Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Imagine the pain

Broken arm

Early the next morning.

"Hello? Why are you not answering the phone?"

"I'm here in the hospital."

"With our brother?"

"No. With the woman she crashed into."

"What?"

"She has a broken arm and a lump on her head. The doctor said she needs a CT scan too."

"Where's brother?"

"I don't know. I think he will be rushed to Cebu. There are no instruments in our hospitals here."

"How about the woman?"

"She said she drank Tanduay earlier in the day and felt lightheaded when she crossed the street to wait for a tricycle. Then she saw a motorcycle coming. That's the last thing she could remember."

"Text me when they die!"

"OK."

Broken head

It was in the middle of the night when my sister called.

"Our brother broke his head," my sister said.

"Is he still alive?" I asked.

"I think so. I talked to him just now while he was wheeled into the emergency room," sister said.

"Will he survive?"

"I don't know. I saw a crack on his head."

"Shit," I said. "Why are you calling?"

"We have no money," she said.

Shit!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The hunger we face

It was surreal.

While an aid agency representative talked about hunger and poverty, a uniformed waiter asked journalists attending a press conference what they prefer for breakfast – bangus belly or chicken-pork adobo.

The woman aid worker narrated how a poor wife somewhere in Africa had to boil water for dinner so that her children could go to sleep. As she talked, forks and spoons clashed over steaming white rice topped with soft egg and achara at the restaurant.

I understand what hunger and poverty is. I understand the dilemma aid workers and nongovernment groups face when they try to put across their message to the public via the media. I understand why only few journalists attended the press con. (It was embarrassing to touch the bangus belly breakfast laid in front of me by the uniformed waiter.)

The world marks World Food Day this week amid the hunger and food insecurity. Hunger and poverty, Lan Mercado of Oxfam, said are here to stay unless the government implements policies to address these threats to our survival.

Mercado’s organization released this week a study that calls on everyone to learn “lessons” from the food price crisis that became more apparent in the Philippines early this year after the price of rice jumped more than a hundred percent.

“Double Edged Prices,” Oxfam’s study, found out that small farmers in developing countries have not benefited from higher food prices partly because of flawed trade and agricultural policies.

Kalayaan Pulido-Constantino, also of Oxfam-Philippines, agreed that the government has indeed a responsibility to address the problem. The Arroyo administration might have exerted efforts to mitigate the situation, but these efforts are not enough.

The reality on the ground consists of structural problems, corruption and even governance, which should be more transparent. Civil society groups must continue to play an active role in monitoring, for instance, money allocated for agriculture.

‘Double Edged Prices’

Oxfam’s study noted that while the world’s attention is currently focused on the global financial crisis, “a large part of the world is also immersed in a dramatic increase in food prices and an equally sharp rise in the price of fuel.”

Prices of staple foods have increased from 30 per cent to 150 per cent in 2007 and 2008. At least 290 million people in countries most vulnerable to the crisis are at risk of falling into poverty.

But while poor farmers and communities in countries like the Philippines face the brunt of the economic crisis, many in the food business appear to be cashing in on the situation. For instance, Thailand's Charoen Pokphand Foods, a major player in Asia, is forecasting revenue growth of 237 percent this year; Nestlé's global sales grew 8.9 percent in the first half of 2008; Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, reported a 26 percent increase in revenues from March to May 2008. UK supermarket Tesco has reported a record 10 percent jump in profits from last year.

The impact of the crisis could have been prevented, Oxfam stated in its report. “If rich countries, donors, and developing country governments had invested in smallholder agriculture over the past two decades, poor countries and communities would now be far less vulnerable.”

The group observed that the global response to the food prices crisis has been inadequate, in contrast with the response to the current financial crisis, where huge financial resources have been mobilized by the international community in a matter of days.

Countries suffering from the food crisis received promises of just $12.3 billion at the Rome FAO conference in June 2008, short of UN estimates of the $25b-$40b needed (and five months on, little more than $1bn has been disbursed).

Unfortunate.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Readings

I've been reading these days three books, and all of these are about conflict.

First on the list is Paul McGeough's "In Baghdad," his journal of his coverage of the invasion of Iraq.

McGeough, an Australian journalist, wrote about the death of innocent people, the spins made by the regime of Saddam Hussein and the propaganda war waged by the American government.

Part of the book's back cover reads: "His personal diaries are a unique insight into life for reporters behind enemy lines - from the stress of colleagues dying around them to daily battles with a regime that saw them virtually become human shields and always potential hostages."

Then there's Kevin Sites' "In the Hot Zone" that reads like an adventure novel on how one journalist travels from one conflict area to another.

A friend gave me Ishmael Beah's "A long way gone," a true story of a child soldier from Sierra Leone.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Must write whatever

There's a lot of catching up these days - the file of books on the table is growing like the pile of dirt on some streets of the city, the ideas for articles that must be written for some publication have already evaporated into thin air like the smoke that comes out of one's lungs, the deadlines, the plans, the dreams, the rain.

There seems to be no end to the wandering mind, no end to grappling the meaning of things around while trying to put one's feet on the ground and one's head above the crowd.

Mixing metaphors and convoluted sentences seem to be the norm. It's not supposed to happen except when one lets oneself float into the midst of experimentation, which I am good at that's why my stories never won an award at the Ustetika when it was revived in the mid-80s.

Do people these days have to write like that to express themselves, to sound stupid and be "in" in whatever "new trend?"

Whatever!