Monday, June 25, 2012

"Amu da...Igorot Ka"

“…amoy Igorot!”

“…Ang pangit ng mga Igorot!”

“Mamumugot ng tao ang mga Igorot!”

“Para kang Igorot…so barbaric!”

“Asan yung buntot mo? Buti alam mong gumamit ng computer?”

This will sound familiar to us mountain people, and also to those who have been here in the social media for quite some time.  Such irresponsible and ignorant comments have surfaced, and resurfaced almost every quarter in Facebook and in blogs. Unsurprisingly coupled with such expressed thoughts are the comments and replies containing more or less the following:

“..Pugutan ka ti ulo nu Makita ka!”

“ Pangit ka, Magaganda at Gwapo ang mga Igorot”

“Matay ka koma!”

“Awan ti amamum ignorante nga bitch/pangit/gago (insert any demeaning noun)”

“Haan mi nga padpada dakau…educated ken mestizo/mestiza ti igorots…haan nga kasla kanyau!”

We can also acknowledge that we have the tendency to give any of these reactions. It is perhaps a natural backlash from offending a person, or in this case a whole group. It is grounded on a very ancient philosophy of “reaping what you sow”, or “pain begetting pain, and goodness begetting good things”.

However, this cycle has been going on and on in a sickening phase. A chapter stuck in the pages because actions and reactions remain to be the same to a degree where emotions are vent only to satisfy the urge of defending pride and belongingness. Perhaps, we must move on. 

In my Sociology 1 class, one of my essay questions for my students’ is; “ Do you believe that Igorots are better than other ethnic groups?” As I am confident that I have taught them the dangers of Ethnocentrism and highlighted how it built Hitler and the Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan or the White Supremacists, and even the Chinese leader’s world view that they are the center of the world, I asked it anyway as a give-away question. To my surprise, only 2 out of the class of 32 were able to answer in the negative – a student from Manila, and one from La Trinidad.  Almost everyone answered, “Yes, Igorots are BETTER than other ethnic groups”.

Their reasoning is further revealing to the tendency leaning to discrimination. Say, the following:

“ Igorots are better because it is where I belong to…”

“Igorots are not just better but the best in the world because we are unique…”

See what I mean?

I am not saying that such simple answers to an essay question to a smallest population of a group is conclusive to criticizing the whole Igorot population’s tendency towards discrimination. However, it can neither be underestimated as a mere natural reaction. It is actually a testimony to one disturbing inquiry: “….Do we deserve every bit of prejudice and hate when we practice the same bigotry and discrimination that we 'hypocritically' want to prevent?

To further understand my point, let me be the devil’s advocate (again). Let me ask the following:

1.    If we say that Igorots are good looking, fair skinned (mestizas/mestizas) etc., then does it mean that those who are not good looking, or not fair skinned, are not Igorots? (adi pay haanak nga igorot ta haanak nga mestizo?)

2.    If we say that Igorots are “stronger and better’ (as, ‘awan makin kaya ti igorot’ , lampa ti taga-baba etc.) are we not also discriminating other groups? What if, for instance, one lowlander or “taga-baba” is stronger than an Igorot in a physical sport, will the Igorot lose its identity because all Igorots are supposed to be strong?

3.    If we say “pugutak tupay ulom!!”, are we not suggesting that we are, indeed ‘barbarbaric’. Or, when you say discriminatory slurs against other groups, will you also accept curses as retaliation on your person?

Yes, to decipher our backlash includes the simplest study of our reaction’s logic. In this case, first, in our frequent use of illogical connections, or worse, absent logic itself. How can we say ‘Igorots are better because it is where I belong’ and believe it to be true in itself. Second, why are we replacing argument with personal attacks and expect people to be enlightened. True, it is easier to say ‘patayen ka koma nga ignorante ka!”, but will it support your clarification that ‘igorots are civilized’?

There were many times when an ethnic-discriminatory remark slipped,  and soon, 'over-reacting' kakailyans swarmed that person, or institution - declaring war against the world, even in the internet - challenging people from different ethnicity, race, and tribes. When was the last time? KC Concepcion's photo with Aetas in an Igorot costume? As we imply, or even boast that we are better looking than our dark-skinned friends? Because Igorots are supposedly light-complexioned and more handsome? Was that our basis of beauty? Or was it that poor girl who was bullied in the internet; some even threatened to cut her head off? Hundred messages and write-ups verbally mauled her, because we think that we are better “people”? Or that highschool who must have missed history class? Have we not said some comments about other tribes or groups as well? 

Let me repeat: “This cycle has been going on and on in a sickening phase. A chapter stuck in the pages because actions and reactions remain to be the same to a degree where emotions are vent only to satisfy the urge of defending pride and belongingness. Perhaps, we must move on.”

What do I mean by moving on?

In social sciences, a tendency to discriminate by a once discriminated group is a natural consequence in an effort to heal a tragic past. However, dwelling to it can also resurrect a bygone era. It is likened to opening up a wound in an effort to heal it. The danger of internalizing it as people, will make it permanent. For instance, a white person who, even innocently, mentions “black guy” may be regarded by an African American as a racist. That is the effect of internalizing the tragic past for too long. Such group will always feel wronged and prejudiced to an extent that they become  exceedingly reactive. We must move on.

The first step is acceptance. We accept that history may not have been good to us. I will not dwell on the past Philippine law that banned Igorots from getting drunk (hehe). Similarly, I will accept that our warrior tribes, who practiced mutilation both us punishment and as an act of war, may have been viewed as ‘barbaric’, by other cultures. And that we were once exhibited in a foreign country to press such image.

The second step is changing our mindset or our world view. There is only one race, and that is the human race. There is a danger in priding ourselves with a name that may seek to alienate, insult, or degrade other groups. I’m not saying that it is wrong to be proud that we are Igorot People, Kankana-ey People, Ibaloy, or what have you, but false pride promotes discrimination, especially when we do not understand our culture, and the essence of it in our lives. Let the term remain and be defined by how we show the world who we are.

Related to this is relinquishing our tendency of entitlement if we really want to promote equality and harmonious co-existence. Igorot hero Jose Dulnuan had stated it perfectly: "I am an Igorot. Let me be treated as I deserve—with respect if I am good, with contempt if I am no good, irrespective of the name I carry. Let the term, Igorot, remain, and the world will use it with the correct meaning attached to it."

Last is, living and practicing our ideal impression of an Igorot –Educated, Humble, Peaceful and Honest Citizen. That is the only way which can show and educate the world of what we are as people and, in a manner which we can really be proud of. I bet that we will not be proud of a ‘kailyan’ who is a criminal; a swindler, drug pusher, kidnapper, robber, murderer etc. Inherent to it is the preservation of the positive values and culture as people. In doing so, we must be reminded that “Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures” (Chavez).

The following are just proposed steps from an observer. Amuk Igorot ka. Igorotak met. That is why I wish for us to move on.

Note: Should you find my conclusions offensive, please understand that I really am an Igorot: Part Ibaloi, Bontok, Kankana-ey, ( and even drops of Ifugao), among others.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

La Trinidad’s Garbage woes

This is a concerned citizen’s reply on the inquiry raised by Mr. Atsou Nashitama of Kanagawa, Japan regarding the ‘garbage decomposer machine’ or that ‘black-hole’ machine bought by La Trinidad, Benguet through its municipal officials. I personally wrote this because there was no reply from any official or gov't representative regarding the machine ever since the inquiry was brought up by Mr. Nashitama weeks ago.

The operation of the machine is below our expectation. It does NOT decompose 30 cubic meters of garbage in a day (or the claim of even 10 tons of garbage) but only about 1 or 2, perhaps even less. It is NOT effective and efficient, it is NOT revolutionary. Mr. Nashitama must personally come to the site to see it for himself. It requires a horde of workers to manually transfer the garbage from the truck to the machine and guess what; the end-products are not decomposed wastes nor garbage which were turned into ashes, but were only compressed wastes covered with a slimy fluid (which almost look like dark and muddy matters). It was a waste of money. I don’t know what our officials saw in their visit to Japan (if it was the same machine), but it was clearly not what it was expected of the machine.

The garbage woes will only get louder because it seems that there is no political will on the part of officials to effectively implement related laws, coupled with the ignorance and the non-compliance of its citizens to  waste ordinances (awan disiplina tayo!). Waste segregation can be observed, however, the problem on where to dump biodegradable wastes, especially in urbanized areas, is still a dilemma – commercial centers including boarding houses or apartments, have yet to find a site where they can decompose their biodegradable-wastes. This results to those biodegradable garbage left on the streets, or worse; the willful disregard of citizens in managing their wastes because of the local government’s perceived ineffectivity. The barangays, just the same, have to be firm in solving this humongous task.

La Trinidad, even though not a city, faces the same problem which urbanized towns face – garbage, among others. We must admit that Alno dumpsite will not stay there for long, and soon, other barangays will refuse to let their place become a dumping site. Thus, La Trinidad should also plan for this future problem, perhaps invest on the idea of ‘land-banking’ – buy isolated lands of nearby towns for future use, unless we want to pay millions just to dump our garbage in Tarlac like Baguio City. Perhaps, officials can also be more imaginative; what is the use of millions of pesos which are being spent in “Lakbay-aral” activities, when none of them can adopt or replicate an idea from the places where they visit? Palawan’s waste-free culture, or even Bantayan, Cebu’s “garbage to bricks” technology?

To my delight, a councilor has recently proposed an ordinance which seeks to manage and regulate the use of plastic bags. We support this move, but we also expect that it will be implemented – not just another ‘sleeping ordinance’. Anyway, this is also to remind every people in La Trinidad, including myself, to do our part – reduce our consumerist tendencies, manage our wastes, educate others, and support ordinances that will benefit us and our community. This problem can be solved when both government and its people will actually fulfill their own responsibilities to the community.

* All of the readers comments (Almost 200) for this post are now hidden due to emotional and misinformed readers who found their ways in sending me threats in my Facebook account. Although it was only part of my intention to stir the issue so it will merit attention, I never imagined that it will bring out hideous, albeit separate issues of 'politicos' from different sides. Before I be accused of favoring political candidates, or that I am using my blog for any propaganda, I decided to hide the readers' comments. My apologies to the followers of the thread.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A Challenge to the Youth (2010)

A Challenge to the Youth (2010)

It’s over. It turned out that the anticipations of a wide electronic fraud by some hired computer-hackers, of a Comelec-Smartmatic conspiracy, of violence that will result to failure of elections, and ultimately a take-over of a Gloria-controlled military, is merely paranoia. Except from the same hot spots where election-related violence seems to have already taken its root in their culture, the first automated-elections was a success (I think). And as the streamers and posters were being taken down, and the speeches of victory and defeat were being delivered; the results of the election undoubtedly imparted messages that were mostly a reflection of the society that we are living in.

While idealism, credentials, competence, and a little bit of sweet-talking may win votes, the election results has proven once again that there’s nothing that assures winning more than a “popular-family name” and of course, “money”. That is the hard cold truth. As the traditional political clans flourish with more power and money, the younger generation became tired and have grown skeptical of the ideologies of the new left. This common scenario has disgusted the younger generation and exhausted their desire to penetrate the traditional political system for change. As a result, the young intellectuals yielded to political and social apathy and sadly, resolved to pursue a “more practical goal”: Go abroad and earn money. As Randy David put it,“…the youth’s patience has grown shorter…many of them no longer identify with the nation’s saga. When they think of political leadership, they think of political predators who feed on the carcass of an impoverished and demoralized people. They have become cynical about politics and cannot see their personal growth as intertwined with that of the nation.”

Ironically, he also explained that most of the builders of our country were very much younger; Rizal was only 27 when he led the reform movement of Filipino students in Europe, Bonifacio was 29 when he founded the Katipunan, and Aguinaldo was only 28 when he was elected president of the new revolutionary government in 1897.

Today, the young promising generation is being pushed in a cell to spend most of their age, efforts, and brain cells to endeavors that are alien to the dreams of their own country. The intelligent and energetic youth are being forced to leave the country to earn a decent wage, or to be outsourced by foreign companies, while most of the incompetent and close-minded old people stay in the reins of power. In the last elections, the youth were merely seen as a campaign tool or an electorate block which can be easily swayed by the names, the power, and colors, nothing more. Our society appears to have forgotten that, “the youth is the hope of our land”. It is our society, and our acceptance to ancient power-hungry clans, that has eliminated promising-young leaders with far-better imagination and disposition. It is our society which has embraced traditional politics with open-arms – rejecting the serious effort to revolutionize this system. The message is clear: “Nothing will change, unless we recognize and accept the need for it”.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Hand Painting with Latex Paint


In general house painting, latex paint is most commonly used in concrete walls as a primer or for finishing. However, this kind of paint can also be used on wood especially for beginners who cannot set-up a canvas. This is an ‘easy application, easy go, and easy handling’ material because it is water-soluble, and does not give the strong odor that enamel or acrylic paint gives. With these qualities, we can also use our fingers to paint aside from traditional brush. (-->Here is an example of a work using latex and hands/ fingers.)

To achieve some texture on your work, you must first paint the plywood once or twice with random shades and images before the actual painting of the image; make random strokes and let it dry for a few minutes. The texture from the paint will enhance the appearance, especially when it is beside any illumination. The bumpy feel should be sensed when you use your fingers as brush. Enjoy. 
(Side Photo: "Set": Finger Painting on Plywood - Latex Paint)

The role of Communication and Culture in Development

The role of Communication and Culture in Development

I have always pondered on the complicated debate on whether ‘culture created language’ or the other way around, which is; ‘language created culture’. I believe that both can be the case; the human’s social culture invented a tool to be one with the members of his society, and cultures also evolved by a process that heavily involves communication. They may even be products of each other.

Communication and culture have indeed a very intimate relationship. First, cultures are formed through communication or result of social communication. Then, communication and communication tools are used to preserve and pass along cultural characteristics from one place and time to another. One can conclude, therefore, that culture is shaped, transmitted, and learned through communication while communication practices are largely created, shaped, and transmitted by culture. Although, I am firm to say that communication is in itself, a culture.

Cultures are complex structures that consist of a wide collection of characteristics. The cultures of relationships or groups are relatively simple compared to those of organizations and, especially, societies. However, cultures are also dynamic - as societies evolve, culture within it also changes. In fact, cultures are ever changing from myriads of factors, like communication technology, and from different cultural encounters (because travelling has become convenient in our modern world). Thus, the ideas and the drive of people from different cultures were influenced in relation to their desires and needs. People, especially from developing countries felt the need to adapt to the changes of the world as a global village.

The need to grow with the modern society demands a change in culture. After all, the causes of rural poverty are complex and multidimensional and may involve, among other things, culture, climate, gender, markets, and public policy. Likewise, the rural poor are quite diverse both in the problems they face and the possible solutions to these problems. Thus, the acceptability of such endeavor requires compromise. Perhaps, to do this involves a tool to discover and study the factors that involves a certain change in their system, or in their lives. The people involved shall be informed, and with that genuine information, decide on what kind of development they would want for their place.

Culture and Communication: The road to Development

Culture and the Ecosystem

A UNESCO report on African poverty (“EDUCATION AND CULTURE IN AFRICA’S QUEST FOR DEVELOPMENT”) suggested that backwardness and poverty are often associated with an nonflexible culture. However, in its journal, “UNESCO Building Human Capacities in Least Developed Countries to Promote Poverty Eradication and Sustainable Development” (2007, p.59), a UNESCO project that transforms peoples mindset through culture industry like appreciation of tourism on heritage parks, had produced thousands of jobs in a poor country like in Cambodia, heavily boosting its economy. It means, and adoptive culture which looks forward is bound to see progress. This strategy was also applied to our very own Palawan Island and its majestic beaches and Underground River systems. The Philippine culture depends on a successful ecosystem so that the locals can have a sustainable lifestyle in the future. The residents ultimately developed a culture to sustain and protect their ecosystem as part of their lives, and way of living.

An energy plant to pave way for development

An issue today that is worth the study is the proposal of a run-off Mini-hydro energy plant at Sabangan, Mt. Province. Sabangan, a fifth-class municipality in Mountain Province, which will host a 1 billion-peso investment after Hedcor Inc. Benguet, a subsidiary of AboitizPower, signed the final memorandum of agreement (MOA) for the operation of a mini-hydro run-off river power plant.

Hedcor Inc. Benguet senior vice president Chris Faelnar said the company will be investing a minimum of P1 billion for the construction of a 12.3-megawatt river run-off mini- hydro power plant to be located in barangays Namatec and Napua. This, he said after they were given the consent and the approval by the community, barangay, municipal and the provincial governments, giving the go signal for the start of the project. The amount of investment, he said, will include the construction of a road leading to the plant and the electro mechanical works needed in the operation. (Black and Hot, 2011)

The roads will be the first to be done, which the community can also utilize as part of their access to their homes and their local agricultural produce. When I visited the area last year  for the consultation of the people of the project as part of the Indigenous People’s Rights Act to Free and Prior Informed Consent (FPIC) of any Project that will affect them and their Ancestral Domain, there were almost no roads leading to their homes and even directly to their farms. There was no industry, only the existence of small farms and some sarisari stores, and even in these farms, there was no assurance that they will have a good year for their crops. Below the highway, after some thick forest is a river which flows from Mt. Data, Bauko M.P., the forest reserve, to the Bontoc Chico River. This is the water that will be used to turn the turbines of the run-off mini hydro in a tunnel to produce electricity, this water will be the basis of the company to implement the their corporate social responsibility to build access roads for the residents and create jobs for them, and to pay taxes on the local government that will be used for projects that will benefit the community. It seems that development is on its way for the people of Sabangan.

Culture and the IPs of Sabangan

Water has always been respected and regarded as mythical in the province. The Inudey Falls near the area even relates a myth or a story of a man who paid the price for defecating in the water - his anal orifice became the passageway of water. The story is a bit weird but it made a point of culture that respects the water, or nature as a whole. That is why, in the series of consultation where I attended, many elders expressed their concerns on the process of the development. They fear that the waters will stop itself from going to their farms if it is disturbed by wrong development, they fear the effect of the cutting of some trees that will be necessary for the access road that is required by the project.

It was a natural tendency for the people of Sabangan to be concerned with the effect of the project to their ecosystem, and their way of life. Some opposed the proposal, but many insisted on the need for it, considering that in the present, their children are migrating to urbanized cities and towns for work. In 2010, the LGU of La Trinidad demolished illegal shanties at Dreamland, Pico that was squatted by hundreds of families who are mostly from Sabangan, Mt. Province. The expressions of these concerns were dramatic. I personally debated with myself if the mammoth company will change their lives for the better, or not.

Tongtongan: The culture of consultation and communication

In a series of consultation initiated by the NCIP-SABATA, the people of Sabangan especially from Napua and Namatec were brought to face the Project Proponent, Hedcor Inc., and discuss issues related to the project. All institutions within society facilitate communication, and in that way, they all contribute to the creation, spread, of idea and even culture. Communication media such as television, film, radio, newspapers, magazines, computers, and the Internet play a particularly important role, however, before these tools was a mode of communication that involves the participation of the parties in a developmental endeavor. Tongtongan was an old age tradition of consultation and communication and at the same time, a culture. It should be remembered that I suggested the intimate relationship of the two, and went as far to imply that both are products of each other.

The tongtongan helped the Indigenous Peoples of Sabangan decide whether they want the project or not. As a guaranty of the IPRA law, a free and prior informed consent was needed from the people before a certification to start the project from the NCIP will be released for the proponent. The IPRA law also guaranties that the consent will be given after consulting the people preferably through the existing and respected tradition of knowing the pulse of the people. Thus, the tongtongan was the perfect avenue for the people of Sabangan to inquire, even to negotiate with the project proponent. The event was naturally attended by elders or the ‘nanakays’, a crucial element to the traditional dialogue, the barangay and local officials, and every stakeholder in the area. A presentation was prepared by the project proponent and their personnel to show the advantages and disadvantages of said project, and asked the people for suggestion on how to alleviate poverty, especially in some far areas of the municipality.

Meeting of the Minds

In 2011, Memorandum of Agreement was signed by the three levels of government namely, the barangay, the municipal, and the provincial, with the project proponent, Hedcor Inc., after series of consultations that drew and outlined an understanding of what the proponent should do and not to do if they allow the project, taking in consideration the environmental, social, economic, and other aspects that will be affected by the project. Aside from taxes and royalties, stakeholders will be rewarded with infrastructure projects and even jobs, the project is expected to pave the way for development, as they choose to and as outlined in their agreement. (BusinessMirror, 2011)

To further stress the idea that the hydropower will be for the people, the Sabangan project will be carried out with the name Hedcor Sabangan Inc. after the signed  memorandum of agreement with the indigenous peoples of barangay Namatec and Napua and the municipality of Sabangan for said project. Baguionews, 2011)

The role of communication and culture to the developmental project

The basis of this project for the proponent is not just for profit but perhaps to realize their goal of cheap electricity that will be available for all. Unlike mining which is much unpopular, the mini-hydro project is a result of a demand which people also created. People use electricity, people invented gadgets that must use electricity, and people depend on this type of energy. The challenge, however, is how to communicate this proposal to the affected community, or to the affected Indigenous Peoples. The culture of tongtongan encouraged, not just the absorption of information, but also negotiation and the process of give and take, or compromise that will satisfy the concerns of each party. Without this culture, which is also a way of communicating, the developmental project will not be realized. 

Without communication, there will be no such thing as a sound and perfect developmental project for the people because the people will oppose such project resulting to unrealized investments. Without communication and without the proponents’ decision to consider the existing culture of the people of Sabangan, the MOA could have just been a mere scrap of paper. There could have been no musings of development, at least for the Indigenous Peoples of Sabangan, Mountain Province.


* Note (2014): The author condemns the Contractor 'Sta. Clara' , and other enterprising officials for starting/implementing the project with less regard to the environment and respected tourism spots in the area. We hope that this issue will be addressed and Hedcor be alarmed. Inayan pay sa!

Development Communication: The KALAHI Program

 Development Communication: The KALAHI Program

"All in one boat: Our programs are united under the KALAHI", said Raul Banias, the jolly Mayor  of the Municipality of Concepcion, Iloilo.  He smiled with the same enthusiasm and continued;  "My vision is zero poverty in Concepcion by the year 2020. I persisted, deploying vans with loudspeakers, and finally won the people over. Now they are on fire. The people felt that the projects were truly theirs."

Take one of their projects as an example: Barangay Dungon’s new public utility boat. The people of Dungon needed water transportation to ferry students, workers, entrepreneurs, and their sick. They formerly used a small pump boat that could take 10 passengers at most. It was available on market days only: twice a week. On the other days the owner used it for fishing. Passengers could try hitching a ride on other fishing boats, but they did not have regular access to them and riding them was not always safe. In fact, to protect their safety, a national Executive Order banned fishing boats from accepting passengers.

The new KALAHI boat was 18 meters long and 2 meters wide. It could carry 40 people, including the crew. Its design followed the specifications of the Maritime Authority, but the project team made a few changes that were approved by the municipal engineer: a larger hull, motor, and propeller. The vessel was made of hardwood, and its sidings were bolted and nailed together to ensure durability.

In February 2004 the subproject committee turned over the vessel to the village council for operation and maintenance. The council in turn created the Dungon Pump Boat Association with its own technical management team. The pump boat association set the schedules, fares, discounts, rental fees. Because of the KALAHI vessel, residents’ incomes have risen as they have greater market access for their products. More employment was created. Their transport expenses went down, and they could attend social events in town more often. School enrollment rose and fewer students dropped out.

"In the municipal hall, I did much to oversee projects like those of Dungon. I linked up the municipal agencies into a coordinating committee, which met regularly. The agencies helped ensure the added funds, materials, and people needed to make the projects work (e.g. teachers for a new school). We also assigned staff to the KALAHI villages to give technical support. Then I commissioned a municipal-wide survey on minimum basic needs. We wanted to create a pool of data that would help measure the impact of the KALAHI. My local government also installed a data board in every village of Concepcion. The bottom-up KALAHI system is now integrated into our planning cycle. I used our success with the KALAHI to get resources from other donors for our social programs." The mayor readily described.

"We thought of them as “convergence partners.”The poor discovered that they could make a change in their lives. In Concepcion, 375 people had gone through the training sessions. They could now analyze their community needs, prepare formal proposals, and demand infrastructure from their politicians. They have learned how to access funds. That capability will remain long after the KALAHI is gone."

 The Municipality of Concepcion, Iloilo has 34,000 residents and it is relatively isolated because it includes 16 islands. The efforts on reforms, education and development, livelihood programs and health services remain are fragmented, focused on their own targets, and limited in resources. In Concepcion, getting the people on board KALAHI was difficult. The villages were cynical about the whole program. The officials and volunteers complained about the heavy work load—their schedules had become hectic. And the executive had to contend with misinformation, he had to use innovative communication tools to educate and inform people of how the project will go. Everyone called it kalaha, a “frying pan”, because so few people wanted to get into it. The people hesitate every time it involves a newer idea. The mayor, at a period of time, used loud speakers to bombard everyone with information regarding DSWD’s KALAHI project. (For ease of reference, from here on the text will refer simply to the KALAHI project—a Filipino acronym that stands for “linking arms against poverty”.)

The communication among the Concepcion local government took a while however; KALAHI, after a while, has provided them with a road map, a coherent framework for integrating all these projects into one grand community plan. Formerly, local councils in the Philippines did little to involve the people in the planning process. The KALAHI is a great opportunity to encourage local governments to get the people involved in community planning.

The KALAHI-CIDSS is a community-driven development (CDD) project that aims to empower communities through their enhanced participation in community projects that reduce poverty. Within 6 years, the project aims to cover 25 percent of the poorest municipalities in the poorest 42 (out of 79) provinces of the Philippines, equivalent to more than 4,000 villages in 182 municipalities. It strengthens community participation in local governance and develops local capacity to design, implement, and manage development activities. Community grants are used to support the building of low-cost, productive infrastructure such as roads, water systems, clinics, and schools.

The project is implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development with the World Bank providing financial support to the project. The total project cost is US$182.4 million: US$100 million from the World Bank; US$31.4 million from the national Government; with villagers and their local governments contributing US$51 million as cash or in-kind contributions.

The project is part of the overall KALAHI framework, which is the Government of the Philippines’ overarching program for a focused, accelerated, convergent, and expanded strategy to reduce poverty. The KALAHI program aims to provide interventions on asset reform; human development services; capacity building; and participation in governance.

CIDSS is a CDD program in the Philippines that focuses on 3 villages per target municipality, in particular, on the most disadvantaged families within the said villages. It stresses the convergence of various agencies and their social services. The projects currently being implemented have estimated economic rates of return of 17% to 53% for the villages, very high for social development projects, and indicating the responsiveness of the projects. The KALAHI is providing services that villagers have often been waiting for decades. Village projects are approved, designed, and constructed within only 3 to 6 months.

                        Kalahi toolkit
                        Ateneo School of Gov’t – Kapihan 2010

Development communication is the art and science of human communication applied to the speedy transformation of a country and the mass of its people from poverty to a dynamic state of economic growth that makes possible greater social equality and the larger fulfillment of the human potential.  - Nora Quebral

Two years ago, I was a participant of the World Bank Kapihan Sessions for 100 young leaders of the country. The forum was organized with a lot of ambitious intentions; from sharing ideas and programs on how to develop the lives of community, to the roles of politics and governments in these plans and programs. We met with leaders from different regions and from different institutions; NGOs, media, the Academe and some young politicians. In our dialogues, the poor’s knowledge to most development programs has become a dominant concern. The DSWD, for instance, as an administrative arm of the government lacks manpower or the number of driving personnel to address or implement the programs that will supposedly benefit the poor. The poor on the other hand remain in the void of lack of information on these programs that seek to benefit them. Evidently, communication applies not just to the target audience who are the poor, but it also needs the participation of Local Governments; in the province, municipality, and even in the barangays.

Nora Quebral mentioned that development communication is supposed to be an “art” and a “science” of human communication. Mayor Raul Banias, finding the KALAHI project to be beneficial to his town drove him to use “loud speakers” and attended numerous speeches to let his constituents know about the intention of the program and how his people could be part of it. A review shows that most of his constituents were hesitant at first because they think that it will fail, and because most local officials are afraid of the paper works. In this modern world, every project will need “paper works” – draft plans, project proposals, project studies, and resolutions from the local officials. The continuous encouragement of the executive head taught them to try and become part of the drive towards the intention of the program. One project for instance, the ferry boat, which was realized, gave them not just commercial edge on trades but also, it also transported their children to school. Hadn’t the mayor convinced his people to try and cooperate with the DSWD’s KALAHI program then they will still be maintaining a low potential in developing their town and their lives.

Of course even this is only a story of one town. Implementation of the KALAHI began early in 2003 in only six villages. After the pilot phase of 6 months, the project expanded to 201 villages in 11 municipalities in 11 provinces. One year later, it was being implemented in 1,505 villages in 67 municipalities in 22 provinces. Clearly, this reflects Quebral’s musings of using “human communication to the speedy transformation of a country and its mass of its people from poverty to dynamic state of economic growth..” As long as human communication is both applied to the government and its people, programs will materialize. Programs that “makes possible greater social equality and the larger fulfillment of the human potential.”

Recollection of Culture

A recollection of my culture
(By: Valred Olsim)

When I was in high school, we were often grouped according to the language we spoke in preparation for cultural presentations. Those events left me a lasting impression that language, culture, and ethnicity are parts of the same concept. Perhaps, I was not matured enough to bother myself in knowing their difference, even though  I can proudly identify myself as a “full blooded Igorot” and speak Kankana-ey and Baguio-Benguet Ilokano fluently aside from English and Filipino. It is, however, in my college years that I contemplated about culture and discovered that culture is not merely language, or those ethnic dances and tribal art, but a very “complex whole encompassing almost all human activities and ideas that is shared by members of a society”. Thus, the way of life of a society in a period of time is a defining factor in studying individual cultures, including my own.

In hindsight, I belong to the human society.  Throughout its history, humans have fashioned universal ways and concepts which are closely linked to their existence. For instance, the concept of working to eat, regardless of how it is done, received great regard from different societies. Trade and industries sprung from this need, and knowledge became a pre-requisite to working in such production-based societies.  As a child, I was conditioned to stay in a learning environment in preparation for a degree and ultimately to work in the professional society. Although I was not influenced by the ‘fad’ of taking-up nursing after high school, it is my belief that the whole educational system was a culture in itself which is very important to the life of humans. Clearly, that alone is an indication that society promotes a culture that is basic towards human sustenance – work.

As a member of the human society, it was also a natural tendency for me to “communicate”. I was lucky to know a few dialects together with the national language, and although there were complicated debates on whether ‘culture created language’ or the other way around, which is; ‘language created culture’, I am inclined to believe both, at least to some extent. In my opinion, the main human culture is to communicate, and language is only a tool, thus, culture may have created language. However, I also believe that language may create culture in a way that language can create a subculture. For instance, the ‘Jejemon culture’ in today’s generation sprouted from the radical creativity of today’s youth in ‘text messaging’. Perhaps, the message is the medium, thus, language may have been redefined by the wave of technical gadgets and the abundance and younger generation’s celebration or reaction to everything that is “new”. Back in my years for instance, as a teenager, we played heavy metal rock as a way to express ourselves and consequently as a way to communicate. Our music preference which contains rebellious language guided us to wearing dark clothes and tattered pants, having ear-piercings and long hair. We also engaged ourselves into excessive drinking, and other compromising activities – a subculture which must be enjoyed by the so called “rockers”. Hence, language may create culture, although language remains to be the basic vehicle of cultural life including various belief systems.

I was born and raised in La Trinidad, Benguet. The town is originally an agricultural town but was dramatically urbanized due to the inviting development of Baguio City, its neighboring town which is a center for various trades in the Cordillera region. The development encouraged migration from its neighboring municipalities and provinces – from the Kankana-eys and Bontoks from Mt. Province to Ilocanos and Tagalogs from the lowlands. This predicament turned La Trinidad into a multi-cultural society – each migrating groups bringing, to some extent, their ideas, belief systems and other ‘ways of life’. As a child, I am exposed to these different cultures, in fact my parents are not originally from here; my father came from Bauko, Mt. Province and Irisan, Baguio City, and my mother, from Bontoc and Sabangan, Mt. Province, that is why I recognize the familiar celebration requiring butchering of pigs and inviting the community to partake in it, or those ethnic dances from those different cultural origins. However, even these old traditions were modernized and influenced by different cultures. Celebrations in a typical family in La Trinidad serve western foods, and adopt the cooking of different provinces, aside from the traditional “a-nger”. Another manifestation for example is when the traditional dances were modernized or made into a ‘modern-traditional’ hybrid. There is much influence and inter-marriage of cultures that I can’t seem to bother if what I witness is a main culture or not. The good thing about a multicultural society, however, is that diversity and variety which, for me, prevents boredom and monotony. We simply have the taste of all worlds. Aside from these apparent cultural influences, another influencing factor to my tendencies, or rather, to my belief system is religion.

Christianity was ultimately embraced by the Philippines in its centuries of struggle against the Spanish colonizers, albeit, it took time penetrating the strapping mountains of the Cordillera region. Nevertheless, I was raised by my parents in a Christian family home – going to mass every Sundays, attending Sunday schools, and the adherence to a Christian-guided concept of morality. However, there was a nagging self in me that asks ‘why?’ and ‘what?’ and ‘how come?’ - I am, fortunately, a natural skeptic. Thus, aside from religion, I embraced philosophy as a way of how I study and evaluate my life, my existence and almost everything that I can grasp in this world. I was first fascinated with existentialism before I took metaphysics seriously. Is it possible that one can deviate from a commonly accepted faith and embrace a self-acquired belief system? I am not sure. If the premise of culture is something that is “acquired by humans as members of a society”, it is also quite noting that the history of humans had echoed tales of conflict, rebellion and opposition as an essential pre-requisite to the rise of another culture, thus, deviation to another belief system can grow to another culture or sub-culture.

My exposure towards a multi-cultural and unstable society often makes me doubt who I am in this world. If a repetitive pattern of action or tendency presents itself into a society, shall I be compelled to abide by it? Should it necessarily arouse general acceptance? I have a strong leaning to believe that my generation did not only openly accept cultures or sub-cultures that were presented to us by our parents, neighborhood or the community, but by simple tools, like say: the television. Television which found special places in the house of every modern family, in a way, became an escape from reality – the immersion to this ‘great moving images formed by little dots of insignificant light’. In its own self, television has become a new religion, albeit, the same traditional need for entertainment by societies. People watch it to be happy, to get through by the day, to relieve them from things that they don’t want to see. However, it also bombarded us with numerous information; of commercials and Ads which have turned us into willing consumers, controlled by the psychology that reality exists on that box-like frame. It controls us and forces us to oblige on a standard; that being beautiful is to look like models, and that we have to try their product to become one, that we have to eat “this” or to do “that” in order to be “in” – it fed us with a rotten culture of vanity which ultimately became a sub-culture that is blindly accepted by a society. I saw this happened in my younger years, unfortunately, it had increased considerably in this time because of the internet and other social-media.

When I was in college, I stumbled upon the concept of “culture industry” while doing a literary research for my prose. This concept introduced me to the idea that while culture is acquired from spontaneous experiences of groups and changes to adapt to their needs, there is also a powerful system that is maintained to manufacture culture for profit, hence the term ‘culture industry’. In my teenage years, I willingly succumbed to these manipulating strategies; I bought bracelets which I do not need because the television said that it is a fashion trend, I listened to pop music because the radio taught the general public that pop music is “in”, I remember buying baggy six-pocket-pants, because almost everyone was wearing it in my time and because, for some reason, a powerful market head decided to introduce and create a “cool fad” which is, ‘wearing baggy pants’. To have thought of using culture to dictate tendencies of people only shows that culture, in its complexity, is very important in the human society

Although sociologists may still maintain that culture should be spontaneous, there are, albeit, few attempts of groups to create a culture that may be suitable for themselves. Parisian art students, for example, vandalized their wall with a quote that reads, ‘Culture is dead, now let us start creating’. Perhaps one reason that prompted them to do such move is the existence of cultures that are not just favorable to the modern generation but also promotes a culture of backwardness. As a law student, we often encounter laws that are oppressive which are based on a bias society. There are laws that lean to a chauvinistic male society, like concubinage in comparison with adultery, or the difference of penalties between sexes. Come to think of it, law students and lawyers also have a sub-culture of their own that only they understand.

Indeed, culture encompasses a complicated entirety that is related to the human way of life. There are uncertainties on the basis of how people regard things as culture or not because its complexity is as intricate as the human tendency itself. Lord Raqlan once defined it as “..rougly anything we do, and monkeys don’t”. Personally, I have given a few glimpse of what I regard as culture and sub-culture according to how I’ve experienced life in my 24 years of living. I have given my doubts on how I can weigh that which is a culture and sub-culture because I also doubt my own perception on how to distinguish them from each other. I have doubts because I believe that my generation was the most affected recipient and victim of the technological explosion which distorted the traditional definition of culture. Mahatma Gandhi theorized that, “ culture can live if it remains to be exclusive”. He may be right. The society today is different; a neighbor can be a cowboy from Texas, USA or a factory worker in China. Through the internet, television, and mobile gadgets, our societies have closely knitted itself into the human fabric. This predicament displaced the traditional cultures or sub-cultures that were introduced to us by the older generation. As the tools and the mediums change according to the need of humans, cultures have also been transformed, and needless to say, mine was not spared. As a resident of the world, looking at the TV as a window, and talking to foreigners through the internet as neighbors; I am a member of many societies where I can adopt many cultures.

I may be wrong on some of my ideas about culture, but then, I can only deduct that everything which I have embraced according to my own perception of a ‘way of life’ is my culture. I’m not pessimistic about the existence of culture; in fact I highly regard its importance in our society and civilization of humanity. As my existentialist hero, Albert Camus, said, “Without culture, and the relative freedom it implies, society, even when perfect, is but a jungle. This is why any authentic creation is a gift to the future.”

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Poetry 3: The eyes of Edmund

The Eyes of Edmund Dantes (2007)

The quite hearse of gasp was heard,
A cynic figure of obliviousness – It stood.
And on the dungeon’s bars, his fingers crawled,
As if to feel and see hope – but sadly, its pain and why’s…

Millions of seconds should have passed by then,
And for him each second counts as day,
With all the wondering and of melancholy,
Of lost love, betrayal, and of innocence – Yes! Of innocence…

For that old miserable lightless room, no…that Prison!
Has become an edifice of cries, and sobs, and of curses…Yes, Curses!
For he has done nothing! And nothing! He deserves none of that.
That man, which on the peak of his happiness, has lost it.

And Curses! For his God, he thought, has abandoned him.
And Oh! He bit his lips to stop him swear…
But, the angst and pain inside of him can’t be defied,
And on the thought that he is half insane, smashed his head on the wall!

It bled. The crimson tinted liquid has flown.
And Oh! As if he regained sanity, he sat and wept.
“My Father! My Mercedes!”, he screamed in grief…
For he thought he has lost everything, convinced of his helplessness…

“And Why? Why?! What have I done?!”
For more than ten years he pondered on these thoughts.
Staring at the faceless wall, treating himself like a living corpse
And as if, for  that hellish condition, numbness has plagued his skin…

And at Last! On those years he gained eyes as clear as snow.
An infinite capability to see through haze – to Speak, to think…to rule!
For heaven might have heard those cries and sent another man to die in his grave.
And on this sudden turn of Events – He finally stood to face the sun, He is Free!

No longer on the Deepest shadow of the outcast world,
But on the glorious side of royalty, of the known world…
The man who have hid his eyes on a gray cloud of ignorance,
Emerged with a staggering light of power– but with a dark hand...

A Dark Hand, with an iron grip, to those who have caused him loss..
For the memories of those blackest nights stayed on his eyes…Clear and Unsoiled
And Oh! With the eyes of Edmund Dantes plays God! – Equally!
The all-seeing eye to which everything lays on like the light of day…

“Oh those eyes!”, of vendetta, of revenge, of a living wrath!
“Those Eyes! Your Eyes Sir!” that can pierce with a glance…
For your scream resonates on those glares! And gives shiver to anyone!
“Your eyes Count! You, the Count of Monte’Cristo”…Your Eyes Edmund Dantes…

Poetry 2: Eulogy for a friend

Eulogy for a friend (2007)

Silence has reached your feet…
A predicament that grieves all
 Life has cut its wreath,
But so sad, an unexpected call…

 You have lived the drama,
the comedy has paid its part...
 the inevitable has come and passed.
I wonder why it happened so fast…

 Living the succulent life, you did,
But things happen even as you close a lid.
 Who knows? Who dares to?
The world leaves questions but not a clue.

As a stranger you bow your head,
As a friend, you took the lead.
 One final stand was left and then you fade.
Sometimes, I ask why aid is late to make…

 To reminisce those days, I stare at you,
Is more real, but not as sweet…
 You lay there with innocence I don’t know,
   My friend, you played the song until it’s final beat…

Poetry 1: Another Sick Rose

Another Sick Rose (2007)
Valred Olsim

I lie there unaware,
I broke a heart.
The pain that you can’t bare,
You steal the night…

I lie there unaware..
A seething heart followed my bed,
A cursed, a filthy stare,
You hate what I have said..

I lie there unaware,
An angry hand wrapped my lips,
You laugh, you weep, who are you?
I cry, I scream, you never cared,

I lie there unaware,
My soul and body bleeds
I lie there unaware
Why did you do that ugly deed?

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Preacher

He did good. The church will give eighty percent of its tithes and offerings to the Golden Pyramid. Given the vast followers of the fellowship, it can attach thousands of people from its 'bottom' mark. The 'multi-level marketing' business will have another 'market' The production of cash will be instantaneous. He suspected that the lawyer and policeman in the congregation will raise their suspicion, but the networking business is not exactly illegal.

He has been their head pastor for 10 years. He managed to exploit the verses about tithing, or giving 10% of church-members’ income, aside from their church-offerings and love offerings. As their accountant and pastor, he had managed to build a house for himself and even bought a car. It was not enough.  In the Philippines, there are actually four ways to get rich; first is to get into business, another is to work abroad, another is to become a politician or work in government office, and the last and most infamous, actually  almost a taboo to mention is… to build your own ‘church’. He took the fourth path.

In a minute, he will give another speech for the afternoon session. He took his bible and balanced it with the heavy gold ring he wore on his left hand. He walked nonchalantly at the door but transformed automatically into the gleeful leader he projects to his members when he appears before them. He proceeded to the pulpit; he was almost a different person. After the prayer and the usual ‘good days’, he played his gold ring in the pages of Mathew 23:23 and try to tell the church that Jesus criticized people, even the Pharisees who did not observe ‘tithing’. He saw a few people who budged uncomfortably and concluded that they were those who do not give their ten percent income to the church. He tried his best to hide his irritation.

“God told me that the Golden Pyramid will help us. He whispered it to me. And those who doubted this must come to see the check that we received in joining their business. We gained an income of Fifty- thousand pesos in a month by just putting our church-funds in their hands. This is a blessing given by the Lord! Amen?”

“Amen!!” The church had developed a mechanism of saying ‘amen’ immediately after the preacher would say, ‘amen’. Just like how babies respond to their mothers' lullabyes.

He paused, and saw it already: Three million pesos after nine months. Mr. Lee assured him, the business will close at the end of the year, employees will disperse wildly, and the account managers will take the fall while Mr. Lee and the other VIP’s will be on their way to Australia. Another pyramiding scam news. The church funds which were supposed to be used for its' building's construction but were put into the business’ network fund will vanish, actually, transferred to the pastor’s secret bank account. Brilliant.

He cut himself on the pleasure of that day-dream. He ended the sermon after an hour- long ceremony of saying  “Jesus" and “God” and “Lord” repeatedly, he almost felt guilt. But he couldn’t. He marched slowly in the front rows for people to shake his hands. He has to maintain that smile for another ten minutes. After shaking about twenty hands, he saw a familiar face in the right aisle - the policeman from the morning session. He was not smiling, at all.

He didn't care. That policeman can find another church or be labeled a backslider.