Thursday, March 20, 2014

Why Is Labor So Cheap in the Philippines?

       All of us want to improve our quality of life. It is our right to utilize our resources to achieve this. But what can we do if these resources are controlled by an influential few?


      My daughter who came home recently from a bridging program in Australia told me that she was asked by a female Australian nurse on why do Filipino professionals go to foreign countries to work. Her answer was straight and simple: “Our salary in our country is low compared to your country. A nurse in the Philippines earns only P9,000.00 to P10,000.00 or around $200.00 per month”.  Maybe you immediately got the idea that there are already too many registered nurses in the Philippines that is why their salaries are cheap. This is a case of supply and demand in Economics (when the supply is high and the demand is low, employers could command a salary that they can easily maintain and still have a profit). This is true but one should also look into the other factors why this increase in nurses happened. For me, this happened because it is possible that the government especially the Department of Education, state universities and the private schools did not have a comprehensive market study where there is an acceptable projection of supply and demand in their short and long term plans( if there is any). They should also have considered the matching of courses to be taken by students to future job availability and job skills requirement considering various global economic aspects. As a result, the temporary boom in the demand of nurses created an opportunity for universities and colleges to put up their nursing schools. When the demand for nurses did not catch up with the existing number of registered nurses, the government found it hard to just close these schools without encountering certain economic or political repercussion.  There was also a further increase in the number of un-employed nurses because just like in a gold rush, the parents or families saw that if their student(s) would take up a nursing course and thinking that upon graduation they will have the opportunity to work abroad, they can finally upgrade their quality of life.

       It only shows that low quality of life of the people and poverty are also factors to be considered why labor in the Philippines is so cheap. To break the vicious cycle of poverty, families have to work so hard to send their children to school in the hope that this will alleviate their living condition. Perhaps they believe in the saying that: “Give a man a fish and he will survive for a day. Teach him how to fish and he will survive for a lifetime”. But in the case of the Philippines, you can ask: where is the “fish”? There are many high school and college graduates whose skills and technological know-how does not match the qualifications of available jobs. Most of the time though, there are not enough jobs for able citizens that are very much willing to work for any type of job.

     Other intriguing questions are: Why are many Filipinos classified as poor despite the natural resources that abound in the country? Why do shanties proliferate in cities where the people are squatters and living like rats? Why are people forced to work in slave jobs?  Does the government really lack funds for housing and poverty alleviation? It seems that these questions have easy answers but they really do not have easy answers. I was reminded of a story told when I was still in community development:  A development expert is talking to a farmer who is lying down relaxed with no other care.

        Expert:  Sir, don’t you know that if you will be diligent in following my development plan you will have a bigger harvest and you will have more food at the table, you can sell your excess harvest and you will have extra money so you can buy what you want and you can send your child to school. If you have much money in the bank, you can just relax.

        The farmer stared at the expert with an inquisitive look and as if very confident of what he will say and curtly asked the expert.

      Farmer: Mr. Expert why should I burden myself to go through all your development plans when I am now relaxed and enjoying life?

       It is ironical but it is a fact that other people are “poor” by choice. Other people are simply ignorant and are easily tricked or oppressed by the governing party with power and money. This is evident during election of government officials who bribe them with small amount of money, food and drinks.

       The disparity between the rich and poor is getting bigger. The rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer and the resources allocation is always tipping to the rich. Labor laws seem to favor the corporations in terms of salaries and wages. The price of staple food is getting higher and living condition is getting worse. Sources of livelihood are getting scarce despite the effort of the government to provide livelihood and development programs resulting to more foreign debt that controls the priority actions of the government. The World Bank and the IMF has poured their funds into infrastructure and agricultural projects but seemingly ignoring the need for institutional development especially in transparency and good governance or was it expected that these projects would fail to establish more control in the global market?

       Now, why is labor so cheap in the Philippines? Maybe, the billions of pesos lost to corruption every year will also answer the question.

        However, there is always hope that things would go or is going for the better.




Tuesday, March 11, 2014

I Was Once a Hemo-dialysis Rookie

    

Dialysis session at Capitol Dialysis Center in Quezon City with my wife and DOH Assec. Dr. Enrique Tayag 

   We all had our milestones in life. Sometimes we have experienced them with happiness,  sometimes with challenge and pain. What matters most is how we dealt on them. Was it with fear and uncertainty or was it with courage and hope?


   
     One of my fears before is entering a hospital, I just could not stand looking at sick and bloody patients in the emergency room. I do not like a place that exudes pain, suffering and death. When my nephrologist advised me to be admitted to a hospital, we chose the regional hospital in the city that is managed by the government. Upon entering the ER, my nervousness was heightened as I looked on  the many patients that are either laid on stretchers or sitting patiently as they wait for their turn to be checked up by the doctor. The room was crowded with nurses(student and registered) and resident doctors busy with their daily routine especially if a new patient is wheeled in from an incoming ambulance. My wife took care of the requirements for admission including my PHILHEATH (government health insurance) requirements so most of the time I was alone and I could not stop thinking of my condition, what will happen to me and my family and the expenses that will be incurred. My brain was overloaded with different images, thoughts and I am confused, nervous and tired. As I am seated and waiting for the doctor, a female nurse approached me and asked me where is my companion and I said that my wife is still outside. The nurse who I learned afterwards is a student nurse informed me that she will insert a hep lock(tube where a catheter(long tube) for IV fluids will be connected) on me. I did not bother to ask her any question and I am quite weak so she tried to insert the hep lock on me. She attempted twice until my veins were swollen and the pain has increased so she finally gave up and called a "real" and experienced nurse who effortlessly inserted the hep lock at the back of my hand. I realized then that the first nurse was a student who is not supervised by her Clinical Instructor. After a two hour wait, I was checked up by the admitting physician and finally wheeled to a private room. This was my first admission in a government hospital and I am not aware that these things could happen.

       I was relieved when I entered my room with air-conditioning, TV, toilet, chairs and a soft cushioned bed. But it was not long enough as I lay down in the comfort of my hospital bed that a surgeon walked into the room and told me that I will be operated upon. I felt nervous again when he asked me where would I like my emergency dialysis access will be placed: in my thigh or wrist or neck. He explained the advantages of an IJ (intra-jugular) catheter in the neck so I decided to choose it. The next day in hospital was blood transfusion day and this was the first time in my life that another person's blood will run in the veins of my body. At first, I was hesitant and I felt that my body will be violated by a foreign blood but I have no choice. Two bags of blood in my room and another two at the Hemo-Dialysis Unit (HDU). The purpose of these transfusions is to increase my hemoglobin from 6 to 11 because I will not have dialysis if my hemoglobin is low since I will strain my heart. The day of the operation came and a rubbery three inches pointed tube was inserted in my neck near my heart. I heard the surgeon said to the assistant nurses in Visayan: " Maayo man ni pero dali ra malata" (this is good but will easily get infected). Oh my Lord! An infection in my neck and near my heart! I was terrified by that thought. There was no complication during the operation. When my access in the neck was done, I was immediately rushed to the HDU at around 7:00 PM where I had my first dialysis. In the HDU, my stretcher was placed beside a dialysis machine. I saw two uniformed nurses and one dialysis techician. These people will become my regular partners in my weekly dialysis. It was my first time to see two tubes from the dialysis machine was connected to my neck and I saw my blood running in those tubes. Not a pleasant sight I tell you. My first dialysis took only two hours, the regular dialysis is four hours.  This first dialysis is to "acquaint" my body to hemo-dialysis since after my session, I still felt weak and dizzy. How much more if it is a four hours dialysis. I ate a hearty meal that night and it was the first time that I was able to sleep well. My nephrologist told me that the next dialysis session will already be four hours, "there will be no pain just relax" she said. My four hour dialysis came two days after my first dialysis. That time I sat in a wheelchair from my room to the HDU and then I walked to the dialysis chair. I was not used to sitting for long period of time so I sang tunes in a low voice to kill the time. The dialysis went well  and as usual I felt weak and dizzy. At that time I had a little knowledge of what dialysis is. I had to undergo a second surgery and this is about my fistula(artery and vein joined together, usually in the wrist but some have their fistula on the upper arm). This is done to make the vein larger so that the nurse can insert the cannula(dialysis) needles later after 1 or 1.5 months with regular wrist exercise. My fistula was done and I was eventually discharged from the hospital after nine days of stay.

       Taking a bath with my IJ catheter in the neck then was a little bit challenging since I have to take good care not to wet it to prevent infection. I have to be aware of the IJ catheter when I sleep  so it will not be pulled and I will not bleed to death.  The HDU of the hospital where I was admitted was full of dialysis patients and many patients are still waiting for their regular dialysis slot so I have to do my dialysis in a different clinic. The advise of my nephrologist is to have regular dialysis of twice a week so that I would not have edema(too much fluid in the body) and uremia(too much nitrogenous waste in the body). Luckily I only had dialysis once in the other dialysis clinic and I got my regular dialysis slot at the HDU of the regional hospital in the city. This is the start of my "class"(dialysis session) and met new "classmates"(fellow dialysis patients) during Monday and Thursday. Before my dialysis, I have to weigh myself for the nurse to estimate my "dry" weight(it is the patient's lowest weight that can be possibly achieved after four hours of dialysis where the patient is "normotensive" or having normal blood pressure). Actually, the "dry" weight is only an estimate done by the doctor during the first dialysis and the nurse after the first dialysis based on the patient's chart). After I have taken my weight, the nurse will deduct the previous weight after dialysis to my new weight before dialysis. The difference is the excess body fluid that will be taken by the dialysis machine from my body. Being an estimate, the nurse  could go below the "true" dry weight and could result to hypo-tension(due to less blood plasma volume). This is what I experienced before. I am already hooked in the dialysis machine and undergoing dialysis  when after 45 minutes I felt queazy, had cold sweat and almost passed out. My blood pressure went down from 100/80 to just 80/60. The nurse and technician reclined my chair so I could lie flat then they flushed my blood with normal saline solution to increase the volume. They took my blood glucose level to see if I am not hypo-glycemic(low blood sugar). During that life threatening situation I could not do anything so instead of worrying, I just prayed to God and offered everything to Him. Fortunately, my BP went back to a normal value and later that day, I was through with my dialysis.
       On previous occasions, I have seen some feverish patients having an infection on their dialysis access and saw them shiver to the bone during dialysis. Their eyes wide open and their body stiff from feeling very cold so the nurse gave them medicine to lessen their shivering and the technician put lighted lamps near their body to provide extra heat. Whenever I see suffering patients, I pray for their comfort and healing. For me, I have maintained my IJ catheter in my neck without complication or infection for 1.5 months and the day came when my fistula was ready for dialysis. This was the first time the HDU nurse had inserted the dialysis needles on my vein and I was not comfortable with these big needles inside my vein. I could not describe the pain and I felt heat in my body and to think these needles would be in my vein for four hours! After four dialysis session, the nurse advised me to get my IJ catheter pulled off. Luckily, I did not experience any infection on my access and I did not shiver during dialysis. Again, praise the Lord almighty!



Friday, March 7, 2014

Quotes and Insights

Happiness:
                If you are happy most of the time, most likely you are successful in life because you have a true friend, family and a life to live as you want it to be and not what others perceive you to be.

Success:
                Being successful is enjoying what you are doing not only for yourself but also to other people regardless of the difficulties in life. It is not solely measured by material things because most "successful" persons also say that it can be lonely at the top.

Choice:
               You can choose what you want to be and create your own destiny. Choose to be a better person in this world and show that other people can.

Patience:
              Someone's attitude depends on how patient a person waits. Patience is a virtue that usually goes with kindness, compassion and care.

Affection:
            If you value your relationship, a few faults will not ruin it because you know your limitations and you believe that closeness will prevail over trying to be perfect.

Expectation:
          Too much expectation could result to frustration and blaming of the other person. Everyone has his own limit to his ability or capacity in doing things and sometimes can not perform well.

Forgiveness:
        To forgive is not to forget the wrong that have been done. It is the courage to accept people for what they are and letting go of the past and moving on to be a better person trying his/her best to learn the lessons and not to commit the same mistakes again.

Relationship:
   Grow old with someone you love. Despite individual's uniqueness and imperfection, we have learned to accept each other for what we are. We give as well as we receive yet willing to sacrifice oneself for the good of our loved ones.

    "No man is an island". We are created to interact and learn from each other no matter what type of person you are dealing with.

Life's Lesson:
       Huwag masyadong isipin ang problema. Magdasal at subukang maging abala sa mga gawain pero dapat matutong harapin at lutasin ito. "Don't worry be happy". ("Don't think too much of your problem. Pray and try to be busy with work but you have to learn to face and solve it).

True Friendship:
         True friendship is about character and is not how you look good from the outside but from within. True friends will be with you through thick and thin and throughout all your life's trials; and laugh and celebrate with you in moments of victory.

      


"Children" Of God

       


     

Whether we are aware or not, our elements (our bodies) came from stars that form the universe that was "created" by a Divine power or "energy" and that is God. We are "Children of God".

       Now at my age of 61 and undergoing hemo-dialysis, I started to be aware that my outlook in life has changed. Not that I have reached my sunset year of my life but let us say that I have been more enlightened and mature. I may not write again an article like this in the future, so let me take this opportunity to share with you my thoughts and beliefs.  When I am alone and in moments of reflection, I can not avoid thinking of what has happened to my life. Have I fulfilled my purpose of existence in this world? Reminiscent of the past, sometimes I picture myself being born. I can imagine how happy my parents are at that time. Cute, innocent and bundle of joy are the regular adjectives for a baby. I wonder now if those definitions are really accurate for an “innocent” baby is capable of expressing various emotions, and can manipulate his mother through his simple wants and needs. However, his existence is  limited to the world of survival and his capacity to think is not yet significantly developed and they say that his spirit is still “dead”. As the years go by, he will grow physically and mentally even spiritually until he is capable to know what is right and wrong. In my younger years, society and school had taught me how to behave “normally” but it came to a point that I want to think for myself and explore my world on my own. I   became curious and adventurous even a pleasure seeker. Later in life, I found it strange but all these social activities and worldly exploits seem to bore me. In sober moments I am thinking that there has got to be a much higher ideal than all these trivial things around me. I started asking questions such as: Is there really a God who is all powerful that he created man according to his likeness? Why is it then that suffering and pain continue to wreak havoc in the lives of decent men and women? Does man really have a soul or spirit? Why is it then that wars and bloody upheavals continue to devastate mankind? Is heaven and hell for real?  Then why are criminals seemingly not afraid to be burned in the eternal fire? Is there salvation for sinners like me? I am not saying that I doubt the beliefs that my religion has taught me; but after being taught in school of the scientific method of thinking, I can not help but satisfy myself to look for clues and evidences.

       Regrettably wherever I look for scientific studies that will answer my questions, I come across some theories like: man evolved from the ape through many years of evolution as in Darwin’s Theory and the universe was formed through the Big Bang Theory. This has aggravated my feelings of incompleteness and emptiness in me that dragged for years as I tried to look for possible answers to my queries. Eventually, I searched for and read articles about the dogmas and beliefs of other religions. Then suddenly it came to my mind that practically all religions have something in common: the good trying to overcome the forces of evil by guiding man how to be good. In trying to relate this concept of good and bad with my everyday activity, I was reminded of the different laws that govern not only people but the entire world and the universe. One example is the law or principle of love and hate. There are definite consequences if you follow either of the two. In physical science, there is the law of attraction and repulsion, gravity and more. Lately, scientists have been studying the law involving light and dark energy. It is like a tug of war between two opposing forces which can either contribute to the development or destruction of mankind.

       With the advent of modern technology and the launching of satellites with powerful telescopes science have shown how vast the universe is with limitless number of galaxies, stars and planets. On the micro side, quantum physicists have encountered how weird a particle is behaving in its observed state.  These findings indicate that someone is behind this grandiose design -- an unseen being or energy, a creator or God. I now realize that there are still many things that are not yet seen or discovered and how miniscule our capability as humans compared to the power of God. I also realized some things maybe are so complex or so "evil" for a human being and are not meant to be discovered or seen as in the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden or the Pandora’s Box. In order to rectify my belief in God, I need to have a strong faith anchored in God inspired and historical evidences and I found them all in the Holy Bible. From the beginning, God has given man free will because of His unconditional love for us. Free will is the freedom to choose between right and wrong or between two choices and this resulted to our original sin (Romans 5:12-21). Man become susceptible to death (physical and spiritual) (Gen 2:17; Ecc 12:7) and must toil the earth in order to live. And yet God continue to love us by sending his beloved son Jesus Christ (John 3:16) who died in the cross to save mankind from sins. Despite of the death of Jesus, man continued to sin and defy again and again the will of God which is love and mercy (1 Jn 4:8; 1 Jn 4:16; Eph 3:18; Lk 11:5-13; Matt 18: 32-33). The issue of salvation arises. Who can be saved? How can a person be saved?

       One afternoon while I was watching TV, I noticed that someone is standing at our door. My wife let our visitor in and he began introducing himself as: a customer of our pet shop, a friend of our friend and he is a pastor of a Christian church here in Tagbilaran City.  He told me that part of his dedication to his church is to give Bible study to those who are willing to listen to the word of God and in time effect healing of sickness through prayers and strong faith. He asked our permission and we said yes for the sake of courtesy. As we go on with our conversation, he told us that it is not religion per se that can save us but our faith in the Holy Trinity and Jesus must be our lord and savior. I thought that there is no conflict with that since our Apostle’s Creed reaffirms our belief in the Triune God (Acts 17:29; Rom 1:20; Colossians 2:2) and Jesus is the son of God who saved us from our sins; and I have no plans in changing my religion. Man as the Holy Bible says is part body and part spirit or soul (Jn 3:5-6; Jn 4:24; 1 Cor 2:11; Matt 10:28). When we are born, we are born of the body but not yet of the spirit (John 3:1-7; Eph 2:1-2). There will come a time in our life that we will grow in spirit when we start to firmly believe in God and our lord Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:16; Rom 8:9). It is stated in the Holy Bible that whoever believes in God the Father, the son (Jesus Christ) and the Holy Spirit and recognizes Jesus Christ as his lord and savior will be saved (Revelation 22:17; Matthew 19:25-26; 1 Peter 1:3-9; Romans 10:9-10; 2 Timothy 3:15; John 3:16). He cited an instance when he was giving a bible study where he asked the person listening: “When you die where will your spirit go, to heaven or hell?” He said that it took some time for the person to answer and he was not sure. Then it struck me that in order to be a strong believer, we must always reassure ourselves of our faith that we will be saved and we should be able to answer quickly that we will go to heaven of course. Later on we studied about the common expressions, modern song lyrics(Lady Gaga and Madonna song lyrics which allegedly indicate devil worship), and lines in the movies or shows that are forms of sacrilege to God (Exo 20:7). It is very easy for some people to mention words like: Oh My God!, Jesus Christ! He quoted verses in the Bible about forgiveness (Col 3:13; Matt 18:21-22; Luke 6:37; Matt 6:14-16; Mark 11:25). The Bible says that we should forgive those who wronged us before the sun sets (Eph 4:26). He said that forgiveness is not about forgetting about the consequence or punishment for anyone that committed fault or injustice to you. That forgiveness can be given by the grace of the Holy Spirit through Christian believers because of their strong faith. If you forgive someone, you must not dwell on the past anymore. What is important is the moment you are in when you choose to start all over again as friends or brothers and sisters. He then talked about avoiding temptations (Eph 6:10-18; 1 Cor 10-13; Matt 26:41; James 4:7; James 5:16) by the grace of the Holy Spirit again and because of our strong faith, we are considered by God as His precious children (John 1:12-13; Rom 8:16; Gal 4:4-5; Luke 18:16-17). Consequently on our next meeting, he discussed about dedication (Matt 28:19,20; Acts 1:8; John 14:12; John 16:14) which means that as Christians, we have the task to spread our Lord Jesus Christ’s words and teachings as written in the Holy Bible and reap its fruits(Gal 5:22) and avoid the sins against the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:19-21).

            Honestly I admire the zeal of such persons who can spend their time spreading the Good News not with the motive to defend their religion and to force us to be converted to their religion but to show concern to people who want or needed to be saved and healed. Most of the people today are living their lives by satisfying the cravings of their senses; and whether they are conscious or not they are committing sins constantly and letting the evil one control their minds and bodies. Now, I am trying to pass on to my family those valuable teachings I obtained and how I wish I could also conduct such Bible Study Module to my employee, friends or neighbors. It would be to our advantage if our church could carry out basic Theology classes and preferred Bible study modules to selected and dedicated Laymen who when certified can then disseminate what they have learned to their fellow Christians not to debate needlessly the differing views, translations and beliefs but to make clear the importance of salvation and what to do to earn that salvation. Above all, to demonstrate and practice what really is the will of God which is love and mercy so that we can be rightfully called God’s children and definitely not blind followers of wickedness.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Ocean Adventure

     It is fun to watch dolphins jumping and swimming beside a moving ship. How much more if you can watch them perform in a show and you can even command, touch and play with them afterwards.



    Again, another bonding trip with my family. This time it is a part of my birthday celebration. After a 3 hour ride from Manila, we finally arrived at Ocean Adventure, nestled in Subic Bay within the Subic Bay Free Port Zone in Zambales    ( a former American Naval Base). As we parked our vehicle, I noticed that the area is marked by forested mountains in the background with a sign "do not feed the monkeys". I eagerly looked for one monkey but there was none that day.  We were late for the Sea Lion Show and we can hear the delighted applause and laughing of the audience. We settled for the Dolphin Show and as we waited we can see the picturesque horizon of the bay together with the dolphin holding area and the trainers. Once in a while few dolphins are bobbing and swimming around the pens. A bigger fish is swimming with the dolphins and introduced later as a false killer whale. Later, we saw other visitors and the Sea Lion audience as they trickled in after the show was finished. At last the Dolphin Show started with an introduction from the emcee and the high jumping act of the dolphins and the false killer whale. The dolphins were well trained and obedient as they jump and swim in synchrony with what the emcee said. The trainers continuously fed the dolphins and whale small fish to motivate them to perform the tricks. A boy who volunteered was met with a surprise from the false killer whale. The show was very entertaining and at the distant we can also see dolphins performing for family or small group where they can be touched, rode upon in a "merry go round" style and commanded with the aid of the trainers. At the end of the show, those who paid for the picture taking with the dolphins (me and my wife included) were called and prepared to pose beside a dolphin and touch its skin. I am amazed to see that the dolphin knows how to pose, even with a "smile"!

     There was a wild animals show in the other staging area with some members of an indigenous tribe who showed the audience how to survive using materials in the jungle (making fire and cooking with dried and freshly cut bamboo stems). There was also audience participation where they were able to touch the wild animals.  While waiting for the Sea Lion Show we rested in a nipa hut for free and took pictures around. Then we visited the salt water aquariums with many tropical fishes. In the middle portion of the area is a  restaurant. The last show is the Sea Lion Show which is also very entertaining. It is a little bit tiring trip but a satisfying and a happy one.




Splash Island Adventure:

Summer is fast approaching. Beat the summer heat, go for a cool dip in your favorite water resorts and indulge yourself in group fun with your family and friends.


     Enjoyed the cool water and the thrill of the tall snaking rides at the Splash Island Resort in Laguna. If you are looking for adrenalin rush, want to escape the summer heat or simply aching for a reprieve from the hustle and bustle of city living, this is the place for you to visit.


     We usually go out in leisure trip with our family. It is fun to have such outings with the family: besides lazily floating in rubber boats along the current of a man made creek like waterway curving around the resort, you will also be challenged by a huge multi-wave swimming pool and a hovering zip line above.                                                                                                                                                                 







         The place is vibrant and busy with kids in a hurry to the next open ride while others choose to stay in huts or under the shade of trees chatting and eating. Many people are falling in line waiting for their turn at various water rides. When their turn is reached the resort assistant guides them to the mouth of the tube and after a short push, the rubber boat will be shuttling down inside the water tube with a loud shriek from the excited riders. You can not bring your food or bottled water with you but there are plenty of food kiosk with their own food specialty; and native huts where you can rest and eat. Splash Island Resort is a 30-45 minute drive from Manila. A day well spent!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

The "Cancer" of Society

       Every Christian and Non-Christian alike should be involved in shaping their nation in a peaceful manner no matter how small their contribution  even in their own communities. Our Christian community whose members are mostly businessmen and professionals   adheres to the virtue of honesty. Everyone is urged to fight or prevent corruption in their own appropriate way(s). This is my way of creating awareness and I believe that this will subsequently result to change of the current situation in the right time and place.     

         
          Greetings of peace to everyone!

         There is again a growing fervor today among concerned citizens and groups to be involved in critical issues in the government and also in their various communities. The revitalized trend is to be active change agents (not just passive observers) who envision the need to implement positive change that would eventually lead to socio-economic development. As they say, "nothing is new under the sun", this was the same clamor for change when I entered the field of community development many years ago. Many brilliant and noble minds worked together to plan and implement numerous programs and formulated applicable strategies like the Integrated Approach and Sustainable Development but the same old problem is still there. Even in my retirement, I am still puzzled by these questions: Why does graft and corruption still flourish in our midst despite the tremendous effort and significant amount of funding poured into such development projects/programs in the past? What motivates people to nonchalantly engage themselves in corrupt activities complete with arrogant grin on their faces? Do these people still value integrity and dignity or do they have a chilling motto of - "nakakain ba 'yan o uso pa ba 'yan"("can it be eaten or is it still practiced today")? I do not want to discourage those who are novices in community development in one way or another but it is really a difficult task to be catalysts of change when the culture of graft and corruption is involved. Especially when we are part of the system and our professions or businesses as well as our families and friends are also on the line.
       

       There are so many questions and intricate aspects regarding this issue and it is very difficult to dissect the factors leading to its root cause; but I thought that it is just fitting for me to get out of my comfort zone and try to share to you what is in my mind. In the first place, why do people become corrupt in their transactions or dealings? In my opinion, the following are the possible reasons:


1.  Financial problem. The poverty situation in our country drives other people to corrupt practices that are against their will. This is most likely to happen in times of emergency and survival circumstances;
2.     Fear of poverty. Some people due to their trauma of poverty or deprivation in their family or community during childhood have developed unhealthy fears that they become too materialistic to the point of being corrupt just to meet their demand for a good quality of life;
3.    Social pressure. Other people would do everything to the best of their abilities just to “keep up with the Joneses or the Ayalas in the Philippines”(maintain their position in society) even if this results to unscrupulous activities;
4.    Vanity and sloth. Nowadays, people are so used to instant and quick fixes that they are willing to pay for it to the extent of corrupting other people. Others are more cunning to use the latest technology including the art of deception to get dirty money and pamper themselves with comfort and luxury, and also to be famous  to satisfy their egotistical desire;
5.  Greed. Among the possible reasons that I have mentioned, this is for me the most contributing since the persons involved here already have power, influence, high position, right connections and machinery, state of the art technology and financial / material wealth and yet they want more so they muddle the truth to justify their wrong-doings. What is gruesome is that this has a “domino or trickle-down effect” which affects all down to the ordinary people in the community.

       I have presented the reasons and probably you will ask what will we do next? How do we prevent, stop or “cure” graft and corruption in the government and communities if this is possible at all? Before I answer such daunting question, allow me to share with you some lessons I learned from the pocketbook written by Joshua Loth Liebman given to me by my uncle a long time ago. The title is Peace of Mind. In his article, Mr. Liebman wrote about a time in his life when he is still a student dreaming of a prosperous and successful life. Being young and ambitious at that time, he was encouraged to make an inventory of the things that would make him successful and the most striking are: fame, power, fortune and of course the material amenities of life. He made time to review, carefully evaluate the list and being contented with what he prepared, he went to his rabbi (a Jewish religious teacher) and proudly presented to him the fruit of his endeavor. He is very excited and anticipating that the list would gain approval, but his excitement turned to sheer frustration when he saw his teacher crossed out all the items in the list. All he can do is to stare at his teacher and ask why he instantly ruined his aspiration in life. He watched again as his teacher wrote below the crossed out items the words that will touch and forever change his life _ PEACE OF MIND. The realization of the wisdom of those words flashed in his mind as he experienced a paradigm shift. He realized that all the things he thought as important priorities in life are useless without the necessary “ingredient” that would bring lasting happiness and fulfillment in his life.



       The meaning of the words is clear but what must we do and how can we achieve peace of mind?


       Life is a process we have to undergo and many lessons should be studied, experienced and learned until we reach a certain level of maturity. Among these lessons in life are:

1.    Self-Awareness. We should always be aware of what we do to ourselves and to others. We should know the good or bad effect(s) of our actions to ourselves, to other people in our family or community, and also to our environment and act accordingly. We should also be aware of our strengths and weaknesses;
2.     Self-Acceptance. It is true that we should accept ourselves for what we are and also accept others for what they are. We should stop comparing ourselves to others for we will only become bitter. If we have learned to acknowledge the good in us, we should also acknowledge our bad traits and limitations as well. Most importantly, we should acknowledge that we have a huge potential to overcome our weaknesses and convert them to strengths;
3.   Proper love of self. Someone said that before you squander any love to others, you must learn to properly love yourself first. It may sound selfish but there is wisdom in those words for how can we properly love other people if we have not learned to love ourselves properly. We should not spoil or be harsh to ourselves for what we do to ourselves we are prone to do to others too and we should always give proper care for our body and mind by seeking and following the advice of experts or professionals. Proper love of self means that we should uphold the principles of humility, honesty, empathy and tolerance and we should also strive hard to reach our full potential to achieve Total Human Development (mind, body and spirit).

       When total awareness, acceptance and proper love of the self have been achieved, then we are at peace with ourselves, our neighbor and our environment. Respect for each other will prevail and all that we do will be for the common good of all.

       However, this does not mean that it is wrong to do our best to become rich and famous and enjoy the comforts of life as long as we are fully aware that we are not sacrificing our integrity and dignity, including our health, and we are also aware and caring for the dignity and right to live of other people in our community regardless of their social status. This is the only way to diminishing if not eradicating graft and corruption that thrive among us. But if we continue to ignore such solution, then we will be in a constant, callous and meaningless “rat race”!

       I hope it is clear now that change of character of an individual comes from within the self and the importance of self-development to community development can not be disregarded. That no amount of will power can change ourselves if we do not stop, reflect in silence and look for solutions in the right place with the right tools. I know that creating awareness and change in our community is a tall order, can not be seen immediately and need qualitative assessment more than quantitative, but there is always hope that someday, in God’s time, we will awake to do our transactions and dealings with all truthfulness.

       I remain.        

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

This Is All By Your Grace And Will

         

     For me it is very important to try to "feel" the very source of all these energies in this world because it is where I can draw my strength that give me courage to keep moving on.


 STEWARDSHIP BY GRACE:

       We have a varying notion of God: sometimes he is like a loving father who provides us with the things we need but disciplines us when we commit mistakes; we also attribute God with power and miracles; always with bounty and success; and, many pray to God for healing and comfort. We also believe that God is our creator, the beginning and the end, and can exist everywhere at any one time. For me it is true that God is everywhere because everything that we can see, touch, smell and feel manifest God. They are glaring evidences that God exists. Undoubtedly, it is through God’s grace and will that we come into existence to live simply and naturally together with the plants and animals of this earth. From the beginning, God made us as stewards or caretaker of all these natural resources. Our duty is supposed to be to conserve and take care of them; and to harvest and eat what we only need. But we defied God’s will and because of our greed and self-interests we began to abuse and destroy the things that we were supposed to take care of. As a result, we are now suffering the consequences of our deeds: pollution, diseases, hunger, political instability, crimes, wars and restlessness. When we do not follow God’s will, there is a corresponding “punishment” that we should endure emotionally or physically and it does not matter whether you are innocent or part of the perpetrators.

       It is clear that we are only stewards of all the things whether living or non-living and even person(s) of this world. We do not “own” anything or anyone; not even our life. I think that it would be better that before we decide on something, we should always pray for grace and guidance; and obey God’s will not only to be peaceful and joyful, but also to overcome our pain and suffering during our trials. At all times we should praise and thank God.

PHYSICAL AND EMOTIONAL STABILITY BY GRACE:

       One time during our plane trip to Manila with my wife and two daughters, I prayed: “Lord, if it is your will that we will be safe throughout our flight, we praise and thank you Lord God Almighty”. Praying is not always about asking or petitioning. Sometimes it is to anticipate what God has planned for us. Also sometimes, what we pray for is not granted. Just the same, we must also praise and thanks God. We must trust God no matter what happens. God is faithful and wants us to be strong and obedient to the Holy Will which is love and mercy.

Forgiveness By Grace:

       I still remember this story told by our fellow member in our Christian community about our fellow member in Manila who is a prominent businessman and have a big house in Antipolo, Rizal. One day as he arrived from work, he found out that their house was robed and the robbers even raped his daughters. He cried in anguish as he tried to comfort his daughters who are still in shock due to their harrowing ordeal. Despite what has happened, the Christian lesson on forgiveness prevailed in his mind. He prayed for grace that justice be given to their family and he be given the grace and courage to forgive the persons behind the heinous crime. The robbers were caught and jailed. He visited them and said that he has forgiven them for what they have done but they have to suffer the consequences for the crime they have committed.

       It is difficult to forgive especially when someone has hurt us a lot but with the grace of the lord our God, it becomes easy. Forgiving is not about forgetting but it is an effort to move on with God’s grace and resolve not to dwell too much in the past. When you have truly forgiven someone, you have freed yourself of the harmful effects of anger and anxiety to your body and mind. There are many sick people in the hospitals and unfortunately also around us whose sickness is rooted in anger, fear and un-forgiveness.

Acceptance By Grace:

       Sometime ago, I watched a man speaking in a news channel. He wants that field trips be abolished in the school curriculum because his youngest daughter who is in her second year high school died in a freak accident during their field trip. The bus driver kept the engine of the bus running in neutral gear to maintain the air-conditioning and got out of the bus, and maybe not noticing or overlooked that the bus is in a slope. The bus started to move and it is too late for the driver to stop the bus that run over the girl. The whole family was in grief over the death of their family member. The father in his anger started to question the necessity of field trips. Of course, if it is not for that field trip, her daughter should still be alive today.

       It hurts deeply, thinking that after nurturing her for so many years and providing her with a good education to ensure her good future, she will only die in an accident. Maybe the father is asking what they have done for God to punish them severely. Maybe in his grief he hated the bus driver so much for being reckless and stupid. It is normal to grieve but we must also remember that accidents do happen and maybe it happens because we did not pray for grace of our Lord our God. Maybe it happens because God wants to test us to become strong and more faithful in the end. Again, even the person(s) that are close to us are not “ours” even if we love them so much. They can be taken away from us anytime the Lord wants. They are only our co-stewards. Again, forgiveness is a must.


WHOLENESS BY GRACE:

       There are many instances that we should pray for grace of our Lord our God. When you are afraid that someone might leave you. When you are sick and you have a fear of death. When you are jealous of someone and you hate him so much. When temptation is too much to bear and you are about to give in. When somebody speaks evil of you and wants to destroy you. When in grave danger and your life hangs in a balance. When you are sad and lonely and you feel that nobody needs you. When you are broken hearted. When you are afraid and anxious of what will happen in the future. When you have committed a big mistake and you are afraid of its repercussion or outcome. When someone depends on you so much and you are afraid to fail. Actually, there is an endless array of situations or opportunities when we should pray for grace to avoid defying the will of God which is love and mercy for everybody. Next time when something bad happens to us, we should try not to blame someone. Perhaps we did not pray for grace or it is a test of our faith that God is always trustworthy and wants us to be strong and courageous.

       God’s grace has made us “complete” so that we could not ask for more; so we could not boast of our accomplishments.

        In good times and also in bad times, we praise and thank you Lord God almighty!


The Beginning:

       As the pages of my life are turned, it becomes clear to me that every person in this world has his/her: role in life and own story to tell. This is my story.   

     

     It all started when I was about 20 years old when I had my urine examined due to a suspected urinary tract infection. Not only I had an infection but the result showed that my kidneys are leaking proteins which means that something is wrong with my kidneys. The doctor diagnosed it to be a chronic kidney infection and will recur every now and then. My reaction is fear followed by a calming or re-assuring thought that maybe the doctor is not accurate in her diagnosis and all will be well again after I finished taking my medicines. So years have passed by and I did not concentrate on the condition of my kidneys. I continued to live normally except for the occasional bouts of colds and flu with sore throat and frequent stomach discomfort which I associated with hyper-acidity. So I took constant dose of anti-acid medication which I realize now that it had aggravated my kidney disease and the stomach discomfort that troubled me is due to my failing kidneys because I have read that indigestion is one of the symptoms of renal failure. I graduated from college, worked in a government agency and even started my master's degree, then I started to feel pain at the back of my neck with accompanying nausea (feeling or urge to vomit). I felt more of these symptoms after I ate a salty meal. I decided to go to the hospital and had a check-up. My result showed that I have high blood pressure and so the doctor gave me a maintenance drug to control my BP. I was about 25 years old then and again I realize now that the damage to my kidneys at that time is increasing.

       I continued with my life as usual, ate whatever food that I want and drunk alcohol occasionally but I continued to take my maintenance medicines on a regular basis. I still experienced symptoms of high blood pressure especially when I over ate or drunk too much alcohol. I did not put much attention to my disease until I had a medical check-up again. I am doing field work for a private bank at that time and I constantly felt body aches and discomfort. This is when my doctor said that my heart was affected by my uncontrolled high BP. I am more sick because of my un-treated kidney disease which is still not pronounced then because the creatinine(indicates kidney function) level in my blood is in the upper normal. My doctor said that I should eat less fat and more on fish and vegetables. This is the start of my DIE with a T (diet) which I did not follow religiously. One time I felt ill and I was hospitalized in Tagbilaran City. I did not feel well even after I checked out of the hospital so I decided to have a medical check-up at Cebu Doctors Hospital and the Nephrologist advised me to undergo a "workout" (a series of physical and laboratory check-ups). We have to cross the sea to get to Cebu and we don't have a house where we can stay so I decided to be admitted to the hospital while waiting for the results. I thought my stay will only take for a week, but weeks have passed and my nephrologist prescribed me a medicine for high BP that unfortunately gave me an adverse reaction. My BP shoot up to 200/110 and three doctors stood by my bedside since I was also suffering from schemic(lack of oxygen) heart disease then. I was lucky, it was not my time to die yet. I got out of the hospital after a month, spending my Christmas and New Year's eve in a hospital room. The hospital bills? Our office paid the expense since it was part of my benefits. I religiously took my medicines, followed my diet and had regular check-ups at Cebu Doctors. However, it was not long enough after I was hospitalized and I was back in Cebu Doctors Hospital again due to the effect of my steroid medication which affected the beating of my heart. I was also admitted in St. Lukes and Capitol Medical Center in Manila. When I was in the hospital in Cebu, the doctor said that there will come a time that I will undergo dialysis and I prayed to God if he could give me just six years without dialysis. I monitored my creatinine once in a while and it was stable at 2.5 to 2.8 and as the years passed by, I thought my kidneys are good and forgot about the medical check-ups. I ate what I want and indulge with alcohol. One day I went out for brisk walking and I had to walk through a steep road, I was not expecting that I would have difficulty in catching my breath but it happened that I almost passed out catching my breath. I am getting old I told myself and didn't took it seriously but as the months passed by it is not only difficulty in breathing that I felt, I also felt nauseous and vomited as if I could spill out my stomach. One night, my mouth was very dry and I am very thirsty. I thought that my blood sugar is high so I decided to have my blood sugar level and creatinine checked in the laboratory. The result shocked me because my blood sugar level is normal but my creatinine is 13 which is very high compared to the high normal of 1.7 to 2.0. I immediately contacted a Nephrologist and she advised me to have a complete blood count (CBC). The result showed that my hemoglobin (helps in distributing oxygen to the cells) is only 6.0 while the normal is 12-14 and I am anemic (low red blood cells count). I realized that my difficulty in catching my breath is due to my anemic condition and my vomiting is due to my failing kidneys. My Nephro advised me to be admitted as soon as possible. At the hospital where I was admitted, they transfused me with 4 bags of blood and operated on me for my emergency access for dialysis. I prayed for six years without dialysis since I was admitted at Cebu Doctors Hospital, that was twenty years ago! God gave me 20 years instead of six years. Praise the Lord almighty!