Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We Are All Bernardo Carpio

Election season is near and we expect that surveys in whatever form will again invade our privacies. It is a scenario where usually politicians, individually or as a group, tap the expertise of an apparently independent entity to conduct said activity in order for the former to have a study for partisan political ends. Survey results and recommendations are potent tools for strategizing towards the campaign period. It could help the politicians scientifically identify their strengths and weaknesses, gains and bottlenecks in their strategies and consequently patch the negatives and sustain their positive attributes as candidates.

Unluckily, surveys of sort have less to do with the aspiration of non-aligned citizenry or the “silent majority”. What we need today are surveys, researches or studies that would help people of Occidental Mindoro in general and not only politicians, to get out of what I call as the “Bernardo Carpio Predicament” where people are caught in the middle of two colliding rocks of local politics. In such a situation, the burden, the agony, the malfeasance of bad governance and childish politicking fall on our chained weakening arms and limping trapped legs like Bernardo Carpio.

I wish I had a group of millionaire friends, a pool of philanthropists. A coterie of friends that is more than willing to initiate, fund, organize and manage a project geared towards an integral socio-political analysis to examine several issues and assess the political maturity of our people and consequently their living condition. Over and above, our target benefactors and key project implementers must not be completely identified, one way or another, with any of the two colliding political mountains. This study is to come up with recommendations translated into programs or legislations. Through this research, we can identify the definite stand of the people on burning issues and ultimately measure their dominant value system.

How can I have such a group when most of my close and real life acquaintances are as “emol” as I am? None of them is millionaire. Most of them are plain and simple but dedicated “slum dogs”!

It is only by dreaming I can toy this idea I want to call “Pamago Study” which stands for Political Advocacy, Media Awareness for Good Governance. In case you skipped this previous blog entry, “Pamago” is a post-harvest ritual practiced by Alangan Mangyans where family members gather, feast on the year’s first produce, celebrate for a bountiful harvest and share good wishes. This is one of their ways of thanking the Creator. It has been part of their culture and tradition centuries before the present brand of politics from Western countries haunted Mangyans’ senses and sensibility.

Mine is a primary research or survey intends not only to contribute to academic community but over and above, to find out as much as possible about the condition of political awareness and value system of Occidental Mindoro electorates. This is a kind of research where facts are interpreted and evaluated thus enable us to go directly to the core of the problem and not only its peripherals. It is high time for us to know what the people feel about empowerment in local governance and participation in their respective LGUs. This research or survey is hopefully would create awareness, appreciation and understanding of pressing concerns and issues of the hour needing to be resolved like political dynasty, the power shortage, development aggression such as mining and oil exploration, the proliferation of chemical-based farming and the use of public authority for private gains, to name a few.

As you have noticed, I included the media because it is imperative for us at this crucial point of our province’s history to understand how local media wielded its power, how it is perceived by the people in general. Is our media really instruments of rights and freedom of information and genuine public service or was it a mere tool of oligarchy in our midst? Is our media instruments of building communities or its destruction?

We need those facts documented, analyzed, presented and ultimately expected to give birth to multiple degree of intellectual recommendations. These recommendations also aim to provide mechanisms for people to participate in the sustained process of development with the guidance of the True Loving Rock with whom we take refuge (Psalm 18:12).

According to Philippine legend, when the last link on the chain binding Bernardo Carpio is broken, there will be a great earthquake but after that, freedom overcomes our enslavement…


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Slapstick Born Out of San Jose Public Market

I thought random slapping only happens in comedy films employing slapstick jokes.

When interviewed over DWDO, one of the supposed victims of the alleged slapping by the mayor of San Jose said that they were slapped "at random”. Slapping is striking with the open hand and usually with energetic force. It usually aimed at a single individual. More than that, slapping is the highest affront to human dignity. If it's random, so it has no definite purpose. There is a difference though about being slapped and being warred-off. To prove in court they are physically slapped is very important. Well, one thing is certain, this alleged slapping incident mirrors something within us as leaders and as citizens. Both the vendors and the LGU project implementers more so, we, the consumers, suffer from human beings’ modern burden: Uncertainty. Be it economical, spiritual, cultural, social, ecological and political uncertainty.

I have no qualms about development projects such as the construction or renovation of say, a public market. Infrastructures are signs of development and a manifestation how a local chief executive do his duties and functions but there are things often neglected towards this noble intention. The first work tool in any construction project is not the lever but a long table which the builder can spread things out, sit with the stakeholders for a dialogue, especially those who are perceived to oppose it. Builders and users must settle first important things and differences. Without them, expect a scandalous situation that would surely hit not only the national media but even in social networking sites specially Facebook.

Speaking of Facebook, a certain member of Unlad Mindoro cyber group private messaged me and showed me two opposed pictures of the San Jose Public Market. Picture A depicts the ugliness of the present market and Picture B, an Architect’s perspective of the new, beautiful market and asked me questions to this effect, “Do you still want this ugliness? Why you are opposing this beautiful project?” With due respect to the source/s, what was posted was oversimplification at its best.

To analyze the posting, what is essential is the point – the transitory details – or the areas between two distinct strata (read: His/her/their Pictures “A” and “B”) found side by side. Transitions need to be scrutinized and neglecting them spells mess, if not scandal. Without considering these various aspects, we present only superficial beauty of the project. To reiterate, the most urgent for us to know what lies behind the point of origin to intended destination. It takes intellect to link and mesh to probe and seek for the truth. In doing such, we are also instructing. Mediocre communicators only sow seeds of intrigues but to support certain cause, we need to educate everybody, friend or foe. “Education for All” says DepEd remember? (To break the ice, I am just joking!)

But it is not a joke for a priest to be involved into this reportedly slapping scandal. One Facebook member claimed that the celebrated healing priest
who was recently incardinated here in our diocese, in the middle of Eucharistic Celebration remarked something about the alleged slapping. I do not know if such remarks really uttered by him but sure thing is, the priest is already dragged into the controversy. I do not know if he also has the gift of healing us who suffers from this cancer called “Political Uncertainty”.

Can he initiate this “community healing”? My answer is in the affirmative. Both of the rival political leaders respect our man of cloth. He is more than capable as a mediator for he is an “outsider”. The first step he must do is to form a panel composed of people, lay and ordained, handpicked by the two opposing politicians themselves. Initially, the panel’s task is to identify and finalize talking points that would serve as agenda when the two leaders ultimately meet face to face. It is the panel that would set the rules and nobody would impose conditions to the other. One of his tasks is assure the objectivity, sincerity and fairness are kept along the process and among the subject personalities. He must be a fair but firm umpire, like Joe Cortez, amidst the ensuing series of talks and meetings. Other details on the thrusts, goal and action of the reconciliatory panel will surely come along the way. This way we will be truly animating a Marian mission for the poor of this Particular Church.

I believe one of the urgent calls of priests is to reconcile divided people, to restore friendships and shattered relationships, to heal the wounds of brokenness and to bring about harmony, justice and peace “to heal our land” (2 Chron. 6:24ff) and not to divide us or be completely identified with any of the rival groups. It is somewhat a purifying and not a destructive blaze. Only through this, healing will come our way. Father, knows that.

I am certain of this…


(Photo grabbed without permission from Willy Bleza's FB Account)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Lessons From Mr. Miyagi

I was outnumbered in our every lengthy discussion about the Reproductive Health (RH) Bill not only in Facebook but in other social networking sites. Luckily the lessons I’ve learned from Mr. Miyagi (played by Pat Morita) in the1984 movie “Karate Kid” helped me regain, more than ever, my composure and even more kept my feet firm on solid ground.

In the film, Miyagi first asked Daniel LaRusso (played by Ralph Macchio), as part of his Karate training, to paint fence and wax sedans in a hand and arm motion that didn’t seem to make sense to the latter. Daniel sees them as pointless tasks and wanted to discontinue the training. It was only later, after Miyagi knew Daniel was all set, that he showed him how the natural repetition of his hand motion would benefit his defensive skills. It was only then that the boy fully understood why he is asked to do that “nonsense”. Daniel gradually developed his muscle and strength from his seemingly “mindless” obedience to Mr. Miyagi, his master.

Every time I join in such healthy (and sometimes wayward) discussions, I do not expect people to side with me. I do not have the false hope of winning their hearts and minds either. It is not what my Divine Master is expected me to accomplish. My task is simply to jump into the ring with my able mind and body, watchful of the words I use so that I would not personally offend anybody and “fight the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12) which is by the way my guiding Biblical verse. But sometimes I wonder where are the rest of the men and women of faith (and of cloth) from my diocese to back us up with our stand. This saddened me more than the arguments raised by my pro-RH cyber friends. The Philippine RH Bill is indeed a controversial issue. Are they, those men and women in religious organizations, too busy with the private and personal controversies they are into? One thing is certain: the pro-RH fellows are intellectually prepared and did their homework well. Unlike many of us…

I didn’t really fail. Through facing the multitude of “opponents” and swimming against the tide, so to speak, I have grown much stronger. My reasoning abilities became sharper than before. Yes, I haven’t changed my pro-RH friends’ position on the matter but I shared my views and was able to convey something from the teachings of my Church and that’s what matters most.

I also wish to thank my “opponents” for stoning me to death using cotton balls of friendship! Majority of them were able to present and exhaustively, and objectively at that, their stands. With the passage or not of the RH Bill, we will still be friends forever. We will respect each other still. I can feel it. Like how Mr. Miyagi and Daniel, towards the end of the movie, obtained respect from the tow-headed, black-belted bully named Johnny Lawrence (played by William Zabka) and his master John Kreese (Martion Kove) and vice-versa.

Call me a loser on this. But I am just trying to be obedient to what my Church teaches, to push and to exercise my faith and trust in what I, repeat I, perceive as God’s wisdom…


Friday, August 10, 2012

Monsoon Flood and Drops of Heroism

They were helplessly stranded at Batangas Port for more than 48 hours but did not backed-out and instead bravely crossed raging floods of Occidental Mindoro at the height of the torrential rains that brought by southwest monsoon and made most part of the country submerged in water. Minding not their loved ones that they left behind, they proceeded to their mission of delivering relief goods intended for the calamity-stricken communities of Sablayan from the Office of the Vice President or the OVP. Earlier, LGU-Sablayan’s Local Chief Executive wrote a letter to Vice President Jejomar C. Binay requesting for relief assistance for those affected in our town’s flood-prone areas. It was August 1 when they left Manila but due to strong winds and other problems, all the Ro-Ro trips bound from Batangas to Abra de Ilog and vice-versa, were all cancelled. The OVP Relief Operations Team utilizes an ambulance and a privately-owned delivery truck along with 3 other personnel from a private company for the relief mission.

Ro-Ro trip going to Abra de Ilog finally resumed but only light vehicles are allowed to board. Only the ambulance and those people inside it,- Ms. Jocelyn B. Besana, Assistant Team Leader; Venusa C. Hernandez, Team Leader; and Ronell A. Caballero and Cesar P. Bartolome, initially made it to our province. The closed van or delivery truck containing relief goods was left in Batangas scheduled to travel via Calapan route. Hungry and tired, they are almost vegetable-like when they reached Sablayan.

The following day, news broke out that the delivery truck fell from a ravine in Magsaysay town. Alex G. Luriz, Virgie D. Baldonasa and Benjie C. Dian, on August 3 were rushed to the San Jose District Hospital. The accident happened at around 4:00 am in a curved and sloping national road in Sitio Bunga, Brgy. Nicolas in Magsaysay. Lucky enough, they just suffered minor wounds and bruises and already sent back by their company to their home base. Told you, heroism is about risking your limbs for a humanitarian cause. Allow me to add, maybe God allows suffering to happen in order for us to share to ease the sufferings of our neighbors.

The OVP Team then went to San Jose and also extended temporary assistance to some 300 families who evacuated from Brgy. San Agustin. Local politicians from both camps crowded them obviously for partisan credit-grabbing purposes. Those politicians want to be identified with the OVP but the team proceeded at their own.

Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano the other day recommended to Sablayan’s Local Legislative Board to commend the Magsaysay Police Station and Police Senior Inspector Gerald Florendo Bendillo, SPO1 Alexander Relopez Garcia, SPO1 Carlo Tadeo de la Cruz, PO3 Eddie Boy Ramos de la Cruz, PO3 Bonifacio Alotencio Tacuyo, PO3 Helberto Cañete Perol, PO3 Cresanto Duran Muñoz and PO3 Jake Golong Maliwat for immediately responding to the situation. The PNP men helped to unload thousands of relief goods,- foodstuffs and blankets.

Ma’am Jocelyn even spent her _th birthday in Occidental Mindoro while Metro-Manila and all nearby provinces are all water. To make something out nice out of the ugly predicament, Mayor Gadiano’s Executive Assistant, Bongbong B. Marquez, threw a little birthday party for her where cake and spaghetti are served. The celebration was held at the Mayor’s Office and was extended later that day with a couple of Tanduay Ice at LandManz Hotel. In the middle of the celebration, they received a ring from their boss, ASEC Rosalie Licauco, telling them to proceed to Sta. Cruz and Mamburao for another round of relief mission. Licauco is OVP’s Asec for Administration and Finance. Their more than 2 weeks stay in Occidental Mindoro has to be extended for sure while the other teams that were deployed in other provinces have already returned “to barracks”, so to speak. But these memories would surely make them come back for that same reason or another.

The following day, their ambulance is again back on the hellish road of Occidental Mindoro, somehow making the presence of the OVP felt by the flood victims.

A one hell of the road that would take heroes and heroines to tread…

(Photo: File LGU-Sablayan)

Monday, August 6, 2012

Prime Time

The Philippines’ Response to Indigenous Peoples’ and Muslim Education or PRIME was launched in Culasisi Minority School in Brgy. Batongbuhay in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro last July 27, 2012. PRIME is an educational development initiative of the Department of Education (DepED) which strives to improve equitable access to and quality education for girls and boys in disadvantaged Indigenous Peoples (IP) and Muslim communities. The Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) funded the program and the grant assistance is directed in two key thrusts: Assist in stimulating community-led demand for quality education services and strengthen the capacity of the community, DepED and other stakeholders to respond in providing relevant, sustainable and quality learning opportunities.

Ms. Evelyn C. Barrientos, Principal II of Yapang Elementary School, through her project proposal paved the way for PRIME’s birth in the municipality. Her proposal is called “The School of Living Tradition-Preserving Cultural Heritage: Integrating Alangan Cultural Practices In Culasisi Minority School”. Said school for the Alangan Mangyans is under Sablayan South District of DepED under Ms. Fe Dimzon as its District Superintendent. Also present during the inauguration is Ms. Elizabeth Delas Alas, one of the members of the Division PRIME Team for Occidental Mindoro. Ms. Eden Cenon and Reynaldo Tupaz of National Commission on the Indigenous’ Peoples (NCIP) likewise came for the activity. This humble blogger was not left out and serve as the local government unit’s representative to PRIME. The administration of Mayor Eduardo B. Gadiano is without doubt supportive of the education department’s program for the IPs.

One of the main problems of the teachers in rural areas such as the indigenous cultural communities is absenteeism. In a planning-workshop we held recently attended by Alangan parents and non-IP teachers, we have identified some cultural and customary traditions attributable to this phenomenon. First is the observance of “Pamago” or “Palipigan” where family members gather for a thanksgiving feast. It is a 24 hour affair where they pray and eat together devouring on the first harvest of a cropping season. Since it is done overnight, the pupils skipped school for a day. Aside from this feast for a bounty harvest, another celebration is done to pay tribute to the rivers and it is called “Bansag”. It is done two to five days at the most. It is a kind of annual picnic where all community dwellers stay near the river, do some ritual and native pigs were offered to the gods. Those offering are shared evenly by the community after each ritual. Another is “Tagbuan” where not only the Alangans who gather but this time with the Taobuids, another ethno-linguistic group. They meet in a far-flung designated part of the mountain. There they exchange or barter goods, rattans for root crops, bananas for wild yam, bamboos for betel nuts, among others. Aside from being an economic activity, “Tagbuan” also features friendly competitions among the two sub-tribes. It’s a sort of mini Olympics showcasing IP traditional games where both young and old play together. This is a month-long celebration usually from December to January.

Ms. Barrientos, knowing the importance of such events to the IPs, intends to sit with the Parents and Teachers Association (PTA) on the matter for a win-win solution. The need to balance education and culture is an imperative. Besides, in her proposal it is implied: “through this project, culture is learned and preserved.”

As if they were in broadcasting, the Mangyans are now in prime time…