Friday, April 02, 2010

The Pope should listen to Fr. Bart

Today, Maundy or Holy Thursday, is the start of the Easter/ Paschal Triduum. This Passover meal or the Last Supper commemorates the beginning of the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Maundy Thursday is significant for three reasons. The first is that during this Last Supper, Jesus established the Eucharist. Consequently, Jesus established the priesthood with the Apostles becoming the first priests. Hence, there is a special Mass called the “Chrism Mass”, which is celebrated by the bishop with priests in attendance.

Second, Jesus led by example and showed the true essence of love and servant leadership by washing the feet of the twelve Apostles. During this Chrism Mass, the Bishop also blesses the Oil of Chrism used in the sacraments. He also washes the feet of twelve of the priests. The Pope did that today. As priests, they were first and foremost, to be exemplar servants of God.

Third, the term “Maundy” comes from the Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, meaning to command. It is the first word in “Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos” (“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you”). Thus, Jesus commanded the Apostles to be servants of God, servant leaders motivated by love of God and for each other.

Why am I writing about Maundy Thursday? Well this evening, I attended mass at the Newman Center at the University of Arizona. The Dominican order runs the Newman Center here and if you know Dominican priests, they give some of the most enlightening homilies. Tonight was no exception. Fr. Bart Hutcherson, OP provided some illumination to the current priest molestation controversy in the United States and Europe, which is adversely affecting the image of the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Benedict. I am very disappointed and appalled at the conduct of many priests and the seeming cavalier attitude of the Church hierarchy. What many of these priests have done are horrible, violent, and criminal. They need to account for what they have done. The Tucson Diocese itself was bankrupted by the sexual molestation cases of at least 26 priests. Fr. Bart was pained, but, to his credit, addressed the issue directly. What I took away from his homily include the following:

  • The priesthood was instituted by Jesus to be servants to God and to the people. Priests are expected to be servant leaders working towards love of God and fellow humans.
  • The history of the Church is one of constant change and flux. Its present institutional structure got its start when it became the official religion of the Roman Empire. Thus, many of its good and its horrible aspects over the centuries were influenced by its institutionalization within the Roman Empire. Power and wealth, at many times, replaced service, humility, and love. Yet, when the Roman Empire disintegrated, it was the Church as an institution that survived to provide guidance and aid during the ensuing instability. Arrogance is a cross that each priest must contend with everyday.
  • Coincidentally, Pope Benedict proclaimed this year the Year of the Priests. Fr. Bart didn’t understand why, but he asked his congregation to, now more than ever, pray for priests. He asked us to hold them continually accountable and to help priests became faithful to their calling. He humbly asked for our forgiveness for his shortcomings and the failings of the priesthood.

It was both a touching and illuminating homily. The arrogance that Fr. Bart spoke of in priests is not unfamiliar to me. Add to this the immorality, vindictiveness, and incompetence of many priests and Bishops in the United States and even in the Philippines, and I am not surprised that many have left the faith. Many times, however, one is blessed to meet and know wonderful, wise, and inspiring priests. Their comforting presence and encouragement, as well as their wise counsel do indeed help save souls and relationships. Fr. Bart is one of them. He has done a fantastic job at the U of A Newman Center and was recently awarded the Pope John Paul II Distinguished Service Award by Tucson Bishop Gerald Kicanas.

The one who officiated my wedding and baptized my twins, Fr. Rudy Fernandez, S.J. is another inspiring priest. Fr. Rudy, after the brutality of the Japanese army on Filipinos during World War II, chose to serve in Japan for fifty years educating Japanese schoolchildren. He is still active giving retreats, advising couples, holding roundtable discussions with retirees and businessmen, and just being there for the troubled despite his advancing years.

Another of Fr. Bart’s co-priests, Fr. Miguel B. de Las Casas Rolland, OP, is a fellow anthropologist doing dissertation fieldwork in Chiapas, Mexico. Fr. Miguel, like his fellow Dominicans in Tucson, gives some of the most insightful homilies. He backs up his words on love of the poor with actual work with Mayao Tsotsil Chamulua Indians in their struggle against social and economic injustice.

Fr. Ricky Ordonez, a twenty plus year veteran of the Philippine travel sector prior to becoming a priest at age 50, allots his time teaching at the Sts. Peter and Paul parochial school, attending to the sick and dying at the university hospital, and ministering to the Filipino-American community in Tucson. In July, he will become the recruitment director for the Tucson Diocese. Fr. Ricky was recruited by another Filipino priest, Fr. Remigio “Miguel” Mariano Jr. who is the parish priest at St. Joseph Parish, Tucson. Fr. Miguel, himself a social scientist, has been a key supporter of Gawad Kalinga Tucson.

Lastly, there is Fr. Jose Funes, SJ who is the current Director of the Vatican Observatory. Fr. Funes is also a professor of astronomy and has substituted at the Newman Center. Fr. Funes as the Vatican Observatory Director has begun the discussions on life in space and what it means for Catholics. His astronomy classes at the university are among the most well attended.

Our stay in Tucson has been made richer by the company, wisdom, insight, patience, and presence of these priests. Their dedication is inspiring. Their homilies open up new ways of looking at things. Their friendship valued. This Lent and this year, we pray for them and all priests that they may remain true to their calling as servants, servant leaders, and paragon examples of love and humility.

Happy Easter all.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Noynoy is People Power!/noynoy.aquino

NoyNoy Aquino kickoff poster (Picture from Noynoy Facebook page)

In the Philippines today, there are two ‘political’ trends that are occurring.

The first concerns the elite, those in power, with wealth and contacts, or those with access to these three resources.

The second concerns civil society. Civil society encompasses, you and me, us, and those not part of the State or government. It includes those working to change conditions in the country. So, volunteers, activists, priests, teachers, NGOs, people’s organizations, feminists, environmentalists, artists, community organizers, scientists, media, and so on are part of civil society. When they band together and struggle for something be it housing, environment, human rights, or employment, they become a social movement of some sort.

As everyone knows, the elite control the resources of the country. They shape the laws of the land because they are in Congress and in government. They can influence policies and have access to government incentives, subsidies, and assistance to business, their business. Their ownership of land is significant. Importantly, they can influence, if not access, the coercive power of the State, which are the police and military. Hence, we have the “wangwang” phenomenon and the private armies who use military-owned equipment and ammunition or use government-organized civilian militia. The elite, who constitute 10% of the population, control at least one third of the economy.

While the elite share the same elements of power, wealth, education, and culture; they are not a united sector. They actually compete with one another for power and the spoils of power. Thus, the elections of 2010 is a competition for power of those who can afford to run for political office. Alliances are being reshaped. It is not surprising that candidates for the presidency all the way down to mayor are from the elite.

This is both a crisis and an opportunity.

Civil society, on the other hand, has a long track record in the country. Their earliest manifestations were in the anti-colonial struggle. Agrarian unrest and poverty also led to social movements in these sectors. During the Marcos regime, NGOs defending human rights and civil liberties, addressing the debilitating effects of poverty and displacement, grew in number, scope, and magnitude. After Marcos, NGOs continued to proliferate and be active in many different activities. Thus, the Philippines has become a regional center of NGO activity.

The proliferation of NGOs results from; (a) societal issues or problems that are being contested and/or tackled by various groups or sectors in society, and, (b) the withdrawal or lack of services and assistance by the government (State) because it doesn’t have the resources, skills, manpower, and political will to provide these. The market or private sector isn't interested as well. Hence, there are NGOs working on homelessness, urban poverty, agrarian reform, environmental issues, overseas workers’ plight, and so on.

Volunteers at the Gawad Kalinga ALL85 Village. The shanties will be eventually transformed into colorful, clean, peaceful homes such as the one partly seen on the left.

The significant characteristic of social movements, NGOs, and civil society is that in their activities, they are pursuing a vision, a mission, a goal, and value system. Think Gawad Kalinga with it’s; “No more slums, no more violence, no more poverty” motto.

Because of these two social forces of society and the political-economic-social situation, the Philippines is currently in a situation that social scientist Mary Racelis calls a vibrant democracy amidst widespread poverty and inequality.

Democracy will be hard to maintain if there is too much poverty and inequality. Who of the Presidential candidates are working to address poverty and inequality? Who of the candidates, all of whom come from the elite class, are willing to care, share, and reduce their “power” for the benefit of the poor, the weak, and vulnerable?

Lastly, how will they go about it?

Based on the above, Noynoy Aquino seems the desirable candidate because:

  • As we celebrate People Power this week, Noynoy is the living embodiment of it. Let no one undermine the legacy of his parents. Noynoy has lived, read, heard, experienced, internalized, practices, and supports People Power. People Power is about civil society standing up to political repression and widespread graft and corruption;
Ninoy's letter to Noynoy-page1.  See Noynoy Facebook page for clearer copy

Ninoy's letter to Noynoy-page1

Ninoy's letter to Noynoy-page2

Ninoy's letter to Noynoy-page 3

  • People Power is a movement for reform. Noynoy’s mother, Cory Aquino, successfully restored the first part of reform, which is the restoration of democracy and a peaceful turn-over of political power. She did this despite numerous coup d’états, disasters (natural phenomena and man-made), and the regrouping and cooptation of the elite class on power and wealth. A generation later, it is Noynoy’s task to continue the reform movement;
  • People Power as a reform movement is about changing institutions for the better. This means making government, the private sector, organizations, and even citizens more responsible, accountable, democratic, in other words, more ethical. By being more ethical, it is hoped that various institutions become vehicles for human and national development. Afterall, as many have noted, with freedom comes responsibility;
  • Civil society, social movement, NGOs, and the like will continue to be active amidst so much poverty, inequality, and prevailing environment of graft and corruption. Civil society is a counter force to irresponsible government and to some sectors of the elite without conscience. The candidate then that supports civil society should be supported as part of the reform movement;
  • With reform, comes the unleashing of the people’s creativity and innovation. Business and industry’s costs for doing business are reduced, thereby spurring investment and expansion. The diaspora of the best and brightest decreases and they can come home to their families and contribute to the country’s development. Reform is about moral regeneration and innovation.
  • Noynoy is the candidate of choice because he supports a reform-of-institutions movement. Questions about his program of government and competence are moot. He already has a platform of government (like the other candidates) and his reform movement bespeaks transformational leadership not transactional politics.
  • Lastly, even if he disappoints as a President, the reform movement as well as civil society will continue to prosper under his administration.

Expect Gawad Kalinga activities and like organizations to become even more active during a Noynoy Aquino presidency.

Noynoy is People Power.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Desert Pirates on the Ultimate Treasure Hunt? The annual Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Shows

Tucson 2010 gem, mineral, fossil show guide

Tucson 2010 gem, mineral, fossil show guide

The 56th Tucson Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show started last January 30, 2010 and will run until Valentines Day/Chinese New Year’s Day, February 14, 2010. Popularly known as the world’s largest treasure hunt, the Tucson show is actually composed of 44 individual shows in 42 sites scattered around Tucson, Arizona. About 4,000 to 5,000 dealers from all over the world market sell everything from gems, rough rock, minerals, meteorites, fossils, beads, handicrafts, equipment and tools among others. They use parking lots, hotel rooms, lobbies, convention centers, and even the back of their pick up trucks to sell their products.

The Tucson Show is simultaneously a show, museum tour, exhibition, market, bazaar, swap meet, convention, conference, workshop, party, fiesta, pow-wow, food-fest, and tourist destination that brings together over 50,000 unique visitors, collectors, curators, dealers, buyers, scholars, enthusiasts, tourists, students, artists, even hippies to this three-week event. It is a window to new friends and finds. Old friends also use the Show to catch up with one another.

Fossils, minerals, ammonites

An economic impact survey-assessment of the Tucson Show by FMR Associates (2007) estimated total gate attendance at 362,816 buyers, each of whom attended an average 6.6 shows. They estimated unique persons attendance at 55,056, the highest ever and 59% more than the 2000 estimated figure of 34,618 persons. Exhibitors came from 42 states of the United States and 38 countries, while buyers came from 43 different states and 24 different countries. In 1969, curator Paul Desautels of Smithsonian Institution and one of the most active supporters of the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show called it “The New York Stock Exchange of the (mineral) world”. He also added that “The price of mineral specimens for the world is more or less set at this show” (Jones 2004).

If you want to see globalization localized, the Tucson Show will make for a good study.

Since there is something for everyone, Chris Anderson’s long-tail thesis is proven here.

Prey and predator caught in a moment of time

Prey and predator caught in a moment of time

The premier event remains to be the Tucson Gem and Mineral Show (TGMS) organized by the Tucson Gem and Mineral Society. First started in 1955, this world class show occupied 181,000 sq feet at the Tucson Convention Center (TCC) this year (2007).

2010 Tucson Gem and Mineral Show cover

The FMR study (2007) noted that the Tucson Show is an economic juggernaut conservatively contributing over $100 million in direct expenditures to the local economy, up from $76.4 million in 2000. Lodging, food/beverage and in-town transportation expenditures alone amounted to $49,549,718. The estimated tax revenue from the show was $9,057,217 in local taxes paid on $90,206,326 of taxable expenditures. This is an increase of 51.2% from the year 2000 figures. In terms of likelihood of return to Tucson, majority of the majority of exhibitors (63%) and out-of-town buyers (78%) indicated that they will return and/or attend the 2008 Tucson Gem Show. These figures do not include the sales and trades made during the three week period. Further, as many of these sales are wholesale, the multiplier effect of retail sales as well as conversion into artistic pieces or jewelry for sale worldwide are not accounted in this study.

One great thing about a get together of this scope and scale are the whispers. From a dinosaur bone dealer, I heard that with stocks and bonds down and precious metals peaking, it seems minerals and fossils are an alternative investment. His sales the past two years have been growing. The same was said by a staffer of a petrified wood dealer who shipped in 1.2 million pounds of petrified wood, rocks, minerals, and other materials. He noted that their products have no “functional” value, yet their sales have been growing. I joked that art and furniture had some function!

Beauty in fossils

Beauty in fossils

Beautiful and expensive Canadian ammolite

Beautiful and expensive Canadian ammolite

A fossil dealer had his truck stolen. Fortunately, his specimens were in the hotel room. Another dealer decided to take the risk and bought a well-known area in northern California with considerable stocks of petrified wood. Some of the petrified wood being sold though in the Show comes from an area whose seller didn’t actually own the mineral rights. New finds include the beautiful chrysoverde mineral from Nevada and the Tiffany stone.

Nature sculpture

Nature sculpture

My years in Tucson have been enriched by the Tucson , Gem, and Mineral Shows. I’ve met and hosted some of the fascinating people who are into fossils, minerals, petrified wood, beads, etc. They have made me appreciate both evolution and intelligent design. Nature is beautiful, yet functional. It brings people together and connects one another through the appreciation of what is functional, unique, artistic, and natural (FUN/FAN).

Seashell, bonsai, dino bone, petrified wood, ammonite collectors/experts

Seashell, bonsai, dino bone, petrified wood, ammonite collectors/experts

I wish Filipinos can see the Tucson shows. Maybe the mining sector in the Philippines, which suffers from poor credibility and trust levels, can learn something here. Promoting the FUN/FAN aspects of minerals and fossils and making it accessible to the general public may increase understanding and awareness of the mining sector in Philippine development.

They might consider a traveling exhibit throughout the country. I know of collectors of fossils, minerals, petrified wood, seashells, etc. who may be willing to share their collections for the benefit of the Filipino youth.

Applied research for the public

Applied research for the public

Moroccan tent with fossils

Moroccan tent with fossils

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Noynoy is Five-Ten Twenty Ten

Benigno “Noynoy” Cojuangco-Aquino Jr. is currently the leading Philippine presidential candidate. He has enough qualifications to become president. Assuming we have relatively clean elections and Noynoy and his vice-presidential candidate partner, Manual “Mar” Araneta-Roxas protect their votes, both will become the country’s next president and vice-president respectively. From what I have seen, heard, and read, there seems to be three main reasons why they will win.

1. “Today we march, tomorrow we vote”- Latino slogan

Filipinos want change; change that is authentic. The presidential elections provide Filipinos, short of a civil war or a third People’s Power revolution, a chance to change the top leadership in one fell swoop. The demand from the bottom is for a top overhaul.

During the 2004 presidential elections, the opposition did not provide a credible alternative to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (PGMA). Worse, the opposition showed Filipinos how disunited and inept they were in opposing PGMA and positioning themselves as the better alternative.

NGOs and other civil society actors did no better. Instead of engaging PGMA early on during her administration, they were too intolerant of her. They abandoned her during the May 2001 EDSA Tres power grab. This singular event combined with the constant, critical, and unhelpful sniping of PGMA pushed her to engage in transactional politics. While some would say she was genetically built to engage in transactional politics eventually, I posit that these circumstances led her to do so earlier. She and her husband built their power base through patronage politics, distrust of all, and manipulation of the rest. The question is; would PGMA have been a better President if civil society engaged her the way Gawad Kalinga engages all, i.e. without judgment?

Third, one in eight Filipinos now work and live abroad. Eight million Filipinos are supporting family and the nation. They, like the middle class left behind in the Philippines, share the same angst and shame at the poverty and underdevelopment of the country. Pinoy pride is undermined by the stigma of corruption and poverty in the Philippines. While personally successful, the masses left behind and falling deeper into poverty and desperation gnaw at OFWs and the elite alike. The poor are a stark and embarrassing reminder of where we all are or where we come from. In Metro Manila alone, over 500 squatter communities share the same walls with about 1,500 gated communities.

The years during and after Marcos have been witness to an endless parade of corruption scandals and blatant display of questionable wealth and arrogant power (“wangwang” syndrome) in a sea of despair and poverty.

Thus, there is a palpable desire to wind down the PGMA era and elect a president that is not a convicted felon, under a cloud of corruption, perceived as building a political dynasty, connected to PGMA, or part of the baby boomer generation that brought us the Marcos dictatorship, made the Philippines an economic basket case, and devastated our environment all in one generation.

Who else but Noynoy?

2. Leaders leading leaders

I have written previously that Filipinos should decide on what kind of leader (a DATU?) they want. I think they have decided. A datu, contrary to popular conception, was not all about defending his territory and invading others. Rather, it was about keeping the peace and providing for all. A datu’s twin tasks were to ensure a stable economy and a peaceful environment. Because Filipinos want authentic change, the next president must be:

- A moral leader. Corruption, influence peddling, and blatant display and abuse of power have left a bad taste in the mouths of Filipinos. I do not think they will tolerate another six years of these. The next president will have to be a role model of honesty and clean living. Further, he will have to be a just leader prioritizing human rights and justice for friend and foe alike.

- A servant-leader. Filipinos are looking for a leader who has the interests of the country and the Filipino truly at heart. They want someone who will prioritize the most vulnerable in society, yet will inspire the best and brightest to achieve their goals and dreams. The next president is expected to lead the Philippines in becoming economically productive, peaceful, while creating an environment where Filipinos can progress individually and as a community-nation. Gawad Kalinga says it best with its slogan for a leader; “Una sa serbisyo, huli sa benepisyo” (first in service, last in benefits). Filipinos are tired of someone telling them to do this, follow that while the leader and his/her factotums violate the laws they are suppose to uphold, become rich while in government, and take privileges at the expense of the citizens, i.e. police escorts through traffic.

- A symbolic leader. As stated, Filipinos are in nearly all the countries of the world. Filipinos know, understand, and live what it is to be global. Yet they are ashamed at being Filipino, because the nationality is associated with the poverty of the majority and the corruption and moral decadence of the minority. More so, when the top leadership is the leading bad example. The next president for the new century and decade should be clean, credible, charismatic, and competent.

Ninoy and Cory Aquino’s lives modeled leadership based on honesty, public service, personal sacrifice, and Filipino character amidst diversity. While Cory critics fault her for not producing the economic miracle everyone hoped for, her administration is credited with institutionalizing democracy despite seven coup attempts, a bankrupt economy, and consecutive disasters. She oversaw the first orderly transition of power in over 20 years.

Nonoy is their son and is expected to carry on with this legacy. After all Filipinos are just asking to be left alone to do their own thing, not to be taken advantage of, and not to be hampered in their pursuit of progress.

3. “Welcome to the future” --Black Eyed Peas

While the rich nations of Europe, North America, Japan, and Australia are aging and experiencing falling birthrates, the Philippines has a young population and has a stable (although decreasing slightly) birthrate. The 2009 population is about 92 million. The working age population is about 59.3 million, with about 35 million employed. The voting population is estimated at between 47 to 51 million. Of this number, 54% constitute the youth voting bloc. Of the 2.6 million new voters, 80% constitute the youth voting bloc.

As pundits and the latest surveys show, the youth bloc will either go for Noynoy or Manny Villar. A generational shift is occurring vis-à-vis voters. Shouldn’t it follow that we need to drastically change the leadership as well? The present crop of presidential aspirants save for Noynoy and Gilbert Teodoro come from the generation that brought us Marcos, economic depression, human rights violations, environmental degradation, and the Filipino diaspora.

The other presidential candidates emphasize their competence and experience to lead, but they are weighed down precisely by their track record. They were already there during the Marcos regime and they were active participants in the post-Marcos era that brought us a felon for a president and a very unpopular present leader. Thus, they represent the old order.

Gilbert Teodoro, Noynoy’s contemporary and relative, is saddled by his association with PGMA and his uncle, Marcos associate Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, his active participation in the attempted impeachment of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide , the inadequate response of the National Disaster Coordinating Committee (NDCC) under his lead during Typhoon Ondoy, and the possession of Department of Defense armaments by the Ampatuan clan members.

Now is the right time for change and Noynoy above all represents this change, this generational shift.

The media has been reporting the survey results over time and I will not repeat it here. Villar is said to have spent an estimated PhP2.5 billion in ads, half a billion of which was spent during the last four months alone. The flood of ads though seem to be working because Villar improved by 12 percentage points to make the election race a tight one at the moment. Yet, he trails Noynoy in the latest survey by two percentage points. Nonoy has yet to launch his ad blitz or receive significant campaign funds from his supporters.

Do online numbers support these survey results? Similar to the Barack Obama online phenomenon, which eventually translated into votes, Noynoy does have a robust online presence. In Facebook, the leading social networking portal at present, Noynoy’s facebook page has 555,740 fans compared to Gibo Teodoro’s 94,495 fans. Villar, who reportedly has invested significantly for a big bang online presence, has 519,161 fans.

Digital videos complement television advertising. Google’s YouTube provides video access to the youth. Gilbert Teodoro was first to join YouTube in July 03, 2009. To date, he had 9,584 channel views (those who visited owner’s YouTube page), 108,206 upload views (total views of all videos uploaded), and 218 subscribers. Villar soon followed Teodoro a few weeks after and signed up on July 24, 2009. Villar has channel views of 9,154, total upload views of 58,073, and 127 subscribers. Noynoy was the last to join on October 7, 2009. He has 14,351 channel views, total upload views of 105,511, and 411 subscribers.

How important is the online Filipino to the 2010 elections? The researches of advertising firm Universal McCann's Wave 4 and InternetWorldStats on the digital Filipino indicate that there 24 million Filipinos who go online, with 84 to 86% that are part of a social network group such as Friendster, Mulitply, and Facebook. The numbers are staggering. Internet penetration in the Philippines is 21%. For Friendster, 12 million of the over 50 million subscribers are Filipino and within the 15-29 age group. Thus, over 40% of their daily traffic originates from the Philippines. For Facebook, 8.3 million users are Filipinos. For Multiply, nearly three million of the 12 million members are Filipinos accounting for 30% of its daily traffic. Interestingly, half of the two million photos uploaded are from Filipinos.

Further, 90% of Filipinos online read a blog, while 98% watch YouTube videos. A 2008 Yahoo-Nielsen internet survey research revealed that Filipino internet users blogged, were opinion makers, trend setters and/or trend conscious, and used social networking sites.

Interestingly, the internet was being accessed by lower income groups.

Apart from the internet, Filipinos connect through the ubiquitous cellphone. In the Philippines, there were 63 million cellphones in use with 2 billion text messages sent daily as of August 2009.

Thus, there are forces, social forces, mobilizing in the country. One social force seeks to maintain its status, power, and wealth from the local to national levels. The poster boy is the Ampatuan family.

Other social forces are looking at reform, renewal, good governance, a moral economy, bayanihan, among others. Civil society in terms of the Church, Gawad Kalinga, NGO workers, farmers, fishermen, artists, environmentalists, teachers, social entrepreneurs, ethical businessmen, OFWs, and so on are themselves mobilizing.

If massive voter manipulation is minimized, Noynoy will be the next president of the Philippines.

The three main reasons stated above basically show that Noynoy may be the most probable winner because the Philippine socio-economic-geopolitical context is becoming unbearable leading to the people demanding a change in national leadership. The leader being sought after is someone untainted by corruption. It is honesty and credibility in these corrupt times that will determine the next president. It is character that Filipinos are looking for in the next president.

What we have here is a confluence of events, a yearning of the Filipino people to rise above the prevailing despair and apathy, a shallow pool of presidential aspirants, a call for honesty and good governance, and the need to institute widespread societal and institutional reform.

The task and the responsibility will ultimately fall on Noynoy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Typhoons and Hazards, Risk and Society: Act of God or Act of Man?

Philippine military, a critical partner in relief operations

Philippine military, a critical partner in relief operations

Two typhoons in two weeks have made searching, recovering, and burying the bodies of over 600 people killed, missing, and presumed dead as well as providing relief goods, evacuation sites, and services to half of Luzon Island in the Philippines unenviable tasks. Typhoon Ondoy’s rainfall and the flooding it caused were the worst according to PAGASA (Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration). Floods of up to 20 feet damaged public and private property, as well as crops and incurred lost revenue. All these cost an estimated PhP15 billion. Metro Manila and 25 other provinces were placed under a state of calamity. Typhoon Parma/Pepang followed after interacting with Typhoon Melchor and slammed into northern Luzon last week causing extensive landslides, mudslides, flooding, and bridge destruction in many provinces. Hundreds were killed and extensive areas isolated.

A week after Typhoon Ondoy, Napindan, Tauguig was still flooded

A week after Typhoon Ondoy, Napindan, Tauguig was still flooded

Eighteen years ago in 1991, an estimated 5,000 people died because of mudslides, landslides, and flashfloods. In the past fifteen years, more than 4,000 been killed, over 7,000, and at least three million people rendered homeless by typhoons. Damage to private and public property and crops have soared to at least PhP70 Billion.

Of the 11 worst typhoons to hit the Philippines since 1946, seven of them have occurred in the last 25 years during the period 1984-2009. The 2009 Pacific Typhoon season is considered one of the worst in decades.

The government says it was nature that caused it- too much rain, consecutive typhoons. The newsreels and photos show otherwise. In past calamities, legally and illegally cut logs rampaged down bare mountain slopes demolishing homes, farmland, roads, and even bridges. Today, mushrooming housing subdivisions have encroached into ecologically critical wetlands or watershed areas.

The years after Marcos was overthrown was a politically tense with right-wing military rebels staging failed coup de t’ats. On the environmental front, debates on environmental conservation, protection, and rehabilitation (E-CPR) were likewise intense, specifically whether the Philippines should adopt a total or selective logging ban. Academics, forestry specialists, environmental activists, politicians, and government officials all mobilized to support one or the other side of the argument. Nearly two dozen years later the debate still rages on. Various logging ban bills, including those filed as long as 20 years ago, have languished in Congressional committees by design and neglect. In the meantime, the human, environmental, and property toll rises as 20-25 typhoons visit the Philippines yearly to exacerbate an already degraded and fragile environment.

Shanty and dumpsite in a wetland

Shanty in a wetland

Back then and up to today at times, my framework for explaining all these was the historical and socio-economic-political structure of Philippine society. Development and social justice were difficult to achieve because of the asymmetrical power distribution within socio-economic and political classes nationwide. The argument remains valid, but after so many years, the argument has acquired a taken-for-granted and reductionist perspective. Logging companies have moved out. There is a partial log ban in some areas. Rebels, secessionists, and lost commands have entered into unholy alliances with illegal loggers. Migration has increased not only to urban areas but into the uplands as well. With a nationwide 2.3% annual population growth rate, population movement into hazardous areas complicates the search for sustainable environmental and development strategies.

In these days of hazards, man-made or natural, understanding risks in its various dimensions vis-à-vis a societal context can provide a nuanced understanding of what is happening. Societal problems have decidedly political origins, but there are also system issues in organizational and institutional settings. While politics plays a significant part in these settings, recognizing and then understanding how parts of a system or institution are coupled and interact with one another in ways that are both expected and unexpected, as the sociologist Charles Perrow emphasized, is a very important perspective.

Because the concept of risk is pervasive in daily life and public discourse, leaders need to understand why the present western, industrialized societies, including those in developing countries, are considered risk societies.

Risk is commonly thought of as a potential threat or harm. Its etymology is either from the Arabic word risq (good fortune or wealth acquisition) or the Latin word risco, the term used by sailors entering unchartered, dangerous waters. Risk pervades everyday life. Awareness of and heightened interest on the concept and nature of risk are evident in various discourses in many disciplines as well as in the public and private sectors.

Accounting for a risk society is necessary because the industrialized world of the 20th century, especially its latter half, has been characterized as a century of significant and rapid socio-economic change, flux, and uncertainty. Perrow notes that a risk society basically is a preoccupation of individuals, groups, and organizations in the private and public sectors with the various risks posed by daily life within a highly coupled and interactive capitalist system. Sociologists and anthropologists have observed that transformations of political, economic, social, and even cultural institutions have had profound impacts on individual, familial, and societal concerns, i.e. changing employment patterns, gender roles, shake up of family relations and social identities, redefinition of class boundaries, rise of states, immigration, environmental issues, and so on.

The effects of globalization have yet to be fully understood as the world entered the 21st century. Nine years into the new century, geopolitics and security issues have taken center stage along with environmental degradation.

Modern society has an organizational base to it. In order for organizations to survive, it needs to be effective. Organizational effectiveness means accomplishing two objectives, namely, continued access to resources and meeting the needs and demands of multiple constituents or stakeholders. It is in the various ways of meeting these two objectives that risk and hazards arise for various parties, be they first, second, third, or fourth party “stakeholders”. Over time, changes to the organizational field or environment are brought about by transformations of political, economic, social, and even cultural institutions that have profound impacts on individual, familial, organizational, and societal concerns.

These issues of economic and social-political flux, multiculturalism, explosion of information and communication flows, environmental hazards, and security/ military concerns recognize no geopolitical, class or socio-cultural boundaries and are not easily resolved. What is significant and is especially true in the Philippines is that institutions established to provide safety nets to citizens, i.e. public policy, economic regulation, industrial relations, insurance and social security, industry, food and drug oversight agencies, media, etc., have been found wanting and maladaptive to rapidly changing conditions. As the past two weeks has shown, the government and politicians’ response have been wanting if not absent. Even its media attempts of showing government relief efforts have been rendered inept and politically opportunistic.

Media, communication and information technologies have made feasible public access to information and resources on economic, political environmental, public health, and etc. issues; which have heightened, public interest, concern, and knowledge of contentious and risk issues. With floods reaching second floor ceiling levels and cars sinking into floods, it seems that Filipinos are left to their own devices and the heroism of fellow Filipinos. In this instance, it is media that has been the source of disaster information and by extension, relief efforts management. As Luis Teodoro wrote, “in these corrupt times, credibility is everything.”

Coupled with the individuation of information and communication flows is the increasing intrusion of the market logic in organizational fields that were once not directly influenced by it. This is seen in efforts to privatize as much as possible government services such as military logistics handling, national capacity building, and possibly even social security services. In the United States, for example, radical tax reform is also being pushed to support this privatization effort, the creation of an “ownership society”, and commodification of all possible transactional relations. Non-profit organizations engaged in various social movements are expected to be even more sophisticated as they incorporate a market logic to their operations.

On the other hand, the pervasiveness of the market logic has a counterpoint to it. The development of a moral economy social movement is burgeoning in response to globalization, workplace anomie, homogenizing pressures, abuses by industry and big business, environmental degradation, etc. Different sectors of society are engaging in what the sociologist Ulrich Beck (1992) labels the “third way” of direct politics.

Although the concept of risk has a long historical development, the risk society perspective is generally attributed to German sociologist Ulrich Beck’s landmark book Risk and Society. Beck’s theses are: (a) The nature of risk has mutated over time, from one that was natural hazards-focused, to that of man-made or manufactured risks, some having catastrophic potential, (b) Industrialized nations have entered a risk society in which institutions previously established to address risks fail to do so causing systemic crises of confidence and accountability; and, (c) A risk society amplifies these uncertainties, with risk-regulating institutions being rendered ineffectual by public cynicism. Individuals are left to fend for themselves, determining what is risky, how risky, and how to address these risks. Thus, the phenomenon is individualized and called risk modernization. In effect, risk becomes even more socially constructed, both on individual and societal levels.

Many criticize Beck for not providing empirical data, his preoccupation with environmental risks (the “bads”) to the exclusion of other types of risk, his call to go beyond Marxist historical materialism and class conflicts, universalizing of risk, negation of “positive” risks, and absence of cross-cultural comparisons, among others. Nevertheless, his thesis has engendered public risk consciousness and concern with man-made risks, discussion on the individualization of risk, heightened scrutiny of risk-regulating institutions, and mobilized political action.

A risk society is one that has or is becoming conscious of: (a) the need to determine the extent of interdependence, coupling, and interactiveness of these further evolving economic, political, social, and cultural systems, (b) the power, legitimacy, and urgency attributes of these systems, and, (c) whether or not and how relevant stakeholders will mobilize to address specific risks. Managers who appreciate the sociocultural dimensions of risk as discussed above are in a position to better identify, comprehend, and attend to the issues of power, legitimacy, urgency, and mobilization in relation to stakeholders and within the context of a changing social, cultural, political, economic and legal landscape.

Understanding risk in its many dimensions inevitably leads to an assessment of power relationships on individual and systemic levels according to Perrow. Modern manufactured risks are both visible and non-visible, especially for the physics, chemistry, and biological-genetic fields, and are primarily based on industrial overproduction. Economic activities concerned with maximizing profit and resource use tend to take more production and operations risks. Significantly, these man-made risks are temporally distributed across society, where in some cases, parties that do not have a direct influence on the proponent-firm carry the largest risk, i.e. border communities being asked to recycle industrial wastes or in the Philippine case, residential villages in hazardous areas.

Stakeholders are not static entities doomed to fear, inaction, and extreme skepticism of risk-regulating institutions. Researchers, in contrast to Beck and Giddens, have noted that risk management has agency. By agency, individuals and groups seek information and knowledge about the current situation and risks. They then act on these risks based on information gathered from family, friends, colleagues, media, the Web, and a multitude other sources. People and communities display resilience in the face of risks, hazards, and “normal accidents”, accidents which are inevitable because of the operation’s tight coupling, high interactiveness, and little room for flexibility.

Beck normatively calls for “subpolitics” or direct, individual action from below to address both global and local (the “glocal”) issues, by-passing discredited representative and responsible institutions, to eventually shape society. The struggle against genetically modified (GM) food, the mad cow (BSE) disease crisis, nuclear and biological weapons, the problems of the nuclear industry, the war of terrorism, the efforts on global warming and others show agency on the part of various stakeholders on “glocal” issues, which originate from business and industry.

What does this mean for the Philippines?

The typhoons and the responses of the individuals and institutions were revealing. Government and politicians, including presidentiables, were exposed as to their incompetence, ineptness, unpreparedness, and callous politicking in what the PCIJ wrote as the politics of relief. In contrast, civil society has stepped up and sought to fill in the gap of government. The exception is the Philippine military. Gawad Kalinga for example, distributed over 200,000 food packs in 10 days of relief work. Over 6,000 volunteers helped them. GK’s Gawad Kalusugan or health program team also conducted medical missions. Three important aspects surface from GK’s relief effort.

6,000 food bags and 15 military trucks to Taytay, Rizal

6,000 food bags and 15 military trucks to Taytay, Rizal

First is that GK had on the ground information from its 400 villages in Metro Manila. Through text messages, phone calls, and even social networking sites such as Facebook, timely and critical information was transmitted. This enabled GK to organize and tailor-fit relief efforts.

Second, GK beneficiaries in these villages, because of their social transformation, community empowerment and solidarity, and relative safety of their homes, were able to be the first on-the-ground rescue and relief volunteers. GK’s Tony Meloto writes of numerous and first stories of heroism by GK beneficiaries, now heroes.

Third, GK was able to effectively mass mobilize individual and institutional volunteers. Six thousand registered volunteers and scores of unregistered ones, dozens of corporations, and donors from abroad enabled GK to collect and repack the over 200,000 food packs. Andok’s Sandy Javier alone donated 90,000 chicken eggs and was bowled over by the organizational efficiency of GK’s relief efforts. GK’s Tony Meloto recounted that 50 homes in a plush Ayala village opened their kitchens and commenced food preparations for typhoon victims. “Walang Iwanan” (No is left behind) became a rallying cry of GK volunteers and supporters who felt they needed to mobilize when government help was inadequate or too slow.

Gawad Kalinga and the military partner up to help Ondoy victims

Gawad Kalinga and the military partner up to help Ondoy victims

The power and potential of GK’s emphasis on community-based development and organizing has borne fruit amidst some of the crumbling institutions of Philippine society.

Importantly, GK was able to coordinate and act in unison with the Philippine military. All branches of the military provided the necessary security and trucks to brave both the floodwaters and sea of humanity desperate for food, water, medical help, clothing, and encouragement. GK penetrated areas in Rizal, Pasig, Marikina, and Taguig that were inaccessible and dangerous because of the Philippine military.

I think that the Philippine military’s partnership with civil society, notably Gawad Kalinga, Red Cross, and ABS-CBN, among others has restored to a significant degree its credibility and reliability. The soldiers were strong, patient, and disciplined. They not only lent an air of security to the numerous relief volunteers, but including those who needed help.

With regards to the environmental situation in the Philippines, a few weeks prior to the typhoons, Manila hosted the Asian ministerial meetings on climate change that resulted in the Manila Declaration. What was clear from that conference attended by over 600 participants was that the effects of climate change do not recognize borders or social class. Depressingly, while the industrialized world caused much of the global warming, it is the developing world, including the Philippines, which will reap the consequences. Further, Asia is being forced to leapfrog into a cleaner production AND address the poverty gap at the same time, which no country has done on a massive scale. It will take the best brains and the shared resources between rich and poor countries to achieve this.

Third, who will suffer indicates vulnerability. Who is vulnerable in this age of risk and hazards? While the typhoons showed that rich and poor were affected, it is still the poor that are the most vulnerable. They have neither the resources nor network to avoid hazardous areas, access timely and relevant information, and after the disaster has struck, rebuild and move on. Poverty is not only the lack of resources; it is the lack of options and choices. They suffer from the quadruple whammy of poverty, social inequity, poor governance, and the external shocks of environmental degradation and calamities. They are caught between their flooded shanty and a rampaging swollen river, with only their wits and determination to survive guiding them.

Choose your boat

Choose your boat

The great ship that is Metro Manila is leaking. The leaks are caused by unsustainable urbanization patterns of a fast population growth rate, environmental degradation, unequal power and income, lack of access to suitable and unaffordable housing, lack of fair wages and employment opportunities.

Disasters of a calamitous nature have a social underbelly.

The question is how will you act?

Walang Iwanan. Ano ang taya mo?

Walang Iwanan! Ano ang Taya Mo?

Walang Iwanan! Ano ang Taya Mo?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

President: Servant-leader or Warrior-Datu? (On Noynoy Aquino as President)

President: Servant-leader or Warrior-Datu?

The debate over whether Benigno “Noynoy” Cojuangco-Aquino Jr. is of presidential timber or not is also a debate on what kind of president we want for the Philippines.

Do we want a strong arm, macho leader of the “Datu” mold? In pre-Spanish colonial Philippines, a datu was a warrior who led his clan or village into battle, either in defense or in raiding other villages. In between battles, he would ensure that his people would have enough land, fishing grounds, and hunting areas to feed themselves and reproduce socially. Thus, a datu kept his people secure; kept them full; and kept the peace.

Since the advent of American-style democratic politics, Philippine presidents have always been from the elite class. They were educated or were exposed to elite culture. They were well-off and well connected. They projected an aura of strength, vigor, courage, decisiveness, and breeding (however you define these terms). Besides, they had the resources to build up a private army if political violence was necessary. They kept their constituents happy with largesse.

Picture Datu Rajah Sulayman confronting the Spanish colonizers or an Erap eating lechon at Camp Abubakar.

However, a reading of leadership from the masses’ point of view reveals that their leader had not only Datu-qualities, but more. I’ve written before that in the Philippines, there is actually a strong culture of servant-leadership. Scholars like V. Enriquez, K. de Guia, R. Ileto, V. Rafael, M. Ramirez, among others, write of leaders that were effective because they led by serving others—like Christ. The Gawad Kalinga social movement easily comes into mind.

Tony Meloto's Builder of Dreams

Tony Meloto's Builder of Dreams

In humility, in service, in providing a deep wellspring of empathy, understanding, healing of self and other, and commitment to the welfare of others, these servant-leaders developed a flock of loyal, committed, ardent, and energized followers. Embodied in the Filipino term, Kapwa, the servant-leader recognizes that Filipino personhood of self is bound up and shared with the OTHER. This is the basis for bayani, bayanihan, bayan- hero, community solidarity, nation.

In Philippine historiography, social movement leaders were infused with kapwa and its characteristics of caring, sharing, a sense of community, family, “an expanded sense of shared humanity” or kagandahang loob, katwiran (straightness), kalayaan (freedom, independence, and free will), talinhaga (imagery and vision), and lakaran (pilgrimage, sometimes for a cause).

Combined with values that are societal in nature such as karangalan (dignity), katarungan (justice), and kalayaan (freedom), these enabled a leader to mobilize, organize, and act. The results were not always favorable, but the country is not short of revolutionary heroes.

Funeral cortege for Pres. Cory Aquino in Makati City

Funeral cortege for Pres. Cory Aquino in Makati City

What makes Noynoy a compelling presidential candidate is not that he is the only son of two national heroes of the Philippines who are well loved. Nelson Mandela was said to quote though to Noynoy; “So you are the son. You know how to choose your parents.” If inheritance of the Aquino mantle was the norm, then Kris Aquino, the most high profile of the Aquino siblings; possibly the richest; and the most charismatic would be the logical choice. Nevertheless, she is not acceptable at present.

Noynoy’s eulogy of his mother to his speech during the book launch of Tony Meloto’s “A Builder of Dreams” a few days ago shows not a Datu-leader, but a potential servant leader. He speaks from the heart. He is articulate. He can communicate with all sorts of folks. His low profile and humble persona is actually appealing to many of us fed up with the macho ineptness of our politicians. He is well read, well exposed, and experienced. Afterall, military rebels tried to kill him.

Noynoy Aquino speaking at the book launch of Tony Meloto's Builder of Dreams

Noynoy Aquino speaking at the book launch of Tony Meloto's Builder of Dreams

What the country needs is a servant-leader that will let Filipinos be the best they can be. That means giving Filipinos the space, the level playing field, the dignity, and minimally, the resources to develop themselves and thereafter, the country. Filipinos are not stupid. They are survivors. They can adapt. They are innovative and creative. All they need is a political and economic space defined by meritocracy and honesty.

Can a datu-president provide this or should it be a servant-leader?

I say that Noynoy is potentially a servant-leader. I would encourage him to go on his personal lakaran (pilgrimage) to determine how he would become an effective, efficient, servant-leader, and president of the Philippines.

Develop a discipline of deep prayer and meditation.

Go on a nationwide listening and consultative tour with both leaders and the masa.

Consult with the best and brightest, but forge your own vision of what the country should be.

Learn the successes, difficulties, potentials, and dangers of social movements like Gawad Kalinga. Afterall, your campaign will be waged on a social movement platform similar to that of Barack Obama.

Marj D., a Gawad Kalinga worker, described it best when she said Noynoy running and possibly winning is “palpable.” I agree. Social movements, which Ninoy and Cory Aquino recognized as part and parcel of resistance and eventually People Power, form the basis of a strong civil society. Gawad Kalinga’s social movement of servant-leadership infused with heroism is a model that Noynoy Aquino can easily relate to. Afterall, his mother once said that “People Power is Gawad Kalinga and Gawad Kalinga is People Power.”

Noynoy running changes the tone of the elections. Will it still be guns, goons, gold, and girls? Or, will it be bayani, bayanihan, at bayan?

As the founder of the servant-leadership school of thought in the U.S., Robert Greenleaf wrote;
“THIS IS MY THESIS: caring for persons, the more able and the less able serving each other, is the rock upon which a good society is built. Whereas, recently, caring was largely person to person, now most of it is mediated through institutions—often large, complex, powerful, impersonal; not always competent; sometimes corrupt. If a better society is to be built, one that is more just and more loving, one that provides greater creative opportunity for its people, then the most open course is to raise both capacity to serve and the very performance as servant of existing major institutions by new regenerative forces operating within them.”

Monday, May 25, 2009

All 85 GK: Ito mismo ang taya ng 85ers

All 85ers from various schools.  Photo by Tonette Mendoza

All 85ers from various schools. Photo by Tonette Mendoza

The late U.S. President John F. Kennedy once said that, “One person can make a difference and every person should try.” But why struggle alone when you can achieve your dreams as a group or as a team? Thus, the eminent anthropologist Margaret Mead’s famous quote appeals more to me. She said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Mead was proven correct last Saturday, 23 May 2009, when the All 85 Gawad Kalinga Village broke ground at Sitio Pajo, Bgy. Baesa, Quezon City. Participating member schools of high school Batch 85 pledged to fund 26 homes for the residents thereat. As long-time informal dwellers on land that was not theirs, they organized themselves and sought the help of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the QC local government to purchase the land they were squatting on. It took years, but working together, they finally gained ownership of the land.

Homes at Sitio Pajo, Bgy. Baesa, Quezon City

Homes at Sitio Pajo, Bgy. Baesa, Quezon City

Sitio Pajo is a high-density slum with narrow streets, poor drainage, lack of access to basic services, and a high risk fire area. It borders middle class exclusive villages including the nearby Quezon City General Hospital. Last February 25, 2009, about 195 families were affected by a liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) explosion that ignited a fire. About 99 families completely lost their homes. It was the second fire that occurred in Bgy. Baesa within the last 12 months. It looked hopeless to many residents burdened by poverty and disaster, but their indomitable spirit and Gawad Kalinga provided hope for a new beginning.

Homes by whatever means and materials

Homes by whatever means and materials

Gawad Kalinga is the path breaking faith-based movement on community development and nation-building seeking to build 700,000 homes in 7,000 communities in seven years. It has been helping the residents of Sitio Pajo build not only new, brightly colored and to-code homes, but also meaningful lives through community solidarity and empowerment. With dedicated Couples for Christ (CFC) caretaker-volunteers and the generous support of Colgate-Palmolive Corp. and their employees, both active and retired, they’re transforming this former slum area into a community filled with “Bright Smiles.” All 85 GK will now follow what Colgate started.

Sitio Pajo community leaders

Sitio Pajo community leaders

For All 85, it can’t be a more fulfilling moment from that day in July 2008 when a few of us were toying with the idea of making our 25th anniversary high school homecoming celebration a more meaningful one. After all, how many parties and dinners can you have to celebrate one’s homecoming? We wondered how we could align our respective homecoming celebrations to that of giving back to our communities and to our country in a way that modeled solidarity or bayanihan.

Bagong bahay, bagong buhay, bagong bayan

Bagong bahay, bagong buhay, bagong bayan

Our inspiration was Gawad Kalinga. Gawad Kalinga enabled us to work as one united Batch 85. The Gawad Kalinga movement and its activities have always modeled audacious goals, persistence based on faith, and padugo—bleeding for the cause and modeling heroic action of loving the poor. GK espoused unity of the family, of the community, and of the nation.

It took eight months to get to here. Each school representative had to convince their own batchmates that sponsoring an All 85 GK Village on top of the respective batch’s commitment to their alma mater, their school’s chosen civic project, and their own homecoming activities and expenses still made sense and were feasible. Each school sought to commit at least one home, ideally two.

The next hurdle was the time commitment. All had to get to know one another and to align each other batch’s capacities, capabilities, and constraints in order to get the village going. Despite work, family, and other responsibilities, the monthly meetings were well attended. ANCOP-GK’s Rose Cabrera, Batch 85 of St. Therese College and her husband, Bong, Lourdes 85, were able to get Tony Meloto and Dylan Wilk to meet and inspire the group. Rose was also able to arrange for monthly All 85 GK activities in different GK villages as a way to familiarize All 85ers with the GK work and the “GK Way” of doing community development and nation building.

GK All 85 groundbreaking. Photo by Cindy Solano Medina

GK All 85 groundbreaking. Photo by Cindy Solano Medina

Apparently, the meetings, talks, and activities were transformational. Assumption’s Emily M.-Y. and Judy C. got things started with Assumption 85’s full commitment to All 85. Emily also got some sizable pledges. A get together of Maryknoll 85ers in the United States led to enough donations for one home. John-John T. of La Salle Zobel, according to CSA’s Nilo T., thought it was just a matter of raising funds for the village. But visiting the GK villages, talking and meeting with GK residents, and helping in community builds have transformed him. John-John has willingly taken on the leadership role along for All 85 and his leadership has been inspirational.

All 85 at GK Bagong Silang. Photo by Marivic Poblador-Pineda

All 85 at GK Bagong Silang. Photo by Marivic Poblador-Pineda

The transformational aspect of GK was also not lost on someone who wrote:

“I’ve always heard about GK but never had the opportunity to visit GK sites or to learn about the true spirit of GK. As you know, anyone who graduated in high school in 1985 is about to celebrate their ‘25th year’ and the village we could build would be in tribute to our 25th year. But this is not all that GK ALL’85 will accomplish. It was an eye opener, to say the least, to actually visit a GK community. Learning that GK is not just about donating funds gave me a perspective on what the ‘big picture’ really is. GK is about community building. It is about bringing our high school graduating class and other batch ‘85 alumni together. We can help build a community by donating not only our funds but our time and our talent/skills…”

Working together works!  Photo by Tonette Mendoza

Working together works! Photo by Tonette Mendoza

It does help that many school representatives knew one another from high school or from college. A number went to University of the Philippines (U.P.) Diliman so it was natural to leverage the U.P. network. In U.P., there was also a corner nook called A.S. 101 where 85ers hung out and friendships were made. Thus, it was easy for those hanging out there, or in the A.S. lobby, or were part of the various UP organizations and clubs to get together in All 85.

Marriage was also a key network link. A number of 85ers from different high schools are married to one another. Couple Raul and Celine P., Ateneo 85 and STC 85 respectively, were not aware of All 85 GK, but met up with Rose Cabrera to discuss donating a home to GK. This serendipitous moment worked well for All 85. CFC is another awesome link with Assumption’s Emily M.-Y., Rose C., Povedan 85er Marivic P.-P. as members and All 85 movers. They even got a fellow CFCer and non-85er to contribute to the All 85 GK village!

We're also not complaining that QC Vice-Mayor Herbert Bautista along with his fellow batchmate Ricky H., are both of San Beda 85. San Beda is coming in with a vegetable gardening program with the QC government and a home.

All 85 GK nation builders!

All 85 GK is composed of the following schools: Assumption, Ateneo, Colegio San Agustin, Immaculate Conception Academy, La Salle Zobel, La Salle Greenhills, Lourdes, Philippine Science High School, Poveda Learning Center, Maryknoll, Xavier, San Beda, School of the Holy Spirit, St. Paul’s Pasig, St. Therese College, Southridge, and Woodrose. We welcome the participation of other schools and hope they will eventually join us.

Nation building means building strong and empowered communities. The residents of Sitio Pajo have shown us that despite all their adversities they continue to work for a life of dignity. We can reciprocate. Like them we can work together. We model solidarity and bayanihan by working as a united Batch 85 in improving the lives of our less fortunate brothers and sisters.

As the Dalai Lama noted, “It is not enough to be compassionate – you must act.” All 85 GK is our little contribution to the GK Way of rediscovering our roots, empowering people, and inspiring change.

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