The Spirited Anna….with sightless left eye and dimming right one

The Spirited Anna…with sightless left eye

and dimming right one

by Apolinario Villalobos

 

I thought the woman whose name I learned was Anna,  and who was sitting on the pushcart was just too trusting by not counting the money that I gave her for the items that I chose from among her “buraot” items, until she told me that her right eye can barely see while her left eye was totally useless. Her sight had been defective since she was a girl. While growing up, she was desperate and a loner because of her deficiency until she met her husband who took good care of her.

 

Anna and her husband had been selling junk items for more than five years. They would spread their items on a piece of tarpaulin as early as six in the morning along the old railroad track now covered with pavement as early as six in the morning, just when the vegetable wholesalers are packing up. An hour later they would transfer to the corner of the Sto. Cristo St. where I found her. With their four children in tow, her husband would leave her to clean their other “buraot” items in the railroad track.

 

She smilingly told me that she and her husband have been setting aside money for their children from the meager daily earnings. Just like most of the hardworking scavengers of Divisoria, they live on the pushcart…or rather, beside their pushcart that are heaped with their junks at the end of the day. Their children are aged nine, seven, four and three years. Just before noon, she told me that they, already with lunch bought from a makeshift sidewalk eatery, would join her.

 

Our amiable conversation was cut short by a sudden and steady drizzle. I had to help Anna gather her items on their pushcart and cover them with two pieces of tarp that I brought with me, intended to be given to the vendors like her. We stayed on the covered sidewalk, and it was at this time that Anna got worried for her husband and children.  Not long afterward, a guy carrying two children, and two girls huffily came running and joined us.

 

As the pushcart was securely covered, I invited Anna and her family to the Jollibee outlet a few steps away. The eldest girl jumped and gleefully shouted when she heard the name. When we entered, other customers threw us inquisitive stares as the husband of Anna and the kids were dripping wet. It was their first time to enter the establishment and even taste its cheapest Yummy sandwich, but for such a happy occasion, I ordered the regular burger and spaghetti for each of them. While they were enjoying their sandwich, spaghetti, and Coke, they strike a picture of a happy family…of contentment, a far cry from many families that are virtually swimming in affluence, yet, not satisfied a bit. As a practice, I did not take their picture while enjoying their Jollibee meal, for I do not want the photo opportunity to come out as one done in exchange for something. So as not to instigate Anna and her husband to ask questions about me, I stopped asking more questions about their life….that way, I was happy not to be asked for my name, though, before we parted ways, I told them that the snacks were courtesy of a certain “Perla”. I was resolved, however, to see them again.

 

Divisoria Anna 1

The “Other Side” of Divisoria

The “Other Side” of Divisoria (Manila, Philippines)

By Apolinario Villalobos

 

While Divisoria has always been known as the shoppers’ Mecca, especially, during Christmas, there is” another side” of it which I do not want to present as an image of poverty but that of perseverance, patience, and honest endeavor. This is the “other Divisoria” which many people just refuse to see as it might cause them to puke! The accompanying photos show how these honest Filipinos contentedly strive to live in sheer honesty.

 

The skeptics always say, “it is their fault for going to Manila and suffer deprivation”. These hypocrite skeptics have  TV, radio, and occasionally read newspapers, so they should know that the provinces from where these people who are eking out an honest living on the “other side” of Divisoria, are infested with NPAs, Abu Sayyaf, opportunistic landlords, and loan sharks. For the arrogant, the world is just for those who can afford to live decently. On the other hand, as these skeptics have not endured days of hunger, they may not understand how it is to make a difficult decision to live a hand-to-mouth life in Manila by scavenging in garbage dumps, rather than die of hunger and be in constant fear for dear life in the province.

 

It is true that the slums have been in existence for many decades now, but there would be no slums had the government ever since the time the nation has become independent, did not get infested with corrupt lawmakers and officials. The slums have been around since the time that deprivation and exploitation have been propagated by learned Filipinos who found their way in the halls of Congress and Senate, as well as, agencies, even at the helm of the government. Unfortunately, the seed of exploitation has grown into an uncontrollable proportion today, making corruption as wrongly and unfairly viewed to be always a part of the Filipino culture.

 

The striving people from the slums near Divisoria, and other districts of Manila, in this regard, may be viewed by the arrogant as akin to dogs and cats, because of their many children, oftentimes making them utter unsavory remark, such as, “they know they are poor, yet, they keep on having children”.

 

How I wish these skeptics can also openly, make biting remarks –

  • to the corrupt politicians and government officials, such as, “they graduated from prestigious universities and colleges, yet, they do not know what is right or wrong”

 

  • to the filthy rich, such as, “they have plenty of money, yet they can’t even throw a piece of bread to a beggar”

 

  • to the stiff-necked Catholic priests, pastors, and other religious ministers such as, “they are supposed to be representatives of the Lord, but they can’t afford to take a look at the spiritually hungry”

 

Finally, compared to the disgusting hypocrites, loan sharks, corrupt government officials, arrogant “religious ministers” and conscienceless rich, who are supposed to be learned and intelligent, the people who honestly make a living such as those who belong to the “other side” of Divisoria, are worthy to be called creatures of God – true human beings…slum denizens who are viewed by aforementioned with utter repugnance.

 

(This blog will definitely, not hurt those who do not belong to the mentioned “classes” of loathsome Filipinos.)

 

Ang Kawawang Kalagayan ng Maraming Pensiyonado ng Social Security System (SSS) ng Pilipinas

Ang Kawawang Kalagayan ng Maraming Pensiyonado

ng Social Security System (SSS) ng Pilipinas

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Kawawa talaga ang kalagayan ng karamihan sa mga pensiyonado ng Social Security System (SSS) ng Pilipinas. Sa isang banda, ang hindi kawawa ay ang mga dati nang may kaya sa buhay bago nagtrabaho at ang mga namuno sa SSS mismo na milyon-milyon ang sweldo. Ayon sa balita, ang SSS ay may 7 Senior Vice-Presidents at 16 Vice-Presidents. Ang mga sweldo at bonus nila ay milyon-milyon din daw, pati ang mga allowances na kasama ang gastusin para sa mga alagang hayop o pet at grocery. Wala ring aalalahaning problema sa pensiyon ang mga kurakot na opisyal ng gobyerno dahil kapag nag-retire na ay siguradong milyon-milyon  na rin ang naipon nila na kayang ipamana maski sa mga apo sa tuhod.

 

Samantala, ang mga nag-retire nang mga miyembro ng SSS ay nagtitiis sa barya-baryang pensiyon. Nauunawaan naman ang sistemang binabatay ang pensiyon sa buwanang naiambag ng miyembro, kaya mayroong nagpepensiyon ng minimum na mahigit lang ng kaunti sa isang libo kada buwan dahil sa ikli ng panahon ng pag-ambag at kaunting halagang naiambag. May iba pang batayan sa pagminuta o pag-compute ng pensiyon kaya lumalabas na ang iba, kahit ang dating trabaho ay foreman ng mga kargador sa pantalan ay mahigit sampung libo ang pensiyon kung ihambing sa ibang manager na mahigit lang sa 7,000 pesos.  Ang masakit nga lang ay ang katotohanang nagpabaya ang SSS sa paglikom ng mga naiambag ng mga empleyado na kinaltas ng kanila-kanilang switik na mga employer kaya hindi lumalago ang pondo upang maging batayan sa pagpalaki rin ng pensiyon ng mga retirado. Kadalasan din, ang mga aktibo pa sa trabaho ay hindi rin malapag-loan dahil hindi nire-remit ng kanilang switik na employer ang kanilang contribution. Ayon sa balita ay wala pang 40% ang pinakahuling nalikom ng ahensiya batay sa kabuuhan ng mga miyembro, na sa kasalukuyan ay umaabot na sa 31milyon.

 

Nangangamba daw ang SSS dahil pagdating ng 2029 ay maaapektuhan ang pondo kung ibibigay sa 2milyong pensiyonado ang 2 libong pisong dagdag sa bawat pensiyon kada buwan kaya hindi inaprubahan ni Pnoy Aquino. Ayon naman sa gumawa ng panukala sa Kongreso na si Cong. Colmenares, dapat nga raw ang minimum na pensiyon ngayon ng retiradong miyembro ay 7,000 pesos. Marami daw namang paraan upang mahabol ang pagpalago ng pondo nito, tulad ng nabanggit nang  pagpapa-ibayo pa sa paglikom ng mga ambag, at pag-streamline o pagbawas ng mga “top-level managers” na malamang ay nagkakapareho o nag-ooverlap  ang mga responsibilidad. At lalong higit ay ang pagbawas ng mga nakakalula nilang allowances at mga bonus!

 

Sa Pilipinas, ang mga retirado ay hindi nabibigyan ng pagkakataong maging empleyado pagtuntong ng ika-60 na taong gulang. Ang may gulang na 40 nga ay itinuturing nang “overaged” ng ilang employers. May iilang nai-extend ang trabaho subalit hindi na regular ang status nila kundi “Consultant” hanggang umabot sa gulang na 65, kaya ang turing sa suweldo nila ay “Consultancy fee” na wala na ring benepisyo tulad ng allowances na kung tawagin ay “perks”. Ito yong mga nasa “senior management level” na ang saklaw ay mula manager hanggang Senior Vice-president, pero ang mga performance bago mag-retire ay namumukod-tangi, o yong may mga dating responsibilidad na napakahalahaga sa pagpapatakbo ng negosyo o opisina. Ang mga nasa supervisory at rank-and-file level naman ay napakanipis ang pag-asang ma-extend bilang “Consultant”. Ang matindi pa, malimit ay hindi agad naibibigay ang retirement o separation pay kaya ang pag-follow up lang at pamasahe ay problema din. Dahil sa mga nabanggit, pagkatanggap ng separation pay o pensiyon ay makakaltasan na agad ng pambayad sa mga inutang na pamasahe at panggastos sa pamilya nang panahong nagpa-follow up ang nag-retire!

 

May nakausap akong retirado na ang ginagawa ay hinahati ang tabletang gamot na nireseta ng doktor upang tumagal kaysa naman daw mawalan siya ng maiinom dahil hindi kasya ang kanyang pensiyong pambili. Ang iba naman ay hindi na komukunsulta sa doktor kahit masama ang pakiramdam dahil mababawasan ang badyet na pambili ng pagkain. Ang iba pa ay dalawang beses na lang kumakain sa isang araw, at sa halip na isaing ang bigas ay nilulugaw na lang. Nang tanungin ko kung bakit minimum lang ang pensiyon nila, ang sagot sa akin ay dahil hindi permanente ang trabaho nila noon, mabuti nga daw at nakumpleto pa nila ang pag-ambag sa SSS hanggang sa sila ay mag-retire. Hindi naman daw sila nagkulang ng pagpursige sa paghanap ng trabaho subalit talagang wala daw silang makita noong kalakasan pa nila. May mga retirado akong nakausap na nagsabing kapag namamasyal sila sa park o mall ay may bitbit silang mga shopping bag na malaki o backpack para lagyan ng mga junks na mapupulot, lalo na plastic na bote ng mineral water o lata ng soft drinks dahil kahit papaano ang maliit na kita sa mga ito ay nakakatulong din.

 

Sa mga mauunlad na bansa, kahit malaki  ang kaltas sa suweldo ng mga empleyado para sa buwis at ambag sa social security ay sigurado naman ang mga benepisyo nila dahi ang pagpapa-ospital, gamot, at pagpapa-aral sa mga anak ay libre. Ang ibang hindi gaanong maunlad na bansa naman ay maliit ang kinakaltas sa suweldo para sa buwis at social security, na ang pinakamalaki ay hindi umaabot sa 20%, subalit magaganda pa rin ang kanilang mga benepisyo. Sa Pilipinas naman, ang kinakaltas sa suweldo ng mga empleyado ay mahigit 30% subalit wala halos katumbas na matinong benepisyo. Ito yata ang sinasabi ng pangulo ng bansang si Benigno S. Aquino III na “matuwid na daan”….at saan naman patungo?….sa pagkagutom?

 

Mahirap talagang magkaroon ng presidenteng hindi nakadanas ng kahirapan sa buhay. Ang problema sa pensiyon ng SSS ay dumaan din sa ilalim ng nakaraang mga administrasyon, at lalong lumala sa panahon ni Pnoy Aquino ngayon. Kung sa halip na puro sisi ang ginagawa niya sa nakaraang administrasyon ay nagpakasipag na lang siya bilang presidente, sana kahit kapiraso ay may maipagpasalamat sa kanya ang mga Pilipino.

 

Beverly Padua: Nakakabilib dahil Nakakabenta sa Internet kahit Cellphone lang ang Gamit

Beverly Padua: Nakakabilib Dahil Nakakabenta sa Internet

Kahit Cellphone lang ang Gamit

Ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Meet Beverly or Bevs na nakakapagbenta sa internet kahit walang laptop, i-Pad o desktop computer dahil ang gamit lang ay isang simpleng smart phone. Nakakagulat, dahil sa pagkakaalam ko, ang mga on-line sellers ay umaasa sa malalaking computer na kanilang tinututukan sa loob ng 24/7, hangga’t maaari. Nang una kong makita ang shop site niya ay bumilib na ako dahil  sa linis ng pagkagawa, hindi kalat o magulo kaya hindi nakakalito. Ginawa rin pala niya ito gamit lang ang simple niyang cellphone.

 

Panganay siya sa kanilang magkakapatid at ulila na sila sa ina. Ang tatay naman nila ay sakitin kaya silang magkakapatid na kumikita kahit papaano ang nag-aambagan upang makaraos ang pang-araw araw nilang pangangailangan. Kahit madalas silang kapusin sa budget ay dinadaan nila sa matinding pagtitipid ang lahat upang masambot ang kanilang pangangailangan lalo na ang mga gamot ng kanilang tatay.

 

Single mom din siya. Wala siyang hinanakit sa ama ng kanyang anak kahit na ito ay may iba nang pamilya. Kahit sa hinagap ay hindi niya naisip ang maghabol o magalit sa dating asawa, bagkus ay dinadaan na lamang niya sa pagsisikap ang lahat  upang mapalaki nang maayos ang nag-iisang anak na naging inspirasyon niya sa buhay. Sa kabila ng lahat ay hindi natinag ang kanyang malakas na pananalig sa Diyos, at sa halip ay tinutumbasan na lamang niya ng pagpapaubaya, dahil ayon sa kanya, darating din sa tamang panahon ang taong talagang nakalaan para makasama niya habang buhay.

 

Hindi siya nariringgan ng kahit kaunting hinagpis kahit may mga pangangailangan din siya para sa kanyang kalusugan bilang isang diabetic. Ilang beses na rin siyang sinumpong nang matindi dala ng kanyang sakit subalit lahat ay kayang nalampasan, kaya ang ginagawa na lamang niya ay pag-ibayuhin pa ang pag-iingat upang hindi siya atakehin uli.

 

Masidhi ang pananampalataya ni Bevs sa kapangyaarihan ng Diyos dahil ilang beses na rin daw niya itong napatunayan. Noong nakaraang taon kung kaylan patung-patong ang pangangailangan nila sa pera ay saka naman humina ang bentahan, subalit hindi siya nagpakita ng pagkainis, sa halip ay tinanggap na lang ang sa tingin niya ay isang pagsubok. Totoo ang kanyang naramdaman dahil nitong nakaraang mga araw ay nagsunud-sunod naman ang pagpasok ng mga order sa kanya.

 

Kahit ang dapat sana’y kailangan niyang i-Pad lamang upang lumaki kahit bahagya ang screen na kanyang tinututukan ay ipinagkikibit na lamang niya ng balikat. Hindi daw priority ito, kaya bibili na lamang siya kapag may ekstra siyang naipon dahil ang mahalaga ay ang pangangailangan ng kanyang anak, isa pang kapatid na nag-aaral, at amang nangangailangan ng mga gamot.

 

Hindi siya nawawalan ng lakas kahit halos magdamag kung tumutok siya sa cellphone sa paghintay ng papasok na order dahil kapag pinalampas ng kahit ilang minuto lang na hindi nasagot agad, ay lilipat na sa ibang online shopping site ang browser. At, ang sikreto daw niya sa pagkakaroon ng lakas ay ang tiwala sa Diyos na nasa likod lang niya.

 

Magandang halimbawa si Bevs sa mga nagsisikap kahit maraming kakulangan dahil kahit simpleng smart phone lang ang gamit ay kumikita, hindi tulad ng iba na nakikipag-text at tsismisan lang sa mga barkada, ang gusto ay mamahaling cellphone o i-Pad pa, at kung hindi mapagbigyan ay magtatampo sa mga magulang o di kaya ay lalayas, at kung asawa naman ay magdadabog na humahantong kung minsan sa pagpapabaya ng mga obligasyon bilang asawa at ina.

 

(For interested shoppers, please check Princessrobe O’shop and OBe Padua facebook pages.)

Bevs Padua

 

 

Pat’s Journey in Life…(for Pat Sulleza Pellero)

Pat’s Journey in Life

(for Pat Sulleza Pelletero)

By Apolinario Villalobos

The gauge of the person’s desire to succeed in life is the degree of his or her enthusiasm in achieving such at all cost. A couple of years ago, I met a girl who at a very young age became a discreet prostitute along Avenida so that she could pursue her studies until she was adopted by a retired couple who treated her like their own. Children in depressed areas that surround Divisoria, a bustling center for wholesaling of local produce, derive earnings by waking up as early as two in the morning to gather vegetable trimmings to be cleaned and sold along the sidewalk. Only when they have sold enough to earn a little for their allowance, do they prepare themselves for school.

There are more inspiring stories that can pinch one’s heart, not for pity but for admiration. One of these is that of Pat’s. Upon graduating from high school, she decided to work for her college studies to lessen the burden of her parents whose income could barely suffice for the needs of their family. When she applied as a Student Assistant in the convent of the Oblates of Notre Dame (OND), she was readily accepted because of her outstanding academic record and remarkable character.

The determination to finish her studies boosted her strength as she faced the task that lay ahead. Though a little shock was felt during the early days of her stay in the convent, she got used to waking up at 4:30AM to start doing the household chores, one of which was braving the early breaking of dawn to buy pan de sal, popular local bread for breakfast. Other things had to be done until before 11:AM as during the time, she had to teach catechism at Tacurong Pilot School until 11:45AM. The remaining fifteen minutes till noon was spent walking her way back to the convent. From noon until two in the afternoon, she had to do other chores, after which she was left with thirty minutes to prepare herself for her classes which started at 2:30PM, until 8:00PM. That was her typical weekdays and weeknights. Saturdays were for laundry and weeding of the garden and doing research. Sundays were of course for the Mass and whatever were left of the chores, and the evenings were for studies.

Hectic was not enough to describe the life of Pat as a Student Assistant, but it prepared her for more pressure when she worked at Ramie Corporation (RamCor) when she graduated. She topped the qualifying exam given by the company for applicants. During the early days of Tacurong, ramie fiber was one of the products that it proudly produced. Another company, Kenram, cultivated the fibrous plant together with kenap. As with the abaca fiber of Albay province, ramie and kenap were among the top exported products of the Philippines, until the plantations in Tacurong were supplanted with African palm.

The time of Pat’s employment at RamCor was also the height of the unrest in the area due to the Muslim-Christian conflict which necessitated the stationing of a contingent of the 12th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army. Call it fate, but due to the unrest which caused the arrival of the men in fatigue, Pat met Ed (Eustaquio Edmundo Pellero), a Cebuano, and who was a member of the said contingent. As love can move mountains, so did theirs that also moved aside mountains of apprehensions because of financial limitations.

After her stint at RamCor, Pat taught for a while at the Sultan Kudarat National High School, now a Polytechnic University extension in the province. When the situation in Mindanao improved, the couple went to Manila and finally settled in Cavite. Pat still did her part as a working mother with her employment at the Philippine National Bank, until she finally decided to quit so that she could spend her time attending to the needs of their growing family. The couple is blessed with three offspring, Brendo Amor, Satea Mae, and Jonah Maureen, as well as, grandchildren, Lourdess Gem, Lorcan Gyo and Vaugn Eric Zain.

Pat grew up in a closely-knit family that espoused discipline and fear of God which molded her character as she was growing up. The traits could have been what the OND nuns perceived when she applied for a job as Student Assistant, and by her husband when he wooed her. She tried her best to imbue the same traits to her children who became successful in their chosen careers.

Pat is a town mate and our path crossed through the facebook after more than thirty years. I knew her as a chatty gal when she was in high school and college, making her easy to go along with. She could easily set the mood of conversation into something lively to put everyone at ease. Her satisfaction in life, proved that success is not spelled by money. She was successful in her hard-earned college degree, well-thought conjugal partnership with an equally hardworking guy, having equally well-disciplined offspring and healthy grandchildren, and today, contented as a retiree. All of these, of course, she owes to the only One whom she trusted ever since in her life when she embarked on a journey along its perilous corridor, beset with challenges.

Kaylan Kaya?

Ginawa ko itong kanta, noong ako ay nasa second year high school. Isinali ko sa isang songwriting contest noong 1980 sa Manila, at ang sponsor ay isang maliit na recording company… sarado na ngayon. Hindi ko nabawi ang original tape ko. Ilang buwan makalipas, may lumabas na kantang kapareho ng tema ng ginawa ko, pati title pareho, at ang tono, halos kapareho din…unang tikim ko ng pambibiktima ng plagiarist. Hindi ko na lang pinansin at kinalimutan ko na. Pero kinakanta ko pa rin ito sa mga folkhouse noong nagsa-sideline pa ako bilang folk singer, dahil maliit ang sweldo ko sa isang regular job, hindi ko na babanggitin ang company na may pakpak. Ang folkhouse ay ang original na Bodega, sa  Mabini St. (Ermita) kung saan ay kumanta din si Freddie Aguilar at ang Asin, na ang dating pangalan ay Salt of the Earth. Sinadya kong hindi lagyan ng punctuation marks ang mga lines dahil nag-iiba ang rendition depende sa kumakanta.

 

Kaylan Kaya?

ni Apolinario Villalobos

 

Nitong huling mga araw

Malimit ang patayan

Gutom at sakit

Babala sa sangkatauhan

 

Sa munting bagay

Mga tao’y nag-aalitan

Baril at punyal

Panlunas sa sama ng loob

 

Ref:

Kaylan kaya

Magkakaroon ng katahimikan

Ang sandaigdigan?

Kung lumipas na

Ang panahon ng tao? (repeat)

 

Lupang nabubungkal

Kalimitan ay tigang

Bagyo at baha

Mga sanhi ng kahayukan

 

Pera’y dini-Diyos

Ng mga gahaman

Pati kapwa-tao

Ay handa nilang yapakan.

 

(Repeat Refrain twice and fade)