Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Paradise Lost?

Pristine white beaches, palm trees swaying in the breeze, sipping exotic fruit drinks. These are the images of tropical paradise.

But the Philippines, with it’s 7107 Islands (at low tide) has literally of thousands of miles of beach front property. In urban areas this property has often been relegated to the poorest areas. Note on the picture the densely populated waterfront compared to the rest of the city. While the open bays, gulf or sea offers a twice a day flush for raw sewage poured into it (the tide) the drawbacks of this kind of population density are far greater than the benefits. Disasters such as tsunamis, typhoons and epidemics sweep through these areas with devastating impact.

Yet these areas offer some of the finest in Philippine life too. People live in communities, know their neighbors and come to each other assistance when needed. What they lack in basic services is made up with tenacity of survival and sheer force of determination to make the best of it.

By all means, I do not want to glorify poverty. But I wonder if living so close to ones neighbor brings out the best in humanity that the folks, in the internet isolated affluent areas, have lost.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I arrived in Davao City, Mindanao having been scanned numerous times by infrared cameras seeking out anyone who might possibly be suffering from H1N1 virus, swine flu. People are wearing masks to protect them from an invisible enemy. The whole building where we normally hold the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute has been closed, only running on a skeleton crew, the bulk of the staff sent home. All because of one case of the flu among the students who normally inhabit the compound which includes a medical school. The remaining staff are cleaning walls with Clorox in order to 'disinfect' the whole place, a seeming quixotic goal in this fetid tropical air.

A government report in mid July states that over 745,000 people are displaced in Central Mindanao due to the fighting between the government (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). School compounds, safe havens for families who have no where else to go, displace students wanting to study. Now the Philippine military states that they view these displaced persons as host communities for enemy combatants. Indeed, the military has bombed areas close to where these displaced persons have huddled to escape areas of intense fighting. Children have been traumatized and hurt.

I juxtapose a world held captive by the latest news of a microscopic virus and three-quarters of a million people hostage to a military chasing 2 or 3 people that doesn't even make national headlines. Something in the scheme of human priorities seem wrong to me. Does it to you?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Philippines Once Again

I am off to Mindanao, Philippines once again. I have been hired as a facilitator for the CDA Collaborative Learning Projects Mindanao Listening Project. This is a project that solicits the experiences of recipients of international relief and development help. Through a dialogue process with a multitude of people impacted by this assistance lessons learned and best practice as well as gaps and challenges can be documented in an attempt to better the delivery of aid.

For a more complete picture of CDA Collaborative Learning Projects visit: http://www.cdainc.com/cdawww/default.php