Thursday, March 27, 2014

From Payatas to St. Scho, magna cum laude

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Payatas in Quezon City is often pictured as a landscape most foul, a garbage dump, the receptacle of the city’s refuse. I’ve been there thrice: to do stories on a woman who turned scraps into exquisite underwear, on a thriving Church microlending cooperative for the poor, and, in 2000, on the collapse of the garbage dump, burying hundreds of waste pickers (mangangalahig).
Today I’m writing about someone who hails from Payatas—poor, very bright—and who studied as a college scholar in St. Scholastica’s College. Jessa Bacala graduated last Monday with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, major in financial management, magna cum laude. She also received two academic excellence awards from the Philippine Council of Deans and Educators in Business and the Philippine Association of Collegiate Schools in Business.
She need not join the thousands of new graduates who flock to job fairs. She can just choose from the job offers from reputable corporations.

Time was when St. Scho was considered a school for girls with financial means and a good brain for academics, and who could withstand the rigors of German-style Benedictine discipline while getting steeped in ora et labora spirituality. “To be a woman of character” was a mantra stamped on our souls.

Established 108 years ago, the school has evolved into a more inclusive one and puts even greater emphasis on social involvement (which has always been there) and women-gender awareness.

Even before Jessa graduated valedictorian from the Payatas High School (a public school since renamed Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma High School), she had received scholarship offers from top schools. She did the round of interviews, sized up the schools’ offerings and campuses, and finally settled for St. Scho in Manila.

“I just knew this was it,” Jessa told me. She felt awed by the neo-Romanesque St. Hildegard building which has intricate arches and beautiful columns. And the chapel, she had not seen anything like it.

St. Scho gave Jessa a 4-year, tuition-free college scholarship, while the Justice Cecilia Muñoz-Palma Foundation (JCMPF) provided for the miscellaneous expenses. To keep her scholarship, she had to maintain an average grade of 3.5 (4 being the highest) and above.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Partial compensation from the Marcos loot

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Thousands of victims-survivors and relatives of those who perished and vanished during the dark night of martial rule have each been handed their compensation checks for the second time. I received mine last Monday. A photo of that came out on page 2 of the Inquirer last Tuesday. I was wearing my “Martial Law Survivor” overshirt and holding the EastWest Bank check. Also in the photo was our lead counsel Robert Swift, smiling.

Unlike in 2011, this second distribution was much slower but surer that no fraudulent claims would get through. Many claimants’ steps have also become slower than in 2011 when they came for the first distribution. A number of them have since passed on to the Gentle Beyond—activists who were claimed by sickness, aging claimant-parents of those who had fallen in the night long ago.

Personally handing the checks was American lawyer Swift, who led close to 10,000 martial law victims-survivors in winning the class suit against the estate of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. We hope that after this second check more would be forthcoming from discovered hidden wealth of the Marcos family. The check distribution in Metro Manila will continue until tomorrow, March 21.

In 1995 a Hawaii Court judgment set a $2-billion compensation for human rights abuse victims. Alas, the discovered Marcos wealth had not been easy to come by, no thanks to the other claimant, the Philippine government. This has changed, thanks to Republic Act No. 10368. This 2014 compensation derives from a $10-million settlement over an 1899 Monet painting previously owned by Imelda Marcos and fraudulently sold by her former secretary Vilma Bautista, who has been sentenced in New York.

The $2-billion compensation for some 7,000 claimants (down from almost 10,000) is different from the P10 billion allotted by RA 10368, “an Act providing for reparation and recognition of victims of human rights violations during the Marcos regime, documentation of said violations, appropriating funds therefor and for other purposes.” An eight-member compensation board was recently formed to preside over the screening of claimants and the compensation.

Last Monday, there was a long line of chairs for the waiting claimants and so, as I had planned, I did interviews and listened to stories from victims-survivors. (For those born yesterday: The martial law years spanned the period 1972-1986.) Here are reminiscences from the queue.

I was surprised when two claimants told me how I had helped them during those dreadful years. Oh, now I remember, I said to Ave Enrile-Carlos, a former student activist who was detained. She and her husband now run a restaurant on Session Road in Baguio City. Yes, I said to Ed Buenaventura and his wife after he reminded me that we were together in the Friends of Slum Dwellers. Ed was detained twice for subversion. He is now a project development assistant in the Department of Agriculture.

Their reminders brought back memories of the times when, at great risk, I carried persons on the run in my small car and drove them to their hiding places. Well, one day military surveillance caught up with me… How did I become a claimant? Google “The Years of Writing Dangerously” (Sunday Inquirer Magazine). It’s also in my book “Human Face: A Journalist’s Encounters and Awakenings.”

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Empowered women farmers

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Filipinos have a way of using superlatives when they see a how-good-can-it-get situation. So let me say: Women farmers na, empowered pa.

That is said with the supposition that being a woman farmer is not (or should no longer be) a burden but a blessing, not a diminishment of status and gender but an empowered state of being. Of course, the ideal is still far from what is happening on the ground. But maybe romanticizing the image of woman as farmer might help remove the stigma attached to working the soil, growing food and harvesting the fruits of the earth. But why shouldn’t that be a cherished calling if not a chosen way of life?
I know a number of well-educated women who turned their back on professional careers that many covet. Off they went to answer the call of the wild, so to speak, to nourish and bring back to life the fallow earth. These women’s immersion can even be described as spiritual. They have emerged from the experience richer and fuller in substance and in essence.

They personify the spirit of Ceres, the goddess of agriculture and bounty in Roman mythology. (Ceres’ Filipino counterpart is Ikapati. The word “cereal” comes from Ceres.) Fecund and fertile, she is usually depicted carrying grain and fruits of the earth. ]

March being International Women’s Month, those in the gender equality advocacy are calling attention to the role of women in the fight against hunger. And 2014 being the International Year of Family Farming, there is even more reason that women in farming families should be more visible.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

'Let it go,' sisters

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Let’s have a roaring Women’s Month!
“Let it go, let it go/And I’ll rise like the break of dawn/Let it go, let it go/ That perfect girl is gone/Here I stand, in the light of day/Let the storm rage on!” That’s from the Oscar-winning song in the movie “Frozen.”

In her groundbreaking book “Kiss Sleeping Beauty Good-Bye,” Madonna Kolbenschlag writes: “All fairy tales are about transformation, metamorphosis. There are two recurring variations on the theme: One, in which the heroine’s situation is suddenly, dramatically and instantly changed for the better—usually by some extrinsic intervention.” (Our Filipino “Darna” must belong to this first kind.)

“The other, in which the change or revelation takes place after a long, arduous struggle and is the result of the heroine’s own growth in self-knowledge and moral capacity. ‘Beauty and the Beast’ belongs to this latter kind.”

And so does “Frozen,” the 2013 blockbuster Disney animated movie (grossing more than $1 billion at the box office as of today) that is gaining a cult following and has enthralled kids and adults alike. It merited three whole pages in Time magazine.

The movie’s signature song, “Let it go” by Fil-Am composer Robert Lopez and wife Kristin Anderson-Lopez, was named best song in last Monday’s Oscars; the movie itself was best in animation (more than 85 million hits on YouTube).