Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sumilao redux

On a clear day in Sumilao, Bukidnon, one could see Mount Kitanglad standing tall in the distance. Nestled between Mount Sayawan and Mount Palaopao, Sumilao is a valley and home to the Higaonon, an indigenous cultural community that lived there before the 1930s when settlers from distant places began to look upon Mindanao and the new frontier.

The Higaonon believed that Magbabaya the Almighty, gave this balaang yuta (sacred land) to their forefathers and foremothers. Because of the cool weather and the abundance of pine trees, the people described the place as “pine-tree-hon”.

The Higaonon’s ancestral land measured 243.8 hectares and served as their seat of government. Here, the Higaonon’s tribal council led by Apo Manuagay and Apo Mangganiahon ruled and led through the traditional paghusay and pamuhat.

In the 1930s, the Higaonons were forcibly evicted from the land which went from one landed non-Higaonon family to another. In the 1970s the ancestral land was divided between two landowners, the Carloses (99.8 ha.) and the Quisumbings (144 ha.). (If I remember right the dying Carlos patriarch had let go of his share in favor of the farmers.) The Quisumbings eventually leased the land to Del Monte Philippines for 10 years. The Higaonons became farm workers in the land they once owned.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

World Poverty Day is our day

We who are not on the extreme side of the economic divide, we who are fortunate to have a little more than the have-nots, but who have so much less than those who talk six to eight zeros in board rooms and golf courses, have no reason to feel that there is nothing important or impactful for us to do.

We are many, in fact, we are the majority, and we have the power. And I do not mean only on election day. If only we could bring forth that power. If only we knew how.

Yesterday was the United Nation’s official World Poverty Day. It was not a day to be celebrated, but rather, to be observed. It was a day to remind the world that a third of the human citizens of this planet—the “have-nots”—could be dying because of hunger, disease and disasters at this very moment because of the neglect, greed and ignorance of the few “haves” who have too much in their hands and those who have the power, might and numbers to change the order of things but don’t.

For the two billion people who live on less than $2 (or about P90) a day, every day is poverty day. Half of them live on less than $1 a day. The UN’s official day—they’ve never heard of it, for them it doesn’t matter when it is.

Seven years ago, in 2000, 189 nations committed themselves to cut that grim figure in half. Four years later in 2004, the figures still looked grim, swinging from hope to despair to hope.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

‘Go repair my house’

“Moreover they should respect all creatures, animate and inanimate, which bear the imprint of the Most High, and they should strive to move from the temptation of exploiting creation, to the Franciscan concept of universal kinship.” – from the Rule of Saint Francis

This column piece should have come out last week, when the feast of St. Francis, patron of the environment, was celebrated. But he could be everybody’s every-day saint and his teachings remain as relevant as when he walked this earth some 12 centuries ago.

St. Francis is often associated with sweet images of flowers, birds, trees and animals. Last week, pets in their furriest and scaliest glory were again paraded on the streets by their Filipino humans to proclaim the saint’s love for God’s creatures.

Many sang paeans to Brother Sun and Sister Moon, to peace and kinship, to earth’s beauty and everything that dwells therein. As if all these come naturally these days.

No, they no longer do. There is now a price to pay to enjoy a smog-free landscape, the good smell of moist earth, the clean wind on one’s face, safe water to drink, natural unadulterated food, the virgin wilderness, hillsides that don’t threaten to cascade on one’s home.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Apo Reef now a ‘no-take zone’

Today is the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi, patron saint of the environment and there is great news for Apo Reef, the world’s second largest and known as the jewel and pride of Mindoro. The reef is second in size to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Oct. 2 marked the total ban on fishing in Apo Reef. This is to ensure that the reef and the residents who live in the area could recover from the effects of overfishing and exploitation for nearly 30 years. No less than the World Wildlife Fund made this announcement.

This decision was not reached overnight. Negotiations went on for years. And now Apo Reef will be open only for tourism. Well, the question now is, where will the fishermen who depend on Apo Reef for their livelihood go next?

According to WWF, one in 10 fishermen is opposed to the park’s closure but the local government is installing alternative ways. WWF says that giant fish aggregation devices, locally called payaw, have been installed a few kilometres from the coast. Eight have been installed and 10 more will be in place later.

The payaw is a crude but effective device. It is composed of a buoy, a counterweight and 10 to 15 coconut fronts. The algae growth on the decomposing fronds attracts herbivores such as surgeon and rabbitfish that can draw in larger predators. A single payaw can yield at least 15 kilos of good fish per boat. Tambakol, tulingan, galunggong and even yellowfin tuna can be part of the catch.