Thursday, April 29, 2010

'Guideposts for Governance'

OFF THE PRESS IS DR. JESUS P. ESTANISLAO’S book “Guideposts for Governance” which moist-eyed candidates hoping to win in the May 10 elections should read and take to heart.

Estanislao is founding chair of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA) and was finance secretary during the Aquino administration. Early this month, I wrote about the efforts of ISA and other groups helping government agencies and local government units as they go through a process of transformation. ISA is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit institution that seeks to improve public governance through citizen participation.

“This is a more compelling story than the elections,” Estanislao said then. “Here are government agencies backed by private sector partners saying that governance reforms cannot take a back seat even during an election season.”

In “Guideposts for Governance,” Estanislao reminds that the word “governance” does not apply only to the highest level of a nation’s government. Good governance is for civic groups, corporations, institutions and local government units as well.
But Estanislao also strongly reminds the reader about the role of the individual. Before any group can be effectively governed, he says, the basic unit of any group—the individual—must know how to govern himself or herself. He therefore argues for personal governance which is key to successful governance of groups—big or small, local or global, private or government.
In “Guideposts,” Estanislao argues for the creation of a unique culture driven by four core values: integrity, fairness, courage and orderliness. These values must be nurtured at the personal, organizational and national levels. And always, he goes back to the individual.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

How green is your presidential candidate?


Greenpeace and EcoWaste Coalition released yesterday, as promised, the 2010 Green Electoral Initiative (GEI) survey final results which were based on the presidential candidates’ position on environmental issues.
Of all the many urgent advocacies worthy of presidential attention, it was the environmental advocacy that was able to compel the presidential bets to come out openly with their platforms. The GEI survey enabled the presidential bets to articulate their green agenda. The candidates did so not during debates, forums or miting de abanse, not through 30-second sound bites, but on paper, with their signatures affixed.
So how did they fare?

Noted environmentalist Nicanor Perlas, Senators Jamby Madrigal and Richard Gordon emerge the “greenest,” with the latter two having an almost equal ranking. Trailing them are evangelist Eddie Villanueva, Senators Benigno Aquino III and Manny Villar and councilor JC de los Reyes. Former President Joseph Estrada and former Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro did not respond to the survey. Their scores: Perlas (94.2), Madrigal (78.68), Gordon (78.45), Villanueva (70.87), Aquino (64.94), Villar (62.59), De los Reyes (38.31), Estrada (0), Teodoro (0).

Issues covered were climate change, solid waste, chemical pollution and consumer safety, sustainable agriculture and genetically engineered crops, water, forests, nuclear power and mining. Even problems such as billboards from hell were also tackled.

Thursday, April 15, 2010


“WHEN I say jump,” our smiling Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) named Recto said to the five of us, “you jump into the water. Do not hesitate. Forget everything and jump. And when I say, look down, look down.” He presumed no one was faint of heart and that we believed we were in safe hands.
Our boat was several kilometers from the shore and we were sailing on deep water. It was a great morning. The April sun was ablaze, the water was very calm and with nary a ripple or wave. Azure sky, azure sea.
Please God, I prayed, show us these enormous creatures of the deep.
Then the spotter signaled for us to get ready. We lowered our goggles and bit the snorkel mouthpiece. We all sat side by side on the bamboo ledge on the side of the boat, eager and excited. The boatman turned off the engine and suddenly it was so quiet. With a paddle, he navigated toward a spot.

“Jump!” our BIO hollered and, without hesitation, we all jumped with him into the sea, feet first. It was like a leap of faith. “Relax!” he said, after our heads surfaced. After a few seconds he commanded, “Look down!” We all dipped our heads into the water and gazed into the deep.

There it was, a couple of meters below me, a butanding waiting to be seen. I was beholding a huge grayish blue, speckled whale shark, flaunting its wide back. It didn’t splash or wiggle, it was just there. It was a sight to behold. And then it was gone.

We had several sightings and jumps. For the last one I decided to stay on the boat and view from a distance the butanding gliding near the surface. I saw it as a dark silhouette on a background of blue. And then it lowered itself and vanished from my sight.

I don’t want to say more about my personal experience. You have to experience it for yourself. I was told that some are moved to tears. It’s like seeing the Mayon Volcano or the Grand Canyon for the first time except that the butanding does not stay fixed before your eyes, it decides when to swim away.

The presence of whale sharks (rhincodon typus) in Donsol is not a modern-day phenomenon. The locals had known about them for more than 100 years but it was only in the last decade that they became convinced that these sharks were harmless and not fearsome like their predatory counterparts. The butanding are the world’s biggest fish and could grow up to more than 15 meters. Donsol is now known as the world’s “Whale Shark Capital.” Time magazine called the butanding experience “Best Animal Encounter in Asia”.

For so long the butanding were only fished for their meat. They were not considered an important presence with great ecological significance and eco-tourism potential. Or that their preservation could provide environmental lessons.

According to our info kit, things changed in 1998 when professional divers led by Romir Aglugub discovered their presence and interacted with them. The divers proved that the whale sharks were docile and fed only on krill and other small creatures. Donsol was/is a rich feeding ground for these huge sharks. After that “discovery” one thing led to another and the rest is history.

Interaction with the butanding is strictly regulated by the Department of Tourism. The World Wildlife Fund provides guidelines which includes limited number of interactors (six to a boat), no scuba diving, three-meter distance, no touching, no mobbing by boats or swimmers. The Butanding Interaction Office gives briefings before a trip.

But despite the regulations, the butanding have bad days, such as when one gets hit by a boat propeller, or shot for commercial reasons. It’s a wonder that they have not moved away somewhere else to feed, but continue to return every year, with peak season from February to May. This year, the butanding festival is from April 26 to May 5.

And the fireflies. Included in our Donsol visit was a night cruise on Ogod River. It was a moonless night but a million stars brightened up the sky. I had not seen the heavens that way in a long, long time. The boatmen used flashlights to guide our way to a place downstream where we could find mangrove trees lighted up with fireflies. After gazing at the heavens for some time our eyes turned to the trees that were ablaze and pulsating. To my eyes, the fireflies became a symphony of lights competing with the stars.

Our weekend trip was not all about whale sharks. Our caravan stopped for meals, rest and sights. We rested at the Quezon National Park, had photo shoots in Albay’s Cagsawa ruins with Mayon volcano as backdrop, visited the Camarines Sur’s Watersports Complex famous for wakeboarding.

And so here’s sharing with you our Inquirer summer adventure, with thanks to the Inquirer’s Outdoors Club organizers, fellow adventurers, drivers, photographers, and especially Inquirer Supplements editor Aries Espinosa and Motoring Section’s Tessa Salazar who were on top of the trip and drove like pros. (Photos are featured on their pages.) Thanks to Toyota Motors (for providing the comfy vans, SUVs, pick-up), the resorts, the tourism council and people of Donsol, Sorsogon and all those who helped make this April interlude memorable.

It was a whale of an outing for 60 of us. A great time was had by all.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Columnist-turned-cloistered nun continues ‘life as prayer and prayer as life’

Columnist, UP prof, cloistered nun, turns 90: The writing continues

SHE TALKS a mile a minute. She is abreast with the goings-on in the world, perhaps more than most. With fire and frenzy she continues to write as if deadlines were still part of her life.

Her erudition and sparkling intellect shine through in conversations. She laughs, she listens, she remembers. She talks about the Philippines with great passion. Through her body of written works, she communicates to the world.

All that, but for more than three decades now, prayer and total commitment to God have been the essence of her life, the defining mark of her vocation.

Josefina D. Constantino, JD or Jo to her countless friends, former colleagues and students, is contemplative nun Sister Teresa Joseph Patrick of Jesus and Mary of the Order of Discalced Carmelites (OCD). On March 28, she turned 90.

Leaving all
A former professor of literature at the University of the Philippines (UP), and later, a daily columnist of The Manila Chronicle while working at the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), JD answered the call to the religious life in 1974 at the age of 54 and joined the contemplative, cloistered Carmelite order. This meant leaving all—family, friends, freedom, a flourishing career—in order to live a life of prayer, silence and sacrifice while observing the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

More eco-pledges from presidential bets

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

GREENPEACE AND ECOWASTE COALITION have just released the second and third batches of the Green Electoral Initiatives (GEI) survey results based on the presidential candidates’ position on environmental issues.
I have been privy to the GEI survey since the beginning, during the survey work and the evaluation of the candidates’ responses. A good number of responses are quite impressive and reveal a lot about the candidates’ “greenness,” their knowledge of the issues and the solutions they would implement if elected. The overall ranking will be released on or before Earth Day, April 22.
I must say that just as important as the rankings, which the evaluators gave each candidate for every major issue, is the quality and content of the individual responses. Our hope is that these candidates will stay firm in their positions and be part of the solutions, wherever they will be after the elections, that is, win or lose.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

His priestly calling

“I HAVE found my real path.”

It took many years and many circuitous paths before Felixberto “Tito” Santos of Baliuag, Bulacan could finally say that he has found his true calling. Tito did not end up in the priesthood, to which he had felt he might be called at some point, but his present life is now spent creating artful priestly raiment for those called to the altar and the service of God’s people.

“Not in my wildest dreams did I imagine myself in this work,” Tito says. “But then God is full of surprises. This is a gift from heaven.” 
Tito is the proprietor and general manager of Chez les Saints (which means house of saints), a thriving enterprise that produces liturgical vestments worn by priests and used in churches for all seasons and occasions.
 A fine arts graduate of the University of Santo Tomas, Tito started off making uniforms for the corporate world and had a flourishing garments business from the 1970s to the early 1990s. He won big contracts and had more than he needed. He worked hard, he played hard. The money was good.

The calling
One day, he just left it all. “I had always felt a calling but I didn’t want to think about it,” Tito confides. “I was about 38 years old then. I thought, could I be a religious brother?” Or a priest?

He sought the advice of the bishop of Malolos who urged him to have an exposure by living and working in a Catholic parish in Bulacan. “I went to Norzagaray but there was no room in the inn,” Tito recounts. “Then I went to Angat. Fr. Domingo “Memeng” Salonga took me in. It was July 21, the feast of St. Elijah.” Tito would stay in Angat for almost three years.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Tanay folk stuck in calvary 6 months after ‘Ondoy’

TANAY, RIZAL—For Elmer Dimarukot, Tanay is a forgotten town in Rizal province. He and other victims of Tropical Storm “Ondoy” have not received any help from the government six months after it struck.
In order for his family to survive, he said, he digs up pieces of wood buried in mud and turns them into charcoal to sell. Many do this to earn a living.
“It has been six months since the disaster,” is the Tanay folks’ constant refrain that evokes memories of the great disaster last September that killed hundreds of people and destroyed many parts of the National Capital Region and neighboring provinces.

About 100 residents of several barangays (villages) in Tanay recently met with local representatives of government agencies to present their needs.

‘More compelling than elections’

EVEN WHILE MANY ELECTED GOVERNMENT officials and bureaucrats are preoccupied with the coming elections, there are agencies and local governments units (LGUs) that have been or are silently going through a process of transformation.

And their best efforts could mean a $500-million grant for anti-corruption reforms.
“This is a more compelling story than the elections,” said Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao, founding chair of the Institute for Solidarity in Asia and trusted finance secretary during the Aquino administration. “Here are government agencies backed by private sector partners saying that governance reforms cannot take a back seat even during an election season.”
The Department of Education, Department of Health, Department of Transportation and Communication, Department of Public Works and Highways and Bureau of Internal Revenue and Philippine National Police have made their performance commitments public at the Public Governance Forum (PGF) held for two days last week. These agencies are undertaking the continuing Performance Governance System (PGS), a local adaptation of the Balance Scorecard System (BSC) applied to the public sector in several countries to track their performance against a set of goals.