Monthly Archives: October 2008

Love sealed on a balikbayan box

“Roughly speaking, one loves not because one wants gifts, but because one wants their meaning.”

-Niklas Luhmann

PARALLEL to something big happening in Manila, the MMSU Graduate School organized recently a Research Forum on Migration and Development where this columnist was invited to speak.

There I presented a paper I co-authored with my ‘partner for all seasons’ Marjorie Pascual Garcia, also of MMSU, and Vangie Novero Blust of Green Mountain College, Vermont, USA. Bearing the title “Influences of Transnational Labor Migration on Ilocano College Students’ Consumption Behaviors, Value Retention, and Social Relationships”, the paper studied in detail the cases of fifteen college students whose parents are working overseas.

Allow me to share with you some insights from our work:

Migration is across all social classes. While it is true that poverty is the main reason for work overseas, many Filipinos go abroad for some other reasons (including whims and caprices). Note that most of the participants did not consider themselves economically poor when their parents were still home.

For one, no participant confessed to experiencing hunger in their pre-migration lives. When their parents went abroad, the increase in food was more on the variety, not on the quantity. One student puts it:

Nagbalin a sab-sabali tay ordinaryo ken inaldaw-aldaw a kankanenmi aglalo no agpao-it ni Mama ti door-to-door. (Our everyday fare became different, especially when we would receive our door-to-door package.)

Also, most of the participants now find themselves frequenting fast-food chains, which connotes deviation from Ilocano foodways. Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Education, Family, Migration

Ang gurong ‘di nagpasalamat



NAIS KONG IBAHAGI ang isang karanasan ko nu’ng bago pa lang ako sa MMSU. Unang semester ko noon ng pagtuturo sa unibersidad.

Ako ay bahagi ng College of Arts and Sciences o CAS. Kapag faculty ka sa kolehiyong ito ay lilibutin mo ang iba’t ibang mga gusali para sa iyong mga klase. Itinayo sa mahigit sa isandaang ektaryang lupain, malawak ang MMSU at magkakalayo ang mga building kung kaya’t sumasakay kami sa tricycle madalas, lalo na kung sobrang init o umuulan, kapag gahol ka na sa oras, o kung pagod at tinatamad ka nang maglakad.

Minsan, mula sa CAS papuntang CBEA, isang kolehiyong may kalayuan, ay may nakasabay akong isang guro at isang estudyante sa pagbiyahe. Ako at ang guro (mga 40 pataas ang edad, babae) ay nasa loob ng tricycle samantalang ang estudyante naman ay nag-“backride”, sumakay sa may likuran ng drayber.

Tinanong ako ni Ma’am kung saan ako bababa. “Sa CBEA po,” aking tugon. At di na kami nag-usap pa.

Naunang bumaba si Ma’am sa isang mas malapit na gusali, nagbayad siya at sinabi sa drayber, “Duwakam ditoyen” (Dalawa na kami dito). Ang initial reaction ko e magpasalamat lalo na’t hindi pa ako sumasahod noon, pero bigla akong napatigil at tinanong sa aking sarili, “Sino ba ang inilibre niya? Ako ba o ’yung estudyante? Baka naman ‘yung estudyante kasi ay di pa naman kami magkakilala ni Ma’am.” Hayyy, ang hirap! Kapag nagpasalamat ako at hindi pala ako ’yung inilibre, mapapahiya ako at baka ganun din si Ma’am. Awkward ‘yung sabihin ni Ma’am: Ay, sori, haan nga sika’t impletyak, diya’y ubing (Sorry, hindi ikaw ang inilibre ko, ‘yung bata). Ngunit, kapag ako pala ’yung inilibre at hindi ako nakapagpasalamat, nakahihiya naman… at baka maipamalita pa ni Ma’am na “’yung bagong faculty e hindi marunong ng tamang asal”. Dahil ‘di ko malaman ang gagawin, hindi na lang ako nagpasalamat.

Pagdating sa CBEA, sinubukan kong magbayad. Kapag tinanggap ng drayber ang pamasahe ko, aba’y mabubunutan ako ng tinik dahil hindi naman pala ako ’yung inilibre. Ngunit kapag hindi niya tinanggap ang bayad ko, patay! Dyahe kay Ma’am.

Tinanggap ito ng drayber… kaya’t ako’y napangiti. Nu’ng paalis na ’yung tricycle, ipinaalala ko sa estudyante, “Ading, ’wag ka nang magbayad ha, inilibre ka na ni Ma’am”. Ang malaking ngiti sa aking mukha ay nalusaw na parang ice cream (ube flavor) nu’ng makita ko ang reaksyon ng bata: bakas sa kanyang mukha ang pagtataka at pagkagulat. Hindi pala niya kilala si Ma’am, at mukhang sa tingin niya ay hindi naman siya ililibre nito.

Sus! Malamang ay ako pala ang pinagmagandahang-loob. Ano ba’ng buhay ‘to? Nang dahil sa pitumpisong pamasahe ay nagulo ang mundo ko.

Alam kong magkikita pa kaming muli ni Ma’am kaya puwede pa sana akong bumawi, ang problema ay hindi ako matandain sa mga mukha. Malamang, ‘pag magkasalubong kaming muli e hindi ko siya mamumukhaan.

Ang solusyon? Nginingitian ko na lang lahat ng aking makasalubong. Hindi lang basta ngiti ha… Hindi ngiting pitumpiso… Kundi ‘yun bang smile ng batang ibinilhan mo ng pitong Happy Meal sa McDo. Ayun.

At mukhang epektib naman. Mahigit isang taon na mula noon e ‘di pa naman kumakalat na ako’y isang taong hindi marunong mag-tenkyu. Sa ating kultura pa naman, napakahalaga ng pagpapasalamat. Hindi naman dahil sa naghahanap tayo ng kapalit sa ating mabuting gawain kundi dahil sa kapag hindi mo na-appreciate ang kabutihang-loob ng iyong kapwa ay parang binale-wala mo na rin ang kanyang buong pagkatao. Sensitib tayong mga Pinoy dito.

Ang leksiyon: ang inyong abang lingkod ay malugod pa ring tatanggap ng inyong tulong, sa loob man o labas ng tricycle. Sana lang ay pakilinaw ha. Tenk yu. Siyanga pala, bakit naman ganun si Manong Drayber, tanggap lang nang tanggap?! At si backrider, nabagabag rin kaya ang kalooban tulad ko?

At sa iyo, Madam Mapagbigay, marami pong salamat. Hindi lamang sa baryang inyong ibinahagi, kundi pati na rin sa pagkakataong ako’y makapagnilay-nilay at masuri ang aking pakikipagkapwa. At dahil ‘di kita namukhaan kaya’t di ako makaganti. Sa aking muling pagsakay ay aalalahanin ko na lamang ang iyong magandang halimbawa. Sino man ang makasabay, ako naman ang taya.

21 Comments

Filed under Kuwento

Uncle Gerry Writes

[I ONCE WROTE a piece on Ferdinand Marcos and mentioned there my dear Uncle Gerry (Labayog), an anti-Marcos activist who later on became, and ironically so, a Marcos Loyalist. Here are excerpts from my favorite uncle’s email who has embraced Hawaii as his second home for almost two decades now.]

First of all, I want to tell you, I’m very proud of you. You have awakened the sleeping conscience of a lot of Filipinos.

I like your article about Marcos who, for me, is our country’s greatest President. When he assumed office, he inherited (from his predecessor Diosdado Macapagal) sixteen billion dollars of debt. When he left office in 1986, the loan was twenty-six billion. But, look at his accomplishments.

When I was a kid (Macapagal was still president), your Lola Amby used to take me with her to Dingras, Marcos, and Banna to barter canned goods with rice, fish, and vegetables. Those towns hardly had any electricity. The barrios didn’t have any. In the morning, kasla adda naibrush nga uring (it was as if charcoal had been brushed) just below our nostrils after inhaling the smoke of the kerosene lamp all night. Marcos initiated electrification from Batanes to Julu.

Also, your Uncle Fred used to take me with him to Bangui during their Fiesta celebration to sell RTW’s. We would leave at 5:00 a.m. and would reach Bangui at 3:00 p.m. The roads were so rough. Now, thanks to Marcos, you can be there in one hour or less. When Imelda was governor of Metro Manila, the nation’s capital was very clean. Flooding was minimized. The Marcoses built, among many others, landmark infrastructures such as the LRT, San Juanico Bridge, CCP, PICC, etc. During their regime, Philippine Heart-Lung-Kidney Centers were built. Now, the funds for these hospitals are corrupted.

For the agricultural sector, Marcos, in his early term, launched the Masagana 99. That is, to produce 99 cavans of rice per hectare of agricultural land. It was successful. We even exported rice to other ASEAN countries during his term. For her part, Imelda launched the Green Revolution. Planted in every backyard, vegetables were in abundance.

Under Macapagal, the illegal numbers game Jueteng was all over the Philippines. When Marcos assumed office in 1966, the very next day after he was sworn into office, Jueteng was no longer around. Whether we agree or not, Jueteng has corrupted a lot of politicians (including you-know-who). When Cory was installed as president (not by election), the very next day, Jueteng was around every corner.

When I was detained in 1972 (martial law), one Philippine Constabulary soldier hit me on the nape (pateltel). Of course, Marcos had nothing to do with it. It was the lack of discipline of those soldiers under Fidel Ramos that resulted to those tortures, but it was Marcos they blamed.

Why was Martial Law declared? There was already a threat. They blamed Marcos for the Plaza Miranda bombing where the opposing senatorial candidates were having their Miting de Avance. Until now, they insist that Marcos did it even after Victor Corpuz revealed that it was the plot of the New People’s Army to discredit Marcos.

They also said that he ordered the killing of Ninoy. But none among Cory, Ramos, or Arroyo have proven it, despite all their powers. I suspect that the killing was the work of somebody more powerful to prevent the Philippines from being under communist ideology which Ninoy evidently supported.

They say that Ninoy restored democracy. What democracy? From Cory to Arayko, ay, Arroyo, the country has been known as a topnotcher when it comes to corruption.

I used to say, if I could have 250,000 dollars, I would return and invest in the Philippines. I’ll put half of it in the bank and the interest alone will provide for my everyday needs. My money will work for me. Maybe I could do it now; I just have to sell the house that we purchased 6 years ago.

But, I have completely changed my mind. With the endemic corruption and the I-don’t-care attitude of people in government, the money that I would bring home to work for me might just go down the drain the next day after I come home to my beloved Philippines.

‘Til then, Herdy. Ingat. God bless our country.

9 Comments

Filed under Family, Government/Politics, Marcos

PITAKA NG PAG-ASA: Isang pagpupugay kay Leoncio Pagtama at sa lahat ng tulad niya

BAGAMA’T KINORONAHAN NA ang Pilipinas bilang bansang may pinakatalamak na korapsyon sa bahaging ito ng Asya, ako’y naninindigang honest ang Pinoy.
Maniwala ka sa akin. Bilang certified burara, mahaba ang listahan ko ng mga pagmamagandang-loob ng aking kapwa. Marami na akong nawala… pitaka, cellphone, laptop, at kung anu-ano pang mga mahahalagang bagay, ngunit karamihan sa mga ito ay isinauli.
Tugma dito ang resulta ng isang pagsasaliksik na isinagawa ng Reader’s Digest (RD). Ayon dito, mas honest pa nga ang Pinoy kung ikukumpara sa mga mamamayan ng ilang bansang “first world”.
Noong nakaraang taon, nagpakalat ang RD ng tigtatatlumpung (30) cellphone sa tatlumpu’t dalawang (32) mga lungsod sa iba’t ibang dako ng mundo. May pagkakakilanlan ang bawat cellphone kaya’t maaari itong isauli ng makapupulot kung gugustuhin nito. Tinawagan din ng RD ang mga cellphone upang magbigay ng direksyon sa mga taong nakahanap kung paano maisasauli ang mga telepono. Continue reading

25 Comments

Filed under Heroes, PinoyPride

Of weight loss and flimsy revolts: Resisting the BELOnization of Philippine society


JUAN DE LA CRUZ has always been portrayed as a frail man who is bordering on the malnourished, reflective perhaps of the plight of many Filipinos who have very little, if any at all, on their dinner tables.

I prefer however to imagine Juan as obese, one who cannot walk ten meters without panting, but who can run fast as a squirrel to the dinner table where bagnet, sisig, and adobong baboy are waiting to become part of his already multi-layered flab.

If I were to be appointed as Presidential Adviser for Weight Loss Affairs (if and when this post is created as obesity rates reach alarming levels), I would present the following proposal which, I hope, will merit some consideration: Presidential Decree 8888, A Measure Placing the Entire Nation under Calorie Preemptive Reduction or CPR.

In detailing this program (which I hope will not be ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court), allow me to intersperse personal insights on my own journey to the medium-sized world. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Government/Politics, Health, Kuwento, Revolution

Philosophizing the nurse, nursing the philosopher

ALL RIGHT, my students are bright, as we boast of having one of the finest nursing programs in the country. Their training is rigid, and the selection process very tight. But, at the turn of the semester, I feared that my students would take my subject lightly. I took pains in urging them not to treat philosophy as a “minor subject”, for there must be some reason why it is a curriculum requirement.

After a month, my students submitted their phenomenological reflections. My heart broke when I discovered that many of them wanted to pursue something else, but were forced by their elders, who finance their studies, to take up nursing instead. It is sad that our ailing economy kills the dreams of the young. Older people are infected with bitter pragmatism, and few of them are as supportive as the father in a PLDT commercial (“Kung saan ka masaya, anak, suportahan ta ka”).

Our class had an engaging discussion on Martin Heidegger, who posits that when man confuses being with having, the origin of desire is located in external possessions: money, gadgets, and whatnot become the source of happiness; deprivations lead to feelings of sadness and frustration. In this case, the human-being has identified her self with objects of passing significance, and has forgotten her own existence.

“At the moment, what essence do you find in your existence?,” I asked them. It is not very difficult to figure out: e$$ence. It does not take a sociologist to understand why. Our government is a joke, our economy a disaster, and only God knows what other tribulations await our benighted land. No wonder that many professionals are now taking up nursing—doctors, dentists, physical therapists and, yes, even lawyers. Some of them have been my students, older than I am, and resigned to this nation’s dim tomorrow.


Continue reading

11 Comments

Filed under Education, Migration, Philosophy