Thursday, July 31, 2008

Korean teachers here to learn English teaching

For several years now Korean kids have been coming to the Philippines to attend English camps. On board my flight from Seoul last week I counted about 100 Korean kids all wearing blue T-shirts and with ID cards hanging from their necks. One teacher was carrying all the passports. I took photos while they were boarding. The kids looked like they were from elementary school.

Now it is the Korean teachers’ turn to come and learn how to teach English and use English for teaching. The first batch of Korean teachers arrived Tuesday last week for a month-long training in English teaching. Education and tourism officials call this “education tourism”. There is environmental tourism, medical tourism, rest/recreation/retirement tourism and now you have education tourism.

Sure, we’re supposed to have been left behind by our Asian neighbors in the academic department but there’s still English we are good at and could teach. And I hope this does not go the way of agriculture. Many years ago the Thais came here to study agriculture, but look now, they’re the world’s biggest rice producer and we are the biggest rice importer.

Fifty teachers from elementary and middle school from Busan, South Korea are now participating in the Specialized Training Program under the National English Proficiency Program (NEPP) of the Department of Education. The program’s duration is from July 23 to August 23.

In exchange, I was told, the local government of Busan will donate $6 million worth of learning equipment to the Philippines.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Baseco worries, Juana Tejada rejoices

When you are poor you think of yourself as vulnerable, you consider changes in the landscape of your life that is not of your doing as threatening. Will the changes mean being thrown about again like flotsam and jetsam on one’s native shores? Where to move, where to live and where to find livelihood? Will so-called industrial and commercial development take over, leaving the vulnerable to fend for themselves?

Residents of the Baseco compound in Manila’s Tondo district are anxious that proposed changes in the place where they had been settled will mean they could be moved out. The government agencies concerned should be forthright with the poor and not leave them to speculate about their fate.

Some 6,000 to 10,000 poor families have been residents of Baseco since 2001. Baseco is 56 hectares in area. In the beginning it was frequently underwater but improvements on the reclaimed site were done. In 2002, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared that the 56 hectares should indeed be for the homes of the poor. That same year, four major fires hit the area which led to the reclamation of five more hectares. This area was divided into lots for about 1,000 families.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Say “four, double six, six, four” and remember.

46664 was Nelson Mandela’s prison number when he was in prison for 27 years on Robben Island, off Cape Town in South Africa. He was prisoner number 466, imprisoned in 1964. Like other prisoners, he was referred to not by his name but by his prison number. Mandela was 46664.

Tomorrow, July 18, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, freedom fighter and former president of South Africa, turns 90. He has been feted by artists and celebrities as well as people from all walks of life in the past weeks. The gathering of people was not just about him and his favorite causes but also about us, about this world we all hope could be a better place. After all, this man is the quintessential symbol of Everyhumanbeing’s quest for what is good—freedom, justice, equality, peace, prosperity for all. His personal suffering and triumph may not be every one’s lot but they had an impact on every citizen of this planet whether we felt it or not.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Rampant crime in the country’s NGO capital

Women working and living in the so-called NGO capital of the Philippines are up in arms because of the rampant criminality in the area.

Quezon City’s Teacher’s Village East and West and Barangays Central and Pinyahan and neighboring areas, home to dozens of national and international NGOs (non-government organizations), is a prime spot for criminals who prey mostly on women walking the streets to and from their offices or homes. This area is right behind Quezon City Hall!

Almost every female NGO worker in this prime address has a crime story to tell about herself, her co-employees, friends or neighbors. Cell phone and bag snatching, hold-ups, break-ins, carnapping, name it. Not a few had had not one, but several encounters with criminal elements in this Quezon City area. The perpetrators are mostly on motorcycles.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Faint church presence in sea tragedy

I thought about this over and over.

I would probably be excoriated for saying this but I wish the zeal and over-eagerness of the nuns, priests and brothers who were falling all over themselves to support, surround and sustain (for weeks and months) NBN-ZTE whistleblower Rodolfo Lozada Jr. were also seen in the aftermath of the recent sea tragedy that claimed more than 700 lives.

Falling all over themselves, translated in Filipino, is nagkakandarapa.

I didn’t see that same zeal in the wake of the sinking of the Princess of the Stars and I felt let down. I thought the Catholic Church as an institution and as represented by its consecrated members (the clergy, the religious priests, nuns and brothers) was generally lukewarm to the victims and the bereaved after the sinking of the Princess of the Stars.