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.