Thursday, April 29, 2004

The metaphors and vote of the poor (1)

The inscrutable poor masses out there have been publicized, lionized, satirized, analyzed and wooed to death. Election time has a way of smoking them out of the woodwork, the cracks and crevices where they dwell, as if candidates realize they exist for the first time. Suddenly the poor are on everyone’s mind and lips, suddenly they rule, they poll.

Do the poor produce a ``dumb masa’’ vote? What do the poor think of elections? How do they make their choices? How much influence do the media exert on them? What to them are the traits of a true leader?
The poor are smarter than you think.

The Ateneo University’s Institute of Philippine Culture (IPC) released a few days ago its findings on how the poor view elections and choose their candidates. What, how exactly do they think?

``The Vote of the Poor: The Values and Pragmatics of Elections’’ was the result of a research using focused group discussions (FGD) as a tool to get to the raw sentiments and perceptions of the subjects. Unlike surveys that use statistical methods, the FGD type elicits qualitative responses and scrutinizes the meaning and quality of these responses. In clinical psychology we call it the phenomenological way.

The FGDs were held in Metro Manila, Baguio, Cebu, Zamboanga, Camarines Sur, Iloilo and Davao del Sur. Six groups were all-male and five were all-female (aged 30 and above).Another five groups were composed of mostly young males and females under 30 years old.

IPC did a qualitative analyses of the statements that came from the FGDs but I’m sure readers would like to know what exactly were said. Nothing beats a good quote.

When groups were asked to supply metaphors about leaders, the responses suggested guidance, stability, service and perspective. A sampling:

Thursday, April 22, 2004

'Let the healing begin'

Happy Earth Day!

What nationalist Filipino does not know that `Pearls R Us’?

But pearls could be a source of conflict. The Jewelmer Corporation, a Cojuangco-owned operator of a large pearl farm in Palawan has been the subject of complaints there. Recently, 500 members of indigenous groups, some clad in traditional costumes, sailed on their boats to fish in the waters off the islands off Bugsuk and Pandanan in Balabac, Palawan. These areas are currently off limits to fishermen.

Those who dared ``intrude’’ belonged to the Pal’wan and Molbog tribes and were members of the Samahang Tribo sa Dulo ng Timog Palawan (Sambilog). With the help of the Jesuit-influenced PhilDHRRA, they are claiming back their rights to the 57,000 hectares of ancestral land and waters occupied by Jewelmer.

Sambilog head Sanglima Rudy Calo said that Jewelmer ``has prohibited us from fishing in these waters for almost two decades. But these had been traditional fishing grounds for our ancestors. And now we learned that the operation of the pearl farm is illegal. It does not have an environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources nor any clearance from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development. They have not acquired any consent certificate from us either.’’

Those who have ogled at luscious pearls at Jewelmer stores and scanned their expensive coffeetable book would know why these South Sea pearls are very expensive. I was once tempted to buy a pair of champagne-colored dangling earrings there but the price said, go away. I settled for a look-alike, costing about one-tenth, sold by Muslim traders at a mall tiangge.

Thursday, April 15, 2004

Wind, sand and stars and Saint-Ex

They found them, they found them at last.

The remains of the plane piloted by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, author of the beloved ``The Little Prince’’, have been found almost 60 years after his disappearance, French officials announced last week. The mystery has been solved, but more than that, there is now closure in the fascinating life of this remarkable Frenchman, this wartime pilot, aristocrat, romantic, adventurer, writer.

Saint-Ex’s life ended when he was only 44. Ah, but he lives on.

I pulled out from the shelf two of his books, ``The Little Prince’’ and ``Wind, Sand and Stars’’ (French title: Terre des Hommes). The former sure is a classic which millions of readers know by heart, but ``Wind, Sand and Stars’’ is my all-time favorite because it is Saint-Ex speaking directly, wondrously. (My yellowed copy has many pen markings on it, proof that I read and reread it a long time ago.)

``Wind, Sand and Stars’’ is a symphony, a meditation on life, spiced with true-to-life stories which are not the chicken-soup variety. Saint-Ex writes about his flights and travels to fascinating places in the sky and on land as well.

The sky is not simply a vast and empty space, it is a place where things happen to oneself and within oneself. The deserts and the fields aren’t simply there below to view from the air, they are, many times for Saint-Ex, there to crashland on, and there meet danger and beauty alone and know for the first time strange and wonderful people.

Thursday, April 8, 2004

From `the abyss of sorrow’

A contemplative nun (pen name: Sr. Hyacinth Carmeli) sent her journal on the suicide of her brother Eugene (his real name) after she read something we wrote that resonated with her pain. With the permission of Sr. Hyacinth and other persons concerned, we are sharing excerpts from the journal. This, she said, is her way of reaching out. She can be contacted through this column.

This Holy Week, it behooves us to enter into the pain of others so that we may know and understand.

``Today I bow my head before my brother as almost nine years ago, he put the thick yellow nylon cord around his neck and took hold of the beam. I believe God had tears too as He waited for Eugene because He knew more than anybody else how he had suffered in this life. He cried with Eugene, He cried with me. I believe God is a God who walks with us and never abandons us in all the deepest sorrows of our heart. He feels our pain acutely more than we can ever feel it. But in the beginning these thoughts never entered my heart and if they did, I did not believe a single word of it. I was not ready to listen then.

``I talk to my brother again today in the midst of tears. I have somehow anticipated this sadness as his birthday approaches. It was on his sixth memorial day that I finally told him that it was okay for him to have left....

Thursday, April 1, 2004

Ho y Cruz

What does it profit a university to confer an honorary degree on a gambling mogul, supposedly one of the world’s richest men, who figured in the previous disgraced administration’s aborted move to raise the gambling culture and addiction of this country notches higher? Pray tell, what message does this convey to the young graduates?

To the board of trustees of the Angeles University Foundation (AUF), may I say this in Filipino—dinuraan ninyo ang mga graduates ninyo, binastos ninyo sila. You spat on them, you dishonored them. You will go down in history as the educational institution that gifted its graduates with this ultimate insult. Doctor of humanities, anyone?

Cara y cruz? One does not know which way this gambling country goes. Heads I win, tails you lose--seems to be the dictating rule in the losing battle against gambling lords and their academic fans. Ah, but every once in a while a voice rises above the din to cry, ``Wrong.’’ That is the voice of Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Pangasinan.

A few days to Holy Week and a gambling mogul (lord, king, baron, czar) from Hong Kong and an anti-gambling archbishop and canon lawyer, figure in front-page news. This was over the conferment of a university honorary degree on the gambling lord and the archbishop’s protest and return of his own honorific title.