Thursday, July 28, 2005

`The countryside that feeds it’

The line from Pres. Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address that played over and over in my mind was: ``Perhaps it’s time to take the power from the center to the countryside that feeds it.’’ GMA received a roaring applause from her promdi (proudly promdi, obviously) supporters. That line lingered like a long-lost refrain that was suddenly, if not conveniently, found.

In saying that, the President was obviously playing to the gallery of supporters from local government units who, at the tipping point of her government’s crisis early this month, rallied around her when many in her own official family abandoned ship. Was GMA’s ode to loyalty perhaps the fruit of her intimate town hall-type campaign sortie during the 2004 elections, a strategy she used to counter FPJ’s crowd-drawing power?

With that statement, GMA was also making a dig at so-called ``imperialist Manila’’, the center of the protest rallies calling for her resignation. Oh, but how her provincial cheering squad in the Batasan rafters reveled in her words. Outside, a mammoth protest rally calling for her ouster was setting her effigy on fire.

The context in which the statement was said may have been full of contradictions and sounded unconvincing to her critics, but taken at face value, the statement sounded like music to the ears of the oft-forgotten local officials who suddenly found themselves important. Perhaps many had all the reasons to feel KSP (kulang sa pansin) for so long, until last Monday’s SONA.

Taken at face value and without its political color, the statement ``Perhaps it’s time to take the power from the center to the countryside that feeds it’’ is indeed a reality to wish for. This is a loaded statement that should not be glibly uttered to merely warm the cockles of the hearts of those far from the center. It should hold weight like a promise made after one is nearly struck down from one’s horse.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

The bigger truth

I was away the first two weeks of July for a yearly break which is compulsory for Inquirer employees but I did catch up on the goings-on as soon as I got back. The wonder of it is that Pres. Arroyo is still in Malacanang. I thought I’d find a new scenario on the streets, no longer the ``GMA resign’’ kind, but political and ideological groups at cross purposes tearing one another down and racing for the nearest entrance to Malacanang. I was disappointed.

To the humorless who might think I want anarchy, I say that with tongue in cheek.

I was not exactly out of touch out there in the Mediterranean because the Filipinos (40 percent of the 800-strong international crew) on the cruise ship I was on had a daily news bulletin, Philippines Today, culled from the news wires. The July 9 banner story headline read, ``Arroyo names new ministers, refuses to step down.’’

Although on holiday mode as a paying guest, I did some journalistic work and interviewed (quite clandestinely at first) a good number of Filipinos, among them, engineers, waiters, singers, a wine master, a photographer, a spa attendant, a classic violinist, a pianist, band players, name it. They were concerned about what was happening back home. What is the truth? they asked.

There was really no need for me to be under cover after all and I got to interview the Greek ship captain and the energetic American cruise master who had nothing but high praises for the Filipinos in the crew. In the belly of the ship to which I was allowed to descend, in posh bars and restaurants, on pool sides, on stage and on deck of this floating getaway, the working OFWs were at their best. More on them in a separate feature story.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

`To be poor and obscure’

To be poor and obscure. This is the antithesis of being wealthy and famous. Nothing wrong with being wealthy and famous per se because so much good could also be achieved by being so. But something goes wrong when going there and remaining there become an all-consuming desire that defines a person’ s ``VMG’’ (vision-mission goals, FYI).

But what value, you ask, does being poor and obscure has?

Read Karl Gaspar’s ``To be Poor and Obscure: The Spiritual Sojourn of a Mindanawon.’’ Karl is not exactly poor if the national poverty line is to be used. And he is not unknown to development workers, social scientists and church workers immersed among the truly poor and obscure.

May I say early on that the book is not about darkness and despair. It is, in fact, a smiling book. The cover already tells you that. I judge a book also by its cover, you know.

When you read ``To be Poor and Obscure’’ you enter the world not just of Karl but of the people for whom he has committed his life. Before Karl decided to become a Redemptorist Brother in 1987 (when he was 40), he was already a noted a social scientist and veteran church development worker. Karl was detained for two years during the martial law years, an experience that added color to his worldview.

Karl has several books to his name but ``To be Poor and Obscure’’ would probably the most confessional but in a very relaxed, soothing and loving way. It is a long way from his 1985 ``How Long?: Prison Reflections.’’

Thursday, July 7, 2005

1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005 (2)

In October we will know if the nominated ``1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Price 2005’’ will collectively be named as this year’s winner of the Peace Prize.

Last June 29, the names of the nominated 1,000 women (999 actually) from 153 countries were announced simultaneously in different parts of the world. Twenty seven are from the Philippines.

Behind this unprecedented global search for 1,000 women was the Association 1000 Women for the Nobel Peace Prize 2005 which was began in 2003 on the conviction that the commitment of women working for peace should be acknowledged and publicized. Last week I wrote about the criteria used.

Who are they, where are they, what are they doing? (You can read the short biographies in www.1000peacewomen.org.) Here are the Philippines’ 27 women and what they have to say on their work for peace.

Ma. Lorenza ``Binky’’ Dalupan-Palm: ``The peace process involves more than negotiations (with armed groups). You can’t achieve social transformation just sitting across a negotiating table.’’

Cecile Guidote-Alvarez: ``I envision a world free from poverty, pollution, ignorance, injustice. This must be done through culture so that it is peaceful. We have to develop minds and hearts that care and share.’’

Miriam ``Dedet’’ L. Suacito: ``Blessed are my companions who offered their lives while walking the path to peace.’’