Wednesday, August 17, 2016

The Sunday Activity

Yadu Karu

Despite her busy schedule, Kenneth Jane Omongos never fails to extend her advocacy work in far flung communities of Alabel Sarangani Province. She is one of the few advocates in Sarangani who have genuine heart to help other people. 

To help me explore the municipality of Alabel, she invited me to witness their activity last Sunday (July 31, 2016). I became an observer not only for their Sunday activity in Purok Mangga, Brgy. Bagacay, but also the overt vices in Purok 1 of barangay Spring. I became a witness to problems that are evident in the two communities. 

As I have expected, Purok Mangga is situated in a mountainous area of Alabel. We had a rough motorcycle ride with his father (who happens to be the Pastor in Purok Mangga) going to the community. In the first phase of our journey, we passed through a dead river. 

"Kung mag ulan, tapos mag baha, asa mu agi ang mga bata kung muadto sila sa ilang skwelahan? Wa bay alternative na agianan?" I asked Pastor Omongos.

(When it rains and floods, where would the route for students if they are going to school? Is there an alternative way?)

"Wala, mao ra gyud ni ang agianan," said Pastor Omongos. (None, this is the only way.)

As I tried to absorb the statement of Pastor Omongos, I imagined the scenario where flash floods would rush in our way. The dead river is the only way to school or even a way out from their community. 

When we arrived in the community, I got amazed when Blaan kids greeted us with a mano. It was my first time to experience such welcome. 

"Friend, dugay nako wa ka du-aw sa mga bata diri sa community," said Kenneth. "Busy man gud sa Law School ug sa work." (It has been a while since I visited this community. Because I am busy with law School and my job.)

It is a typical Blaan community in a remote area. Their houses are made of wood; some have decent roof like while others prefer the traditional one. Their water source come from a tubod (water sprout); as I have observed, they need to have a decent water system in order for them to fully maximize the usage of it. But what like about the area is that you can see Sarangani Bay if you are in the community. 

As soon as we arrived in their makeshift chapel, she immediately took out her borrowed weighing scale. She checked the weight of the Blaan kids with gusto. After that, she introduced me to them. They were all curious about the new guy in their community. 

"Ate Kenneth asawa na nimo?" one boy asked. (Ate Kenneth is that your husband?)

Kenneth and I laughed. The two young mothers at the back made weak laughed. She started to introduce me to quench their curiosity. 

“Mao ni si Kuya Vanz. Friend nako ni sya. Naa sya diri kay gusto nya makita ang inyong lugar,” said Kenneth. (This is Vanz. He is my friend. He is here because he wanted to see your community.)

Kenneth started the storytelling session with the Blaan kids. She told the story of the Good Samaritan and emphasized its morals. As I became a passive listener, I got carried away when Kenneth asked: 

"Naka experience na ba mo na gi bully sa school? Kinsa sa inyo gisungog na Bilaan Bilaan?" (Have you experience bullying in school? Who among you here bullied as Bilaan, bilaan?)

"Ate ako! Ako! Ako!", all of them answered. (Me! Me! Me!) 

Although it was not shocking to me to heard their responses, I was a bit surprise that all of them responded. Kenneth shared words of encouragement to help boost their confidence. She knows what it feels to be bullied because she herself experience it. She emphasized the value of forgiveness and understanding in a Judeo-Christian context. But as with its psychological damage, I am not sure if her advices are effective to them. 

To cool down the scene, we decided to play our own version of soccer. In my case, it was fun. It was fun in the sense that I'm not into sports and the energy of my teammates was contagious. Although in the past years I have been to many Blaan communities in Sarangani, I never got the interest to join in such activities. But I gave it a chance for an experience. It was my first time to be part of a team. Because of our determination, we won the game against Kenneth and her team. 

The game made us hungry. We ate Binignit which its main ingredient was Manna Pack (special rice that has tidbits of vegetables and meat). It tasted like champorado but with a binignit twist. I pretended that I liked it. Thanks to the children because they saved me from not finishing it up. 

"Manguli na ba ta?", I asked Kenneth. (Are we going to leave?) 

"Oo friend. Mag adto pa ta sa amua, sa barangay Spring," she replied. (Yes friend, we will still be going to our barangay in Spring.)

"Pa, kaya pa mubyahe?", Kenneth asked to her father. (Pa, are you still ok for another trip?)

"Kaya pa! Salig lang." (Yes I can! Just trust me.) 

That Sunday activity gave me a glimpse of a picture that most of us would avoid to see.

~End of part 1

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The Farmers plight: The Small Scale Farmers Meeting at Makilala North Cotabato

Yadu Karu

   The problems in the agriculture sector is not new to us. We are all aware that our farmers and fishermen remain to be poor. We all know that our government import tons of rice and other agricultural products just to feed the growing population of our country. We are all aware that most of our farmers still practice synthetic farming methods just to produce good harvest. We are all reminded of these scenarios because it became “normal” to us. Is this right? Are we heading to the right path of development? How can we ensure food security in this country? How can we attain sustainable growth if we still continue the wrong practices of the past administrations? Are we asking the right questions? Or we are just fooling ourselves on it? Why these problems remain to be unfathomable?

   Anak Mindanao (AMIN) Partylist and Earthsoul Solutions organized a farmers meeting last August 12-13, 2016 at Don Basco Youth Camp and Training Center (under Don Bosco Foundation for Sustainable Development Inc.) in Barangay Batasan, Makilala North Cotabato. Thirty (30) small scale farmer leaders from Region 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and ARMM participated the meeting in which they shared their sentiments with regard to agriculture sector. They come up with propose solutions to the problems which will be presented to Sec. Manny Piñol with the help of Congresswoman Sitti Djalia A. Turabin-Hataman (AMIN Representative).

   The meeting had an intense discussion about the current situation of the farmers. We talked about their self-image, their aspirations, the barriers to achieve their aspirations, the root cause of the problems and solutions for it. The meeting raised important questions to help understand the situation of agriculture sector in our country. These are some questions that are worth to ponder: 

1. After spending billions of pesos in agricultural programs and research, the recommendations given by technocrats and agriculture experts, World Bank, United Nations and the like - the farmers cannot produce enough rice, corn, meat, fish, chicken to feed the Filipinos; farmers and fishermen remain to be the poorest among the Filipinos. Why? 
2. Why agriculture's contribution to GDP has continually slid down from 20-30% in the past decades to only 11.2% in 2015? 
3. Why our neighbors in ASEAN beat us black and blue in agricultural productivity in rice and all crops (except pineapple and bananas produced by multinational corporations) when we are the world's experts in rice and many other crops? 
4. Why do we need to import P7 billion of coffee beans annually from Vietnam and P3 billion of cocoa beans from Ivory Coast per year when we have the best climate and soil for these crops?
5. Why is Philippine Coconut Agency (PCA) encouraging oil palm cultivation in the country when it is bad for bio-diversity and environment; when it competes directly with our coconut industry (which PCA is supposed to grow), which give only 1/2 of income compared to an integrated coconut farm; When Indonesia and Malaysia are controlling its expansion?

   In the past years, I have read various study tackling these issues. The researchers recommended solutions to help solve these problems. I have also read government programs and international loan agencies that address the problems in the agriculture sector. Many experts have also shared their advices as to how to deal with the food crisis in the country. But look at where we are now; the Philippines remains to be dependent on importation of agricultural products and synthetic farming method. There seems to be a “battle” between synthetic farming advocates and organic farming advocates. What’s happening to our agriculture sector? 

   “Food security starts with the farmers,” said Edmundo Cejar, the presiding officer of the meeting. “We have to create the right environment to make it happen. We want prosperous and productive farmers. Self-sufficiency is in our hands.” 

   How can we achieve this vision if our farmers see themselves as a low class citizen of this country? If they do not appreciate their worth; if most of us do not appreciate their importance; if they do not have the right technology to farm; if they are in debt; if they send their children to school to get out of farming; if the young generation prefer to take other “prestige” courses than agriculture because they do not see any future of it; if the government still promotes synthetic farming method because they benefited from multinational corporations who produce it; if multinational corporation still expand their operation and continue to intimidate farmers and small land owners; if peace and development remain elusive; if our political system still corrupt; if our mindset still cling to unsustainable concepts. How can we attain food security, if we do not properly address this reality? 

   Even though I don't have an agricultural background, I am thankful that I have the opportunity to listen to the stories of small scale farmers who came from different parts of Mindanao. Through our group session and discussion, we are able to come up with a proposal which is inclusive, practical and sustainable. 

   The new administration has a perfect opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past including the malpractices of agriculture industry. We should be alarmed if right actions would not take over to solve this daunting problems. We just hope that our proposal will not put into oblivion. We hope that the agriculture sector will not again be in a hapless condition.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

YKB Interview | Nardo and the importance of PH Tarsier

Yadu Karu

Nardo Guiman talks about the importance of protecting the environment. He also emphasizes the importance of protecting endangered species in Mt. Matutum area like the famous Tarsier. 

Nardo is the Purok Chairman of purok Bagong Silang brgy. Linan in Tupi South Cotabato. He is also the President of Amtotong Menteymal Aklawin Kastifun (AMAK) or Matutum Tarsier Guardian. 

Watch the video below:

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Monday, June 6, 2016

A real change for Sarangani Province

Yadu Karu

After the campaign of incoming President Rodrigo Duterte, what’s next?”

A question that most Duterte volunteers asked about themselves but few could find the answers. Fortunately, DU30 Sarangani Action for Real Change (DU30-SARC) always has the fire to continue to advocate the things that they care about. This group has evolved into a movement in which it desired to have genuine change in Sarangani Province. 

“DU30-SARC is an advocacy group created by like-minded individuals who desires real change for Sarangani Province.” The initial group composed of the Duterte Municipal coordinators from seven (7) municipalities in Sarangani who have met in a restaurant in GenSan. 

This advocacy group has initial discussions about some problems in the province. As stated in their Facebook group, they talked about: 1. Review of 4Ps 2. Clean Energy/Pollution cause by Coal Power Plant. 3. Electorate Education. 4. Reinstatement of Death Penalty. These topics are not only discussed in online/offline. They assert that there should be concrete actions thru drafting sustainable policies and educating Sarangans about it. 

Edmund Cejar, one of the co-founders of DU30-SARC, decided to include electorate education in the group discussion because of rampant vote buying and selling in Sarangani Province. 

“Political maturity starts with political maturity of the electorate,” says Edmund. “The electorates are the ones who put all these officials in their positions. If you have stupid electorates, you have stupid officials.” 

He always cites the case of Manny Pacquiao (and his brothers). In the past 7 years, he managed to rise in the political landscape of Sarangani. Although he admired Manny for his contributions in the world of sports, he condemns Manny on his decision of entering in politics. For Edmund, if he really serious about it, Manny should prepare himself for the job. 

“The electorate can easily sway to fame, influence, money and threats. How do we break that cycle? We should educate the people about their right of suffrage. If we are able to make people realize by voting the right candidates in the government. It will have long term effect. If people are aware, they would elect the right officials,” says Edmund. 

“Educating people about political awareness is not easy,” Edmund points out. 

“Most of the people in Sarangani live in rural areas that are illiterate/semi illiterate. These are the first target of vote buying and selling because of their lack of awareness.”

“We have the opportunity to start doing something in the grassroots. Duterte and his team will reform the system on the top, while we educate the people below. Hopefully, we could meet halfway in terms of reform.”

“In a small scale we educate the people. By having educated electorate, it would become constraining factor for the officials who have ambition to run in public office. We should educate the people on how to use their right to suffrage correctly.”

This group is open to all especially to Sarangans who desired real change in Sarangani Province. As we all know, the province is in the 4th place as one of the poorest provinces in the Philippines. We cannot let it go in the top spot because that sounds very alarming. For Edmund being poor is not the real justification to sell their votes. It is just a matter of educating the people to be politically aware. 

This year’s election proved that money is not enough to win votes. The incoming President Rodrigo Duterte won because people believe on his platforms. President Duterte has no money. But the people became his political machinery. The people wanted change so badly that they campaign Duterte till the end. In short, President Duterte is a game changer. 

President Duterte promised to reform the system from the top. Edmund (and other groups) works on the grassroots to also help raise awareness to achieve the change that we all wanted. DU30-SARC helps initiate online and offline discussions to germinate ideas. It helps make these ideas to be ripened. When the right time comes it will be translated into sustainable policies. 

“We find means to get people together. We use the tactics of the traditional politicians but with our own twist. We need a more simplistic approach to make people understand. It needs more effort; we need passionate, committed and dedicated volunteers to do the work. For me the desire and commitment of a volunteer is more important than skills.” 

“It’s an uphill battle. When do we start, if not now? We should push it harder because the environment is favorable. We have space to flourish because of the right environment.”

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Wednesday, May 25, 2016

YKB | Interview | Lino and Maria Veronica Basilio

Yadu Karu

In 2015, Lino Baslio and Maria Veronica Basilio initiated the “Couple Tandem Bike for a Cause.” They traveled from Apari, Cagayan to Koronadal City, South Cotabato using their Tandem Bike. This cause was for the benefit of Saint Anthony Parish and Saint Lawrence Kalinga Orphanage. 

Watch the video below as they share their memorable experience during the biking trip. 

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Call for Action: Classroom Repair Project at Salimama Elementary School

Yadu Karu

   The inability to pursue higher level of education especially secondary is a sad reality among the IP students living in the far-flung areas. One of the reasons for this is the far distance of home to the nearby secondary schools wherein students have to walk 15 to 23 kilometers every day.

   This unfortunate situation is experienced by the IP students living in Sitio Salimama, one of the farthest places in the municipality of Alabel, Sarangani Province. The three nearest secondary schools from this sitio are Banlibato Integrated School which is 10 kilometers away, Tagaytay Integrated School - 17 kilometers away and Datal Anggas – 23 kilometers. 

   In this kind of situation, survival rate among the students to finish high school is relatively low. Out of the 30 students who graduated from elementary in school year 2013-2014, 17 enrolled in high school and only 7 of them survived up to grade 9 this upcoming school year 2016-2017. As a result, majority of them are out-of-school youth of whom some of them already engaged in early marriages.

   The best solution to this issue is to convert Salimama Elementary School into an Integrated School. This means that the school will offer both elementary and secondary education. This was already started last year by opening grade 7 class which had 30 enrollees. Through this solution, the students who graduated from elementary (if not 100% at least at majority level) can really finish high school. 

   The 30 grade 7 students last year will proceed now to grade 8 for school year 2016-2017 and the 35 graduates from elementary last year will enroll in grade 7. This increasing number of high school students calls for another additional classrooms to accommodate them. 

   Salimama ES has 3 excess classrooms but need major repair. These will be used as classrooms for Grade 7, Grade 8 and kindergarten.

   The repair of these classrooms will be done during Brigada Eskwela from May 30 – June 4, 2016. The repair activities include walling/putting of partition walls, flooring and repainting.

   In order to facilitate repair on these classrooms, the school is in need of the following materials which are enumerated below. The school is soliciting support from you in order to materialize the classroom repair project of Salimama Elementary School.

Unit Price
5 mm
 6, 250.00
2, 600.00
primer white
3, 200.00
white enamel
3, 200.00
yellow enamel
3, 200.00
blue enamel
3, 200.00
red enamel
3, 200.00
yellow lighter latex
1, 600.00
blue lighter latex
1, 600.00
Coco lumber
1, 500.00
           Total Cost of Materials
Php 29, 550.00

   Let us help the IP students in Salimama Elementary School. This is for a brighter future of Indigenous People in Salimama. 

For more information, you can contact Ramon Tamayo (Teacher Leader) – 09067689445.

Ramon R. Tamayo 
Teacher Leader 
Salimama Elementary School

Thursday, May 12, 2016

The Storybook Project: A self-fulfillment project

Yadu Karu

“In this project I feel genuine happiness. It is simple yet very fulfilling.”

   “It is a fulfillment when you render your services to others,” says Blessie Shun “Tink” Celestial, the president of Storybook Project of Ramon Magsaysay Memorial College (RMMC). It is inspiring to see their enthusiasm and dedication of telling stories to the children in their adopted communities. For them it is a fulfillment to see smiles on the faces of children they have engaged with. “It is how you touch the lives of the people,” she adds. 

   Tink is an incoming 4th year AB Mass Communication student of RMMC. As she tells her story, I could feel the joy of sharing her experiences as storyteller of the project. Tink did not expect that she would become the Best Storyteller of the 3rd wave of Storytellers; she did not imagine herself to become the President of their organization. But the people behind this project put a lot of trust on her because they know that she can do it. “I start believing myself because of the trust they gave to me,” says Tink. 

   Aside from their goal of having a generation of readers and to let the children appreciate the love of reading, the Storybook Project also helps them rediscover themselves as volunteers. 

   “I discovered that I have talent in storytelling. It is a self-discovery. While we discover ourselves, we became open to others. We learn to handle different people. We grow as volunteers in this project,” says Tink. 

   This project is not only beneficial for Tink. She also gives way to her fellow volunteers. She wants her co-volunteers to take part of it and expose them in different process of the project; a true mark of a good leadership. 

   As part of their activities, Tink and her team visit 26 barangays in GenSan to tell stories. They collaborate with Youth Affairs Development Office (YADO) to materialize their activity. Furthermore, they partnered with differents NGOs like the Conrado & Ladislawa Alcantara Foundation Inc. (CLAFI) for the Summer Big Brother (SBB) program. 

   They have many plans in the future. For example, the “Batang Handa” project which discusses the importance of disaster preparedness to the children. They also want to expand their services to Indigenous People and Moro children. 

   “Instead about thinking the pressure, I think this project as a challenge. This is not about what you can get but what can you give,” says Tink. 

   “We have this concept of reading it first before you speak. It is about good interaction between the storyteller and the children.” 

   After the story session they have their own assessment about their activity. They give honest feedback to each other in order for them to become better storytellers. 

   When the Storybook Project was not yet in her life, Tink was just a typical student with a routinely life. Although she was the former President of their Mass Communication Society, the Storybook Project became her eye opener. 

   “Before I am not an active youth,” says Tink. “I’ve been there. I just don’t care. One day I woke up and realize that if you don’t care, don’t expect that someone would care for you. If you want someone to care about you, you have to care about the others too. I learn to care unlike before that I only think about myself.” 

   “In this project I feel genuine happiness. It is simple yet very fulfilling,” adds Tink. 

   The Storybook Project was conceptualized by Leonardo Rey "Bing" S. Cariño. It evolved from “Buklat Aklat Mamulat” project. It is one of the projects of College of Liberal Arts in RMMC. This coming July, they will conduct the 4th wave of Storybook Project. It will be open not only for RMMC students but also to any other college students in GenSan. 

   “I don’t want to leave,” Tink puns. “I have this thinking that it is slowly sinking in my mind to pass the throne to the next president. But I am just here to help for improvements” 

   “This is not about you; living is not about yourself. It’s about how you can touch the life of other person,” as she relates. 

   “We believe that it’s always about the project and not ourselves.”

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Sunday, May 8, 2016

A curious Dutertard

Yadu Karu

   In the past months, I became a volunteer of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte’s presidential campaign in Region XII. It has been a circus ride; a once in a lifetime chance to witness the unexplainable unity of his supporters. We spend our time and resources for the campaign. In short, we are not paid. Mayor Duterte does not know the majority of his supporters. It is a fact that has been known in the past months. As a volunteer, I also became curious of the psychology behind our devotion. I contemplate on myself if I am really a die-hard supporter or a social scientist trying to decipher the meaning of this phenomenon. 

   The presidential candidacy of Mayor Duterte is phenomenal. The majority of the Filipinos from all walks of life unite for genuine change in this country. The minority of unbelievers demand logical reasons why we supported the platforms of the maverick candidate. But they cannot logically explain why we became supporters. Carlos Celdran coined the term “Dutertad” to degrade us because of our “fanaticism”. What he did not realize is that the term evolves into a positive one which unites all believers. 

   In this electoral season, many relationships have been broken because of our choices. Some would take it as a serious matter as if the world would end. While some take it as a joke pill that needs to be swallowed for immunity in today’s cancerous society. Despite our political differences, we have the right to choose our own political candidates. We have the right to express our sentiments, frustrations, opinions, ideas and solutions because we desire for genuine change. 

   We are tired of being duped, manipulated, hurt, frustrated, mad, “entertained” and hopeless. We want genuine change. We want concrete actions. We want to be well served. We want to be collaborators of change. We want real participatory governance. We want a disciplined Philippines. We want it now. We want it so badly. 

   Social Media has become a war zone for believers and non-believers. It is a platform to spread information and misinformation about him. As you notice, their black propaganda is futile. It has no effect for him and most especially to the Dutertards. 

   I am a Dutertad. But unlike any other passionate Dutertards, I am not crazy to start a fight to defend him against non-believers. It is not that I am afraid of it. But it is waste of time to stoop down to their level. I rather spend it in a more positive and productive activities. 

   On May 9, 2016, we need to vote. We need to choose our next leaders that have vision and balls to make our country great again. It may seem like a utopian vision but it’s possible. It is possible if we want it to be. 

   My curiosity still bothers me. I am still thinking it whenever I am with other Dutertards. Maybe I would figure it out when all of the spectacles are gone; when all of the black propaganda and conspiracy theories become stupid jokes; when all the noises become history; when Mayor Duterte becomes our next president.

Leave a comment below and let me know what you think.
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