Archive for November, 2009

Literacy, Power, and Violence

Friday, November 27th, 2009

November 24, 2009, I was in Sultan Kudarat to speak at a literacy conference organized by the Literacy Coordinating Council (LCC), the Education Network (E-Net), the provincial government, and Congressman Pax Mangudadatu.

For a while, we thought the conference would not push through, since the day before, a horrific and gruesome massacre happened at the neighboring province of Maguindanao, just one hour away.

Despite his grief over the killing of members of his clan, and his urgent efforts to restrain his clan members from launching an armed retaliation, Congressman Pax still found time and energy to address our conference.

He had an interesting comment on literacy, power, and violence.

He said that when those who are in power are illiterate, the result is a deadly combination, of which the massacre in Maguindanao is an example. That is why he reiterated his long-term commitment to promoting and supporting education among his constituency.

He said that when he first run for mayor in Buluan (in Maguindanao), there were only 5 Muslims who had finished elementary education.

When he campaigned (and eventually won) as governor of Sultan Kudarat, he was a Muslim seeking votes from a majority (80%) Christian population. He narrated an amusing anecdote, meeting some Ilonggo women. They expressed their fear of him as a Muslim. “They tell us that if you win, you will send us back to Iloilo. Also, that you will forbid the raising of pigs.”

The fact that he won three terms as a Muslim governor of a predominantly Christian population is a tribute to the education of the electorate and of the candidate.

Of course, it is not as simple as that. There are highly educated people who also use power to perpetrate violence. But his equation is persuasive: Illiteracy+Power = Violence

A New Home for ELF

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Last September 26, typhoon Ondoy caused unprecedented flooding in MetroManila. The raging flood waters entered the ground floor of ELF’s administrative office, and drowned not just our paper files, but even those in the desktops and laptops that were submerged for hours. The same fate was suffered by E-Net Philippines, with whom we have shared the office for over a year.

It was Saturday, and no one was at the office. We took comfort that no life was in danger.

But after the flood receded, we decided that it is time to move elsewhere, to higher ground. Although many factors caused the destructive flood, the message of climate change was forcefully delivered, and like other residents in MetroManila, we had to integrate risk reduction in our post-typhoon reconstruction plans.

Fortunately, within a few weeks, one of ELF’s senior partner, May Cinco, saw a newly posted sign “For Rent” as she was walking down Marunong Street in Quezon City. After a series of negotiations we arrived at a rental agreement, initially for a year, with possibility of renewing our lease.

The two-story apartment is too big for ELF’s current needs, so we invited partner organizations to share the place with us. One is ECAP, the Electric Consumers Advocacy of the Philippines, whose national president is also ELF’s president. The other is La Liga Policy Institute, a co-convenor of ELF in Go Organic! Philippines.

As we discussed the sharing of space and house rules, we some up with the idea of going beyond a shared office to building the place as a resource center for our focus issues – Education, Energy, and Ecology.

Just this afternoon, while we took a break from arranging our files and books, painting furniture, and clearing the backyard, ELF staff brainstormed about climate change and renewable energy, and how we will develop learning modules for the grassroots community leaders who are our strategic partners. The idea of a resource center expanded to include our plans to set up vermicompost beds and developing our backyard into an organic garden and an outdoor meeting place.

Next Friday, we will host a small gathering to mark the global launch of the “Charter for Compassion” which grew from the TED wish of Karen Armstrong. Our initial translation into Filipino is “Kartilya ng Pagmamalasakit.”

We look forward to a housewarming and inauguration of our resource center in December. Visit us at 25 Marunong Street, Central District, Quezon City.