Thursday, October 28, 2004

'No al bloqueo'

Think of yourself as a citizen of a small island nation of 11 million floating near the armpit of the United States, a powerful nation where milk and honey flow profusely so many of its citizens are groaning under the weight of obesity and too much eating.

Think of yourself as a Cuban, deprived of many necessities and opportunities simply because your neighbor, a giant nation many times your size, has leaders who are fixated in the belief that your dot of a country is a ``threat’’ to their security.

The big one squeezes the small one to make it go down on its knees and cry ``Uncle!’’ But no way, Jorge. Porque no? Because no self-respecting nation, no matter how small, will capitulate to an immoral sanction. Because no sovereign nation that knows the meaning of pride would want to take tutorials on how to run its affairs.

Today, Oct. 28, a draft resolution calling for the ending of US economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba will again be deliberated and voted on at the UN.

For the past 13 consecutive years, Cuba has been submitting resolutions to the United Nations General Assembly, demanding the lifting of the US embargo against it. This embargo/blockade, this continuous crucifixion of the Cuban people is now on its 45th year. Nothing as sustained as this has been imposed by a powerful country against a poor, little one.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Fishers, pearls and Jewelmer

In 1996, Pres. Fidel Ramos issued presidential decree 905 recognizing the South Sea Pearl as the Philippines’ national gem. The local pearl industry, the PD said, has produced the world’s largest pearl known as the ``Pearl of Allah’’ or the ``Pearl of Lao Tze.’’

What’s in a pearl? Plenty, especially if it is a South Sea pearl produced by Jewelmer International Corporation, a Cojuangco-owned pearl farm in Palawan that will soon be the subject of a congressional inquiry.

Last Oct. 16, World Food Day, and in observance of indigenous people’s (IP) month, Palawan IP from the Pala’wan and Molbog tribes rowed out to sea to exercise their right to fish in waters that used to be part of their ancestral fishing grounds. These areas occupied by Jewelmer, the IP said, have been off-limits to them for more than 20 years.

It all began in 1974, during the time of Pres. Marcos. The fishermen became victims of a land swap between business magnate Eduardo Cojuangco and Marcos.

Last Saturday, more than 200 members of the Samahan ng mga Katutubo sa Dulo ng Timog Palawan (Sambilog), accompanied by Akbayan representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and members of Task Force Bugsuk, who were trying to cross the Pandanan Channel, were blocked by the Philippine National Police led by provincial director Col. Rey Lanada who came in a Jewelmer helicopter. Wow.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

New book on family violence

A few months ago, I spent a day at the Bukid Kabataan in Cavite. The place is home and school for abused kids and is run by the Good Shepherd Sisters. One cute little boy there was known for wringing the necks of ducklings and chicks who happened to wander his way. ``I can’t help it, S’ter,’’ he would explain.

This boy is a survivor of family violence. And the book that is the subject of this column is right up his alley.

No fancy title for this book. ``The Path to Healing: A Primer on Family Violence’’ (121 pages, Anvil Publishing) is what it says it is. Written by psychologists Dr. Lourdes A. Carandang and Beatrix Aileen L.Sison, the book is a timely offering in this day and age when women are coming out of closets, bedrooms, basements and prison-homes to talk about their bloody ordeal in the hands of their spouses and partners. Timely too because the number of children who are victims seems to be increasing. The children are, in fact, the main focus of the book.

The book will be launched soon and is now available in bookstores. Are you in need of help or helping someone? ``The Path to Healing’’ is for you.

It is important to stress that the book is the result of in-depth research and intervention of the authors with families exposed to different forms of abuse. And so the extensive use of quotes from the subjects themselves.

Thursday, October 7, 2004

The physiology of hunger

Hunger is a very powerful and heavily loaded word. What is hunger?

``Hunger stalks 13 percent of Pinoy households,’’ the Inquirer’s banner recently announced. The lead sentence said, ``Hunger rose to record levels in Metro Manila and Mindanao just two months into the second term of Pres. Macapagal-Arroyo.’’

One out of every seven (15.1 percent) household heads polled by Social Weather Stations in August said his or her family had nothing to eat at least once in the last three months, triple the number of the previous year.

I don’t know whether these families missed one meal, or they had nothing to eat for one whole day during that three-month period.

A family missing one meal, even if it was only once in the last three months, because there was no money for food means a whole brood went hungry at some point. The thought of not finding food for the next meal must have added to the anxiety.

The poor know what hunger is in the most physical sense—as an intense need for food, as a weakening of the body for lack of it. Food is the first in the hierarchy of needs of all living creatures. Physical hunger is the first need that must be sated.

Experts often discuss hunger in so macro and so global a way. On their side of the divide, the non-hungry discuss the politics and economics of hunger. The spiritually inclined speak about prayer as a hunger. The health buff who has a great horror for obesity watches out for that pang, that wicked craving.