Thursday, December 27, 2007

Back-to-Christmas movement

If I were from another religion or another planet and I knew the Christmas story and how Christianity began I would be very shocked to see Christmas being celebrated with excessiveness, mindlessness, stressfulness. I would ask: how has Christmas come to this? This was not how it all began.

Simplicity has been supplanted by excess. It seems the Christ in Christmas has been x-ed. Xmas. X for excess. Xmall, Xmess. Oh, we say, but we know Christmas is alive, one just has to wade through the X-cess to find the true essence. But why must this be so?

Toxic toys, double-dead meat, smuggled goods, horrendous traffic, Christmas blues, piles of garbage, overcrowded shopping malls, desperate gift-givers, overeating, excess cholesterol and sugar, clogged airports and bus terminals, the culture of gift and cash solicitation (messengers, garbage collectors, strangers, barangay personnel leaving you envelopes into which you must put in money), and so forth and so on.

These are some of the negatives of the Christmas season that needn’t be there. How is it that Christmas is the time when the gap between the rich and the poor becomes wider than wide, with the latter feeling the pain of being on the other side of the railroad tracks? The lonely get lonelier, the hungry feel hungrier, the outcast feel like castaways indeed.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

If the land could weep and sing

Well, what can I say. Weeping has turned into rejoicing. Day is breaking all over the land. Joy comes in the morning. If there should be weeping, the weeping should let flow tears of joy.

For the farmers of Sumilao who marched 1,700 km. for two months from Bukidnon to Manila under scorching heat and driving rain are finally seeing a glimmer of hope. That the disputed 144 hectares would be theirs once again, wrenched at last from corporate hands after years of weeping and gnashing of teeth on the part of the farmer-awardees.

But there were will be some waiting to do even after President Arroyo authorized that the land that had been reclassified as agro-industrial, be reverted back to agricultural land covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

With the backing of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines and civil society groups but minus the disruptive flag-waving of hard-core ideological elements, the farmers should be on their way back to their promised land.

Nine years ago, I wrote the column piece below. I fished it out from my files some days ago when I thought the Sumilao case would again turn awry, because for a while it looked that way. Anyway, here it is as a remembrance of things past and I hope I never have to rub it in again.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The light of their life

This book convinces me that no mother—if it could be helped—should ever leave her family to work abroad for a long, long stretch of time. That is not the book’s expressed objective and neither is it trying to find economic solutions to stop the endless stream of mothers leaving for jobs far away from their homes. But solutions to the collateral damage are in the offing.

“Nawala ang Ilaw ng Tahanan: Case Studies of Families Left Behind by OFW Mothers” tells us what happens when the mother is away for long. The title alludes to mothers as light and translates as “the light of the home has gone”. That description of the state of affairs in the domestic front came from the left-behind families themselves. They know what it is like, they remember the day the light went out.

The little book is a compilation of case studies by psychotherapist and prolific book author Ma. Lourdes Arellano-Carandang, and psychologists Beatrix Aileen Sison and Christopher Carandang. Ten OFW families are featured, each of them with the individual profiles of fathers and children (and mothers in some cases), their feelings, world views, hopes and problems, as well as how they cope and find solutions.
Plus more solutions, but this is getting ahead of the review.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Leaders for Health Program

“Stories of town mayors giving out medicines, from paracetamol to penicillin, are not unusual because these can get votes. On the other hand, municipal doctors complain about not having enough funds to buy common drugs and gasoline for the ambulance in emergencies. Community members largely stay on the sidelines, rarely participating in the arenas of local governance.”

This is the scenario that is common especially in far-flung places. This is the situation that the Leaders for Health Program (LHP) wants to address and change “by making health part of the governance process wherein there is transparency, efficiency and civic participation.”

Situations like the one that broke into the news recently, the one about the outbreak of parasite infection or capillariasis in Zamboanga del Norte. Reports said at least 70 had already died in the village of Moyo in Zamboanga del Norte leaving families orphaned. More than 300 villagers had been infected and suffered chronic diarrhea and dehydration.

The poor villagers had been eating river fish and shrimps that had the capillariasis worm because there was little else. And when struck by the disease, they could not afford the medicines. Worse, there was not enough medicine. No tests had been done so the mortality was simply attributed to chronic diarrhea. But what caused the diarrhea?