A Federal State of Bicol?

Despite the deafening issues of food security, increasing fuel and electricity prices as well as tuition fee hikes, the issue of federalizing the Republic of the Philippines would not die down. The reason: The federal system is seen to be an answer to the pressing woes caused by a centralized government.

Last April 23, Senator Nene Pimentel passed Resolution No. 10 entitled, “Joint Resolution to Convene the Congress into a Constituent Assembly for the Purpose of Revising the Constitution to Establish a Federal System of Government”. The idea is to amend the 1987 Constitution and institute what Pimentel calls as an “invasive surgery” and disperse political and economic power throughout the nation. Continue reading “A Federal State of Bicol?”


Changes in Bicol — #1

My family and I have migrated here in Europe and it’s more than two decades since I last set my foot in Bicolandia, my birthplace. Could you update us of the changes there?
— from an e-mail

I find it uncomfortable to compare the present with twenty years ago. I was too young then hehehe. But for Bicolanos abroad, I’ll try my best to share with you some information to the best of my knowledge. Anyway, we have a lot of readers here who are willing to help… so let’s keep the ball rolling.

#1 Transportation in General

One of the major changes is in the field of transportation. We now have regular flights from Manila to key areas of Bicol like Legazpi, Naga, Masbate and Catanduanes. And from Cebu, there is also a regular flight from Queen City of the South to the cities of Naga and Legazpi. Kaya lang, arog man giraray kan dati, an Naga City Airport yaon pa man giraray sa banwaan nin Pili asin an runway kan Legazpi City Airport nasa Banwaan nin Daraga.

All of the airports, however, are still small and can accommodate only domestic flights. There is a plan, though, to build an international airport in Brgy. Alobo, Daraga, Albay. Sa ngonyan, dai ta na aram kun ano na ang nangyari sa plano lalo na ta napiyerde an visionaryo na si dating Mayor Gerry Jaucian. Pero kan yaon pa siya sa puwesto, napoonan na ang feasibility study para sa airport asin nangangaipo na lang ki budget asin implementasyon.

With regards sea travel, the region now has an additional seaport — the Pantao Port in Albay. It is envisioned to be an international port and is now now under construction. The older ports were also improved as a number of these (Matnog and Bulan seaports) are part of the RORO (roll-on, roll-off) Vessel program which connects islands to islands.

For those who love leisure, there is also a cruise from Legazpi City to the central and southern Philippines but this is only based on schedules.

The most favorite is still land transportation. The train service through the PNR, however, has deteriorated that only a few patrons remained. Travel-time by South Road has been significantly reduced especially with the construction of the Quirino Highway now renamed as Andaya Highway. If a few years back a regular trip by bus would take 14 hours from Manila to Legazpi, now it averages only ten hours. Depende siyempre sa panahon asin sa oras kan biyahe. Or one may take a 26-seater non-stop bus and the trip will only take six to eight hours.

As to transportation costs, ordinary bus fare as of this writing is P300 only. Airconditioned buses charges for as low as P500 depending on one’s destination. As to airfare, there are airlines that charges a little over a thousand pesos (especially if you availed of the promos) to P4,000 — again, depending on the destination.

CamSur politics and the early bird politicians

The early bird catches the worm. For this, politicians in the province of Camarines Sur are already busy alligning and re-alligning themselves as if they are the colors of the Rubik’s Cube. According to a source, a confidential political caucus was held a few days ago in the City of Legazpi to iron out political differences and identify the posts political stalwarts close to sitting president Gloria Arroyo are going to occupy come July 2010.

Of course, it is already given that the presidential son, Datu Arroyo, will seek re-election as a CamSur Congressman. Power is like wine. The more it is drank, the more it tastes sweet. Besides, the Arroyos have interests to protect. If there will be no constitutional change and the sitting president steps out of office, problems will surely arise. Thus, the presence of Arroyos in Congress is not a matter of luxury but of necessity.

Second, it is also acknowledged that Datu’s 2007 entry to Congress is, in part, courtesy of the Andayas. The political clan gave way to Datu and even lent him its political machine. In return for the clan’s “generousity”, Rolando “Nonoy” Andaya Jr., was appointed as a Secretary to the Department of Budget and Management. For 2010 elections, since Datu will be seking re-election, Nonoy is being groomed to replace L-Ray Villafuerte as the provincial governor of Camarines Sur. Arroyo’s political party, KAMPI, is all out to support Nonoy and this had been clearly expressed by Cong. Luis Villafuerte, the party president and father of L-Ray.

But where will L-Ray go considering that he is only on his second term and that by law, he is still allowed to seek re-election in 2010?

It is public knowledge that the Villafuerte father and son are not in good terms so most likely, Luis will publicly support Nonoy the way he did with Eddie Pilapil during last year’s election. But since blood is thicker than water, Luis will do something to avoid a political bloodbath. The most logical is to convince his son to give up the gubernatorial post in exchange for something. A cabinet post is most likely either in tourism or trade as L-Ray was able to prove his worth when he came up with flying colors in marketing Camarines Sur. The problem here is insurance. Mrs. Arroyo’s term will end by 2010 and there is uncertainty as to who will be the successor. The most feasible offer for L-Ray, therefore, is the Congressional post currently being occupied by his father. If this will be the offer, it’s either that the elder Villafuerte will rest for a term or seek a senatorial post. Given the publicity he is having right now, however, the elder Villafuerte’s track is more towards the latter.

The Alfelors of the Rinconada area are also amenable to these political arrangements. As a matter of fact, instead of fighting the Villafuertes horn to horn the way they did in the previous elections, the political stalwarts of the Fourth District will join the Andayas and the Villafuertes hand in hand by 2010. Third termer Cong. Felix “Nancing” Alfelor will even be the running mate of Nonoy while Manny Alfelor, the once contender of L-Ray for governorship, will return to his political fiefdom of Iriga City.

Replacing Nancing will be Sal Fortuno who will be “dislocated” from the Vice Governor’s seat.

While there will be re-allignments in the three districts, not much movement is seen in the Partido Area. This simply means that the hold of the Fuentebellas to power remain strong. But, just like before, token candidates are always expected to arise.

The 2010 elections are still two years away. Even then, it appears that all is set in Camarines Sur. Well this is just a consistent behavior of the local politicians in the area – a behavior that can even be called a virtue especially if one considers the Filipino adage “Daig ng maagap ang masipag”. But whether this virtue is translated into good governance, only the people of Camarines Sur can tell. The only thing sure is that these politicians are early birds. Hopefully, their constituents are not the preyed-worms.###

Iriga City: Some waves of changes

Iriga City PlazaIt’s been months since I last visited Iriga City and Rinconada. Dakul na man na pagbabago including new buildings as well as stores. Maski ang city hall iba na man. From San Roque, the new seat of local governance moved to Sta. Cruz. Siguro, para makaiwas na sa baha. Medyo hababa kaya an sentro kan Iriga asin kun makusog an uran, talagang nababaha ini.

Even the plaza changed. Dati, dakul an mga tanom asin kahoy kaya lang ngonyan medyo nagdiit na. Photo Courtesy of CSSACWhen I first set foot in Iriga, I fell in love with its plaza because its like a forest in the middle of the city. Sabagay, apektado na man siguro ini kan inaapod na environmental degradation. Sana lamang dai dahil maski an sarong endangered specie na nadiskubre sa irarom kan administrasyon ni Mayor Madeleine Gazmen, an Rafflesia Irigaense, baka padagos ng mawara. An Rafflesia Irigaense saro sa mga rarest and largest flower in the world known to be parasitic including its crackling sound and foul smell.

Kasabay kan mga ini, halos nawara na man mga Irigueno na nag-mamama. Before, one can see at every corner a person chewing bettlenut and lime but now, they seemed to vanish. Siguro, change in lifestyles. Base sa mga nakaistorya ko, kasabay kan pagkawara kan mga para-mama iyo man an pagdakol kan konsumo kan sigarilyo. Mala ta maski aki, nagpapasadpasad sa plasa na may naiipit na sigarilyo sa saiyang duwang muro.

Iriga National Hi-WaySiyempre, halos wara na man su mga agta na pag Domingo, sarabay na nagbababa hale sa kabubuldan para mag-hiling ki sine asin ubuson an saindang income na nakua sa bilog na semana. Nag-iisip ng magtipid? Dai ta sigurado.

Dakul pang pagbabago an siyudad. Sana an mga ini padagos asin an direksiyon pasiring sa tunay na progreso kan mga Irigueno.

The Poverty in the Bicol Region 3

Poverty may be relative. As I told my colleague sometime ago, the Bicol Region may be economically depressed. Infrastructure-wise, it may remain uncomparable to Metro Manila, or least Cebu, or Davao. But if you consider the satisfaction of the Bicolanos with their way of life, the Metro Manilans may even be far below.

In several instances, I noted in my socio-political surveys that the Bicolanos are happy with the way they live their life. From time to time, though, they would air their disdain for some local politicians, or agonize for lack of money. Even then, gusto pa giraray ninda an buhay-Bicolano. This is as opposed to a great number of respondents in Central Luzon or, in Southern Tagalog Region who claimed that given the opportunity, they would rather go to Manila or someplace else.

This, despite the fact that Regions 3 and 4 are economically advanced compared with Region 5? Why?

History has a great statement to tell. One, during the Spanish colonization, Franciscan missionaries were assigned to the Bicol Region. These missionaries are known to have a vow of poverty so it is most likely that they are the ones who influenced more on the ability of the locales to accept what they are and endure some forms of pain and suffering (i.e., rapado kan mga kalamidad arog kan putok kan bulkan asin mga bagyo).

Second, these missionaries did not clearly advocate nor even aid in the accumulation of wealth as opposed to the Dominicans who, intentionally or otherwise, became instruments in the accumulation of large tracts of lands. When ownership of these lands were given to a selected few, an economic change is thereby effected. Kun maurag an administrador kan mga daga lalong minayaman (in general terms) an lugar. Halimbawa, dahil consolidated an kontrol kan daga sa nagkakapirang kamot, madali an pagdesisyon kun ano an puwedeng gibuhon digdi. Puwedeng i-implementar an industrial agriculture, puwedeng i-convert sa housing, etc., etc. Arog sa Hacienda Luisita sa Tarlac. Siring man, mas may poder na magdikta an tagsadiri kan presyo sa mga produkto niya dahil an kawaran o presensiya kan produksiyon niya magkakaigwa ki dakulang impact sa barakalan sa mercado. Ehemplo digdi an sugarcane industry sa Negros.
Pero kun watak-watak an mga tagsadiri kan mga daga, kanya-kanyang kayod an mga ini. Bahala an mga tagsadiri kun ano an gusto nindang itanom, paanong klase ninda itatanom, asin nuarin ninda gustong itanom. The problem with this, magiging market dependent an mga paraomang yan. Dahil kulang ang poder para madiktaran an presyo kan mga produkto nagluluwas na garo lang sinda mga layag– tagasunod lang kun saen paduman an duros. Ini ngonyan an nangyayari sa mga Bicolano.

Siyempre, me negatibong epekto man an konsolidasyon asin limitadong kontrol kan mga daga. Aside from the lack of family-owned property, farmers have to beg the landowners to allow them to till the land. Ini an dahilan kun nata mas dakul man giraray an porsyento kan mga pobreng namamanwaan sa Region 3 & 4 kumpara sa Region 5. This situation, though, is being overshadowed by the fact na mas dakul an kwarta na nagdadalagan sa Central Luzon asin Southern Tagalog asin dahil dakul an nagdadalagan na kwarta, aktibo an ekonomiya. Halimbawa, dahil paid agricultural workers na an mga tawo, igwa sindang income na puwedeng magastos sa mga bagay-bagay arog kan bado, pagkaon asin maski an pagpapairahay kan saindang mga harong. (Dai kaya sinda puwedeng mag-absent dahil kakaltasan an mga sweldo ninda.) Siring man, nakakapag-crear na ki mga service-related occupations arog kan karpintero, barbero, etc. Masulpot na man an mga tindero, labandera, asin iba pa. Dahil makaskas an inaapod na monetary transfer, nagiging aktibo an ekonomiya, minadakula an mga buwis na naglalaog sa mga lokal na mga gobyerno, asin minadakul man an nagagastos para sa serbisyo-publiko.

Sa Bicol, dahil nakagapos an mga tawo sa kanya-kanyang oma, asin limitado lang an dalagan kan kwarta. Dahil siyempre sadit man an mga income, diit lang an minalaog sa kaban kan gobyerno. Thus, economically, minaluwas na talagang pobre an mga tawo.

Dahil sa konseptong ini nabilog an inaapod na self-rated poverty. In the Philippines, one of the institutions that conducts self-rated poverty surveys is the Social Weather Stations o SWS. Dai ninda hinihiling o hinahapot kun pira an income kan sarong indibidwal o kaya pamilya (as opposed to what the National Statistics Office or NSO is doing). An hapot kan SWS: Sa mga nakaaging bulan/aldaw, mas nagpobre ka ngonyan o mas nag-asenso ka? Kung baga, an “feeling” o “pagmati” an pinagbabasehan bako an income. Kung ini ngonyan an basehan, nagluluwas na comparatively lower an poverty rating kan mga Bicolano.

Paano ta ngonyan mapapatunayan na tama ini?

Igwa ki sarong Amerikanong psychologist an nagibo ki pag-aadal manungod sa mga pangangaipo kan tawo. An ngaran niya si Abraham Maslow asin an resulta kan pag-aadal niya inaapod na “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs”. An sabi ni Maslow igwa ki lebelo an mga pangangaipo kan mga tawo. Sa pinakaibaba iyo an inaapod na “Biological na Physiological Needs” kun saen kabilang an pagkaon, istaran, sex, sleep, etc. Sa itaas kaini iyo an “Safety Needs” then, ang “Belongingness and Love Needs”, followed by “Esteem Needs”, and on the top, the “Self Actualization Needs”.

If we are going to follow the needs categorization by Maslow puwedeng sabihon na lagpas na an mga Bikolano sa lowest level of needs. Maski kaya tuyo lang an isira o kaya gulay, maogma na an kadaklan lalo na su mga nag-eerok sa rural areas. Mala ta an tinutungan na manok, ordinaryo na lang sainda. May mga kararawan ngani na ipinag-aagad pa ninda ini nin dispensa dahil wara sindang sardinas.

But more than this, Bicolanos are attuned to the arts — singing, dancing, painting, sculpting — which the individuals who still craving for food and shelter cannot even afford. Gustong sabihon, lagpas na sa basic needs an mga Bicolano kaya an konsentrasyon na ninda sa inaapod ng “Arts” ni Plato, sarong Griyegong parasurat, na “occupation for the people of higher status”.

Kun sabagay, an sarong tawong gutom, dai makonsentrar sa pag-bayle pero nata ta igwa sa Bicol kan inaapod na “Mr & Mrs” o sa Rinconada, “Biasan”? Nata ta may pantomina? Baraylehan? O kaya nata ta maski pauno, igwa ki mga Bikolano pa man giraray na nagtitiripon para lang mag-arambugan asin mag-arambagan kan saindang mga komposisyon maging kanta man yan o rawit-dawit? Siring man, yaon man an mga parasurat (an notableng si Ben Santos para sa short stories and Novels), painter (arog kay Gus Albur na bistado sa bilog na kinaban), singer (arog kay Nora Aunor)? An mga artista niyato arog kay Eddie Garcia, Dina Bonnevie, Anjo Yllana, an komedyanteng si Wally, asin dakul pang iba. Puwede ta man siguro idagdag sa listahan an Sili King na si Bert Gonzales na apuwera sa pagiging graphic artist kan mga comics, saro man na designer ki mga jeep. Puwede pang maghalaba an listahan pero an pinakasimple na lang, maglalakaw-lakaw lang kita, mahihiling an mga ini sa mga videoke-han sa mga kanto, sa irinuman sa gilid-gilid, asin iba pang lugar. If these “occupations of the people of higher status” are being done by Bicolanos, puwedeng sabihon na mayaman an Bicol. Bako nga lang sa termino kan income.

On my first trip to Pandan, Catanduanes, I’ve seen a number of women drinking liquor. I was told it was a lambanog or a fermented sap of nipa. Astonished, I asked my mentor, Prof. Alex De Guzman about the scene. His response: Nag-eenjoy lang sinda and that is a common sight here everytime there is a gathering of women.

If the people can even have the time to drink and be happy, then poverty may just be pure economy-based or income-based calculations. Could it be?

Poverty in the Bicol Region Part 1 Poverty in the Bicol Region Part 2