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

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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 https://www.facebook.com/goodbranchvergara

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Mission
To promote community and human development as methods for climate change adaptation in vulnerable regions.
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Company Overview
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 http://www.mybarong.com/ for your formal Barong Tagalog and informal guayabera needs. They support our efforts.
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Inspiration
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” – John 15:5,8
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For more info, email rbvergara@gmail.com or skype at r.bong.vergara

The state of Philippine mental health

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“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). ”

SOURCE: http://www.who.int/mental_health/evidence/philippines_who_aims_report.pdf

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

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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 … 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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)

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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 http://www.tigerkid.com/style_kali.shtml

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.

Philippine Republic Act 10175: A slippery slope and betrayal of public trust

A brand new cyber-crime law, Republic Act (RA) 10175, goes into effect on October 3, 2012; and Filipinos on the web, particularly in the Philippines, are up in arms, and justifiably so. To read the actual language of RA 10175, go to http://www.gov.ph/2012/09/12/republic-act-no-10175/

If you are just learning about RA 10175, below are the key issues, including some of the contested sections.

Sections 4 (c) [4], 6, 7, 12, and 19: are believed to violate the Constitution for allowing people to be sued if they republish libelous content online via retweets on Twitter or sharing on Facebook.

Section 7: allows a person to be sued twice for the same offense, which violates the Constitutional right against double jeopardy. Under the new law, people can be be sued for old Internet posts.

Section 12: authorizes law enforcement authorities to “collect or record by technical or electronic means” communications transmitted through a computer system, enabling law enforcement authorities to “eavesdrop, monitor and record the communication and correspondence of any citizen” without a court order. Petitioners argue that this violates existing prohibitions on wiretapping telephone conversations without the benefit of a court order.

Section 20: authorizes the criminal prosecution of persons who do not comply with “any order of the NBI and PNP issued pursuant to Section 12 “with imprisonment of prison correctional in its maximum period or a fine of One hundred thousand pesos (Php100,000.00) or both, for each and every noncompliance.” Petitioners argue that this disqualifies anybody convicted of the crime from applying for parole.

Follow our Facebook page, named “100 Million Reasons” and post your comments, share your thoughts, and join the fight.

Today marks the official launch of Educators for Obama!

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Today, June 18, 2012, marks the official launch of Educators for Obama! Click vid link below.

Educators for Obama

If you are Fil-Am or friends of Fil-Ams and you want to get involved, contact http://kayagrassroots.org and tell them folks at FeudArt.com sent you. 😉

PH Inquirer: “Philippine economy a rare bright spot”

S&P says PH economy a ‘rare bright spot’

ASEAN reaffirms plan on economic integration

By:

11:40 pm | Friday, June 1st, 2012
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“The economic forecast for many countries these days ranges from shaky to dismal, especially among industrialized countries. Yet, the Philippines and Indonesia stand out as rare examples of emerging Asian economies with positive rating outlooks.

According to a report titled “Two Emerging Asian Economies Stand Out With Positive Outlooks Amid Sobering Economic News Elsewhere,” just published on RatingsDirect, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said that these two countries were among only 10 in the world that have positive rating outlooks, and none were industrialized economies.

Generally, the bond markets are treating the Philippines and Indonesia pretty well. And the cost to insure the two countries’ debt using credit default swaps also illustrates the favorable treatment the credit markets are giving the two countries.

Meantime, Southeast Asian countries have reaffirmed plans to integrate their economies by 2015, carrying hopes the move will make the region a key growth leader for the global economy.

At the end of the three-day World Economic Forum for East Asia held in Bangkok Friday, member-countries of the Association of Southeast Nations (Asean) committed to pursue the Asean integration plan as scheduled by 2015.

Under the economic integration plan, their financial systems and capital markets will be interconnected, trade will be easier through the elimination of many tariffs, and freer movement of labor across borders will be allowed.

In a statement released by the World Economic Forum (WEF), Southeast Asian leaders cited the benefits of an integrated region. “Leaders of four Asean countries reaffirmed the 10-member grouping’s commitment to form the Asean Economic Community as scheduled in 2015,” WEF said in the statement.

WEF said Asean members also raised hopes the group would be joined by other Asian countries in the future.

The economic integration by 2015 is expected to transform Southeast Asia into a major growth force in Asia and the world, together with China and India.

The Philippines is supportive of the region’s integration, saying doing so would help accelerate growth of member-economies. The country’s economic officials believe the integration will help member-countries pursue the goal of “inclusive” growth.

Economists said that while the Philippines and other emerging Asian countries were cited for their respectable growth rates despite problems hounding advanced Western economies, they continued to suffer from growth that was not inclusive.

Inclusive growth is one that actually translates to poverty reduction and does not benefit only the rich. In the Philippines, poverty incidence remains high even as the economy has consistently grown over the years.”

With a report from Reuters

SOURCE: Philippine Daily Inquirer Online, http://business.inquirer.net/62837/sp-says-ph-economy-a-rare-bright-spot

The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice: Obama’s same-sex marriage pronouncement

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I re-post this as I watch the CNN news coverage on the passage of Amendment 1 in North Carolina and President Obama’s favorable open support for same-sex marriage. I am moved by the value of this moment in the overall arc of social justice. With equal intensity, I find myself troubled by the retrograde character of Right-wing thought, shaking my head in wonder how and why there remain people who willfully hold on to bigoted, uncaring views.

As I read euphoria on Facebook, twitter, and, funny enough, even google+, I agree that this day is historic, as historic as the day when the first Black President of the US was sworn into office, when the Affordable Care Act was passed, and when Filipino WWII veterans could finally collect some of their service-connected benefits previously denied by Public Law 70-301, known as the Rescission Act of 1946 (see http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/macarthur/sfeature/bataan_filipino.html).

As the late Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “The arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice” — and this idea rings true today. When life teaches me basic truths about being human, I cannot help but hear and see better. When there are observable examples of how to be a champion for what is righteous, for what is just, I cannot help but be inspired..

In an election year when ‘big, sudden movements’ are discouraged for the political risks they may bring to a candidate, Pres. Obama courageously embraced a position that is righteous and that is just. These words–righteous, just–are often taken for granted, even misused; but today, the courage of the first Black President in the most powerful country in the world exemplifies their true meaning.

What drives me to extoll moments as wild as this is my core belief that equality is not a unicorn of social science, but a plausible fixture of humanity.

The arc of the universe bends toward justice, indeed. As an immigrant and a social worker, I am fundamentally moved by progress in widening civil rights. And it is not the ‘victim mentality’ that shapes my lens to the world for I truly do not see my self a victim. What drives me to extoll moments as wild as this is my core belief that equality is not a unicorn of social science, but a plausible fixture of humanity.

It is equality that demonstrates, illustrates, nurtures, and sustains our humanity. Oppression corrodes what makes us human, spoiling it across generations, and for reasons as artificial as socially-constructed ideas of race, class, and gender.

I don’t buy arguments that equality is existential because to accept this idea would mean that reality must and can only be oppressive. To me equality is an inherent aspect of human life and the vitality that sets our kind apart. To me, equality is akin to the idea of ‘heat’, and oppression–its opposite–like ‘cold’. Heat is what exists because the universe is made up of energy, and it is energy that we measure when we think of ‘heat’. Cold does not exist on its own; it exists only in the absence of heat, without energy, with degraded vitality.

Similarly, I believe that our humanity is the foremost character of our nature. It is what enables us to think, to empathize, and to dream. In my view, our humanity is more consistent with the idea of equality than is oppression. It is equality that demonstrates, illustrates, nurtures, and sustains our humanity. Oppression corrodes what makes both oppressor and oppressed human, spoiling it over generations, and for reasons as artificial as socially-constructed ideas of race, class, gender, and sexual orientation.   .

I dedicate this post to Gem Daus, Noel Alumit, and Jury Candelario, and other brave friends actively engaged in advocating equality for the LGBTQI community. To the LGBTQI community, this day is your unveiling.

—–Originally posted on Nov 4, 2008 as “What Nov 4 means for one Filipino American”——-

Fired up???!! Ready to go???!!!

I write this on the eve of election day, and I can’t help but think of tomorrow. As each of us casts perhaps the most important vote we will ever cast tomorrow, I am buoyed by great hope that cannot be contained and an imagination that wants to run wild.

“What will tomorrow bring?” — This rhetorical expression has never been more appropriate; for if the promise of Obama materializes into a dramatic cultural, political and social change that has been long-deferred, that has been truncated by the selfishness of the 1980s and 1990s, then tomorrow brings a bright and glorious morning.

Tomorrow is the rebirth of ethnic minorities in America. Tomorrow is our unveiling.

We will finally matter. We will finally be vital.

And even us, Filipino Americans, will no longer be invisible.

I am neither a politician, nor do I aspire to be. But I am a proud Filipino American. I am fired up, and am ready to go. 37 more hours until the reveal!!!

Many Filipinos outside the US are probably wondering why this election matters so much to Filipino Americans like me. The obvious generic answers are easy: a compassionate, unifying government that advocates for the marginalized; policies that favor the people not the privileged few; political leadership that inspires hope and that is deserving of respect.

The particular answer that resonates among minorities and the youth is more below the radar. For me, this new community of idealists, progressives, open-minded cosmopolitans that was built by sheer inspiration over the course of the 2-year Obama campaign has given me new life. It has given me a sense of home.

As a Filipino American, I am neither Filipino, nor American. I am in an unknowable middle ground where there is no place called home. The otherness I feel is isolating and it can be disempowering, especially when surrounded by a mainstream culture that is prejudiced and uncaring that I feel unwelcome.

One easily becomes a fighter, an activist out of anger and the need for self-preservation. Thus, I am kin to idealists who want to see the world as it should be. And Obama is my prophet.

So, for this Filipino American, tomorrow, Nov 4, means a self reborn. And I find myself fortunate.

Let tanks be beaten into tractors

About three years ago, I posted this because it struck a cord as the first African American U.S. President was inaugurated. I reprise it for three reasons:

(1) as the 2012 U.S. Presidential election nears, let us not be manipulated to forgive the backwardness of the modern Republican party,

(2) as we can only watch from afar the unrest in the Middle East, may those readers of mine in the region be reminded that they inspire us all by their activism and selflessness, and

(3) with positive news of Philippine economic growth dominating the broad sheets at home, may Filipinos at home and abroad optimize this moment to beat tanks into tractors, indeed, both by defeating the forces of political obstructionism and righting the backward thinking of old oligarchs.

Photo: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/not_in_website/syndication/monitoring/media_reports/2341811.stm

***** Originally posted January 23, 2009 *****

“Let tanks be beaten into tractors” — paraphrased words of Rev. Joseph Lowery as he closed, with a light-hearted prayer, the inauguration of President Barack Obama on January 20, 2009.

These are words, which, despite their simplicity, articulate a profound message that is applicable to many places across the modern world, including the Philippines: Choose collaboration over acrimony, honest pragmatism over worn-out dogma, development over discord. In a period of deep turmoil and worsening finances, this message is not hollow; and it is neither lofty, nor naive. It is healing. It is necessary. It is transformative.

‘Do-nothing’ politics destroys. ‘Do-nothing’ politics is the useless tank in Philippine society. It is what is childish and irresponsible; it is neglectful, and it is what has driven the once ‘Pearl of the Orient’ into a country whose citizens dream to flee.  It is time to dispose of the Filipino ‘trapos’ that are responsible; and we can’t delay for these ‘trapos’ number many.

Big man politics? Out. Low expectations? Out. Lack of personal accountability? Out. Now is the season for major social and political Spring cleaning, of sorts. Out with the old, in with the new and more useful.

This period in history demands better things, higher expectations. Why shouldn’t Filipinos expect a home-grown leader from the same mold as Barack Obama? Why shouldn’t we strive to be better versions of ourselves?

As Obama said about those who are cynical of the potential of this moment in history, the ground has, indeed, shifted beneath them. Also in the words of Obama, this is the time to shed “the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long” and to ask “not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage … a retirement that is dignified.” This is the time to dispose of the foes of real community and national progress: ‘do-nothing’ politics and its dispensable ‘trapos.’

The closing of the American conservative mind

The White rage against the Obama administration represents a closing of the American conservative mind. Taken over by the most extreme fringe of its base, the modern Republican Party is unable to engage in reason, which is the foundation of good governance and effective, credible political debate and leadership.

The American conservative mind has closed in two very disturbing and macro-level ways:

1) The adults in the party are silent and have been silenced by the venom of extremists. The party has been taken over by the architects of a self-destructive and stupid strategy of blanket opposition to anything and everything that smells Democrat. McConnell, like Boehner, is twice the petulant child that Gingrich and Rove still are. There is no greater mark of irresponsibility than their simple overheated philosophy of No.

2) The conservative intelligentsia has lost its relevance in the remaking of the Republican Party. Conservative thinkers and think-tanks, such as American Enterprise Institute, are not weighing in on what 21st century conservatism ought to be about. Instead, we hear Beck, Limbaugh and Hannity, three conservative stooges frothing at the mouth with lies. Their malicious, willfully-ignorant propoganda is the enemy of reason and governance.

I am not a conservative. And I am actually glad that the U.S. is self-correcting politically from the extreme right-ward swing of the Bush years.

But a failed Republican Party is bad for governance. And it is bad for the public that must live under a broken government. The Republican Party must revitalize the American conservative mind.

Health insurance reform and the end of conservative White hegemony

The violence and extreme opposition that followed the passage of health insurance reform is not really about the fear of a government take-over, as the right-wing wants us so desperately to believe. As the public finds out the specific benefits of health insurance reform, the conservative claim of a government takeover rings hollow.

In the end, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is about improving health outcomes for everyone by reducing the soaring cost of healthcare insurance.

The white-hot rage is about something more fundamental, especially since those most angry are Whites from the Midwest and South. It is about a growing White insecurity.

For so long Whites have righteously claimed ownership of the past, present and future of this country, claiming control of all aspects of local, regional, and national life through a single meta-narrative attributing the agency over nation-building to Whites. And while this meta-narrative is not untrue, it is also not the whole picture. This meta-narrative is marginalizing, polarizing, and disempowering to everyone else who is not White.

This single meta-narrative that recognizes and celebrates only the achievements of Whites in building this nation cannot be more flawed; there have always been people of color working tirelessly, often in servitude to Whites, to advance this nation to preeminence.

The fact is, the process of nation-building in the U.S. was and is more collaborative and multi-ethnic than many Americans would like to admit. Plainly and simply, immigrants built this country; some were White, but even more were not.

The coherence of the all-White meta-narrative is eroding, and a Black President Barack Obama – and all the political and legislative change he represents — is the most visible change-maker. After two centuries of controlling the levers of power, often at the expense of racial and ethnic minorities, Whites are now irreversibly and steadily losing their broad, penetrating solo sense of national ownership. The passage of health insurance reform marks yet another milestone in the diminishing hegemony of Whites.

Increasingly, Whites now find themselves the minority in the U.S. This is the true source of the anger against health reform and any change Obama seeks to facilitate.

Pacquiao defeats Clottey; turns focus on congressional race

Pacquiao’s Focus Turns From Boxing to Politics

Mark Ralston/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Manny Pacquiao, who defeated Joshua Clottey on Saturday, appears no closer to a showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

By GREG BISHOP
Published: March 14, 2010

ARLINGTON, Tex. — The future of Manny Pacquiao — in politics, in boxing, in acting, singing or whatever whim he pursues next — remains clouded. Even his proposed megafight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. stands on shaky footing, far from reality despite worldwide intrigue.

After successfully defending his welterweight championship on Saturday with a unanimous decision over Joshua Clottey at Cowboys Stadium, Pacquiao made clear that he would fight again. He left the when and the who unanswered, then departed the stadium to open another concert with “La Bamba.”

“After Saturday, I will focus on just politics,” Pacquiao had said earlier in the week, during a rare quiet moment alone inside the Cowboys’ sports palace. “It’s like a boxing match. You have to train hard and prepare for battle.”

Soon, Pacquiao, 31, will return to the Philippines and begin his second political campaign, this time for a congressional seat and the right to represent about 400,000 people. He insisted that surveys showed him ahead, but even members of his entourage pronounced his chances as no better than 50-50. More likely, Pacquiao will be a long shot.

The campaigning begins in earnest March 26 for the May election. Pacquiao’s platform centers on what he lacked while growing up in poverty: health care, education, employment. Not exactly the typical agenda of a man who makes his living disfiguring the faces of opponents.

“I want to help the people,” is his stock answer regarding his political ambitions.

Pacquiao’s previous political campaign, in 2007, was thrown together in a month. He alluded to advisers’ stealing the campaign money he doled out. He fought the prevalence of old-money politics and the perception that political victory would mean the end of his boxing career, perhaps his nation’s greatest source of pride.

This time, Pacquiao started planning two years before the election. He built a better team. Everything about this campaign, Pacquiao said, is different from the first. He hopes the result will be different, too.

All week, his promoter, Bob Arum of Top Rank Boxing, tried to dispel the notion that politics would interfere with Pacquiao’s boxing career. Arum did this by telling versions of the same joke.

He noted how crime stops in the Philippines during Pacquiao’s fights, if only for a few hours, how the gangsters and the government call a truce, how dozens of politicians travel with Pacquiao to each bout, fighting to stand next to him in the ring.

“He would do the same amount of work as our U.S. congressmen,” Arum kept repeating. “Next to nothing. So he’d have plenty of time to train and prepare for fights.”

But politics presents only one hurdle. In his career, Pacquiao has fought 56 times, or five fewer bouts than Muhammad Ali. In those fights, Pacquiao has boxed 317 rounds, and he need look no further than his own corner, where his trainer, Freddie Roach, has Parkinson’s disease, to see the effects of repeated pounding.

Last week, Roach floated the idea that Pacquiao could retire after Saturday. Pressed for clarification, Roach said that with the way Pacquiao trains, he could box for three more years, up to six times.

But they will move forward with caution, aware of the toll already taken.

Team Pacquiao bubbled with excitement after the Clottey fight. The bout drew nearly 51,000 people to the stadium, despite Clottey’s lack of name recognition. Roach and Arum said they envisioned holding more fights here, perhaps pitting Pacquiao in a rematch against Juan Manuel Marquez.

“But the disappointment of the public is what we’re concerned with,” Roach said. “We want to give the public what they want.”

With seven titles won in seven weight classes, Pacquiao is running out of history to make, fighters to dominate and points to prove. In his last two fights, he easily dispatched two top welterweight contenders: Miguel Cotto and Clottey.

Roach worries about the public backlash against another fight involving anyone other than Mayweather. He worries that Pacquiao and Mayweather will fight when “they’re like 50 years old,” long after interest and their skills wane — like the past-their-prime pugilists Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins, Roach said, shrugging his shoulders and rolling his eyes.

Negotiations with Mayweather will not resume until after he fights Shane Mosley on May 1 in Las Vegas. Even then, neither side appears ready to budge. Mayweather’s camp continues to insist on blood testing for performance-enhancing drugs. Pacquiao’s camp continues with its defamation lawsuit over the implication that Pacquiao is a doper.

“Manny, the accusations, why can’t they just say he’s a good fighter?” Roach said. “These guys, they’re ruining their own sport. They should think before they speak. But they seem incapable of that.”

Of course, the reverse also applies. Pacquiao could simply agree to Mayweather’s demands for drug testing and end the rumors and innuendo. But the fighters appear past that point. Roach said the usually low-key Pacquiao “despises” Mayweather, that Pacquiao makes fun of Mayweather, imitating him during sparring.

Money has a way of resolving disputes like these, particularly in boxing. But not always. The real possibility remains that Pacquiao and Mayweather will leave about $70 million (a conservative estimate) on the table, a bad move for boxing all the way around.

“I don’t need Floyd Mayweather,” Pacquiao said. “What I have achieved in boxing is good enough for me. People know that by comparing my achievements to his achievements.”

Still, as Pacquiao turns his attention back to politics, the Mayweather negotiations will hover over the rest of his boxing career. The same is true for Mayweather, even as he prepares to fight Mosley.

For this matter cannot be settled in civil court, nor the court of public opinion. It must be settled, whether Pacquiao wins his seat in the Philippine Congress or not, inside the ring.

SOURCE: The NYTimes http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/15/sports/15boxing.html?hp

2010 SANGDAAN FLOOD PREPAREDNESS INFO CAMPAIGN: 100 SCHOOLS IN 7 MONTHS

HELP GOODBRANCH VERGARA REACH 100 SCHOOLS (high schools, colleges, universities) in Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines by September 26, 2010 with its flood preparedness message below.

STEP 1: Send the info below to your contacts in these countries. Help prevent unnecessary loss of life from flooding and extreme storms during the 2010 storm season.

STEP 2: Please share your efforts on http://www.facebook.com/goodbranchvergara to let us know how you helped.

STEP 3: Have fun informing friends and family to be safe. Salamat po!

***
If a flood is likely in your area, you should:
• Be aware of streams, drainage channels, canyons, and other areas known to flood suddenly. Flash floods can occur in these areas with or without such typical warnings as rain clouds or heavy rain.
• Be aware that flash flooding can occur. Move immediately to higher ground. Do not wait for instructions to move.
• Listen to the radio or television for information.

If you must evacuate, you should:
• Secure your home. If you have time, bring in outdoor furniture. Move essential items to an upper floor.
• Turn off utilities at the main switches or valves if instructed to do so. Disconnect electrical appliances. Do not touch electrical equipment if you are wet or standing in water.

If you have to evacuate, remember these tips:
• Do not walk through moving water. Six inches of moving water can make you fall. If you have to walk in water, walk where the water is not moving. Use a stick to check the firmness of the ground in front of you.
• Do not drive into flooded areas. If floodwaters rise around your car, abandon the car and move to higher ground safely. You and the vehicle can be quickly swept away.

Driving Flood Facts: Six inches of water will reach the bottom of most passenger cars causing loss of control and possible stalling. A foot of water will float many vehicles. Two feet of rushing water can carry away most vehicles including sport utility vehicles (SUV’s) and pick-ups.

Emergency supplies that may assist in a flood, include: Disaster kit (first aid kit; backpack with food, water and prescription medications for 72 hours, extra clothing, blankets, and flashlights, 12-ft rope); Radio with extra batteries; Car kits (emergency flares, shovels, and fluorescent distress flags).

After a Flood:
1. Listen for news reports to learn whether the community’s water supply is safe to drink. Avoid floodwaters. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines. Water may also be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage.
2. Be aware of areas where floodwaters have receded. Roads may have weakened and could collapse under the weight of a car.
3. Stay away from downed power lines, and report them to the power company.
4. Return home only when authorities indicate it is safe. Use extreme caution when entering buildings; there may be hidden damage, particularly in foundations.
5. Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Mud left from floodwater can contain sewage and chemicals.
6. Repair damaged septic tanks, cesspools, pits, and leaching systems as soon as possible. Damaged sewage systems are serious health hazards.

“Why Are Filipinos So Poor?”

Why Are Filipinos So Poor?
By F. Sionil José

What did South Korea look like after the Korean War in 1953? Battered, poor – but look at Korea now. In the Fifties, the traffic in Taipei was composed of bicycles and army trucks, the streets flanked by tile-roofed low buildings. Jakarta was a giant village and Kuala Lumpur a small village surrounded by jungle and rubber plantations. Bangkok was criss-crossed with canals, the tallest structure was the Wat Arun, the Temple of the Sun, and it dominated the city’s skyline. Rice fields all the way from Don Muang airport – then a huddle of galvanized iron-roofed bodegas, to the Victory monument. Visit these cities today and weep – for they are more beautiful, cleaner and prosperous than Manila. In the Fifties and Sixties we were the most envied country in Southeast Asia. Remember further that when Indonesia got its independence in 1949, it had only 114 university graduates compared with the hundreds of Ph.D.’s that were already in our universities. Why then were we left behind? The economic explanation is simple. We did not produce cheaper and better products.

The basic question really is why we did not modernize fast enough and thereby doomed our people to poverty. This is the harsh truth about us today. Just consider these: some 15 years ago a survey showed that half of all grade school pupils dropped out after grade 5 because they had no money to continue schooling. Thousands of young adults today are therefore unable to find jobs. Our natural resources have been ravaged and they are not renewable. Our tremendous population increase eats up all of our economic gains. There is hunger in this country now; our poorest eat only once a day. But this physical poverty is really not as serious as the greater poverty that afflicts us and this is the poverty of the spirit.

Why then are we poor? More than ten years ago, James Fallows, editor of the Atlantic Monthly, came to the Philippines and wrote about our damaged culture which, he asserted, impeded our development. Many disagreed with him but I do find a great deal of truth in his analysis.This is not to say that I blame our social and moral malaise on colonialism alone. But we did inherit from Spain a social system and an elite that, on purpose, exploited the masses. Then, too, in the Iberian peninsula, to work with one’s hands is frowned upon and we inherited that vice as well. Colonialism by foreigners may no longer be what it was, but we are now a colony of our own elite.

We are poor because we are poor – this is not a tautology. The culture of poverty is self-perpetuating. We are poor because our people are lazy. I pass by a slum area every morning – dozens of adults do nothing but idle, gossip and drink. We do not save. Look at the Japanese and how they save in spite of the fact that the interest given them by their banks is so little. They work very hard too.

We are great show-offs. Look at our women, how overdressed, over-coiffed they are, and Imelda epitomizes that extravagance. Look at our men, their manicured nails, their personal jewelry, their diamond rings. Yabang – that is what we are, and all that money expended on status symbols, on yabang. How much better if it were channeled into production.

We are poor because our nationalism is inward looking. Under its guise we protect inefficient industries and monopolies. We did not pursue agrarian reform like Japan and Taiwan. It is not so much the development of the rural sector, making it productive and a good market as well. Agrarian reform releases the energies of the landlords who, before the reform, merely waited for the harvest. They become entrepreneurs, the harbingers of change.

Our nationalist icons like Claro M. Recto and Lorenzo Tanada opposed agrarian reform, the single most important factor that would have altered the rural areas and lifted the peasant from poverty. Both of them were merely anti-American.

And finally, we are poor because we have lost our ethical moorings. We condone cronyism and corruption and we don’t ostracize or punish the crooks in our midst. Both cronyism and corruption are wasteful but we allow their practice because our loyalty is to family or friend, not to the larger good.

We can tackle our poverty in two very distinct ways. The first choice: a nationalist revolution, a continuation of the revolution in 1896. But even before we can use violence to change inequities in our society, we must first have a profound change in our way of thinking, in our culture. My regret about EDSA is that change would have been possible then with a minimum of bloodshed. In fact, a revolution may not be bloody at all if something like EDSA would present itself again. Or a dictator unlike Marcos.

The second is through education, perhaps a longer and more complex process. The only problem is that it may take so long and by the time conditions have changed, we may be back where we were, caught up with this tremendous population explosion which the Catholic Church exacerbates in its conformity with doctrinal purity. We are faced with a growing compulsion to violence, but even if the communists won, they will rule as badly because they will be hostage to the same obstructions in our culture, the barkada, the vaulting egos that sundered the revolution in 1896, the Huk revolt in 1949-53.

To repeat, neither education nor revolution can succeed if we do not internalize new attitudes, new ways of thinking. Let us go back to basics and remember those American slogans: A Ford in every garage. A chicken in every pot. Money is like fertilizer: to do any good it must be spread around. Some Filipinos, taunted wherever they are, are shamed to admit they are Filipinos. I have, myself, been embarrassed to explain, for instance, why Imelda, her children and the Marcos cronies are back, and in positions of power. Are there redeeming features in our country that we can be proud of? Of course, lots of them. When people say, for instance, that our corruption will never be banished, just remember that Arsenio Lacson as mayor of Manila and Ramon Magsaysay as president brought a clean government. We do not have the classical arts that brought Hinduism and Buddhism to continental and archipelagic Southeast Asia, but our artists have now ranged the world, showing what we have done with Western art forms, enriched with our own ethnic traditions. Our professionals, not just our domestics, are all over, showing how accomplished a people we are!

Look at our history. We are the first in Asia to rise against Western colonialism, the first to establish a republic. Recall the Battle of Tirad Pass and glory in the heroism of Gregorio del Pilar and the 48 Filipinos who died but stopped the Texas Rangers from capturing the president of that First Republic. Its equivalent in ancient history is the Battle of Thermopylae where the Spartans and their king Leonidas, died to a man, defending the pass against the invading Persians. Rizal – what nation on earth has produced a man like him? At 35, he was a novelist, a poet, an anthropologist, a sculptor, a medical doctor, a teacher and martyr. We are now 80 million and in another two decades we will pass the 100 million mark.

Eighty million – that is a mass market in any language, a mass market that should absorb our increased production in goods and services – a mass market which any entrepreneur can hope to exploit, like the proverbial oil for the lamps of China.

Japan was only 70 million when it had confidence enough and the wherewithal to challenge the United States and almost won. It is the same confidence that enabled Japan to flourish from the rubble of defeat in World War II.

I am not looking for a foreign power for us to challenge. But we have a real and insidious enemy that we must vanquish, and this enemy is worse than the intransigence of any foreign power. We are our own enemy. And we must have the courage, the will, to change ourselves.

The promise of 2010

2010 is the light at the end of the tunnel for many reasons; the economy is showing a rebound in many parts of the world, especially in the U.S. and Asia; Iran is at the cusp of a pro-democracy revolution, and the popular attention to climate change is likely to spread even more widely.

In many ways all 3 developments are wars of attrition: they all test our commitment to adapt and overcome. How we come out of the troubled economic times depends largely on how resourceful, creative and resilient we are. How much success the pro-democracy movement in Iran achieves will depend largely on how people inside and outside of that country will tolerate the current regime. And how far we collectively go in reducing the negative effects of climate change will depend squarely on how effective we each are in making it the primary issue of our time.

All 3 developments impact our lives moving forward. Our quality of life depends on our shared prosperity with others; genuine democracy in Iran has the potential of spreading less extremism and more security for all of us; and a global effort to attend to the environment is key to our survivability as a species.

May the light of 2010 shine brightly. Thank you for reading my posts all these past months. May we find ways to work together and act together, in addition to being kindred in spirit.