Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lost in Translation

Even as we're preparing to launch "SOL," we're also starting to gear up for the June launch of "Ang Batang Maraming Bawal," the winning story of the Romeo Forbes Children's Storywriting Competition in 2006, which was written by Fernando Gonzales, and which will be illustrated by Rodel Tapaya.

As some of you might know, our books carry both English and Tagalog texts, and we are at a loss on how to translate the title. "The Boy Who Couldn't?" "The Restricted Boy?" "The Boy Who Wasn't Allowed to Do a Lot of Things?"

Reminds me of how we were once challenged by our elementary school teacher to translate into English the question, "Pang-ilang presidente si Marcos?"

Or what about, "Lumilindol!" or "Kumikidlat!"

Hmmm... Maybe we should just change the Tagalog title...

Monday, February 26, 2007

Monday, February 19, 2007

The Barbershop

Here's a great essay from the October 2005 issue of the National Geographic Traveler.


Touch Me, Heal Me
by P.F. Kluge

Does it sound odd when I tell you that I often dream of flying halfway around the world to go to a barbershop? Like most American men, whenever my hair grows too long I go to a place in a shopping center that takes 20 minutes to cut my hair for a penny less than ten dollars. At home I shave with a disposable blade - five minutes, tops.

And something in me screams at the loss of pleasure in my life.

I lived in the Philippines, on and off, for five years. When I weigh the prospect of returning against the desire to explore new places, the part of me that thinks clearly admits that I may never get back to Manila. Yet there's a longing to return for just a few hours, and for just one purpose. A guilty pleasure is a sharp, deeply imbedded memory that can pull you halfway around the world. And isn't that what travel is about? No one misses a whole country, an entire journey. We miss a sensation, a taste, a time of day. A self-indulgence. A barbershop.

No particular barbershop. The truth is, I played the field and never regretted it. But one thing was always the same: I went at midday, when Manila is most unbearable, when to move is to sweat. Fans or airconditioning, sometimes both, greeted me as I came in off the street. If not occupied by customers, the barber chairs had barbers in them, stretched out, sleeping or reading newspapers - that is if they weren't playing chess outside. The smell is of talcum powder.

Now it begins, my 90-minute pleasure fest. How do they love me? Let me count the ways. Shampoo, haircut, shave, facial, ear cleaning, manicure, pedicure, shoe shine, in-chair massage. And every item is a leisure and refinement unknown back in Ohio. The haircut includes attention to my eyebrows. And the pedicure isn't just about clipping nails, it's about washing feet, massaging; it's about taking a pumice stone to the tough skin on my heel, about deftly scissoring the calluses on my toes. The ear cleaning involves a woman dressed like a nurse, wearing the kind of head lamp that you see on coal miners, her Q-tip gently probing, tickling. And the shave - that's the main thing - is a flurry of hot towels, cold towels, hot lather, coconut butter, bay rhum, talcum powder. The barber shaves in one direction, then another, his long razor reaching those hard-to-get-at spots right under the nose, at the corners of my mouth.

Before it ends, my barber splashes rubbing alcohol on my hands and arms, administering a snappy rubdown and a penetrating shoulder massage. I like this man, all these people. I trust them, I want them with me always. I pray for a thicker beard, faster-growing hair, miracle-grow nails.

There are moments in life when it all comes together and this is one. I am stretched out in a barber chair with a hot towel on my forehead. Eyes closed, I feel the fan stir the air. I sense movement around me - two, or is it three - people attending to me carefully, competently, and it is impossible not to believe that my life has turned out very well.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

One for Ripley's

Check out this advertisement placed by the Philippine Government in Fortune Magazine's October 1970 issue.

Believe it or not, there was a time when it actually made sense for us - the Philippines - to have "felled mountains, razed jungles, filled swamps, moved rivers, relocated towns, and in their place built power plants, dams, roads, ready-to-occupy buildings, schools, housing, a hospital, an executive recreational center and a luxury hotel" in order to attract foreign investment into the country.

It may be worth it to pause and reflect - is there anything that we are doing now - as individuals and as a nation - that, years from now, will cause us to cringe, slap our foreheads, and say, "What were we thinking?!"

Friday, February 16, 2007

OFWs and Urban Migration - Something to Think About

Nothing really new in the article below. If anything, the headline is misleading. There is an urban-rural gap to begin with, I think, and the flow of remittances from OFWs only reflects and does not necessarily cause this gap.

If you think about it, the conclusions are not surprising.

Given that increasingly more Filipinos are moving to urban areas, one would expect that OFWs are going to be sending money to urban areas where they are likely to come from, and where the recipients of their generosity likely reside.

Moreover, the Philippines is moving up the value chain from previously sending largely manual, unskilled labor (think construction workers to the Middle East) to technical, skilled and specialized workers (such as doctors, nurses, programmers, etc.) Thus, our OFWs are increasingly educated and, while not necessarily rich, would unlikely be "ultra poor."

What the findings do confirm, unstated in the article, is the continued failure of government to create the incentives and policies that will channel $12B+ dollars in remittances into more productive endeavors such as entrepreneurship and investments.

It really is a shame. We think that our bagong bayanis are itching to participate in Philippine development more directly and beyond merely sending cash. If government can't do it, maybe the private sector or even civil society can step up.

We in CANVAS are presently organizing one such initiative - DIGITULAY - but that's another story.


OFWs fuel urban-rural gap (From GMA News.TV)
02/14/2007 11:57 PM

BusinessWorld Sub-Editor

MONEY FROM OVERSEAS WORKERS is fueling the divide between urban and rural areas and remittances tend to benefit the country’s affluent regions, leaving poorer regions behind and worsening inequality, according to a study. And while overseas Filipino workers’ (OFW) remittances have contributed significantly to the economy’s growth, the study by the University of Santo Tomas (UST) confirmed the worrisome phenomenon of agricultural workers leaving the farms to join industries in more developed regions and wait for the opportunity to become OFWs themselves.

The study, "Workers’ Remittances and Economic Growth in the Philippines" authored by economist Alvin P. Ang of the UST Social Research Center, found that the more OFWs sent per region, the lower the percentage of workers in the farm sector.

On the other hand, more OFWs sent per region tended to increase labor productivity. The observation, Mr. Ang said, is that "networks created by OFWs in their home regions [are] based on the hope that those left in the home country will be future OFWs themselves ... [T]hose who are left behind will try their best so that they will become better candidates as OFWs in the future."

At the national level, remittances have a positive effect on gross domestic product but results are mixed when brought down to the regional level, Mr. Ang said. First, regions that have sent workers abroad (Ilocos, Central and Southern Luzon, Western Visayas, Davao, and Metro Manila) are the ones that are urbanized and have lower poverty rates.

One conclusion is that those who are going abroad to work or migrate are not poor, the researcher said. The problem, however, is that the same urban centers tend to corner the bulk of OFW money, and since remittances are "private flows" and sent for very specific personal purposes, it takes a longer time for the economic benefits to reach the poor.

The study also reinforced observations that OFW money is mostly channeled to "conspicuous consumption," with data showing that regions that have sent the most OFWs also have the most construction activity as shown by the number of building permits. Regions that are less dependent on agriculture also tend to have more banks, the study showed.

OFW money could likewise be the reason why developers concentrate on building malls in urban regions, Mr. Ang said. The Philippines is the world’s third largest recipient of workers’ remittances after India and Mexico, with more than eight million Filipinos overseas. Last year, more than a million workers were deployed for work abroad. The country is also more dependent on OFW money than either foreign investments or official development assistance.

Monetary authorities expect remittances to have exceeded $12 billion for 2006, from $10.7 billion in 2005. The Philippines receives about $1 billion in foreign direct investments annually. Mr. Ang said the government must pursue reforms to stimulate the domestic economy regardless of the source of investments, to create new jobs "crucial in sustaining growth and reducing poverty and inequality among regions."

In reaction, Jeremaiah M. Opiniano, head of the Institute for Migration and Development Issues, said the study only shows that mostly urban centers reap the benefits of OFW dollars. And while there is no conclusive data, the implication is that remittances spur urbanization and migration to urban areas from rural areas.

Based on Mr. Ang’s findings on labor productivity and the number of workers in agriculture, remittances may not be contributing to entrepreneurship, he added. Four papers - "Diaspora, Remittances, and Poverty in RP’s Regions" by University of the Philippines School of Economics professor Ernesto M. Pernia, "Overseas Filipino’s Remittance Behavior" by UP professor emeritus Edita A. Tan, "Trade, Migration, and Poverty Reduction in the Globalizing Economy: The Case of The Philippines" by the United Nations World Institute for Development Economics Research (UN-WIDER), and "Enhancing the Efficiency of OFW Remittances" by the Asian Development Bank - earlier discussed problems hounding the distribution and use of OFW funds, namely:
* More developed regions manage to deploy more OFWs than poorer areas.
* More affluent, college-educated OFWs get higher wages than less-educated counterparts.
* "Ultra poor" families - defined by the UN-WIDER paper as those left landless even after land reform - are unable to send a member to work abroad due to lack of resources, particularly land parcels that can be used as collateral when borrowing money to pay processing and other fees.
* The fact that a significant amount of these funds are still sent outside formal channels (by an estimated 20% of OFWs) means they cannot be tracked accurately and hints of disincentives to use formal channels.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Say It Ain't So, Manny!

Was listening to Manny Pacquiao being interviewed on the radio this morning. He was being asked how he would be able to serve in Congress while training to fight in one of his megabuck fights.

He answered, naively and sincerely, that some Congressmen go to Congress only once a week, so time should not be a problem. And that during the times of the year where no fights are scheduled, he could go to work every day of the week, if there was work to be done!

So there you have it - the People's Champ has spoken: Congressmen do not really go to work full-time (gasp!), and even if they wanted to, what's the point if there's not much to accomplish anyway?

Good times ahead for the next few months, folks. The circus is back in town. And so are the clowns.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Basketball Trumps Music

THE SAN MIGUEL Philharmonic Orchestra and Chorale are dead.

Late last month, instrumentalists of the only corporate-supported orchestra in the country were summoned one by one by the big bosses who informed them of the non-renewal of their contracts.

Ditto with the members of the San Miguel Chorale.

Meanwhile, San Miguel continues to lavish millions on their four professional basketball teams.

I suppose it makes sense for San Miguel from a financial standpoint. But shouldn't we expect a greater sense of corporate social responsibility from one of our biggest (and most internationally respected companies)? After all, how big of a dent could it really have made on San Miguel's bottom line, and wouldn't it have been worth it?

On the other hand, one should note that there hasn't been that much public outrage about San Miguel's move, which also says something, I think.

P.S. The picture was taken in Kathmandu, Nepal where San Miguel Beer has had an increasing presence for a number of years now.

Sunday, February 4, 2007

Teaser for Sol

CANVAS will have an exhibit opening and book launch for SOL, an original children's story written by Agay Llanera, at the Ayala Museum on March 20, 2007.

Farley del Rosario, already a favorite of quite a few collectors, will illustrate. That's not just meaningless hype. We already have more people (30+) than there will be paintings (around 20) who have requested that they be put on the preview list.

Here's a sample of one of the book pieces that will be on display. If you want to be included in the list, just let us know by emailing info@canvas.ph.