A refreshing sight

For warm days like this, a river trip may be nice if going to the beach is expensive. DocHoliday59 of YouTube shares this video from one of his trips:


Siisay an mas maurag: Mga Pilipino o mga Europeo?

My friend and I just had conversation the other day and we were talking about the weather. He said that almost all Europeans are weather conscious and they finalize their schedules based on the weather forecast. Halimbawa, kung gusto ninda na magkawat ki football (their primary game just like basketball is to Filipinos), iniiling muna ninda an weather forecast.

Which is the exact opposite with the Filipinos. Here in the Philippines, we fix the schedules first before we look at the weather forecast. And during the date of the event, we offer eggs so that it will not rain. As to what is the basis for that and as to how the eggs influence the weather, we do not know. Pero minsan totoo man. Dai talaga minauran. Gustong sabihon, mas maurag ang mga Pinoy sa ibang lahi.

Ikaduwa, bako lang ang panahon an nakokontrol kan mga Pilipino. An mga Bikolano ngani, kaya pang i-predict kung ano’ng klase an kakasalon. Thus:

Nag-uran, nag-init
May kasalon na duwang panit;
Nag-init, nag-uran
May kasalon na duwang gurang.

Kidding aside, however, these just show how far the Europeans are from us. First, The Europeans are weather-conscious because they have good weather forecasters. Digdi sa Pilipinas, wara. Mala ngani ta nangyari su makaguru-girabong trahedya kan Reming kan 2006. So, how can we depend on the forecast kung palpak man pirmi?

Ikaduwa, dahil sa maurag ang forecasting system ninda, lalo nindang nama-maximize an saindang mga oras. They can think of alternatives when they become certain na dai sinda puwede magkawat ki football dahil ma-uran. Digdi sa Pilipinas, wara. Nasirong na lang sa harong. An mga ngtatrabaho sa konstruksiyon, minauli na lang asin nagsasayang lang ki pamasahe. Worse, the daily wage earners don’t earn a dime for the day because they cannot work due to weather conditions.

Rason naman kan PAG-ASA, dipisil umasa sa maray na forecast dahil lapa na an mga gamit. Ikaduwa, naghaharalean na an mga eksperto sa weather forecasting dahil masyadong hababa an sweldo kan mga ini. Kaya nagdudurumanan na lang sinda sa abroad. Kung arog kaini an sitwasyon, lalo talaga kitang nababayaan kan mga taga-ibang nasyon, lalo na kan mga Europeo, sa dalagan pasiring sa pag-asenso. Kun nangungulputan na kita, masasabi ta pa kaya na mauurag an mga Pilipino?

The Sidelines: The stories beyond the frame

(Below is my Albay Journal column for this week.)

A picture paints a thousand words but in most cases, there are more words that a picture cannot hold.

Early this month, the National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) released the latest official poverty statistics of the Philippines. The highlights include: the increase of poverty incidence in the country from 24.4% in the year 2003 to 26.9% in the year 2006; the slight improvement of the ranking of the Bicol Region from being the second poorest in the year 2000 to the fourth poorest region; and the decrease of poverty incidence of Bicolano families by about 4% in a six year span. Of course, another highlight is the sliding of the province of Masbate from being the poorest province seven years ago with 70.2% poverty incidence to the 8th most poor in 2006 with 59.5%.

With the calamities that struck the region in the past years, the figures are quite a good news. Sitting President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo may not be lying after all when she said that the economy is growing better – that is, if we look at the figures using the government’s frame. But if we look outside the frame, or at the sidelines, we may realize that we are not moving after all. Worse, we may even note that instead of moving forward, we are took two steps back. Take for instance the official poverty statistics. While it is said that the percentage of the region’s poor dropped, the absolute count – that is, the real or actual count – showed nothing but an increase. From 407,176 poor families recorded in the year 2000, the number actually hiked to 422,278 in the year 2006. The figures in percentage just bluntly hid the fact that what we are really comparing is, to put it Greenwich Pizza’s terms, “a quarter slice of Solo order and a quarter slice of a Family Sized order”. Both may be a quarter slice but the actual size for the said orders really differ. Which leads me to the concept of presidential elections in Russia and in the United States.

Just last month, Russia has concluded its presidential elections. After I wrote an analysis on said political exercise, a number of critics came forward saying the presidential race in the former Socialist country was undemocratic. First and foremost, the winning of presidential candidate Dmitri Medvedev was already a foregone conclusion as he is a protege of the incumbent president, Vladimir Putin. In short, Medvedev’s winning is just like the winning of Gloria Arroyo in the 2004 Philippine presidential elections – a predictable race as the incumbent will do everything just to win. Thus, critics say, the Russian elections is undemocratic and does not express the real will of the Russian voters.

Using the frame of American political analysts in dissecting the elections, the critics may be right. But going to the sidelines, their arguments hold no ground. The Russians themselves claim that Medvedev’s winning was their own will, and a popular will at that. A clear proof of this is the fact that of the total votes cast, 70.22% were delivered to Medvedev. Second, even if the winning of Medvedev is nothing but a “transfer of power from Putin to Putin” (Note: aside from being a protege of Putin, Medvedev also announced that he will be choosing the former president as his Prime Minister, the most powerful authority in Russia), the majority of the Russians would not mind. What they are after is the fact that Putin had delivered his promises by maintaining Russia as a military superpower and transforming the country into an economic giant. With Medvedev as president, the more they can expect these developments to be sustained. And these reasons, the critics failed to see.

But like the government propagandists and the political analysts mentioned, we often view things based on the frames presented to us. In most cases, we accept these without question. The problem, we tend to forget that there are also some news behind the news, and stories behind the stories. Most of these, though, are buried at the sidelines.

With this column, let us all unearth these news behind the news, and stories behind the stories. After-all, the most helpful information are not always found inside a one common frame.

The Sidelines

Election years are such a busy season. Kaya minsan na lang ako magsurat sa mga Bicol-based newspapers. Kadaklan kaya kan output ko, either for IPD or for selected clients. But since tapos na ang elections, I will be devoting some of my time to write again for a local paper — the Albay Journal.

Aside from being a publisher of the now defunct The Public Eye, I also used to write with the Bicol Chronicle, Peryodiko Bikol, Bicol News Weekly Digest, and Tirador. There was even a time that I just write and these were syndicated all through out the region. Kaso mapagal. Gusto kan mga publishers, exclusive. So I was forced to write at least a column for each of the said newspapers. Kaya lang, pag may nasasabat ako tapos sinasabihan ako na magayon su sinurat ko, garo ako dangag dahil dai ko aram kun arin sa mga sinurat ko an sinasabi kan kauron ko. For that reason, I decided to retain only my column for the Chronicle. The column is dubbed as “E-Notes”. Pero dahil kaiba kan trabaho ko (which is my bread and butter) an magbiyahe, medyo nagbawas su oras ko sa pagsurat. Dagdag pa su mga election-related na trabaho. From time to time, though, nagsusurat pa man ako sa Bicol Chronicle. Even at this time na magsusurat na ako sa Albay Journal.

Regularly, though, I write for Political Brief, a professional journal circulating in the country and abroad. From time to time, I also write for Conjucture, also a quarterly magazine. These, in addition to the articles I regularly upload in the web for IPD and other institutions.

Siguro, writing is just a passion. It’s like a drug that’s so addicting, and a love that never dies.

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