Thursday, October 26, 2006

The scent of coconuts

One should indulge in life’s little pleasures even while the world goes berserk and the ugly side of politics is constantly spoiling the landscape of our lives. Food is comfort and we look to so-called comfort food, the food that brings back pleasant memories and feelings, when things go awry.

It was good to savor the flavors and scents of the food of Bicolandia last Monday at the EDSA Shangri-la where the two-week (Oct. 23 to Nov. 3) Gayon Food Feast is now going on. This is being co-promoted by the Department of Tourism’s Bicol Regional Division under Maria O. Ravanilla.

Gayon is short for magayon (Bicol for beautiful) and where the name of the awesome Mayon Volcano of Albay is supposed to have come from. Extend the suffix and you have magayunon or very beautiful; magayunonon means very, very beautiful. You could extend the suffix some more to push the meaning to the extreme.

My verdict? The food was not just masiram (delicious), it was masiramon (really delicious). I say this not because my cousin Didette N. Peralta (who co-owns and runs Legazpi City’s Small Talk CafĂ©) was one of the guest cooks but because the flavors did Daragang Magayon (the maiden in Bicol legend) proud. And I judged the spread as it was—somewhat fusion cuisine--not as the home cooked, slow-food fare that purists might pine for. There was pasta pinangat, for example, and Bicol express served on tomato halves. Quite neo-, those. But the real pinangat was there in its coconut-y glory.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Yunus: ‘Poor women are good credit risk’

The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation (RMAF) is on Cloud 9 because 1984 Awardee for Community Leadership, Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh, is this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner. The RMAF was 22 years ahead of the Nobel in recognizing Yunus’ work among the poor.

The Dalai Lama received his RM Award (Asia’s Nobel, so-called) in 1959, 30 years before his Nobel in 1989. Mother Teresa got her RM Award in 1962, 17 years earlier than her Nobel.

This means that Asia, the RMAF of the Philippines in particular, is not behind, it is in fact way ahead, in recognizing its own home-grown heroes and, yes, long before these persons have become familiar names in the world.

Yunus was only 44 when he received the RM Award in 1984, one of the youngest in RMAF’s roster of laureates. Now there is an RM award for Emergent Leadership for those below or on the threshold of 40. Yunus was quite surprised that he was chosen at that time because Grameen banking (microfinance) for the poor was not yet a byword. This is what Yunus said in 1984:

“I still cannot make out how the trustees of this prestigious foundation could notice a small effort such as ours, which has reached only some 100,000 in a population of more than 90 million. (As of July 2006, the population is 147.3 million - Inquirer Research Dept.) I can only admire the foundation for taking a big risk in choosing me…”

Thursday, October 12, 2006


The Catholic Church in the Philippines sets aside the second Sunday of October as Indigenous People’s Sunday and October might as well IP month.

An NGO that has been working for almost 10 years for the education of IPs is Sikat or Schools of Indigenous Knowledge and Tradition or Silungan ng Katututbong Kaalaman at Tradisyon. The Filipino word sikat means shine and when the accent is placed on the second syllable, it means celebrity, a person of note and achievement. Sikat is a non-church, non-profit, non-stock movement that aims to make the IPs find their rightful place, their place of pride, under the sun through education. Not just any education but an education that is attuned to the IP’s way of life—their culture, language, livelihood, habitat, and everything that defines them. This means developing a “culturally responsive education for indigenous peoples”.

Behind Sikat and supporting it every step of the way is the Asian Council for People’s Culture (ACPC).

In December 1997, a group of people from various regions and faiths gathered for the first National Trainers’ Training in order to share and build visions for a national network of cultural workers and community educators. That meeting gave birth to Sikat and the network of schools.

Al Santos, Sikat executive director and founding member says: “In establishing community-owned culturally responsive schools, we create linking pathways for the promotion of indigenous education among various tribes across the country.”

Thursday, October 5, 2006

Billboards from hell(2)

There’s a (2) up there because I used the same title last year when the Anti-Billboard Coalition (ABC) whipped up a storm. Many storms have come and gone since that time and billboards have continued to collapse on highways, vehicles, transport systems, structures and human beings except on those who put them up.

Someone suggested I use the title “Death by billboard”.

The man who instantly died after he was hit by a falling billboard was probably still being embalmed when this outdoor advertising executive said on national TV something like this: Milenyo was a strong typhoon and things standing were expected to fall, among them trees, electric posts and billboards. If we ban billboards, he said, we might as well ban trees and electric posts.

Ano raw? Trees aren’t marijuana. You don’t have to be a true-blue greenie to know the basics about trees. And electric posts? Many have contributed to the ugliness of the metropolis because of the entangled wires they weave around them but they stand there for a purpose. And we expect our power providers to someday do away with unsightly wiring.