By Digoy Fernandez (*Ramon V del Rosario Sr) When I heard that Ramon del Rosario Sr, or Tito Monching as I have known him all my life, or RVR for the purposes of this blog, passed away, I truly felt a sense of sadness. First, RVR and Tita Millie were long-time family friends of my late parents. Second, my parents and their friends had many shared experiences both professionally and in their subsequent exploits in the field of civic action. Third, I had originally planned on digging up many of the gems of their past activities through personal talks with them, hoping to dredge as many of these memories as I could. Unfortunately, many in this pioneer band of friends passed away one by one even as I contemplated the project. When the intrepid band of young and idealistic men gathered to form what would become the Manila Junior Chamber of Commerce (now known as the Manila Jaycees) sometime in late 1947, RVR was elected as the charter president for the following year. Then, they chartered several other chapters all over the Philippines, and RVR became a natural choice for charter president also of the incipient national organization. But this band did not rest on their laurels because they then set forth to organize Jaycee chapters all over Asia, including the Tokyo Jaycees and the Japan Junior Chamber! By this time, the Philippine group caught the attention of the international organization and the 5th JCI World Congress was slated for Manila in 1950. In that meeting, RVR was elected as the President of JCI, the first Asian to be accorded such an honor. (My late father served as the last of the volunteer Secretary Generals of JCI in 1953-53 when the late Roberto T Villanueva was elected JCI President, the 2nd Manila Jaycee to take on the top position in the organization.) Later on, when I became President of the Manila Jaycees, I had the opportunity to attend the World Congress in Osaka. The Tokyo Jaycees found out I was coming and laid out the Red Carpet. I mentioned that my father knew some of their founders, one of whom was Rei Hattori, the founder of Seiko. It was a truly humbling affair, with this Jaycee from lowly Philippines being hosted by our daughter organization, the Tokyo Jaycees, which had become a powerhouse in the world of Japanese civic action and commerce. On one occasion when one of my colleagues in the Jaycee Senate prevailed upon me to give a talk on the 1st Tenet of the Jaycee Creed: “That Faith in God gives meaning and purpose to human life”, I did a little digging and found out that this was the theme of the presidency of RVR when he headed the Philippine national organization (NOM). Nor surprisingly, this found its way into the existing JCI Creed and became its 1st Tenet. The original Creed as written by W Brownfield began with “That the Brotherhood of Man transcends the sovereignty of nations”. Thus, the faith of the founding fathers of the Philippine Jaycee movement found its way into the ideology of the international movement. I grew up with my maternal grandparents in their Nakpil-designed house on Vito Cruz in front of what is now the Century Park Sheraton in Vito Cruz. But weekends were spent in the Fernandez family compound in San Juan, where I saw a procession of my late parents’ friends -- a veritable who’s who of Philippine business and society – come to talk, plan, socialize, or even play a game or two. Listening from the sidelines, I learned about their work and their involvement in socially responsible projects. There was Operation Brotherhood, a brainchild of the late Oscar J Arellano – who lived down the street on Guevara from us -- that was responsible for sending volunteer doctors and nurses to war-torn Indochina to help alleviate the miasma of human suffering that one finds in a war zone. This movement inspired students to form the school-based Junior Operation Brotherhood many years later. But even before that, I found myself helping out volunteers working in Sapang Palay when it was still a new community of relocated squatters, all trying hard to adjust to life in a place remote from their old haunts and places of work. Sometime in 1949, almost the same cast of young visionaries who founded the Manila Jaycess then got involved in the foundation of ETIOP, or the Executive Training Institute of the Philippines. RVR provided the leadership of this group, one of the founding directors of which till his death was my late father. They were primarily responsible for bringing the Harvard short program called the “Advanced Management Program” to the Philippines in the early 50’s. Participants were drawn from various sectors from the Philippines and other countries. (Fortunately, my classmate Gilbert Jose was able to borrow the 1st, 2nd, and 4th AMP Class Annuals from his father) I remember going up to Baguio with my father to the Pines Hotel where the participants would be billeted. It was a family affair since many of the attendees brought their wives and children too. Well, this series of AMP classes that lasted to the early 60s eventually led to the formation of the Asian Institute of Management in 1968, with the first class graduating in 1970. (I belong to the 4th MBM class that graduated in 1973) The story can go on and on, because of the tidbits I picked up from my parents and their friends. Unfortunately, most of the family memorabilia went up in flames when a fire gutted my parents’ house in 1979. But I was able to retrieve some plaques from grateful governments like Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, expressing thanks for the help extended by Operation Brotherhood International, which also led to the loss of some lives while doing their little acts of heroism. As an aside, my sister and OJ Arellano’s daughter Baby, were sent abroad to study the Montessori method of teaching, and this led to the foundation of OBI-Montessori. (Baby, who just lost her husband Rollie, is the mother of Gabby Concepcion, and grandma to KC.) But that is also another story for another time.
September 2008 Archives
By Digoy Fernandez AT the risk of offending some of my colleagues who are in the mining industry, I guess I will have to just state the obvious: There will almost always be a severe conflict between the needs and/or operations of the mining industry and the need to protect the environment, especially in relatively pristine areas where the Web of Life is already at a fragile state. Unfortunately, very few mining concerns bother with the niceties of keeping their operations sustainable while at the same time taking steps to avoid degrading the environment they work in. Among the more serious problems that environmental activists accuse some miners of are: the clear-cutting of new and old growth trees to provide a venue for their facilities; the violation of the rights of settlers in the lands to which they have mining claims; the disposal of mine tailings directly into adjoining rivers or land; the lack of proper safety mechanisms to protect the lives of those working the mines; etc. Most good mines, by their nature, are located in mid or highland areas. Clear-cutting results in the loss of precious topsoil and the many flash-floods that the lowlands are subject to precisely because there is no longer any soil to absorb the water from strong rainfalls. Clear-cutting also destroys animal and floral habitats, rendering many a precious site useless to future generations of Filipinos. Worse yet, is the combination of clear-cutting and strip mining, especially if the place is left as is by a predatory mining concern. Fortunately, there seems to be a solution to the problem caused by the degradation of the mining areas. I read somewhere -- but canât seem to locate the article I set aside -- about a microbe that manages to break downs the degraded areas over time and converts them into places that can once again sustain life. Much like the way wet garbage and other waste can be converted into useful natural fertilizer and topsoil. Mine tailings that find their way into streams and rivers end up poisoning everything they touch along the way until they are finally deposited along the shorelines where rivers empty. The poisons used in mining operations and other residues end up killing many forms of life in the lowland and marine foreshore areas. If we follow closely the theory about life having started at the waterâs edge, we probably can fathom why the destruction of these marine and brackish water habitats will mean not only the loss of a lot of marine life, but also the livelihoods of many people. Every now and then we hear of a corporation setting up its operations in a remote area, and then proceeding to stake its claim and dominance over the area by kicking out the people who may have already settled in said area. This inevitable conflict between residential and human rights versus the right given to an entity to extract mineral resources is one that is played over and over again, usually to the detriment of the settlers. It is not surprising, therefore, to see Church elements take the cudgels for the aggrieved parties in consonance with the teaching regarding the Preferential Option for the Poor. That is why those few mine operations that adhere to environmental standards and maintain a decent human rights regime deserve not just our applause but also our gratitude for their concern for the long term welfare of the planet and the people who live in it. Thus, mining operations and economic development CAN exist side by side with environmental sustainability, but it takes a lot of doing. And will most likely cost more, but will be more rewarding both for a mining corporation and its various publics over time.
By Digoy Fernandez THE mention of waste segregation and the decision not to use incinerators for getting rid of trash just made me think of something unusual: Medical Waste. Many years ago, I used to go to daily mass in one of the country’s better hospitals because it was very near my office then. Until I bumped into a friend who also went to daily mass, sometimes in the same hospital chapel I would go to. My friend is in the insurance industry and is known as one of the more honest adjusters around, giving accurate assessments of fire and other damage in behalf of insurance companies. He asked me if I also had the habit of bringing my son to said hospital, knowing full well that this particular son was practically my shadow and companion in many an adventure and activity. When I answered in the negative, he said simply: "Good." And then, he explained why he thought bringing children to hospitals is not such a good idea. According to him, hospitals, by their nature and business, tend to provide safe havens for many dangerous microbes that, over time, have began to develop strong resistance to antiseptics and other cleaning agents. And, he stressed further, the worst places were most possibly the ICU units! Yikes! That soured me on ever visiting ICU units again, even for close relatives. I also remembered a proposal given to me by one of my foreign partners years ago touting mini-incinerators designed to get rid of what hospitals refer to as "Red Bag" waste. These are those used swabs, disposable linens, among others, that one tends to throw away after regular use in a hospital. The brochures stated that Red Bag waste tended to end up with other regular waste in landfills and wherever else waste is dumped. In our local milieu, that would mean that, aside from the filth and bacteria that a rag-picker would be exposed to, those who make a living from sifting through garbage would then be subjected to materials that could have come into contact with people with infectious diseases. Yikes, again! Unfortunately, the Clean Air Act and proof that incineration causes the production of poisonous dioxins scuttled any move in that direction. But I still wonder to this day if our local hospitals follow any specific protocol in the disposal of their Red Bag waste. I Googled this subject and found many ways recommended in the task of disposing of said waste. Thus, there is no shortage or remedies. One of them is to simply subject said Red Bag waste to an antiseptic bath (until I remembered the thought that many bacterial and viral strains may have developed resistance to such cleansing!), to the use of superheated steam to cleanse infected materials. In the US, the burning of some medical waste, especially body parts, is mandated by law. Here, we have no alternative but to use less controversial alternatives. Some quarters suggest that hospitals look into the possibility of examining their materials use and go for those that do not contain any possible toxic ingredients (e.g. mercury in thermometers since alternatives exist) or those that would turn into poisons when they begin to break down in landfills or dumps. This reminds me to check out my local hospital on their Red Bag waste disposal policy!
By Digoy Fernandez THE heading of this particular blog is sure to jolt a few sensibilities given its pretty sweeping characterization of the Filipino’s penchant for abusing many of the God-given attributes of this country. I had not planned on writing on the topic of the unfortunate trees in Plaza Roma, but something just clicked and "made me do it"! First of all, I will not make any accusations against the two major parties -- Bambi Harper and Secretary Lito Atienza -- involved, not only because I know them well, but because I know that the fault sometimes lies elsewhere. When I read about the contractor that supposedly massacred said trees instead of following the instructions to ball some of those worth saving, I was reminded of what happens all too often when ignorant workers proceed to "trim" branches of trees. Supposedly to prevent them from hitting electric wires or from becoming too extensive and dangerous in times when typhoon winds can cause them to break and cause damage. Meralco, for example, has an excellent manual for use by its people, and now, their sub-contractors, in the trimming of trees. Unfortunately, all these sub-contractors do is to use long bolos (machetes) and proceed to hack away at branches of trees. In other countries, the "tree doctors" and maintenance personnel in charge of this task first study the tree involved, visualize the way they want the branches to spread out, and, work with the knowledge of how their trimming activities will affect the tree's health and future growth. They use tree trimmers or small chainsaws to cut off the offending branches, apply paint or an antiseptic to the portion cut to cauterize the "wound." They know that indiscriminate cutting or trimming will only cause water-sprouts to grow and spread, causing even more dense foliage than before, defeating the purpose of the exercise. They also fail to paint the wounded limb, which will then allow moisture to come in and cause rotting, and the inevitable insect infestation. Besides, no one should trim during the rainy season. The wet season will surely cause fungus to take root in the wounded portions of trees not well cut or trimmed. Best time to do trimming activities is during the months of January to March! Why do I say this? Because I saw my pet peeve, the Meralco sub-contractor working our area, in our village the other day, hard at work chopping off the tops of our trees. These people are no less culpable than the contractor who got his signals crossed in the ill-fated Plaza Roma incident. Meanwhile, I always watch my favorite shows on Nat Geo, Discovery, and the Animal channels, and am almost always struck by the beauty of the world’s many (fast vanishing) wild places. But nothing catches one’s attention like a meandering stream or a pristine river making its way through a wildlife habitat. Unfortunately, there are practically no more clean rivers in highly urbanized areas these days. Unlike during the pre-war times then my late father and his friends would play hookey from their classes at the old Ateneo in Intramuros in order to swim across the Pasig. To do so now would invite sure sickness and possibly death from the many noxious and poisonous bacteria and other strange flotsam and jetsam in the river. (By the way, the Pasig River ferry is a pleasant cruise, as my classmates and I found out as we made our way from Guadalupe to Escolta in order to have a joyful lunch in the Binondo area!) The care for nature and our habitat is something that can’t simply be learned in school. Parents have to teach and ingrain in their children why trees are beneficial, for example, instead of setting a bad example and cutting them down because they shed leaves! Households have to perfect the task of separating garbage, and contractors have to respect this practice and not simply dump everything together in a landfill. This will defeat the practice of waste segregation in the first place. We also have the duty to teach children not to litter, not to leave used chewing gum under tables and chairs, not to urinate in [laces other than toilets, and other minutiae like these. Then, maybe we will begin to see a sea change in the terrible attitude many Filipinos have with respect to the things they take for granted, especially their habitats.