A problem of community

People are noticing and commenting — from the Public Attorney’s Office in media statements to a broadcast journalist who interviewed me during the wake for Carl Angelo Arnaiz in Filipino: “Have you noticed that both Kian delos Santos and Carl Arnaiz’s mothers were OFWs (overseas Filipino workers)? Maybe we shouldn’t have mothers leaving to work overseas?”

The next day at the university, a dean at UP discussed the same issue with me, but expanded her concerns to include some of our students with serious mental health issues and she observed in all the cases she mentioned that the mothers were working overseas.

When mothers leave by Michael L. Tan, Philippine Inquirer

Indeed, the problem is not the mothers (or, women) leaving for work abroad, because with the masses the choice is often the devil or the deep blue sea ie. get a job that will at least provide basic needs for the family and where else is that but abroad, or stay and live without dignity like a sewer rat consequentially setting in motion a slow onset trauma among family members, but rather it is the lack of decent work right here, in the town or municipality and city the mothers or any jobseeker for that matter reside in, not 2,000 miles away, in the “big city” ie. Metro Manila, Metro Cebu, Metro Davao.

Today, the big news on TV is New Zealand opening it’s doors to 5,000 foreign workers, and to show how bright the beckoning light is from the land of Lord of the Rings, it was reported that a driver there stands to receive PHP150,000 monthly and an opportunity to bring in the family after a year. That figure here is in the range offered to senior executives, if not the head of office. This inequality begs the question, why couldn’t employers here pay the same fair price for the same skilled service rendered? Must Filipinos, women or men, mothers or fathers, leave their families years on end just so to receive what they deserve as workers? And we complain about human rights violations!

In Baguio City, a highly-urbanized city, classified ads are the most depressing section to look at. Week after week, for years, jobseekers who are mostly graduates of the several recognized universities here, will go nowhere with their future with “online English tutors”, “call center agents”, “frontdesk clerks”, “sales clerk”, “domestic helpers for Hongkong and Taiwan”, and the like. If it’s like this here, what about the provincial towns? Eh, putang ina talaga. 

It is worse for men especially the unskilled, skilled but with no or limited demand for it, or those wanting to get a new skill. There’s TESDA, but if they’re from the masses, even the agency’s “minimal fee” is beyond their reach. So, in comes the women. With the women, they can fall back on DH or domestic helper that, abroad, more or less, rakes in PHP30,000 monthly. Compare that to at most PHP5,000 here (for same job, same skills set). Saan ka pa? But with the jobless men, thank you traditional views about gender, there’s no such thing as a male DH. Would guys go into it though?

In biology, there’s a topic on symbiotic relationships, one of which, commensalism, comes near to defining the relationship between the jobless frustrated male at home and the financially fulfilled focused female abroad. Commensalism is a type of relationship in which one benefits and the other is neither benefited or harmed. In other words, wala lang. The male who’s left at home is, obviously, the one benefitting. You’d think because he is, he’d happily take on the role of mother to the children. But the arc of the female OFW story doesn’t end happily ever after, for many. Men who are left behind, in the long term, oftentimes, become neglectful of their households including the children. Apparently, they’re taking a longer time coming to terms with their new role in the family.

It takes a village to raise a child.  Spouses left behind by their partners who need to work abroad are in need of their communities’ support. But, what is community to today’s Filipinos? The answer is easy. The image that we are seeing now in government, national and local, reflects our new community: lying, cheating, power play, betrayal, looking the other way, one-uppance, laziness, planning for the next bright move, always looking out for mine, mine, and mine. Gone, particularly in urban communities, is the mindset of looking out for each other. No wonder the children are growing up on their own.

Bayanihan as the term suggests is about building community. The behavior shouldn’t be manifested only during disasters. It should be an intuitive act- for instance, a women’s or mothers group may want to go cook a whole day’s set of meals, say, on father’s or mother’s day, for that household whose mother/wife is abroad working. Or, the therapist in the neighborhood to volunteer some time to go visit households that have one spouse abroad in order to listen. Most of the time, people just need someone to listen, without judgment, to their inner selves, and after that, we’re OK and ready to face the world. This reminds me- once, I hugged my oh-so-tall son on the street, before sending him back (as he isn’t living with me). I haven’t seen him for the longest time and I missed him. I heard from a passer-by, surprisingly, a child, commenting that it’s very, very bad to have a relationship with a much younger guy di ba mommy? To which the mommy said, yes indeed it’s evil blah blah blah. Bayanihan can also be about not going into wholesale judgment about a person until you know all the facts.

Community is not built arguing about it in courtrooms or lecturing about it in the classrooms. We know most everything about it anyway. We just have to do. The Catholic Church (instead of joining in the rah-rah-rah which mostly rings hollow anyway) has a key role in inculcating this in Catholics through it’s Basic Ecclesial Communities. In the barangays, there’s the day care for young children, which, by the way, needs major upgrade in infrastructure and service. There’s also the barangay health center for psychosocial needs of families, which is also in need of overhaul. These, and several more, are facilities being paid for by taxpayers and to be taken advantage of therefore.


Extreme bullying

Among yesterday’s news headlines on Yahoo! is the reappearance in an adult court of then 15-year old girl (now 18) who murdered a nine year-old in 2009.

The teenager’s background is highly dysfunctional: drug users as parents, parental abandonment, on Prozac, recent suicide attempt.

Her mom told her she hates her for murdering the younger girl.

If I may conclude, the girl is a victim and did what she did as a way to regain control of her sense of self, albeit in the wrong way (which to her wasn’t, at least at that moment of the kill). The murder was an extreme form of bullying.

The teenaged girl didn’t deserve the hate word straight from the horse’s mouth because she has been living in the shadow of that hate (premising on her background) since her birth (or perhaps even before that, in the womb). To her mother’s credit, she had finally actualized that mountain of hate.

Myself a parent and mother, my heart goes out to both the bully and the bullied, both so young, both children. To me, they are both victims.

How children turn out is not entirely without the influence of their parents or caregivers and families. Fifteen is a time of transition into the last phase of childhood and transitions if one isn’t prepared for it and if not well managed could lead to undesirable outcomes.

If the killer is a 30- or 40-something normal adult, I’d say this person is fully accountable for the act. I’d say that this adult has failed to be an adult.

But this.

I believe in the philosophy promoted in the book, Living, Loving, and Learning by Leo Buscaglia (which I’ve thoroughly and repeatedly read in my youth though I must say I had to struggle against myself in order to practice it). I believe that one major reason why young people and even adults crave for physical and emotional love from their peers (even if these border on the dysfunctional and abusive) is that their mothers and fathers and families – our first and lasting loves – were unable to show or impart to them the desired and enough stock of love. Delegating love and parenting to Prozac starts off the children with the wrong set of tools in finding and shaping their own lives.

Parents shouldn’t be afraid to show physical acts of love to their kids, young and old(er). But this ability only comes after parents have had worked out their own personal and relationship issues. A parent with unresolved personal issues cannot be fully present to the child. Neither could couples with unresolved relationship issues.

What happened to both the teenaged girl and to her young victim presents a grave lesson for parents, caregivers, and families everywhere.

Once again studies show pesticides lower children’s IQ

New reports from the continuing 12-year study in the US, particularly in New York and California, confirms yet again the effects of pesticides on the human population especially children and women.  In New York, the research found “for every increased increment of prenatal organophosphate pesticide exposure the IQs of the children dropped 1.4 percent and their working memory scores dropped by 2.8 percent”; “the greater the exposure, the greater the impact on cognition”.  In California, the same chemical was found in the bloodstream of 601 pregnant women.  Pesticides are carried by the wind beyond the fields these were used in.  Read the article here http://e360.yale.edu/feature/from_the_fields_to_inner_city_pesticides_affect_childrens_iq/2404/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+YaleEnvironment360+%28Yale+Environment+360%29

In Baguio City, Dr. Charles Cheng is prominent in the study of the effect of pesticides.  His study has shown that pesticides have adversely affected women especially pregnant women.  The five-year, starting 1999, Women’s Health and Safe Motherhood Project in the Cordillera Administrative Region has used results of Dr. Cheng’s study in its campaign in the project areas in Benguet Province where women are heavily involved in pesticide spraying of vegetable farms.  The Project learned that the campaign by itself does not significantly lower pesticide usage rather the campaign must go hand in hand with an alternative, and during the time, the proposed alternative was organic farming.  The lesson here is knowledge alone is insufficient to produce change. The knowledge recipient weighs the knowledge against an alternative (“a way out of the old ways”); if an alternative exists, is seen as viable, and there is a support system to grow the alternative, there is much higher chance the recipient would decide to move out of the old practice.

Despite stark evidence from longitudinal studies, people may not see governments banning the chemicals soon.  The decision is up to the user-farmer.