Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gross national happiness

One often hears a Filipino or oneself saying, or chirping, “Mababaw lang ang kaligayahan ko.” When translated literally, it almost sounds like “My joy is shallow” when what it really means is “It takes so little to make me happy.” It, in fact, suggests that there is a deeper, fuller joy than what is apparently caused by that “little”.

There’s been much ado about the recent research findings that challenge the so-called Easterlin Paradox that has long been held—that happiness does not necessarily increase with income. That is, after a point of satiation has been achieved.

Now come the new research findings from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business showing “a clear positive link” between wealth and “subjective well-being” based on global surveys.

They show that the facts about income and happiness turn out to be much simpler than first realized. Namely:1) rich people are happier than poor people. 2) richer countries are happier than poor countries, 3)as countries get richer they tend to be happier.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Unsafe in banks

It was one for Truman Capote. The bank robbery in Laguna last Friday morning that killed 10 was one for the books. Nothing like that had ever happened in this country. I am not talking about the swiftness, the amount of money taken or the daring. I am talking about the naked cruelty of those who planned and carried it out.

They didn’t just take the money and run. They made sure no one saw or recognized their faces and lived to tell story. They made the bank employees lie face down on the floor and fired at them one by one, execution style. They had planned it that way. Who were they? What kind of men were these?

One bishop compared them to animals. Unfair to animals! Animals are good creatures, true to their essence and have no evil human attributes.

Whenever I am in a bank waiting in line to do a transaction, a scenario always crosses my mind—a bank robbery unfolding before my eyes. And what do I do next, where do no crouch and how do I stay cool? Should I keep my eyes shut but my ears alert to the sounds and my nose keen to the scents? Should I play dead or feign a heart attack?

Thursday, May 15, 2008


What’s May without the Flores de Mayo and the Santacruzan? What’s life without the childhood memories of May, of blazing summers and sudden downpours, of food and fiestas, of beaches and rivers and flowers and songs?

I know there will always be endless debates about the excessiveness in fiestas which are mostly celebrated in May. And there’s the churchy part that could also spark debates but most people choose to bask in its saccharine, flowery feel because it’s related to faith and worship and God and us. Or so we think.

Recently the Santacruzan, the Maytime procession that usually features celebs representing icons in biblical and Catholic Christian history, had its share of questions when Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Rosales frowned upon and wished to ban Santacruzans that feature male gays dressed as female saints and the like. A church-related event was not going to be done this way, he said.

Many in the gay community raised a howl, saying this was a form of discrimination against them. Why, they said, also want to be part of the religious festivities and they are also children of God.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Rice notes

I texted my good friends Sr. Isyang and Sr. Emma whose Susi Foundation serves farmers’ rice cooperatives in Southern Luzon to ask if there are extraordinary stories in their area related to the current global and local rice price crisis. These award-winning nuns-turned-farmers have been working in a farm setting in Quezon for the last 30 years.

Sr. Isyang texted a reply: “Effect of high rice prices here is families spend less on merienda, parties & other nonessential expense. Dey can still eat 3x a day, rural kc. Small rice mills have less stocks coz of cost. Less going 2 cockpits of those saving 4 food. No xtra-ord stories.”

Our common friend Ika Laurel Loewen who was based in Germany for a long time is back for good to produce food and give hope through her little farm in Barangay Laurel in Tagkawayan, Quezon. (She was my former schoolmate at St. Scho who later left for Spain to study and then settled in the land of Beethoven.) This great-grandniece of national hero Jose Rizal has named her little place “Mi Retiro”. Sure, it’s a place for rest but definitely not for retirement especially when there is a food crisis.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

No to FIELDS of hybrid rice

Hybrid does not necessarily mean more and better.

During this time when a global food crisis is upon us and the world’s impoverished population has to deal with food scarcity, a variety of solutions have been thrust upon us. But questions regarding the soundness of some of these solutions have to be raised.

The presidential fiat on the implementation of FIELDS has to face questions coming from civil society groups, among them, Centro Saka, concerned and alarmed over the aggressive promotion of hybrid rice. Centro Saka is a policy research and advocacy non-government organization. It is the secretariat to the National Rice Farmers Council, a loose coalition of small farmers organization nationwide formed in 2003 during the National Rice Farmers Summit.