Monthly Archives: June 2007

Kuya huwag po, huwag po

There are 2.5 million domestic workers in the country, 1 million of which are children. While most employers are fair, respectful and caring, we cannot deny that there are also abusive employers. Domestic helpers rank among the most neglected workers in the informal economy.

The Philippines is the first country in the world to observe a special day for domestic workers after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Proclamation 1051 last year which set aside April 30th as a special day to honor and give recognition to millions of kasambahay. But this is not enough. The welfare and working conditions of domestic workers must be improved by enacting a law which will address these concerns

Since 1996, various groups have lobbied for the passage of Batas Kasambahay. The clamor has not subsided but Congress has always failed to approve this bill. Among the supporters of the bill are the International Labour Organization, big business groups, DOLE, UNICEF, religious networks, trade unions and various NGOs. Will the 14th Congress finally find political will and sincerity to prioritize Batas Kasambahay? I hope so.

Employers need not worry that the bill, once enacted into law, will disrupt domestic relations. It does not prescribe unreasonable rights and demands. For example, the bill will increase the minimum wage of domestic workers. Right now, the Labor Code stipulates it is legal if a Metro Manila employer will pay only P800 to a kasambahay. The bill will raise the minimum wage to P2,000-3,000. It’s just the average monthly salary in Metro Manila these days.

The bill will also redefine ‘household helper’ to prevent abuse of women. According to the Labor Code, a household service is defined as “services usually necessary or desirable for the maintenance and enjoyment of employers and includes the ministering to the personal comfort and convenience of the members of the employer’s household.” This definition encourages some employers to treat domestic workers as personal servants with unlimited chores or worse, as sexual slaves. The new meaning will use the phrase “normal household chores.”

Batas Kasambahay will guarantee the rights of domestic workers to social protection benefits such as SSS and Philhealth, adoption of formal contract between employer-employee, impose a mandatory registration of domestic workers and introduce minimum hours of rest instead of maximum hours of work. Employers are also asked to grant 13th month pay, vacation leave and privacy to domestic workers. The bill affirms the universal rights of kasambahays such as right against involuntary servitude, debt bondage and trafficking, right to just and humane treatment, right to access educational opportunities, right to self-organization and right to redress grievance.

Batas Kasambahay will increase penalties contained in the Labor Code to deter domestic abuse, especially the maltreatment of children. The campaign against women and child trafficking will be boosted with the passage of this bill. Child labor will be prohibited.

It is noteworthy to mention that many local government units have already passed ordinances detailing programs for the protection of domestic workers. These include Quezon City, Bacolod, Makati and Iloilo. The proposed legislative measure will harmonize local laws related to household service. It will complement international agreements on protection of children, women and informal workers.

Why can’t Congress recognize the urgency and nobility of legislating minimum protection for domestic workers? We always decry the abuses committed against Filipina domestic helpers working in other countries. But we seem indifferent to the plight of local household workers. We refuse to condemn the exploitation of women, including children.

Domestic workers have valuable contributions to the economy. They make it possible for employers to work elsewhere and earn money while they manage household chores and make sure that the children are loved and pampered. The least we can do is to make sure their rights are recognized by the State.

Related entries:

Nannies in HK.
Congress goes back to work

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Rebyu – Mula tore patungong palengke: Neoliberal education in the Philippines (IBON Books, Contend)

New pictures in my photoblog.

Kamakailan lamang ay naging banner headline ng Inquirer ang krisis sa edukasyon. Sa katunayan ang headline mismo ay ‘Education crisis deepens.’ Mukhang nagkakaisa naman ang lahat, opisyal man ng pamahalaan, guro o mag-aaral, na may problema sa ating edukasyon. Kulang ng klasrum. Bulok na pasilidad. Kapos ang badyet. Pero hindi natutukoy ang ugat ng krisis. Walang kritikal na pagsusuri sa mga patakaran ng pamahalaan. Ginagamit ang diskurso ng ‘krisis sa edukasyon’ upang magpatupad ng mga nakakabahalang reporma sa mga eskuwelahan.

Minsang tinukoy ni Bro. Andrew Gonzales, dating Kalihim ng DepEd, na lubhang napakaraming pananaliksik hinggil sa sektor ng edukasyon. Maaaring wasto. Pero sino ang nagpondo ng mga pag-aaral na ito? Anong teoretikal na pamantayan ang ginamit nila? Bawat administrasyon ay may sarbey na ginagawa sa edukasyon (PCSPE ni Marcos, Edcom ni Aquino, Philippines 2000 ni Ramos, PCER ni Estrada, at gustong gawing Enchanted Kingdom ni GMA ang Pilipinas), at lagi itong may kasunod na pagbabalasa sa sistemang edukasyon ng bansa.

Isang kalakasan ng librong pinag-uusapan natin ngayon ay ang pagbibigay ng halaga sa kasaysayan ng neokolonyal na edukasyon sa bansa. Higit nating mauunawaan ang krisis sa edukasyon kung masusi nating pag-aaralan ang pag-inog ng mga pulisiya ng pamahalaan na pawang dikta o tumutugon sa partikular na pangangailangan ng mga dayuhan.

Napapanahon ang librong ito. Ang mga sanaysay dito ay mag-aarmas sa mga mag-aaral ng teoretikal na sandata upang hamunin ang mga patakaran ng pamahalaan. (Halimbawa: ingles bilang wikang panturo at pagkaltas ng badyet sa mga pampublikong pamantasan). Ipinapakita sa libro na ang idinudulot ng mga neoliberal na reporma sa edukasyon ay mas mababang kalidad ng karunungan, higit na komersyalisasyon at komodipikasyon at kawalan ng kabuluhan ng edukasyon upang maging mabisang angkla sa pag-unlad ng bansa.

Nitong nakaraang eleksiyon, panukala ni Senador Ed Angara ang pagrerebyu ng mga rekomendasyon ng Edcom noong 1991. Wasto itong panukala. Dapat ang librong ito ang maging gabay ng mga susunod na pag-aaral o ebalwasyon hinggil sa sistema ng edukasyon.

Dapat maging bahagi ng kurikulum sa kolehiyo, lalo na sa Kolehiyo ng Edukasyon, ang pag-aaral sa neoliberal na reporma sa edukasyon. Bigyan natin ng kopya ang mga think-tank ng Kongreso upang makita nila ang kasamaang dinudulot ng kanilang mga payo sa ating mga mambabatas.

Magagamit ang librong ito upang higit na makilatis ang mga binabandilang programa ng pamahalaan at mga inisyatiba ng pribadong sektor sa edukasyon. (Halimbawa: programa ng TESDA para sa vocational education, paglobo ng nursing education, epekto ng GATS, cyber education ng DepEd, at alternative system of education kung saan pinagbibidahan ni Manny Pacquiao.) Sa mga susunod na case study, mainam na matukoy naman natin ang epekto ng neoliberal na patakaran sa iba pang pampublikong pamantasan, lalo na ang mga community college. Higit silang pinagkakaitan ng pondo at higit na mabilis ang pagpapatupad ng mga neoliberal na reporma. Matagal nang nagtaas ng matrikula sa ibang pampublikong pamantasan; matagal nang may kolaborasyon ang malalaking korporasyon sa ibang eskuwelahan.

Halos linggo-linggo ay may mga balita tungkol sa reklamo ng mga negosyante sa mababang kalidad ng edukasyon. Kahit sila nababahala sa krisis. Tuntungan nila ito upang maghain ng mga neoliberal na reporma. Kailangan daw pag-isahin ang eskuwelahan at negosyo. Kailangan daw ng mas malaking papel ang pribadong sektor sa edukasyon.

Kailangang sagutin ang neoliberal na opensiba sa edukasyon. Kailangan nating magbalangkas ng mga repormang tutugon sa pangangailangan ng mas nakakarami. Binigyan tayo ng ideya sa librong ito kung anong tipo ng transformative education ang kailangang ipatupad. Pero hindi pa ito lubos. Sa sususod na aklat, bigyan naman natin ng puwang ang mga radikal na solusyon upang maging realidad ang sinasabi nating makamasa, siyentipiko at makabayang edukasyon.

Simple lamang ang mensahe ng libro: Ang problema ay hindi ang bobong guro, tamad na estudyante, at mga kabataang hindi marunong mag-ingles. Ang problema ay, bukod kay Gloria Arroyo, ang neoliberal na patakaran sa edukasyon.

Sana kung paano nagamit ng mga mag-aaral ang maikling sanaysay ni Renato Constantino (The Miseducation of the Filipino people) upang himay-himayin ang neokolonyal na edukasyon noon ay magamit din ang librong ito upang lubos nating makita ang kabulukan ng neoliberal na edukasyon sa bansa sa kasalukuyan.

Related entries:

Silang mga nasa komunidad.
Private or public education
Tragedy of the year

13 going 14

Congressman Butz Aquino once remarked that the best argument against shifting to a parliamentary form of government is the 13th Congress itself. During his valedictory speech, Senator and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim could not hide his disappointment with the pace and style of work in the senate. These were sentiments echoed by members of 13th Congress. These were funny but piercing judgements on our legislature.

But the public has another indicator to assess the performance of Congress. Indeed, history will give the ultimate verdict. Right now, we can review the number and quality of bills and laws Congress deliberated for the past three years.

An initial study done by the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD) revealed the following information:

At the House of Representatives, 6,115 bills were filed. Those pending in the committees reached 3,883. Bills approved after third reading were 787. In the Senate, 2,619 bills were filed while only 22 made it to the plenary after passing the 3rd reading. Of the bills approved by both Houses, only 88 were enacted into law. There are 64 pending bills waiting for President Gloria Arroyo’s signature.

Congress succeeded in enacting 46 national laws and 42 local laws (like changing the name of streets, schools and public parks). What type of national laws did Congress pass: 4 granting citizenship, 11 granting franchises, 4 laws on government fiscal reforms which included the VAT amendments (Senator and soon to be private citizen Ralph Recto will not forget this law), 4 national budget and 3 electoral reforms. Other notable laws include the Juvenile Justice System, abolishing death penalty, Biofuels Act, SPAV Amendatory Act, BCDA Amendments and Human Security Act.

The PLCPD noted that the 13th Congress did not produce a remarkable number of ‘human development’ laws. It’s not really surprising. The history of Congress shows that it has always been averse in prioritizing legislative measures that will contradict the welfare of the ruling elite which dominate every Congress.

What about the prospects of the 14th Congress. Will it be any different in terms of the quality of laws it will endeavour to pass?

We know much about the high profile Opposition-dominated Senate. Let’s talk about the Lower House. There are 106 first termers (107 dapat, bitter, bitter, hehe). This figure is remarkably high. The 13th Congress only had 71 first termers. Some would view this as proof that voters prefer younger and new breed of leaders. Some would think the first termers are more open to progressive ideas. But we may ask: how many of these first termers are sons, wives and relatives of retiring third termers? Will they give up pork barrel? Will they support an anti-dynasty bill? Will they revive charter change? Will they push for higher minimum wage law? We will know next month.

As expected, majority of House members are from Lakas and Kampi. The Nationalist Peoples’ Coalition is third biggest political party followed by Liberal Party. The party list bloc is now different with fewer left-leaning representatives and higher number of ‘religious’ representatives. Out of 113 returning lawmakers, 82 voted against the impeachment complaint and 22 were major sponsors of the controversial ‘Con-ass’.

Prominent local government officials are now members of Congress like Antonio Kho (Masbate), Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (Ilocos Norte), Al Francis Bicharra (Albay), Jose Yap (Tarlac), Pablo Garcia (Cebu), Carmencita Reyes (Marinduque) and Neptali “Boyet” Gonzales II (Mandaluyong). Will their ‘local’ expertise energize the 14th Congress? Or will there be another disappointed ‘Duterte’ who will wish to vacate his seat in Congress?

It’s not yet clear who will emerge as Senate President. Former President Joseph Estrada will play a crucial role in deciding the top senate post. He has endeared himself to many incoming senators, especially the younger ones. In the Lower House, President Arroyo’s vote is the most important in choosing the next Speaker. But I believe Speaker Jose De Venecia will retain his old post. After all, isn’t he the master genius of compromise politics? I expect him to strike a win-win deal with Kampi officials. Many doubted whether Speaker De Venecia would win in the recent elections but he still emerged victorious in the end.

The Senate will be full of grandstanding members who are eyeing the presidency in 2010. The Lower House is still populated by (younger) traditional politicians who are affiliated with the Administration. The Senate is expected to assert its independence, and in fact it will challenge various policies of the President. But what about the Lower House? Will it remain a rubber stamp of Malacanang?

Related entries

Interview with vampires.
Sons and politicians
Con-ass moments

Tayo, Kabataan

The English language debate in the Philippines, my blog entry for Global Voices. I’ve added new blogs in the Mongster Link section.

Speech delivered during the thanksgiving assembly of Kabataan Partylist….

Maalab na pagbati sa lahat, mga kasama sa Kabataan Partylist, mga kaibigang organisasyon at sa lahat ng mga nagtiwala at patuloy na nagtitiwala sa kakayanan ng kabataang Pilipino. Sa lahat ng naninindigan para sa pagbabago, sa inyong lahat na kinikilala bilang pag-asa ng ating bayan, magandang hapon po at mabuhay kayo.

Ginugunita natin sa araw na ito ang anibersaryo ng kapanganakan ng ating pambansang bayani, si Dr. Jose Rizal. Ipinagdiriwang din natin ang ikaanim na anibersaryo ng pagkakatatag ng Kabataan Partylist. Noong 2001, ilang indibidwal lamang ang nagtipon at nagkaisa na buuin ang isang partido pulitikal ng mga kabataan na tuwirang lalahok sa pambansang eleksiyon. Ngayon, nais kong ibalita sa inyo na malayo, malawak at masaklaw na ang inaabot ng ating partido. Libu-libong kabataan ang miyembro natin mula Luzon hanggang Mindanao. Ang ating partido ang pinakamalakas na grupo ng mga kabataan sa kasalukuyan.

Ang araw na ito ay tinakda natin para magpasalamat sa lahat ng mga tumulong at sumuporta sa Kabataan Partylist noong nakaraang halalan. Tayo ay nagtitipon para balikan ang ating mga nagawa nitong taon, tukuyin ang ating mga tagumpay at magkaisa para sa mga hamong ating tutupdin sa mga susunod na araw.

Natutuwa akong makita muli ang ating mga organisador, mga lider mula sa iba’t ibang paaralan at mga masisipag na miyembro ng Kabataan Partylist.

Kapiling natin sa araw na ito ang mga tagapagtatag na organisasyon ng ating partido….

Ngayon naman po, hinihiling ko ang ilang sandaling katahimikan para sa mga kabataang martir na biktima ng terorismo ng estado.

Bigyan natin ng pagpupugay ang mga kabataang martir, tayo po ay pumalakpak at ipakita’t iparinig natin ang ating patuloy na paglaban para sa katarungan, katotohanan at karapatan.

Resulta ng halalan

Ayon sa datos ng Comelec, apat na COCs na lamang ang di nabibilang. Ang nakuhang boto ng Kabataan ay umabot sa 225,062 o 1.51 bahagdan ng boto para sa partylist. Ibig sabihin, hindi makakaupo sa Kongreso ang Kabataan Partylist.

Para sa marami, at maaaring para din sa iba sa inyo, ito ay nangangahulugan ng pagkabigo ng kabataan. Ito ay tumpak. Pero hindi dapat ganito kapayak ang ating husga sa ating nakamit noong nakaraang eleksiyon. Huwag natin ipagkamali na ang mga numerong ito ang susuma ng ginawa nating makabuluhang ambag sa lipunan. Hindi kayang maliitin ng mga numerong ito ang matagumpay na mensahe na pinaabot ng Kabataan Partylist sa buong bansa.

Malikhaing pangangampanya

Huwag nating kalimutan ang tatlong buwang pangangampanya ng kabataan. Marumi, marahas at mabangis ang halalan pero pinatunayan natin na pwedeng mangampanya nang hindi sasandig sa guns, goons, gold, garci and gloria. Kinatangian ng pagiging malikhain, tapat, malinis, makabuluhan at disente ang kampanyang nilunsad ng Kabataan Partylist.

Si Isko, ang ating maskot ay patok na patok sa masa. Pinagkaguluhan sa mga esluwelahan at komunidad si Isko. Mas sikat pa nga siya kaysa sa amin na mga nominado.

Ang ating makulay na Kabataan Bus ay nalibot ang kalakhan ng Luzon, lalo na dito sa Metro Manila. Ito ay tinampok din sa isang TV show sa Singapore. Kahit laging nasisira, at kailangang itulak para umandar, at palaging nawawalan ng gas dahil wala tayong pera, sinuyod ng Kabataan Bus ang napakaraming lugar para itanghal ang mensahe ng kabataang Pilipino para sa pagbabago.

Sa ating mga road trip at motorcade, nagtulung-tulong ang mga kabataan para mailarga ang pangangampanya sa mga komunidad. Gumamit tayo ng jeep, tricycle, pedicab, motorsiklo at mga hiniram na mini-truck.

Nagsagawa tayo ng mga masasayang konsiyerto na dinaluhan ng maraming kabataan. Tumugtog ang mga miyembro natin pati mga kaibigang lokal na banda. May sumayaw, kumanta, tumula at mayroon ding nagwala. Nagfashion show tayo para higit na patunayan ang ating malikhaing diwa.

Tinipon natin ang mga kabataan. Nagforum sa mga eskuwelahan, Nagkonsultahang kabataan sa mga komunidad. Nag house to house, org to org, bus to bus, mall to mall, bar to bar, market to market. Higit sa lahat, nakipamuhay tayo sa masa.

Gumawa tayo ng mga awitin at jingle. Bawat rehiyon ay may kanya-kanyang pinasikat na slogan at jingle. Kahit ang mga kababayan nating Fim-Am ay lumikha ng awitin para sa Kabataan Partylist. Pwede na nga tayo maglunsad ng sarili nating album sa dami ng mga magagandang kantang ating nalikha dahil sa eleksiyon.

Napakaraming tsapter natin ang nagdisenyo ng mga T-shirt, button pins, mural at poster.

Gumawa ng mga video teaser ang mga taga suporta ng Kabataan Partylist at ito ay nilagay sa internet. Salamat sa Sipat para sa mga video ad natin. Namalas ng buong mundo ang angking kakayanan at pagkamalikhain ng kabataang Pilipino. Ginamit natin ang internet upang makatipid at maabot ang mas maraming kabataan. Kapuri-puri ang ating cybercampaign. Naging paksa tayo sa you tube, friendster, multiply, mga blog, e-forum, chat. Pinakita natin kung paano mamamaksima at magiging epektibo ang pangangampanya sa pamamagitan ng internet. Nagpakalat tayo ng mga ringtone, wallpaper at text brigade gamit ang ating mga cellphone.

Kahanga-hanga ang sipag, diskarte at determinasyon ng ating mga kampanyador. Kung ang mga pulitiko ay nagbabayad para may magdikit ng kanilang mga poster, tayo wala. Bukod sa wala tayong pambayad, ang mga miyembro natin ay kikilos, at sila nga ay kumilos kahit walang bayad. Limitado ang ating mga poster, kulang ang mga streamer at tarpaulin. Buti na lamang maparaan ang ating mga miyembro. Sinuyod ang mga matataong lugar, nagdikit ng mga campaign material sa mga stratehikong gusali.

Dahil kulang ang poster at leaflet, naghanap tayo ng ibang materyales. Gumamit ng sako, lumang tarpaulin, katya, dyaryo, uling, kalendaryo. Wala tayong stiker pero hindi tayo naubusan ng mga pin na gawa ng ating mga miyembro.

Kapos ang ating pondo. Kulang na kulang ang rekurso. Wala tayong mga sasakyan. Sa isang banda, ito ay totoong problema at nakalimita sa ating kampanya. Naputulan ang pambansang opisina ng telepono, tubig at madalas kakaunti ang pagkain ng ating mga miyembro. Mas marami sana tayong lugar na maaabot, mas maraming poster na madidikit, mas maraming brochure na maipamimigay kung sapat ang ating pera. Kaso tayo ay totoong marginalized partylist kaya isang naging pabigat sa kampanya ang kawalan ng pinansiya.

Gayunman, hindi ito naging hadlang para makapaglunsad tayo ng pambansang kampanya. Oo, tayo ay mahirap lamang, pero mayaman tayo sa talino, galing, sipag at giting. Binawi natin ang kawalan ng pondo sa pagsandig sa pagiging bibo at malikhain ng mga kabataan. Lumabas ang angking talento ng ating mga miyembro para makapagkampanya. Wala tayong binatong kendi o kalendaryo sa mga tao; programa, prinsipyo at pag-asa ang ating binahagi sa masa. Hindi ba’t ito’y tagumpay ng Kabataan Partylist?

Pambansang pangangampanya

Malakas ang ating organisasyon. Pinanday ng pakikibaka ang ating makinarya. Napatunayan natin sa eleksiyon na kaya nating maglunsad ng isang disenteng pambansang kampanya. Naging maayos ang koordinasyon sa mga tsapter sa buong bansa. Mayroon tayong miyembro sa bawat probinsiya, malalaking eskuwelahan at kahit sa mga malalayong sulok ng kanayunan.

Sa Metro Manila, aabot ng 40,000 ang ating miyembrong narekluta nitong nakaraang tatlong buwan. Karamihan ng mga bagong miyembro ay hindi lalagpas ng 20 anyos. Sa katunayan, marami tayong kasapi na hindi pa tumutuntong sa labingwalong taong gulang. Kami na ni Lengua ang pinakamatanda sa Kabataan Partylist. Gusto kong bigyan ito ng diin. Mahigit nobenta ang bilang ng mga grupong lumahok sa sistemang partylist. Natatangi ang Kabataan Partylist dahil ito ang nag-iisang partido na binuo ng mga kabataan, pinamumunuan ng mga kabataan at para sa interes ng kabataan.

Masisigla at punung-puno ng ideyalismo ang ating mga miyembro. Ito ang ating pangunahing lakas at sandigan para sa mga susunod na laban. Oo, kakambal ng kasigasigan ng kabataan ay mga kahinaang sinisisi sa mga bata. Mapusok, laging nahuhuli, kakaunting inisyatiba, sabog na pagkilos, kawalan ng karanasan. Pero tayo ay mga bata at nasa atin ang panahon para ituwid ang mga natukoy na mali. Tayo ay tatanda nang mas matalino at mas handang humarap sa mga pagsubok na hahadlang sa ating daan. Ang mga miyembro natin ay maagang pinanday sa labanang elektoral. Maaga nating natutunan ang mga pasikot-sikot ng sistemang pulitikal sa bansa. Sa hinaharap, hindi lamang magiging madali, kundi magiging eksperto pa ang ating mga miyembro kung paano magpatakbo ng isang organisasyon na lumalahok sa isang pambansang eleksiyon.

Nagawa nating itambol sa buong bansa ang mensahe ng pagbabago at makatwirang hangad ng kabataan para sa mas magandang kinabukasan. Naging bukambibig ng maraming grupo na kailangang makialam, magtanong, mangahas, sumuway at makisangkot ang kabataan. Nakuha natin ang suporta ng maraming kabataan, mayaman man o mahirap, may pinag-aralam man o wala. Sumuporta ang maraming miyembro ng SK at mga batang pulitiko. Kahit ang mga artista ay inendorso ang kabataan. Sa maikling panahon, nagawa nating ipaalam sa madla na may grupo ng mga makabayang kabataan na nais ang makabuluhang pagbabago sa lipunan.

Habang ang iba ay nagkakasya na lamang sa pagmamaliit sa inisyatiba ng kabataan, tayo ay kumilos at naghain ng kongkretong alternatibo sa publiko. Patuloy na hinahanap ang papel ng kabataan sa lipunan, pero ang Kabataan Partylist may pinatunayan ng makabuluhang rekord ng pakikisangkot sa usaping pampulitika sa bansa.

Ipinagmamalaki natin na tayo ay nahahanay sa mga progresibong partylist tulad ng Bayan Muna, Anakpawis, Suara Bangsamoro at Gabriela. Ang tagumpay nila ay tagumpay din ng Kabataan Partylist. Tumaas ang tiwala ng publiko sa atin dahil kasama natin sa lansangan at pana-panahon sa pangangampanya ang mga grupong ito. Pareho nating pinaglalaban ang karapatang pantao. Pareho nating sinisigaw na itigil ang panunupil sa mga progresibong grupo sa lipunan.

Isyu ng kabataan

Sa maraming eskuwelahan, nanguna ang Kabataan Partylist sa mga pre-election survey. Hindi ito nakapagtataka dahil tuluy-tuloy ang pagbabandila ng Kabataan Partylist sa mga isyung malapit sa puso ng mga estudyante. Pangunahin sa adyeda ng Kabataan ang reporma sa sektor ng edukasyon. Tinukoy natin ang pagbagsak ng badyet para sa mga pampublikong paaralan at komersyalisasyon ng edukasyon bilang pangunahing salik sa pagbulusok ng kalidad ng karunungan sa bansa.

Sa ating mga asembliya, pinaliwanag natin sa publiko na manalo o matalo sa halalan ay isusulong natin ang ating plataporma. Lalabanan natin ang pagtaas ng matrikula. Ikakampanya natin ang mas mataas na pondo para sa edukasyon at iba pang serbisyong panlipunan. Ihahapag natin ang pagkilala at proteksiyon sa karapatan ng mga estudyante.

Nitong nakaraang tatlong buwan, nakalap natin ang iba’t ibang suliranin ng mga kabataan. Pinakinggan natin ang daing ng mga kabataan para sa ganap na pagbabago sa bansa. Bulok na edukasyon, kawalan ng trabaho, korupsiyon sa pamahalaan, pagkasira ng kalikasan, iba’t ibang tipo ng diskriminasyon at humihinang pag-asa na bubuti pa ang kalagayan sa bansa. Mababa o halos wala ng natitirang tiwala ang maraming kabataan sa namumuno sa pamahalaan. Marami ang namumuhi sa pulitika kaya ayaw nilang makialam sa nangyayari sa lipunan. Bagamat hindi natin sila sinisisi, isa pa rin itong nakakalungkot na trahedya.

Karahasan at pandaraya

Bago pa man nagsimula ang kampanya ay todo bigay na ang pananabotahe ng militar sa mga progresibong partylist. Kabilang ang ating partido sa mga malisyosong inakusahan ng militar bilang legal front diumano ng Communist Party. Ibig sabihin, naging lehitimong target na ang ating mga miyembro ng mga sundalong may panatikong galit sa mga tumutuligsa sa pamahalaan.

Umikot ng paaralan ang mga sundalo upang magpakalat ng kasinungalingan at takutin ang mga estudyante na huwag sumali sa ating organisasyon. Ngayon balak nilang magtayo ng mga opisina sa loob mismo ng mga kampus.

Nagtayo ng munting barracks ang mga sundalo sa maraming barangay sa Metro Manila. Community service daw ang pakay pero hinuhuli ang mga aktibista. Tinatakot ang mga magulang ng ating mga miyembro. Sinisiraan ang mga progresibong partylist.

Takot ang Estado, takot ang militar sa popularidad ng mga grupong kontra-Arroyo. Ginawa nila ang lahat upang mabigo ang ating kandidatura. Naging kasangkapan ang militar upang dayain ang resulta ng halalan at gipitin ang mga lumalaban. Wala silang kinikilalang batas o paggalang man lang sa ating mga karapatan. Dalawa sa ating pollwatcher sa Camarines Norte ang walang awang dinukot at pinaslang ng mga sundalo. Ang krimen na ito ay dapat maitala bilang malinaw na halimbawa ng terorismo ng estado. Paano makukumbinsi ang maraming kabataan na lumahok sa halalan kung baril at bala ang isusukli ng pamahalaan?

Ang isa pang manipulasyon ng pamahalaan upang biguin ang mga progresibong partylist ay ang pagpapatakbo ng mga bogus na partylist. Maraming grupo ang binuo at pinondohan ng pamahalaan, na galing sa buwis na binabayad natin, upang guluhin ang halalang partylist. Kahit ang ilan sa kanila ay walang intensiyong manalo, lumalabas na ang kanilang naging papel ay lituhin ang botante at pataasin ang minimum na boto na kailangan para manalo ang isang partylist.

Kapansin-pansin din ang pagsulpot ng mga partylist na sinusuportahan ng mga tradisyunal na pulitiko, warlord at malalaking negosyante. Kahit ang mga may-ari ng mga eskuwelahan at iba’t ibang grupong relihiyoso ay nagtayo ng mga partylist. Sa 2010, inaasahan na dadami pa ang mga bogus na partylist na susuportahan ng mga political dynasty. Tuluyan ng mabibigo ang dakilang layunin ng partylist na bigyang tinig ang maliliit na grupo sa lipunan.

Malawak ang makinarya ng pandaraya ng pamahalaan. Marami tayong naitalang kaso ng dagdag-bawas at dagdag-dagdag. May mga natipon tayong mga dokumento sa ilang mga munisipyo na siyang naging batayan ng ating pagsasampa ng kaso sa maraming opisyal ng Comelec. Dahil sa pagiging sopistikado ng dayaan, mahirap ng matukoy kung anong mga dokumento ang totoo o pawang dinoktor lamang. Paano kaya sa mga lugar na wala tayong pollwatcher? Paano kung ang dayaan ay nangyari sa presinto pa lamang?

Itutuloy at babantayan natin ang mga kasong sinampa natin. Dapat mag-iwan ito ng aral sa sinumang yuyurak sa halalan bilang isang demokratikong proseso. Sa totoo lang, lubhang nakakagalit ang pandarayang nasaksihan natin. Kayod marino ang estilo ng ating pangangampanya samantalang may mga pekeng partylist na umaasa lamang sa panunuhol ng mga opisyal ng Comelec. Hirap na hirap tayong magpasulpot ng pondo pero may mga partylist pala na kumukuha ng pinansiya sa Malakanyang. Masigasig ang ating pagpapaliwanag sa publiko ng ating programa pero may mga partylist pala na tuwirang nakasalalay sa makinarya ng mga political dynasty.

Taas noo

Sa kabila ng pandaraya at karahasan, nakakuha pa rin ang Kabataan Partylist ng disenteng boto. Sa katunayan, nasa top 20 ang ating grupo mula sa mahigit nobentang partylist na lumahok sa halalan. Hindi nakakahiya ang botong nabilang sa atin. Haharap tayo sa publiko nang walang kahihiyan dahil patas at tapat tayong lumaban. Hindi natin binastos ang demokrasya. Bawat boto na nakuha natin ay isang botong malinis na kinampanya ng bawat isa sa atin. May mga natanggap tayong alok upang pataasin ang ating boto sa ilegal na paraan. Ito’y hindi natin tinanggap. Hindi totoo na lahat ng kandidato ay nandaraya. Ibahin ninyo ang Kabataan Partylist.

Bilang nominee

Bago ako tumungo sa huling bahagi ng aking talumpati, nais kong magpasalamat sa tiwalang pinagkaloob ninyo upang ako ay maging isa sa mga nominado ng Kabataan Partylist. Nagkaroon ako ng bibihirang pagkakataon na maging kinatawan ng isang grupo ng mga makabayan at ideyalistang kabataan. Isang karangalan ang maging tagapagsalita ninyong lahat. Buong puso kong binahagi sa ating mga kababayan kung ano ang ating munting minimithi para sa ating lipunan. Marami akong nakilala at nakasalamuha. Marami akong masasayang kuwento. Marami din akong nakakatuwang kuwento. Lagi kong babalik-babalikan ang yugtong ito ng aking buhay kung saan minsan akong naging lider ng Kabataan Partylist.

Nalibot ko ang Pilipinas at nasaksihan ko ang kagandahan ng ating mga tanawain, natatanging likas-yaman at kabutihan ng maraming Pilipino. Mayaman ang ating lupain, malaki ang potensiyal para umunlad, pero tayo ay naghihirap. Nalungkot ako sa aking paglalakbay dahil nakita ko ang mukha ng kahirapan. Sa bawat lugar na pinuntahan ko ay may namamalimos sa akin. Sinanay ang marami nating mga kababayan na umasa sa mumong pinagkakaloob ng mga pulitiko. Ganyan kalala ang kahirapan, kahit partylist nominee na walang pera, hinihingian ng limos.

May dahilan kung bakit hindi mawala ang kahirapan. Bulok kasi ang ating pulitika. Maraming pulitikong pulpol. Pero higit na marami ang matalinong magnanakaw. Ito ang dahilan kung bakit nasusuka ang marami nating kababayan sa mga tradisyunal na pulitiko.

Aral at hamon

Mga kasama, ano ang natutunan natin sa nagdaang eleksiyon? Ano ang hamon para sa ating lahat?

Tinuruan tayo ng eleksiyong ito kung gaano kadumi, karahas at kabulok ang sistema ng pulitika ng ating bansa. Ito ba ang pinagmamalaki nilang uri ng demokrasya? Nagpapatayan ang mga kandidato. Sinusunog ang mga guro. Nandaraya ang nasa kapangyarihan. Mayayaman ang nagwawagi. Nakikialam ang sundalo. Sinusupil ang mga progresibo.

Pinapatunayan ng eleksiyong ito na hindi sasapat ang pagboto upang magkaroon ng pagbabago. Kailangan ng tuluy-tuloy na kolektibong aksiyon. Kailangan ng mapangahas na sama-samang pagkilos. Tama, kailangan pa rin ang rebolusyon. Rebolusyon ng mga ideya. Rebolusyon ng mga gawi. Rebolusyon ng mga puso. At oo, yung rebolusyong iniisip ninyo na hindi ko pwedeng bigkasin.

Kung mayroon tayong nareklutang 40,000 kasapian dito sa Metro Manila, doblehin natin, triplehan natin ang ating mga tsapter. Isulong ang konsolidasyon ng mga balangay. Palakasin pa ang kakayanan ng Kabataan Partylist na umabot pa sa mas maraming paaralan at komunidad.

Patuloy na itaguyod ang interes ng kabataan at mamamayang Pilipino. Nagtaas ng matrikula sa mga pampublikong pamantasan. Kulang-kulang pa rin ang pasilidad sa mga eskuwehan. Kumakamal ng limpak-limpak na tubo ang mga kapitalista-edukador. Ang presyo ng langis ay di na maabot ng mga motorista. Ginigiba ang bahay ng mga mahihirap. Ilang linggo na lamang at ipapatupad na ang anti-terrorism law.

Kung ako ay pulitiko, ang sasabihin ko sa inyo ay maghanda para sa halalang 2010. Pero hindi tayo grupo ng mga tradiyunal na pulitiko. Bakit kailangang hintayin pa ang 2010 samantalang napakaraming usapin na kailangan ng kagyat na aksiyon. Sabi ni Recto: Honey, I’m home. Sabi ni Loi: Erap, here I come. Ang sasabihin ko ngayon: Mga kasama, hinihintay tayo ng masa. Lubusin natin ang lakas ng kabataan sa pamamagitan ng pagsanib ng ating lakas sa pwersa ng ibang nakakaraming sektor sa lipunan tulad ng manggagawa’t magsasaka.

Ang araw na ito ay hindi lamang araw ng pasasalamat kundi isang pagmamarka din ng ating kahandaan na patuloy na kumilos para sa pagbabago. Kung tuloy ang laban, tiyak na tuloy na mabubuhay ang kabuluhan ng Kabataan Partylist.

Ang aking huling punto: tayo ay mga kabataang hindi lamang nangarap ng matiwasay na buhay, maaliwalas na komunidad at mapayapang kinabukasan. Tayo ay mga kabataang nangarap, nagtanong, sumuway, nakialam, nakisangkot at kumilos upang matupad ang ating mga minimithi.

Mabuhay ang Kabataan Partylist! Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat.

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Why the youth should vote?
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Why partylist

MILB*

I’m back as Yehey! news editor.

Last month, four thousand Filipino mothers from 156 different locations in the country set a new world record by simultaneously breastfeeding their children at 10am. This event was meant to encourage more women to recognize the supreme nutritional benefits of a mother’s milk over the much advertised infant formula.

The Department of Health is behind this advocacy since it is also alarmed over the declining number of breastfeeding women in the country. The World Health Organization estimated that 16,000 children below 5 died in the Philippines due to improper feeding practices, including use of infant formula in 2003. According to the Unicef, only 16 percent of Filipino children between 4 and 5 months old are exclusively breastfed while 13 percent of mothers do not breastfeed at all.

This figure is frustrating since so many innocent children are deprived of the nutrients contained in a mother’s milk. A primer of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute-Department of Science and Technology reveals the natural wonders of breastfeeding:

“The initial liquid that flows from the human breast is colostrum, the yellow fluid produced during the first three days after delivery. It is rich in vitamins, antibodies, and immune-system cells that protect the newborn from gastrointestinal disease and other infectious disorder. The colostrum hastens the excretion of meconium, the stool passed by newborn after birth. The colostrum contains Lactobacillus bifidus factor, which encourages the growth of Lactobacillus bifidus, the intestinal friendly bacteria, that hinders the growth of potentially toxic bacteria in the intestine. The human milk is thin and almost watery in appearance and often has a slight bluish tinge. The breast milk protein forms soft, light curd in the infant’s stomach and is easy to digest. The lipids in breast milk are high in linoleic acid and cholesterol needed for brain development. It contains long-chain omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), used for synthesis of tissue in the brain, nervous system, and eyes.”

According to further studies, children using infant formula are 25 times more likely to die of diarrhea than those who are breastfed. The National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women clarifies that breastfeeding does not cause sagging breasts. Breastfeeding also helps in bringing back a mother’s figure because of the hormones that are secreted during breastfeeding. Health authorities believe breastfeeding can save the nation P21.5 billion in infant formula products which people can use for other basic needs like food, clothing and education.

During the term of President Corazon Aquino, breastfeeding was promoted through the promulgation of Executive Order 51 or otherwise known as the Milk Code. Eventually, Congress approved Republic Act (RA) 7600 known as “The Rooming-In and Breastfeeding Act of 1992” which facilitates breastfeeding to newborn children.

Despite these measures, use of infant formula continues to surge to this day. In fact, infant formula products are among the most imported goods in the country. One reason attributed to the popularity of these goods despite being expensive and vastly inferior to breast milk is the aggressive advertising of milk companies. The public seems mesmerized by milk ads which claim to make children more intelligent, healthy and strong forgetting that infant formula remains a poor substitute to breast milk.

Perhaps noting how these exaggerated ads may have done a great public disservice, the Department of Health imposed a ban on the promotion and advertising of breast milk substitutes last May 2006. This regulation was challenged by milk companies in the Supreme Court arguing that it infringed on freedom of trade and the freedom to inform the public on infant formulas. The Supreme Court sided with the petitioners and granted a temporary restraining order which prevented health authorities to enforce the ban on milk ads. The order is still effective today.

Last weekend, this matter became headline news again when economist Solita Monsod reminded the public how Trade Secretary Peter Favila endorsed the appeal of milk companies regarding the DOH regulation. Apparently, there was pressure from US businessmen to rescind the ban on infant formula ads which they claim will cost them $128 million.

From this moment, the issue is no longer breast milk versus infant formula. It now behooves us to ask whether public health was compromised by acceding to the demands of corporate interest. Is the obsession to create a good business climate to foreign investors necessarily requires the abandonment of public good?

The DOH regulation of infant formula ads is among the concrete measures initiated by the government to improve delivery of health services in the country. We can also cite the Cheaper Medicines Act which Congress failed to approve on time. It seems public health care is held hostage both by powerful corporate lobbyists and irresponsible lawmakers. This will further worsen health situation in the country.

* Mom, I love to breastfeed!

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Balikbayan box

New pictures in my photoblog: click here and here.

Is there a global survey on what people usually load in their travel bags? If there is one, I’m certain Filipino ‘stuff’ will be among the most curious items. We may not be notorious for smuggling shabu, wild animals and guns but our pasalubong can sometimes be a source of little embarrassment.

The balikbayan box can explain so many of our cultural traits. It contains not just travel accessories but also various native items which may confound foreigners. Tourists may not appreciate bulky balikbayan boxes but for most OFWs, returning or leaving the country is impossible without them.

What are some of the intriguing content of a balikbayan box of a returning OFW? Numerous bathroom towels, soap, shampoo, shaving cream, razor, toothpaste, tissue, chocolate, coffee, milk, cereal, corned beef, spam, sausages, instant noodles, alcohol, cigarettes, lotion, perfume, airline magazines and utensils, picture frames, electronic equipments, home appliances, toys, jewelleries, underwear, shoes, socks, T-shirts, blouses, jackets, denim pants, leather belts, umbrella. What else?

A friend of mine is puzzled over this practice of squeezing imported grocery items in balikbayan boxes. OFWs can buy cheaper and better tasting food items in local supermarkets but they still bring home imported goods. We have an abundant supply of home appliances and consumer equipments but OFWs will risk paying for excess baggage just to transport imported electronic gadgets to the Philippines.

Perhaps the tendency of many Filipinos to worship everything foreign (and to denigrate locally made products) may be blamed for this practice. But I have another view. OFWs may find it easy to buy these items while in another country but once they return home, these items are no longer a priority for OFWs and their families. Why buy chocolates at local stores when rice and cooking oil are more important? Why purchase bathroom towels when the old towels are still usable? Why buy a playstation when tuition must be paid immediately? Perhaps it’s the guilt of buying luxurious items when there is widespread poverty in the community. Perhaps the fatalistic fear that money will be scarcer in the near future prevents OFWs and their families to buy the contents of balikbayan boxes in local malls.

OFWs bring home so much imported goods because they are not meant for themselves alone. These goods will be given to immediate families, distant relatives, friends, neighbours and sometimes even to strangers. The balikbayan box also contains carefully wrapped small packages from fellow OFWs who could not return home for the moment but need to give something to their loved ones in the Philippines. It’s the famous padala system. The government is clueless on the total monetary value of these mini mini balikbayan boxes which indirectly contribute to Philippine economy.

For departing OFWs, what are some of the intriguing content of their balikayan boxes? I believe native delicacies are the favourite items. Tinapa, tuyo, tulingan, relyenong isda, chicharon, ensaymada, daing na bangus, buro, dried mango, boy bawang, crab meat, shrimp, laing, mani, butong pakwan, tupig, fruit candies. OFWs also love to bring likas papaya soap, magic cream, virgin coco oil, imitation bags, kitchen utensils, cigarettes. What else?

The balikbayan box is like a mini sari sari store. It’s a miniature repository of Philippine products. We can’t blame OFWs. They will be away for many years. They will definitely miss Filipino delicacies.

Airport personnel should learn to be more understanding why their OFW kababayan love to bring assorted native goods and items to other countries. They must refrain from confiscating bagoong from local travellers. They must also realize that we have little need for anti-terror squad and bomb sniffing dogs at the airport. Balikbayan boxes are safe. They may contain tawas and nata de coco but they are not dangerous items.

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From Laoag to Laoang

Around the country in 90 days: island tours, public markets and mansions in the ricefields.

Two islands of great interest: Masbate and Laoang. The province of Masbate is the rodeo capital of the Philippines. But people seem more aware of the violence which gripped the island in the recent elections. It was identified by the Comelec as an election hotspot. Two families are vying for complete dominance in the island: The Espinonas and Khos. The former is the principal and old dynasty in the island while the latter is a rising power bloc whose political fortunes seem destined to take over Masbate. The feud between these two families will not contribute in maintaining peace and order in the island.

Masbate is officially part of the Bicol region but it’s also very close to Iloilo, Cebu and Samar. Its geographical location explains its cultural affinity with some of the Visayas islands. Residents on the western part of Masbate speak Ilonggo; those on the south speak Cebuano; those on the north speak Bicolano; and those on the east speak Waray. I believe the combination of these languages is called Masbateño.

Near the province of Masbate is North Samar. Aside from Catarman, which is the provincial capital, another important big town is the island of Laoang, located on the northeastern part of the province. Politicians, including the senatoriables, need to campaign in Laoang since it has the second highest number of registered voters in the province. The small island of Laoang used to be the major trading center of North Samar. Before the construction of national roads in Samar, Laoang was a thriving economic boom town. Its port was one of the busiest in the region. It was one of the first towns to be christianized during the Spanish times. Chinese merchants used to flourish in the island. Today, Laoang retains its political import but it is no longer a key economic link in the province. There is still no bridge which connects Laoang to the Samar mainland. But a dark hope lurks since politicians are flaunting the mining prospects of a nearby island.

Aside from island tours, campaign caravans would be incomplete without visiting public markets. Metro Manila’s dirty and chaotic public markets should be embarrassed since provincial public markets are cleaner, accommodating to small producers and safe. Laoag’s market has three floors, including a basement. Batac’s seem to be the most organized. I was lost at the Bangkerohan market in Davao City. We need to catalog and promote our public markets. We need to inform local and foreign tourists on the native delicacies offered in public markets. We have to discourage the construction of supermalls in areas where thriving public markets exist. If Malacañang gets its kickback from selling our virgin forests and mineral resources, small-time executive officials use public markets for personal enrichment. They either privatize public markets or undertake an expansion or beautification of existing ones. There are numerous complaints on local corrupt practices governing public markets: deficient structures, overpriced projects, inaccessible markets, unreasonable stall rent, etc. Pati palengke pinagkakaperahan ng mga walanghiya.

I have my favorite list of public markets: I buy hopia in Quiapo, cheap christmas gifts in Divisoria, suman in Baclaran, tatsulok in Antipolo, bagoong in Dagupan, longganisa in Vigan, broccoli in Baguio, strawberry in La Trinidad and pili nut in Naga. For dinner parties, I save money by buying food items in Balintawak or Blumentritt. In recent years, SM supermarket began offering cheaper frozen pork, chicken, beef and fresh vegetables.

Aside from palengke tours, motorcades are common election events. A motorcade is an efficient campaign activity in densely populated towns and cities. It should not be encouraged in the rural areas. Aside from encountering rough roads, there are fewer people on the side of the streets. Most of the bystanders are trees, wandering chickens, inhospitable dogs, wide-eyed carabaos and very amused children. But a motorcade is a very enlightening activity. It always confirms the lopsidedness of city, town and rural planning. There is no planning at all. It shows the great disparity of wealth in christian Philippines. One moment you are enjoying the beauty of vast green fields then the next moment an imposing, gated mansion offends your eyes. Standing close to the big mansion is a row of humble nipa huts made even humbler by the presence of an opulent manor. It’s the same story everywhere, from Luzon to Mindanao. Big houses seem out of place and lose their appeal when they fail to ignore the poverty which engulfs their surroundings. But many rich people, including the middle class and the few lucky returning OFWs, are oblivious of this arrogance. They will erect a big gated structure while their neighbors have deteriorating shanties.

But this confirmation on the insensitivity of so many of our countrymen is not my most disappointing encounter in the recent elections. Since I was a candidate, people expect I was like other politicians. Community youth leaders demanding sponsorship for a concert, an elderly asking for financial assistance, a mother showing medical bills for her child, tricycle drivers looking for merienda. Many of our people have been reared in the practice of “gift-giving” during elections. Many of our people expect all candidates to distribute cash rewards to those who seek them. Many of our people share this low regard for politicians and the political system we have. I was a partylist candidate and they were asking for T-shirt, beer and pulutan. What more if I’m a senatoriable, or a presidentiable?

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On the (rough) road

Around the country in 90 days: road trip in Islands Philippines.

I was one of the very few partylist nominees who used public transport to campaign in the provinces, even in Metro Manila. I had no choice. I don’t have a car. Our group doesn’t have a car. We have no money. After all, I belong to a genuine marginalized group.

I prefer Partas and Victory Liner everytime I travel to northern Luzon. Partas has a new fleet of bigger, cleaner and more comfortable buses. I feel safe when I’m aboard a Victory bus. The fastest way to travel to Laguna (Calamba, Pansol, Los Banos, Sta. Cruz) is through HM Transport. I recommend CUL for those who plan to go to Bicol region.

Small country buses are curious cultural mobile artifacts patronized by the masses in the remotest parts of the land. They dare traverse rough roads and dangerous highways transporting people, produce and pipedreams to central towns and cities. They are indispensable in sustaining rural livelihoods. Compared to Manila-bound buses, I feel more at home in riding the cramped and dingy country buses. The best way to enjoy karaoke music is through a country bus ride in rural Philippines. If the countryside scenery outside the bus is not enough pleasure, then the loud, snoring passengers plus their crying babies, pets and even wild animals will be a definite amusement.

Except in Metro Manila where trains are available, the fastest way to travel within urban cities is through taxi cabs. Cebu drivers will insist on giving a change. Cagayan de Oro taxi cabs seem to be the most modern in the country. Baguio’s FX taxi cabs operate as real taxi cabs, minus the aircon. Metro Manila has the most arrogant, fussy and demanding taxi drivers. They always demand extra charge, their meters run so fast and they will find a reason to complain about your destination – it’s far, traffic, unsafe alleys, small roads, etc. However, they do know how to entertain passengers and many of them have acute political perceptions.

More than a decade ago, Toyota initiated a revolution in Philippine public transport when its Tamaraw FX model, which can squeeze in ten passengers, was used as a taxi cab plying a specific route where people pay fixed rates rather than meter charging. It’s like a jeepney, but faster and cooler. Today, another revolution is brewing. More and more taxi cabs are switching to LPG machines. It’s cheaper but is it healthy? Will it encourage other public utility vehicles to use LPG as well?

Another interesting, but underrated mode of transport, is the ubiquitous Philippine tricycle. Somebody has to research, write and document the beginnings and rise of the tricycle as a means of transportation in the country. There are variations in the structural designs and creative adornments of the tricycle which can accommodate seven and maybe even more people. Tricycles from the provinces look more spacious, stronger and safer over tricycles in Manila. The tricycle should be identified with the jeepney as testaments to Filipino ingenuity.

However, I believe we should begin contemplating a future without the shrieking engines of tricycles. It’s not just global warming and the worsening traffic in Metro Manila. We have to encourage people to walk and bike. I’m a quiet but reluctant supporter of MMDA’s bike lanes. We need more walkable towns and cities. We need good roads, lighted and safe highways and efficient mass transport system to persuade more people to walk and bike. Without these elements, tricycles are bound to stay to transport people to their destinations.

Another glaring feature of land travel in the Philippines is the absence of clean toilets in almost all places. I cannot just pee in the ricefields and ‘commune’ with nature all the time. Why is it very hard to access clean bathrooms in gas stations, restaurants, schools, government offices and bus terminals? Why do public toilets stink all the time? Aside from sunburn, unforgettable memories and more names in my phonebook, three months of campaigning on the road gave me, well, constipation.

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Iloilo impressions.
Save Tudaya falls.
National roads.
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Up, up and away

Interesting election results, my blog entry for Global Voices.

Around the country in 90 days: planes, airlines and airport experience….

Cebu Pacific has the newest and most comfortable fleet of planes. It deserves to be recognized for bringing down air fares in the country which encouraged more people to travel by air. However, it doesn’t offer free drinks, even water, to its passengers. Compared to its local competitors, Philippine Airlines gives the most satisfying free food and drinks. Air Philippines provides the best reading materials, for example, The Economist. Fly Asian Spirit and it’s like reenacting your first bus ride in the zigzag roads going to Baguio. No airline flies on time. They are always delayed, sometimes even for hours.

Flight departure is most convenient at the Centennial Terminal. Shorter queues at the check-in counter and less stressful experience at the security check-up. From MRT Taft, one bus ride can bring you directly in front of the Terminal. Flight departure at the old domestic terminal is always a horrible experience. Very long queues at the check-in counter, disorganized procedure for managing the flow of passengers, overcrowded building and very stressful experience at the security check-up.

If ever there is a solidarity group for bomb jokers, I will quietly support it. Everytime I am forced to undergo unnecessary security measures, there is always the urge to shout “bomb bomb bomb” just to ridicule arrogant airport personnel. But I have always maintained my composure by trying to understand that these people are only doing their jobs imposed by paranoid executives. I also become more at ease by thinking that the terrible mess at the domestic terminal is President Gloria Arroyo’s fault. If she was less greedy, she would have agreed to open the new airport terminal owned by Piatco and this would have decongested the other airport terminals.

Flight arrival is most recommended at the old domestic terminal. A taxi stand is accessible for passengers. Taxi cabs are not allowed to enter the arrival wing of Centennial Terminal.

Manila cannot justify the expensive terminal fees it collects from local and foreign passengers. Mabuhay Bacolod since it doesn’t collect terminal fees. Cebu and Davao have the best airport facilities in the country. Hopefully, the new and bigger Iloilo airport will not suffer the fate of NAIA-Terminal 3. Pres. Arroyo wants to shut down Baguio’s airport and transform it into an ecozone.

For me, a few minutes before landing at the Tacloban airport gives the most picturesque view of the natural wonders of Islands Philippines. The scenery is fantastic: sparkling green seas, adorable verdant hills, quaint coastal towns. Cagayan de Oro’s airport has the most unique location: on top of a hill. Calbayog’s airport is sandwiched by farmlands.

How to improve air travel in the country? First, please offer free wi-fi in airport terminals. Offer shuttle service for departing and arriving passengers. Make security measures more humane, less exaggerated. Build a railway link to Manila airport. In the future, if we run out of military camps to convert into business centers, make NAIA a modern commercial and residential complex. We should start looking for new airport grounds; perhaps we can reclaim again a portion of Manila Bay. Or make Clark the main airport in the country.

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