Thursday, July 25, 2013

NGOs eager for NGO transparency (1)

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

Last year I wrote a column piece, “Corruption in NGOs” (Opinion, 9/12/12), after the Inquirer ran a banner story on the alleged mishandling of funds by a nongovernment organization working against the trafficking of women and girls. I mentioned that a couple of years before then, I wrote a cover story on that NGO for the Sunday Inquirer Magazine after it won an international award.

How would I have known then that not long after, trouble of the financial kind would erupt with no less than USAid seeking explanations for the use of the funds it had channeled through that NGO? If I am not mistaken, a case is now pending in court. So I withhold my final judgment.

Not a few, myself included, were shocked by the alleged mishandling of funds. But I did hear a few comments from NGO veterans that it was only a matter of time before such malpractice would be laid bare. Little did I know that the piece I wrote last year would disturb some NGO workers.

I was told only recently that a reaction letter to that piece had been written but was never sent because of certain considerations. Was it the right time? Was the tone of the letter right? What good would it serve?

With the controversy erupting recently over the alleged P10-billion scam involving fake NGOs as channels of the pork barrel funds of certain lawmakers, NGOs of good standing are again aghast that their sector is being tainted.

And so a well-attended roundtable discussion of about 50 NGO representatives was held last week. I was among the invited and, to my surprise, was even cited as among the inciters that led to the gathering.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Consumers' concerns on GE foods

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

We are what we eat, so the saying goes, but we should also be able to know about the safety of what we eat, and make our choice.

Here recently to speak about the dangers to health and the environment of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) foods was Jeffrey M. Smith, American author of the best-selling books “Seeds of Deception” and “Genetic Roulette.” Smith was going to China but he could not resist the Filipinos’ invitation, so he made a side trip that resulted in an enriching week for the No2GMO network composed of civil-society groups, academics and consumers. Smith also met with some lawmakers. He spoke at gatherings in Metro Manila, Nueva Ecija, Tarlac and South Cotabato.

GMOs continue to be in the local and international news. Because of questions about their safety, there is now a clamor from consumers for truthful labeling of food items. (Once in a while I do see grocery items labeled “GMO-free,” and I read the fine print to see where they came from.)

While GMOs used to be the concern of food producers and environmentalists who worried about seed sources, the havoc on the environment and the possible extinction of old species, now consumers are also calling attention to the problem. Consumers, after all, are the ones at the receiving end of the food chain. They also have the power to demand to know what are being sold to them.

Among the groups that welcomed Smith were Consumer Rights for Safe Food (CRSF), National Consumer Affairs Council, and Sarilaya, a women’s group committed to gender and development. Smith told his audiences that 64 countries now require labeling of GE foods or ban these outright. He said that in the United States, the legislatures of Connecticut and Maine have passed labeling laws and more than two dozen other states have introduced similar legislation. Nine out of 10 Americans want GE foods labeled and 53 percent said they would avoid GMOs if these were thus labeled.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Woman both malakas and maganda

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

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Philippine creation myth about the first man and woman, Malakas and Maganda, became the subject of jokes and was even satirized in the underground “mosquito press” because of how the Marcoses got themselves portrayed by sycophant artists as the reincarnation of “the strong” (Malakas) and “the beautiful” (Maganda). The excesses of the conjugal dictatorship of Ferdinand and Imelda were softened through the portrayal of their likenesses in art that drew from myths and legends.

I remember seeing a huge mural that showed the naked Malakas and Maganda about to emerge from two halves of a split bamboo. I don’t remember now where I saw it—in Leyte or in Malacañang, where I was sent on a writing assignment, after the downfall of the Marcos dictatorship. Now I wonder where that mural and versions of it are. Were they destroyed by the angry protestors that stormed Malacañang, or spirited away to some art connoisseur’s collection?

But the “Malakas at Maganda” legend is an enduring one, its desecration notwithstanding, and the mythical couple have been more than rehabilitated and reinstated in their rightful place in Philippine myths and legends. I find our own man-woman creation story more egalitarian than the Bible’s, where Eve just happened to have come from Adam’s rib. (I will get a rain of hate mail from hard-core Bible-thumpers for saying that.) In the case of Malakas and Maganda, they emerged separate but not necessarily equal from a split bamboo.

But can one only be either malakas or maganda?  Oh, yes, a woman can be both, according to a group of women artists. Currently on view at St. Scholastica’s College Museum (at the corner of Leon Guinto and P. O
campo Streets in Manila) is the “Malakas and Maganda II” exhibit of paintings, sketches, sculptures, computer-generated images and photographs by Kasibulan women artists.  

The art pieces are representations of women of strength and beauty but not in the stereotypical sense. One can say that every art piece is the artist’s projection of her own beauty and strength, her interpretation of what she has experienced in others. Several creations seemed to speak directly to me or draw me to look closer—and also farther and deeper—into a realm beyond the visual and tactile, into an inner world whence spring beauty, strength and compassion, but where dwell also pain, fear, joy, fire and daring. I do not want to single out particular creations but I can sense that no matter the mood a piece conveys, the woman factor is very evident. 

The exhibit is not preachy. No anti-Barbie, antipatriarchy statements. As if it is saying, this is not about them, but about us, about what we know that is beautiful and strong.

"Rosenda's Flight" by Fel R. Plata
Kasibulan (Kababaihan sa Sining at Bagong Sibol na Kamalayan) is a sisterhood of women artists in the visual, literary, performance, and new media arts. It aims to provide members with opportunities for creativity, growth, and self-sufficiency, and is working for the development of distinct women’s expression.

The exhibit is for the benefit of St. Scholastica’s Hospital in Pambujan, Northern Samar. The Missionary Benedictine Sisters are raising P100 million for the long-term sustainable operation of the 25-bed hospital for the poor. I wrote about this three months ago (“A mission hospital for the poor,” 4/11/13) and I provided information on how donors could help. The chief fundraiser, Sr. Mary John Mananzan, OSB, texted me then to say that she had received a “tsunami” of inquiries from far and near, but I said, let’s see how these will translate into equipment and salaries. The building has been spoken for. 

Sunday, July 7, 2013

And the angels came: Fr. Villote, "erps" to the young and lost, 80

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

And the angels came.

That was what Fr. Ruben Juco Villote used to say whenever people shared their blessings with the Center for Migrant Youth (CMY), which the diocesan priest founded 31 years ago for young men and boys with nowhere to go in the big city.

Friday, July 6, at 5 a.m., the angels came for him and took him home for good. Villote or “Erps,” as the well-loved priest was fondly called, died after cardiopulmonary arrest at CMY in Quezon City. He was 80. Villote had been suffering from Alzheimer’s disease for several years and had been in and out of hospital for treatment.

Villote wrote a column titled “The Word” for the Sunday Inquirer Magazine for many years until 2005. His pieces have been compiled into several volumes, among them “Empowered by His Wounds” and “A Clown Among Many.” Drawing inspiration from his pastoral work among ordinary folk, he wrote in a simple, readable style that everyone understood.

Among the parishes where Villote served were the University of the Philippines Parish of the Holy Sacrifice, where, as assistant pastor, he ministered to a generation of activist students, faculty and employees. He also served in parishes in Tipas in Taguig and Sta. Ana in Manila.

Like the Good Shepherd

After serving in parishes for many years, Villote, with the help of a small but committed group of lay persons, devoted his life to serving the youth through CMY. His wards called him Erps, short for erpat, Filipino slang for father or the Latin pater. Countless youths have sought temporary shelter, education and community life in CMY. Many came hurt and aimless, angry and alone, wounded and desperate. Many left healed and whole, ready to find their places in the world and enrich others’ lives along the way. One even gave up his life to save someone.

In CMY, Villote said, the young learn to trust and be trusted in return, and to give and receive affirmation and reverence. “To be the best they could ever be for the future,” he added. CMY is a special ministry established under the Archdiocese of Manila that included Quezon City during the time of the late Jaime Cardinal Sin. “It is our Mother, the Church, offering her presence to her wounded and defenseless children,” Villote told this writer then. “This is the specific place where I am being called to meet Christ in the poor and where I am invited to share His poverty and shame.”

He described his ministry as like that of the Good Shepherd, who leaves the 99 who are well to look for the one who is lost. It was always a special day when a former CMY resident came back to talk about his new life, he said. Many had gone on to become caring individuals, their success measured not in terms of financial returns but in the way they lived their lives, Villote said.

Masses springing to life

Bishop Honesto F. Ongtioco of the Cubao diocese, to which Villote belonged, said Villote “incarnated the Word of God in his life and in caring for others, especially the migrant youth. He touched many lives with his simplicity, humility and commitment.”

Masses at CMY had always been intimate and interactive—actually a mark of the parishes where Villote had worked. Villote’s homilies were simple but deep. He spoke softly and sparingly but carried a big message. Some years ago, however, his memory started to fail and he lost his ability to communicate.

In the 1970s, many people went all the way to Tipas, Taguig, to experience the liturgy with its glorious music and interact with the fisherfolk. The indigenous color was hard to miss. After Tipas, Villote was assigned to a small parish in Punta, Sta. Ana in Manila, where the parishioners were mostly factory workers. Again, the Masses sprang to life.

But it was really in the University of the Philippines Parish of the Holy Sacrifice that Villote first broke ground as a young assistant pastor. There, he experienced the exuberance and activism of the young, as well as the challenge of intellectual life.

CMY’s Sunday Masses—on Cordillera Street in Quezon City for 23 years and in Fairview for the past eight years—had that Villote touch that made them special. Vibrant Filipino music and sharing of personal reflections made the interactive liturgy alive but intimate. The Philippine flag was always displayed prominently. A small potluck repast capped the liturgy. During the Christmas season, he held special gatherings for street dwellers who often visited the center.


Born on Dec. 19, 1932, Villote was raised in prewar Tondo, Manila. He studied in public schools and went later to the Jesuit-run San Jose Seminary for diocesan priests. He idolized his Jesuit mentors. He belonged to Class 1959 and was ordained that same year. “We carry the marks of Christ’s passion in our bodies,” the “Josefino” said of his class of four. “Proof of the paschal holocaust we have had to offer through many years as victim-priests on the altar of the Master.”

In 2005, due to his failing health, Villote decided to stop writing his Sunday Inquirer Magazine column. In an interview for a magazine Christmas cover story, he said: “We must gradually move away from the sweet and pious rituals of the First Coming of Christ. We must journey towards the more radical and painful work of renewing the world and restoring all things in Christ so that justice and righteousness may begin to prevail in the New Heaven and the New Earth as a sign of the Second Coming.”

Villote is survived by his brother Rolly, sister-in-law Bess, nephew Jonathan and relatives, as well as his extended family of loyal friends and the “young-once” he had helped.

His remains lie at Loyola Memorial Chapel on Commonwealth Avenue until noon Sunday, at the University of the Philippines Diliman Parish of the Holy Sacrifice until Tuesday morning and at Immaculate Conception Cathedral in Cubao until Wednesday morning.#

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Church's second best kept secret

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

If the social teachings of the Catholic Church are sometimes considered its best kept secret, meaning that most Catholics do not know about them, or Church leaders have not made them known enough for members to live by them, what is its second best kept secret?
Not the scandals—sexual, financial or political—for these have occupied enough media space and air time. Not the hidden saintly lives worth emulating, for they come into the light sooner or later and gain following. Not the enormous wealth of the institution vis à vis the chosen poverty of those who wish to follow Jesus to the letter, for these sharp contrasts are obvious.

The Church’s “second best kept secret”—as those who wish to see it popularized and practiced impatiently call it—is the natural family planning (NFP) method. Second best kept secret because in spite of its supposed efficacy, not many know about it. Second best kept secret because those who should be advocating it (those fulminating against the recently passed Reproductive Health Law) are spending their energy badmouthing the RH advocates instead of buckling down to work to promote NFP. They are losing by default.

NFP is one of many means to plan family sizes or space births that the Catholic Church approves of, all the rest—contraceptives, abortion, vasectomy and tubal ligation—being anathema. Two weeks ago I attended the daylong “Orientation to Population and Development” which tackled “challenges to the Filipino family today.”

Among the event’s objectives was for participants to gain insight from the experiences in NFP of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro (CDO) and to engage Church people in a dialogue of faith on population and development issues. Also on the agenda was to explore areas of collaboration among Church and people’s groups in working for the wellbeing of Filipino families. The organizers were from the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (Urban Missionaries, Women and Gender Concerns, and Center for Migrant Concerns) in partnership with the Philippine Center for Population and Development (PCPD). The gathering was an exercise in listening.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Malakas at Maganda II: Women's Group Exhibit of Power and Beauty

Kasibulan (Kababaihan sa Sining at Bagong Sibol na Kamalayan) will be launching its second “Malakas at Maganda” group exhibition series with the theme of woman being both strong and beautiful. The exhibit opens on July 6, Saturday, 4pm at the St. Scholastica’s Museum on Vito Cruz Street, Malate, Manila, with Guests of Honor Ceres Doyo, Tina Monzon-Palma, and Maan Hontiveros. The exhibit runs until August 3.

The exhibit project is for the benefit of St. Scholastica’s Hospital in Pambujan, Northern Samar. Sister Mary John Mananzan, OSB, has spearheaded the building of the 25-bed hospital, which will serve the poorest in this community in critical need.

The exhibit is the second leg of the Malakas at Maganda series that showcases the Kasibulan artists’ definitions of women’s power, which includes the power to lead, govern, inspire, encourage, and effect change. In one legend of the creation of humans, the man was named “Malakas” (Strong), and the Woman “Maganda” (Beautiful), which perpetrates the stereotype that only man is capable of being strong, and woman should only strive to be beautiful. To claim the term “Malakas at Maganda” to describe a woman is thus to claim virtues that she naturally possesses: she is strong, and she is beautiful.

“Malakas at Maganda II” features artists Vivian Nocum Limpin, Brenda V. Fajardo, June Dalisay, Anna Fer, Imelda Cajipe Endaya, Julie Lluch, Baidy Mendoza, Doris G. Rodriguez, Elaine Lopez-Clemente, Charito Bitanga, Aba Lluch Dalena, Susan Fetalvero Roces, Yasmin Almonte, Lea Lim, Eden T. Ocampo, Tinsley Garanchon, Amihan Jumalon, Arlene Villaver, Christine Sioco, Fel R. Plata, Lot Arboleda, Lenore RS Lim, Bernadette R. Reyes, Anne Carmela Rosario, Athena Magcase-Lopez, and Nicole Anne Asis.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a Kasibulan Arts Bazaar on July 6 from 10am until 7pm, and will feature book art pieces from Veronica Laurel, and other artist-made crafts from the other members. Kasibulan will also hold Artist Talks at St. Scholastica’s Museum, on July 12, Friday, 10am – 12nn, on the topic “The Babaylan in the Modern Age”, with main speaker National Historical Commissioner Fe Mangahas, Marjorie Evasco and Imelda Cajipe – Endaya. Artist Talk on July 26, Friday, 10am – 12nn, on the topic “Traditional Art in the Age of New Media”, with main speaker UP Department of Art Studies Professor Eileen Legaspi Ramirez, Vivian N, Limpin and Glenda Maye Abad, moderated by Bebang Siy.

Both talks are open to the public. Exhibit closing: Sketch session with guest artist Lynette Villariba.

Kasibulan is a sisterhood of women artists in the visual, literary, performance, and new media arts, with the mission of providing members with opportunities for creativity, growth, and self-sufficiency, and working for the development of distinct women's expression.

Contact Details: For more details, please call Veronica Laurel at (63 926) 124-3539 or Doris G. Rodriguez at (63 917) 583-4294.