Thursday, March 25, 2004

More rice with SRI

One unforgettable one-liner that I heard a long time ago from farmers and which made me laugh was: ``Hindi na kami magsasaka, magsasako na.’’ (We’re no longer rice farmers, we’re now rice sack dealers.) That’s one pun that gets totally lost in translation because the punch rests on one vowel of a Filipino word. Forget it if you don’t understand Filipino.

The letter O of magsasako might as well be a fat zero, meaning empty. Empty sacks. Where have all the palay gone?

There are a myriad reasons for troubled rice yields, rice shortages and vanishing rice varieties. One could blame wanton land conversion, chemical poisoning of the soil, wrong government agricultural priorities, overpopulation, environmental destruction and multinationals who play god. Name it.

But there’s hope for the palay. There is hope in SRI or system of rice intensification. Its Filipino practitioners have coined a Filipino name for it—Sipag-Palay or ``ang sistema ng pagpapalago ng palay.’’

Well-known SRI proponent Norman T. Uphoff, director of Cornell International Institute for Food Agriculture and Development, was here last week to speak and listen to SRI farmers. Uphoff, who had been here several times before, was the speaker at the Third National SRI Conference organized by the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement, the Philippine Greens, Pabinhi, Broad Initiatives for Negros Development and SRI-Pilipinas.

SRI, I learned, had its beginnings in Madagascar in the 1980s. Jesuit Father Henri de Laulanie who lived among farmers there for three decades helped develop a way to increase rice yield from 50 cavans per hectare to 144 cavans per hectare. In some cases, the yield even reached as high as 200 to 300 cavans. This was possible even in soil that was not fertile and without using modern rice varieties and chemical fertilizers, and even with very little water.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

`Thief and dictator’

So sue me. I’ve been using the words dictator and tyrant for as long as I can remember.

``Mrs. Marcos wants the Department of Justice (DOJ) to rule that Ferdinand Marcos is not a dictator. She wants the (DOJ) to rule that Ferdinand Marcos is not a thief. Since Mrs. Marcos cannot change history, she wants the (DOJ) to do it for her.’’

This is want Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) commissioner Ruben Carranza, through his lawyers from Arroyo Chua Caedo Law Office, said in his scathing counter-affidavit after Imelda Marcos filed a libel suit against him and several journalists from a newspaper that published his statements.

Well, the DOJ did precisely that, Carranza’s lawyer William Chua said, when the DOJ through the Makati prosecutor’s office, charged Carranza et al with libel. An arrest order is to be expected, Chua added.

Last Sunday we came out with a news story on how calling deposed former president Ferdinand Marcos ``a thief and a dictator’’ could get you in trouble. The present government could charge you in court and have you arrested.

Party list representative Crispin Beltran promptly sent his reaction saying: ``Who’s afraid of libel and the Marcoses? Marcos was a thief, a dictator and a traitor to the Filipino people.’’

Beltran is saying, ``Try me.’’ So he goes: ``Thief, dictator, butcher of civilians, traitor to the Filipino people. If I had a wider and bigger vocabulary, I would be able to describe the late dictator Fedinand E. Marcos in more ways.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

‘Kinse anyos’

Nakatikim ka na ba ng kinse anyos? Have you tasted a 15-year-old?

Whoever crafted, produced and approved that ad for Distilleria Limtuaco’s Tanduay Rum cannot come clean and feign ignorance of the question’s double entendre. What’s in a question? Plenty.

The huge, unsightly and offensive Tanduay billboards asking that question have been taken down, or so we think, but the bad taste remains. Now the rum manufacturer is questioning the Ad Board’s authority to call for the bad ad’s removal from the face of the earth. But that is another story.

The bad story is: why that ad, for whom that ad? It was meant to titillate, to arouse the yearning for the 15-year-old liquid. And while at it, might as well intensify the thirst for two-legged 15-year-olds. Or it could be the other way around. Think of 15-year-old waifs, think Tanduay.

So the question suggests: if you have not tasted a kinse anyos, go taste one. Or if you have, and liked it, go and have more. The ad shows a bottle, which is easy to get from a convenience store. But where would one get the one which is not shown, the one which is not in a bottle?

The recent outcry over the gigantic billboards that now dominate the Philippine landscape has not been addressed. Or has it? Have you seen iron structures that hold billboards being dismantled? In fact there are more of them now waiting to be draped. It seems anyone who has a patch of earth or a rooftop can now offer his property to the billboard industry for extra income.

The issue was about unsightliness and defacing the horizon. Add danger because these iron structures get toppled during typhoon season. Now comes bad taste bordering on arousal of lust for children.

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Passenger 51

I shudder as I imagine Passenger 51 moments before the ill-fated SuperFerry 14 caught fire last week off the coast of Bataan. Did he or didn’t he?

With unconcealed delight, Abu Sayyaf chief Khadaffy Janjalani announced a few days ago that his terror group, with the special participation of Passenger 51, had caused the tragedy that killed and injured more than a hundred people and left countless traumatized and bereaved. The ship, carrying 879 passengers and crew, had just left Manila on the night of Feb. 26 and was cruising Manila Bay when tragedy struck. Among the 134 still mysteriously missing are scores of high school students who had just attended a national conference in Laguna and were returning to Mindanao. The ship, though keeled to the side, did not go down. Yet only one dead body has so far been found.

Passenger 51, bearer of ticket number 24633972, was to be credited for this latest sea mishap, Janjalani crowed, and he could prove it. Passenger 51 was their own, and he had fulfilled his duty. Government investigators were quick to pooh-pooh this owning up, insisting that there was no proof of an explosion. The disaster was an accident or it could have been human error that brought that about. Any prankster could claim authorship and ride on the tragedy as a ticket to infamy.

But Janjalani waved the smoking gun. Passenger 51, the suicide bomber, Janjalani said, was Arnulfo Alvarado whose real name was Abu Muadz, a native of Pata Island in Sulu. The Abu Sayyaf chief continued to give details of those moments before Passenger 51 sealed the fate of scores of innocents including his own. Oh, but might he still be alive?

At first only Abu Sayyaf spokesman Abu Soliman made the announcement. Was he for real? ``We did it!’’ the Inquirer quoted him as saying. Sure, the claim could have come from the terrorists, Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo said, but only as an afterthought.