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Obnoxious Brats

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By: Ronald Roy 

“I have a whole hour to spend with you, sir , before my Political Science class starts at 3,” said 18-year-old William Chang, staring at his watch. A sophomore of a private university located in Makati, Billy, born in Malolos, Bulacan of pure Chinese parentage, had earlier asked me what I thought of the debilitating tensions between China and the Philippines. I laid down the newspaper I’d been reading and asked him to join me as I asked a waiter to clear my table.

Billy, who spoke with a Chinese accent, was familiar to me as a regular customer of the burger restaurant, and must have felt he might gather the courage to speak with me, possibly after having heard my socio-political views in chats with friends on previous occasions. I welcomed an opportunity for a talk with him myself. He would surely furnish me an idea of how people his age and nationality were affected by deteriorating ties between the two countries.

As he prepared to carry his back pack to my table, I sat up eager to answer the still unanswered question: “Sir, will there be a war between China and us?” It was clear that his words ‘China’ and ‘us’ identified his sentiments as Filipino, not Chinese, hence, the assurance my task would not be a problem, although I did stress that all he would be getting from me was a mere opinion, and not an authoritative one at that. So, dear Readers, hereunder are some highlights of my conversation with Billy Chang.

No, I do not believe a full-scale war will erupt between China and us, although isolated shooting incidents shouldn’t be discounted, even in the face of an American-access-to-PH-military-bases agreement. Well, it’s really nice to feel reassured that nobody wants a war where everyone ends up losing, but given China’s history of hotheaded warmongers, one can never really tell.

It’s often said that it will take a moron to press the proverbial red button to trigger a nuclear holocaust. The trouble is: instigators in present-day warfare are madmen, not morons. The distant past had its share of supercilious schizos, like Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Adolf Hitler and Napoleon Bonaparte; and it is feared that today’s Chinese leadership could be what Deng Xiaoping once predicted in a speech before the United Nations General Assembly: murderously mad.

Deng was a 4′ 11″ runt, a midget with the mind of a colossus whose reformist capitalist theories opened avenues for the rapid development of China’s market economy into what it is today: the second strongest in the world, and perhaps the largest creditor-nation ever in the the history of mankind. One’s mind is boggled, indeed, by how America can manage such an enormous debt in the trillions of dollars.

And the same mind comfortably concludes that it would be idiotic and asinine for the two mightiest nations on the planet to annihilate each other in a nuclear confrontation. Yes, indeed, why should they destroy each other when the earth can be theirs by mutually arranged manipulations?! Don’t look now, but already Chinese nationals have been marrying into American homes, and investing in numerous top US companies and business conglomerates at a pace never before thought possible.

The trouble is: this analysis is too rational, too orthodox even for Deng Xiaoping’s comfort if he were alive. The perspicacious Deng had seen too much of the dark side of his country’s leaders which even today’s nations have not yet seen. And Deng strongly warned the world against them. For, Deng knew that it was only a question of time — and that time is now, Billy — that his country would be a daunting economic and military threat to America and the rest of the free world.

And he feared that a resurgent China, the oldest civilization that had once ruled the world (long before our country was discovered), would strive to surge to the top in ruthless disregard of the UN Charter, international law and such other principles and norms of human decency that are intended for the fostering of peace among all nations of goodwill. He recalled the brutal 1964 sinking by a Chinese vessel of an unarmed Vietnamese fishing boat three times smaller, killing over 60 innocent fishers and leaving a similar number missing.

Ironically, however, he would be held accountable by government quarters for the 1989 massacre of student protesters at Tiananmen Square that happened under his watch.The reformist Deng was twice purged by the Politburo for his radical views, but it was his dynamism that brought him back on track in his quest for the pinnacle of power, the same dynamism that had him trepidatiously declaring before the UN General Assembly that, once given a chance at world domination, a reawakened China would most likely bamboozle its neighbors in the Asean region, and should be stopped by other countries acting in concert with its own citizens.

The Chinese people’s cultural trait of settling disputes among themselves without resorting to trial, arbitration, conciliation and the like, has no place in a community of Asean peoples who all disagree with that settlement mode. It’s time China’s leaders stopped behaving like obnoxious brats.

( http://musingsbyroy.wordpress.com | 09186449517 | @ronald8roy | #musingsbyroy )

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My Town

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The summer heat is driving more people to spend their breaks in Tagaytay City. To most Metro Manilans, Tagaytay is the next option to Baguio City. This is, however, misplaced. Tagaytay can never be cooler than Baguio and, most of all, it definitely cannot offer the kind of rich, mystical culture that the Cordillera has. Tagaytay, in fact, is losing its bucolic charm and giving way to an urban frenzy that, if it runs away, will make it looking like any other burgeoning Philippine city, with the same malls, same cafes, and same space-gnawing condominiums.

Intoxicating Aroma

When we first transferred here more than a dozen years ago, we were seeking for a quiet environment. Our humble house was hemmed in by a coffee plantation on one side and a pineapple farm on the other. And whenever the coffee flowers bloomed, the air would be filled by an intoxicating aroma. Whenever I would take my early morning walks, birds of various colors would dart from one clump of trees to another. But these are all gone. Even the fireflies that used to light the huge camachile tree in front of our house have left for good.

Today, there are high buildings puncturing the blue skies of the chartered city. Except for those who have the wherewithal to buy units in them, I have yet to meet somebody who is ecstatic about the condominiums. The consensus is that they are ugly, perhaps expecting that Tagaytay retain its country air forever. To the credit of Ayalas, they have made their own versions of condominiums here follow the contours of the land, carefully working around old trees.

There used to be a Metro Tagaytay Master Plan which stipulated strict restrictions on how high structures could be built in the city. The idea was when you look at Tagaytay from Laurel or Talisay in Batangas, for instance, there wouldn’t be any edifice jutting out and violating the undulating horizontal lines. The Master Plan was also clear on the principle of easement of views – that no structure should be built that would obstruct the view of neighbors. Tall buildings should be in the inner districts, with much regard for the environment. The planners weren’t saying so but they probably meant: go slow on the carbon footprints.  But, today, impelled by mounds of cash, developers cannot resist building tiers upon tiers of rooms with a commanding view of Taal Volcano – a magical mirage shimmering on an ever-blue lake.

Mushrooming Edifices

Just a few years ago, there was hardly anything else to do in Tagaytay but to settle into a meditative groove.  You get infected by the prayerful vibes that come from the scores of churches, chapels, and retreat houses that densify the city. For your dine-out dates, there were just Josephine’s, Diners, and Kaye Ryan. If you want to go dancing, there was One Bagger. For groceries and banking, you had to motor down to Alabang.

In one sweep of a wand, restaurants with differentiating market positions have sprung up everywhere in Tagaytay. I have nicknamed a cluster of restaurants as the bulalo belt, all of them jostling for customers who hanker for hot beef soup and heavenly bone marrow, a fare to die for. Starbucks has three outlets within a five kilometer stretch. The strongest, highest grossing Starbucks in the Philippines is in Tagaytay, that is why its management send their new baristas here for them to perfect their caffeine preps.

Government Initiatives

Tagaytay was probably among the first movers as a smoke-free, plastic-strict city. To the city hall’s credit, it has been able to prevent billboards from proliferating in the city. The leaders may also want to make the city din-free. The influx of visitors have made the streets unkind to people. In a stroke of irony where the rich collaborate with the poor, the macho men in hot leather jackets and big bikes unite with the tricycle drivers in stinking sando and safe-suspect contraption in assaulting the environment.  The ridge road has formed a noise tunnel for transposed urban traffic.

At the same time. our barangay leaders in San Jose are apparently inutile in curbing noise in their neighborhood, with karaoke singers doing their ghastly thing 24 hours a day. Dyaskepatawarin! Don’t tell me it is a national malady like indolence is.

Thankfully today, the city hall is replacing the multicolored street lamps with tall no-nonsense posts and bright streetlights. The leaders have to respond to the economic upsurge and the changing demographics of the city. Already, we are experiencing unexplained waterless days. This can really be frustrating. It is easy to suspect that the flurry of construction and the growing number of people in the city are pressing on the capability of the local government to deliver basic needs.

The city cries for wider roads with safe sidewalks to boot. Tagaytay could probably do what Dasmarinas City did and that is, do not wait for the national government and spend local money to improve at least the main arteries. The Sta. Rosa-Tagaytay Route, once a farm-to-market road, has become too narrow with rumbling bumper-to-bumper traffic wasting fuel and time. Perhaps Congressman Bambol Tolentino is working on a solution now.

I heard from the grapevine that Metro Manila Development Authority chairman Francis Tolentino is contemplating on getting back the mayorship position in Tagaytay. Running the MMDA is a thankless job. Sala sa lamig, sala sa init ang ano mang gawin mo don. In spite of that, he is doing a splendid job. His bent to put hanging gardens in that dreary urban jungle probably stemmed from his stint as head of a then sleepy town. It was clean and really green. Perhaps, if ever he re-assumes the helm of the city, he would like to bring the bitter lessons of Metro Manila and this is, resist the allure of concrete and neon that only accelerate the decay of any city. – 30

Tricia Gosingtian: Success Through Fashion Blogging

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Unlike other young entrepreneurs with a specific brand or product, Tricia Gosingtian does not have a physical product or merchandise to sell. The twenty-four-year-old calls herself a creative entrepreneur. Her success stems from the fact that she simply pursued her passions: freelance photography, modelling, styling, and blogging, alongside a string of other skills. These hobbies helped her develop her skills as an entrepreneur and a fashion trendsetter. She is now one of country’s highest paid bloggers. A successful high-traffic lifestyle blog can generate up to seven figures from an accumulation of advertising, product placements, reviews and other sources of online revenues.

A graduate of Ateneo de Manila with a degree in Fine Arts and a major in Information Design, Gosingtian built her company from her blog, Tricia Will Go Places. The reknowned fashion blogger modestly claims that the blog, and the business that followed, was born accidentally.

At a young age of 18, despite lack of formal training in photography, Tricia started taking photos related to her interest in fashion, beauty and culture. She knew that there are professional photographers who are more experienced in the field, but that did not stop her. Tricia took and posted fashion photos simply because she is passionate about them.

A newspaper hired her to do street fashion photography. In contrast to fashion designed by famous name designers in studios, street fashion is any style of clothing design that emerged from youth culture. A photographer usually goes exploring places in an urban center where young people congregate, such as parks, rock concert stadiums, music festivals, malls, and university campuses. The photographer then proceeds to spot people in the crowd who stand out based on their sense of fashion, and asks them if they do not mind having their pictures taken.

It was during her stint with the newspaper when Tricia decided to upload her photography work to her blog site. She shares, “Eventually, I wasn’t able to sustain it due to my busy schedule back in college, so I decided to just take my own personal style photos. And the rest just followed.” Tricia admits that she has always been a very active internet user ever since she was in high school. She was not expecting that her hobby will turn into a full-time business venture.

Being a fashionista who loves to collect clothes, Tricia thought of putting her clothes into good use. Her idea was to make a photo documentation of herself wearing the clothes that she loves. Essentially, she became her own photographer and model. Until now, she still posts photos of herself on her blog. Her sense of style and individuality has caught the imagination of young Filipinas all over the country, who look up to her for fashion ideas.

“I never really thought it could grow to something much bigger. I’ve always had a penchant for graphic design so I remember enjoying creating layouts for all my friends’ blogs and for my own blog. Photography came into my life some time back then, when I suddenly grew obsessed with deviantART and sharing my work in this wonderful art community, ” she says.

Tricia works with publications and brands who see her as the icon of youth fashion. It isn’t far from the truth, as the blog regularly features photos of Tricia in her latest fashion getups. She believes that she has a lot of creativity to share throughout Asia and the rest of the world. She calls her style as ‘sophisti-cute’, her own mix of her two influences, Japanese fashion and Western high street fashion.

Tricia finds unique sources for inspiration, beyond the realm of traditional fashion design. “In terms of fashion and photography, I was mostly influenced by Japanese magazines. I wanted to recreate that kind of soft lighting they always had in their photos, so I decided to pick up my own camera and try to produce the same results. Fashion-wise, I don’t strictly follow Western trends, but I do follow Japanese fashion religiously. Coincidentally, Japanese fashion also takes its roots from Western trends,” she observes.

Asked what important traits one must have to be successful, she answers, “Positivity breeds positivity. Nothing good can ever come out of surrounding yourself with negative people who say negative things all the time. Focusing on the positive things can help you look at life in a different, more meaningful way.” As to her definition of success, Tricia replies, “Success is relative! My definition of success doesn’t really have much to do with fame or money, but a lot with being able to carry out my dreams with the presence and support of my loved ones.”

Gian Javelona: The Pinoy ‘Steve Jobs’

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Gian Javelona is the kind of person who would reach for the stars. In a recent interview with Rappler’s Ezra Ferraz, he confided, “When I was a student, I always dreamed of having a company. I wanted to build something that any person could use and a product that could change people’s lives. I remember my classmates were laughing at me when I told them that one day I would have a company that will beat Apple, and that I will name it OrangeApps.” We can imagine who is laughing now, but Gian is modest about his success.

Gian Javelona is only 20 years old, and he is now the CEO of of his own company, OrangeApps. How that happened is based on several factors. In the first place, Gian has never given up on his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. He has always dreamed of having his own company even when he was still a student. One plan has remained on his mind: To build something that any person could use and change people’s lives.

To be a successful entrepreneur, Gian knows that you have to surround yourself with other people driven to succeed. A person can learn from them by absorbing their knowledge and ideas. The young CEO also has an attitude of confidence and resourcefulness. He has never allowed other people’s suspicions to get him down. This outlook helped him find the right people for his company. People have asked, “How can a 20-year old CEO successfully run a company?” He knows this is how many people think but he chose to ignore naysayers.

Building the company from scratch can be overwhelming. Javelona knows that there are issues he has to deal with. He confesses that building his OrangeApps team was the most difficult experience he has ever had. It’s not just because people looking down on his age, but there are other matters at hand. For one, it is hard to get people to join a very young company. It is another challenge to convince them when he can’t even assure them of a regular salary. For so many people, it is too risky to join a company that nobody has heard of.

Despite these circumstances, Javelona found inspiration in the story of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. Gian claims to have watched the biopic ‘The Social Network’ ten times, and he identifies with what Zuckerberg went through during the early days of  Facebook. Coincidentally, both Gian and his idol Zuckerberg started out by breaking rules. Zuckerberg built Facemash, precursor to Facebook, by taking the photos from Harvard’s website without permission. Gian created and released his first mobile app, a PUP-based mobile portal that accesses public information on the university’s website, without notifying PUP.

The school authorities told him to shut it down because security issues started cropping up. This did not discourage Gian. It just made him more determined as he fixed the app in one month. He tried once more by doing a relaunch. The app was an instant hit with  PUP students in just three days. The users grew to around 2,000 active users out of a school population of 70,000 from over 20 campuses. He shares, “The President of PUP called and asked me to present the platform. Sometimes, you need to break some rules to make big things happen.”

In spite of this success, some people still question his capability to run a company at a young age. He responded by building the company “like someone would build a family – you have to make sure there is chemistry.” He picked people whose way of thinking is out of the box, like he is. He also chose those he knows he could work well with.

When asked how a person can unlock his or her true potential, Gian thinks it has something to do with the Philippine educational system. The country’s institutions of learning still have a long way to go to match its global counterparts. What it is doing now, according to Javelona, is to force students towards a job marketplace where being employed relies on skills that constantly change every year.

This is why Gian’s biggest advocacy is youth entrepreneurship. He is constantly invited to speak to young people in symposiums and seminars. Javelona believes young people should consider becoming entrepreneurs. On this, he thinks that education is the main problem. Our educational system molds students to be employees and not employers. He emphasizes, “If you ask a student today, what they want to do after graduation, most will say that they want to work for a big, local company or go abroad and earn big money.”

Last year, Gian was accepted to Ideaspace Foundation’s incubation program for young entrepreneurs. He remembers a funny moment when he is presenting his ideas to Coach Chot Reyes and Manny V. Pangilinan, and he was just wearing a regular shirt. He admits not knowing that he needs to have financial projections and a business model. “I didn’t even understand what those words meant back then,” he says good-humoredly. Even so, Javelona’s time at Ideaspace was life-changing. He actually recommends the incubation route for those who want to build a startup, but have no idea how, for as long as they are determined to see their business ideas come to life.

The people at Ideaspace assisted the young entrepreneur in terms of incorporation, financial projections, valuations, and marketing. Gian says, “Through them, you will meet the best people in the industry, including entrepreneurs, technologists, social innovators, and other aspiring startup founders.”

OrangeApps recently launched the app Khawna. The name comes from the Tagalog phrase ‘ikaw na’ (that’s you), a teasing way to praise a person who has done anything remarkable or impressive. It coincides with the company’s slogan: “It starts with you.” Gian believes that all of us can make a difference in the world.

According to him, Khawna is a learning platform where you could learn skills currently required by the industry. He believes that the app bridges the gap of industry learning and makes education available to everyone around the world. The learning platform offers online classes that emphasize hard skills, such as science and technology, engineering, mathematics, and entrepreneurship.

Gian says, “Imagine a kid in a rural area attending a class on entrepreneurship from his mobile phone, one taught by industry experts. What will happen to the Philippines? There are 7.93 million underemployed Filipinos and 6.24 million out of school, young Filipinos. With Khawna, we can make every Filipino employable.”

He hopes that this would result in more students aspiring to become entrepreneurs and create their own startup companies. In this, Javelona is very optimistic. He shares, “I’m really happy to see successful startups operating in this country, such as Kalibrr, Guestlist.ph, and TimeFree Innovations. They inspire young startup founders to keep pushing forward – They help us realize that disrupting industries here in the Philippines will lead the country to a better future.”

Every time Gian talks to students, he reminds them of how many huge tech companies started out as small ventures. He emphasizes that all of these tech companies like Microsoft and IBM started the way he and other young entrepreneurs started. “They were built by human beings like us. So it’s not impossible for Filipinos to also build a billion dollar company in the future,” he says.

For a lot of students and fresh graduates, it will be their first time to be told through Gian’s talks, that they can do something other than compete for entry-level jobs. He shares, “For the first time they see a Filipino company who wants to build something that can definitely change lives. I always tell them that ‘the sooner you start, the faster you will learn.’ I hope that inspires them.”

Many young Filipinos are so impressed and inspired by Javelona’s story. Many of them want to work for OrangeApps, and some feel encouraged to start their own company. Some of these young people started out as Khawna’s earliest users. They see the app as a launching pad to learn the skills they need to survive and succeed in the job market. Gian hopes that most of them can become future innovators, entrepreneurs, and industry leaders who will help uplift the country’s economy.

My Lola Basing

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[By Weng dela Peña]

A Personal Account of the Zamboanga Hostilities

SEPTEMBER 8, 2013. It was the night of the Feast of the Nativity when my Aunt Lucita and I were exchanging text messages about the condition of my Lola Basing who was rushed to the Brent Hospital in Zamboanga city the day before.

She was in their home in Lustre Street with her husband Uncle Bong, along with my other aunt, Aunt Malou and Uncle Vic, who came all the way from Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur to attend to my lola. They all just came from the hospital and have decided to spend the night there, in that soon to be ill-fated Lustre street.

Hostilities

Past 6am the next morning, I got a call from our radio station in Zamboanga requesting me to call back ASAP as they are about to report an attack happening in the city. By 7am, as I read the news, headlined was my beloved city under attack by heavily armed MNLF men in the barangays of Sta. Catalina, Talon-Talon and Sta. Barbara, where Lustre Street in located.

After my program, I called my father, who was living in town, and he confirmed that police and military are engaged in battle with rebels who were spotted near Fort Pilar, near the city’s shrine of the Holy Mother.

Shortly after our talk, I called my Aunt Lu. With a worried voice she told me about the presence of armed men just outside their house, the presence of the MNLF. They cannot get out because of gunfire.
They were just inside, taking cover silently, not knowing what to do.

We were all at a loss. All I could tell was just to keep calm, stay down when gun fires erupt and pray that these men would go away. But they never did.

(photo source: http://www.juice.ph/blogs/buhaypinoy/the-zamboanga-siege-happy-christmas-war-is-over)
(photo source: http://www.juice.ph/blogs/buhaypinoy/the-zamboanga-siege-happy-christmas-war-is-over)

I contacted our radio station there and gave them the address of my Aunt Lu so authorities can be alerted that there were civilians in their houses along lustre street, and that they need help to be evacuated. Help never came. Rescue seemed impossible. The street was taken over by the MNLF and government forces were facing heavy resistance in the area, so I heard from news reports.

Reports keep coming in of sightings and encounters of MNLF and government forces now spreading and a school, the Southern City Colleges was hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. People who were up at dawn that day got the chance to run away from the barangays now occupied by rebels. Reports of residents being taken hostage were all over the news by then. Monday afternoon came. My Aunt Lu with her husband Uncle Bong, along with my Auntie Malou and her husband Uncle Vic were trapped in their house. She told me that their neighbor slipped in from their back door bearing the news that these MNLF men were picking up and holding hostage residents in the area. None of them attempted to leave their homes for fear of being spotted.

Night came and in our brief communication she told me in Chavacano, “Brownout aqui aura noy” (there’s brownout now).” We said our goodbyes and told her to hold on and that we’ll be praying for help and safety.

Critical

The next day, Tuesday, September 10, 2013, I texted her, but got no reply. I called her up but her phone was unreachable. Hers was the only phone number I had. I assumed her phone got discharged because there wasn’t any electricity. That day I went to be in touch with my father to know how my Lola Basing was doing. We began to worry about when this situation will end because both of my aunts are trapped in their houses and are unable to go out. News came that my lola wasn’t doing good and it got us worried that only my young cousins were looking after her in the hospital for it was really risky to go out. By nighttime, I still can’t reach my Auntie Lu. My cousin Mercy, the daughter of Auntie Malou, called me up to say that she was worried too as she can’t reached her mother in Lustre. Then we went on to talk about Lola and how we can coordinate for her care while we wait for news from Lustre.

Hostage

Wednesday morning, September 11, 2013, was my daughter’s birthday.

My cousin Mercy called me up bearing the news I never expected I’d hear. That Aunts Lu and Malou, Uncles Bong and Vic were taken hostage. She said, she got a call from a friend who saw their names flashed on TV as the latest hostages of Kumander Malik in Lustre. I texted a few Cabinet secretaries to appeal for a peaceful means of ending this crisis for the safety of all hostages. But it seems the way to end this was with hostilities.

Government forces kept on with the assault saying they meant to contain the rebels. The agony is in the waiting, the uncertainty of it all. Sunday came and my beloved city is in ruins. The number of deaths were increasing. Food supply was limited. Zamboanga city is devastated. By this time, my Lola Basing is now dependent on medical tubes for her life, while her daughters are held somewhere in the dark.

Around 1:30pm of Sept. 16, my Uncle Nestor texted me to call him.

Lola Basing was critical already and it was only a matter of hours, he said. My uncle told me that they were all there, my father, my two other uncles, their children. The only ones not there were my aunts Malou and Lucita, Lola’s eldest daughters. I cannot think of words to describe this moment that came before us. My uncle asked me if I wanted to talk to her even though she cannot respond anymore she may perhaps be able to listen to me with her heart.

In tears, memories of my Lola Basing when I was a little boy came flashing back and how I saw her smile the last time I visited her in Zamboanga last February. I showed her pictures of her great grandchildren and gave her my hug of goodbye that day of February and she kissed me then saying her usual, “Ta resa gayot iyo cun cuntigo pirmi pati dituyu mga anak, mujer y mamang (I always pray for you, you wife and your children and mother).” I spoke to her softly to say thank you and that I wanted her to hold on and she has yet to see her great grandchildren in person. And that I love her very much.

My Lola Basing a few days later from pulmonary disease and heart complications. But up to her death, my family never told her about what happened to her daughters. But, I guess she knew all along…she knew from the very beginning even if she never could open her eyes, she never could talk.

Release

Early morning of September 17, news of the release of around 60 hostages broke out. Among those released were my Aunt Malou and Uncle Vic. While being attended by the medical team as part of their debriefing procedures, a relative of mine informed them that Lola Basing was gone. With my Aunt Lucita and Uncle Bong still being held hostage we waited for a miracle to happen. As I close this writing, I pray that Auntie Lucita and Uncle Bong be granted the strength to hold on for they have come a long way already. I pray that God will be their protector, their liberator and freedom will be theirs any moment now.

[Editor’s Note: Mr. Dela Peña’s Aunt Lucita and Uncle Bong were eventually released a few days later, along with the remaining hostages who were caught in the battle between MNLF and government troops.]

Participatory Democracy

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[by Ike Señeres]

IN theory, democracy is really supposed to be participatory. The Constitution and its many laws are in place to make that possible, but up to now, the present reality seems to be very far from the theory. Suffice it to say that even if the mechanisms are already in place, a lot of work still has to be done, much of it in the form of advocacies, programs and projects.

(image source: urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com
(image source: urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/Universal Press Syndicate/Ted Rall.
Used under Creative Commons)

In my previous columns, I have already written extensively about participatory democracy in the barangay level, by way of participation in the Barangay General Assemblies (BGAs). In recent news reports, there has been a lot of coverage about constitutional provisions for a People’s Initiative (PI), a process that would allow ordinary citizens to pass a law as if it was also passed by the Congress. In a manner of speaking, the PI process is also a form of participatory democracy.

As the saying goes, “You get what you pay for”. That is akin to the saying “You reap what you sow”. Perhaps that is really the essence of democracy. You get something if you invest something. If you invest nothing, then you get nothing. Even if our democratic rights are vested upon us by the Constitution, we also have the option of disregarding our rights, perhaps even waiving these. That is probably what happened in the case of barangay governance, because the turnout in the barangay elections is only about ten percent.

Unlike the Sangguniang Barangay wherein the members are only those who are elected in the barangay elections, everyone in the barangay could attend the BGAs, and anyone above 18 could vote for or against all resolutions. According to the Local Government Code (LGC), BGAs are supposed to be convened at least twice a year, but there is no limit as to how many times these could be convened within a given year. How much more participatory could that get?

Aside from the BGAs however, the LGC also provides for the creation and activation of Barangay Development Councils (BDCs), a formal body wherein about half of its members should come from the private sector, as represented by members of Non-Government Organizations (NGOs). Again, how much more participatory could that get? Taken together, the BGAs and the BDCs could work very well with each other, each one serving a different purpose. As I see it, all that is needed is to coordinate the schedules and the agendas of these two bodies, and the people in the barangay could practically write their own destiny.

As I see it, the coordination between the agendas of the BGAs and the BDCs is only a matter of scheduling. Even if the BGAs are essentially meant for individual participants, the NGOs could still get involved there as groups, acting on behalf of their individual members. The key to that, I think, are the caucuses that could be convened by the groups of active NGOs, so that they could coordinate their agendas before they go to the BGAs.

Just like any assembly or meeting, the ultimate outcomes are really the formal resolutions that could be approved by the BGAs, sitting as full assemblies. As I wrote in my previous columns, the BGAs are in effect the stockholder’s meetings, and these have greater powers than the SBs that are in effect merely board meetings by comparison. The only action that the SBs could do is to ratify the resolutions approved by the BGAs, and the SBs could not change anything.

For practical reasons, it would be good for the NGO caucuses to already prepare draft resolutions for submission to the agendas of the BGAs, instead of writing these drafts during the actual meetings. This would be too late of an action to do, and it would be a waste of time. In order not to waste time, it would be best to show the draft resolutions to the caucus members ahead of time, instead of showing these to them during the meetings when these are already ongoing.

I believe that it is about time that the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) should allow absentee voting in the BGAs, via internet and mobile means. Although the admissibility of electronic evidence is already provided for in the Electronic Commerce Act (ECA), there appears to be no ruling or legal precedent yet that would allow absentee voting. It may be farfetched, but perhaps it would be possible to try it in one BGA, in order to set the precedent.

As provided for in the LGC, the BDC is just the first layer of LDCs that go all the way up to the Regional Development Councils (RDCs). In theory, all the agendas and resolutions in the lower councils are supposed to go up to the higher councils. What this means is that the agendas and resolutions in the BDCs should actually go up to the Municipal Development Councils (MDCs). In reality therefore, the NGOs or the caucuses of NGOs could always bring their advocacies to the municipal level, if and when they would not succeed at the barangay level.

I recall that there is a popular actress who is said to always get what she wants. Perhaps it is the opposite in the case of barangay residents who could actually get what they want, except that they do not seem to care enough to get it. Meanwhile, many corrupt and incompetent local politicians are having a heyday in lording over barangay governance, perhaps also enjoying the public funds that they are putting into their private pockets.
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For feedback, email iseneres@yahoo.com or text +639083159262

It’s a ‘Money Mad’ World

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by Francis De Guzman

IF you had a choice between contentment, character, and lots of cash, which would you choose?
Think carefully. Be honest. Or, if you could have all three, in what order would they come?

If cash tops the list, you will no doubt be challenged in the character and contentment categories, says book writer-commentator Joe Stowel.

 

(image credit: http://i.thestreet.com)
(image credit: http://i.thestreet.com)

A vivid picture of this reality is the on-going issue on corruption which sent shock-waves across a wide-spectrum of Filipinos from all walks of life, thus creating ripples that jarred the national consciousness. The high cost of “involvement” that named names among our VIP’s in government service, in now better known as the ‘Mother of All Scams’ (the Janet Lim-Napoles case, et al).

And this one seems to have something to do with “one’s obsession with personal gain.” The Good Book reminds us all that: “As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, not to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy.” – (1 Timothy 6:17).

In fact, Stowel would remind his readers that: “If character and contentment are priorities, we will be more concerned about others than we are about ourselves. We’ll be glad to give, not overly concerned when we lose, and not interested in cheating on God’s standards just to pursue personal gains. It will be obvious that character and contentment rule when we transition from greed to generosity.”

He further adds that: “In God’s economy, true riches are not measured in terms of cash. Riches are what we have in Him and what we do for eternity. And by this definition, all of us can be rich.”

The evils perpetuated by the ‘pork-barrel’ scam, has seriously affected the majority of our idealistic young people, who looked up to elected officials’ promise to “serve the people.” Take the example of these five young graduating high school students from the Mandaluyong City-based PAREF Woodrose School for Girls –Paulina Arceo, Vanessa Gonzales, Daniele Llantino, Ressa Marasigan, and Katrina Saria. Their young inquisitive minds have led them to question the very core of our nation’s leadership principles, as they sought justice via their ‘Letters to the Editor’ (as published by Business Mirror, dated September 27-28, 2013 Edition). It is here where they emphasized their determined plea: “It is time for justice. It is time for us to fight for what is rightfully ours, especially if we have been promised something. Our country still has faith in the future. We hope that, someday, these officials will learn and help our nation start anew. We hope they will change their ways and espouse moral values in order for our country to become united and strong. We believe that this battle for justice is not a fight of one person, but a fight of a nation.”

Indeed, our national hero Dr. Jose P. Rizal, who wrote his famous books on the struggle for freedom, a century ago, has envisioned right –“The youth is the hope of the Motherland!” Will our nation’s present leaders, fail them now?

PRE-HOLIDAY ‘LOW-PRICES’ FOR CONSUMERS
Early holiday shoppers for low-prices of local and imported brands and groceries, stand to benefit from Cherry Foodarama’s pre-holiday offer.
Celebrating its 61st anniversary, the pioneering retailer is also giving away two-brand new Toyota Avanza during its grand-draw date 14Feb 2014 at its Marcos Highway branch in Antipolo City. The mart is likewise scheduled to re-open its original site at Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City, with its 21stcentury three-floor size building that will accommodate the latest local and imported food and products.

US DALE CARNEGIE CITES PH BEAUTY TITLE HOLDERS
AMERICA’S top corporate training institute –Dale Carnegie sent its congratulatory messages to the country’s beauty holders –Miss Supranational 2013 winner Mutya Johanna Datul and Bb. Pilipinas-Tourism 2013 title holder –Joanna Cindy Miranda, who will be competing for the prestigious “Miss Tourism Queen International 2013” in China on first week October.

Ms. Miranda, together with Mutya’s Ms. Datul, who won the “Miss Supranational 2013” title held at Minsk, Belarus last 6th September, were classmates at their exclusive training course via Dale Carnegie Training, which was held prior to their respective global competitions.

The New York, USA-based Dale Carnegie opened its new Philippine office at Unit 600, 6th floor, VGP Center, 6772 Ayala Avenue, Makati City, with direct line: 844-2178, e-mail: oye@dalecarnegieph.com

QUOTABLE QUOTES: “Wealth makes itself wings.” –Dr. Chuck Swindoll

WORD OF TRUTH: “There is an evil which I have seen under the sun, and it is common among men. A man to whom God has given riches, wealth and honor, so that he wanted nothing for his soul of all that he desired, yet God gave him not power to eat thereof, but a stranger ate it: this is vanity and it is an evil disease.” –(Ecclesiastes 6:1-2)
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(For feedback and comments, kindly e-mail: francisdeguzman@yahoo.com)