Does this work pass the smell test?: #CRinFlorida Day 1 Reflection


These next few days I’ll be sharing my personal reflection on a climate leadership conference I’m part of. I do this to capture the raw emotion in my daily reflection in order to help me with my later writing. If these posts benefit you, too, in any small way, please let me know via a comment. Thank you.

The strategic investment angle on climate action can hollow out the developmental. The danger of a strictly Western frame and American gaze on climate action is to reduce an opportunity for sociocultural transformation into dollars and cents. There is a dimension of climate action that could genuinely redefine what is “sustainable” in sustainable development — the chance to promote local control of community-defined sustainable development. What good is green/clean infrastructure if it doesn’t change the behavioral and sociological causes of environmental degradation from overconsumption and exploitive development?


Is it right to devise a campaign to reduce carbon emissions or adopt clean energy alternatives that would resonate equally in all regions if we know these regions’ priorities to be effective governance, survival from extreme weather, and ending extreme poverty, first and foremost?

The truth is:

(1) Powerful interests must be held accountable; aligning ourselves and our communities with their investment pet projects without asserting the primacy of local control and community-defined development doesn’t do that.

(2) Development could be made more inclusive and responsive to local priorities; prescribing a narrow set of climate actions without active consultation with vulnerable communities doesn’t do that.

(3) Transformational leadership is about widening meaningful community engagement; massaging our messaging to better market a narrow set of solutions doesn’t do that.

Is it right to devise a campaign to reduce carbon emissions or adopt clean energy alternatives that would resonate equally in all regions if we know these regions’ priorities to be effective governance, survival from extreme weather, and ending extreme poverty, first and foremost?


View updates on our climate resilience advocacy on Facebook: Search Goodbranch Vergara


FeudArt is one way for Goodbranch Vergara to reach its audience. Goodbranch Vergara promotes climate change adaptation within the context of community resilience, its belief that health policy is climate policy, and vice versa. Support our work by getting involved.  Follow us

To promote community and human development as methods for climate change adaptation in vulnerable regions.
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Goodbranch Vergara is an LLC based in California. Goodbranch Vergara is focused on linking climate change adaptation with rural and human development. Our projects currently promote community education on the link between health disparity elimination and climate change adaptation. One of our core programs, Conscious Youth Promoting Health & Environmental Readiness (CYPHER), is focused on youth engagement in the U.S., and strategic countries in Africa and Southeast Asia where communities most vulnerable to the negative effects of climate change and health disparity reside.Help support our work by volunteering or spreading the word.Visit for your formal Barong Tagalog and informal guayabera needs. They support our efforts.
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The state of Philippine mental health


“The Philippines [has] a National Mental Health Policy (Administrative Order # 8 s.2001) signed by then Secretary of Health Manuel M. Dayrit. There is no mental health legislation and the laws that govern the provision of mental health services are contained in various parts of promulgated laws such as Penal Code, Magna Carta for Disabled Person, Family Code, and the Dangerous Drug Act, etc. The country spends about 5% of the total health budget on mental health and substantial portions of it are spent on the operation and maintenance of mental hospitals. The new social insurance scheme covers mental disorders but is limited to acute inpatient care. Psychotropic medications are available in the mental health facilities. A Commission on Human Right of the Philippines exists, however, human rights were reviewed only in some facilities and only a small percentage of mental health workers received training related to human rights. These measures need to be extended to all facilities.

The National Program Management Committee of the Department of Health (DOH) acts as the mental health authority. Forty-six outpatient facilities treat 124.3 users per 100,000 populations. The rate of users per 100,000 general population for day treatment facilities and community based psychiatric inpatient units are 4.42 and 9.98, respectively. There are fifteen community residential (custodial home-care) facilities that treat 1.09 users per 100,000 general population. Mental hospitals treat 8.97 patients per 100,000 general population and the occupancy rate is 92%. The majority of patients admitted have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. There has been no increase in the number of mental hospital beds in the last five years. All forensic beds (400) are at the National Center for Mental Health. Involuntary admissions and the use of restraints or seclusion are common.

There was an effort by the National Mental Health Program in the mid 1990’s to integrate mental health services in community settings through trainings of municipal health doctors and nurses on the identification and management of specific psychiatric morbidities and psychosocial problems. However, at present it appears that the majority of the trained community-based health workers are no longer in their place of duty, and the current primary health care staff seem to have inadequate training in mental health and interaction with mental health facilities is uncommon.

There are 3.47 human resources working in mental health for 100,000 general population. Rates are particularly low for social workers and occupational therapists. More than fifty percent of psychiatrists work in for-profit mental health facilities and private practice. The distribution of human resources for mental health seems to favor that of mental health facilities in the main city. There is a consumer association involved in planning and implementing policies and plans. Family associations are present in the country but are not involved in implementing policies and plans, and few interact with mental health facilities. Public education and advocacy campaigns are overseen by the DOH and coordinated in the regional offices. Private sector organizations do their share in increasing awareness on the importance of mental health, but they utilize different structures. There are mental health links with other relevant sectors, but there is no legislative or financial support for people with mental disorders.

Non-standardized data are collected and compiled by facilities to a variable extent. Mental health facilities transmitted data to the government health department. There have been several studies done on mental health but not all were published in indexed journals. Some studies on non- epidemiological clinical /questionnaires assessments of mental disorders and services have been conducted.

In the Philippines, the mental health system has different types of mental health facilities, and some need to be strengthened and developed. At present, mental hospitals are working within their capacity (in terms of number of beds/patient), even though there has been no increase in number of beds in the last 5 years. Some facilities are devoted to children and adolescents. Access to mental health facilities is uneven across the country, favoring those living in or near the National Capital Region. There are informal links between the mental health sector and other sectors, and many of the critical links are weak and need to be developed (i.e., links with the welfare, housing, judicial, work provision, education sectors). The mental health information system does not cover all relevant information in all facilities.

In the last few years, the numbers of outpatient facilities have slightly grown throughout the country from 38 to 46. Moreover, efforts have been made to improve the quality of life and treatment of patients in mental hospitals. Some aspects of life in hospitals have improved, but the number of patients has grown steadily. Unfortunately, the low priority on mental health is a significant barrier to progress in the treatment of patients in the community.

In order to put the information contained above into context, comparisons with regional norms are made. The Philippines, like most countries of the Western Pacific region, have a national mental health policy. However, in comparison to other countries, it was put into operation relatively recently. Community care for patients is present, but as seen in many low and lower middle income countries, it is limited. Unlike the majority of countries in the world and the region, the Philippines have no mental health law. The poor involvement of primary health care services in mental health is also a feature shared with many low and lower middle resource countries. The number of psychiatrists per 100,000 general population is similar to the majority of countries in the Western Pacific region and about average for lower middle resource countries in the world (Mental Health Atlas WHO, 2005). ”


A call to all liberals: HAVE MORE COJONES!!!


Count them … grow three! On this day, May 1 — mayo uno — when we celebrate the labor movement and workers and their advocates around the globe, I re-post this because its content is fitting, and because its fundamental message resonates with me still as we are reminded of how Big Business has our institutions and democracy by the balls … 


Although I am a bit older and wiser, I still believe that the conflict inherent in social justice work requires courage, not just a mad grip of resources and community support. Courage, to me, represents a level of maturity, a certain level of being integrated, of being internally coherent.


For every person’s contributions to social justice to have an impact, these contributions must generally be coherent, have some degree of reason, some degree of logic so that the whole is bigger than the sum of the parts. To me reason is more than a product of the mind; it is also a product of the heart and spirit, a person’s essence. We do what we do not only because of what makes sense to us but also what feels right. To me reason is necessarily courage, and courage, necessarily action with reason. When you know something to be wrong, your challenge is to act.


Both reason and courage demand that you ‘do you’, that you be authentic, even when being so makes you seem weird, or uncool, or ‘not mainstream’. Living out the values of humanism and making the choices required by those values is guided by reason and courage. This is what I mean when I say that liberals must have more cojones.


Originally written and posted in September 2008, when I started this blog and was still primarily an angry soul, the original post could use some serious rewriting. But I’m honoring my original sentiment and the words I chose then to communicate it.


Below is the post unvarnished … 

In troubled parts of the world, in whichever period you dare to look, one thing is consistent: the dictatorship of anti-intellectualism. Many leaders fetishize “resolve” and “quick action” at the expense of sound analysis and evidence-based decision-making.


And those who do this “fetishize-ing” do so to overcompensate for their insecurity, to hide their honest-to-goodness unpreparedness to face a difficult situation and manage the unknown that goes with governing. Cases in point: China over Tibet; Russia over Georgia; the U.S. over Iraq; the Philippines over Muslims in Mindanao; and finally, Republicans beating up on liberals.


How I wish that one day, the war in southern Philippines will finally end. But this will not happen as long as strength is equated with aggression and military might. As long as this is the case, true development and national renewal will elude millions of Filipinos now living, and millions more to come.  


How I wish that the seige of liberal thinking by conservatives will end! But this will not happen in the United States as long as conservatives are not confronted on how they disparage the value of reason, of precision, of high-level thinking.


I wish that McCain would honor his pledge to having a decent campaign and put a stop to his staff that impugn Obama policies with senseless spin and punchlines. This will not happen as long as we agree with conservatives that embracing reason and intellect is a form of weakness, indecisiveness, elitism, and that it is un-American.


Liberals need to grow cojones! We all need to have more cojones!!!! Liberal or not, we need to have a backbone and defend Reason in this country. Embracing Reason is a strength. Reason requires as much courage, as much self-belief to secure victory in the battleground of ideas, as it is to be victors in the theater of war. 

The Conservative Learning Curve


ImageBy Vic Romero, December 6, 2012

“At a dinner in honor of the late Jack Kemp — a big tax-cutter who also had a big heart — Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio both worked hard to back the party away from the damage done by Mitt Romney’s comments on the supposedly dependent 47 percent and the broader hostility shown toward government by a conservatism inflected by tea party thinking.

Ryan spoke gracious words about Romney, the man who made him his vice presidential running mate. But the implicit criticism of Romney’s theory was unmistakable. Kemp, Ryan said, “hated the idea that any part of America could be written off.” Republicans, Ryan said, must “carry on and keep fighting for the American Idea — the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to rise, to escape from poverty.” He also said: “Government must act for the common good, while leaving private groups free to do the work that only they can do.”

Rubio dubbed his speech a discourse on “middle-class opportunity” and distanced himself from the GOP’s obsession with giving succor to the very wealthy. “Every country in the world has rich people,” Rubio said. “But only a few places have achieved a vibrant and stable middle class. And in the history of the world, none has been more vibrant and more stable than the great American middle class.”

McConnell filibusters his own bill


Image By Vic Romero, Dec 6, 2012

On Capitol Hill, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, moved Thursday to vote on Mr. Obama’s proposal, in his broader deficit package, to permanently diminish Congress’s control over the federal government’s statutory borrowing limit, assuming that Democrats would break ranks and embarrass the president. Instead, Democratic leaders did a count, found they had 51 solid votes, and took Mr. McConnell up on what Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate majority leader, called “a positive development.”

Mr. McConnell then filibustered his own bill, objecting to a simple-majority vote and saying a change of such magnitude requires the assent of 60 senators.

FMA lessons on voting (Part 2 of 4)


In full contact Filipino martial arts (FMA), overcoming your opponent in the ring is only part of what needs to go in your favor to win a match; you also have to win over the judges, who do their best to score the fight objectively, but also look for other things.

FMA judges also look for four items: good offense, good defense, ring generalship, and respect for the art. When applied to the world of electoral politics, these criteria for judging full-contact FMA show us dimensions of political combat that could help us, as voters, more easily extract meaning from complex, confusing, and deceitful political campaigns.

The founder of Cabales Serrada Escrima, GM Angel Cabales (1917-1991). Photo-grab from

In this second installment of four, I unpack one potential use in electoral politics of the FMA value of ‘good defense’.

On good defense: FMA judges look for defensive skill, i.e., blocking, evasive footwork, disarms, bobbing and weaving, which together compose a defensive outlook that is uncommon in an average fighter. More often than not, defense is not prioritized in training by most fighters. And even if it were, the adrenalin rush of a full-contact match eschews defensive fighting as both the biology and psychology of survival kick in. A fighter who is viewed favorably is one who knows and demonstrates smart, responsive defense.

Just as ‘good offense’ indicates discipline, so, too, does ‘good defense’; in addition, and perhaps more relevant to the discussion below, this FMA value of ‘good defense’ also indicates restraint and sound judgment.

Applying ‘good defense’ on voting. As voters, this discussion helps remind us that we have the wherewithal–the means–to filter campaign information. Sound judgment, a key aspect of ‘good defense’, is an inherent human capacity. From both the perspective of biological and cognitive development, sound judgment emerges in all of us; biologically, we gain the capacity for judgment as the prefrontal cortex fully develops in our twenties, and cognitively, we gradually but surely learn to think in more sophisticated ways as we age, from simple logic to abstract thinking. Sound judgment is innate in all of us.

To remind us of our capacity for sound judgment seems needless if it were not for our tendency to take shortcuts when making decisions. I teach foundation courses in human behavior and the social environment (HBSE) theory to first-year graduate students and every semester it never fails to amaze me how many ask me to explain how to critically think.

Critical-thinking is a vital ingredient to sound judgment because it is through it that we extract original thought, that we integrate information in our environment creatively and analytically, in order to make sense of our world and specific matters requiring our attention and decision.

Why so many of us fail at critical-thinking could be partially explained by our tendency to overestimate how much we know of some thing. Called the “illusion of explanatory depth” this tendency is what allows us to make knee-jerk responses to things that normally would require a deeper, more reflective process, like choosing a leader, or voting ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ on a ballot initiative.

We assume we understand, when we really do not. We convince ourselves that we have deep understanding, when we really only have a grasp of a surface-level understanding.

Just like an FMA fighter should train defensive fighting, so should we also exercise critical-thinking as we vote. We cannot simply consume campaign information handed to us for it is manufactured to shape our thoughts. We must metabolize it, analyze it, and reach a level of understanding that is beyond the surface.

Sound judgment is something we may take for granted, something we may assume we regularly already do, but ask yourself if you can successfully explain with adequate depth of thought the reasons why you are voting for your candidate, and what you will surely find out is that you do not really understand the issues as well as you thought you do, and that you need to process things more fully.