Wednesday, May 12, 2004

By Joel C. Yuvienco

The May elections are over! Next!
As a people, we have tried one leader and then another and yet another.... We go around in circles, a vicious rollercoaster of a ride from depression to euphoria and back to depression again. Stop the world, I am getting off!
What gives? Is it our leaders (read Trapo)? Our culture (read Bahala Na)? Our history (300 years in the convent and 60 years in Hollywood)? Is it widespread poverty? (I read somewhere that there are even two types of poverty, i.e. the striving and resigned  I leave that to the experts to do some hairsplitting.)
Wouldn't it be nice to do ourselves a favor? Stop pointing fingers and assume responsibility for ourselves and for the next generations. Otherwise the blame game leads all the way to Adam. Who was it who said: "The buck stops here"?
Right, we need to take control of our collective lives or others will. Look at Vietnam. 25 years ago, it was nowhere near the top ten in the Asian economic race. Thailand fared a bit better, but the Philippines was way ahead then. Look at us now. Before we know it, it might make more sense benchmarking against Subsaharan African countries.
Yet we regard ourselves as a resilient people. We have suffered long enough. And we are situated so low that there is nowhere to go but up. Using Christian apologia, we are told that although man has long suffered from the wages of original sin, there is salvation. But at the recurring state of depression, even the Passion of the Christ (real or reel) does not appear sufficient. Or so we thought.
Then again, we are also told that the model for making that change has been there all along; about 2000 years. Too bad for most of us, it's just out there as an emergency toolkit on the top shelf gathering dust. Talk about taking things for granted. At least we know it possesses an eternal shelf life.
I don't know about you, but I presently feel the gnawing need to rediscover the meaning of the hortatory statement that broadly reflects the Golden rule. No, not the "He who has the gold, rules" variant. Tomorrow, I would probably see what I can do with some street children. Suggestions are welcome at

The author is Director of the De La Salle-Canlubang School of Management and Technopreneurship. He did his MBA at the University of Liverpool, Institute of Public Administration and Management, UK. He also attended University at the Pamantasan ng Pilipnas where he obtained degrees in Statistics and Law.

May 12, 2004, Quezon City, Philippines

Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Mother's Jewels
By joelle

It was a bright morning in the city of England many years ago. In a vine-covered house in a beautiful garden, two siblings named Nicholas and Clarisse were looking at their mother and her friend who were walking among the flowers and trees.

"Did you ever see a lady as beautiful as our mother's friend?" asked Clarisse. "She looks like a queen."

"Yes, she is, but she is not so beautiful as our mother," said Nicholas. "She has a fine dress and beautiful jewelry but her face is not noble and kind. It is our mother who is like a queen." Clarisse agreed later on.

Soon their mother called them meaning to speak with them. She was dressed in a plain, white robe. Her arms and feet were bare, as was the custom in those days; and no rings or chains glittered about her hands and neck. For her only crown, long braids of soft brown hair were coiled about her head; and a sweet, gentle smile lit up her noble face as she looked into her children’s proud eyes.

"Children," she said, "I have something to tell you." "What is it, mother?" the children eagerly asked

"You are to dine with us today, here in the garden; and then our friend is going to show us that wonderful casket of jewels of which you have heard so much."

The children looked shyly at their mother's friend. Was it possible that she had still other rings besides those on her fingers? Could she have other gems besides those, which sparkled in the chains about her neck?

When the simple meal was over, a servant brought the casket from the house. The lady opened it. Ah, how those jewels dazzled the eyes of the wondering children! There were ropes of pearls white as milk; rubies, red as the glowing coals; sapphires as blue as the sky that summer day; and diamonds that flashed and sparkled like the sunlight.

The children stared at the gems. "Wow!" whispered Clarisse, "if we could only have such beautiful things!"

"Is it true, Cornelia darling, that you have no jewels?" asked her friend. "Is it true, as I have heard it whispered, that you are poor?"

"No, I am not poor," answered Cornelia, and as she spoke she drew her children to her side; "for here are my jewels. They are worth more than all your gems."

The children never forgot their mother's pride and love and care even up to her death; and in after years, when they had become great people of England, Nicholas worked very hard and was known to being one of the riches people in England while Clarisse married a duke.

Not long after Clarisse’s wedding, she and her husband were blessed with a beautiful daughter. Clarisse’s husband traveled a lot so she was left to take care of their daughter.

One day, Nicholas paid his dear sister a visit. “Hello dear brother! It’s been months since I’ve last seen you. I assume you’ve been very busy lately.” Said Clarisse greeting him at the door.

“Oh Clarisse it’s been a hectic year for me but it’s all worth it. You should come to my mansion and I’ll show you all my riches. What have you accomplished lately?” Nicholas boasted. “Well, my husband and I have been earning quite a lot but I talked my husband in to giving most of them away to those who would need them more.”

Upon entering Clarisse’s house, Nicholas looked around her house in shock. “Dear sister, have you lost your mind? You have lost everything! You don’t have enough money to even buy fine satin even for your little curtain!”

“Nicholas, I don’t need silk or any kind of beautiful cloth. I only use my money to buy only the necessities. I don’t want to drown myself in expensive treasures that I don’t even need.” Clarisse said. “But I don’t understand why you’re feeling so happy with the fact that you don’t have a single treasure.” Nicholas said.

“Ah but that’s where you’re wrong Nicholas.” After Clarisse said that, she disappeared behind a door and went back out carrying a blanket. Sensing that Nicholas was still puzzled, she opened it. There lay a baby, snuggled in her mother’s arms.

“Have you already forgotten what our dear mother told us?” asked Clarisse. “That we were her jewels and we were worth more than all gems put together?” Clarisse put her baby in Nicholas’ arms with a feeling that all his riches meant nothing to him anymore. “You’re right and there is still something I can do.” He gave back the baby to Clarisse, said good-bye and left.

Not long after his visit to his sister’s house, Nicholas decided to adopt a child of his own. He raised his child exactly how his mother raised him and finally felt the joy of being a parent.

An adaptation from Cornelia's Jewels By James Baldwin
From Fifty Famous Stories Retold. Copyright, 1896, by American Book Company.
Last March 19-20, the De La Salle Graduate School of Business sponsored a Conference on Social Responsibility and Human Development where Bro. Louis DeThomasis, President of St. Mary's University of Minnesota, presented a paper entitled "The Preferential Option for the Poor and International Debt: Is There a Solution?".

The title may sound too jargony/academic or a lip-service, if you will, type of proposition, where it not for the “Is There a Solution?” part. No one will argue that this is about an issue that has long stumped social, economic and political analysts and decision makers who represent a broad palette of persuasions. To be sure, this concern for the poor has been addressed, albeit insufficiently, in various fora and diverse documents.

Indeed, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Applying, mutatis mutandis, H.G. Wells’ observation of 18th century Britain to the Philippine context, 21st century man can very well understand that “ the immediate effect of the Industrial Revolution (capitalism) upon the countries to which it came, was to cause a vast, distressful shifting and stirring of the mute, uneducated, leaderless, and now more and more propertyless common population. The small cultivators and peasants ruined and dislodged by the Enclosure Acts (Globalization), drifted towards the new manufacturing regions (business centers), and there they joined the families of the impoverished and degraded craftsmen in the factories (sweat shops). Great towns of squalid houses (squatters area) came into existence. Nobody seems to have noted what was going on at the time. It is the keynote of “private enterprise” to mind one’s own business, secure the utmost profit and disregard any other consequences.” (parenthetical words supplied)
Beyond that awareness, the Philippine Constitution naturally says something about promoting “a just and dynamic social order that will ensure the prosperity and independence of the nation and free the people from poverty …” The current cycle of the Philippine Medium Term Plan that ends this year even has the phrase “preferential option for the poor” spelled out in its document. So much for lip service? And we are not even talking about the slew of campaign promises of candidates standing for election to public positions on May 10.

Going back to Bro. DeThomasis paper, it presents in no uncertain terms the conviction that “there are shadows of death and devastation on this globe because of the growing international debt.” In the Philippines, we live under a dark pall of international borrowings of US$56 billion, up from US$2.3 billion in the early 1970s. Makes one wonder if we ever were out of the woods. After identifying and analyzing the factors that shaped the magnitude and scope of the international debt problem, Bro. DeThomasis continues with a series of exhortations/prescriptions in the form of 5 Commandments that build a spiritual, though not necessarily religious, element into his arguments. Briefly, they are:

1st Commandment: Faith and Finance cannot be separated in the future

2nd Commandment: Stop being religious and be God-like

3rd Commandment: Never ideology! Stop being principled and do what is right

4th Commandment: Pray that we may all be one – not the same

5th Commandment: Become educational CREATORS, ENABLERS and NETWORKERS for social justice, not
just institutions

Bro. DeThomasis’ paper is a refreshing change from the garden variety social, economic and political expostulations that we have been used to reading in the editorial pages, online or offline. One will note that he speaks of the international debt of marginalized poor countries, but his proposition could very well refer to the marginalized poor around us whose smaller but deep and widespread debts ultimately make up the larger international debt.

I have to admit that my reading experience was largely marked by anticipation of the next 5 Commandments, only to be told that it is up to the reader to make up the rest of the Commandments. And all this series of Commandments makes sense because it is underpinned by a “Love all, especially the poor and vulnerable” sort of mantra.

Surely we can extend Bro. DeThomasis’ prescriptions. Perhaps a personal set of commandments that includes being more positively aware of the needs of the poor. Or writing about them or getting more involved in some sort of poverty advocacy. Nothing grand. Anything that effectively gives fuller meaning to the preferential option for the poor should be a step in the right direction.

Victor Hugo in his preface to Les Miserables declared that: “ So long as there exist, by reason of law and custom, a social condemnation, which, in the face of civilisation, artificially creates hell on earth, and complicates a destiny that is divine, with human fatality; so long as the three problems the age – the degradation of man from poverty, the ruin of woman by starvation, and the dwarfing of childhood by physical and spiritual night – are not solved; … so long as ignorance and misery remain on earth, books like this cannot be useless.” Yes, writings like Bro. DeThomasis’ presentation serve an extremely useful purpose.

The author is Director of the De La Salle-Canlubang School of Management and Technopreneurship. He did his MBA at the University of Liverpool, Institute of Public Administration and Management. He also attended University at the Pamantasan ng Pilipnas where he obtained degrees in Statistics and Law.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

The MRT/LRT is ideally an effective/efficient way to travel. Everybody understands the cost savings in terms of fossil fuel generally required and the time it takes to get from point A to point B.

But disadvantages may just outweigh the advantages for now.

Walking long distances to get to the nearest train station takes a while not to mention a great deal of sweat just to walk long distances -- unless you need to do that to meet your exertion (aka exercise) quota for the day.

But from the point of view of a member of the great unwashed, it really makes more sense to ride the great icon of Philippine transportation. I am talking about the ubiquitous jeep which has gone from the drab green Government Issue that was used as a 4-seater military personnel transport vehicle (whew! Such a mouthful) during the latter part of the 2nd World War to the colorfully festooned version that could hold perhaps as many as 30 civilian passengers across towns and cities. You have to lend it to Filipinos for their creativity and resourcefulness.

Mass transport system would have to be viewed from the eyes of the average Filipino who by profile has the following characteristics. (Will take that up later)

Although a Western development consultant might suggest a paradigm shift in transportation, economic imperatives would dictate otherwise. While it might make more sense to use electric-powered trains, Filipino frame of mind would drive a daily traveler to go for a cheaper mode. You have the jeeps, the tricycles, or pedicabs. For longer stretches, the hunks of a scrap metal of (read dingy) buses would also do.