Achieving Happiness

October 30, 2009

Disappointed over Chiz Escudero

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 1:49 am

ChizIs Sen. Francis ‘Chiz’ Escudero pulling out of the presidential race? He pulled out of the Nationalist People’s Coalition reportedly because he didn’t get the kind of financial support he was seeking from kingmaker Eduardo ‘Danding’ Cojuangco who’s the real power behind the party, but he’s denying this.

I cannot help but be frustrated and even disgusted by how Sen. Escudero explained his sudden move. All rhetoric and evasions. It sounded like he was reciting a poetic monologue, and its wasn’t even very good poetry. He talks like a robot what with that monotone of his, and in alliterative words. Previously I didn’t really mind — and I know some even found his way of speaking, bizarrely, cute– but the other night, as he granted a live interview on TV Patrol and fielded questions from Ted Failon and Karen Davila, he was soooooo annoying.

He was evasive. Yeah, sure, he said he wanted to be his own man, and he he said he didn’t want to be beholden to anyone if he was going to run for the highest post in the land so he can run and, if he wins, rule with a clear conscience and with a clear head uninfluenced by his party’s politics.

But WHO WAS HE KIDDING?! Failon asked him why only now is he doing this? So close to the polls, and with no signs coming that he was fed up with the NPC or its politics. Why only now?

His explanation or excuse (and yes, I think, it really was the latter) sounded like he was being an honest candidate, a different kind of politician, but I DIDN’T buy it. Jeez.

I like Sen. Escudero — I laud all his previous efforts to speak out against corruption in government. I can even forgive his being a spokesperson for the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) back in 1998 when he was still a congressman under former Pres. Joseph Estrada’s term. He has matured and evolved into a politician who carried serious issues like human rights, foreign policy, jobs and wages.  I see him as a more able, more charismatic, more decisive politician than, say, Sen. Noynoy Aquino. If he were running for president, I’d probably vote for him.

But the last few days?! Gad, how frustrating. There’s something he is not saying, something he is not admitting. And this implies much, given how he is usually so forthcoming.

Sen. Chiz, what the heck are you doing? Was it just the money?! You can still run under the NPC and still be your own man, right? If you win, all bets are off and you are beholden primarily to those who voted for you. You can and should defy all those who go against your objectives if they are objectives sincerely meant and concretely aimed to benefit the Filipino people.

October 27, 2009

Arnel Pineda nung di pa siya sikat

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 5:12 am

I wrote this article waaay back when I was in Hong Kong.  Even then, Arnel Pineda was an amazing singer.My friends and I (staff of Hong Kong News) had to acknowledge that he was no ordinary singer. He had real talent, and he had presence.

The sad thing was, the bar where we watched him perform was seldom full, so often he performed to a half-empty (or half-full, depends on how you look at it) venue.

Anyways, here’s the article.

———

Wednesday, July 5th, 2006  (July 7 issue of Hong Kong News)

121207-journey-manHALOS dalawang taon nang tumutugtog sa Cavern sa Lan Kwai Fong ang bandang The Bones. Pulos Pilipino ang mga miyembro ng bandang ito – sina Karen Domingo, Arnel Pineda mga vocalist; Monet Cajipe, rhythm guitar; Pierre Donovan Luib, bassist; Darren Mercado, drummer; at Elmer Palermo, keyboardist.

Sa buong panahong ito, nakilala ang banda para sa mahusay na pagtugtog at ‘concert-standard’ na pagkanta ng dalawa nitong  bokalista. Hindi man napupuno ng mga Pinoy at Pinay ang  Cavern tuwing weekdays kung kailan subsob sa trabaho ang mga OFW at hindi halos lumalabas ng flat ng kani-kanilang employer, madalas namang walang maupuan tuwing set ng banda dahil maraming mga ‘gweilo’ at iba pang mga turista at Chinese na residente.

Matagal-tagal na rin sina Arnel at Karen sa pagiging singers. Sa batang-gulang na 14, professional na si Karen at nanalo na sa mga national competitions sa Pilipinas gaya ng dating palabas sa RPN 9 na ‘Ang Bagong Kampeon.’ Tumugtog na rin siya sa iba’t-ibang hotel sa ibang bansa.

Si Arnel naman ay nagsimulang maging vocalist ng banda sa edad na 15. Tumugtog na ang kanyang banda na ‘Amo’ sa Shakey’s na kilalang hang-out ng mga mahilig sa live-band music, at nanalo na rin sa mga band competitions.

Nagkasama sila at ng buong banda sa The Cavern Setyembre 2004, at maganda ang kanilang naging chemistry bilang isang grupo. Asawa ni Karen ang drummer na si Darren. Gaya din ng ibang mga OFW, nasa Pilipinas ang kani-kanilang mga pamilya at sa kanila nakalaan ang kalakhan ng kanilang sinusweldo.

Ayon kay Arnel, mahirap ang trabaho pero masayang mag-perform. ‘Nagre-react kami sa audience, pinaanood namin sila at nage-gauge namin kung anong mood nila. Pag mukhang pagod lahat, relaxing music ang kakantahin namin. Pag mukhang malulungkot, medyo upbeat ang aming pipiliin,” aniya.

Ang responsiveness na ito sa audience ang makikitang isang dahilan ng tagumpay ng banda. Habang nagpeperform, mapapansin ang rapport nila sa mga nanunood at nakikinig. Kakaway si Arnel, ngingiti sa Karen sa ilang nasa audience. Parang dun lang mismo sa stage nila pinipili kung ano ang susunod na kanilang tutugtugin.

“Depende nga kasi sa mood ng audience. Minsan,sige, kahit  nababaduyan kami sa kanta, pero nakita naming bagay sa age-bracket ng mga nasa audience, kinakanta namin,” kwento ni Karen. Kaya nga naman minsan ay kinakanta nila ang walang kamatayang ‘My heart  will go on” ni Celine Dion na theme song ng ‘Titanic.’
Pag dumating ka ng alas-9, maririnig mo ang mga kanta ng dekada 70, 80, at kalagitnaan ng 1990s. Karaniwang mga pop ballads o kung tawagin ay ‘slow rock’ o ‘mellow music’ mula sa mga kanta ng The Carpenters, ni Anita Baker, Christopher Cross, Sade at Billy Joel. Minsan hahalo sa kanilang repertoire ang mga hits ng Soul Asylum, U2, The Police, at mga bagong kanta nina Alicia Keys, Norah Jones, Robbie Williams at Red Hot Chili Peppers.

Walang mapapansing pattern sa seleksyon ng mga kanta dahil salitan ang mood na sinasalimin ng mga awit. Ang malinaw lang, nag-eenjoy ang audience kahit nakaupo lang sa kanilang mga orange na de-kutsong bar stool o banquet seat at nag-aalaga ng bote ng $55 na beer.

Pagpatak ng alas-11, rock-and-roll at disco naman. At dito talaga lumalabas ang energy ng audience na karaniwang binubuo na ng mga employees na gustong mag-unwind, mga bored na residente, at mga kabataang nilalabanan ang antok dahil gusto talagang mag-party.

Nakikita nina Arnel na mapalad sila kumpara sa maraming musikero na nasa Pilipinas. Bagamat tutoong hindi rin naman daw kalakihan ang sweldo nila dito sa Hong Kong, ‘di hamak namang mas malaki pa rin ito sa nakukuha ng kanilang mga kapanalig sa iniwang bayan.
“Sampu sampera ang magagaling na musicians sa atin, kaya masakit na hindi lahat nakakakuha ng magandang break,” ani Arnel. Naghihimutok din sila sa anila’y ‘diskriminasyon’ na dinadanas ng mga HK-based musicians. ‘Mas mataas ang bayad sa mga Puti. Siyempre kahit paano masusukat ang respetong binibigay sa iyo in terms of kung magkano ang binibigay sa iyo.”

Ayon sa isang survey, kumikita ang mga musician sa Maynila ng mula US$5 (HK$39) hanggang US$10 kada araw (o P250), habang ang mga overseas music jobs ay maaring pagkakitaan ng mula  US$600 hanggang US$1,500 kada buwan (o P31,800- P78,000). Sa isang bansa kung saan 43  percent ng populasyon ang nabubuhay sa  US$2 kada araw (ayon sa World Bank), ang kumita ng HK$10,000 kada buwan bilang musikero sa Hong Kong ay isang malaking tulong sa pamilya.

Gayunpaman, mas mababa pa rin, gaya ng sabi ni Arnel, ang kita ng mga Pinoy na musicians. Ayon na rin sa isang anonymous na performer, depende sa lahi ang swelduhan sa mga musikero sa Hong Kong. May mga Amerikanong musikero ang kumikita ng HK$30,000 hanggang HK$40,000 kada buwan; habang ang mga lokal na talent ay nakakakuha ng HK$15,000.

“Talagang nakaka-dismaya din. Passionate ang mga Pinoy kung mag-perform kahit pa covers lang ang kinakanta, ubos-lakas talaga Unfair na kulang ang binibigay sa atin na recognition at respect,” ani Arnel.

Samantala, katulad pa rin ng ibang mga OFW, may opinyon din sina Karen sa mga kaganapan sa Pilipinas. Migranteng manggagawa din sila tulad ng mga kababayang domestic helper, at apektado ng mga nangyayari sa Pilipinas dahil nandun ang mga mahal sa buhay.
“Sana magkaisa na lang ang mga Pilipino,” anila. “Parang walang kauuwian ang pinaghihirapan ng mga OFW dahil sa corruption sa Pilipinas. Si Arroyo naman,dapat bumababa na. Lalong gumugulo ang sitwasyon, bumabagsak ang ekonomya.”

Isang bagay na gustong makita nina Arnel ang magkaisa ang mga musikerong Pilipino sa Hong Kong. “Maganda sana kung magagawa ng mga musicians na magtulungan, para mapataas natin ang pagkilala sa galing ng mga Pinoy dito. Huwag na sana magkaroon ng inggitan o alitan,” aniya. “Magtulungan dapat ang mga Pilipino na nasa ibang bansa.”

Parang mga bampira ang mga Pinoy na musikero, lalo na ang mga nagtatrabaho sa mga bars. Sa paglubog ng araw, saka lang sila lalabas, at gigisingin ang gabi gamit ang kanilang mga boses at instrumento. Mga artista at migranteng manggagawa, tumutulong sila na ipakita sa mundo ang kakayanan at talento ng mga Pilipino.#

October 22, 2009

Estrada for president again? Tsk-tsk-tsk.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 2:46 am

ErapJoseph Estrada a.ka. Erap is again running for president. Unbelievable. It makes one’s stomach turn over how he is being so selfish and so deluded as to think that it is he who is the nation’s hope for change and that he can, ‘again’, make a difference.

He has done enough damage during his term, and he was ousted and imprisoned for it. It’s clear that he didn’t learn anything from the experience, and nothing of humility.

Estrada’s involvement in the 2010 presidential race will make things even more difficult for sanity and order to make  their way back to the Philippine political system. What he represents are backward values of patronage politics, and he harps on being a leader of the poor when he himself has never been poor and his idea of helping them is giving them dole-outs. He makes people believe in dreams that can never realized because they are based on fiction and not on objective conditions which can be altered and reworked and restructured. He delivers speeches meant for actors, and he is an actor still.

It is a very, very sorry development, his declaration of candidacy. I feel sad and angry and disgusted.

It would have been better if he remained in the sidelines and instead threw his support behind the candidacy of , say, Noynoy Aquino. He should have let go of his delusions and of the past — he was president once, and once should have been enough. The fact that the poor supposedly love him doesn’t mean that he knows what is best for them and that he has done or that he will do what is best for them.

People sometimes continue love even those who hurt them; Filipinos are a sentimental lot, and often this is a bad thing. The slightest kindness given them make them slaves to those who showed the said kindness. It’s easy to get Filipino’s affection and loyalty — a smile, a handshake, a few handouts to those who have long been dismissed and neglected by the elitist system and government. This is what Etsrada has been long relying on.

In the meantime, his running mate is Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay.

BinayNow my views about Binay are slightly more positive– the man has worked for Makati, and he has been able to do some measure of good for his constituents. I really cannot make definite conclusions, only impressions; and my impressions, based on the little I see and know of Makati and the local government there, are positive.

I guess Estrada is banking on Binay to save him and his chances of leading the country well. Binay is the one who’s actually running for president, with Erap as the figurehead.

Still, tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk.

Estrada also named Juan Ponce Enrile, his son Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, Jose De Venecia III,  Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, and Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III as among his senatorial candidates.

My head hurts just thinking about these developments. I could weep if I didn’t feel angry and frustrated.

October 20, 2009

Health and infrastructure issues in the wake of Pepeng and Ondoy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 1:13 am

Help!Lists, lists, lists all running in my head like a very, very long ticker tape. The world inside my head expands like a balloon slowly filling with helium, and I feel giddy. The lists are about needs and desires. There are so many things I want to do, things I want to happen, wish for, want; but the sorry fact is there are limits. Boundaries must be respected, limitations acknowledged. It’s far from being a perfect world, otherwise we could all do so much good and not just for our own selves but for other people, and humanity would be a few more steps closer to heaven on earth.

1. Repeal and junking of the oil deregulation law

2. Repeal and junking of the energy privatization law.

3. Repeal and junking of trade liberalization.

4. Free or substantially subsidized health care

5. Free or substantially subsidized education up to university

6. Free public housing

7. Genuine agrarian reform

8. Labor rights

9. Human Rights

10. Justice for all victims of state neglect, repression and killing.

11. Intelligent, humane and compassionate leaders with no concept of greed or personal ambition.

12.An independent and sovereign foreign policy.

Right now, though, I am very concerned about the state of the health care system. If it were a person, he would be one afflicted with so many diseases he’d be barely standing up. He pops a paracetamol tablet for migraines — the same way he relies on antibiotics for more serious complaints.

The news are disturbing. Over 700 cases of leptospirosis, and already, almost a hundred people have died. All because of the floods, and many areas remain flooded. Imagine wading and swimming through polluted water. Then imagine your own children doing the same. It’s  horrible. It’s dangerous. And now people are sick.

Besides leptospirosis, there’s cholera and the whole gamut of respiratory diseases because of the terrible living conditions in the evacuation centers. Skin diseases also proliferate.

As of this writing, there are still large areas of Pangasinan under water, and the same goes for areas in Laguna.

In the meantime, the landslides.  How horrible is it that Benguet and Baguio have run out of coffins and there’s a need to import them? Almost a hundred have died. Schools have collapsed.

I know that the positive attitude would be to work towards solutions and not to point fingers, but still, who and what is to blame?! I’ve been waiting for the anti-mining and anti-illegal logging groups to speak up. The areas that collapsed because of the massive rainfall were mountainside areas, and the houses were buried under soil and mud. There were no trees with spreading roots to hold the land together.

I’ve been reading reports about city planning. Sheesh, it’s only now that the experts are speaking up. There ARE plans to make the cities safer from floods and earthquakes and other natural phenomenon, they just haven’t been implemented because of lack of funds.

Right.

It’s no less than shocking, reports from the Department of Public Works and Highways saying that that some eight million residents in Metro Manila will still have to suffer from floods for at least ten 10 more years from flood and similar calamities because of lack of funds for infrastructure to prevent said floods.

Get real. There’s money alright, but this wretched, corrupt-to-the-bone government is spending it wrong.
Squandering is more like it.

Through the numerous financial scams and scandals the Arroyo administration has gotten itself into, a particular truth was exposed and affirmed:  there IS money, but it is not being utilized for the public good. This latest revelation of the government’s infuriating inability to address the urgent infrastructure problems of the country yet again point to corruption and twisted priorioties  as the reasons for its failures.

According to the DPWH, the government’s  estimated P82-billion flood-control projects that could have prevented killer floods caused by strong typhoons like Ondoy remain unimplemented for lack of funds. Plans to rehabilitate the damaged areas and prevent future disasters will be at a standstill for 10 more years as the projects go through the process comprised of feasibility studies, government and funding-agency approval, and bidding and construction.Nine of 15 projects that could have prevented massive flooding in Metro Manila have have not even been started.

Red tape! While people drown and their homes are submerged!

In the meantime, at least P30 billion is supposedly needed to implement the relocation of more than half a million squatter families living in danger zones, particularly riverbanks and other waterways. The Metro Manila Inter-Agency Committee on Informal Settlers, in a report submitted to the Supreme Court, said the task would involve the construction of 22,689 social housing units a year at an average cost of P3.225 billion annually to provide some 544,609 informal dwellers with decent and safer homes.

Great. And Gloria Arroyo and her sycophants gorge on steaks abroad.

Obviously, these are the things that Macapagal- Arroyo deliberately left out when delivering her State of the Nation addresses. It took Ondoy and Pepeng to force the government to admit its failures, and now it’s the Filipino people who will again suffer the consequences. There is a serious need to reorganize and restructure the government’s priorities when it comes to budget utilization. The implementation of projects that will ensure the safety and security of the populace against the ravages of natural phenomenon must be prioritized.

October 13, 2009

Turning 34 and 1.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 6:46 am

Her_Fearful_Symmetry_A_Novel-60922 I’ turned 34 yesterday. It’s strange how I don’t feel a day like it.

I suppose it’s because I don’t feel that I have changed much through the years. I’ve read somewhere that after a certain age, people are fully formed: their essential beliefs, their fears and deepest worries, the way they react to moments of bliss or woe will never again be a surprise. They are  who they are, and what remains of the potential for change can only be realized in increments. Most possibly, in sudden bursts of creativity, and  during great emotional upheavals that necessitate radical and immediate personal transformation all in the name of survival.

I feel the same way I did when I was 27. I think that was the age when I stopped aging inside. Or if I did age, it was a graceful process and intangible. The birth of  my baby daughter made me feel closer to complete, but in no way does motherhood make me feel old. I am  sometimes exhausted, but always, always  happy; do I ever feel old? No.

If anything, I feel younger. Kimiko gives me reason to be less adult in the sense that I am again more in touch with my childlike side. She marvels at the most ordinary things — the Columbia sports water bottle with its red tinge, the way spoons fit together when stacked one on top of the other, the CD player – and I can’t help but marvel along with her. It’s simply impossible to not see the world through her eyes when she’s happy; as if the world was a mostly happy place.

For a few hours, I can ignore the way the rest of the world weeps; I can pretend to be oblivious to the way injustice gnaws away at what hope we try to build; and afterwards, as I watch her sleep and dream (her pudgy legs sometimes kicking as they are splayed across the bed, as if she was playing soccer), I can resolve to be stronger.

In a way, Kimiko’s birth was also my birthday, because with her birth,  I was also reborn.  So I have two birthdays now; I am both 34 years old and 1.

—-

The image above is the cover of author Audrey Niffenegger’s second novel. It’s what I wanted for my birthday, but I made the wish for it too late as loved ones had already bought gifts (books pa rin, sheesh).

Anyway, I’m saving up for a copy (sadly, it’s not cheap, and I don’t think Booksale will be selling any for years yet. The book was released only October 1 or thereabouts), and if by the end of the month there’s enough left over, Powerbooks here I come!

It’s hard to write about what’s happening in the Philippines. There are no more words to describe the grief and the agony, the level of despair. The landslides in Benguet and Baguio, the massive flooding in Pangasinan have left more people homeless, helpless; many have been killed and in the most painful way: being swallowed by mud, being buried alive in the earth that suddenly weakened and collapsed. It’s a collective nightmare that many will not be waking up from.

What’s worse is that there is a considerable amount of certainty that the tragedies could have been avoided. The landslides were set off the strong rains; but what made the earth more susceptible?

Mining and deforestation. The stubborn greed of local governments and mining and logging concessions have resulted in this. And now our children are paying. And we will all continue to pay for decades more unless we begin rebuilding now and in the right way by putting an end to open pit mining and illegal logging and slash and burn techniques of clearing forests and other areas for infrastructure building.

Is it too late? No. It’s never too late.We are paying with the blood and lives of our children and our loved ones for the mistakes of our daily living and our indifference or our willful refusal to heed the warnings nature has given us. And we will continue to pay in more valuable coin beyond lost property and homes if we do not change the kind of government and the kind of system in place now. Hundreds of thousands have no food, water, adequate shelter. Children are falling ill left and right.

Through all this, the government is running around like a chicken with its head cut off. Now there’s a report saying that  dsaster-preparedness officials warned Defense Secretary and presidential wanna-be Gilbert Teodoro about how there was the strong possibility that there would be widespread flooding this year. Teodoro, however, fudged, and  did not act quickly on purchasing life-saving equipment like rubber boats.

I suppose it  sounds a bit corny to say, but I guess it is important that we must all live more aware now — aware of what we can do to make the Philippines a better place to live in, and in that way contribute to efforts to heal the planet. It’s all interconnected, likes strands of a spiderweb= the kind of government we have, the policies it implements; how we live and respond to these policies, how we take an active (or inactive) role in the way society moves forward (or not).

I was never an environmentalist in the sense that I proclaimed it as my personal advocacy, but I have always been concerned about the earth and the catastrophies that have been happening: ice bergs melting when they had no business doing so; ozone layer depletion; water pollution, air pollution, the damage caused by open pit mining.  Now, well, I guess I should pay even more attention and write more about these issues if I could (in the professional way, I mean, not just here where I’m mostly rambling).

October 8, 2009

To Malacanang: don’t steal from those who have already lost everything

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 1:43 am

sandwichesMoney, money. Gad.

Recent reports state that the donations and pledges for the victims of Tropical Storm Ondoy from other international organizations and from foreign countries have reached more than $13.22 million (or around P615 million).

Would it be too much to demand that Malacanang make a public accounting of how it’s using the funds? Because the donations do not make up a paltry sum (every single peso counts, anyone who has seen the state of the evacuation centers and the plight of the victims will fervently attest) : according to latest reports from the Department of Foreign Affairs,  a total of $7.33 million came from bilateral partners; $3.64 million from multilateral and regional organizations; $283,351 from international organizations, and $150,000 from foreign nongovernment organizations.

Based on a list released by the DFA, the top 12 donor-countries are Canada ($4.63 million), Spain ($1.46 million), Australia ($866,000), Germany ($729,000), Italy ($314,000), South Korea ($300,000), Switzerland ($242,000), Japan ($223,000), China ($140,000), United States ($100,000), Singapore ($30,000) and France ($14,583). In the meantime, Filipino overseas communities from the Marianas to Dubai, gave relief funds amounting to $5,820. DFA personnel in Philippine embassies and consulates raised $7,802 while other private individuals and groups contributed $64,582.

So that’s a lot of money. Money that could buy medicine and food and clothes; money that could be used to improve the facilities of the evacuation centers and the temporary shelters even as the areas and communities ravaged by Ondoy are being rehabilitated.

I worry in particular for the children, the babies. It’s beyond horror that they should be suffering the sorry conditions in the evacuation centers, that they should be forced to subsist mainly on instant cooked noodles and canned food.  Their mothers and fathers are much worse off, I know (because it is certain that they continue to make even greater sacrifices to ensure that their children get to eat and drink), and all in all it’s painful to think about.

Daily I think of how urgent it is, how crucial that we fight for a new government, a new system, an altogether different way of life.  It goes against everything great and good to accept that this state of things will continue for the longest time yet, and that no substantial and meaningful change will take place.

Is it not the height of something tragic or the other that we cannot even trust the highest official of the land to manage the funds and to ensure that every single centavo goes towards efforts to help the victims get back on their feet and to rehabilitate their communities, to rebuild and make them livable again?

A question: will all the money coming in, why can’t the government initiate the establishment of soup kitchens in the areas affected by the typhoon? Soup kitchens that will cook real meals, real food so the refugees will not have to continue living on noodles and sardines? If not actual meals, then certainly a bowl of steaming hot arroz caldo would be better than tinned food.

It’s been almost two weeks since many of the victims have eaten properly, food that is filling and genuinely nourishing. Can’t fruit be distributed? Apples and dalandan. And sandwiches? I don’t think it will take too much effort to make them — no fuss and frills, just bread and filling, maybe tuna and chopped lettuce? Or egg? No mayonnaise, because that would spoil quickly.  Dried fruit like raisins would also be okay.

It’s also appalling that there are no toilets and bathrooms for the victims. The schools turned evacuation centers have turned into virtual pigsties, and more sickness is sure to follow.

Aaaargh!The government should utilize resources better! This is so frustrating. There is no denying that an effective means of measuring the efficiency and strength of any society is to see how it takes care of its members during emergency situations. A government’s compassion and humanity is also measured in how it gives its constituents protection and how it looks after their welfare when they have been rendered helpless.

Macapagal-Arroyo should be reminded that it’s a mortal sin to steal, and even worse to steal from those who have already lost everything. The foreign humanitarian aid that continues to come in should be utilized well, and completely for the benefit of the victims and their communities.  And some of the fund should go towards the creation and implementation of more intelligent, more efficient, scientific disaster response plan. But I guess it’s useless to appeal to her, she who is corrupt to the core, she who showed little or no hesitation in dining lavishly as the rest of her constituents went hungry.

Even now, as she makes those tv appearances, feigning knowledge, pretending to exude confidence and strength at a time when so many feel so weakened, she is exposed as a liar as the situation refuses to improve and the victims continue to suffer.

October 1, 2009

Reclaiming human dignity after Tropical Storm Ondoy

Filed under: Uncategorized — Ina Alleco @ 8:59 am

Human-DignityThere is much to applaud about the efforts of various people’s organizations, Church and ecumenical humanitarian groups and media outlets to bring aid to the victims of Tropical Storm Ondoy. Without their outstanding help, it is highly likely that the death toll would be much higher, and the suffering of the survivors would be even worse (yes, impossible as it may sound, it could still be worse).

Having said that, however, it is tragic to see how much help is still needed and how urgent it is to bring that help now. More and more children are falling ill, and their condition is further exacerbated by the fact that the health of their own parents are slowly deteriorating. It’s  hardly an exaggeration to say that many of them have not had a good night’s sleep since Friday– before Ondoy arrived and turned their lives upside down and on the wrong side. In the meantime, subsisting on canned goods, biscuits and instant noodle soup is never anyone’s recommendation for good nutrition.

Their must be more help to be had! There must be more that could be done to help them, and now!

How, I am not exactly sure. One feels so helpless, and not even the awareness that thousands of Filipinos are now doing their best to help provide relief for the victims is consolation.  It’s not a happy thing to know that the help being given is far from being enough. There is no comfort to be felt by those in the relief missions because of how well aware they are that the aid they are giving resembles drops of water in a wide desert and its permanently high noon. They can only give their time and their strength and their goodwill, and pray that more help comes in.

I have been ruminating over the entire concept of providing relief aid. Without question, it is a good and noble thing on the part of those giving the aid (especially if they don’t think about it at all and give themselves pats on the back); but I’m thinking how it must feel like for the recipients.

They must be grateful, I am sure. In their desperation and bewildered state, it is certain that they are very thankful for any and all kind of help they’re being given. But on then on the other hand, it must also be somewhat painful for them to be on the receiving end.

Yes, they were already poor before the calamity struck; but they lived in whatever dignity and independence they could muster. Majority of them worked for their own keep, relying on their own strength and their creativity to scrape a living and to bring home food for their children and families. Perhaps many bought their furniture second hand, or on installment; the same goes for their televisions and their DVD players and whatever appliances they also had in their homes. They did their best to keep their children clothed and fed; and worked hard to keep their children in school and out of the streets.

All this no thanks to the Macapagal-Arroyo government or its predecessors. All this without help from local officials or even those from higher positions (No, financial assistance from congressmen or any similar ‘aid’ is not really aid: it’s taxpayers’ money, and Filipinos who ask for help from local officials are only exercising their right to receive it. As for the officials who give it, they’re not saints: they’re just doing their duty as public servants).

And now, in the wake of Ondoy, these same Filipinos who worked and slaved for their families, who dreamed of simple dreams for their children and hoped nothing beyond keeping their families together despite grinding poverty and the worsening economic crisis, now these Filipinos have been reduced to being charity cases.

They are now forced into the roles of mendicants, and they cannot even see beyond the next meal. The future is too far for them to see: surviving from one hour to the next is already an ordeal in the cramped evacuation centers where the heat is stifling, where there are not enough sanitation facilities, where boredom can take the toll on anybody’s already restless mind and troubled spirit. Desperation clings like second skin, and not even the hum of the ever-present mosquitoes and flies can distract one from the fear of  uncertainty: where will they be in a week? what will happen to the children? how will they rebuild their homes and their lives?

intro_hum_dig_defThis is one more thing the government and the system should be held accountable for: for snatching away the remnants of dignity left to so many Filipinos.

National media sites are rife with reports of how the Macapagal-Arroyo regime squandered funds initially earmarked for disaster operations, and how the government knew beforehand that a calamity was coming because of reports they received from the meteoriologists.  Did the government initiate any preparations? No. And now another strong tropical storm is coming and we are all left fearing what could come next.

I suppose the main goal now should be this: helping the victims reclaim their dignity. And to do this means going beyond giving the much needed emergency goods.

It means helping them see their options other than returning to their lives pre-Ondoy; it means, helping them see beyond the horrible tragedy of the moment and giving them strength to claim their rights and demand it from the government who was tasked to protect the people but instead abused the powers it was given. It means opening their eyes to the truth that this tragedy, the nightmares given life because of Ondoy, were man-made and could have been avoided, and that similar tragedies can be stopped in their tracks.

It means enjoining them to help fight this system of corruption and oppression, and encouraging them to participate in efforts to create a better society, putting together a humane and compassionate government, and laying down the foundations for a new way of life where preserving human dignity and life and upholding social justice take precedence over personal gain and selfish ends.

Because in the end, so long as this kind of government remains, this kind of system continues, we are all victims.