Development

Pride: 50 Years and Beyond

What started as a relationship immediately after a 15-min hookup 13 years ago ended up in a solemn ceremony in Sofitel where John and Mark* exchanged rings and vowed to love each other for the rest of their lives. Call it what you want, but I find it impossibly romantic.

“So after you came, you just knew that you loved him?” I asked last night. “Yeah. We became a couple first then started dating.” What’s even more surprising to me was when they moved in to John’s family house, Mark had to pretend to be a bedspacer in John’s room. Both of their families don’t know, but I’m betting my pinky finger that they suspect but just can’t accept.

Pride is a celebration for those fighting for acceptance and equality. We fight for those who cannot speak – the basketball varsity boy who’s majorly infatuated with his classmate in an exclusive high school, the deeply religious young executive who fear that revealing his true self will turn his family against him, even that single mom who’s starting to fall in love with Anne, her fellow Yoga partner.

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These stories have existed in every generation, race and gender. Its influence is arguably more expansive than the civil rights and women’s rights movement.

“On June 28 1969, New York’s LGBT community rebelled against the repression and violence they faced at the hands of the police and state. A peaceful, non-confrontational approach had left much to be desired, and thus a fiery response in a period of protest and civil rights movements marked the beginning of a new phase of LGBT activism. One year later, the first Pride marches were held to commemorate the anniversary of the Stonewall riots.”

Next year, Pride will celebrate its golden anniversary! The West has started to adapt same sex unions, while at this part of the globe, we’re still fighting to be accepted by our families and the law. Those in the middle east and some African states are more severe – life in exchange for freedom of expression.

Technology has created pockets of avenues where people who hide can express themselves – through dating apps like Tinder and Grindr, to alternative personalities in Twitter, and user generated media in Blued. Media has always been an ally of the LGBTQ + fam community, but it’s comforting to see that we’re getting more shows that speak of acceptance like RuPaul’s Drag Race and Queer Eye.

In the next 50 years, I hope that we’ll see families and religious people join Pride. I think Filipinos can learn a lot by going to these celebration-protests because people seldom value the things we were born with – democracy, acceptance, etc, – and here, you can really see people rejoice that they are free to choose whom they want to love, even if society thinks otherwise.

*not their real names

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Development

A Page from the Habal Habal Diaries

Currently writing this as we are several thousands of feet above the Bay of Bengal. When we were lining up at the check in counter earlier, I was asked by my boss if I ever tried to backpack around the Philippines. Well, sort of but it’s more for work than for leisure. We were being paid to do it, which makes it more fun – from training board members of a cooperative in Compostela Valley to doing research in the wet markets of Tacloban, visiting the houses of farmers in Guiuan for interviews and habal-habaling around the countryside.

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The most memorable local fieldwork that I had was when Mel and I were assigned in Romblon for a several days to train this group on social entrepreneurship. From Batangas port, we had to take the ferry to Romblon. The trip was comfortable because we had our own beds and I got to go around the ship.

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Didn’t get the brief so I packed my long sleeves polo for the training. From our hotel, Mel and I rode at the back of a red pick up truck for about 45 minutes to reach this small barrio near the coast. Turns out that we have to do the training inside the house of the brgy captain with some farmers and vendors. I was too overdressed and I think had difficulty getting the message across. The people were really nice and I even taught them a secret handshake.

What made the trip memorable was when our partner organization, the Department of Agrarian Reform, asked us to wake up at 4am the next day – Saturday – for something special. I remember going out of our hotel room, it was still dark and was quite cold. There were two motorbikes waiting for us downstairs. We weren’t sure where they were taking us but we played along.

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As we sped through unlit streets, we could make out the first signs of the morning as rice fields near the foot of the mountain were illuminated by pink and purple light. It looked more spectacular because the fields were bathed in fog. The rays of the sun were crawling their way through the trees in the mountain that gave us an ethereal view of Romblon. It was so worth it to wake up at such an ungodly hour.

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After an hour and a half, we finally arrived in a deserted, crescent-shaped cove. We were told that you can have a clear view of the moon setting from there. Didn’t know that there was such a thing. So we watched for the moon to set (and it did gracefully) while we were standing over crystal clear life-filled shores of Romblon. We can even see schools of fish from where we stood.

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There weren’t any people except for us so it feels like you’re transported to another place. We walked around the shores for some more time until it was time to get some breakfast. There was a nearby joint where we could eat so we settled there. After that, we had to go back to the hotel because we were set to go back to Manila that afternoon.

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The only thing I remember after that was the ship speeding away from Romblon, then the purple orange sky when we were about to dock in Batangas. It really was a fieldwork to remember because of the uniqueness of the experience and the pure beauty of mother nature.

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I guess I’m writing about it again now to preserve the memory. It’s always good to look back the on the things that really made you feel alive, the moments that took your breath away.

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We were supposed to create a group that chronicles the life of development workers, starting with the contributions from our officemates. We wanted to call it Habal Habal Diaries because it was the common mode of transportation used to reach far flung areas – butt numbing 2 hour rides. We weren’t able to continue it, but if I were to contribute, this would be it.

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Development, Finance

Contributing to the Bayanihan Economy

I just read a paper written by the economist Cielito Habito on the “Solidarity Economy Movement” which started in North and Latin America. It talks about a system that creates inclusive growth for participants in the market economy whether you’re a consumer, firm owner, laborer or a capitalist. One element in this system – the Socially Responsible Investments (SRI) – caught my interest because it’s an easy avenue for people, especially those with money, to contribute to nation building.

It’s a challenge to make people understand social development. I remember giving a talk to one of the biggest universities in Manila on Social Entrepreneurship. The emcee gave an introduction on social entrepreneurship as if the subject is on merging business principles with social media – creating enterprises that maximize the use of Facebook and Twitter. Que horror! If the majority finds difficulty in learning social development, there must be another way to “capitalize” on our population.

One of the current trends is the increasing number of people who want to invest – mostly OFWs and young professionals. I have lots of friends who are not yet 100% sure where to put their money – stocks? mutual funds? in the bank? foreign exchange?

I am averse to putting my money in stocks, mutual funds and even time deposits because these just fuel the machinery of capitalism. Yes, there’s a possibility of a higher yield, but wouldn’t it be more worthwhile to have your investments fund micro lending for the poor, capital for social enterprises, or finance operations of an agricultural cooperative? SRI is another alternative.

SRI involves investors who invest not solely on the basic financial returns, but also on their commitment to social development. On a macro level, these are people who orient their investments toward ethically responsible productive firms, cooperatives, ethical banks, savings & loans solidarity funds, and the like. If you scan the market for these kinds of investments, you won’t easily find available options.

Yet, I know of a corporation that mobilizes resources from commercial banks, international agencies and SRIs (6.0% fixed annual return of investment) to combat poverty in the country. I also personally know founders of three groups who advocate financial freedom through investing (in stocks, mutual funds, foreign exchange, gold trading). Now if those groups can just integrate SRI from the corporation that I mentioned as an alternative investment vehicle in their program, that can be a big contribution to a more inclusive growth – or what we can call the Bayanihan Economy, as what Habito proposed.

It’s one thing for the students/members of those groups to be financially independent, but through SRI, the investor earns and the poor are also uplifted. Bayanihan happens when the weaker members of the society are helped by those who have the capacity to share the weight of the task. It’s ingrained in our culture, and I hope it transcends even in the financial markets.

Maybe a day will come when we can all pull out our investments from the stock market and allocate it to genuine companies and organizations that adhere to the Bayanihan Economy. I think SRI is the perfect alternative for those without the brains and time for development, but with the heart and money (and want to earn more money) to contribute to nation building.

Originally published on March 6, 2014 at Neil Palteng’s former blog

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