Saturday, November 30, 2013

What happened to our timber lands?

Visiting a certain community in Surigao del Sur gave me a lot of surprises and questions that are difficult to answer.

I never had any idea what we were heading to until we reached the place. The road sign says of a school in Davisol. Our companion also told me there is high school therein. I thought it's only a school but there was more than that.

I was intrigued by the name. Why Davisol? I don't have a basis but our companion told me that it is said to mean, David and Solomon.

Structures including a  coop store
When we entered the area, I saw children, women, houses and mangroves. Davisol is in a coastal area of Barangay Manyahay, Lianga, Surigao del Sur.

I heard the story that the community is headed by a patriach whom they call as Pater, allegedly to have more than five wives. I heard of stories about cult but I expected to see someone who wears a big cross, long-bearded perhaps old man. When we were talking to one resident, I saw a man wearing jersey and playing basketball in the basketball court. We were able to meet him and had a short chat with him. I was surprised he was Pater. He said he is 67 years old. To my surprise, I didn't expect a 67 year old man playing basketball with youngsters and being able to run with them. He said he plays with his children and grandchildren. Allegedly, he fathered more than 40 children and now have more than 30 grandchildren. That's according to my companion and guide. All of them live in the same community except those working outside and children studying in college.

Man-made lagoon with corals 

I appreciate the lagoon surrounded by mangroves. My companion told me that the lagoon is man-made and the women helped a lot to finish the lagoon.

I saw structures in the area - houses, school buildings, store, church. The store says its a cooperative. The church has a different altar design contrary to common altar designs I see in Catholic churches and some protestant churches. Again, my companion told me that the community say their prayers in Latin and worship in Latin.

For many years ago, the Catholic Church has changed a lot. Before, they only allow masses to be said in Latin. Now, masses and bibles are in local dialects throughout the world. What could be there in that community saying prayers and worship all in Latin?

Remains of a big tree

My companion told me that the community has already produced professionals like engineers. She also told me that the community follows Philippine laws on environmental protection. I saw a waste-segregation area too. I also wondered what happened to the very big tree cut in the area.

However, I learned that the community produce crafts made of iron wood, locally known as "magkono" (or mangkono?).  He also told me that the community stopped making wood crafts after the total log ban which is still in effect until now. Ironically, one of my companions was there to look for that wood craft. And someone has to accompany a prospective buyer in order to be able to buy a wood craft that was said to be made long before the log ban as they don't sell anymore. 

I did not see display of wood crafts in the store inside. I wondered if how many people will be coming to the place accompanied by someone they know to be able to buy a wood craft. Is this a black market or what? Am I really seeing what I am supposed to see or these things are just being hidden by the friendliness of the people there?

People in Davisol are kind to visitors. They greet you good morning, good afternoon, good noon as the case maybe. My companion told me that the place is being developed into an eco-tourism area. Who wishes to develop the area as eco-tourism destination, is it the DENR or LGU or both of them? I don't know.

Man-made improvements in the shoreline
I saw two boats in the shoreline. One small color blue boat and one bigger boat with roof. My companion told me that the bigger boat belongs to DENR for purposes of island-hopping.

I inquired, if there is a school inside the community, who teaches the children? I was told DepEd teachers teach the children. Who gave money to construct schools? Where did they obtain a permit to construct a school building? Questions are difficult to answer. Sometimes it is fearful to ask questions for a person stranger to the area.

I wondered and kept a question in my mind. Was there perhaps a PDAF used to construct a structure in the area? My companion again told me that the community is a favorite pet for politicians in the area. He said that if politicians would love to be supported by Iglesia ni Kristo, in this area, politicians would love to be supported by Davisol. That's why politicians are allegedly generous in this community.

On our way from Lianga, I inquired again. Do they have land titles to settle in the area? Our companion-cum-guide told me that the community do not have papers to settle in the area because that is a declared timberland. What is a timber land? What happens if we continue to build structures in the timber land?

Who cares for Davisol community is they get washed out by a strong typhoon because they are fronting the sea? I learned that the whitish stone-like pads surrounding the lagoon are not rocks. These are corals. Corals get destroyed through the years. 

I learned of the story of an environment officer in a nearby area. I learned that she implements the law as it should be. She used a vehicle that is very similar to one of the service vehicles of the police. One day, the same service vehicle was ambushed. It was not her vehicle; it was the police. After the incident, she had to hold office in a nearby city and had to keep her whereabouts and land travels unknown.

From the words of an environment officer from Manila, he told me that when you're into forestry laws, you will get a lot of enemies. I inquired about who were given permits to do logging in the Philippines. He named one famous personality in Congress.  Who gave that company a permit? Whose administration? Whose environment secretary? 

Made of iron wood
I don't have a complete comprehension of what are timber lands and what are we supposed to do with timber lands. What happened to those timber lands? Where are they now?

Sunday, November 24, 2013

We Too Shed Tears

“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Literally, the sword might be mightier than an enemy. Yet no sword is mightier than its handler because its fate can be controlled by a human being. How about being stronger than a human being? Who else more is tougher than nature?

Typhoon Yolanda proved to be one of the strongest ever. No great boxer or wrestler can ever control or counter it. When nature punishes, its impact is indeed immeasurable. No one will ever think of that media-portrayed anarchy fighting for food and water will ever take place. For hardly hit areas, we can't imagine how they struggled on the first few days after the typhoon.

Then what about the firemen? Firefighters, rescuers, emergency responders – name it. We are one in the fire service. We lost firemen to Haiyan. Some of them cannot be seen until now. Bureau of Fire Protection personnel also lost a family member, a relative and even own children. One fire non-officer was at the fire scene during the onslaught of the typhoon. While responding team was busy putting out fire that engulfed a residential area, she had no idea that storm surge already took her children away in downtown Tacloban City. She ended up receiving hugs from her commander without knowing why at that moment.

Amidst grief, we had to work. Faced with the massive problem of water supply and basic needs for own family, we had to leave. With a home that lost its GI sheets and trusses, we have to report to duty. Because it is our duty to serve. It is in our hearts that we serve our country. As far as Albay, ARMM, Cagayan de Oro or Surigao; we had to be in Tacloban City to assist our colleagues who can barely sleep. Eating was difficult now matter how good the food is – adobo, chicken, vegetables – name them. Swallowing even our own saliva was hard as our rescue uniform was soaked with decomposing human fluid and skin. Being members of the Task Force Cadaver, we recover as many dead bodies as we could see and smell. We patrol on foot just to locate those missing and hidden bodies from debris. Our latex gloves break after carrying a few corpses.

There was no time for excuses. We cannot complain. We cannot call anyone to replace us to do what we were doing. Work must go on because we are your firemen.

We are your firefighters. We save lives, we retrieve bodies and bury them even when it rains. While no one else had to cry for the unidentified victims, we too shed tears for them. We are deeply saddened. When heaven darkens we too make river of tears without you noticing it.
As we remember the demise of our firemen in the great Rockwell fire in December 14, let us continue the tradition of honoring our Filipino firefighters. This is to remember not a river of tears that we too shed as human beings but perhaps the ability and discipline in the fire service to keep most of those tears in our pockets, suppressing our own emotions and feelings of grief and tiredness just to let you know and see that we are your firefighters – strong and ready to serve the Filipino people.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

What I Buy These Days

To buy or not to buy? A question that needs to qualify an answer.

I am a working single mom striving to care for my parents and my kid. Salary is never enough. No one can even evade inflation. I'm hardly trying to achieve financial freedom but it's indeed difficult. It cannot be achieved overnight. I am not a Napoles either and I don't dream of becoming one ending in jail for a criminal charge or in the halls of Senate for an inquiry. I don't want fame.

As a breadwinner, I am thinking of a replacement income. I think ahead and I think of a lot of "what if's" in life. What if I die too soon? What if I live too long? What if...and many more what if's.

I am grateful for my IMG Wealth Academy family. My friends and mentors in IMG showed me the way. It introduced me to the right peers. I belong to a group of frugal people in IMG. Some of them have already earned their millions but they are still frugal and meek until now. They give tithes regularly and they go to the feast. I am not feast goer though. Even so, some of them belong to top level corporate positions yet they still manage to prepare daily "baon" for work instead of buying somewhere or dining out. I'm impressed with one IMG colleague who cooks kamote and saging na saba at home as his snacks for the day and brings his day's water consumption in his car instead of buying  a daily bottled water.

I love the discipline that I'm learning in IMG WA. For now, I am telling what are the things that I'm buying. It may sound stupid for people who do not believe in insurance but as of today I have five life insurance plans. I also have an accident insurance separate from those plans. I have a long-term health care plan aside from Philhealth. In fact, I am also a holder of a memorial plan and my payment period is about to end. Sounds weird but I believe in having plans in the absence of a big emergency fund. I believe in insurance. I'm computing the total cost of all my insurance plans and these are not yet enough to cover my replacement income in case I die too soon. 

Since I am a single mom, I know I can never be a Warren Buffet anymore. Too late for me. Perhaps I cannot even be like that of Bo Sanchez' household help and driver who have gone a long way investing in the stock market too much ahead of me.

So, I am buying shares for me and my kid. It is in a trust account in conjunction to one of my "what if's" in life. Quarterly, since I cannot make it a point to buy on  monthly basis, I try my best to buy minimum of ten shares from a reputable food and beverage company. Aside from that, I also buy shares in mutual fund companies. For now, I maintain two equity fund accounts - equity funds being the most aggressive - in two top performing mutual fund companies in the country. I cannot boast anything on my investments in mutual funds because these are just too small. In fact, I find it difficult to add more investments after opening an account. So far, you may now have an idea how much it is.

I dream to get out of the debt trap. As of now, I am still in debt. Being single, I may not have a vow of "till death do us part" however, at least a dream of "till debt do us part" will be enough for me. I tried to apply for a credit card few years ago but all of them got disapproved. Now, I am thankful for all those disapproval. I presently maintain a debit card instead of a credit card. Renewal fee is just 350 pesos yearly without interest rates to boggle up my mind.

Instead of buying signature clothes, I buy from bargains and ukay ukay. For me, ukay ukay is better than patronizing an imitation. In this case, after wearing those clothes for a certain period of time, it's not heavy to the heart to give them to victims of natural calamities. I am also a recipient of used and old stuff (clothes, wallet, etc) from relatives and office mates. Still sounds weird? I don't care. I have to, otherwise, who else will care?

Friday, November 8, 2013

Christmas Recycling


I visited the third floor of our office for some concerns. My eyes got smitten by a Belen made of recycled materials. A belen, Christ's nativity diorama, is a common sight in the Philippine homes and offices. For the country with the longest tradition of Christmas that starts as early as the first day of September and ends on the feast of Three Kings in January, Filipinos decorate homes, walkways and offices with Christmas spirit.

Recycled materials

I appreciate the way they used recycled materials to make a Christmas spirit inside our offices. Used paper fasteners, rubber bands, filing folder, carton are enough to decorate simply a government office.

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