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Peace talk, posibleng mabuksan muli
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Dispatches from Latin America
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Which way, Philippines?
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Are they crazy?
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The onrushing gloom in the Philippines
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Samarnons and a military takeover in Pinas, a bloodbath?
-by Addi Batica

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRIENDS IN DIASPORA ~ HEARTS AND MINDS ALWAYS FOCUSED ON PILIPINAS

By ARMANDO “Boy” RIDAO
December 7, 2005

[Editor’s Note: Armando "Boy" Ridao, is from Cagayan de Oro.  He was editor-in-chief of their high school paper.  He was in Diliman thinking of becoming a doctor of medicine.  But things did not happen as he planned them to be.

He became our friend, our assistant and our protégé.  We were a very closely-knit group which included Dr. Segundo E. Romero, Jr., who became Professor of Political Science in the UP and Executive Vice President of the Development Academy of the Philippines after finishing his Ph.D. from Columbia and UP and who seems to be a popular “political analyst” in ABS-CBN, Mr. Roland Modina who became the desk holder of the Asia, Oceania, Pacific Region of Amnesty International in London but who resigned to put up his own foundation based in London which allowed him to roam the world including the Kalahari desert and the jungles of Malaysia but is back in the Philippines working with an NGO based in a college or university helping Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines and other parts of Asia, the late Dr. Alejandro Fernandez, a Vice President of the UP System during S.P. Lopez's times, who organized and was the first dean of the UP in Tacloban, and Mr. Jun Paras, who was almost a lumpen and a Robin Hood and one of the most proficient typists we have ever known.

Boy was more than my younger brother.  He was so good -- as a writer, a researcher, as a friend.  He helped me come out with the first true souvenir publication of the Samar High-Samar National School, “The Alumni Crosscurrents” and with my responsibilities with the “Philippine Political Science Journal” and my doctoral term papers in the UP.  In fact, the title of the Samar High souvenir publication was his idea. At times, he would take care of my daughter and my son.  It is a tribute to his excellence, his skills, and his intelligence that he has been able to achieve what he has shared with me in this beautiful letter.  In forwarding this to Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Jr., I said: “I am sharing this with you because you are from Cagayan de Oro, Boy Ridao's place and because Boy articulates our frustrations, our hopes and our dreams for the country that we all love...”]

Somewhere in the middle of Mindoro “tamaraw” Island, October 30, 2005.

Dear Prof. Cesar, Ate Lydia, Mara & Doydoy,

Greetings!  I owe you this lengthier letter, as promised, so I took time to sit down, gather together in a “USB drive” (a small computer drive [with the memory of a CD!] no bigger than my thumb!—how techno-logy has advanced in the last few years!, but I still prefer to write in long-hand first, before typing what I wrote into a notebook or a desk-top) some materials/pictures (which you asked 2 or 3 years ago) from different “bases” where I work, to send you this time, while I’m on break.

Daughter Aiza Belle (who I consult about computers, USB, e-mails, cell-phones, etc), & only-wife Marilyn...

I am presently working as “short-term Consultant” of World Bank, tasked to look into (with 3 other colleagues, one of whom has unfortunately died in the course of our difficult work, so there are now only 2 of them—an Engineer from UP Diliman, and an Agriculturist from UP Los Baños—plus myself who serves as “Community Development and Capacity Building Specialist” of the Team [the one who left was our Economist]) a sampling (14 sites in 12 provinces) of World Bank-funded Agrarian Reform Communities (ARCs) across the country.  I am at the moment taking a break from above work in one study site in Mindoro (which is the Ligaya ARC, located in the municipality of Sablayan, Occ Mindoro—this is the biggest ARC, in terms of area, among the 86 World Bank-assisted ARCs in the country;  it is actually just one barangay [other ARCs have as many as a dozen or more barangays], with an area of 34,344 hectares—which is roughly 3x the area of, say, Villareal [which has 9,850 hectares], or more than ½ the size of MetroManila [which has 63,600 hectares], or, coming closer to where you are, 3x the size of San Francisco [which has 11,700 hectares]—and is gearing to become the 1,502nd municipality of the Philippines), and is visitingdrinking tuba and feasting on wild boar tapa with old friends ina resettlement site of Aetas from Zambales (those who fled the Pinatubo eruption back in 1991) at the outer edge of the World Bank ARC, which is Mangyan (and tamaraw) territory.  This place is beautiful!, has semi-temperate climate (like Baguio’s), and looks/feels like the Philippines of 30 or so years ago (it has the look of barrios portrayed in old black & white Filipino movies), with 80% rainforest but, horrors, an abominable concrete road is being built across it (Mangyans here say all they asked for was a simple all-weather trail for their carabaos and horses, not this concrete road which now threatens to bring in those multi-millionaire logger-politicians who defoliate forests—like those who also threaten now, again, Samar’s).

The military grumbled but left...(That’s me at the back, having problem with a voice recorder.)

People here are still grieving their dead (those killed on orders by this “Gen. Palparan” who, after running amuck here, then in Samar [the inutile Congress “investigated” then freed him—they should have exiled him to the mountains of Iraq or Afghanistan], is doing again his murderous thing now in Doy’s country Tarlac;  just a few years back, when I was still working [as “long-term Consultant”] for this German government-assisted project in southern Quezon, we succeeded in getting the national government to pull out the military from areas [200+ villages, in 15 towns,] where we worked by mobilizing people to go to Camp Aguinaldo and confront Orly Mercado, then the Sec. of Defense, who brought in Victor Corpuz, his Intelligence Chief, to face us [it was 9 or 10 a.m. when we met Corpus but he already reeked of liquor and, I suppose, was drunk {perhaps this was how things were during the time of Erap, but at least Erap was accessible, unlike GMA now} but he suddenly sobered up when he saw, among those whom we mobilized, people he “trained” decades ago, when he was still “in the mountains”];  to make the story short, we got what we wanted, despite the grumblings of the military, and I think this is what the whole country should do, together, vs. this Palparan—but this will take time, ok, especially nowadays, so perhaps Corpuz’s “trainees” should get him...)...

“Wringing vodka bottles dry” with my former GTZ boss-colleague, a NEDA official, and farmer/fisherfolk leaders.

Since you left (was that 1984 or ’85?—2 decades ago), I have gone around all 79 beautiful provinces of our small country working with Germans, Britons, French, Dutch, Africans, and other Asians—first with the German aid agency GTZ, then with a European Union project, and now, albeit briefly for now, with a World Bank project—right here in our country, earning just enough to help prime-fund farmer/fisherfolk activities which cannot be funded directly/openly by my employers, or bail farmer/fisherfolk leaders out of jail, or “celebrate life” (i.e., “unwind”) every now and then with people (from “all walks” of life—foreigners, Pinoys, elite, masa, NatDem-RJs, NatDem-RAs, SocDems-withGMA, SocDems-againstGMA, lumpens, academics, bureaucrats, rural women, GROs—oops...) who help make things easier for the many (after I set up a new school in 1984, following this spat with Doy, which school—Arclight School—has grown now with complete preschool, elementary and high school departments, and over 500 students, I was invited to this NGO ACES [Agency for Community Educational Services Foundation] which I joined in 1985 [Roland was working in Malaysia and would not return til 1986 or ‘87], and worked with for almost 10 years [starting out as Project Team Leader, then Research Department Coordinator, and finally Executive Director], before I left for [actually I was invited to] another job, which paid 5x what I used to get from the NGO [I needed money to pay for months-at-a-time medical treatments of my wife who, then, til now, is suffering from a medical condition which I call amoritis—she becomes ill when she does not see me for quite some time, so I see to it now that she goes with me wherever or near where I go—she’s in San Jose, Occ. Mindoro {the urban area of this province} at the moment, while I’m here in the hinterlands] for less work [since I was invited, I dictated the number of days I work, i.e., only 15 days per month, which oft included Saturdays/ Sundays, 180 days each year, so I could devote more time to family and 1,001 other things I am still working on, to date, including an “experience-based” 1,500-pp+ Dissertation for a PhD]—this was GTZ [Gesellschaft für Technische Zummenarbeit—that’s German for “Agency for Technical Cooperation,” which is like USAID], where I worked for almost 10 years also [starting out as Short-Term, then Long-Term, Consultant], before I moved on to this now-ended EU project in Mindanao [as Technical Coach for  almost 2 years], then to this World Bank project since midyear this year), and occasionally [every other year or so,] visiting [i.e., getting sent to] other countries in Europe and Asia [to present a paper, join lobby groups, get short-course trainings, help twist donors’ arms for funds/equipment, etc.].

Before... (the boring part of being a “Consultant”—theorizing at UP...)

 

Now... (watching “sirens” at Sulo with a German pal [while others debate about GNP] in one forum).

So, what do I do, what have I done, where did I go, these past 2 decades?  It’s a long, long story which I have partly written about in over a dozen papers presented in fora/conferences [at UP, Ateneo, one or the other of these 4- or 5-star hotels in QC or Manila, or abroad—I  used to present papers myself but, over the years, I found it increasingly boring/tiring, so in later years, I let others present the papers I wrote, and play “tourist guide” instead to pals from foreign lands], a half-dozen books (co- or jointly written with colleagues), a hundred or 2 articles, consultancy reports, white papers, etc. which I will attempt to summarize with a few pictures below and on pages that follow:

From managing Doy’s Sunshine Sch. in the early ‘80s, I went to work with ACES for close  to a decade, multi-tasking various work for 7 days each week/24 hours each day—research, raising funds (with Roland when he was around, and alone when he left for AI-London), guiding organizing work, coordinating farmer-scientist organic farm tests, advocacy work on peasant issues, and building coalitions and networks across the country. By 1994, I was deep in work, deep in debts (I was only getting a pittance for salary despite the millions I raised) because of my wife’s illness, and had to find another work—which came in the form of an invitation for me to assist a floundering German government-assisted project in

southern Quezon. And so I went to Quezon, initially as Short-Term Consultant, and did a stinging 300-page critique of what was wrong with the German project there, and what should be done—a critique picked up by German higher-ups, which became my passport to a Long-Term Consultancy, from 1995 til 2003, when the project ended (actually it was supposed to go on til this year, but was cut short because of reduction of German aid due to their high unemployment problem). And so to Quezon I and family went, working as part of the GTZ team assigned there, and likewise multi-tasking a number of tasks, i.e., teaching peasants in remote barrios (many with no electricity and still using Coleman—e.g., one shown at bottom left on preceding page) how to demand for government services which do not reach them, bringing government experts and village folks together (mid bottom photo, preceding page), mobilizing people to rally if our government ignores them (bottom right, preceding page), advising German experts how to relate with our national officials (below left), helping document the problems of inaccessible interior villages (many of which can be reached only via carabao trails or non-existent roads that simply follow the river, mid photo below—that’s me without shirt in the photo), helping organize fisherfolk on high seas (below right—that’s me again, listening to, between 2, fisherfolks), coaching village folks how to confront up-close politicians

they put in power (above right—that’s the provincial Gov. of Quezon, seated, confronted by farmer leaders re his questionable support of big landlords when it was the small folks who put him in office), linking up villagers I helped train with academics in Manila (above center—that’s Dr. Elena Panganiban of your alma mater College of Public Ad., seated at center, and moi to her extreme left), and supporting the padlocking by farmers of inutile government offices/agencies (such as, at one time, DAR-central office, above right)...

In military-declared “critical areas,” such as where I’d been, it is actually the military which makes things critical for people, and the safest place to preach against them is right inside local Catholic churches (below left). At times I teach local government officials—municipal kagawads, mayors, heads of offices—how to address their villagers’ concerns (mid photo below—that’s me at right, medyo nakakalbo na), and I often times invite my daughter to provide technical inputs about computer softwares like “GIS,” “Arcview,” etc. which donors give them but they—and I— don’t know how to use (below right—that’s my daughter in white shirt, explaining how to do mapping on computer).  One high in my work is seeing villagers do bayanihan

work to build local infra such as irrigation canal (above left) or do resource conservation such as contour farming (center above) and mangrove reforestation (above right)...

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