[Commentary] Day after delirium


“Ah, the chill of consciousness returns”, the poetic drunk Uncle Seamus would groan after a bender the night before. Morning after  the May 13  elections, what do we wake up to?
The wife and I glimpsed first  outlines of  reality  emerging in  Precinct No.  513A  at  Lahug   Elementary School . This Cebu City classroom turned-into-voting booth is   replicated  countrywide
We’ve voted in this precinct since 1994, after  retiring  from United Nations posts in Bangkok and Rome .  Grey hair and bifocals opened  the  senior citizens lane for us.. After a 30 minutes,  we  shoved  our  filled  ballot into a PCOS computer.  It worked.
So, why  does this queasy feeling persist?  Half a century of journalism  drills one lesson: the significant story festers below the obvious.
Underneath Lahug’s  placid surface, Rep. Tomas Osmeña  pulled all stops to achieve  what  he  never managed  in two  decades:  to  topple  councilor Mary Ann de los Santos,.known for spine and guts.  Will  today’s computer count  award De Los Santos’ scalp to Osmena?
 Candidates ignored maternal deaths and abortions. . We’ve been swamped by posters to text by those against “Team Patay.” But Sri Lanka and Honduras  slashed maternal deaths far below  ours.   Abortions exceed probably  500,000  a year. It is harsh to say  campaigners  turned a blind eye to massacre of innocents  and a deaf ear to the death rattle in the throats of mothers. But it is true.
  No one  hit  the alarm button over a  crucial red line  breached  Friday.   The  level of carbon dioxide — a  key heat-trapping gas — breached  400 parts per million..
   CO2 in the air has not been this high for three million years, says National  Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pieter. Tans. That  was  before we  humans evolved. It  flags  climate havoc.
    Rising sea levels could uproot 13.6 million Filipinos levels in 2050, Asian Development Bank estimates  The  severest  threat  is “along the Pacific seaboard: from Samar to eastern Mindanao,” scientist Wendy Clavano wrote .High risk” provinces flank Lingayen Gulf, Camotes Sea, Guimaras Strait, waters along Sibuyan and central Sulu, plus bays in Iligan, Lamon and Bislig.
   The new C02 report  came from analyzers atop a Hawaiian volcano. Mauna Loa is  ground zero for tracking CO2  ”The time to do something was yesterday.” said Yale geochemist Mark Pagani.  No   candidate mentioned  available climate mitigation programs .
Instead, names peddled at every turn are younger editions of  old dynasties. These monopolized and largely misruled  power over the decades:.
Dynasties have  become more brazen,  Inquirer’s Solita Monsod notes. Examples include the Angaras of Aurora; the Estradas – Erap, son Jinggoy, candidate JV , mayor Guia Estrada /Ejercito ( widely known as Erap’s No. 2), The Cayetano family boasts of  three members in politics, The Binays will have four
 Boxing superstar  champion Manny Pacquiao raised the hand  unqualified wife Jinky  for vice governor.  Next door, his brother is running for congress.  Mommy or “Aling Dionisia” always had better sense. Did she decline?
The  169  political  dynasties “ make up 0.00001667 % of the country’s over 15 million families,” an earlier study, by political  analyst   Roland Simbulan, noted: They’ve hoarded  power for the past 30 years, churning out seven Presidents, two vice presidents, 42  senators, and 147 congressmen..
Today, the  dynasties are up to 178. They dominate 73 of the 80 provinces. Remnants of the Arroyo-Macapagal  clan remain. The Marcoses  seek to  reinforce rehabilitation  from People Power exile.
Imelda’s 1089 pairs of shoes are shrugged aside in her  re-election campaign. The unopposed  Ilocos Norte governor candidate Aimee is never asked about her SALN and undeclared  Virgin Island secret stash. The former dictator’s namesake Ferdinand Jr, is  a senator. He  casts a moist eye on  2016.
Clans today  no longer settle for  fielding two or three family members in each election. Members of  the Ampatuan family and guards  were implicated in the 2009  Maguindanao   massacre that  killed 34 journalists . Today, 80 Ampatuans seek public office.
Political  in-breeding embeds penury, Asian Institute of Management’s Ronald Mendoza, told AFP.  Poverty levels in areas ruled by dynasties are five percentage points worse than in those that are represented by politicians without family links.  Electing politicians, from a constricted  gene pool. That   shreds  “the potential of countless other talents  ”
Seven out of every 10 members of the Lower House sports  a political dynasty tag , Mendoza pointed out. The total bolts to 80 percent in the Senate. Dynasties rule regions like fiefdoms  over  generations. They clamp strangleholds on economies and political structures.
When PCOS machines tally all votes today, 21 of the 24 Senate seats could slump  into under the control of political families, some forecast. “That includes former President Joseph Estrada’s two sons from different mothers.”.
After voting, the wife and I pulled  up at the  Cebu post office’s front steps. That’s where the beggar Raul  parks on holidays — and nights.  The wife hands  Raul something for lunch.
“As suggested by Mareng Winnie. we  did not vote for anyone whose surname is the same as, and/or who is related to, an incumbent public official.,” we told Raul. “What about you?”
 “Me?” he replied:  “I stopped voting years ago” . As  the drunk Uncle Seamus would groan after a night-before-bender:.“Ah, the chill of consciousness returns.”

[Commentary] Permit for illusion?


It’s dolled up as  “permit to campaign”.  In remote Northern Luzon outposts  or Mindanao backwaters, candidates cough up cash for a clearance,  from armed  groups, before they  pitch for  votes.

“The permit is exchanged  for a cash “contribution” to the kilusan ( movement) ,” wrote  Inquirer’s Randy David. “”( That’s ) a cryptic reference to… the Communist Party and New People’s Army…But some may  be no more than extortionists, posing as revolutionaries…”
NPA North Central Mindanao Regional Command spokesman” apologized for their attack on 78-year old Gingoog Mayor Ruth de  Lara- Guingona and companions. Self defense, he claimed,  and  repeated warnings against armed escorts.  “There’s no mention of the permit-to-campaign fee”, David writes.  “But…that is what this is about.”
The assault came at an.NPA  roadblock collecting “revolutionary taxes”, Inquirer’s Conrad de Quiros wrote  Fine,  if you accept  NPA  has every right   to mount checkpoints to fleece  candidates. “The NPA calls it tax, everybody else calls it extortion”.
There is  only one government and one president,  ( former Vice President and Foreign Secretary ) Teofisto  Guingiona said. “That’s not the NPA”. Understandably, TG  is unforgiving of the NPA.  Laudably, he  looks beyond retribution. “It is only when we have a genuine peace agreement  that we can move forward.”
Peace talks resumed in Norway 2011 —  six years after they  broke down  The Olso negotiations aim at ending  the “longest-running Maoist insurgency in the world.” Diana Rodriguez and Soliman M. Santos, Jr wrote in their 2010   book “Primed and Purposeful.”
Armed clashes, across almost five  decades left 4,745 killed and injured 1,534, incomplete tallies claim. Most were civilians. And 1.2 million became refugees.. Bogged down in strategic defense of it’s ‘protracted people’s war’, the Reds  never achieved a “great leap forward” of mass adherents, Rodriguez and Soliman add.
Will  events on the ground  outpace the Oslo initiative?
NPA still  reels  from  paranoid  purges of the late 80s Over 1,400 were slaughtered, from ‘Cadena de Amor’, in Bicol-Quezon zone, in 1982 to “ Olympia ” in Metro Manila in 1989. A “Cannibal Revolution” devoured its own children, noted Inquirer (Jan. 2, 2004 )  “Remains of comrades” killed without pretense of trials molder today in unmarked graves, reminiscent of Cambodia ‘s “killing fields.
Some NPA  executioners today are button-down executives in Metro Manila offices. “The Party already condemned the abuses,” wrote Anne Buenaventura of the party’s information bureau to Inquirer. .But  it  shredded names of the victims and location of their graves.
From it’s peak in the 1980s, CCP ‘withered and splintered”, Australian National University’s Benedict J. Tria Kerkvliet wrote in  the “Philippine Human Development Report”. Weakened by internal pogroms, an CCP evaluation confirms “ideological superficiality.                x”
Mindanao’s communism party building was notably weak…Communist ideology is part of leaders’ vocabulary …But even among students, analytical sophistication and ideological understanding was inadequate…Cadre training was limited, never systematic.
Lack of ideological cohesion and policy  disagreements, after “People Power” toppled  the Marcos  dictatorship,  “contributed to splits and splits-within-splits” in the CCP into the 2000s. That trigged clones of  Luzon pogroms. Hundreds died and chaos rocked the party.
Studies in Mindanao, Negros, Nueve Ecija or Cordillera  show  a large majority of guerrillas and supporters “have neither been CPP members, believers in communism nor seekers of a communist run state….
“Their framework in most NPA  areas is systematic oppression of the many  by a few in Philippine society. And they speak in terms of  “no rich and no poor”, rights to land and decent human living conditions.
“In recent years, some analysts find that the guerrilla organization has become a kind of business enterprise. ( It ) sells protection in exchange for money and other compensation. Customers  include corporations, gambling and drug syndicates, government agencies  and large landowners…
Some “NPAs are akin to employees who receive  monthly wages. Local NPA leaders  (resemble) branch managers. And high  NPA  officials are the enterprise’s central managers and  board members.”  Kerkvliet   urges further studies into this corrosion.  But there is hard  and repeated evidence of  cash for permits to campaign.
Conflict-weary Filipinos make up a constituency for peace, PulseAsia says. Out of every 100 respondents, 35 cited “peace in the country as an urgent national concern. That ranked up there, with inflation (45%) and graft (36%).                        Time and history have moved on. Communism as an ideology has collapsed. “It is glorious to be rich,” Den Ziao Peng said. Rebel  leaders Jose Maria Sison  and  Luis Jalandoni ( a Dutch citizen )  are in their  late   70s. They wage   “revolution”  by fax, then Internet,  now by twitter and Facebook  from Holland..
Their  contact, let alone control over NPA units in backwaters here , are tenuous at best . Few NPA units would  carry  their signatures on “permits to campaign”.  JoMa’s  ill-disguised  bid is  to sit down with  President Aquno, one on one, as MILF leader Mohagher Iqbal did. This  is illusion at it’s most  intense.
“In Europe, only two communists are left,” the late Indonesian editor Sumono Mustoffa mused over coffee. “Both are Filipinos.”

[Editorials of the Connection] The Senate that Filipinos voted, and will be voting for

TF editorial graphic


TF editorial graphic



Filipinos voted for 12 senators in the May 2010 elections, the electoral exercise that catapulted Benigno Aquino III into power. For voters’ recollection, these are the scenes that marked the work of the Senate in the past three years.

Of course there’s the televised impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona. Senators, dressed in dark maroon robes, grilled witnesses and even the former chief justice himself, then majority voted to impeach Corona last May 2012. It was a moment to remember for the Philippine Senate and its members.

A year before that (2011), the Senate took cue from President Aquino’s campaign against corruption and investigated former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and first gentleman Mike Arroyo. The Senate was also instrumental in unearthing alleged corruption inside the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that same year, as well as the allegedly anomalous purchase of helicopters by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

The Senate was, not surprisingly, a divided institution given deliberations surrounding the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act. With both the Senate and Congress pushed by the executive branch to finally pass this long-standing measure, the public watched how the vote went. Of course, to the dismay of the Roman Catholic Church, this proposed RH law eventually had the numbers on third and final reading.

So given these “accomplishments” of the Senate, can public trust be easily handed out to them? Not so fast.

Who would ever forget the alleged plagiarism by Sen. Tito Sotto over a speech during deliberations of the RH bill? Even if the family of the American whose work Sotto allegedly plagiarized directly wrote the Philippine Senate about it, Sotto was adamant and said there was no plagiarism done.

During deliberations for the proposed sin tax law, Batangueño senator Ralph Recto drew flak for allegedly speaking on behalf of cigarette and liquor companies when he expressed doubts over a P60 billion revenue target by government from sin taxes. Recto’s revenue target was P20 million, and his colleagues at the Senate disagreed. The new law’s revenue target was finally pegged at P34 billion in the first year of its implementation.

Debates over some pressing laws, like the sin tax law, is normal for the Senate, an august chamber said to be assuming a public watchdog role given investigations done “in aid of legislation”. But what if this watchdog also has its own problems?

Before the year 2012 ended, the senators were quarrelling over “Christmas gifts,” worth P1.6 million coming from the Senate’s maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE), handed out by the office of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile. Four senators lashed out at Enrile, even as the Commission on Audit (COA) ruled that the senate president has discretion over the use of the MOOE funds, and had committed no irregularity.

Then just last Jan. 29, the Senate bowed to the COA, saying that all expenses senators incurred must be audited by the state agency. There is a “long-standing” practice that senators and their offices issue mere certifications when liquidating their funds. “We will abide by the order of COA,” said Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada. But given that Senate is part of government, being audited by state auditors should be automatic, right? Then a senator, during a caucus, recommended that senators should be audited by private firms?

The nation again elects 12 senators to replace those elected in 2007. As usual, “senatoriables” seeking 12 slots in the 24-person chamber promise the stars that will benefit voters: jobs, education access, health programs, and even loans as capital for enterprises (something that accredited government financial institutions, not the Senate, should be doing). Whoever you vote and you put together to make up this new senate of the republic, they will all form part of a branch of government whose trust ratings, to base the quarterly surveys of Pulse Asia, have been inconsistent —going up and down.

Whoever Filipinos will be voting for in the Senate this May 13, having a watchful eye over how our senators are performing will give voters an assessment if they can be trusted, or if they have made the right choice.


News media outfits can publish, broadcast, and/or post online this story, provided The Filipino Connection and the article’s author or authors is/are properly acknowledged. Editorial mistakes here are the publisher’s.

[Winning 001] Sa Filipino: Ano ang investment grade?



Kamakailan, narinig natin ang balita na ang Pilipinas raw ay isa nang bansa na investment grade. Naging magandang Alvin Angbalita ito, at sabi nino?

Ano nga ba ang investment grade?

[Read more…]

[Commentary] Watching Sunsets


Suddenly, it is twilight.  We’re  now    those  stooped   grey-haired folk,  who peered through  bifocals, while  we, then  young,  zipped by.  Where did   those  years  go?  

No more bolting out of bed mornings, writes Inquirer’s Conchita Razon in “The Fear of Aging.”  The process is now protracted:  from slow tentative roll to slow tentative steps.  “We’re on the downside of the mountain, coasting towards our final days,” she quotes Omega Institute’s Elizabeth Lesser. “Wrinkles and double chins  are smoke screens for what we’re afraid of — mortality.”

That was the focus of  April’s conference on   “Ageing in Asia Pacific: Balancing the State and  Family”  in  Cebu   City . This  Association of Asian Social Science Research Councils’ 20th  biennial conference considered  “myths about the elderly” to new scientific tools, like “ALE”.

ALE?  Come  again.

“The concept of active life expectancy or “ALE” is relatively new” here, explains  Grace  Cruz of  UP Population Institute and researchers  Yashushiko Sato and Joesfina Nativid. But   “Lolos” and “Lolas”  will  account  for 7.8%  of population  when  President  Benigno Aquino’s  term ends.

Come 2040,  about  19.6 million will be  what  President Clinton dubbed   as “near elderly”.  Some  will be justices, physicians, even newspaper columnists.  But many will be in nursing homes,  begging  or huddled in slums.

“Don’t complain about growing old,” Justice Earl Warren wrote.. “Many people don’t have that privilege.”  Two of my brothers didn’t. But  “success in adding  years to life does not necessarily  mean adding life to years,” Longer lives  can peter out  in  crippling  disability . Yet, little  is known of  “ALE”.

A  prevailing myth claims   the elderly are dependent on their children. At  the  Cebu  conference,  family and state debated on who had primary responsibility in caring for the elderly, Sun Star’s Rebelander. Basilan reported.  Many of the elderly  pitch in for  children and grandchildren.Some double as guardians when a parent leaves as  Overseas Foreign Worker.. Failing heath and inadequate pensions bug many.

Indeed, the tally  of  household headed by “oldies”,  belonging to the poorest 10% of the population, has risen since 1997,.says a paper by  UP economist Dennis Mapa. A young dependent (14 years old or below) jacks up  probability  that the elderly-headed household will  be paupered  by  9 percentage points.  Addressing the slow dip in population growth rates is critical.

Swelling ranks of  elderly imply  a corresponding increase in the number with disabilities.  This future scenario elevates health, particularly health expectancy, as a central issue in policy formulation Cruz and team  note in an earlier study:  “Active Life Expectancy Among Older Filipinos”.

The number of older people unable to perform once routine everyday  chores  —  from bathing, reading, using a cell phone or going on Internet  — has  implications at various levels.  Demand for buffed up government health budgets  is one.

The Aquino regime has collected more revenues. But there are competing demands on the health  peso  from the younger sector of the .population. The young are the majority.

“The burden of care for the elderly  will have to managed by the family”, Cruz notes.  Traditional  family  structures are changing  rapidly. A  major factor is overseas  as well as rural-to-urban movements. “Labor  migration eroded  the ability of the family to  care for its older members.”.

Women  are traditional care  givers  for the elderly.. Often, older people  take on surrogate parental roles for grandchildren  whose parents migrate, towards ill-prepared cities or abroad. OFW  jobs  for women  outstrip those for  men.

Poverty cripples a family’s ability to care for  elder members. Out of every 100 Filipinos, 34 scrape below poverty lines. There are more widows than widowers.  Measures to address women’s    needs are urgent as many will  linger  longer in disability before death. As Emily Dickenson wrote: “Because I could not stop for death,/  He kindly stopped for me.”

“Some believe that   many children is the answer,”  Razon wrote: “When I grow old, they‘ll take care of me.” For some, this is wonderfully true. And yet, many people with children spend their twilight years alone. I know  many older parents who, if they get lucky, may get a phone call  or  text once a week.”

“Filipinos are generally known for their strong filial obligation. ( But )  poverty can erode the middle generation’s capacity to provide economic and health assistance for the older generation’. Savings in the bank  determines level  of “inter-generational support”. The less-endowed  are less likely to be involved in kin support.

Both  number and proportion of healthy years relative to total remaining life years dwindle  with age for men and women.  Functional impairment emerges as  a reality.  These  will  result in significant  life  style restrictions. Unless policy measures are enacted, the elderly will skid into  social isolation, poor  nutrition and overall decrease in quality of life.

In her  poem    “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,”  poet   Maya Angelou writes  :“The antidote…is to take full responsibility for yourself—for the time you take up and the space you occupy….Start by speaking to people rather than walking by them like they’re stones that don’t matter.”

After chatting with our grandchildren on Skype,  the wife and I sometimes  watch twilight set in.   Did you notice those  sunsets? They’re  never the same twice.

[Winning 001] Will 2013 be the ‘go ahead’ year?



Alvin AngLast year we said that 2012 is a breakout year for the Philippines. We were not disappointed.

[Read more…]

[Editorials of The Connection] Jueteng’s threat to poll safety



A gruesome shootout (or was it a rubout?) that befell 13 men at a checkpoint in Atimonan, Quezon last Jan. 6 greeted the new year not as a firecracker-related incident, but as a reflection of how Filipino authorities are experiencing difficulties in curbing jueteng.

[Read more…]

[Editorials of The Connection] PHL economic reforms: Today’s the moment

Image from http://thefilipinoconnection.net/wp-admin/post.php?post=1651&action=edit


The year that just ended for the Philippine economy brewed with optimism that even long-time skeptical Filipino

Image from http://thefilipinoconnection.net/wp-admin/post.php?post=1651&action=edit

Image from http://thefilipinoconnection.net/wp-admin/post.php?post=1651&action=edit

economists were impressed with today’s levels of economic growth. “This is the moment for the Philippines,” said Felipe Medalla during a November convention by Filipino economists.

The developed economies continue to struggle. The heartaches continue for Greece and Spain, and the Eurozone had reached a record-high unemployment level recently. The United States Congress, when everyone’s celebrating the New Year with fireworks, barely passed legislation to give the country a breather from an impending “fiscal cliff” (a situation that, given American laws that put a cap into the country’s debt, left the country with no choice but to avoid that. Had the US fail to enact a law last Dec. 31, Americans would have to pay more taxes and get lesser pensions, thus the fears of another American recession loom).

And the Philippines? The stock market reached 6,000 points, and record-highs continue to be set on a day-to-day basis. Also setting a record high was the country’s dollar reserves, as remittances from overseas Filipinos (a big reason for the country’s rising foreign exchange reserves) are expected to reach another historic high. Property companies continue to enjoy continued demand for condominium units and houses.

While the Philippines continues to struggle in getting as much foreign direct investments (FDIs) and in revitalizing the local manufacturing sector, at the moment the current economic fundamentals are up and about.

Although, external and even internal threats loom. If the US, given its ongoing relief from the fiscal cliff, again fails to enact legislation in the coming months, immediately world markets will siren signals that the mightiest economy in the world will go back into a recession.

Luckily, the European Union is able to manage what could have been a debilitating impact of a European crisis had the struggles of Greece, Spain and now Italy grew. Bailout funds had been given to these countries in exchange for fiscal reforms, though at the expense of people’s jobs, livelihood and patience to government and government leaders.

So the Philippines ain’t spared from possible global or regional economic crises coming from these developed economies.

Interestingly, Deutsche Bank Asia-Pacific warns that the Philippine economy might “overheat”. When an economy is “overheating,” says chief economist Michael Spencer of Deutsche Bank Asia Pacific, “we’re talking about an economy growing faster than its long-run potential growth rate.”

Jobs remain the country’s perennial problem, as rising gross domestic product numbers as of late have never generated as much employment locally. Spencer adds there can be a “significant positive output gap” (positive output gap refers to the difference between GDP rates and employment rates).

If such is the case, local businesses will have a harder time to find workers, and these firms may have to pay higher salaries (especially since there are other opportunities for these workers, like working abroad).

So in a situation of higher labor costs and higher rent prices under a continually growing economy, business costs go up and firms will raise the prices of goods and services (i.e. inflation), affecting Filipino consumers.

Not surprisingly, the country’s central bank contends that the Philippine economy isn’t overheating. High growth rates and a stable inflation rate in the Philippines (currently among the lowest in the region) “have converged,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo was quoted in media reports as saying.

The whole debate has revealed that the Philippines, for the longest time a low-income country, has entered into an economic regime wherein there’s no way to go but up—and, more importantly, to sustain it. Can the Philippines do what China and India had done during the pre-global economic crisis era, when they had sustained over-7 percent GDP rates in a few years and continue to do so?

But going back to the economist Medalla’s remark, now is the time for the Philippines to boldly make economic reforms work. These reforms include finally formulating an industrial policy, easing the ways that foreigners and Filipinos here and abroad do business in the country, escalating the receipt of more FDIs here, and transforming overseas Filipinos’ remittances into more savings, investments and enterprises for the country.

It is time for these reforms to work because Philippine GDP performance in the past 30 decades (including today’s upswing) continues to be “boom and bust” —episodes of high then low growth, like a roller coaster. A nation hopes that under an anti-corruption government, necessary economic reforms that are enacted quickly will erase memories of a roller-coaster economic ride.

Post-storm dawn Masses

The novena  of  Christmas dawn masses —Simbang Gabi  or   Misa de Gallo— started last December 16.  Few recall that in 1587, Fray Diego de Soria of San Agustin Acolman, in Mexico, asked the Pope for permission to hold dawn masses. Galleons from Acapulco brought “Mass of the Roosters” tradition to us.

In the past, mass was celebrated to allow farmers to pray  before tilling  fields at daybreak. Today, call center agents, police officers and newspaper distributors, ending their chores, attend the mass. So do physicians and nurses preparing for the next shift. Some who reside in metro complexes, wake up early, attend mass, before battling traffic to office.

Many recall these dawn encounters. A beggar lifted up her infant, swaddled in a thin sheet, as the wife and I passed by. Misa de Gallo ended earlier. “He’s two weeks old,” she said with gap-toothed smile.

What was her name again, this lady in faded hand-me-downs? She shared rice packets that the wife brought periodically. Without fail, she’d trudge back to say: “Salamat.” The other 31 would vamoose without a word.

The ancient text echoed in our minds: “She wrapped her child in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manager, because there was no room for them in the inn.”

“This liturgical tradition…is so Filipino”., Anglican  diocesan committees of the Philippines notes.  ”The dawn mass honors the Babe by honoring His mother”.

“Non Roman churches have adopted the practice,” adds the blog Anglican Use in the Philippines. ”Methodists and United Churches,  for example,  “have nine days of dawn services. The Episcopal Church in the Philippines has the liturgy in its Book of Common Prayer,

“In addition, Iglesia Filipina Independiente, which has its origins in the Roman Catholic Church,  preserved the tradition. Some Orthodox missions in the Philippines have nine days of dawn Divine Liturgies.”

What is this all about? asks ” Anna Quindlen  in  a Newsweek article titled “Frankincense In Aisle Five.” (A New York Times columnist, Quindlen is a  1992 Pulitzer Prize awardee.)

A baby was born in a Bethlehem stable  two millennia back, Quindlen writes. “He grew to be a man who healed the sick, raised at least one friend from the dead, was crucified by the ruling powers and was then himself resurrected.

His name was Jesus.

Depending on where you stand, that story is of a prophet or political agitator, either a myth or the great news. “What’s beyond dispute is that it has endured through the ages.” Horrific wrongdoing —the Inquisition, Luther’s manifesto, Henry VIII’s marriages, the Holocaust to  many schisms  have not destroyed it:

According to the story, the Messiah was sent to save us from our sins, but clearly not our silliness….  It is surprising to discover that some believe the enduring power of the story of the child born in Bethlehem to be so shaky that it must be shored up by plastic cribs or handouts.

Yet the holy day endured. Through plague and war, famine and invasion, the tale was told and the lesson learned, of love for neighbors, of charity toward the poor. Carols were sung in foxholes and prisons.

Jesus threw the money-changers out of the temple, saying that they’d made his father’s house into a den of thieves. Does that  sound like  someone who would hanker to be…  given pride of place among  teddy bears in Santa hats?   “The star of Bethlehem was nothing like a blue-light special”.

As Pope Benedict XVI recently noted, “commercial pollution” is contrary to the message of Christmas. For those things, see Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the greatest story never sold,” Quindlen adds. If I ever go to Costco looking for religion, I’ll know my Christmas goose is cooked.”
“Climate change has finally caught up with Simbang Gabi,” notes the blog Anglican Use “In the past people reveled in the nippy atmosphere (17-18 C,  chilly for a tropical country) . Many wore sweaters, even in Manila.”

But Christmas 2010 ushered in a warm 25 C. Higher thermometer readings will prevail this Christmas, if the conclusions  by just-concluded  Climate Change Conference of 190 countries in Doha, Qatar mean anything.

Given current measures, It is unlikely that the world would be able to keep global temperatures from rising more than two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) from pre-industrial times, New York Times reported.  Doha merely stated an intention to “identify and explore in 2013 options for a range of actions to close the pre-2020 ambition gap.”

“An appeal for action from the Philippine climate commissioner, Naderev M. Sano, was one of the most moving moments of the conference, International Herald Tribune reported. Days before, an out-of-season typhoon Pablo hit  southern Mindanao.

It killed 902 people and left 890 missing, the National Disaster and Risk Reduction Management Council executive director Benito Ramos said they “Pablo” has injured 1,906 persons and damaged properties amounting to almost P7.2 billion. The toll will still rise.

Forget Misa de Gallo 2012 in Southern Mindanao for now?

It’s true meaning is  reflected in  efforts to bring in urgent food, medicine and other vital supplies. Government,  international  agencies, like UN, and countries —Indonesia , Japan , the US— have rushed to help.

Even more significant is the efforts by private agencies and ordinary citizens to help out. “Because you did it for these, the least of my little ones, you did it to Me, the Christmas babe was to say.”


 Veteran journalist Juan L. Mercado has been syndicating news commentaries to Philippine community newspapers. 

[Editorials of The Connection] Disaster risk response a local political agendum


Today’s climate change era has created a new agendum for local politicians and public servants: disaster risk reduction.
Reducing the risks brought about by floods, volcanic eruptions and earthquakes is not actually new for the Philippines. Even before global warming had altered the lifestyles of this planet’s over-six billion inhabitants, the Philippines has been accustomed to typhoons every June to November, as well as to catastrophic eruptions (like Mt. Pinatubo in 1991) and earthquakes (like the 1990 tremor). Luckily, a 7.8 tremor in the seabed near Northern Samar last August did not create an expectedly damaging impact unto Filipinos.
So responding to these natural disasters through risk reduction, or whatever it was called in the pre-climate change era, is not entirely new. DRR as a “term” for today’s disaster response efforts is new, sweeping public officials and private and civil society actors in the last ten years. It is the nature and innovativeness of the DRR actions that matter.
Albay province, found in poverty-stricken Bicol region, comes to mind. Knowing that typhoons are commonplace and the province is a frequent route, current governor Joey Salceda had in place a wholistic DRR effort —from provincial-to-municipal response teams to setting up meteorological devices in identified areas. The agricultural sector was also part of the province’s DRR equation. Specify effort here for agriculture. Impacts brought about by droughts, caused by the El Nino phenomenon, are also included here.
These efforts by Albay have earned for the province national and international awards for disaster risk reduction —all these being bonuses for the intended, felt-life objectives of Albayanon DRR efforts: public safety and providing social safety nets unto affected residents.
Even Albay’s efforts came before a typhoon named Ondoy became part of the Filipino consciousness when dealing with rains. One may recall how quick the flood waters Ondoy dropped were in just a matter of hours, especially for residents in the Philippines’ capital region and in the Calabarzon, Central Luzon and Ilocos regions. Last year, typhoon Sendong ravaged Northern Mindanao and, like Ondoy, left as much destruction.
Just last August, there were no typhoons but a monsoon —supposedly a weaker type of a weather disturbance. But weather systems like typhoons, depressions or monsoons, even if they’re spotted by satellite feeds, are as unpredictable in terms of outcome. That August monsoon dropped floodwaters nearly similar to Ondoy’s rainfall.
The losers? Not just affected people, but localities’ absence of a comprehensive disaster risk reduction effort. Batangas province had its own share of experiences recently with typhoon Ofel: Three Batangueno municipalities declared a state of calamity recently, while Batangas City’s riverbank overflowed and swept to death two riverbank residents.
National legislation responded with the enactment of the Disaster Risk Reduction Act of 2009. With the creation of the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management Council (NDRMMC), the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) then mandated all local governments to set up their local DRRMCs and, when funds permit, purchase necessary
rescue equipment. Scientists and environmentalists belonging to the Manila Observatory, for their part, have already identified the Philippine provinces prone to natural disasters —rains, earthquakes, and all types of natural disasters combined. There are also area-specific concerns: cities contend with disasters’ impact unto urbanization issues, while rural municipalities do have to check on their areas’ geological hazards frequently.
Albay remains the Philippine barometer for localized DRR action. Only a handful of local governments come close to Albay’s example. Many communities are still missing out comprehensive DRR actions and responses, and will only respond when the calamity actually comes their way and people feel the aftermath. After the August monsoon rains struck, the World Bank observed that there needs more improvement unto DRR efforts even if they’re already in place.
Local governments big and small are all looking forward to national and local elections this May 2013. Sure elections provide big stakes to local politicians, but the stakes —political included— are higher if local communities have no comprehensive DRR actions in place.