BATU, Indonesia. Photo by Jes Aznar

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"J-A-S-M-S Oh yes! The school we love the best."

SOMEWHERE between my heart and Quezon City, lies the haven of my childhood, a place which is largely the reason why I am in the mold that I am now.

JASMS School, the grade school department of the Philippine Women’s University, was the school of my youth. To this day, I still feel thankful to my parents for putting me there.

Last week, I was together with fellow JASMS students after a long time. How happy we were to see each other again.

It has been so many years ago since we stepped out of our playground to live the rest of our lives.

Today, we are proud and happy pursuing our interests in life. That is, after all, what JASMS gave us. It did not raise us to become nerds or academic slaves but more importantly, JASMS taught us to do what we want. It helped us find our place under the sun.

Today, some of us are already fathers and mothers to amazing little boys and girls. We all have our own lives now but wherever we go, we always bring with us everything and even more than what we got from our school.

JASMS began in 1933, under the leadership of President Francisca Tirona Benitez. She sponsored a novel experiment in childhood education which is “child-centered” and totally different from the educational approach of the time, according to an article posted at

"In essence, JASMS is an educational environment where children and parents feel and see for themselves the warmth and friendliness of relationship, the absence of rigid pressure to conform to set standards and where learning is enjoyment. How the young develop in attitude, behavior and relationship as they grow into personhood, the kind of motivation and depth of wisdom as they grow into maturity-is the mission of the school," it said.

Some parents may not totally agree with the JASMS way. The students enjoyed too much, some have said.

But we disagree. We will always be happy with what we experienced. Nobody knows how it was except us. We know the real deal.

There, it was possible to climb "mountains," to soak oneself in mud and enjoy it, to travel to different corners of the world without mom and dad, to learn while playing and to enjoy every minute of one's youth. It was almost okay to be afraid, to express your angst, to rebel and to learn from it in the process.

JASMS allowed us to be children. It also gave us enough time to grow.

JASMS is that one place we will always call home. It is somewhere between Peter Pan's Neverland and Holden Caulfield's universe.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Quiapo and Makati: A Tale of Two Shopping Districts

(From the Ateneo de Manila website)

Iris Gonzales takes a close look into the shopping rituals in two districts both famous for shopping. In the process she finds shopping has everything to do with one's economic standing. Read the story here

Monday, October 20, 2008

the budget gap swells

Budget deficit widens in September
By Iris C. Gonzales
Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The government’s budget deficit swelled to P21.6 billion in September, a 48.9 percent increase from the P14.5-billion shortfall recorded a year ago due mainly to higher than expected spending and lower than programmed revenues, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves reported yesterday.

The September deficit brought the January to September budget gap to P53.4 billion or P18.2 billion more than the programmed ceiling of P35.1 billion.

“This was due to higher than expected spending and lower than programmed revenues,” Teves said.

Revenue collections in September reached P89.6 billion while total expenditures reached P111.3 billion. Of the P89.6 billion, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) collected P55.8 billion, or 14 percent higher than the P48.9 billion collected in the same month last year.

The Bureau of Customs collected P25.8 billion during the month, 35.1 percent higher than the P19.1 billion collected in the same period last year.

Total collections of the Bureau of the Treasury amounted to P2.2 billion in September, down 74.3 percent compared to last year’s level mainly due to lower income from investments. Collections from other offices amounted to P5.9 billion or an increase of 34.1 percent from a year ago.

“The bigger contributor to the deficit was the increase in spending for social services and infrastructure,” Teves said.

Total expenditures in September increased by 16.6 percent to P111.3 billion compared to the P95.4 billion disbursed in the same period last year. Of the total expenditures, actual disbursements for projects and operations increased by 25.8 percent to P82.1 billion while interest payments declined by 3.3 percent to P29.2 billion.

Total revenues for the nine-month period reached P879.9 billion, P14.1 billion lower than the collection goal for the period of P894 billion.

Of the total revenues, the BIR collected P587.9 billion, P18.9 billion lower than the program while the BOC generated P193.2 billion in revenues during the nine-month period. This is P7.3 billion more than its target due mainly to higher rice imports by the National Food Authority (NFA).

BIR Deputy Commissioner Nelson Aspe attributed the revenue shortfall to additional tax exemptions from the minimum wage law implemented starting last July.

“The biggest contributors to the shortfall was the effect of the additional exemptions to the income tax collections,” Aspe said.

The Bureau of the Treasury reached its collection target of P47.8 billion while total revenues from other offices, including proceeds from privatization reached P51.1 billion or lower by P2.5 billion against programmed targets.

Expenditures, on the other hand, reached P933.3 billion, amid increased spending for infrastructure and social services.

Teves expressed optimism that the government would still be able to keep the budget deficit at P75 billion. “We will not exceed the P75 billion,” he said.

He said the government expects to generate P25 billion from the sale of its remaining stake in Petron Corp. which has already been put on the auction block.

The government expects to book the proceeds of Petron before the end of the year.

“For the remainder of the year, we will continue to work harder to ensure that the National Government has the resources to support the needs of its people during these challenging times,” Teves said.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Today is World Foodless Day!

Millions of People observe October 16 as World Foodless Day

A Global Day of Simultaneous Actions that resist forces maintaining the Financial and Food Crises

Today, 16 October, 2008, millions of farmers, agricultural workers, fisherfolks, pastoralists and herders, indigenous peoples, women, migrants, consumers, youth and urban poor are in unison in resisting neoliberal policies that created and maintain the food security crisis and the financial meltdown.

The financial crisis and food crisis make the basic right to food elusive. They both share the same recipe deriving from failures of free market fundamentals that feed on each other.

“The continued implementation of liberalisation, deregulation and privatisation policies only support the giant agribusiness corporations who are definitely going to scramble to accumulate more profits.” says Danilo Ramos, secretary general of Asian Peasants Coalition (APC). He adds, “The twofold and intertwined crises in the world’s food and financial systems are doomed to be a never-ending cycle until free market trade fundamentals are destroyed, genuine solutions to stabilise food and financial markets are implemented and people are the basis for steering the change.”

“Small food producers or peasant farmers have inherent knowledge and experiences to address the food crisis but we are treated as mere recipients of policies that do not benefit us.” says Fathima Burnad of Society for Rural Education and Development (SRED) of India. She adds, “We commit World Foodless Day as a day to send a strong message for genuine interventions that include us in addressing the root causes of the crises.”

“The immediate effects of the crises which include spiraling food prices gave a crushing blow to the working class including women, peasants, agricultural workers and landless farmers. World Food Day is a mockery and is much better named World Foodless Day.” says Azra Sayeed of Roots for Equity in Pakistan. She adds, “We observe World Foodless Day to assert our food sovereignty and women’s participation, to demand control over our natural resources including land, seed, and water and to reject trade liberalization which has forced millions of farmers to poverty.”

According to Chennaiah Poguri of Andhra Pradesh Vyavasaya Vruthidarula Union (APVVU) in India, “Our strength is made visible in the number of people who are joining us in the struggle against the crises. We are expecting 25,000 individuals from Andhra Pradesh alone and we are estimating about 574,000 people observing World Foodless Day around the country as we are able to organise with other groups.“

Erpan Faryadi of Aliansi Gerakan Reforma Agraria (AGRA) of Indonesia said,“We are mobilising 4,000 people in protest rallies where we will highlight the problems and agricultural conflicts that are affecting the peasants in Indonesia as well as call for implementation of a genuine agrarian reform. We resist International Financial Institutions for creating global issues that trickle down and make us suffer.

“For migrants, the plunder that neoliberal agenda in agriculture impacts them two-fold - migrant workers come from countries where rural people are displaced by massive land concentration, extreme feudal exploitation, and land redevelopment; globalization policies in food production make it difficult to cope with increasing prices of basic commodities that leave compatriots in the home countries hungry.” says Hong Kong based Ramon Bultron of Asia Pacific Mission for Migrants. He adds, “Now with the current global financial meltdown, more people will surely go hungry or be forced to eke out a living by being modern day slaves. We migrants support the grassroots peasants and advocates for food sovereignty.”

Ninety one national and international NGOs and People’s Organisations from 23 countries have called on the United Nations (UN) Task Force on Global Food Security Crisis and Ban Ki-moon, UN secretary general and Task Force head, to draw comprehensive measures to resolve the global food security crisis. In the letter, handed over to the UN on 14 October 2008 as the FAO Committee on World Food Security met in Rome to discuss the global food crisis, the organisations expressed their concerns on the Comprehensive Framework of Action (CFA) that was drawn. The CFA has prescribed the same policies that created the crisis and are seen to strengthen power structures, approaches and practices. In the same letter, the organisations stipulated people’s recommendations in addressing the food crisis to the UN Task Force. Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP) continue to enjoin organisations in this signature campaign.

World Foodless Day is a day of global action on the crises that beleaguer the people. The objectives are as follows: create public awareness and media attention on the root causes of the food crisis; provide policy recommendations and organize meetings with government officials, opinion makers and leaders; organise activities to raise our voices against neoliberal policies and their impact; and highlight people’s recommendations to respond to the world food crisis.

It is organized by (PAN AP) and People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty together with 22 NGOs and People’s Organisations from 16 countries. For more details, please visit