Sunday, March 28, 2010

Young Love

My nephew is just 16 years old yet he is madly in love and in the midst of a serious relationship with a girl. At least, that is what I have been told some time ago.

His parents are worried because his school work has been spotty and poor the past few years. This romantic entanglement is exactly the kind of distraction that would erode what little focus he has managed to put on his studies. Unless he shapes up and get his priorities straight, they fear that his future may be in jeopardy.

"In love?" A close relative of mine snorted out the words in disgust. "What do the young people today know about love?," he asked me. "It's just television, the movies and the Internet that is putting this foolish ideas in their heads. Why can't they just finish school first, get a good job and when that happens then that is the time they can think about about really falling in love."

It is a point, of course, I can fully sympathize with. Love and relationships based on it require emotional maturity and the capacity for serious commitment - two things the young are notoriously deficient in. Without them, how long can such a romance last?

Then I got the chance to see my young nephew and meet his girl several times. I became entranced. Their love is truly the love of the innocent, one that is infinitely sweet and tender, one that tugs at the heartstrings and makes the spirit soar.

That they believe that their love for each is sincere is clear. I see it in their eyes when they look at each other. I see it when they are close to each other, physically separate yet entwined, their hands clasped together and one head on the other's shoulder.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Paying One's Dues

The issue of local and national candidates running for public office in the coming May 2010 elections paying considerable sums of money to the New People's Army in return for for permission to enter and campaign unmolested in areas heavily controlled or influenced by the communist revolutionary movement is a hot topic for discussion nowadays. The armed forces has sent its representatives to do the rounds of the talk shows and news programs on both national television and radio specifically to warn politicians not to pay permit to campaign fees to the NPA and has even threatened to file disqualification cases with the Commission on Elections against candidates who the military can prove to have given in to rebel extortion demands.

The military leadership has pointed out that a large part of the millions of pesos rebel insurgents have supposedly been able to amass from permit-to-campaign fees have been used in the past to purchase arms, ammunition and logistical support for the revolutionary movement's almost four decade war with the government. The rest, according to military sources, go into the pockets of the top leadership of the movement who live in relative luxury and comfort in their urban safe houses here and abroad in stark contrast to the miserable living conditions their armed partisans have to endure in their mountain and jungle lairs in the Philippine countryside.

Forced to address the issue, the Communist Party of the Philippines, in its website, has managed to ingeniously sidestep the extortion issue by simply affirming the fact that, as a "nascent political power", the revolutionary forces have the right to define "policies and issues guidelines on the conduct of reactionary elections within the revolutionary areas". The statement on the site specifically fails to address the permit to campaign fees issue head on and simply elaborates rather lengthily on the need for NPA forces to exercise control and supervision over electoral activities by the "reactionary government" within their controlled areas and making sure that such activities will not violate the rights of the people and that of the "peasant masses" and, in the end, will "benefit them one way or the other."

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Tsunami Scare

There were not a few people here in Lianga who were of the opinion that many residents of the town and the many other coastal communities along the Pacific coast of Surigao del Sur province had overreacted and panicked unnecessarily in response to the general tsunami alert issued as a result of the magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck the South American country of Chile on February 27. I was one of them.

Of course, I was fortunate to have access to the latest internet and cable television news updates on a regular basis and thus was aware that the tsunami alert was just that, a warning and not necessarily a confirmation of the actual existence of "killer" waves created by the Chilean seismic event supposedly speeding across the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean and on their way to the shorelines of many Asian countries like the Philippines. I was also aware that the alert was eventually rescinded and lifted through trusted and reliable contacts.

Many people living, however, in the eastern portions of the country deemed specially vulnerable to a major tsunami event and directly in possible harm's way were not so lucky. And all, what they had to depend on were mostly wild rumors, exaggerated reports and outright false warnings coming from dubious sources.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Brownout Blues

Being subjected to a two, three or even four hour long "rotating" brownouts every day can really be serious inconvenience. In the context of the power crisis in Mindanao, however, residential power users have learned, after almost three weeks of such outages, to take such things in stride and have managed to tailor their daily schedules so as to minimize the negative impact of such power interruptions in their lives.

If one happens to have a business, especially one that depends on a steady supply of power (what business doesn't?) then the daily brownouts can be killer. But Filipinos are adaptable and resourceful. Profits may suffer but ways can be found to make do and weather the power crisis in anticipation of an imminent improvement in the power situation soon.

But extend the period of the daily power outages to eight hours or more daily, as what is happening in Lianga, and you are basically strangling what resolve and initiative is left in a community desperately trying to rebuild itself after decades of economic stupor and stagnation. But then the town is just another remote and godforsaken community in one of the most depressed areas of Mindanao (a region that is regarded by many Filipinos in Manila and the Luzon region as just as remote as darkest Africa and fit only for the tyranny and despotism of local warlords like the Ampatuans of Maguindanao) and thus ultimately irrelevant in the general scheme of things.

The more urbanized and cosmopolitan residents of major cities like Davao and Cagayan de Oro City the rest of the country can identify and empathize with, but the power problems of small towns in the rural countryside of Mindanao like Lianga cause nary even a small ripple in the national consciousness. Even in the case of the current power crisis, underdeveloped areas bear the brunt of the power supply shortage, suffering through outages of eight hours a day or more so that urban and industrial centers get the precious electricity they so voraciously need.