Saturday, June 27, 2015


Farm caretaker, Willy,testing the harrowing machine at the farm

The rainy season has begun and farmers are preparing the land for planting. In our farm in Pila, Laguna, the farm caretaker,Willy, is seen testing the newly overhauled harrowing machine. The site is near Laguna de Bay where  conservative farmers like me, are not inclined to plant rice`aggressively. Though it is now the "El Nino" season where we expect less rain, we are still wary about the floods wrecking havoc in our farms.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) is giving assistance to farmers by way of subsidized seeds from the local government. The certified seeds are bought at 50 percent off the usual price, with the municipal government shouldering the other 50 percent. They also farm out 5 cavans of organic fertilizer per hectare. With the high costs of planting (being an unirrigated land), I can only afford to plant in two hectares. Work has started in the farm, and the pumps were repaired prior to being reinstalled and use.

Willy and the mechanic, Aldrin, are testing the harrowing machine

The harrowing machine is used twice prior to planting. It comes after the "kuliglig" which is use to plow the field. It will then be harrowed after a week, and leveled after another week. We have to call the mechanic since there were problems in starting the engine. He found  grease in the fuel tank. My guess is that, the caretaker must have erroneously put in the "toti oil" in the fuel tank --- so,it had trouble starting. 

Sidekick, Manang Belen with farm worker Lando at Barrio Mohon, to get the grasscutter

We have to go to the nearby barrio of Mojon,to get the grasscutter from Lando,a  vegetable farmer from the area. He is  an Igorot from the Mountain province, who married a local lass from the region. Talking to him, is my 70 year old sidekick, Manang Belen. She is an Ilocana, but is now a resident of Pila, Laguna.

Young mothers, Jomalyn and Maple, both infanticipating

Young ladies in the barrio tend to marry early and have one or two kids before they are  20. These two girls with their tiny tots in tow are always around whenever I am in the farm. Jomalyn (left) married a Bisayan from Dumanguete named Teteng, and Maple (right) married an Igorot from the Mountain Province named Tommy. Both are happy seeing their growing family with two more babies expected this year.

Cleaning the dikes using the grasscutter

The dikes need to be clean so rats don't dwell on them. The grasscuter, cuts down the costs of cleaning by as much as 70 percent. When the rains come, the fields will be plowed and the dikes  repaired to cover the holes in the innermost pockets. Cleaning will include the canals  so as not to hamper the flow of water during the rainy months.

Cleaning the dikes is important so farm rats don't burrow on it

The dikes are cleaned up at both sides to ensure that we don't get infested by rats. Cutting the grass would cover the outlying areas that needs trimming and cutting (shrubs and cogon). Again, this ensures that there will be no habitation for farm rats in the field.

Barangay Road at Barrio Mojon

The town of Mojon have concrete barangay roads that makes it easier to transport farm produce. Tricyles, as shown, ply the area. Children are seen with their mother, as they go to the nearby public school.

Freshly picked guavas from the farm

Life in the farm is simple and the perks include having a snack of ripe and semi-ripe guavas, straight from the tree. I better plant other fruit trees so I will have my fill of snack foods when I am on the site.
The church is always  the center of any locality.

The catholic faith is ingrained in the Filipino that you can find churches /or chapels in the smallest towns and barrios. This small church in Mojon is one of the bigger churches in the locality.

Kamoteng kahoy are used as perimeter fence and food

Vegetables like eggsplants are planted alongside the other vegetatable crops like okra, kalabasa, dahong sili, and kamote

One year old baby enjoys being rocked in the hammock

This one year old tot never fails to visit his grandma on weekdays. His father works as stone mason in the next town. He is adorable and friendly with all the people around him.

Bananas ready for picking in a month's time

Another perk of being in the farm is having fruits that are in season. These bananas are ready for eating in the next few weeks.  I look forward to that!


Life in the farm is never easy.You are faced with myriad of problems everyday -  spark plug giving in, fan belt breaking, farm hand not showing up, and all the teeny weeny problems that confront harried and tired farmers. However,the little perks--- fresh air, simple lifesyle, fresh fruits, and the company of barrio folks, still far outweigh the difficult side of running a farm.


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Philippine News: A Shot from the Hip
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Sunday, June 21, 2015


The  Department of Agriculture office at Pila, Laguna
When I went to Pila,Laguna recently, I was informed by other farmers  that the Department of Agriculture (DA) is giving out certified seeds (40 kgs) at P1,500 each with free sack of urea fertilizer per hectare. I went there before going to our farm and was saddened that it has all been filled out. 

Experimental seeds grown at the compound of the DA office.

They gave me an option to go organic, and select the certified seeds that I want to plant. That costs me P680 per 40kg. sack with, free five sacks  of organic fertilizer (dried chicken manure)  per hectare. This is a program by the local municipal government to help farmers during the rainy months.

Irrigated waters now flow into the fields

I bought three bags of certified seeds and got my 15 sacks of organic fertilizer. I am not going to apply additional chemical fertlizer, unless needed. Our farm is near the bay area and the soil does not need much inputs. I might be able to get additional fertilizer from the DA, or buy from them at a discounted price of P25 per sack.

Organic fertilizer at the DA office

That is all that I have to do for now: plow the fields, prepare it for planting, and plant the seedlings after two to three weeks. I don't intend to spray chemicals unless necessary. I'll go organic, if I can help it. There is no need to spend more, and kill myself by eating toxic rice.

Certified seeds for planting --- RC 216 / 110 days

The DA Department Head, Ms. Jasmin Bondad, invited me to a farmer's seminar, every Wednesday, at the Climate Resiliency Field School. I am a lead farmer at our place and will go along with the government program on  organic farming. I might try to get some free seeds too and see if I can go into organic veggie farming as well


The DA office is situated alongside the  irrigated farm fields. Our farm does not have irrigation, so we rely on diesel fuel to water our fields in the summer months. During this season, I may use water pumps for land preparation and let the rain waters take care of the fields up to harvest time.

We till, we sow, and plant. We then leave the rests to God!


Philippine News: A Shot from the Hip
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Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Moro Problem in Muslim Mindanao: A Personal Perspective

Singkil Dance in Muslim Mindanao

The Moro Problem

The Moro problem in Muslim Mindanao has been a thorn on the Philippine government's program of integration for several decades now. The Muslims have defied unification with the Christian community since the Spanish era down to the American regime. The sporadic Muslim uprisings have killed thousands of Filipinos, since the time of the late President Diosdado Macapagal up to the present.

Several programs have been initiated, but all failed due to either---wrong planning, problems in implementation, and lack of sustained effort by both the local and the national government. Many researches have been made to analyze the reasons for  failures in this area, but with diverse outcome. The main reason given, is the non-homogeneity of the different tribes in Muslim Mindanao. There are around ten ethic groups: Badjao, Maranaws, Maguindanao, Tausug, Samal and several others.

Islamic Center in Marawi City
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The country is composed of many indigenous tribes, with different cultures, traditions, and manner of integrating with the rest of the population. The Muslims, remain to be one of the last frontiers, where lasting peace seemed out of reach and remains separated from the mainstream society.  It was aptly pointed out that the social, cultural and religious beliefs are far too different from the Christian community to make integration doable.

The entry and domination of Christians in Mindanao have become a thorn in the cordial relationship between the groups. The innate abhorrence of the Muslims to be colonized by foreigners, from the Spanish conquistadors to the American occupation, up to the present dispensation, has been a prickly issue that gave rise to the creation of the Bangsamoro organization. The term is a Malay word, which means the Nation of Moros. It calls for the creation of an autonomous government, which still awaits passage in the present legislature.

Bangsamoro Office
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The Moro Problem can be traced to the different groups that comprises it. It is a hierarchical society with the Datu as the acknowledged leader and father of the tribe. However, the group is not homogenous nor do they speak a common language. Loyalty is tribal and clannish with disputes leading to an all out war being waged against the families of the conflicting parties. The Rido or revenge, can be bloody, that results in the death of the various members of the clan.

These continuing problem has resulted in loss of human lives. More lives however are lost, as a result of the sporadic fightings between the government troops and the Muslim rebels. The most recent, is the killing and massacre of the 44 Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP). Debates are now raging in Congress regarding the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), with both Muslim and Christian groups calling for an alternative solution that includes all sectors --- from the tribal groups  to Non-Muslim communities.

The Bangsa Moro Republic

The group sprang into existence during the 60's at the time when  my family was in Marawi City. My parents belonged to the initial batch of faculty members at the Mindanao State University. The Bangsamoro was a revolutionary group that consists mostly of students from the nearby colleges and universities. The battle cry then, up to the present, is autonomy for Muslim Mindanao. Leadership has changed over the years, with the MILF now taking over the helm of negotiations with the national government. However, questions were raised if they were the right group to talk with. Or if the talks should expand to include other tribal groups.

MILF militant with M-60 rifle
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The protest movement during the presidency of the late Diosdado Macapagal caused quite a stir. Nonetheless, no major changes came out of it, except that it made the national government take notice. The rebel groups sowed terror in the outlying areas leading to sporadic attacks on civilians and Christian communities. The national government took steps towards peaceful negotiations, but was disrupted by other groups.

Eventually, it was the Muslim National Liberation Front (MNLF) headed by  Nur Misuari and Abul Kay'r Alonto as second in command, that became the lead agency.The government's peace panel started negotiating with this group. However, another faction came about --- the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF and presently headed by Al Haj Murad Ibrahim) that wrested control from the MNLF. The latter is now headed by Abu Kay'r Alonto after the failed attempt of Nur Misuari's to annex Zamboanga several years ago. He is now in hiding and wanted by the government.

Inherent Difficulty of Solving the Moro Problem

The national government is at present negotiating with the MILF. The group and the national leadership are pushing for the passage of the Bangsa Moro  Law in both the Senate and the House of Congress. After the recent massacre of the forty four PNP-SAF soldiers last January 25, the law is now on a standstill. Several legislators are asking for a thorough review of the BBL and possibly a modification before it can be passed into law.

44 PNP-SAF Officers killed during the MMASAPANO clash
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The major difficulty encountered, is that Muslim Mindanao is  a diverse group where decision making is not homogenous. Having an agreement with the MILF and giving them autonomy, might not be the solution to the problem. It might even create more problems, as the other Muslim groups are not taken into consideration. Giving autonomy to one group may lead to the creation of splinter groups that could wreck havoc to the peace process.

As it is, the BBL still hangs in the air. The legislators claim that the MILF has not shown good faith, since they are still refusing to surrender the men behind the massacre.  The weapons and armaments of the slain 44 SAF commandos, have not all been returned. Unless, these issues are dealt with, negotiations can fall flat with no lights at the end of the tunnel.


Peace in Muslim Mindanao is what every Filipino aspires to have. We dream of a scenario where we are not forced to kill each other, despite differences in creed, tradition, and religion. We look forward to the day when we can live in peace and harmony---as Filipinos, and as one nation.



Onli in da Pilipins: A Writer's Journal
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Wednesday, February 25, 2015


EDSA People Power Revolution 1986

Today marks the  29th  anniversary of the EDSA Revolution. As most Filipinos who were in Metro Manila at that time, I was there among the many, when it happened. All I remember were the chaos and the confusion. People were running around and friends were in a frenzy telling everybody that a revolution is in the works.


I was one of those young professionals (yuppie) at that time. I occupied a top echelon post as Finance and Administration Manager of a quasi-government organization,  in a swank office in Makati City. I was young, carefree, and at the top of my career.

I was aware of the political upheaval at that time but was too busy minding my life, to ever think of putting myself on the line. Friends were edging me to take a stand and join the different youth and church organizations that were on the frontline of the protest movement.

I never heeded their call as I was too comfortable with my life. Besides, I never wanted to ruffle the government hierarchy, since I was a part of it. I was paid good money to do my work, and it was all that mattered.

I remember having dinner with my group at the office when a  commotion ensued in the building. Employees from nearby offices were banging at everybody's door cajoling everybody to join them at EDSA. We looked at our boss and saw him on the way out of the office. He told us to either stay put or go home, as it's becoming rowdy outside.

June Keithly honored during EDSA commemoration
Enroute to Camp Aguinaldo

We looked at one another, and most of the group decided to stay in the office to wait it out. A small radio was tuned in to the rebel station,  Radio Bandido, with June Keithly at the helm. I decided to go to Camp Aguinaldo, where people were congregating, together with one spunky staff. We were the only two brave souls in the office who were unafraid to join the fray at the gates of Camp Aguinaldo. 

As I drove my car, I was surprised to see people from all walks of life going the same route. Some were students walking in groups, some were residents from nearby subdivisions in their cars, the nuns and priests came in busloads with rosaries in their hands, and many were just ordinary people and bystanders who were there to make themselves be counted.

EDSA Revolution
I got startled when I saw military tanks going the same route. I got scared and decided to park my car on the side street and walk with the group of religious people. My thoughts then, was that they will be the last group to be bombed if things get nasty. Upon nearing the gates of the military camp, I got scared out of my wits when several nuns and priests barricaded the tanks entering Camp Crame. 

It was a highly tense situation until I saw several women giving flowers to the soldiers. I did not know what was to happen next. The nuns and priests were headstrong and did not move an inch. A few minutes later, the barricade swelled with more people, and everything was at a standstill. I felt then, that whoever blinks first, will die. To compound the tense situation, we heard attack helicopters flying up above, circling around us.

I can't take that anymore. I don't like to die young. I had goosebumps all over my body and was scared stiff. I don't know how I managed to get back to my car and drive home. All I knew was that it seemed like a trip out of hell, and I got out of there fast --- like there was a devil running after me.



Everyone knew what happened next. The Marcos regime blinked. It was a bloodless revolution that gave birth to a new democratic order. That act of defiance through People Power, led to the downfall of the dictator, President Ferdinand E. Marcos.

And I was there when it happened.


Philippine News: A Shot from the Hip
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Saturday, January 31, 2015

A Nation in Grief: Death of 44 Philippine National Police in Maguindanao


They were on a perilous journey, on a hunt for a dangerous man. All brave soldiers and the pride of their contingent, were out for a kill. They were the cream of the crop---the top graduates of Philippine Military schools, honed and trained to defend their mother country, at all cost.

A few days ago, the entire country was gripped with terror as they saw forty four of them--- dead. One survived to tell the story. They were mercilessly killed, and some were mutilated. This is not war. It was so barbaric that no human experience can fathom the depths on how they were killed so wantonly.

Deep inside a grieving nation, is the call for blood. Somebody has to pay. We steeled ourselves not to strike back and attack the perpetrators. It has to be an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Isn't it how tribal war's are fought? Isn't it that such atrocity calls for a similar attack?

There were several groups who  gave insightful analysis on how this incident came about. Amidst cries on who is answerable, were questions on how high the culpability should go? Did the Chief Executive gave the orders on this botched plan? Was there lack of planning and a fallback position? Where did it go wrong?

We saw the hard core men and women of the Philippine National  Police, shed tears when the bodies of their fallen comrades were flown to Manila a few days ago. The entire nation cried with them. The death of forty four men equates to losing a batallion of military troop. Was the plan so important that the lives of these men were snapped short in one blow?

Questions...questions...questions. When the coffins arrived, everyone stood still and watched the parade of dead bodies  carried down on the tarmac. We expected the leaders of government, to be in the front line and show empathy with the rest of the nation. We want them to feel the pain and the agony of seeing their sons killed in this senseless war.

But what do we see? Our President, who is the father of the nation, was out cajoling with the car makers! This act of his was enough to infuriate a country who has long suffered from a mindless and an insensitive government. How can the "Inang Bayan" (Philippines) suffer this great indignity of seeing her children betrayed by their own leaders? When do her sons and daughters realize that the good of the nation far outweighs their own personal agenda?

God, please show mercy. Help this grieving flock understand the pain and enlighten us on the right path to take.


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Philippine News: A Shot from the Hip
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Monday, January 26, 2015


The Philippines considers itself as an emerging economy on its way to becoming another Asian Tiger. However, nobody can deny that there is filth and squalor everywhere, especially in the streets of Metro Manila. Poverty runs smack into our faces and no matter how hard we try to hide it, the filth and stench manage to seep out into the air.

But we are Filipinos. We show the good side even if our guts fester with vermin and putrid smell. We try to raise the social ante by showing visitors of note like Pope Francis, that we are like our Asian neighbors who are rich, clean, and beautiful. This notion may fool some people, but it can never fool everyone --- all the time. It does not take rocket science to know that the country is yet far from being rich and still wallows in extreme poverty.

Outside the subdivision on where I live,  small children are seen  begging on the streets. I often wonder why there are so many of them --- their lanky little bodies, bloated bellies, dirty and filthy  faces---suddenly show up with their arms extended, hoping that they be given a  few cents for food.

If you go on a jeepney ride, you are bound to see children suddenly jumping  in with their filthy little envelops shoved into the faces of startled passengers. They sing in high pitched voices, using an empty can as accompaniment. We pretend not to see their emaciated little bodies and throw them a few centavos to get them out of our sight. We think that by pretending not to see them, these unsightly creatures can just evaporate out of our midst!

Going to Manila can be one pitiable adventure. You'll see groups of families sleeping in the dockyard or bay area as your airconditioned bus passes through the thoroughfare. It is not unusual to see beggars lining up in the over/underpass or in every nooks and cranny of the city. We often wonder where our government agencies are? Weren't they supposed to take care of the poorest among the poor? Don't we have programs of government to keep the poor and homeless out of the streets?

For one week, from January 15 to 19, the titular head of the Catholic Church came for a visit. He was to see the poorest among us and the Yolanda victims of Dumaguete. He came to reach out to the vast populace of a country that is 95 percent Catholic. He is the best salesman of the faith since he represents what being Christ-like is all about. He is considered as a representation of Christ on earth by the faithful, so people from all walks of life gather to see him and hear what he has to say.

But the Philippine government, through the Department of Social Welfare and Services (DSWD) thought otherwise. Rather than let the Pope see the poor who lives in squalor and filth along the bay area, they decided to rope in the said families numbering about a hundred, and temporarily booked them in a posh resort in Batangas. They say that this was not hiding the poor from the Pope, but a teach-in seminar to introduce the Modified Conditional Transfer Program of the government, or dole-outs for the poor.

Howls were heard from various sectors and questions were raised on the timing that ran smack on the Pope's visit. How come people who may not have the luxury of sleeping in real beds, or eating with utensils, were suddenly booked in a resort with first class amenities? The recipients of the bonanza said that they were fed more that enough and the place was luxurious.

How great that can be, but who paid for this little trip and how much did it cost us? Is this grandstanding or window dressing so the Pontiff doesn't see how poor we really are? Isn't it in the very core of Christianity to accept the lesser of our brethren and embrace our impoverished and long-suffering brothers, regardless of race. religion, or creed?

This recent act by the PNoy government leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Social upliftment should be in the form of concrete programs of government  that will alleviate the sufferings of the poor; and not hide them when there are dignaries around, and let everybody think that they don't exist. I raise my voice amongst the many to say,  that the act is a hideous way to cover up the truth! It's foul and it stinks!

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Philippine News: A Shot from the Hip
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