By Leopoldo "Pol" Camacho
Kalihim, Nagkakaisang Ugnayan ng mga Magsasaka at Manggagawa sa Niyugan (NIUGAN)
Nobyembre 7, 2014. Ito ang ginawang aktibidad ng NIUGAN Camarines Norte (MAGSACA) noong ika-7 ng Nobyembre 2014 sa boundary ng Libmanan at Sipocot, Camarines Sur, ang pagsalubong sa Kilus Magniniyog (KM). Ang 71 na magsasaka sa niyugan na nagmartsa mula pa sa Davao patungong Malacañang. Layunin ng KM na pakinggan ng Pangulong Aquino ang hinaing ng maliliit na magniniyog na itatag ang Coco Trust Fund na siyang mamamahala sa 71B pesos para sa ika-uunlad ng industriya ng niyog at mga magsasaka sa niyugan.
Ang KM ay alyansa ng 10 pambansa at pangrehiyon na pederasyon ng mga magsasaka at manggagawa sa niyugan.
Ang 20 magniniyog mula sa Labo at Paracale, Camarines Norte ay pinangunahan nina Ka Rafael “Raffy” Sarucam at Ka Leopoldo “Pol” Camacho. Sumalubong sila sa boundary ng Libmanan at Sipocot at sumama sa martsa hanggang simbahan ng Saint Therese sa Brgy. Tara, Sipocot, Camarines Sur.
Sa daan, nananawagan ang grupo na lagdaan na ni Pangulong Noynoy Aquino ang panukulang batas na magbubuo ng isang Coco Trust Fund Committee na siyang mamamahala, magpaplano at magpapatupad ng mga programa’t proyekto para sa pagpapaunland ng industriya ng niyugan at ng mga maliliit na magsasaka at manggagawa sa niyugan at gamit ang interest ng 71 bilyong peso na Coco Levy Fund. Sa pinakahuling balita ay may lumabas na bagong audit result na umaabot na ito ngayon sa 74B.
Ang mga marchers (kasama ang NIUGAN) ay pinatuloy ng mabait na pari ng parokya ng Saint Therese sa Tara, Sipocot, Camarines Sur, kung saan ang ilang mga taga-simbahan ay naghahanda ng tanghalian. Ang grupo ay magpapahinga sa nasabing simbahan hanggang kinabukasan. Sa tulong ng simbahan at LGU ng Sipocot sa pangunguna ni Vice Mayor Elizabeth Abergos ay nabigyan sila ng libreng tanghalian, hapunan at almusal kinabukasan. Ang tulong at suporta ng simbahan at LGU ay mahalagang bagay para sa mga marchers. Ito ay nagbibigay ng panibagong lakas ng katawan at kaisipan. Ito ay inspirasyon din, alam nila maraming sumusuporta sa kanilang layunin.
Sa loob at labas ng simbahan ay nagpahinga muna sila, bilang paghahanda sa susunod na araw na paglalakad, yan ay ang tinatayang 26 kilometro papuntang bayan ng Ragay kung saan naghihintay din ang ilang grupo ng magniniyog upang magbigay suporta.
Kitang kita ang pagod sa kanilang katawan. Isipan mo nga naman nagmula pa sila sa Davao at mahigit isang buwan nang naglalakad. Ang ilan sa kanila ay nakakatulog kahit nakaupo. Ang ilan kahit sa semento, masapinan lang ng panyo ay nakakatulog na.
Ang dalagang ito ay sugat-sugat na ang paa pero hindi pa rin siya sumusuko; itutuloy niya ang paglalakad hanggang Malacañang.
Habang natutulog ang mga kasamahan, ang mga lider ng KM, NIUGAN at Provincial Coordinator ng martsa (Tess ng PAKISAMA) ay naguusap tungkol sa naging takbo ng martsa at ang gagawing Coco Forum sa hapon. Ito ay isang malayang talakayan upang malaman ng iba pang magsasaka sa Sipocot ang isyu ng Coco Levy at kung ano ang layunin ng martsa. Ang ganitong aktibidad ay ginagawa ng grupo sa lahat ng lugar na kanilang tinitigilan.
Ang Coconut Farmers Forum na ginanap bandang alas 4:00 ng hapon noong ika-7 ng Nobyembre 2014 sa compound ng Saint Therese Church. Tinalakay dito kung papaano nagkaroon ng coco levy fund, ang mga kahirapang dinanas ng mga magniniyog sa pagbibigay ng coco levy, sino ang mga taong sangkot dito, papaano lumaki ang pera, ano ang ilang mga iligal na transaksyon upang manakaw ang levy at kung ano na ngayon ang status. Maraming magsasaka at lider ang nagpahayag ng kanilang karanasan, damdamin at mga aksyon na ginagawa para mabawi at magamit ng mga magniniyog ang pondo.
Si Sipocot Vice Mayor Abergos ay nagpahayag din ng kanyang supporta sa mga magsasaka at maggagawa sa niyugan. Ang kanyang pamilya ay magniniyog din at ang kanyang yumaong asawa ay dating empleyado ng PCA na nagmamalasakit sa industriya at mga magsasaka. Maraming magsasaka ang dumalo sa sa forum. Sila ay naimbita ng Kora Paroko, Vice Mayor at ng Provincial Coordinator.
Ang grupo ng NIUGAN Camarines Norte ay kasama sa mga nakipagtalakayan tungkol sa mga isyu ng industriya ng niyog at ng coco levy. Dito na rin sila natulog upang samahan ang mga marchers sa gabi at ihatid sila kinabukasan patungong Ragay, Camarines Cur. Sa Ragay ay magpapahinga sila bago tumulak puntang Del Gallego.
Kinabukasan, ika-8 Nobyembre 2014 ay maagang nagising ang mga marchers. Mga alas tres ng madaling araw ay lumakad na ang grupo papuntang Ragay. Inihatid namin ang marchers sa junction ng Tara, Sipocot.
Si dating senador Wigberto “Ka Bobby” Tañada, chairperson of the board ng PRRM at kampeon ng mga maliliit na magsasaka at manggagawang-bukid sa niyugan, ay sumalubong sa mga nagmartsang magniniyog sa bayan ng Gumaca, Quezon. Nakikipag-kwentuhan siya sa mga magniniyog hinggil sa kanilang martsa at nagbibigay din siya ng ulat hinggil sa kampanya para sa usaping ng coconut levy.
Sumalubong din ang dating Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives na si Lorenzo “Erin” R. Tañada, kinatawan ng ika-apat ng distrito ng Quezon, at si Atty. Toby R. Tañada sa mga magniniyog.
Representatives of PRRM and its partner, the Welthungerhilfe (WHH), a non-governmental organization based in Germany, paid a courtesy visit to Secretary Panfilo Lacson of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery, to introduce the WHH program and discuss its current work and future plans in the country. WHH is one of Germany’s largest non-governmental aid organizations with the goal of securing nourishment for all people. Its focus is providing “help towards self-help” and is also a reliable partner in emergency aid.
PRRM and WHH have been long time partners in relief and rehabilitation as well as in sustainable area development in several provinces in the Philippines, beginning in the early 1990s and spanning over more than a decade. After typhoon Haiyan in 2013, the two organizations renewed the partnership by providing temporary shelter kits to 5,000 families in Capiz and Aklan. At present, core shelter assistance continues to be provided in these two provinces.
In Capiz, WHH is directly providing shelter assistance to families in Pilar town. In Aklan, PRRM will extend similar assistance to affected families in the towns of Balete, Banga and Ibajay. The shelter assistance will help reconstruct the houses of affected families using locally available materials. Local carpenters and community artisans will be trained towards the “build back safer” approach to assure improved shelter resistance to future disasters. A limited water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) component will also be extended to the identified communities.
Mr. Crispin ‘Eboy’ Tria is PRRM’s Project Coordinator in Aklan.
By Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star)
I was a fledgling writer when I met Johnny Flavier. I wrote a series for the Bulletin’s human interest page on the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) of which Johnny was president. The series drew the attention of the eminent author Pearl S. Buck who asked that I be commissioned to write more stories about the organization. I was so inspired when I wrote that piece — the way writers are inspired by subjects they admire and respect. That was more than 50 years ago.
A few years ago, I dropped in at the home of the Flaviers in Tierra Pura, Quezon City. To my surprise Johnny asked his wife Susan to bring out an album of clippings that I had written about him, and the ones that Pearl S. Buck liked.
Writing about him was a breeze, for there were many things he did, and preached, among the rural folk that were so simple they were funny, and very practical. Like comparing family planning to chickens picking ipil-ipil seeds and not getting pregnant. Like popularizing a slogan that went like this: Lindol pa man ng lindol, pag uminom ng Midol, walang lalabas na sanggol.’’ Like using knives instead of slivers of bamboo which rural midwives used to cut newly born infants’ umbilical cords with. Like helping the men make toilet bowls (the grateful beneficiaries honored him by painting his name in the bowls so they will never forget him).
He liked to joke about his height – lower than 5 feet tall.
His accounts of his happy times with the barrio folk are contained in the eight books he has written. These are Doctors to the Barrios, Doctor To the Barrios, Experiences with the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (1970), My Friends in the Barrios (1974), Back to the Barrios: Balikbaryo (1978), Parables of the Barrio: Vol. I (1988), Parables of the Barrios: Vol. II, Nos. 51-100 (1989), Parables of the Barrio: Vol. III, Nos. 101-150 (1991), Let’s DOH It!: How We Did It (1998), and From Barrio to Senado: an Autobiography (2009).
Johnny wrote finis to his life October 30 due to complications of pneumonia. He was 79. But his admirers will never write the end to their memory of such a good man, a wit, a joker, an innovator, a friend to all he met. Just listen to the eulogies delivered at worship services at the Church of the Risen Lord, at the wakes at the Department of Health and at the Senate. They speak of the life lived so well by Johnny, who was born in Tondo, Manila, grew up in Baguio, earned his medical degree from the University of the Philippines Manila-College of Medicine in 1960, his masters in public health from Johns Hopkins University in 1969, became president of PRRM in 1967, president of the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction from 1978 to 1992, secretary of health in 1992, and twice elected senator of the Republic of the Philippines (1995 and 2001 elections).
As senator, he authored and sponsored landmark legislation pieces such as the Traditional Medicine Law, the Poverty Alleviation Law, Clean Air Act, Indigenous People’s Rights Act, Anti-money Laundering Act of 2001, Barangay Micro-Business Enterprise, National Service Training Program for Tertiary Students of 2002, Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002, Plant Variety Protection Act, Philippine Nursing Act of 2002 and the Tobacco Regulation Act.
Flavier implemented the country’s first human immuno-deficiency virus prevention program. He was Enemy No. 1 of the Catholic Church, which branded him “agent of Satan” for his promotion of artificial family planning methods and distribution of condoms. When he first ran for the Senate, the church criticized him severely, with one bishop publicly wishing that a stone mill be tied around his neck. But, Senator Flavier said, despite that, he was still called “Mr. Senator.”
Information material from the Department of Health says, “Perhaps the most popular Secretary of Health was Dr. JM Flavier. Buoyant and hilarious, he was right for the mass immunization and micronutrient implementation campaign that marked his administration. With the battle cry ‘Let’s DOH it’ he popularized the programs and projects of the Department and injected excitement in the early years of his administration. He encouraged participation of non-governmental organizations in the DOH projects and was able to tap industrial sectors. During his term, Barangay Health Workers were organized and among the many projects initiated were: Healthy Places Initiative, Stop DEATH Program, National Voluntary Blood Service Program, Oplan Sagip Mata, Yosi Kadiri, Doctors to the Barrios Project, Hataw Fitness Program, Pusong Pinoy, and Hospitals as Center for Wellness Program.
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Johnny was a doting grandfather, his son James told me. “I remember Dad as putting very great importance to his grandchildren Carlo, Pau, Jesse, Jeid, Kia, Pio, Migo, Susan Jasmine and Juan Jericho, and great grandchild Jesse James. Even during his busy days as health secretary and later as senator, he always found time to be with them. On many occasions he would take them to the malls. Oftentimes he would be the driver. He never had a bodyguard so during those outings he was effectively both yaya and driver of his grandkids.”
Interestingly, all the Flavier children’s names start with the letter J. The oldest son, Jonathan, became a medical doctor. Articulate and charming like his dad, he was popular as a health program host in the TV show “Good morning Doc,” but had to give that up when he joined USAID. He is now executive director of the Family Planning Organization of the Philippines. He is married to Patit.
Juanito is the businessman in the family. He and wife Marge own Little John Restaurant in Camp John Hay and manage the family’s Beyond the Sunset Memorial Park (a columbary and crematorium) in Baguio City.
James, married to Cibie, is property manager of the family corporation called Tambulilit, Inc.
The youngest, only daughter Mary Jocelyn or Joy, as she is popularly called, was her father’s secretary at the Department of Health. It was while working for her dad that she met her future husband, Roby Alampay, an executive at TV 5. Joy is regional communications manager of Southeast Asia Tobacco Control Alliance based in Bangkok, Thailand.
My sincerest condolences to the Flavier children — and to Johnny’s widow — Susan Aguila Flavier, the inspiration behind Johnny’s successes.
The project “Sustainable Agriculture in Typhoon Haiyan-Affected Communties in Leyte” was recently launched in the remote village of General Roxas, municipality of Dulag in Leyte province. This is the first partnership project between the PRRM and the Japan-based Table for Two International (TfTI). The two organizations were represented by Ms. Ichika Cho of TfTI, and Mr. Isagani R. Serrano and Mr. Marlon P. Palomo, PRRM President and Vice President, respectively. Mr. Joselito Gonzales, PRRM’s Sustainable Agriculture Specialist, is Project Coordinator.
With the production assets of rice and coconut farmers severely affected by super typhoon Haiyan, their ability to produce and secure food for their families is compromised. Thus, this partnership project of rehabilitating damaged farmlands towards sustainable agriculture. The TfTI’s innovative calorie offset program aims to transfer excess calories from the rich developed nations to the poor communities where poverty and under-nutrition exist. This food security initiative seeks to help reverse this situation.
With an initial four villages as focus areas, General Roxas and Tigbao in Dulag town, and Hindang and Villa Hermosa in Julita town, the project will train 100 farmer-leaders on sustainable agriculture with a long-term view to food security. Focus will be on organic rice production using the System of Rice Intensification or SRI, food lot modules or vegetable gardening and production of organic livestock, among others. Diversified integrated farming technologies such as intercropping will also be implemented to maximize underutilized coconut farmlands.
Community consultations and area profiling have been commenced in the four barangays, and agreements have been secured with the local government units. A one-hectare parcel of agricultural land is currently being developed to demonstrate sustainable farming technologies and practices. This capacity building and food production project aims to help secure food and its sustainable production for the rural families. This is PRRM and Table for Two’s contribution to the rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts in Leyte province.