Oct 29, 2011

What the Philippines Can Learn From Africa

I was reading an article from Time magazine on how "agricultural commodity exchange" is slowly changing the landscape of Africa and its people. 45% of the world's uncultivated land belongs to Africa so it's a bit unsettling that a continent that is very much endowed with natural resources can be so dirt poor.

It's about time the world focus on more sustainable and empowering solutions. If you'd look at poverty mitigations that the West provides, you would observe that their systems create dependency from foreign aid which doesn't work out in the long run. The World Bank or IMF lends money to African governments on the promise of economic and social development. Allegedly, these governments pocket the money that's supposed to feed millions of impoverished families. Of course there are the NGOs, but how much do they really involve people in their decision making processes? How certain are they that their poverty reduction strategies doesn't just look good in theories, but will actually be carried out by the people?

Africa has taken matters in their own hands. Millions of small farmers are slowly becoming businessmen or agri-preneurs. The continent has systems that's innate in their nations and has worked for the past centuries. We can even trace it back to the time of Cleopatra. The key here now is not to introduce new systems and force Africa to adapt to it because it's proven to work in their researches and theories.

What Africa has benefited most from foreign aids, aside from the infrastructure (roads, bridges, dams), in my opinion, is not the strategies themselves, but the inspiration that something can be done. I'd like to believe that they were empowered to be proactive by these humanitarians. Hopefully, these Africans will be able to inspire their fellow brothers as well.

I can't help but compare Africa's situation to that of the Philippines. Zooming into the problem of urban poverty, the best way to treat it might lie in the innate skill of Filipinos to be "madiskarte." The solution then is not to provide them with jobs, but to put them in a situation that would exercise their pagiging madiskarte. Entrepreneurship might just do the trick. I think the government then should invest more in free workshops that would embrace these skills and provide poor families mentors to grow their businesses. Like the Africans, we don't need more jobs that would just feed the engines of capitalism. We need poor people providing jobs to their fellow poor.

Together with the shift of corporations from just cold general producing of merchandise to tailor fitting products and services for the unarticulated needs of the consumers, the government can also tailor fit more their poverty reduction strategies so that it would become "more personal" to the families concerned.

The government has been trying to curb poverty in the last decades with their big budgets for education, housing... Maybe it's time to change their approach. If they can't effectively execute projects targeted for the mass poor, it's time to change their strategy by concentrating on few families at a time. These fortunate few families in turn should be trained to give back by inspiring other families to defeat poverty. Think of it as multiplying agents of change. If these poor Africans can inspire their brothers to rise above poverty, why can't we?

Oct 27, 2011

Steering Back to Europe

Who am I even kidding? While one of my superiors was tutoring me on foreign trade policies, I found myself spacing out, thinking of the pictures I saw last night of my block mate's experiences while they were in Europe studying for a term. It hit me so hard that my real passion has always been in foreign relations - experiencing different cultures, participating in dialogues on international issues and coming up with solutions for social development.

A few days ago, Rex gave a talk on the importance of having a goal, and while he was sharing how his goal kept him from quitting, I kept asking myself why the hell I'm in a bank. I feel so lost. Pretending that I'm doing this because I want to save money for my bamboo farm and the relaunch of our online magazine will just be fatal in the long run. The only one that I'm lying to is myself.

Dondie gave a concrete advice while we were hanging out in Cantina a few months ago - I should take the foreign service examination because I'm more fit to work in a diplomatic office or an international NGO. Sometimes, you need these kinds of friends to warn you if you're heading towards the wrong direction. They'll steer you to the right path.

Looking back, my dreams of traveling and studying in Europe was killed when I learned that my grades weren't enough to qualify for the junior term abroad program of our school. What's the use of crying over spilled milk? This just may be one of those few instances where I want to make a move to really pursue what I've always wanted.

After lunch, I texted the HR of Red Cross to check on my application for the Reporting Officer position which will allow me to train in Switzerland for 3 months. I also called my meditation teacher to ask for her advice and if she knows any opportunity where I can study or work in Europe. Right now, I'm just hoping for the best.

If all else fails, I'll buy a ticket to Amsterdam, find a lover, elope and never look back! Haha! Crossing my fingers.

Oct 25, 2011

Rediscovering Kuya

After four years, I was finally back in the Disco. I knelt, kissed the ground, sat on the cold cement and came face to face once again with Kuya. Something that used to be so distant and abstract suddenly became so real and personal. I hugged myself, not wanting to let go.

We only had three hours of sleep for the next two nights. Most of us only had thin sleeping bags to shield ourselves from the classroom floor. Yes, we were even under staffed and some of our meals had to be delayed to make sure everything is running according to the schedule. We all had to make sacrifices, from not going to work, up to traveling to Manila from as far as Baguio.

But regardless of the hardships, no one complained. We were more than eager and helpful to bring back Days with the Lord in our high school after more than four years of its absence. It's about time for other people to experience Kuya.

It feels great to be working with my high school batch mates and friends again, although one of my closest friends isn't there because he's reviewing for the board exams. We all shared the same experiences so it wasn't difficult to keep all of us motivated. Looking at them work reminded me of how much I really miss high school.

I think more than doing it for the next batch of Dayzers, we served because we needed to. I think there's that insatiable thirst that urges us to keep coming back because the experience is so personal and beautiful that we want to get a glimpse of that experience over and over. In other schools, DWTL finishes after high school. But because our community is relatively so small, we know the people who are even 5 to 8 years older than us and close ties are formed. Some of the older Dayzers even serve as our personal mentors.

I hope we'll be able to organize another retreat this coming summer. Sa uulitin! Basta Ikaw.

photo from Melody Jurado

Oct 10, 2011

Four-Peat Bonfire 2011

"Down from the hill, down to the world go I. Remembering still, how the bright Blue Eagles fly’... Our course is run and the setting sun ends Ateneo’s day. Eyes are dry at the last goodbye; this is the Ateneo way."

Do you know that feeling when you're beaming with so much pride that regardless of the rain or the dense crowd, you still go out of your way to celebrate with your schoolmates and friends your Alma Mater's victory?

I was so proud not only because we were champion for four straight years in basketball, but more importantly, because the alumni and current students are so filled with this contagious school spirit, you can't help but say, "shet, ang sarap maging Atenista!" 

With our right fists raised up high, we sang our Alma Mater song by heart. Then, like in the past bonfires, it was followed by a 20-minute firework display. And yes it was raining and the four of us (Julius, Jet, Dondie and me) were sharing my one tiny umbrella, but it didn't matter. We were all numbed by the experience.

Of all the Ateneo bonfires that I went to, this was the only time that I was able to take a picture of the bonfire! Hope this won't be the last!

Oct 9, 2011

So You Wanna Change the World

But you don't know where to begin? You just feel it. And you want to believe in it.

Back in college, I had this org mate who shared an insight that he got when he attended a Harvard sponsored conference in Singapore. He told me that several years from now, the world will be shifting to the "creative economies." A time when the financial and technical "geniuses" are close to being obsolete because systems have already been set up and you just sort of plug the variables to get what you want, scientifically. The world will need people who can think outside of the box. Maybe that's why representatives from Singapore were sent to the Philippines to study our educational system because they perceived us Filipinos as very "ma diskarte."

That will be the time when people like Steve Jobs or Leonardo Da Vinci's will shine out.


Because of that insight, he told me several times that I'll change the world. "Don't forget us when you're rich and famous!" Haha! Maybe he said that jokingly, but those statements really had a profound effect on me. It made me believe in myself that it can be possible. It's not just another distant dream of an idealistic college student who hasn't tasted yet what it's like to be out there in the real world.

But belief from yourself and others can only take you so far.

You have to ACT on it! Strike whilst the iron is hot. I know a lot of idealistic and passionate students who are so excited to be alive and help out to solve the ailing needs of the world, but who don't know where to start. Here's a practical tip. Find a group of friends who can help you feed that passion and idealism. Talk about ideas, but don't let them die. Write it on a notebook. You might not have the resources now but even if months or even years passed and you stumble upon that note, you might just be moved to rekindle that energy and act on it.

Don't let your passion and idealism die. Let's be conscious of how the media, capitalism and even our own educational system dilutes our drive to go beyond our comfort zones and change the world through our innate passions. In the immortal words of the late Steve Jobs, "You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart." Let's all help change the world for the better!

Oct 5, 2011

Bringing Honor to Your House

It's that time of year again when classes in our high school are suspended (for several days) to make way for the Intrams Opening! We were very much like Hogwarts, but with six houses where students are sorted according to their personalities, talents and skills. Each has its own house head and I happened to be one during my senior year.

You just can't help but beam with pride when you see your house (high school students from 1st to 4th year) cheering with their heart out, your dancers tirelessly rehearsing and your props men taking the work home just to get a giant lantern or the dragon costume done. Everyone felt very involved and proud because of their work, and those weeks of adversity really bonded the students belonging to that house regardless of which year you're from. In fact, it's more than a house - it's a home.

Above all things, I really treasure my relationships with people. I'm still good friends with the house heads from before and after our batch. In fact, two of my business partners came from the same house as I did but three batches lower than ours. One of them was even my dancer during our time! Haha! 

Speaking of pride, I'm really proud of this promo poster I did for I'mAB showing support for the Intrams Opening!:D Haha! Hundreds of people (some who are completely strangers to me) started using these "house badges" as their profile pictures. I feel touched. Haha!

I'd like to wish the high school students good luck and I hope they bring honor to whichever house they belong to! And one day, when we're all rich, I hope we can donate funds for the construction of common rooms for every house - like exactly the one in Hogwarts. It would be so cool!

Oct 4, 2011

On Call 24/7

Last Saturday's schedule was so jam-packed! I was supposed to go to Batangas with Soya Ice to deliver the stall and sink to a party we're sponsoring but I just asked my driver to do it because I was so sleepy. In the afternoon, I had to go to a meeting for a retreat we're organizing for some college students, then Mikey texted me that he'll be in Distillery with some college friends! I was shy at first because I thought I'd be out of place since they're all journalists but everyone was so accommodating and friendly!

We got tired of Distillery's crowd - yuppies and foreigners - so we decided to go to my happy place, Ponti. On the way there, Mikey's friend (not sure if it's Toni or Aki) mentioned one of her assignments where they made a documentary about the promiscuous side of call centers. The leader of their project immersed himself in a call center company so that he can dig out and understand the facts more thoroughly.

One of the agents that was interviewed told the researcher about the kinky practices around their office and that he reached a point where he had sex 24 times in one week! Seriously, is that even biologically possible?!

I tried to run the numbers in my mind. Call center agents go to work 6 times a week then probably 10 hours a day. So that gives them roughly 60 hours to do the whole "cycle". The numbers tell us than this call center agent had sex (regardless if it's a quickie or not) every 2.5 hours for six straight days! I'm just not sure if they do it with a single partner or not.

When smoking isn't enough, they have sex to cope up with stress. What a way to release! Because of that very high frequency, I wonder how it will affect their future relationships. What are the long term problems that one encounters by giving in to these immediate thirst for gratification? Does "high" salary really compensate for your soul? Is it worth it in the end?

Maybe aside from the routine work, graveyard shift and constant companionship of technology, call centers can dehumanize us in a much deeper and irreparable state.

Oct 1, 2011

Vision 2020

I was supposed to go to Batangas today to deliver the stall and sink for Soya Ice, but I just asked my driver to do it because I was so sleepy this morning. Anyway, while I was waiting for my NBI clearance to be processed yesterday, I watched (for the nth time) The Devil Wears Prada in my ipod and well, the character of Miranda Priestly really sent chills up my spine. Inspired is an understatement.

By the year 2020...

It's 9:00 am and before my driver drops me off the tallest building in Shaw boulevard, he texts assistant one that I'll be coming up in 15 minutes! Assistant one panics and warns the whole team - editors, writers, creatives, staff... that I'm on my way to the building. The whole floor exploded with energy while they try to look their best - everyone starts wearing their sky high stilletos, they tidy up their work tables and assistant one makes sure that my Starbucks is ready on my glass table.

The guard opens my yellow Camero. People sees this young looking guy holding a black umbrella with a silver tip and wearing Junya Watanabe red brogues, black harem pants and a crisp white polo from Calvin Klein underneath a sweeping hounds tooth patterned cape. I go pass the security guards and people part like the red sea for me to pass. The elevator doors open and I'm the only one who enters.

The clicking of my umbrella makes people alert that I'm approaching. Upon the opening of the elevator, assistant one greets me with her pen ready to jot down all the errands and reminders I'm about to say for the day. I finally arrived at the hallway to my office. Assistant two immediately gets my cape and umbrella and I settle on my desk fronting an overlooking view of the Wack Wack Golf and Country Club.

This is the life!