Saturday, January 21, 2012

Mom Extraordinaire

She was born on the day Brother Moon joined Sister Sun and Mother Earth in welcoming another daughter to the Universe.  Yes, a solar eclipse was recorded to have occurred on January 24, 1925, the day Mom was born. Like how the Star of David marked Christmas, that solar eclipse signaled the beginning of an extraordinary life.

She and her family lived during the turbulent days of the Japanese Occupation.  At an age when most of us were still acting goofy,  Mom was sent away from their home in Manila to be on her own with her younger brothers and sisters. Lolo Roman was a school superintendent employed by the Americans. He saw the need for his children to hide away in Nueva Ecija, far north of Manila.

"How she worked hard to take care of us," Aunt Ligaya said.  "The only time she rested was when she would sit to mend clothes while we did our homework."

After the war, she met Dad in a blind date on a bowling alley, a short story of which I wrote in my earlier blog Always On My Father's Mind.  They married and had seven high-spirited children.

How she juggled being a wife to Dad aka James Bond of the Philippines, a mother to seven children, a university professor, and most of all, a prolific social worker is beyond me.

The last time I saw Mom alive was at the foot of the escalator at the airport when I left for the United States. I never got the chance to hug her as I yearned to during my self exile of twelve years.  I cannot help but recall her life again and again, only to find out something new every time I do.  For instance, that moon never meant to hide the light of the sun the day she was born.  As human as she was as I pictured her in my recent blog,  Mom Was from Mars and Dad Didn't Mind At All,  she managed to find her way to heaven, along the path brightened by her work marked by sacrifices for other people.

More about Mom

Mom being sworn in by President Ramos as a member of the MTRCB

Lilia Santos-Villa Memorial Endowment
Her Green Card To Heaven 
Round Goes the Lazy Susan 

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Winning! Agriculture=20% Tourism=5.8%

"The bus station in New York City offers a more comfortable waiting area than this,"  I told my sister, Charie, as we sat in the airport in Manila minutes before boarding the plane to Singapore to visit my niece.  She has become my best buddy in my efforts as a pundit, for lack of a better term, in matters about the Philippines.

We were all cramped in what looked like a 10' x 5' area facing the hallway to the boarding gate, on chairs made more for outdoors and not ergonomic enough for waiting rooms.  I was practically breathing down on someone's neck who was seating in front of me.  Forget about taking your book out because the lighting did not allow it.  It made me think about my old lamp beside my bed at home.

"I know, and how well we welcome those tourists we've been trying to attract," she replied.  I was thinking more about our OFW's who contribute 12% to the country's GDP.

"Remember the stink we all made about the traffic once?"  I asked.  "It remains a motley crew of jeepneys and buses in wacky races but at least authorities have been experimenting on solutions."  I was suggesting the power of yacking to get them to do something about the airport.

Well, that trip to Singapore happened during my summer vacation last year.  As we all know,  Ninoy Aquino International Airport is scheduled to have that much needed renovation.  Extreme, if you were to ask me.  Landing on the list of the world's worst airports rang loud enough.

Now, allow me to get to the point of this blog.  After seeing Pinoys in their creative pursuits busy churning out their own versions of  It's more fun in the Philippines ads (that cost the government five million pesos to think of when all they did was to change the last word of an old slogan from Switzerland to Philippines), another thought came to my mind.  You see, it has been on my wish list for a couple of years now to see our country really work on Agriculture.  Take note of the capital "A".

It all started when I met a lady who worked as a nanny to my sister's children during one of my visits. She looked very old and frail.  "Di po niyo ako kailangan i-po," she said.  "Bata pa po ako."

How right she was. Not yet thirty years old, she looked like she was seventy!  Of course I did not say that.

Being nosy, I soon found out why.  She had been working in a rice field with her family in Ilocos all her life.  Most of them had to stop working after getting sick.  Running out of money, she had to venture out into the capital, as most of them do, looking for work to feed her family.  It made me curious then to find out about what kind of help we give our farmers who actually work with their hands, on their knees, all day, in mud and crap, to produce food for all of us.  I found out, NOTHING!

Before I turn dramatic like I always do, allow me to continue in the context of national interest. According to an article in the Encyclopedia of Nations, the country's agricultural sector is made up of 4 sub-sectors: farming, fisheries, livestock, and forestry, which together employ 39.8 percent of the labor force and contribute 20 percent of GDP.  Tourism accounts only for 5.8% recently according to the National Statistical Coordination Board.

There are several underlying problems that affect Agriculture but the most immediate is what I noticed without even being there.  Seeing the aggressive campaign for tourism that our government has recently come up with worried me more. That same article above articulates it well for me.

One of the most pressing concerns of the agricultural sector is the rampant conversion of agricultural land into golf courses, residential subdivisions, and industrial parks or resorts. In 1993 the nation was losing irrigated rice lands at a rate of 2,300 hectares per year. Small land-holders find it more profitable to sell their land to developers in exchange for cash, especially since they lack capital for seeds, fertilizers, pesticides, and wages for hiring workers to plant and harvest the crops. 

You probably do not notice the long drawn effect of this on our people as a whole. My cousin, Gao Pronove, who like me, has vowed to point out things that need pointing out in our country, posted on facebook some very good observations.
SORRY HA!  What's wrong with our food?  They aren't healthy!  Is this why Pinoys are generally fat, under medication, and lethargic?  Where is the healthy stuff?  Think about it or just look at EDSA ads - corned beef, hotdogs, Spam, meat everywhere (drugged chickens, industrial pigs, and only tilapia in a country with a coast longer than the North American continent?).  Sorry ha but we don't have healthy food.

So there. Agriculture = 20% of GDP. Tourism = 5.8%.  I hope it would be enough to get the noise going for our farmers, fishermen, and those who really do the work to put food on our tables.

By the way, sorry to rain on your parade.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

It's More Funk in the Philippines

Photo lifted from Boyet Ignacio's Yetbu Photostream on flickr

It's More Fun in the Philippines.  Yes, it's a simple slogan that tells the truth about Pinoys.  There is no doubt that we really are a bunch of exuberant and bubbly people, even in the face of poverty and blatant corruption.

Me, myself, and I get the expectation of fun as soon as I land in the worst airport in the world.  However, having lived in a land of plenty for so long, I can't help but feel uncomfortable when I have fun around poor, yet ebullient kids.  One of the conclusions I have drawn is that Filipinos are so desensitized to their environment that they can just walk past a little boy, not yet in the age of reason, selling cigarettes out in the streets at night.

UNLESS PINOYS START CARING FOR THEM, or at least show that there are things being done to help them, tourists might just find more reasons to say, "it's more funk in the Philippines."