Thursday, December 31, 2009

A gift of story

DURING A QUIET MOMENT this Christmas week, I pulled out from the shelf and read again the tiny book “The Gift of Story: A wise tale about what is enough” by Clarissa Pinkola Estes. It looked so small beside the big, thick “Women Who Run with the Wolves,” a groundbreaking book also by Estes. On the same shelf level was my first children’s book—“Toby Runs Away”—that my mother read to me when I was little. I don’t remember how it got there.

Estes’ “The Gift of Story” is all of 32 pages. Its big drop letters at the beginning of every section go with exquisite illustrations that look like wood cut designs. Many years ago I bought two copies of the book and gave the other copy to a friend whose friend was very ill.

I read the book again because I have just come up with a little story book myself. My and Jess Abrera’s book miraculously made it to the National Bookstores in Metro Manila the day before Christmas and it was selling. Some branches had to have their supply replenished. I thought, it was when the book was out there that I was pondering what the story might mean. Or if I did it right. That is, from Estes’ Jungian perspective.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Can heaven and nature sing?

Philippind Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
HAVE A QUIET and truly meaningful celebration of Christmas. And please pause and remember those who cannot celebrate because they are in deep pain and sorrow.
Yesterday, two days before Christmas Day, journalists led a nationwide candle vigil for justice to mark the first month of the unspeakable crime that gave the Philippines the infamous reputation as the most dangerous place on earth for journalists. That now sounds cliché. But unspeakable grief is never cliché.
Here in Metro Manila vigils were held in media offices, the Inquirer among them, and at the Bantayog ng mga Bayani in Quezon City.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Global editorial on climate change

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
LAST WEEK, one day before the Copenhagen summit (Dec. 7-18) on climate change opened, 56 major newspapers in 45 countries spoke with one voice. They came out with a common global editorial written in 20 languages on climate change.

I was hoping that Philippine newspapers would join major newspapers all over the world and carry the global editorial that London’s The Guardian had initiated. But last week the Philippine media were just too caught up in the brutality without compare that visited our ranks. News about the mass murder in Maguindanao of 30 media practitioners plus 27 non-media persons, and the public unraveling of the unspeakable evil that had long stalked that Mindanao wasteland could hardly give way to anything else. The pages of Philippine newspapers have been soaking in blood since Nov. 23.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Journalists rage: Stop the killing

Philippine Daily Inquirer/News/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
ENRAGED JOURNALISTS clad in black, both local and foreign, took to the streets of Manila Wednesday, becoming newsmakers themselves by denouncing the massacre of at least 30 media workers and 27 others on Nov. 23 in Ampatuan, Maguindanao.
At the same time in Maguindanao, journalists briefly took a break from covering military operations and trekked to the massacre site in Sitio Masalay, Barangay Salman to light candles in honor of their colleagues killed in the country’s worst case of election-related violence.
Protest rallies in different parts of the country and the world were also held to coincide with Wednesday’s “Black Day” march, Nestor Burgos of the National Union of Journalists (NUJP) said.

How they love one another

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
WISHING YOU ALL a meaningful Human Rights Day. It’s been 62 years since the International Declaration of Human Rights was signed and adopted by nations the world over. And where are we?
Last week’s Time magazine cover story was about “The Decade from Hell”. Indeed, in the past 10 years, terrorist attacks, wars, financial melt-downs, natural and man-made disasters, viruses, diseases, hunger and all kinds of violence have visited this planet and sent humanity running for cover. Humanity continues to be under attack.
We are now ending this decade and entering the next. Christians are observing the Advent season and ushering in Christmas. Muslims have just ended their own yearly observance of Eid ul Adha or feast of sacrifice. All these as we Filipinos remain shocked beyond words by the Nov. 23 massacre of more than 60 human beings, 30 journalists among them, in the Ampatuan fiefdom in Maguindanao.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Journalists and women as safety shield

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
IF I COULD GET HOLD of even only one of the perpetrators of the Nov. 23 broad daylight mass murder/massacre of 57 human beings, 30 of them from the media, I would ask only one question. (And I shudder to think that I know the answer to my own question.) My question would be: What or who made you think or believe that you could commit this evil deed and get away with it?

I cry out, de profundis: President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, how have we come to this? For the 21st century or for just this decade, the Philippines can now claim a day of horror, a day of evil of its own to remember: 11/23.
People used to say the name of the month and day to be remembered, such as Sept. 21 or 
Aug. 21, or invoke numbers to never forget, such as P.D. 1081, to conjure up images of blood and terror. Or they use them to remember some significant event, like Nueve de Febrero (name of a street) and Mayo Uno (Labor Day).

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cory Aquino, nun, 4 activists join Bantayog heroes

Philippine Daily Inquirer/News
FORMER PRESIDENT Corazon C. Aquino leads this year’s batch of heroes and martyrs whose names will be inscribed on the Wall of Remembrance of the Bantayog ng mga Bayani (Monument of Heroes).

Besides Aquino, the latest additions to the roster are Sr. Asuncion Martinez, ICM, and activists Antonio G. Ariado, Melito T. Glor, Alfredo L. Malicay and Ronald Jan F. Quimpo.

The yearly Bantayog rites are held either on Nov. 30, Bonifacio Day, or Dec. 10, Human Rights Day.

Both Aquino and Martinez have been classified as heroes. They died of natural causes at a late age—Aquino at 76 on Aug. 1 and Martinez at 84 in 1994. The four young men, who all died in their 20s in the 1970s, are considered martyrs.

This year’s honorees bring to 179 the number of names etched on the black granite Wall of Remembrance near the 45-foot bronze monument by renowned sculptor Eduardo Castrillo that depicts a defiant mother holding a fallen son.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mangyans, mining and betrayal

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
COURAGE, HUMILITY AND COMPASSION. These, Bishop Broderick Pabillo prayed, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Lito Atienza would have so that he would correct his mistake.

Pabillo is chair of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines’ Commission on Social Action, Justice and Peace and auxiliary bishop of Manila. He was one of the hunger strikers who joined the Mangyans and priests of Mindoro to oppose large-scale mining in watershed and ancestral domain areas.
Two days into the hunger strike, the anti-mining protestors thought they had triumphed. They had earlier met with Atienza to urge him to cancel the environmental compliance certificate (ECC) that his office had issued to Intex Resources, a Norwegian mining company, last Oct. 14 despite strong and valid opposition from the community, the local government and the Catholic Church.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Pope at the hunger summit

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
AROUND 1.02 BILLION people are suffering chronic hunger today, said a report released last week by the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Programme. This sharp rise in hunger triggered by the global economic crisis has hit the poorest people in developing countries hardest, revealing a fragile world food system in urgent need of reform, the report added.

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf warned: “The silent hunger crisis affecting one-sixth of all humanity poses a serious risk for world peace and security.” He called the 1.02 billion “our tragic achievement in these modern days.” Watch Diouf’s shocking six-second video message in www.1billionhungry.org.
Before I say more, let me say that the Philippines is among the 31 countries listed as suffering from “severe localized food insecurity.”

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Remembering Berlin

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
I OWN A PIECE or pieces of the Berlin Wall. A friend who went to Berlin shortly after the fall of the wall in 1989 brought home a piece for me.

Two years later, in 1991, I and several journalists were in Germany for a two-week cross-country tour—courtesy of a German press association, Germany’s department of tourism and Lufthansa. This was my second time in Germany. Berlin was one of the places we visited. We were there for the first anniversary of the reunification of West and East Germany which happened on Oct. 3, 1990.

Of course, I got pieces of the wall, but that time they came as part of a brooch which young artists made and sold near the wall area. I bought a beautiful molded face of a woman with one cheek covered with tiny pieces of the wall. I still have it and wear it now and then.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Reflections on kidnappings past and present

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P.Doyo
AS IRISH COLUMBAN missionary Fr. Michael Sinnott enters his 24th day of captivity, people from all walks of life continue to pray that his kidnappers would have compassion and free him soon. That is, without ransom being paid. His kidnappers have asked for a $2-million ransom.

Fr. Pat O’Donoghue, regional director of the Missionary Society of St. Columban, has insisted again and again that Sinnott would not want that money be the reason for his release. The no-ransom policy stands.
As O’Donoghue stressed, paying ransom would “just add to everyone else’s vulnerability.” They are missionaries, “not commodities,” he added. For more than two decades these bandits/terrorists have been treating the religious as commodities.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Juan Tama, virgin voter

That’s Tama (right/correct) indeed, we didn’t miss out on the letter d. But before that d disappeared, there is Juan Tamad of Philippine fable, the stereotypical lazy, lethargic Filipino who just waits for the proverbial guava to fall from the tree and into his mouth.

Once again, Juan Tamad takes center stage on a circa 2010 life, but this time he metamorphoses into Juan Tama. And indeed, it takes a village, so to speak, to transform him from obduracy into advocacy.
“Si Juan Tamad, ang Diyablo at ang Limang Milyong Boto” (directed by Phil M. Noble), the latest offering of the Philippine Educational Theater Association (PETA), is the thing to watch especially by first-time voters, or virgin voters, as PETA calls them.

Set in the imaginary island of Isla Filiminimon, the musical revolves around Juan Tamad (nicknamed JT), the son of two overseas Filipino workers toiling in Isla Agimat. Juan’s parents open the story and introduce their son who grew up with his grandmother but who turns out to be a lazy, apathetic 21-year-old. (Juan is played by Marvin Wilbur T. Ong and Victor B. Robinson III.)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dam lessons from Yu Xiaogang

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
Three weeks after Chinese expert dam watcher, activist and 2009 Ramon Magsaysay awardee Yu Xiaogang left the Philippines, the dam broke, so to speak.

I wish I had asked Yu all the dam questions that are plaguing us now. I wish he were here for the Senate hearings and the forum debates to witness the dam-damning, blame-throwing, finger-pointing and breast-beating.
He could listen to the torrent of words from government officials, soothsayers, feel-gooders (they announce on TV how very good they feel after doing acts of charity even while the flood victims continue to feel bad) and what-have-you that all but drowned us again after the two great catastrophes of the past weeks that killed almost 700 (by drowning, landslides, leptospirosis, etc.) and destroyed lives and livelihoods.

Thursday, October 15, 2009


Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
(This piece is the continuation of last week’s column, “Deep calls to deep.”)

IN 2005, after killer landslides and flash floods brought the provinces of Quezon and Aurora to their knees, I wrote about the groundbreaking book, “Pakikipagkapwa Damdamin: Accompanying Survivors of Disasters,” (Bookmark) by psychologist Dr. Lourdes A. Carandang. The book was the result of her and her Ateneo de Manila University team’s efforts (funded by Unicef) to give psychological aid to survivors of the 1990 earthquake, the 1991 Mount Pinatubo and 1993 Mayon Volcano eruptions.
Carandang and her team’s “helping manual” could very well have been written for the 2005 Southern Luzon tragedy. It also found context in the catastrophic 2005 tsunami tragedy that killed more than 200,000 in Asia and Africa. And in the past two weeks’ deluge and landslides that paralyzed Metro Manila, Rizal Province and Northern and Central Luzon.

I am sharing again some of the insights from the book that might be useful for those who are helping individuals and groups, children in particular, deal with their recent traumatic experiences with the disaster caused by Typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” and by human beings as well.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Father Mick: A fighter for victims of injustice

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Feature
TWO MONTHS SHY of 80, Irish priest Fr. Michael Sinnott has worked as a missionary in the Philippines for more than four decades, devoting the last few years helping disabled children, whether Christian or Muslim.

His abduction by armed men on Sunday night has shocked not only his fellow priests belonging to the Missionary Society of St. Columban but the leaders of the Philippine Roman Catholic Church.

Fondly called Father Mick by friends, Sinnott is the latest in a lengthening list of foreign and Filipino missionaries kidnapped by lawless elements in the volatile Mindanao region.

An aunt of his, Sr. Theophane Fortune, a Columban missionary sister, also served in Mindanao years ago.

In recent years, Sinnott had been in ill health.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

‘Deep calls to deep’

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
“Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.” (Psalm 42:7)

These words were roaring in my head all throughout last week, rising and crashing like a thundering symphony. Like a movie sound track gone awry. Brutal, majestic, exploding like Mozart’s “Rex tremendae.”
Like the psalmist and Job, thousands of Filipinos were left helpless in the face of the unprecedented rage of nature that swept Metro Manila and Rizal Province to the edge. There were those who described the tragedy as “biblical” in proportion, except that there was no Noah’s ark in sight.

Like many lucky ones, I was high and dry in my Quezon City home during those terrifying moments. But with all forms of media churning out endless images and news accounts of the disaster, those who were out of harm’s way but wanted to be connected through various modes of media communication experienced what is called vicarious traumatization.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Odette and Ondoy

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
So many pieces have been written about Odette Alcantara and her life and times since her sudden passing on Sept. 22. She was going to turn 69 tomorrow.

I last saw Odette on Aug. 31 at the Ramon Magsaysay Awards at the Cultural Center of the Philippines. Although I attend the awards every year and write about the awardees, this year was special because our common friend, environmental lawyer Tony Oposa Jr., was one of the awardees. Odette was there, wearing her “10MM” dog tag which one got by signing a pledge to care for Mother Nature and which Tony conceptualized along with Odette and their fellow greenies.

Suddenly Odette was gone.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

PCIJ at 20

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
This week the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) is celebrating its 20th anniversary. How time flies. The past 20 years have indeed been colorful, dangerous years for this journalistic endeavour which is an Asian first and which continues to be not only investigative but innovative as well in its reporting and use of new forms of media technology.

Part of the celebration is a seminar for Asian journalists. The theme is “Peace, Human Rights, Good Governance: East Asian Democracies at the Crossroads.” Why this theme? In the next three years, PCIJ explains, a number of countries in Southeast Asia will witness strategic shifts in leadership through elections and parliamentary processes. General elections were recently held in Indonesia. The Philippines will hold its first national automated elections in May 2010. Parliamentary elections in Cambodia are scheduled to be held in July 2011. Thailand and Malaysia have recently witnessed changes in political leadership, while other nations in Southeast Asia continue their evolution into fuller, more stable democracies.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Stem cells from me, for me

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Opinion/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
AVOIDING BEING MAUDLIN, I say, this is as straightforward as I can get:
Few people knew about what I went through from October 2007 to May 2008. During that time I was quietly battling a dreaded threat: cancer. I had lived a relatively happy, healthy lifestyle for many years. And then for some strange reason, I was going “lo-batt.” An enemy had struck. As I had disclosed earlier, I found myself next door to the pre-departure area. (See my four-part series on stem cell therapy, Inquirer, p.1, Sept. 14-17. This column piece is the side bar to today’s Part 4.)
God is the ultimate healer, one of my doctors reminded me. Yes, God worked through close family and friends, and in an amazing way, through persons of science, medicine and faith.

(PART 4) Stem Cells: Regenerative medicine--Hope or just hype

Human Face column: Stem cells from me, for me

 (Part 4-Conclusion)
Philippine Daily Inquirer/Special Report/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

IS THIS THE HOLY GRAIL of medicine in the 21st century? Is this new emerging field going to provide dramatic changes in the way diseases and injuries are studied and treated?

Stem cells and regenerative medicine are the new catch words in health care. Scientists have discovered the stem cells’ amazing characteristics and therapeutic potential.

But stem cell therapy in the Philippines is not without its skeptics for a variety of reasons. It could be a threat to drug-dependent therapy.

Doctors will have to get out of their comfort zones to learn new ways. It is still very expensive and labor intensive.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

(PART 3)Stem Cells: Lab nerd tweaks tiny particles to renew life

(Third of a series)

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Special Report/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
MANILA, Philippines—Physician, lawyer, chemist, molecular biologist, Ph.D. and MBA holder, professor of medicine, cancer director in US hospitals, leading figure in stem cell research, cancer therapy and bioregenerative medicine. Cancer survivor.
“Before I became a medical doctor,” says Dr. Samuel D. Bernal, “I was a hard-core chemist.” As a lab nerd, he poked, coaxed and tweaked the smallest particles of life. He then segued into medicine. His specialization: Stem cells in regenerative medicine and oncology, or the treatment of cancer. But he never really left behind the amazing world of molecules.
This Filipino-American doctor is a moving force in the regenerative medicine department of The Medical City (TMC) where he holds clinic when he’s not abroad.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

(PART 2) Stem Cells: From science fiction to reality

Read Part 1: Amazing healing power within our bodies
Read side bar to Part 1: What are stem cells?
Read Part 3: Lab nerd tweaks tiny particles to renew life
Read Part 4: Regenerative medicine: hope or just hype
Read Human Face column: Stem cells from me, for me

(Second of a series)
Philippine Daily Inquirer/Special Report/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
IN THE PHILIPPINES, a name that has become synonymous with stem cells, and in a bigger dimension, with molecular and regenerative medicine, is Dr. Samuel D. Bernal. 
“Molecular medicine,” Bernal proclaims, “is now, the present. Not the future. In this era of molecular biology, we are now recognizing even more that personalized medicine involves analyzing the molecular characteristics of a patient.”
The Filipino-American doctor is a cancer survivor who applied on himself his knowledge of regenerative medicine and stem cell therapy when he was thought to be dying nine years ago. He stresses that the body holds a potent army for healing that needs to be harnessed and trained to recognize the enemy.
Bernal holds clinics at The Medical City (TMC) in Pasig City when he is not treating patients in Los Angeles or Prague. (More on Bernal tomorrow)

Monday, September 14, 2009

(PART 1) Stem Cells: Amazing healing power within our bodies

Read side bar: What are stem cells?
Read Part 2: From science fiction to reality
Read Part 3: Lab nerd tweaks tiny particles to renew life
Read Part 4: Regenerative medicine--hope or just hype
Read Human Face column: Stem cells from me, for me

(First of a series)

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Special Report/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
MANILA, Philippines—Who’s afraid of stem cell therapy?

Not me. I went through it—with the use of my very own adult stem cells. It was part of the therapeutic package—radical, immediate and customized—meant to battle a life-threatening health condition that I faced in late 2007. I was next door, so to speak, to the pre-departure area.
I underwent surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy—the so-called “slice, poison and burn” procedures—plus stem cell therapy, which was the most customized and personalized and the least invasive.
My doctors and I believe stem cells had helped significantly not just to reduce the impact of the three radical procedures, but, more importantly, they played their own independent role in targeting the enemy without collateral damage. They helped restore my health and made me hit the ground running again, go out to sea, climb hills, travel far. From “on the verge” to “very clean.”

What are stem cells? (Side bar to Part 1)

STEM CELLS ARE the primary cells in the human body from which all other tissues “stem” from. They could be programmed in the laboratory to potentially become any other kind of cell and could be used to repair damaged tissues and replace diseased organs.

Stem cells are found in most, if not all, multicellular organisms and are characterized by their ability to renew themselves into a diverse range of specialized cell types. The field developed from the findings of Canadian scientists Ernest A. McCulloch and James E. Till in the 1960s.

There are two broad types of mammalian stem cells: Embryonic stem cells that are isolated from the inner cell mass of blastocysts, and adult stem cells that are found in adult tissues.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stop poison rain, foreign experts ask PGMA

Two hundred signatories from 44 countries, among them, noted scientists and health experts, have asked Pres. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo “to end poison rain” or the aerial pesticide spraying of banana plantations in Mindanao.

“We are writing to register our support for the ongoing effort of rural poor communities in Mindanao, Philippines to stop the aerial spraying of agrochemicals in banana plantations,” the signatories said.

“In the spirit of global citizenship,” they added, “we state our solidarity with the women and men of the Mamamayan Ayaw sa Aerial Spraying (Citizens Against Aerial Spraying) and many other people’s organizations from the various banana-growing provinces in southern Philippines who are asserting their inherent right not to be harmed by aerial pesticide operations.”

Thursday, September 3, 2009

RM Awardee Antonio Oposa Jr: RP lawyer uses law to protect Mother Nature

Phiilippine Daily Inquirer/Feature
IF HUMANS IN NEAR-DEATH situations need CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), ailing Mother Nature also needs CPR (conservation, protection and restoration/rehabilitation).
That’s according to environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr., who uses medical jargon to call attention to the alarming state of the Philippine environment. But more importantly, he uses the law to protect LAW (land, air and water).
The play on words and meanings is vintage Oposa, one of this year’s six recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Award who were honored on Aug. 31 by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for their various contributions to society and for embodying that special RM factor—“greatness of spirit.”
The foundation hailed Oposa, 54, “for his pathbreaking and passionate crusade to engage Filipinos in acts of enlightened citizenship that maximize the power of law to protect and nurture the environment for themselves, their children and generations still to come.”

Batangueña refuses to pay taxes

A good friend of mine, Emma Alday, refuses to pay her taxes. She has not paid a cent for four years now. Emma is a guardian of the environment and has worked very, very hard to clean up rivers and other waterways in her hometown of San Jose , Batangas. I have seen for myself the efforts she has put into her advocacy.

A former nun, Emma is an NGO worker who has received a number of citations for her work among farmers. She runs Casa Rap, a small garden-restaurant that serves organically grown food plus art from nature’s excess. She is also a former municipal councilor who fought to get the local government and the citizenry to act on environmental issues, among them the severe pollution of rivers by poultry raisers.

I have written several articles to highlight the issues that plagued that part of Batangas. And so did many others in both print and broadcast media. The problems remain.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Burma's Ka Hsaw Wa: RM Awardee fights for human, nature's rights

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Feature/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
MANILA, Philippines—ONLY A SCAR remains on the right arm of Ka Hsaw Wa where there used to be a tattoo of the word “zeal” in Burmese. When he became a hunted man, he scraped it off his skin. Not many people have gone through the suffering and dangers this man went through in his youth. He has lived to boldly tell the tale and more importantly, he has made it his goal to make life better for those who continue to suffer.
Ka Hsaw Wa was only 18 when he had to flee the oppressive rule of the military junta in Burma (Myanmar). As a freedom activist, he experienced detention and torture. He later took to the jungle in order to continue the struggle.
Armed resistance was an option. But he realized there were other paths he could take and nonviolent means he could use. This was by taking up the pen, record what he had seen and bring them to the attention of the world to effect change.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

RM Awardee Deep Joshi of India:Using head and heart to fight poverty

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Feature
by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
MANILA, Philippines—“IF ALL YOU HAVE are bleeding hearts, it wouldn’t work. If you only have heads, then you are going to dictate solutions which do not touch the human chord.”

Words to remember from India’s Deep Joshi, one of the six recipients of this year’s Ramon Magsaysay Award.
Development workers, civil society advocates, and social activists take heed. You need both head and heart in order to truly serve. You need both empathy and knowledge in order to be effective.
The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation is honoring Joshi, 62, “for his vision and leadership in bringing professionalism to the NGO movement in India and in truly combining ’head and heart’ in the transformative work of rural development.”

Monday, August 31, 2009

RM awardee Krisana Kraisintu: Cheap drugs for poorest

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Feautre/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
MANILA, Philippines—Thai pharmacist Krisana Kraisintu vividly remembers coming to the Philippines many years ago and visiting a large Filipino-owned drug manufacturing facility.
Someone generously shared with her the formula for a tuberculosis medicine that she took back to her home country and worked on so that the sick poor could avail of it.

It was a display of Filipino generosity Kraisintu would never forget and she often mentions it. She wishes she knew who it was in Unilab that gave her the formula.

But Kraisintu’s own generosity is evident as she continues to share her expertise and live a life of service in order to help not just the people of Thailand but also many poor African countries where diseases, particularly HIV-AIDS, threaten the lives of a staggering number of the population.
Kraisintu, 57, is one of the six recipients of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards for 2009 who will be honored on Monday. The feisty pharmacist is being hailed “for placing pharmaceutical rigor at the service of patients, through her untiring and fearless dedication to producing much-needed generic drugs in Thailand and elsewhere in the world.”

Sunday, August 30, 2009

RM award for China's water guardians

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Feature
by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
MANILA, Philippines—Two Chinese activists who have literally immersed themselves in turbulent waters are among this year’s six Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation awardees.

Working separately and through different means, Ma Jun and Yu Xiaogang have devoted their lives to reversing the threat to China’s water systems, for many the source of life and livelihood.

Ma, 41, a former journalist, is being honored by the RMAF for “harnessing the technology and power of information to address China’s water crisis, and mobilizing pragmatic, multisectoral and collaborative efforts to ensure sustainable benefits for China’s environment and society.”

Yu, 58, is being recognized “for fusing the knowledge and tools of social science with a deep sense of social justice, in assisting dam-affected communities in China to shape the development projects that impact their natural environment and their lives.”

As a Beijing-based journalist working with Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, Ma Jun traveled extensively around China and saw how the country’s vaunted economic boom was threatening to destroy its water systems. He witnessed the torrential floods caused by the overflowing of the Yangtze River and other catastrophes.

Ma used his pen to raise the alarm and in 1999 published his book, “China’s Water Crisis.”

The book, with a chapter each devoted to the seven main water basins of China, opened people’s eyes to the problem and provided a way for many to get involved.

The main message of Ma’s book, hailed as China’s “first great environmental call to arms,” was: If we don’t change the way we use and manage our water sources, we will be facing a water crisis.

“People used to say, let’s get rich first. No, we must make space for the environment. We must try to live within our means and use water more efficiently,” he says in an interview.

Water pollution map
It was no surprise that Ma the journalist became a full-time environmentalist. In 2006, he founded the nongovernmental Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPEA) and launched the “China Water Pollution Map,” the first public database of its kind in China which monitors the current state of bodies of water.

In 2006, Ma was voted one of “Time’s 100, the People Who Shape Our World,” (which included the Philippine Daily Inquirer’s founder Eugenia Duran-Apostol).

On Saturday, the Magsaysay laureate went on a tour of the Pasig River and saw for himself how Metro Manila’s main water system is close to death because of pollution.

Factory of the world
According to Ma, the four challenges relating to water are pollution, dwindling supply, flooding and threats to the ecosystem.

“Modern farming is one source of pollution,” says Ma, and also blames rapid industrialization and globalization.

“China is indeed becoming the true factory of the world. And we dump pollution in our own backyard,” he says.

But he notes that the Chinese government is now “making concessions to nature.”

The IPEA, the group that Ma founded, conscientiously makes a list of corporate violators, which is taken seriously by everyone concerned.

Ma says transnationals like General Electric, Wal-Mart and Nike are using IPEA database to track the performance of their China suppliers.

Continuous research and data-gathering are part of IPEA’s work. The group has formed the Green Choice Alliance which makes companies commit to non-polluting methods and products.

85,000 dams
If Ma is focused mainly on threatened life-giving bodies of water, Yu Xiaogang has zeroed in on the water-harnessing projects that threaten to destroy lives, livelihood and habitats.

Yu grew up in Yunnan province, a place of tremendous beauty because of its mountains, rivers and lakes. The province has nine lakes and is drained by three of the world’s largest rivers—the Nu, the Yangtze and the Mekong.

But mystic landscapes of lakes and rivers threaten to become just a memory because of China’s staggering dam-building program to feed its mammoth energy needs.

Where there used to be mighty raging or smooth flowing rivers, there are now monstrous structures that control the waters.

Dams, supposedly the harbingers of progress have, in fact, brought doom and gloom to many natural habitats and cultural heritage sites.

China had, at last count, 85,000 dams, or 46 percent of the world's total.

The Three Gorges Dam, spanning the Yangtze and touted as the largest electricity-generating plant in the world, will be opening this year.

Dams, the threat they pose and the havoc they cause, are the primary concern of Yu, founder and director of Green Watershed. Begun in 2002, this non-profit NGO developed an integrated watershed management program in the Lashi Lake area in Yunnan.

Dams for whom?
While doing post-graduate research on the impact of the Manwan hydroelectric project, Yu discovered and documented its adverse impact on the area’s inhabitants.

Yu stirred a hornet’s nest, causing the government to investigate and act to remedy the dam’s destructive effects.

In the Lashi Lake area of Yunnan, a dam project diverted 40 percent of the lake’s waters, flooded farmlands and destroyed the people’s livelihood.

Green Watershed organized the Watershed Management Committee and mobilized people to engage in irrigation, fishery, microcredit and training in watershed protection and biodiversity conservation.

The Lashi project was so successful it became a model for participatory management. It even received a citation from the government.

Encouraged, Yu has expanded his campaign into other dam sites and other advocacies. Green Watershed has conducted research, organized forums and enlisted the help of the mass media.

In 2008, Yu initiated Green Banking, a coalition of environmental NGOs that confers the “Green Banking Innovation Award” to banks and financial institutions that include the environment in their corporate agenda.

Dam project stopped
When the government announced a project to build 13 dams on the Nu River, Green Watershed organized public debates. It argued that the dam would displace 50,000 people and affect a Unesco World Heritage nature site. The project has been put on hold by Premier Wen Jiabao.

Yu insists that communities and ecosystems need not be sacrificed on the altar of development.

“Thirty years ago, dams were for agriculture. Now it is for electricity, for profit. There are now so many dams in China and, for some, the market has not even been identified,” he says in an interview.

In campaigning against this proclivity for building dams for dams’ sake, Yu and his fellows have taken the first steps in the “Long March” toward a truly sustainable future.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

OFWs’ quest for healing

Father Robert Reyes, the so-called “running priest” who is now working with a human rights group in Hong Kong has come out with a collection of his reflections on his late younger brother Vincent who died of lung cancer in 2004 at the age of 47. A case has been filed against a giant tobacco company which must answer for the illness and death that cigarettes have caused and which Reyes is pursuing on behalf of his brother. But that is another story.

The book, “Vincent, Dying and Living” contains personal reflections, recollections as Robert accompanied his brother in battle. The last and third portion of the book is a collection of stories of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Hong Kong whom Fr. Reyes had met and ministered to in their illness. He was present to a number of them in the last days of their lives. The stories were written by the OFWs themselves, some in Filipino.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hidden cameras and Cory’s huge suitcase

If you were one of those who visited Ninoy Aquino during the eight years (1972 to 1980) that he was in military prison, chances are a photograph of yourself was among the hundreds that the military studied and kept in their dossiers for whatever purpose they might have served.

And chances are your photo is now in the archives of Ninoy’s widow, former President Corazon Aquino, who passed away on Aug. 1 and had a massive send-off that could rival Ninoy’s. Hadn’t Cory sent you a copy when she was alive?

During her presidency that started after the 1986 People Power Revolt that toppled the Marcos dictatorship, President Aquino received a stack of photographs from the military. Many of the original copies the military gave her had notes on the back, she told me during an interview some years ago. She had not asked for the photos, she had never seen them before.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Bad bananas and collateral damage

I do not understand why there are people who vigorously defend aerial spraying of banana plantations even though it adversely affects communities that live and farm in the vicinity of these plantations. I do not understand why they do not realize that what is poisonous and deadly for pests and fungi in bananas is also poisonous and deadly for human beings, farm animals and plants. I do not understand why they do not want to use safer methods which are just as effective and are being used in places where aerial spraying is banned.

The banana growers and exporters who insist on this practice to save on costs and get higher profits might soon find themselves the victims of the toxic fallout of their own making. Lobby groups abroad that are sympathetic to the anti-aerial spraying advocates here might just raise a howl and expose the real cost of these bananas in terms of collateral damage on human lives and the environment. Who would like to buy and eat bananas that are produced in this manner? Consumers are now more discriminating.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Aerial spraying: People run for cover when crop dusters fly

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Features
MANILA, Philippines — “Dili kami peste (We are not pests.)”

This is the cry of communities near banana plantations in Mindanao who have to suffer the adverse effects of regular toxic aerial spraying meant to kill pests in bananas.

School children on their way to school, farmers cultivating their small farms, people drinking coffee al fresco and families doing their daily chores are among those who suffer indirect hits and have to run for cover when airplanes unleash pesticides on vast banana plantations. While they are not the intended targets, there is no way they can avoid getting hit by the airplanes’ toxic load. Respiratory and skin ailments are among the first signs of a toxic hit.

Farm animals, edible plants and water sources also catch their share of the toxic rain.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sainthood for Cory

Blessed Corazon. Santa Cory. Saint Cory Aquino of the Philippines. Filipinos will have to get used to the sound of it.

The renewed groundswell of adulation and fervor directed toward former President Corazon C. Aquino who died on Aug. 1 could point to a new direction: Rome. Already, many people, Church leaders among them, are putting religious significance in the manner, time and timeliness of her death.

It will not be farfetched if many Filipinos begin to consider Cory a candidate for canonization, or at least for beatification by the Roman Catholic Church. I, for one, think she could be a candidate.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Food sovereignty

By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:45:00 07/30/2009

"Why should we prioritize the production of corn to feed animals in Korea when we cannot even feed all the Filipino people?" asked Arze Glipo, lead convenor of the Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS). Think about that.

A number of readers sent feedback on last week's column piece ("Global land grab, agricolonialism") and expressed alarm. One came from a Korean who felt shame that Korean companies are out to take over vast tracks of land in the Philippines and in other developing countries in order to meet Korea's needs for food and biofuel. Korea is not the only country doing this.

A Filipino working in an organic farm in Hokkaido, Japan also sent a letter. Another letter came from Alice Raymundo who belongs to the Task Force Food Sovereignty network. The NGO's name tells you there is reason to watch over our farmlands lest they fall into the hands of powerful countries that have only their own interest at heart. We used to think that sovereignty was only about territorial authority of the political kind. Now we can see that it also has something to do with the food on our table.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Global land grab, agricolonialism

Last week the Inquirer had a front-page story, “S. Korea leases 94,000ha in Mindoro; agri execs surprised”. It coincided with the July 2009 cover story of World Mission Magazine (“The Global Land Grab”) whose cover blurb says: “Huge amounts of farmland in poor nations are being bought or leased. The Philippines is on the map as a lease hotspot.”

World Mission (WM) is a Catholic monthly published by the Comboni Missionaries “as part of their ministry and program of missionary awareness in Asia.” It is not a pietistic publication. It deals with world social issues (hunger, poverty, disease, the environment, inspiring persons, religious dialogue) as well as spirituality and faith in these times. I know WM’s editor, Fr. Jose Antonio M. Rebelo MCCJ (wm.editor@gmail.com) and I’ve written a couple of articles for his feisty magazine. It is very well designed too.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Art in the time of swine flu

Sorry for corrupting the title of a great novel but just now I can’t think of how to describe a great and daring effort to showcase Philippine art in these dreadful times when health and home are under threat.

Manila will have its first international art fair, “Manilart 09”, starting today until July 19 at the NBC Tent, in Bonifacio Global City in Taguig. At last we have our own, and we don’t have to envy our next-door neighbors Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Hong Kong and Taipei which regularly hold international art fairs and attract art lovers from all over the world.

Support Philippine art. Go, please, go, and go home with some great art pieces if you have the money to spread around. Enjoy what you buy. Your descendants will enjoy them too.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


Welcome back, Mildred Perez. We are very proud of you.

And you, Chip Tsao, what say you? (We have not forgotten.)

Back two days ago from Hong Kong was the praiseworthy 38-year-old Filipino domestic helper who returned P2.1 million (HK$350,545) in cash and checks which she found in a garbage bin several months ago.

Why in a garbage bin? Because Mildred was scavenging. Because she had quit her job. Because she had an abusive employer. She had been rummaging through garbage piles for scraps in order to support herself and find means to pursue her case in court against her employer. She was out of work.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

'We are the world'

THE YEAR was 1985 when I first watched the TV documentary on how the song, “We are the world,” was made, line by line, note by note, part by part. While watching the final version being sung by 45 pop artists, individually in parts and as a chorus, plus the images of hunger and poverty, I had a very profound experience. The earth broke open, the landscape in my heart moved and I sank to the floor and wept.

Being more of a classical music listener, I was not a Michael Jackson follower, but I can say that I bought at least one Jackson recording, and that was “We are the world.” I still have the “USA for Africa” album in cassette tape (no CDs then) where it is the lead song. (USA stands for United Support of Artists.) There are nine other songs (not by Jackson) in the cassette but it was “We are the world” that I played over and over. Buying the album meant taking part in a huge fund-raising for a cause. And every time I played the song and sang along, I felt one with the world and the universe. It became my anthem.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

My text friend, Bro. Ceci

THIS column was supposed to be on the 2009 World Food Summit and the human right to food but … that can wait.

I was stunned when I read on Tuesday the half-page obituary on the sudden passing of De La Salle Brother Ceci Hojilla. It had a big picture of him laughing. Cecilio Montelibano Hojilla served as a De La Salle Brother for 48 years, the obit said. “Br. Ceci left a legacy of being a teacher, a mentor, a storyteller, a photographer, a friend, and a brother to countless young people.” He was 65.

I met Bro. Ceci face to face only once. He invited me to deliver the keynote address at a La Sallian convention at the De La Salle Center in Batulao some years ago. The subject I was to speak about was poverty as I saw it as a journalist. I remember meditating and praying over it for a week and writing till late at night, trying to give it a human face. I was forced to take stock of what it was like inside of me and outside of me.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

‘Kamoteng Kahoy’

The other day I went to see the movie “Kamoteng Kahoy” directed by Maryo de los Reyes and written by Ricky Lee, both veterans and multi-awarded. I went because the movie was based on a real-life tragedy that happened in Mabini, Bohol in 2005.

It is a good film to watch these days when deathly horror flicks seem to be all there is. The theaters are drowning in blood, gore and green vomit.

I had written about the tragedy that claimed the lives of 27 school children and downed more than 100 after they ate fried cassava snacks sold by a vendor. Questions were immediately raised. Was it the cassava root that did it? Was it the way the food was prepared? Cassava contains linamarin. If cassava is improperly prepared, this toxic component could remain. When ingested, linamarin converts to cyanide in the human digestive system. The Department of Health ruled that it was pesticide, present in the cassava snack, that did it.

And now the movie.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

In death Saro-Wiwa triumphs, Shell pays

Ken Saro-Wiwa, Nigerian writer, poet, martyr and activist who was hanged, along with eight others in 1995, has triumphed even in death. When you gas up at Shell, think of Saro-Wiwa.

A news report the other day said: “The oil giant Shell has agreed to pay $15.5 million in settlement of a legal action in which it was accused of having collaborated in the execution of the writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other leaders of the Ogoni tribe of southern Nigeria.

“The settlement is one of the largest payouts agreed by a multinational corporation charged with human rights violations. Shell and its Nigerian subsidiary SPDC have not conceded to or admitted any of the allegations, pleading innocent to all the civil charges.”

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Land, a hunger

As I write this, it is one day to go before the deadline for the passing of CARPER (comprehensive agrarian reform extension with reforms) in the House of Representatives. The good news is that two days ago, the Senate passed on third reading the CARP bill extending for another five years the land acquisition and distribution program of the government. The budget is at P147 billion.

If CARPER was passed before the House adjourned yesterday, then all the last-minute efforts on the part of the farmers and their fellow advocates in the church, academe, media and civil society would have been worth it. But we can’t sit back and say everything will henceforth be smooth.

Last week, the documentary “Lupang Hinarang” by multi-awarded filmmaker Ditsi Carolino had a red-carpet screening at the Ateneo de Manila University to help push the CARPER nearer its fulfillment. There were T-shirts, photo-ops, flyers, the film—just about everything for CARPER. It was heartwarming to see young people manning the campaign, like the future of their country depended on it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

IP barefoot doctors

Ethnic and modern blended as indigenous healers in their tribal finery descended via the steep escalator of the posh SMX Convention Center at the SM Mall of Asia complex in Pasay City. I ran and descended ahead of them and waited with my camera to capture the colorful sight. Some of them were profusely ornamented, a few were almost bare with only their G-strings on. It was ethnic chic set against the modern. But this was not a fashion show.

More than 100 experienced healers from different indigenous communities all over the country attended the First Indigenous Barefoot Doctors' National Summit on May 20 and 21. The first of its kind, the summit had, for its theme, “Indigenous Peoples: Partners in Health and Wellness”. Garbed in their tribal attire, the delegates who paraded around the complex in the afternoon of the first day drew the attention of mall goers.

The name barefoot doctor became popular in the 1970s and refers to non-doctors who have received medical or paramedical training for service in rural communities in remote areas.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Free book on sustainable rice agriculture

Whenever sustainable agriculture and organic farming are taken up in this space, quite a number of readers send in feedback and queries, or even offer information about what they are doing in their own farms and backyards. Which means that sustainable agriculture, natural farming, organic farming, or in the new Filipino jargon of enlightened farmers, “likas-kaya at organikong pagsasaka” (LKP) is gaining adherents and advocates.

(I do backyard organic gardening and have lately been eating so much patola—the short, gourd-like type which looks like an oversized sayote. I think I got the seeds from the Bureau of Plants. I have a lot of small, wild ampalaya for juicing.)

At last, the words sustainable agriculture and organic farming have been given a Filipino translation. And that is the title of the newly published book by University of the Philippines-Los Banos (UP-LB) professor Oscar B. Zamora and his team. “Likas-Kaya at Organikong Pagsasaka ng Palay” (Sustainable and Organic Rice Agriculture) was launched last week at the Go-Organic! Philippines forum and bazaar at the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) headquarters in Quezon City. I thought the book would be for sale but I was surprised when I was told it was free. It is in Filipino so whatever I quote here is my own translation into English.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


It is not very often that one gets out of the city to find and experience the pristine and the primeval. Last week, I was in Maribojoc in the island province of Bohol to enjoy not just the fiesta and behold its ancient landmarks but to also experience its “secret places,” the blue and green quiet spaces that glide in and out of one’s dreams.

While Bohol now figures big on the tourism map because of the beaches of Panglao, the Chocolate Hills and the cultural sites, it has other little-known spots that could draw a different breed of visitors, explorers who are drawn to paths less traveled. Like myself. Maribojoc has such special places.

The town is only a 30-minute drive from Tagbilaran City, but it still holds one of the country’s last frontiers. I am referring to its vast mangrove areas that are still thick with nipa palm and different species of trees. (More on these later.)

Thursday, May 7, 2009


According to Wikipedia, the word highwayman came to be in the 1600s. The term is mainly applied to robbers who travelled on horses, as opposed to those who robbed on foot. Mounted robbers were widely considered to be socially superior to those who walked. Slang names for them included “knights of the road” and “gentlemen of the road”. Such robbers operated in Great Britain and Ireland from the Elizabethan period until the early 19th century. In the mid- to late 19th-century American West, highwaymen were known as road agents. In the same time period in Australia, they were known as bushrangers.

Literature has its share of highwaymen, one of them immortalized in Alfred Noyes’ narrative poem “The Highwayman” which we studied in school. I remember Bess, the landlord’s daughter, whom the highwayman wooed. And then “…they shot him down in the highway,/Down like a dog in the highway,/And he lay in his blood in the highway, with the bunch of lace at his throat.”

The highwayman is on my mind as I read the latest investigative report of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) on the roads and highways projects of the Arroyo administration. The report was written by Malou Mangahas, Karol Ilagan and Tita C. Valderrama.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

‘Yes you can’

‘Tis summertime and many people are taking a break, going off to distant or secret places in order to heal, to be healthy, to help themselves and others, to try to become whole again. You too, and take a book along.

One good summer reading fare would be the gem of a book “Yes You Can Prevent and Control Cancer” (332 pp., First NuConsciousness Publishing, 2009) by Christine E.V. Gonzalez, Ph.D., co-founder of the Wellness Institute. The book, subtitled, “a personal journal for daily living and total wellbeing” was launched last Saturday at the Ateneo University. Fr. Joey R. de Leon SJ, wrote the foreword.

Gonzalez is a doctor of naturopathic medicine with Ph.Ds in natural health and holistic nutrition. Gonzales is a naturalist, educator and researcher. The book is based on her years of extensive research and experiences. It is a how-to book for people who want to take charge of their own health and wellbeing.

Thursday, April 23, 2009


I wrote about suicide a couple of years ago when a 12-year-old named Mariannet Amper of Davao City took her own life (“Suicide has no heroes”, Nov. 15, 2007). Poverty was initially thought to be the main reason for her suicide. The distraught and poverty-stricken family had to deal with the media frenzy and the blame game that attended the tragedy. Mariannet became a poster girl for poverty.

As it turned out, and as the psychotherapists later discovered, the reason the girl killed herself was not as simple as it appeared and poverty was not all there was. Suicide is more complicated than most people think it to be.

Although the incidence of suicide in the Philippines is not as high as those in developed countries, this country has had its share of high-profile cases. The latest is the case of Trinidad “Trina” Arteche Etong, wife of popular broadcaster Ted Failon (Etong). It’s been fairly established that Trina did shot herself but people will not forget the excessive force as caught on camera (thank the media for that!) that the Quezon City police applied on Failon and the Etongs and Arteches while investigating.

Here’s my one-liner for those excessive cops: ‘Di lang kayo pulis patola, pulis mabangis pa.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Mother Nature’s RP lawyer hailed

MANILA, Philippines—Environmental lawyer Antonio Oposa Jr., he of varied and risky advocacies for Mother Nature, is this year’s recipient of the Environmental Law Award (for 2008) from the US-based Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL). He is the first Asian and Filipino to win the award.

Philippine Ambassador to the United Nations and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide was expected to attend the ceremonies to be held Tuesday (Wednesday, Manila time) in Washington, D.C.

The award “recognizes individuals who have made outstanding contributions to the effort to achieve solutions to environmental problems through international law and institutions.”

Thursday, April 16, 2009


Wishing you a glorious, shimmering Easter. Stunned by God’s love, I, too, cry out, Rabboni!
As the financial crisis creeps worldwide and economic depression touches people’s lives in the most personal way, the subject of happiness is frequently studied by experts, by psychologists, psychiatrists and sociologists mostly. What does it really take to make one happy?

Early last year, just before the economic crunch badly crunched us all, there was much ado about new research findings that challenged the long-held Easterlin Paradox—that happiness does not necessarily increase with income. That is, after a point of satiation has been achieved. The newer research findings from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business showed “a clear positive link” between wealth and “subjective well-being” based on global surveys.

They showed that the facts about income and happiness turned 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. But of course! I commented then. Does poverty make anyone happy? It does for those who choose and embrace evangelical poverty and give up material possessions in exchange for a life of simplicity. But that is another story.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

On the street whey they live: From Paraiso to Paris

Philippine Daily Inquirer/Feature/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
MANILA, Philippines – From the time they met some five years ago, Marvin Benosa and partner Pamela, both in their early 30s, have been living on the streets of Manila. They have been cohabiting, procreating, and raising their two children, one aged 3 years, the other, 10 months, in the outdoors. Namamasura (scavenging) is how Marvin describes his way of earning a living.

Elizabeth Sanchez, 38, also lives on the street and sells cigarettes for a living. Last year, doctors at the Ospital ng Maynila discovered she had Stage 4 breast cancer and performed radical mastectomy. Through Operation Tulong, she went through chemotherapy. Still bald because of the therapy, Elizabeth says she hopes she could have radiotherapy and find a source of livelihood. She recently lost to thieves all the stuff she used to peddle on the streets.

William Atutubo, 44, and wife Divina, 42, are also street dwellers. Their two daughters, aged 16 and 14, live in Cavite with relatives. William earns by driving a pedicab which also serves as a shelter at night.

Not a walk in park
Emeterio Laguidao, 49, and wife Teresita, 47, have a wooden kariton (pushcart) for a home. They make a living by scavenging. Their youngest daughter, 10, stays with them; another is with relatives. Their eldest lives with nuns but may have to leave soon after she graduates from elementary school. The Laguidaos had been forced to live on the street after being ejected from their shack on Orosa Street which was scheduled for demolition.

Rosario Calzado, 42, lives on the street because she has nowhere else to go. She recently worked as a maid in Fairview but left her employers because she didn’t like being left alone in the house.

All of them are “residents” of Paraiso ng Kabataan ng Maynila in Manila’s Malate district, where volunteers of Tuluyan Drop-In Center for street families found them. Paraiso is a children’s park near the Manila Zoo.

Not home for homeless
These Paraiso “residents” have all been invited to Tuluyan. The center is at the end of Paris Street, just off Leon Guinto Street. It is run by the Benedictine Sisters who also run St. Scholastica’s College which is a few blocks away. The Filipino word tuluyan literally means a place to stay.

Opened late last year, Tuluyan is not a soup kitchen or a home for the homeless. It is meant to be a temporary haven in the daytime, a place where the homeless could rest awhile, wash themselves and their clothes, use the bathroom and even cook meals. There is food for those without food. The place is neat and well-lighted.

Sr. Cecille Ido OSB, head of the Benedictine Sisters’ nationwide Socio-pastoral Apostolate, says the shelter also offers the homeless opportunities for formation, leadership and skills training which would equip them for life, rehabilitate and help them regain self-respect.

Such intervention could give the homeless an economic boost, help them consider other options or even assist them in returning to their home provinces if and when they do decide to go home. Tuluyan is developing a referral system with other social agencies for services that are beyond the center’s limited means. A street children’s library is also being planned.

This first batch of clients knows that Tuluyan is not meant for night lodging.

“They know when it is time to leave,” Sr. Cecille says. Still, it pains her to see them go at day’s end and back to the streets.

“They leave Tuluyan clean and orderly,” she adds. They are back in no time.

“We are like a family,” Elizabeth says. Alone in the city, she and others like her easily bond with street families. They care and watch out for each other. At night, they are back and huddled together in a secluded spot somewhere in Paraiso. Their pet dogs give them security.

Marvin breaks into tears when he recalls how his family was rounded up by the police and brought to a center in Marikina where they were made to feel like prison inmates. The police had been rounding up street families, confiscating pushcarts used for scavenging.

When Tuluyan volunteers first invited them over, Marvin says he was afraid they would again be cooped up and treated like prisoners. His fears did not materialize and he and his brood have been coming to Tuluyan regularly.

Cat and mouse
Playing cat-and-mouse with the police has been the street dwellers’ lot and so they keep on moving. Along the way, they pick up recyclable items such as soda cans, plastic, paper and metal to sell to junk shops. The price of junk has plummeted, the scavengers lament, and they have no access to the garbage from fast-food chains because there are haulers that collect them. Marvin says on a good week, he could earn P1,000 from scavenging.

Elizabeth, the cancer survivor, says that with all her stuff stolen, she is left with nothing to sell. She now earns by watching cars parked on the streets of Malate. Being without family in Manila and with her health problems, does she want to go home to the province? Her answer: “I don’t want to be a burden to my family.”

It is not just poverty that plagues street dwellers. Their problems are complex. There are other issues that need to be addressed and resolved. Each one has a story to tell, a journey to make.

Why does Rosario prefer to live on the street than work as maid which earned for her P3,200 a month? Why does Elizabeth not want to go home to Bicol? Will the able-bodied Atutubos and Laguidaos not want to start over somewhere, given a chance? Will Marvin and Pamela beget more children living on the street?

Not in the census
Sr. Cecille says street families are not included in the census because they are mobile. What are the figures nationwide? She cites the Social Weather Stations (SWS) June 2008 survey statistics that showed 14.5 million people experienced involuntary hunger between April and June 2008. Severe hunger went up from 3.2 percent to 4.2 percent. These denizens of the streets give a face to the cold statistics; they are the voices that are not heard.

Street children who look hapless and vulnerable easily get the attention of service-oriented institutions; they are the objects of concern of do-gooders and bleeding hearts. But what of the street families? That’s another story. They are looked upon with disdain or as irresponsible begetters of children with no future.

Tuluyan is not the answer to the root cause of homelessness and extreme poverty. It is only one among the varied ministries of the Benedictine Sisters, and as the newest one, it bears watching.

Catching their breath
For now, in a small way, it gives hope and rest to weary individuals and families who are out there shivering from the cold and baking in the heat. It gives them a chance to catch their breath and their bearings. Hopefully, Tuluyan’s programs will help them cross the poverty line and see them make it to the other side.

From Paraiso to Paris

MANILA, Philippines – From the time they met some five years ago, Marvin Benosa and partner Pamela, both in their early 30s, have been living on the streets of Manila. They have been cohabiting, procreating, and raising their two children, one aged 3 years, the other, 10 months, in the outdoors. Namamasura (scavenging) is how Marvin describes his way of earning a living.

Elizabeth Sanchez, 38, also lives on the street and sells cigarettes for a living. Last year, doctors at the Ospital ng Maynila discovered she had Stage 4 breast cancer and performed radical mastectomy. Through Operation Tulong, she went through chemotherapy. Still bald because of the therapy, Elizabeth says she hopes she could have radiotherapy and find a source of livelihood. She recently lost to thieves all the stuff she used to peddle on the streets.

William Atutubo, 44, and wife Divina, 42, are also street dwellers. Their two daughters, aged 16 and 14, live in Cavite with relatives. William earns by driving a pedicab which also serves as a shelter at night.

Not a walk in park

Low carbon Holy Week

By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:08:00 04/09/2009

IF WE feel drawn to contemplating the crucifixion of Jesus Christ this Holy Week, we might as well also contemplate the crucifixion of Mother Earth. But we must bear in mind that the high point of Christianity is not the crucifixion but the resurrection. The whole of creation, too, must rise in triumph. We cannot leave Earth to grovel and groan behind us.

Theologian and ecologist Sean McDonagh who spent years in the Philippines wrote in his book “The Greening of the Church”: “A Christian theology of creation has much to learn from the attitude of respect which Jesus displayed towards the natural world. There is no support in the New Testament for a throw-away consumer society which destroys the natural world and produces mountains of non-biodegradable garbage or, worse still, produces toxic waste…

“The disciples of Jesus are called upon to live lightly on the earth –‘take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics’ (Luke 9:1-6). Jesus constantly warned about the dangers of attachment to wealth, possession, or power. These in many ways are what are consuming the poor and the planet itself…

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A healing place called Nazareth

Sunday Inquirer Magazine/Feature/By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

“GOD is here.”

The narrow, tree-lined road leads to the gate of the wooded place on which this sign is tacked. Indeed, it’s a special place, a hidden garden for body and spirit. But more than the place, it’s people who are special here.
Here the wind whispers constantly through the leaves and into one’s soul. Mother Nature and human nature conspire to bring about newness and hope. The sun-drenched green terrain livens up with the footsteps of those who dwell here, human beings on a journey and who are slowly and purposefully finding new life again.
This is the Nazareth Formation House, a Bob Garon Therapeutic Community Center.

One arrives feeling privileged and trusted. It is not every day that a visitor is able to behold people who have extreme stories to tell about being broken and lost, and about their amazing journey within toward becoming whole.