Category Archives: Environment and Social Development

Being more mindful of what we throw away

[Repost from my Facebook ‘notes’]

It’s been two days from the worst flood that I have ever seen in my life. And this time, I became a victim too. My husband and I are part of the government statistics: number of affected people of Typhoon Ondoy- 450,000.

It was all so sudden. The building manager and staff were banging on our glass doors, waking us up from our deep slumber. It was probably past 9:00 am, Saturday. We were trying to sleep some more because hubby celebrated his birthday the night before (I surprised him with a get-together with very few friends).

“Get all the things you can! The waters are rising…” They screamed at us.

Hubby and I didn’t really panic. We took a look outside and the water is still low, it hasn’t reached our front door yet…

We even had time to change into more decent looking clothes. Without any panic, we started putting things on higher places – table tops, on the bed, the higher cabinets…

Then the manager and staff started asking us, “Do you want us to carry your refrigerator up already? What about your TV…? There were already commotion outside…Hubby and I were still a bit unperturbed. We agreed anyway but we really didn’t think the water will reach that high. In fact, we thought out bed will be high enough…

And then suddenly, very suddenly, we just saw that the water is now knee-high…then perhaps just barely five minutes…it was already touching the drawers of my study table…just inches away from my laptop!

That’s probably the time we started to panic and see that the waters are indeed fast rising…and then when we were able to grab my laptop, printer and modem, we just realized it is real. This is happening. We can’t save anything much. When I ran out of our unit, the waters were already at my chest

I cannot even go back anymore because when I tried to, the waters were too strong for my small frame. I can’t swim. I didn’t think I’d want to give additional worry to all the people trying to save their possessions…so I just stayed by the staircase of the main building so the people who are helping us retrieve some of our things can pass on some stuffs to me and they can go back to our house.

It finally dawned that we can’t save much anymore. So the books and the documents had to go. The clothes too. Some others.

And then we were there huddled in the main lobby of the building which is on a mezzanine level. We can only wait for the waters to subside. Count our blessings, console each other that at least we are still alive. We hoped the rains will stop soon. We heard news about Marikina and can only send SMS to try to help contact AFP. We were worried about the others.

I couldn’t say thank you enough for the people who helped us. Our friends Jay, Ned, and their son Naki, who went to us the next day to bring us food and fresh set of clothes. The neighbors and staff who bravely waded through the murky waters to help us save some of our possessions…they are the angels that we most needed.

Now, it’s been two days and I still think about how this flood could happen.

I posted this comment in FB – Yes, the government should have an effective and working disaster response. However, we also are partly to be blamed because of how we abuse our environment. We throw dumps and garbages as if we own the world and that the world is unlimited. I felt the brunt. My house got submerged up to my chest level. I lost many things. I only hope our people will be more careful, to be more caring, to be more sensitive to the environment.

It will always be us who will suffer in the end. Please, let us be more conscious of what we throw away, they can eventually kill us. The stuffs we throw away will be the same ones that will clog our rivers and drainage systems.

Please do not let this kind of flood happen again.


This is not a paid blog.

Do we always need a dead hero?

[Below is lifted from the Editorial I wrote for Pilipinas Bulletin, a transrail newspaper in the Philippines.]

Nagluluksa ang sambayanan sa pagyao ng isang napaka-dakilang ina at Pangulo. Marami nang naisulat tungkol sa ating ina at inspirasyon na si President Corazon Aquino: sa pag-gunita natin ng kahulugan nya sa ating buhay bilang Pilipino ay pinupukaw din natin ang ating diwa upang muling gumising ang ating “natulog” na mithiin at pagkilos para sa pagbabago.

May the Yellow Ribbon remain in our hearts and minds forever.

May the Yellow Ribbon remain in our hearts and minds forever.

Tunay ngang napakalungkot ng paglisan nya. Ngunit parang mas nakapanlulumo na kinakailangan pa natin ng isa na namang pagpanaw upang mapukaw muli ang ating diwa. Do we always need a dead hero or heroine in order to unify and call for change? Sana hindi. At sana hindi ito maging katulad ng mga nakaraang mga kaganapan na pagkatapos ng ilang linggo o buwan lamang ay nililibing na din natin sa ating mga alaala.

Sometimes, we tend to be forgetful or we simply get tired so easily. Are we all too tired to remember the lessons from our past? We will give more honor to both Ninoy and Cory by not forgetting. Let us not forget the legacy they left behind. They wanted us to fight for change. They wanted us to lead our people towards greatness. They wanted us to make a difference.

Malayo pa ang ating lalakbayin. Pero sana sa ating patuloy na paglalakbay, kasama natin hindi lang ang alaala nina Ninoy at Cory kundi pati na rin ang init at sigaw ng EDSA I noon: ang pagwawagi ng katotohanan, hustisya, at pagbabago. At sana, huwag na natin pang hintayin na may bayani na namang papanaw bago tayo mapukaw at magka-isang muli.

Circumstantial Culture

Being away from home allows one an opportunity to look at his own people with a detached perspective. It is with that note that this blog is being written.

Because I am overseas, I only manage to get fresh news from home by watching the news in TFC. It is very refreshing to hear news of Filipinos achieving so much in the fields of boxing, entertainment/music, fashion and sometimes, even science, but it is quite disconcerting to hear news about the degenerating political and social climate in the Philippines. I speak here not as an expert but as an ordinary person who has big dreams for this country and also thinking of how best to contribute to a brighter future for all Filipinos.

I dream of a Philippines where all children can go to schools and are taught the right values.

I have titled this blog, “Circumstantial Culture” to describe what I observe as an alarming social phenomenon where particular segments or sectors (or sub-sectors?) of society share and live a common mindset and behavioral conduct which ultimately seem as if they are evolving a culture so uniquely their own. I wish to emphasize here that I have no intention to judge nor offend any one. If I will do so in the process of sharing my thoughts, I offer my apologies. My kababayans (compatriots), I hope these thoughts will also touch some minds and hearts, and perhaps, will encourage more discourses – discourses that will hopefully lead to meaningful changes.

There is a part of me that feels sad or even angry when I hear news about demolition of squatters’ shanties; of rivers being clogged because of too much garbage; of children being continuously born from couples who have barely food to eat between themselves; and lately, of vendors being driven by police and MMDA out of sidewalks.

I am sad because my people are still poor; I am sad because my Government is still insensitive to the real needs of the Filipinos; I am sad because the society remains blind and deaf to the plight and circumstances of others.

But I am sadder because it seems that more attention and bias are being given to what the squatters feel when their shanties are being demolished. Before anyone accuses me of being pro-rich and anti-poor, let me stress that I am not angry at them because I can imagine how is it be driven away from one’s home; to see your roofs being torn down right before your very eyes.  Who would not scream and shout in such a circumstance? The police, demolition teams and landowners are cruel, ruthless, insensitive…

But on one hand, I ask this: Have we ever thought of what the owners of those lands feel? What about the rights of the persons who own the lands? What if those lands are products of the toils and sweat of their ancestors? What if those lands can be used to build factories, which can eventually generate employment? Isn’t it enough that the squatters have enjoyed years of free rent from those lands and that now, isn’t it time to turn over the lands to their rightful owners? Can’t they shout praises and thanks for being given free rent for years instead of screaming invectives and hateful words?

But the media is quiet about that. Instead it proudly espouses the “rights” of the squatters; picturing the demolition team and landowners as the “enemies of the poor.” I see that as promoting selfish circumstantial culture rather than encouraging a culture of peace, wisdom, and gratitude. Because the media amplifies the invectives and hatred, they also (perhaps unconsciously) promotes continued ignorance. It seems like instead of becoming instrument for education, the media becomes puppet to mass hysteria and distorted thinking. What can our society expect in today’s young generation when what they see on TV are pictures of a society that encourages land-grabbing and squatting instead of respect for rights, private property and entitlements?

Again, no one has the right to make any judgement. But one is free to ask questions. Where do these squatters come from? Most of them come from the provinces. They are the ones who leave their small pieces of land and carabaos in the barrios, thinking that Manila is the “land of milk and honey.” They join the millions of people who are also homeless and jobless when they arrive in the big city. So they end up building shanties on the land they do not own and when the real owners now come to re-claim their lands, they shout “injustice” and “cruelty.” Yes, sometimes these words are true. There are cruel and ruthless landowners. But more often, the squatters don’t see that there is also a big injustice in their inability to respect private ownership. They seem to refuse to see that these landowners are humans, too.

The other night, I also sadly watched about the deteriorating physical environment of Metro Manila. There is that portion of the news that highlights a river clogged by household and industrial garbage. Then the report suddenly highlights the local government’s “inaction”; saying that the government should clean it up soon. Of course, it always comes down to that; the government should always take the flak. In a society that continue to encourage this somewhat twisted way of thinking, clogged rivers are the fault and responsibility  of the Establishment. The news report didn’t say anything about people, households and industries throwing dump on the river; rather it highlighted the local government’s incompetence.

Now, please tell me, what kind of generation are we bringing up?

Another thing that continue to baffle me is the Philippines ever-growing population. It is as if our people have not been seeing enough poverty. When we look at statistics, we will see that families in the lower strata of the society have more children than those who can very well afford bigger families. We hear of heart-wrenching stories about women giving birth to twins and triplets but without enough money to feed these innocent beings. Our hearts go to them and some even go as far as sending immediate help. I, for one, also plan of adopting one of those children so that I can carry a part of the sadness of these grieving mothers. But in my mind, too, I still continue to ask the same questions. Why can’t they just stop having children? It is not as if they don’t know that having sex can mean producing another mouth to feed. Is it really the government’s fault that they are not being educated enough? Is it really the society’s fault that these families are not eating enough? Are people born in difficult circumstances excused from thinking wisely? Do we offer more space and excuses for them because they are poor and therefore, worthy of more understanding? In the process, aren’t we encouraging a culture that promotes mendicancy instead of self-reliance? In school, we are taught about compassion for the poor. I grew up in a family that encouraged charity and compassion. But in school, are we also taught enough about engaging the poor to be more responsible?

In the same manner, we are also falling victim to the cries of the sidewalk vendors who are violently driven away by police and MMDA from the streets. We pity them as they receive lashes of invectives from the “cruel” police and “thugs” of Bayani Fernando. TV cameras focus on the angry faces of helpless vendors running away from pursuing “mobs”, pulling their carts, carrying as much of their merchandise as they can. News clips air more of their struggles but give less coverage on how these vendors cause disruption on traffic, public safety, and drivers’, even pedestrians’ right of way. Sure, the government and private sector should ensure that there are enough infrastructures for people to sell their goods. There is no argument about that.

But what kind of picture are we showing our children? That in the Philippines, it is ok to squat and build houses on lands that you do not own; that it is brave and heroic to sell your merchandises on the road (never mind if you are subjecting yourself and others to harm); that it is admirable to produce more children that we cannot even feed?

What kind of culture are we promoting?

I feel sad because I am borne out of that society. And I am guilty, too.

[This was submitted as an entry to a blog competition, with the code PBA09qo3907p.]


This is not a paid blog.

Invest in the Philippines!

I know I am not an authority in investments but hey, isn’t it nice to learn bit by bit everyday? I am always hungry for knowledge so I like to share with you what I have been learning in stock market so far.

You see, through the guidance of my brother-in-law, I bought some shares of Manila Water last year at PhP 6/share. Now, the share price of Manila Water (as of Nov. 20, 2006) is at PhP 9.5/share! That means, my investment already earned me a PhP 3.5/share gain, right? Not bad for someone who doesn’t even know the meaning of most stock market jargons a year ago. 🙂

Your investments will help build industries and generate jobs.

Should I sell my shares now so I can already earn from this small investment? I am pondering on that especially that my 3-year old laptop is now shouting for upgrade! Anyway, some say stock investing is like gambling and that is true – one cannot predict how the market behaves the next day. However, historically, markets just go up and down. That’s just how things are. Anything that falls should also rise, right? At least, that’s how the world operates in general so, I guess, long-term investment is still the better option. Don’t panic when share prices suddenly plunge. Just take a deep breathe and don’t go cursing your stockbroker. Tomorrow may be a better day. Remember the saying, “what goes down will eventually rise again.”

As for me, I think I will just keep my stocks there and continue to have faith that Manila Water is a good company to invest my hard-earned money on. Why Manila Water of all companies? I chose it because I know for a fact that Manila Water is very serious in their environmental programs. They do have a serious environmental culture. And that’s my No.1 reason for investing in them. Of course, I also studied their company’s performance and my research pointed to one thing – they will really be a strong company in the years to come.

I am sharing this personal experience with you guys because I continue to believe in this country. And one sure way to help this country directly is to invest in the stock market. Not only are you helping the economy directly (more money in investments means more jobs) but you’re also helping yourself build your economic base for your dreams. Isn’t it nice to lead a comfortable life but at the same time, know that your money is helping your country, too? So do consider investing as an option! (But read and study first before you engage in stock investment!)

I am also writing this as a way to encourage our overseas Filipino workers and those living and earning abroad to consider investing in the Philippine Stock Market, too. For those of you who have relatives abroad, please feel free to forward this blog entry (or send them my blog address). I’d call it a personal mission. Through this blog, I hope to make a difference. I dream of a time when our engineers, nurses, domestic helpers, teachers, caregivers, lawyers, artists and doctors abroad are also owners of companies here in the Philippines through stock ownership. Remember, when you buy a company’s shares, you become a part-owner of that company! Isn’t it a nice thought? That you can brag to your friends abroad that you’re an owner of this and that company! 🙂

But remember that money is not everything. It’s nice to have them and the security they give. However, remember also that our relationships are still the most important reasons why we are working so hard so don’t forget to love and give more even if your pocket doesn’t have much to spare. It’s really our hearts that bear the most valuable assets in this world so isn’t it great to know that these assets are limitless?

So shine, love and give. It doesn’t cost much.


Below are some notes lifted from Hope they can be good starting points for learning more about stock investing. For those of you who are interested to buy stocks/bonds, you may get in touch with Andy Trilles through +63.920.9279910. Happy investing!

Q. How do I make money in the stock market?

A.   One can make money in the stock market through the price appreciation (capital gains) of his shares or through cash or stock dividends. A shareholder can also benefit from stock rights.

Q.   Where can I buy stocks?

A.   An investor can buy stocks listed on the PSE through its authorized and active trading participant.

Q.   How are shares bought or sold?

A.   If you wish to buy shares of stocks, you must have a broker who will do this for you since PSE is not directly involved in the buying and selling of securities. 

Q.   When can I buy stocks?

A.   Trading is done at the PSE trading floor during weekdays from 9:30 a.m to 12:10 p.m. except during legal and special public holidays. 

Q.   Is there any risk involved in investing?

A.   While it is true that stock investment is the most volatile of all securities, investors might well remember that uncertainty is a permanent feature of the investing perspective. This means that risk is always a part of any investment. A better attitude would be to limit and manage your risk. A maximum level of gain or loss should be set, and calculated decisions should be made when this level is reached. 

Q.   Why invest in the stock market?

A.   There are 3 rationale for stock investing:

a.      Ownership in a company  –  when an individual invests in the stock market, he automatically becomes a stockholder of a particular listed company. As a stockholder, he is entitled to the following benefits: a.1) voting rights; a.2) dividends to be declared by the corporation; and a.3) share of the remaining assets of the company if it is to be liquidated.

b.      Liquidity of Funds  –  a stock market investor has an easier access to funds. Compared to banks which require high minimum conditions for deposits and credit, an individual can start an investment for as low as Php 1,000 and can expect high yields for his initial investment. He can always cash in or out his funds anytime, during trading hours, through his broker.

c.      Make money  –  investors in the stock market make money through dividends and capital appreciation. When a listed company declares dividends, its shareholders increase their investing power. An investor who buys into the company at a low market price and sells it at a higher price will gain capital appreciation. 

Q.   What is the minimum amount of initial investment?

A.   The minimum amount of money needed to invest in the stock market depends on the minimum number of shares to be traded for the stock. The minimum shares will be determined by the prevailing market price of a particular stock. For each stock, the minimum number of shares to be traded is fixed and depends on the price range of the stock. The Board Lot table shall aid the investors as to the amount of money needed as initial investment. 

Q.   How do I choose my broker?

A.   An individual investor should choose a retail broker, preferably one that meets his requirements in terms of services needed. When he lacks the time to analyze individual companies and stocks, then a full service broker is recommended. In choosing a broker, the investor should see to it that the broker is a member of good standing at the Philippine Stock Exchange. It is important that the investor should trust his broker and that he is satisfied by the services it is giving him, such as market reports, quality of advice regarding stock selection and timing of purchases and sales, quality of trade executions, on-time delivery of important documents and other services.

For information on the various services offered by member-brokers, you may get in touch with he PSE Public Information and Assistance Center (PIAC). 

Q.   Do I need to have a physical evidence of my stock ownership?

A.   The PSE through its central depository (PCD) uses the computerized book-entry system (BES) to transfer ownership of securities from one account to another, thus eliminating the need for physical exchange of scrip between buyer and seller. The trading system where settlement is carried out via book-entries, rather than by the movement of physical certificates. This system is called scripless trading. However, you may still request for an upliftment of your shareholdings to get a physical certificate. 

Q.   How are settlement and clearing done?

A.   Equity securities move between securities accounts held by the different participant-brokers of the PCD. Stock market transactions are settled on the third day after the trade. Transfers are based on trades done at PSE. Shares are transferred on settlement date (T+3) to the buyer, and the buyer pays the seller through the clearing banks within the same settlement period. This means that transactions done on Monday must be settled by Thursday. Settlements of accounts are done in the clearing house.

[Re-post of a blog dated November 20, 2006 (from my previous site).]


This is not a paid blog.

Turtle ‘Lola’ Fairy in Guimaras

Last 2003, during my summer vacation, I spent some days in Guimaras islands with two of my friends. We stayed in this cozy cottage resort by the seafront of the major island where the resort manager took very good care of our meals by allowing us choose what we like to eat for the next day even if they were not part of the menu. It was like being at home, begging your Mom to cook your favorite dishes for you!

And we would eat our meals out there, almost by the beachfront, with the sounds of the waves and the calm of the blue skies…words are not enough to describe the beauty and serenity of those moments. It sounds like a cliche but it sincerely felt like paradise. I am definitely going back there.

One of the most meaningful parts of the vacation was visiting this small island where there was a sanctuary for sea turtles. After finishing a huge breakfast of pritong isda and sinangag complete with hearty servings of the world-famous Guimaras mangoes, we took a small banca to this island I would later call as my “Turtle Lola Fairy Island.” The boat ride was made so much more enjoyable because the three children of the boatman were with us and I had so much fun taking their pictures. I fell in love with them.

A beautiful encounter with a beautiful creature.

When we arrived on the island, we were greeted by this cute young sea turtle trying to practice his “breast strokes” by the shore! He is tied up with a string to a post by the fence of a small hut; the string extends to the sea, long enough to give him a portion of the waters where he can practice his swimming. It was so cute watching him! I was laughing as I watched him struggle so much and I knew then that he’s going to be a great swimmer with those fast and frantic strokes.

I look at the boxes by the fence where they keep the young turtles and saw several of them in their own compartments. I couldn’t control my urge anymore and I asked if I can carry one turtle in my hands and have my photo taken! Oh dear, it was an exciting thing to do but poor turtle, he has to endure being with me for about 30 seconds while I tried to smile amid the fierce way that he is hitting my hands with his strong arms!

Poor Cutie Turtle, he had to endure a quick photo shoot with an adoring fan!

Now it is time to meet the special lady who takes care of all these adorable creatures. I was so surprised to know that the person behind this small-scale sea turtles sanctuary and conservation effort is an old woman I would call as Turtle Lola Fairy. She is so old that I would estimate her age to be between 70 to 75. However, despite her age, she looks like she still has many more years ahead of her. If taking care of sea turtles would make me this strong at that age, I would definitely consider it as my retirement job!

The beautiful discovery was accompanied by the realization that she receives no grant for this effort. She is simply doing it on her own as her contribution towards saving the community of sea turtles in Guimaras. Yes, she is on her own! One or two of her relatives would come around to help her with the physical tasks but managing and financing it is entirely her work. She takes care of the turtles until they are big enough to be let out in the wild seas. She charges a minimal fee of P 10.00/person only every time a visitor drops by in her sanctuary. Hearing this, I was ready to give her a million if I had it!

We spent some time talking with her and I consider those moments as very enriching and inspiring. Her eyes were windows to her soul and I saw calmness and solitude. Her wrinkled face narrated to me stories that her voice could not. Maybe she wouldn’t even remember us anymore but as I type this, the memory of her face and her nurturing power envelop me with so many wonderful feelings. One day, I am going to visit you again, Lola.

My friends and I then went on to another island and spent the day enjoying the beautiful waters of one of the smaller islands of Guimaras. They were screaming with joys as they see the beautiful fishes playing just several meters from the shoreline. They were beckoning me to come to them, and endlessly teased me because I really do not know how to swim and I couldn’t really go that far. Little did they know that I was simply enjoying that space and time, quietly seated on the sand, kissing the sun, and marveling again at the beauty of this world, made so much more alive by the eternal magic of the sea turtles and the loving touches of their fairies and grandmothers.

[Re-post of a blog dated August 28, 2005.]


This is not a paid blog.

Soulful Teaching

In the hinterlands somewhere in the North, there is a young teacher who teaches about 150 pupils from three different grade levels, in just one classroom. Let us call her Maria.

She lives in a rented room that costs her about P 500 a month. She is originally from Baguio and her job takes her away from her husband and toddler one month at a time. She sleeps on a cot with barely a soft cushion to soothe her tired body from her long days in the classroom.

She nurtures them and believes in their future.

Still, she teaches with pride, commitment, and joy. Her eyes speak of passion and eagerness. Of faith. She believes in the future of “her children.” She speaks of them as if they were her own. For the whole day, she manages the daily learning of Grades 4, 5, and 6 students, in one classroom. She does this by staying with each grade one at a time;  leaving “seatworks” to that class after which she goes on to the next. Her co-teacher is assigned to Grades 1, 2, and 3. They follow a similar system.

Most of the students are from indigenous communities. There was this tiny girl who smiles shyly at strangers, big eyes full of curiosity and innocence. Some are barefooted. Several have torn shirts. But the sounds of their voices carry a lively tune, like they are looking forward to the promises of the future despite their circumstances. There is so much beauty in that.

This kind of learning is called a “multi-grade” system, a practice already allowed by the Department of Education (DepEd), to address the age-old problems on lack of teachers and school buildings. Although this has the supervision of the DepEd, teachers like Maria are not in the government payroll. They receive regular allowances from the Local School Board.One may think that the financial reward must be so significant that merits Maria’s ultimate sacrifice: being away from her little family, her beautiful and precious child most especially, who is in that age when a mother’s touch is very important or even necessary. One would never guess that she is only receiving a meager P3,000 a month for this tiring work and ultimate sacrifice. Three thousand pesos. Deducting the P 500 rent, she is just left with P 2,500. Divide this by 30 days, and she is left with only P83.00 a day. Eighty three pesos! It is not even enough to cover a typical city dweller’s lunch expense!

How is it that she can still smile? How is it that she can still work with so much passion and energy? I am even tempted to help her find a teaching job here in Manila! But I know I cannot deprive those children of the opportunity to learn, the privilege of hearing their teacher’s voice that continue to shape their souls.

When asked if Maria ever considers leaving her volunteer work and opt for higher-income jobs in the city, she replied, “Paano na ang mga bata? Paano na ang kasama kong teacher?” That, to me, is an answer anchored on a deep commitment to serve.

Every night, as Maria prepares her lesson plans for the next day, she remembers the simple joys of the day, the voices of her children, and affirms to herself one again that indeed, she is doing the right decision. That she has found her place under the sun.

It is my friend Thea who shared this beautiful story with me several years ago over dinner of pansit and siomai. Once she started telling me about Maria, I remembered my Mom, too. She is a retired public school teacher and spent almost 30 years of her life teaching in far-flung barangays in Aurora. Because we siblings were all in Manila while she taught, we practically grew up without her by our side. When I was younger, I questioned Mom’s decision. But now that I am older (and hopefully, wiser), I could say  that I understand her decision. I am proud of the fact that she dedicated her life to public service and did a life-changing sacrifice by depriving herself of the joys of seeing us grow up because she wanted to fulfill a personal mission.

From Maria, my Mom, and the countless others who continue to teach in the barrios—without comfortable material rewards—we gather strength and inspiration. They are the reasons why I still believe in the Filipino soul.

[This is a repost of a previous blog and had been submitted to a blog competition with the code PBA094n66314.]


This is not a paid blog.