opinion

COOPERATIVISM: The Countervailing Force Against Deep Inequality

June 4, 2020

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”  This amazing portion of the US Declaration of Independence is now reverberating throughout the United States as tens of thousands in almost all States and in almost all cities are continuously mobilizing, conducting protest rallies daily for more than a week now ignited by the unjust killing of an African-American, Mr. George Floyd, by Law Enforcers. The strong message is ENOUGH IS ENOUGH. Such brought to the fore the truism that hundreds, if not thousands of black Americans, have already been killed under arrest in silence.  What made the killing of George Floyd different was it was on video showing the victim failing to breathe for almost nine minutes when the law enforcer put his knee on the victim’s neck in utter disregard to the victim’s plea that he could not breathe. The protesters by the thousands are bravely converging, not minding the serious threat of the corona virus pandemic which has already killed more than 100,000 Covid-19 victims in the US which is the highest in the world and in utter disregard to Pres. Trump’s deployment of the National Guards to stop the increasing protests, the passion for justice and equality keeps the fire burning in the hearts of the Americans, irrespective of class, color, race or gender. In fact, many Filipinos in the US are among the protesters.  Indeed, the protesters are looking beyond the horizon, focusing more on deep inequality, climate change, racial, social and economic injustices being perpetuated by an economic model called neo-liberal capitalism perpetuated especially by global corporations not only in the United States but in the whole world. That truism is very true in the Philippines, more particularly in Mindanao especially in the life of the Indigenous People. I have known the pains of the Indigenous People when I began my stint as Editor of the School Organ in a State University. I visited a group of Higaonon and Manobo in Barrio Panalsalan, Maramag, Bukidnon and was so surprised to see the IPs in a barrio fenced by a rich and powerful Congressman from the Visayas, turning their barrio into a ranch surrounded by six feet barbed wire.  They could not benefit from their crops as the cows were the first to “harvest.” When they go to the Chapel, they could hardly find their way as cows were moving around.  The children were entering the classrooms in the presence of the cows.  Every time they shoo away the cows, they would be arrested, accused of malicious mischief.  In fact one Christmas time in the ‘70s, some 25 of them spent their Christmas inside the prison in Maramag, Bukidnon for just shooing away the cows that were eating their crops. In desperation, a father put Thiodan in the family’s food during dinner and after that, he then ate the remaining food to  commit suicide. What was worse was when a head of the family became insane, set fire to his house with his family inside.  I took pictures of the burnt house and narrated their sad stories in an article entitled, A Barrio in a Cage. After the publication, I was arrested and put to prison for libel after all the threats by the armed cowboys to silence me.      The Panalsalan story is just a tip of the iceberg. Thousands of hectares of agricultural lands in Mindanao are now transformed into massive plantation which were ancestral lands before where Indigenous Communites, as early settlers, had lived sustainably for hundreds of years. “Magbabaya” (God)  gave the “balaang yuta” (blessed land) to them.  It was their forefathers’.  But not anymore.  A series of evictions came beginning in the 1930s up to the 1970s when powerful clans in Bukidnon turned the land into cattle ranch and grazing areas.   What could be more painful for our IPs than to see vast tracts of land that once their forefathers owned, now converted into massive plantations as 70% of the land areas of Mindanao (the choicest) are controlled by TNCs! Where are the dipterocarp forest where their ancestors had lived sustainably for thousands of years? The finest timber in the world had gone to the powerful and influential loggers as our country has supplied the timber needs of the world in the last one hundred years. All the IPs are asking now is for their rights to be respected especially rights to their ancestral domain that include water rights.  They are also appealing that those that they considered sacred, i.e., Mindamora Falls should not be tampered upon for money making purposes of the rich and powerful. For so long, the issue that they have been advocating are just voices in the wilderness.  Today, with one collective voice through their cooperatives, they are advancing the empowering path under the Present Dispensation that is now empowering the IPs through cooperativism.  Indeed, all men are created equal and their unalienable Rights must be respected!

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Indigenous People Advocating Earth Democracy

June 1, 2020

Earth Democracy movements are struggles of the disadvantaged and excluded, aimed at conserving nature’s balance to preserve their survival. This is what Indigenous People have been advocating and fighting for but until now remains unheeded. When we lost the 17 million of dipterocarp forest which had been in existence for thousands, if not billions, of years and the billions   species living in the forest ecosystem even before the homo sapiens came into being, the ecological people (the Indigenous People) lost nature’s and sustenance economy. When we lost the 13 major bays which are now biologically dead together with the 25 major rivers in the country  which had dried up or polluted, our country has gone down the drain on ecological security. In her book, Earth Democracy for Justice, Sustainability and Peace, the world renowned environmentalist, Dr. Vandana Shiva said, “Earth Democracy movements are struggles of the disadvantaged and excluded, aimed at conserving nature’s balance to preserve their survival. Ecology and justice movements offer the world a future by working to ensure the survival of, and protect the fundamental rights to, the earth’s resources. They are movements of marginal communities who have been deprived of the benefits of market – and trade-led economic globalization but who bear all the costs. They reverse the trend of treating uprooted people as disposable people.”      Where are now the 15 million Indigenous People in the Philippines? They are now inside the vicious cycle of poverty and many of them have joined the Left.      In my sorties to the hinterlands touching base with the IPs who have organized themselves into cooperatives to combat poverty, I cannot help the outpourings of tears hearing stories of so much pains and injustice.  Stories of their water rights being violated, turned into money-making water project of a local government unit in Bukidnon while their families are without water.  The “Abaga Ta Bayug” (the Mindamora Falls) the sacred place of the IPs is being converted into a tourist spot where construction is going-on, creating havoc to the most beautiful 3-storey falls amidst the amazing green scenery of radiating trees and blooming flowers where flocks of birds flying above as if dancing to the music of the wind. Every inch of that  green scenery is sacred to the IPs where they converge to pray – but now, destroyed for money-making by the rich and powerful.  Newly born babies of the IPs are born with physical deformities, without arms, legs or anus because pregnant women drink from watersheds contaminated by surrounding plantations heavily using chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, many of which are already banned in other countries.      What is worse is when their Ancestral Domains are converted into plantations or are subjected as Community-Based Forest Management Agreements (CBFMA) without their knowledge.  The Chieftains approached me and queries were raised, i.e., Kami ba ay tinuturing pang tao? Di ba may karapatan din kami? But they assured me, they will not join the Left.  They will mobilize their collective power as cooperatives to fight for their rights.      Recently, they wrote our beloved President to narrate their sad stories of being harassed, of being exploited and whose rights are being violated.      Ang sabi nila sa sulat, “Tulungan po ninyo kami mahal naming Pangulo. Pag nagpatuloy pa ang kanilang kasuwapangan, kami po ay handang magpakamatay at pumatay.”      To those who are under-estimating them, may I share with you this truism. Yes, as cooperatives, the IPs are now harnessing their collective power peacefully.  But you should know that these cooperatives are now headed by no less than the former 6th Brigade Commander of the MILF Special Force Unit,  who is half Maranaw and half Higaonon with some 1,500 combatants of the North Eastern Mindanao Front at Camp Arkam Special Force Unit.        From armed struggle, they are now advancing cooperativism as they shouted: “Mga pagari ak’n, sama-sama tanu kooperatiba. Isa lang ang armas natin ngayon, kooperatiba lang!”      Let it be known by Dr. Vandana Shiva, a good friend in the environmental movement that in Mindanao the Indigenous People are advancing Earth Democracy for Justice, Peace and Sustainability. All for God’s greater glory!

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A SPECIAL DEPARTMENT STORE

May 30, 2020

ONCE upon a time, I drifted back on my lifetime's way. My niece told me: that's a matter of aging. I smiled. Anyway, drifting back to old memories is not bad. That's sometimes really helpful. During my journey back, I suddenly  saw a nameplate: Heavenly Department Store. I came closer. The door opened itself wider and wider. A swarm of angels gathered together. One of them presented a shopping basket to me. "Enjoy your shopping, but do it carefully!" Everything what a Christian needs, could be bought in this department store. If one couldn't carry everything home, one could be back next day, get the last bit and buy even more. At first, I bought PATIENCE, the quality of enduring with calmness. LOVE, the human affection, was in the same shelve. A little bit deeper, I found SYMPATHY, the sharing of emotion, interest, and desire, and COMPREHENSION, the capacity of the mind to perceive and understand together with APPRECIATION, the setting of a valued one. I added packages of WISDOM, the knowledge and the capacity to make use of it and additional bags of FAITH, the belief especially in a revealed religion. I relaxed a couple of minutes and then, I looked for STRENGTH, the important power or vigor and bravery and fearlessness. They should help me to continue my forward to future. I thought myself, that I shouldn't forget MERCY, the leniency shown to a guilty person, and REDEMPTION, the deliverance from sin. My basket was already stuffed and I started looking for the cashier. One the way there, I found the PRAYER. I needed it to avoid running dead straight into a sin. An angel advised me also never to forget PEACE AND JOY, hymn of praise and chant. Now it was really time to pay all those things. But the angel smiled and told me, "Take everything with you, where ever you may go." I asked, "What do I owe you?" The angel answered, "Nothing, somebody paid already your bills long time ago. His name was Jesus!" I found this fabulous and wonderful fantastic story in my published documents from September 1988, during my time in Abra while writing a column for the mission oriented TINIG NG BAYAN - a magazine for Filipinos abroad. This here is a revised version, because my opinion is, that, no matter, where we are living on this globe especially noawdays in 2020, we should try to project this timeless legend on to our very personal daily life. You'll find out, that it helps to survive in our life struggles. It's important to realize that we must be able to administer wise our valuable treasure of vital life energy, instead of fritter away with it such as knick-knacks. My dear readers: stay safe  - as always... . +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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NEGATIVITY KILLS

May 27, 2020

SOMETIMES, we feel our life is turning miserably. Our negativity doesn't allow us to keep our eyes, ears - and, most important! -  our minds, hearts and souls opened. Were reaching our breaking point. For many people around us, the "new normality" because of lock-down and so many more new restrictions results in physical and mental illnesses. 2020 - a year we never expected to be like this. And, it's not yet over ... . As I said several years ago here: this breaking point can be the prelude to our strongest moment. It is when we reach our breaking point, that we discover our real strength. Allow me to ask you, my dear readers, "What happens to you or with you when you reach your breaking point?" Do you face it or do you run away? I'll be giving you a very simple answer: If you face it - you break it. If you run away (and/or close your ears, eyes and mouth) - it surely breaks you! Every day in quarantine - a dull reality! Many of us will answer this question with a big YES!  When boredom strikes ... . Actually we do like to cover a newborn day already with grey veil? Each day has a new face, but nowadays, we don't have the strength to watch its countenance. Of course, not every day has adventures and highlights. But we enjoy quarreling and arguing. With other people and even with ourselves. Yes, we're all experiencing new normality. Contrary to what might be expected, I look back on experiences that, at the same time, seemed especially desolating and painful with a particular satisfaction. Indeed, everything I have learned, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness. If it ever were to be possible to eliminate affliction from your earthly existence, the result would not be make life delectable, but to make it too banal and trivial to be endurable. By observation, we can feel that many of us need help to manage the everyday life. We need something that would keep us going as we journey through life. Many times we can also learn from other people and their experiences. And here is one more thing: Affection is the humblest love - it gives itself no airs. It lives with humble and private things: soft slippers, old clothes, old jokes, and the thump of a sleepy dog's tail on the kitchen floor. The glory of affection, the disposition of mind, the good will and tender attachment, is that it can unite those who are not "made for one and another", people. Who, if not out down by fate in the same household or community, would have nothing to do with one and another. For me life has been a thing of ups and downs in approximately equal measure. I don't have something sensational to report every day about my progress. Often, I wonder if fulfillment in life is necessarily tied to change for the better. Even now while experiencing "new normality" ... . +++ You can email me: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me in Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or visit one of my websites www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com.

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A MOST DOWN-TO-EARTH BOOK

May 19, 2020

WHEN tragedy strikes, it's easy to harden our hearts and cry out, "God, why did you let this happen?" Maybe then, we started praying. Before, when everything goes smooth, we would not even think a minute about praying... . In times like now, while dealing with the corona virus and all the related circumstances, many of us might starting praying again. Each of us has concerns to fight with. Financial and  natural health problems - worries about our future - our businesses, education etc. etc. pp. "To be a Christian without prayer, "said protestant Martin Luther, "is no more possible than to be alive without breathing." Prayer is the only way of becoming what God wants us to be. This is the reason, why Jesus spent many hours in praying. Unquestionable, our daily needs bring us to a place of prayer. Confronted with danger, natural disasters or other  tragedies, as I mentioned earlier, we look for God's help. Difficult times always cause the hearts of men to turn to God into prayer. Let me ask you: How long has it been since your're brought your burdens to God? Since when  did you ask His forgiveness for your shortcomings? During my home office time, I spent a lot for hours in my library. I found a very interesting book:  "People in Prayer". The author Dr. John White reminds us that prayer is a divine-human interaction and it is always God who takes the initiative. White write: "God speaks and we respond. God is always speaking. To hear his voice is not usually a mystical experience. It consists merely of a willingness to pay heed to God who lays a claim to our lives." Yes, God always speaks. It is up to us whether we will listen and respond to Him. Many think we are the ones who initiate prayer. But prayers begin and end with God. There was a time, I wasn't in the mood to pray any more. It seemed that God didn't listen my prayer any more. I didn't get what I prayed for. Of course, not... ! That's not the meaning of praying to God. All my wishes will be granted? Heaven forbid! Sometimes, after we have prayed, God's answers may puzzle us. But as time times goes by and as events unfold we see God's purpose in his answers. We might get a larger vision, what HE likes. Not what WE like... . Think about it for a moment: How does the idea that prayer begins and ends with God affect me now? Do I have the habit of listening to god? How do I respond to Him? How do I usually pray? I confess that long time ago I have been trying to persuade God to change other people in my surroundings or circumstances. Nothing changed. Of course not, what a fatal attraction? I got confused because God never granted my requests. Meanwhile I got God's answers to my prayers. Maybe very simple: I was willing to let God change me... .This is how each one of us should start. Happy endings. Because I prayed according to His will... . Talking about prayer, we also have to mention the probably most down-earth book in the bible which is  Proverbs. Its education prepares you for the street and the marketplace, not the schoolroom The book offers the warm advice you get by growing up in a good family. It covers small questions as well as large: talking too much, visiting neighbors to often, being unbearable cheerful to early in the morning. Proverbs simply tells how life works most of the time. I always love to quote proverbs, which express truth about life in an elegant, witty kernel. You should not hunt through it for proverbs you might like. You should study the whole book to get its overall point of view. This takes time, for Proverbs covers dozens of subjects in the subtle detail. +++ Email: doringklaus@gmail.com or follow me on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter or visit www.germanexpatinthephilippines.blogspot.com or www.klausdoringsclassicalmusic.blogspot.com .

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Letter to the Editor:

May 13, 2020

Objectively looking at our present circumstance, it is obvious that the President has taken initiatives within the realm of the powers of the state, and his presidential duties and responsibilities, to do what is possible to mitigate and control, if not stop entirely the coronavirus-19. The president’s affirmative actions may not be perfect but it is a work in progress. As is appearing, he tried and continues to explore conceivable options to save Filipino lives while trying to rescue the economy, sustain and preserve our homeland, so that the present and future generations may continue to enjoy a healthy and comfortable life. In fact, he has the audacity to spend billions of public funds and, if need be, to even sell some of our sovereign assets, at the high risk of weakening our cash flow and financial position if only to protect Filipino lives and alleviate the family and household economy during this period of crisis. Ironically, if not paradoxically, it is unfathomable why many of us Filipinos remain ambivalent and even defiant of government lawful orders. Viewed from television images of how our compatriots behave, it is weird that many have even become incorrigible recidivists-violators of the government’s legitimate human security and healthcare government policies. Such display of human behavior triggers the questions: Have they lost trust of our duly constituted authorities and institutions? What happened to our inherent law-abiding nature and value system? Have they lost their patriotism? Metaphorically, our nation may be compared to the human body - a compound complex biological organization comprising of numerous organs separate and distinct from each other with and different functions. Yet it remains mutually inclusive. Similarly, each of us is a part of our respective family, culture, community country, and of humanity – co-dependent or inter-dependent of each other.   Yet, it is intriguing to observe why many of our fellow citizens seems to have forgotten that this government is not solely the responsibility of President Duterte and the 16 million Filipinos who voted for him; nor that of his appointees, or of those we voted to positions of power and authority. Rather, this government is the collective and mutually inclusive responsibility of all Filipinos - leaders and followers alike. Thus, while we don’t have the slightest intent to father anybody’s destiny, we join all Filipinos in believing that the phrase “We the People” signifies our shared goals - the common denominator for our common future.   Virgilio L. Leyretana Sr. Former Undersecretary & Chairman, Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) Father of RA 1996 creating Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA),

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