IN OUR previous post, we mentioned that, despite the wonderful objectives and methodology of the Family Farm Schools, the concept has not been able to attract the really big bucks in terms of financial support. This must not denigrate, however, the kindness of so many people and corporations who have, to this day, given much to sustain the concept. Without their help, the Family Farm Schools would never have taken off at all. One of the more salutary side-benefits of the farm schools is the inevitable involvement of the parents and families of the students in the whole effort. As the astounded parents observe their budding farmer sons become accomplished in their trade, they naturally begin to foster an active curiosity about the school. Many of the parents have responded to activities –- both spiritual and otherwise -– that the farm school managers manage to drum up. The concept of family is honed in the minds of the students and their relatives. They are taught to find dignity in ordinary work, and best of all, guided on how to do their work to the best of their respective abilities. Finally, in keeping with the schools’ tradition, the students and their families find out how work well done and offered up to God becomes the best work of all. This kind of a positive and spiritual mindset is so radically different from those who believe that they are owed work, and when they get some, do such work in a lackadaisical manner. There is no pride in self or in the work being done. This can probably be attributed to the lack of a strong spiritual formation in the worker. Man, after all, does not live on bread alone.
March 2008 Archives
WHILE many continue to be fascinated with the continuing saga of the botched NBN deal and the sale of the nation’s sovereignty, the country’s great mass of underprivileged must make do with what they have just to survive. The thought of millions or billions made in illegal commissions must boggle the mind, but may be viewed as ironic in the face of people struggling to make a daily wage or to feed a gathering brood. Almost three decades ago, certain like-minded friends and corporate entities put together the first of a series of what are now called Family Farm Schools. The first one went up in Lipa, on land donated by the Ayala group. (My friend Tony Laurel of the Ayala agribusiness group remembers this particular donation.) The family farm school is one attempt to keep the children of small landowning families continuing to work on the family plots of land. In a way, the schools seek to reverse the trend of most families that finds their children migrating to the urbanized areas of the country, leaving otherwise productive lands fallow or underproductive. The schools use a combination of classroom and actual on-the-job training. Since most of the students come from a certain radius distance from the school, they are expected to spend half of their time working back on their small farms, applying the concepts that they had picked up in the school during the previous week. The schools’ faculty members go on the road and review the implementation by each student of specific assignments given them. Initially, many of the families concerned sent their second or least promising sons to the first school in Lipa, figuring that they would not lose anything by doing so. Typically, the eldest would then go off to the metro area to seek his fortune and, hopefully, send enough money home to keep the family out of a state of penury. Later on, when the parents saw how their sons -– and their farms -– progressed, they were astounded as their less-promising sons began to leave their older siblings in their wake. It is projects like the Family Farm Schools that contribute to the general sense of well-being in the nation. Better yet, small plots of land that would have otherwise been sold off or left fallow continue to remain productive. The sad news is that these Family Farm Schools try to do so much but do not appear sexy enough to potential contributors, leaving them in a perpetual state of trying to make do with so little. Pity.
WHOEVER said that one can take it easy upon becoming a senior citizen will have to re-examine his or her assumptions. In an e-group of my grade school and high school classmates, someone brought up how the student body was made aware of their rights and the need to fight for them sometime during our idyllic life on campus. Not long after, many of us joined ranks with others who got caught up in the maelstrom called the First Quarter Storm. Fifteen years later, we marched in lockstep with many others to fight for basic freedoms during the many years that preceded the People Power days at EDSA 1. Now, almost a quarter of a century later, not having learned anything from the previous struggles for change, the mood is once again ripe for a mass-based movement to bring down an unpopular leadership. Many of those who participated in the past struggles for change are hopeful that, this time around, a more meaningful change in both structure and underlying moral values will finally result in a country that can do things right without having to fall back on those aspects of the dark side that continue to drag us down as a people. Otherwise, we will just pave the way for another pack of self-serving and greedy individuals who will line their pockets before they begin to think of working for the greater good. The current leadership is keen on pointing out the country’s economic success, touting growth figures that, at first glance, do seem impressive. It does not take a trained economist to realize that these positive indicators -– fueled mostly by OFW inflows and a consumption economy –- are not solid enough for the economy to survive on in the longer term. A substantial chunk of our workforce abroad rely on the largesse and strength of their host economies, some of which may soon feel the strain of the increasingly negative growth being felt in the current slump. In fact, a recent survey points out that more and more of our countrymen feel poorer than before, which suggests that the growth being touted by the administration is not effectively filtering down to the masses. That is bad news. Instead of focusing on big ticket items –- which are, of course, attractive because of the commissions corrupt officials and their cohorts can earn at the expense of the people –- the leadership should focus more on those programs or projects that impact directly on the fortunes and pockets of the ordinary Filipino. These –- to be truthful -– are precisely the areas that the NGO community revels in, but which the government studiously chooses to avoid. Not enough glory perhaps, or not enough personal gain or profit? Instead of that stupid broadband deal -– which the private sector could have cobbled together for much much less than the accepted price –- money could have been poured into microfinance (working through NGOs or the small banks accredited for this purpose), habitats (like the GK communities), vocational education, et al. There is a wealth of very soft or free bilateral and multilateral money available for this purpose. But of course, these back to basics projects are not attractive because, as the saying goes, the projects are "Bulag." Translation: "Wala Kita" (Literally, "Can’t See;" figuratively, "No Profit!") And then, there is that wonderful area of fund-raising by the government’s revenue generation agencies. The government always wonders why the revenue generation agencies don’t seem to meet their assigned targets. All one has to do is realize that many taxpayers end up paying more to unscrupulous revenue agents than to the government in the myriad arrangements that come up on a day to day basis. These less than honest agents make it harder for honest taxpayers to pay the right taxes. Crummy! No wonder more people are joining the search for Truth and Justice!