be done to make it more responsive and fruitful especially in this aspect. The door for improvement of 4Ps should never be kept ajar. It should be open wide instead.

I also learned that in a Muslim woman, pregnancy is an opportune time for spiritual renewal for no prayer is allowed during menstruation. By the way, I’ve learned this not from those women I’ve mentioned but from a Muslim guy named Mudz Hailanie of PCART from Sulu while I am puffing my Marlboro and him his Philip Morris. At the upper deck of the hotel at its pool side, we compared notes and shared nicotine and second hand smoke altogether.

This is the first time I have exchanged ideas, work experiences and laughter with our Muslim sisters. I have already shared this to some of my FB friends in our group called SOME but I want to retell it here in “Minding Mindoro”. When our physician facilitator asked, “Why Early Childhood Screening is important?” They all burst into laughter when the stupid in me spontaneously answered, “To protect them from mosquitos!” To tell you, this is just an example of chain of foolishness that I shared.

“Laughter is the best medicine” says a Reader’s Digest section but for me, making people laugh is not only to kill boredom but to cover things that I am ignorant of like all those health workers’ stuff. There’s also a point when I asked them, “Why is it that a Health Center is called a “center” even if it is built in the side?” Truly, Muslim women like any other women of faith, celebrate life by laughing and comical acts and by opening themselves to new male friends regardless of religion and other human distinctions. In his book “The Feast of Fools” Harvey Cox has this to say: “Only by learning to laugh at the hopelessness around us can we touch the hem of hope. Christ the clown signifies our playful appreciation of the past and our comic refusal to accept the spectre of inevitability of the future.” Laughter in a way is a manifestation of both Christian and Muslim hope, so it can also be considered as an expression of faith.

My new friends are Muslims and they are all good and they are very much alive! …


(Photo: Benhur Arcayan of GMA News)

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Independence Day and the Two Mannys

Question of the week:“How would we celebrate Independence Day if Manny Pacquiao is beaten by American Timothy Bradley come Sunday?” To be honest, I do not know. All I know is who ever win the fight, Bob Arum’s purse will be overloaded after the bout. Arum is promoting both Pacquiao and Bradley, remember? If Pacman is defeated, all what Arum need is to schedule a re-match and will be again promoting both boxers. A convincing win of Bradley (knock on wood!) would be the first chance for Arum to make a star out of the American boxer but the latter have to arrange bigger and more exciting fight for the former or win convincingly in the re-match. To have a name, Bradley have to KO Manny and for Manny, he have to convince the boxing gods all over the world that they still need him, that the “industry” still want him for he is still bankable. Bradley already counting chicks and wildly predicting, or dreaming, that he’ll win the match and already scheduled a rematch on November 10 this year. But let us all hope that Manny really knows best and Arum knows a little.

No matter how “Arumatic” it is, prepare for the “Filipino-American war” on Sunday!

In case you do not know, Western boxing was introduced to Filipinos by three known Americans: Frank Churchill and the Tait brothers, Stewart and Eddie. Eddie Tait, a boxer himself, reached the shores of Manila in 1902, less than four years after the Philippines had declared independence from Spain. In an article in the Tacoma News Tribune (TNT) published in December 10, 1926 entitled "Tacoma Connected With Orient Ring," said that Churchill, the Taits and their other companions erected a boxing stadium in Avenida Rizal in 1917. This became the regular venue of weekly boxing shows in town.

Before that, the Olympic Club of Manila was born in 1909 and an array of Filipino and American boxers were trained there like Sailor Charlie Grande, Billy Walters, Soldier Kearns, Frank Logan, Louie Albert, Charlie Pitts, and our very own Battling Sanchez, Francisco Flores, Paul Gyn, Silvino Jamito, and Dencio Cabanela. No matter how we avoid it, history shows that we cannot achieve victory and independence without foreign hands or say, fists. Cuban Castro needs an Argentinian Che raising his clenched fists shouting “Patria O Muerte!” and drive out Americans in Cuba and they completely achieved freedom. In the Philippines, we allowed foreigners to dominate us as a nation, not only in flesh but also our soul that is why nationalist Filipinos, then and now, says that our independence is bogus or incomplete for we still experience foreign domination, politically and economically.

Indeed, more than a hundred years ago, Filipinos and Americans who were compatriots of Pacquiao and Freddie Roach, became important figures in Philippine boxing history. Even the story of first great Filipino boxer Pacho Villa could attest to that. I would like to mention time and again that, contrary to San Jose’s claim in their coffee table book published in the occasion of its 100th Founding Anniversary that Pacquiao’s first professional fight happened there, official records show that it actually happened in Sablayan in 1995 where Pacquiao won over Enting “Titing” Ignacio via KO.

Speaking of Pacquiao-Bradley, SB Member Hon. Manuel P. Tadeo is expected once again to offer a free live telecast of the fight direct from Las Vegas on Sunday at the Sablayan Astrodome. I’ll try to be there and cheer for Congressmanny, of course. Incidentally, the back-to-back Best Coach Awardee of the Mayor Ed Gadiano Basketball Cup is presently pushing for the creation of Sports Development Council in our town. He is so proud of Sablayan youths who are into sports specially those who made it to the Palarong Pambansa in Pangasinan this year. Aside from its scenic places or destinations like the Apo Reef, Pandan Island and Mt. Iglit, sports also attract tourists if properly packaged and promoted.

And I wish Tadeo (and his namesake Pacquiao) all the luck…

(Photo from Manny Tadeo's FB Account)