HAVE you seen the latest TV advertisement where celebrities like Ely Buendia, Angel Locsin, Lito Alvarez, Maxene Magalona, Chris Tiu, Susan Fernandez, Fr. Martin de Jesus, Mark Nicdao, Ramon Bautista, Fr. Martin de Jesus, Charice Pempengco, Edu Manzano, Arnel Pineda and Efren Penaflorida are saying, “Ako Mismo”? The TV advertisement posed a challenge to everyone: “Ano ang gagawin mo para sa kinabukasan ng bayang ito?” Then all the celebrities said they were committing to help move this country forward, as they declared, “Ako Mismo.” Towards the end of the advertisement, they were shown wearing dog-tags with the national colors and the words “Ako Mismo.” According to akomismo.org, the dog tag symbolized courage, but among the military it was used to identify soldiers during the war. The movement’s website further said that “Ako Mismo is a movement where you can show your patriotism and compassion, and make these traits infectious. It’s about action that eradicates hopelessness in every Filipino.” The movement encouraged people to initiate change within themselves by writing their commitments. Last time I checked, the total number of pledges on the movement’s website is 20,944. “In AKO MISMO, you get to choose the cause you wish to pursue. No cause is too small as long as it is a noble one. All we ask is that you make a pledge to do it,” it said. This movement was launched amid the upcoming 2010 elections. Would apathy still reign in today’s youth? Or is it time to make a stand and act towards change and development?
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CALIFORNIA, USA -- People showed up to protest government spending, bailouts, taxes, and the economic crisis in the United States. Do you have a similar video, photo or story? Send it to dropbox.yousendit.com/inquirerbox.
By Anna Valmero INQUIRER.net Last December, blogger Mike Garcia posted on Multiply an entry about a retired janitor from the University of the Philippines Diliman. People then re-posted the story in their own blogs, while some forwarded it to various mailing lists. This story eventually got the attention of the Filipino cyberspace community, in particular the university’s alumni. Meliton Zamora or “Mang Mel” has been the university’s janitor for four decades. But after he retired, he was informed that he would only get about 90 centavos as retirement pay for 171 days. He also revealed that he has been guarantor for several UP student loans. UP students apply for loans at the Student Loan Board of the University to pay tuition fees. But to get that, they would need a UP employee as guarantor. The guarantor pays for the loans if the students fail to do so. Filipino blogger Garcia was among the students who benefited from Mang Mel’s kindness. Last December, Garcia visited Mang Mel's house near UP Diliman and was surprised to find the sad plight of the retired janitor. Garcia learned that some students were not able to pay their loans, which Mang Mel was guarantor. Thus those debts were deducted from his retirement pay. Garcia eventually called on other students who failed to pay their loan to help Mang Mel. This call later turned into a concert, where proceeds were given to Mang Mel. “Hindi naman ako nagsisi na tumulong ako noon, basta sa akin ang mahalaga makatulong ako sa mga estudyante [I do not regret that I've helped students by being guarantor. What's important is that I've helped them],” said Mang Mel with glimmer of hope in his eyes. credits, a bulk of also affected his retirement pay. But the story doesn't end there. Mang Mel said there are discrepancies in the computation of his leave. In this video, Mang Mel recounts his predicament:
INQUIRER.net MANILA, Philippines--Maria Cecilia Flores-Oebanda has been awarded the first Iqbal Masih award for the elimination of exploitative child labor, according to the United States Department of Labor. Deputy Undersecretary for International Affairs Charlotte M. Ponticelli said the US agency is giving this award to acknowledge Flores-Oebanda’s lifetime battle against the use of child domestic workers and the trafficking of women and children for domestic servitude and commercial sexual exploitation in the Philippines and internationally. Flores-Oebanda is currently the president and executive director of the Visayan Forum Foundation Inc. (VFF) based in Quezon City. "This award recognizes a true champion in the fight to end exploitive child labor," said Ponticelli in a statement. "Through her work, Ms. Flores-Oebanda has brought real change to the lives of thousands of children." The Iqbal Masih Award was established by the US Congress to recognize the work of an individual, company, organization or national government to end the worst forms of child labor. The award reflects the spirit of Iqbal Masih, a Pakistani child enslaved at the age of four who escaped his servitude and became an outspoken advocate against child slavery. In 1995 at the age of 13 and a year after receiving the Reebok Human Rights Award, Iqbal was killed in Pakistan. His dedication to ending child slavery, however, continues to inspire individuals around the world. Like Iqbal Masih, Flores-Oebanda was born into poverty. As a child, she helped to support her family by scavenging. Later as a teenager, she advocated for the rights of youth and farm laborers. Flores-Oebanda later founded and now leads the VFF, a nongovernmental organization that has rescued and provided assistance to more than 32,000 victims and potential victims of trafficking. According to the US agency, the VFF has helped to file more than 65 trafficking cases on behalf of more than 165 victims. Flores-Oebanda serves as the Southeast Asia coordinator for the Global March Against Child Labor and is active with other significant events to support work against child and exploitive labor. Since 1995, the US Department of Labor has supported efforts to combat exploitive child labor internationally. The agency has succeeded in rescuing more than 1.25 million children from exploitive child labor.
WHO wants to celebrate the coming year with a bang? Before you raise your hand, count your fingers first. You don’t want to start the year with incomplete fingers. According to Engineer Celso Cruz, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Pyrotechnics Manufacturers & Dealers Association Inc. (PPMDAI), consumers should be careful in buying fireworks and firecrackers. He says that you should always check the packaging if it contains the following: manufacturer’s name, address and contact number; license number of manufacturer; instructions for use and warnings. If the fireworks that you bought don’t have the above mentioned requirements, then it means that you these fireworks are illegal. Cruz admitted that many are still selling illegal fireworks. Cruz said that the PPMDAI has been providing disseminating safety information on fireworks and firecrackers to the public. But it is up to the Philippine National Police to regulate the manufacture, distribution and use of firecrackers in the country, as stated in Republic Act 7183, which outlines laws on firecrackers and other pyrotechnic devices. PPMDAI has, for instance, launched a campaign called “Ingat-Paputok, Iwas-Disgrasya.” It was done in partnership with Bulacan. Cruz said the campaign is done through seminars and the distribution of leaflets that contain information on safety when it comes to using fireworks. I got a copy of the leaflet and here are some reminders from the Pyrotechnics Regulatory Board:
- Don’t use prohibited firecrackers like pla-pla, lolo, super lolo, giant bawang, giant whistle bomb, baby dynamite at kabase.
- Light the fireworks in a wide area far from flammable materials.
- Don’t let your children light firecrackers. Guide them in handling lucis or sparklers.
- Don’t light any fireworks in your hands.
- If the firecrackers or fireworks are defective, then don’t light them again. Wait
- For 15 to 20 minutes and splash a pail of water onto it.
By Marjorie Gorospe THE CHRISTMAS season is about giving and sharing. But sometimes, the problem is finding out which organization could you give to and how. Through the initiative of Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf (CBTL) with their “Give into the Giving” program for Christmas season, 12 different organizations with different advocacies are going to be accessible to people who wish to donate in their own little ways. These organizations include Kababaihan Gabay sa Bayan (KAGABAY), Caritas Restorative Justice, The Philippine Animal and Welfare Society (PAWS), Bahay Tuluyan, Haribon, Cartwheel Foundation, Kythe, utism Society of the Philippines (ASP), Philippine Cerebral Palsy Inc., Philippine Band of Mercy (PBM), Resources for the Blind, and Philippine Business for Social Congress (PBSP). Paolo del Rosario, Marketing Director of CBTL, said they chose twelve organizations to give people choice. “As corporations, it is important for us to figure out how we can help,” Del Rosario said as he stressed on the importance of this Christmas initiative. He said that the mother company of CBTL has been doing similar initiatives in other countries, which is why they saw the need to localize and create an immediate impact within the country. How does it work? Customers are given a punch card which shows different purchases one must complete. When the purchases are completed, customers can then fill out a form and chose an organization. CBTL will donate the money on the customer’s behalf. “This is only a start of a long term relationship,” said del Rosario. The “give into giving” project will last until January next year. Del Rosario hopes that this project would actually be done yearly every Christmas season. In the meantime, Del Rosario looks forward to the people who are willing to give because that is the real essence of Christmas.
DESPITE being diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus or HIV, overseas Filipino workers Miriam and Gerry (not their real names) are not losing hope. In fact, they’re even spreading optimism through communities of people that have the same condition. In 1994, Miriam learned that she was positive for HIV. At that time, she was afraid people would shun her and that she would become isolated. Thus she did not seek medication until 2006 when she started feeling very weak. Miriam was initially diagnosed with Myoma. She was supposed to undergo an operation when doctors decided against the procedure when they learned she has HIV. Miriam later learned from a non-government organization that her rights were violated when she was refused to be operated on. But she also learned that people with HIV continue to suffer the stigma from a society who knows very little about their condition. “Naging maliwanag sa akin na nagkaroon talaga ng discrimination. Nalabag talaga ang aking karapatan na makakuha ng serbisyo doon sa hospital. [I realized that discrimination happened. My rights to get service from the hospital were violated.],” said Miriam. Miriam eventually found refuge in her family and in “Babae Plus,” a community she joined. “Hindi naman kami humihingi ng espesyal na treatment, ang kailangan lang namin, patas na karapatan. [We’re not asking for any special treatment. What we ask are equal rights.],” explained Miriam. On the other hand, Gerry, the breadwinner in his family, failed the mandatory medical examination in Dubai when he was diagnosed with HIV. He went home in 2005. “Na-depress ako. ‘Di ko alam kung paano ko sasabihin sa family ko kasi ito ‘yung means para makatulong ako sa kanila. [I was depressed. I don’t know how I will tell my family because working in Dubai was my means to help them.],” said Gerry. Like Miriam, Gerry’s family accepted supported him in his battle. “Tuloy pa rin ang buhay. Four years na akong namumuhay na may HIV. Ang iniisip ko na lang, maging productive. [Life goes on. I’m living with HIV for four years now. I still want to have a productive life.],” said Gerry. Miriam and Gerry admit their involvement in a community changed their lives and outlook. “Binibigay ko nalang ‘yung natitirang life ko sa community. Parang mas nararamdaman ko na nandito rin ‘yung pangangailangan ko. Mas nag-eenjoy ako ngaun parang it’s pay back time. [I’m dedicating the remaining years of my life in the community. I feel that this is what I need. I enjoy what I’m doing now. It’s like pay back time.],” said Miriam. Meanwhile, Gerry became a member of Care and Support Group of People Living with HIV and involves himself helping spread more awareness about HIV prevention. In their journey, they picked up lessons along the way. “Nalaman ko ‘yung kahalagahan ng pagbibigay mukha sa mga taong positibo. ‘Yung mga taong positibo may kakayahan pa ring mamuhay ng normal na may kakayahan pa ring makibaka sa buhay. [I learned the importance of giving face and representation to the people positive with HIV. These people are still capable of living normally and coping with life.],” said Miriam. Gerry said his experience was more of an awakening. “Hindi naman magtatapos ang pangarap natin. Be responsible enough para di makahawa. Live a healthy lifestyle. [Our dreams do not end with having HIV. Let’s be responsible enough so as not to spread the virus. Let’s live a healthy lifestyle.],” added Gerry. Gerry and Miriam stressed that they yearn for acceptance. Miriam said “Babae Plus” has three simple objectives: 1) Pang-unawa- Unawain kami dahil inunawa rin namin ang aming kalagayan. [Understanding. We hope that they will understand us for we learn to understand our situation.] 2) Pagtanggap- Tinanggap namin ang aming kalagayan. Ayaw naming ng ganito pero tinanggap namin dahil andyan na ‘yan. Pagtanggap ng aming pamilya at pagtanggap ng lipunan. [Acceptance. We accepted our situation. We don’t like this but we accepted it. We need acceptance by our family and rest of the society.] 3)Patas na karapatan -Sa palagay ko naman, may karapatan kami na patas sa kalalakihan. [Equal rights. We want equal rights.]
By Quay Evano FOR the first time in the history of overseas employment for Filipinos and perhaps a first in the Middle East and the rest of the world, a foundation has been created by the OFWs (in the UAE) for the OFWs (in the Middle East) -- to aid them during harsh financial times. The foundation was also created to promote entrepreneurship, to engage in fundraising activities, to give scholarships to children of low-income Filipino families and provide money to Filipinos stricken with life-threatening illnesses or who are victims of calamities and natural disasters. “The Filipino Expatriates in the UAE Foundation Inc., also known as FILEX Foundation was established so that in our own moments of personal need, we have a foundation we Filipino expats can easily go to for help. No one else can really help the OFWs but the OFWs themselves, so it is high time we start preparing ourselves for our future and supporting ourselves. Even if we are abroad, or back home in the Philippines, the foundation will become the common interest we will work for, to gather and to sustain and proudly say that it is our own charitable organization. There are so many charitable organizations in the Philippines but there is really none for the OFWs. Finally, there is one now,” Dick Orense, Chairman of the Interim Board of Trustees, said. The FILEX Foundation, which is a non-stock and non-profit corporation under the laws of the Philippines, was duly registered at and approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission in Manila on June 25, 2008. Membership is open to all Filipinos with a payment of a one-time fee of AED (Dirhams) 30 or US$ 8. Overseas Filipino Workers with a UAE residence visa need to pay a yearly fee of Dhs 15 for the group accident insurance security which covers accidental death, total accident disability, payment for medical fees and repatriation of remains to the Philippines. “We really aimed to have the lowest membership fee we could possibly have and the lowest insurance fee so that it will easy for our fellow Filipinos to become members because we know they work blood, sweat and tears for every dirham they earn here,” Orense said. One of the main purposes in creating the foundation is “to establish a funding facility whose capital fund, which to be known as the Foundation Capital Fund or FCF, is designed to grow and expand through time, with only its interests or earnings, to be known as the Foundation Disposable Fund or FDF, are utilized to assist the Filipino expatriates in the UAE or those who are no longer in the UAE and who are in great need for financial aid or help. This premise is what started the realization of a foundation for OFWs to happen. About five years ago, as the newly-appointed Philippine Ambassador to the UAE, Libran Cabactulan was approached by a Filipina, who had a terminal illness, asking for financial help. The Philippine Embassy and the whole Filipino community rallied to help her as much as they can but eventually and unfortunately, the Filipina died. But out of her death, the FILEX dream was born. “We ran out of time. That was our main problem. It took us a lot of time to get the money she required for her operation, it took time to make the Filipino community raise more funds, and time was something she didn’t have. I thought, if only we had enough money stored somewhere that will only be accessible for OFWs at any given time to help them, then we could stop this scenario from ever happening again. And there are so many of these kinds problems OFWs face everyday,” explained Ambassador Cabactulan. In 2004, Ambassador Cabactulan convened a meeting of Filipino community leaders in Abu Dhabi signifying his vision to form a body that would become an institution which every Overseas Filipino in need could access for support and assistance. In 2005, Filipino community leaders submitted their respective proposals and copies of their existing constitutions and by-laws followed up with regular meetings with the Ambassador. In 2006, Ambassador Cabactulan selected 21 Filcom leaders who were responsible for initiating and shaping the foundation. In 2007, the election for the Board of Trustees was held at the Ambassador’s residence and in 2008, FILEX deposited one million pesos as trust fund at the Land Bank of the Philippines as a requirement for registration as a non-stock and non-profit organization. “Assistance given by the government is not enough, especially with the fact that the numbers of Filipinos in the Middle East is growing by leaps and bounds. Five years ago, there was around 200,000 Filipinos in the UAE. Now we are more than 350,000. In Saudi Arabia, there are almost more than one million Filipinos now. I realized that there’s a great urgent need for adequate extra sufficient assistance to be accorded to the OFWs. I just felt that it was required for us Filipinos abroad to do something,” Ambassador Cabactulan said. “What we’re launching with FILEX is a process, a system that will evolve into an institution that’s long lasting, self-sustaining and durable. I conceived it but it now belongs to all Filipino expatriates. My dream is that every Filipino who will go abroad will become a member of FILEX so that they will have some sort of protection for we don’t know what lies in our future and what will happen to our lives in a foreign land. Filex Foundation is a “pader na masasandalan mo” in times of need,” Ambassador Cabactulan stressed. At present, the Filex Foundation has 1,600 members since the official launch in August but the officers’ goal is to reach 100,000 members within a year. The FILEX Foundation has already been praised by the UAE’s Minister of Social Affairs, Mariam Mohammed Khalfan al Roumi for its initiative in helping Filipinos in the country. The foundation has also created its own website. (Photos by Quay Evano)
By Izah Morales IN a local slum area where people are seen drinking alcohol, playing bingo, taking fleas out of a dog, there were women who chose to take the road less traveled. Every Tuesday, about 50 women residents of barangay 182 Mulawin in Pasay City gather in the barangay hall to crochet bags out of plastic and recycled materials. “Wala naman akong ginagawa sa bahay. Nababagot lang ako [I’m doing nothing at home. I just get bored.],” said Rosalina Aquino, 41, and mother of four children who was among the women who has decided to be part of a unique project. Before, Aquino spends an afternoon doing nothing. But after Aquino decided to join the workshops of the “Invisible Project” of artist Ann Wizer, she realized that she can engage in an activity that is worthwhile. Former factory worker and now a housewife, Andrea Dosal, 35, and mother to six kids, says that she can now make ends meet through crocheting plastic bags. “Kahit nasa bahay ka lang, may perang dumadating. Makakatulong sa mga bata, pambaon nila. ‘pag may project sila, at least may nabibigay ako. [Even if you’re at home, there’s money. It helps me earn some money to give to my kids for their school projects.],” said Dosal. These women’s attitude towards plastic has changed because they’ve realized how much money they can make in recycling it. “Nung una tinatapon namin. Ngayon pinapahalagahan na namin dahil dun kami kumikita. Noon balewala lang ang mga plastics. Ngayon mahalaga na sa amin bawat plastic. [Before, we just throw plastic away. Now, we value them because we earn from them. Before, we just ignore it. Now, every plastic is important to us.],” said Aquino. Dosal said that is now collecting plastic instead of just throwing it in the river. A handful of out-of-school youths have also become part of the Invisible Project. Cherry Pie Bermudez, 18 years old, said she learned crocheting when she was still studying in high school. But then, they used threads instead of plastic to crochet. “Ang plastic pala may saysay sa mga tao. Dito napapakita mo ung kaalaman mo, ‘yung alam mong gawin kahit sa plastic lang siya. [I realized that plastic has use. You can show what you can do even by just using plastic (as material for crocheting)],” Bermudez said. Through the Invisible Project, not only were the women’s attitudes towards plastic changed but also their relationship to each other. “Nagkaroon kami dito ng mga bonding. ‘Yung mga dating hindi magkaka-kilala, ngayon magkakakilala na. ‘Yung mga dating hindi nag-uusap, ngaun nag-uusap na. [We’ve been bonding. Some who never knew each other are now friends. They are now talking with each other.],” said Aquino. “‘Yung ibang tao na walang ginagawa, imbes na tumambay sila o kaya kung anong ginagawa nila, gumawa na lang sila ng kagaya nito. Malalaman pa nila ang talento nila. [To people who have nothing else to do, they should learn doing what we did because they will discover new talents.],” said Bermudez. Indeed the once humdrum afternoon in one slam area has turned into something more fruitful for women who chose to make a difference. In fact, as they help themselves earn a living, they are also helping Mother Earth.
AGE does not matter in protests. When I was covering a rally this week, I saw this four-year-old child who joined her grandparents in their call to extend and reform the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). There were also other children ages 10 to15 years who gave out flyers to passers-by. I approached one of the children. His name was Ryan Christian Banayo, a 10-year-old boy whose parents are farmers at the Hacienda Yulo in Canlubang, Calamba City. I asked the boy why he was there and what they were fighting for. The boy just gave me an innocent look, and smiled. His mother, Nancy Banayo, explained later that she wanted the child to see that they were fighting for their rights. From Waltermart Muñoz, the group of farmers from Southern Luzon ran along Edsa and ended in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform office, where they continued their protest. The children did not mind the heat, as they run alongside their parents. Romeo Olaez, farmer-leader from Hacienda Yulo, said he grew up tilling the land in Canlubang. “Kung ang mga lupa na yan ay hindi maipapamigay sa aming magsasaka, ano pa ang mangyayari sa ating bansa at sa mga darating pang mga panahon? [If those lands will not be given to us farmers, what will happen to the country in the coming future?],” Olaez asked. Since 1993, the Hacienda Yulo farmers were displaced from tilling 7,000 hectares of land in Canlubang after the Department of Justice favored the Yulos, according to Evangeline Mendoza, Deputy National Coordinator of Ugnayan ng mga Nagsasariling Lokal na Samahan ng Mamamayan sa Kanayunan. “Ilalaan daw ang lupa na golf course at residential area kaya nabigyan ng exemption order. Ngunit nanatili na ang lupa ay sakahan. Ang ginawa lang ng pamilya Yulo ay nilagyan ng bakod at pinagbawalan sila na magsaka. Kaya ngayon ang pitong libong ektarya ay naka-tiwangwang. [The land was supposed to be converted to a golf course and residential area. That’s why it was given an exemption order but it remains to be a farm land. The Yulo family however put up a fence and banned the farmers from tilling the land. Today, the 7,000 hectare-land remains unused],” explained Mendoza. Mendoza said the country would not have any food shortage problems if government distributed land to the farmers. “Kami ay nasa edad na ang pinaglalaban namin ngayon ay ‘yung aming mga anak at ‘yung mga susunod pa naming mga lahi. [We are now old but we are still fighting for the future of our children and the next generation.],” said Olaez.