Issues of the day

RIP Ka Bel

Rest in Peace Ka Crispin Beltran.

He is gone, but his spirit, his fight lives on.

Ka Bel died in a freak accident but I would not go as far as to say it was a senseless death. At 6 in the morning, he was up on his roof doing his job as the man of the house – checking on the roof that is supposed to protect his family from the coming rains. He is a Congressman, a Party List representative. Seated in Congress in behalf of the many workers, laborers and marginalized Filipino. Yet he has no qualms about going up the roof (with no safety equipment) to tend to what needs fixing.

What does that tell you about this man? How many Congressmen do you know who would do that (without cameras following them, that is)?

Since he first walked the halls of Congress as a lawmaker years ago, he’s been tagged the poorest solon. That did not change until his death.

He may not have died alongside his comrades during a rally; he may not have been shot dead; he did not have to suffer in a prison cell in the last days of his life, yet his death is just as meaningful.

We surely can learn a lot from this old man’s life, and the public officials specifically, can learn a lot from his death.

I first heard about Ka Bel and his struggles as a child. Though I did not have the privilege of meeting and working with him, I too mourn his passing.

Others have written about knowing and working with him, and remembering his legacy. If you want more, choose from a collection of links.

Myanmar and China need aid

I am working on the pictures from yesterday, I’ve decided to scrap them rather than simply posting the photos up here.

All night I’ve been tuned to CNN and getting updated on the crisis in Burma, and now also in China. We have had our fair share of disasters here in the Philippines, and I sure pray that we won’t be next. Summer is almost over and we do have occasional torrential rains, still I pray that no big disaster comes our way anytime soon.

There’s a page in CNN that has a collection of links to charity organizations that have the capacity to give aid in Myanmar. Please do consider visiting any of their web sites and make a donation.

From there I found a link to the diary of Save the Children’s director in Burma. In the beginning when the cyclone just hit, it didn’t sound as if there’s much to worry about. But soon enough, his posts talk of his personal experience putting together teams to assess the situation, and eventually, the relief efforts. Save the Children also has a page with children’s voices in the wake of disaster.

It is sad that in the face of disaster, where tens of thousands of people have perished and more in danger, Myanmar’s military junta refuses to let aid in.

China has just been hit by a massive earthquake and an estimated 9000 people have already died. There’s news of two chemical factories going down – that in itself could be a different disaster too. There was also a school where they estimate about 900 students are trapped; 50 bodies have been recovered from there. China is no stranger to earthquakes but we don’t know how prepared China is to respond to a disaster of this magnitude. I pray that they are quicker and more capable to bring aid where it’s needed and accept international help, unlike the Burma junta.

Chika, Chismis, Kwento. GOSSIP!

I have spent the last 5 or 6 hours cruising through two blogs: Brian Gorrell’s and Chikatime.
Yup, I’ve been reading posts between the two blogs and have been introduced to juicy gossip and intrigues involving Manila’s ‘high society.’

Personally, I do think that anyone born into privilege should take the initiative to do good for those who are less fortunate than them. Simply because they have the means, and at times, the clout. So, anytime I see, read or hear about brats who throw money away or who have no care at all about the world around them, I get mad.

I remember back in college, I heard these rich kids talk about not getting 1.0 and the condo unit the dad would give her after graduation. Or was it a car? Okay, I don’t remember anything else about how that conversation went about but I do remember thinking how trivial their concerns were. There were so many other things happening around them.

At some point though, I realized that I shouldn’t trivialize what they consider their problems. Sure, there are more people out there confronting graver issues in their lives, but if they think a 1.25 grade is a big deal, then they are entitled to that too. Each person has his/her own shit to worry about right?

Still when you read about society’s It girls and boys (and gays) indulging in so many excesses and how they have never known a day of real hard work, it still irks something in you. Something in me wants to bash their heads on a wall just to get them to look at things at a different perspective: they could use their status and influence for something more – much more.

But if they really are wasting their lives in drugs – then they must really have big issues. They need help. I wish they get that real soon.

Rice Shortage

Rice shortage in a country that should be largely agricultural just doesn’t make sense.

In the news today, we saw long lines at the market with people waiting on the NFA (government)-subsidized rice. Some of them waited 3 hours before they could go home with 1 kilo – supply that will probably last them only today.

We usually buy commercial rice and today, my dad came home saying that the usual rice we get is now pegged at 40 pesos when last week it was only at 33. We’re not worried for ourselves because we don’t consume that much rice as we used to. Besides, when my grandpa harvests rice from his fields, he will give us our 1 sack ration.

But we are affected by all of this talk of shortage. The Agricultural Department keep on saying we have enough stocks and there’s a 58-day buffer stored somewhere. But they’ve got to see that with the skyrocketing prices of commercial rice is driving people to opt for the cheaper NFA rice. That’s why it’s so hard to get a-hold of any.

I’m not so into international news anymore and I am so wrapped up in my own non-political world sometimes. I had to ask my dad what’s causing this so called shortage. Apparently the economic boom in India and China have tipped the balance of rice (food) consumption while the supply from rice exporting countries have not really changed. Countries like Thailand and Vietnam, I hear, are also putting limits on their exports to ensure they do not lose local supply. Good for them. But going back to the Philippines, how come we are only 90-98% self-sufficient for our own rice supply? Didn’t we use to export rice ourselves?

And didn’t Thailand and Vietnam used to send their experts here to learn from us when it comes to rice? Oh well.

Some say land conversion from agricultural to industrial has also contributed to this problem. There are lesser and lesser land devoted to agriculture and farming. Add to that the farmers’ woes of where to get the funds for the next planting season. It isn’t also uncommon to find farmers’ children aspiring for lives away from the fields. No, I don’t think it is wrong for them to dream and work at achieving those dreams. But who’s to say who would be left tilling the fields? Why is farming still a poor man’s job? Why haven’t we got the technology that will allow farmers to stay in the fields but also live comfortably? Oh well…

There are efforts by some restaurateurs to make half-servings of rice available for patrons. This is in response to the fact that kilos and kilos of rice is wasted everyday because of customers who don’t actually eat all of what they order. This is actually a good move. I mean, if they wanted more, they could just order another serving. I wonder how Tokyo Tokyo all you can eat rice will be impacted by this?

Anyway, I think the pantry in the office has also joined in the efforts to reduce rice wastage. I hear the cups are getting smaller. 🙂

Remembering EDSA I

My parents were at EDSA I; they were in the middle of events leading up to it too, and in the revolution led years before. It’s been no secret that my parents were both in the militant movement in their younger days – up until they had us. Both of them were political prisoners at different times – my dad first for a couple of years when my brother was a young boy; my mom for a few months while I was still an infant. EDSA I was the time when the people’s rage reached boiling point, it was the result of many years of toil. After EDSA, my parents were involved in various development efforts and they were still doing their fair share in effecting change. They no longer moved in the underground but were out in the open.

It is sad that today, at the commemoration ‘rally’ at EDSA, there were more military and police personnel than there were civilians. It is sad that today, 22 years later, we are in need of another EDSA.

I am disappointed that Erap is free to be interviewed on the Al Jazeerah channel and say that Gloria is an illegitimate president. Why? Definitely not because I support Gloria and her administration, but because Erap himself was the subject of an EDSA Revolution, one that I was proud to have participated in. His freedom now speaks of the failure of EDSAs past.

As a people, we are proud of the spirit of EDSA, and yet we elect the wrong people to office time and again. The ZTE-NBN deal is but one of many deals that reeked of corruption. Anyone actually involved in government projects would know that there are many ways that a politician or a government employee can pocket the people’s money. Perhaps not everyone is in on it, perhaps you have some who strive to effect change within the system. But how can it really be done?

If we get rid of Gloria today, how can we be assured that those who remain in office won’t carry on with the culture they have already so ingrained? Is it enough to replace the head? Come on, graft and corruption happens across the board, and it cuts across all the colors of the political spectrum. Who can we trust not to let us down yet again?


So a Justice Department official was quoted to have said that Erap may be put back in jail if he doesn’t stop questioning the legitimacy of Arroyo’s presidency. Heck, he’s been doing that since a week or so after he was pardoned. He is clearly getting away with not honoring his end of the terms of the pardon!

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