JAIME ARISTOTLE B. ALIP,
March 21, 2022
Like breathing fresh air
after being cooped up for too long, people rejoiced after Alert
level 1 was declared in NCR and many regions this month. Mobility
has returned to pre-pandemic levels, a clear signal that the country
is recovering from the COVID-19 Omicron surge. Of course, optimism
is offset by concerns about developments in Ukraine and its global
repercussions. Right here and now, we are reeling from the dramatic
increase in fuel prices and bracing ourselves for the expected surge
in the cost of basic commodities.
The news that the
Philippine unemployment rate dropped to 6.4% in January 2022 as
against the 6.6% in December 2021 is, thus, welcome. This is
equivalent to 2.93 million jobless Filipinos, lower than the 3.27
million unemployed in December last year. It is also lower than the
3.96 million jobless Filipinos in January 2021. The employment rate
increased to 93.6%, higher than the 93.4% in December 2021 and the
91.2% in January 2021. In terms of magnitude, the number of employed
persons increased by 1.77 million. This increase in our labor
participation rate is a sign that our economy is beginning to
recover. The declaration of the lowest quarantine restrictions in
Metro Manila and nearby provinces, which account for about
two-thirds of the economy, raises hope for our economic recovery.
Emilia Gabin is one of the
many Filipinos who hope that the reopening of the economy will not
only help recover losses, but also bring back the jobs wiped out by
the pandemic. Emilia is a micro-entrepreneur from Barangay
Alejandrea in Jiabong, Western Samar. Her food processing enterprise
produces adobong tahong, tahong and shrimp crackers, and squid
chips. Emilia started her venture by selling the snacks at P1 per
pack in nearby schools and bus stations. She joined CARD, a
microfinance organization which lent her money to increase
production, and her micro-enterprise grew.
Emilia’s business in 2013, when Super Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda)
devastated Visayas. With perseverance, she and her family were able
to turn things around. The capital infusion and marketing support
from CARD helped them open branches in Tacloban and Catbalogan.
After the products were registered with the DTI in 2015, her
business expanded, and she opened more stores to sell her brand of
JJED Food products. She developed new seafood-based products,
sourced raw materials from the community, and her micro-enterprise
provided jobs and livelihood to many. She even started to market
their products in Metro Manila.
Then the pandemic
happened. At that time, JJED was heavily into production, preparing
for a DTI Trade Fair in Manila. This did not push through due to the
pandemic, and the lockdowns had devastating effects on the
micro-enterprise. Product distribution became difficult, and
eventually, they had to close stores because there were very few
walk-in customers. When their stocks expired in storage, they
decided to just stop production. The business stoppage was
heartbreaking for Emilia, not just because of worries for her
family, but because her workers and their families also lost their
livelihood. Her suppliers also lost their source of income.
aggravated their economic woes, but Emilia did not lose hope. She
reopened her business as soon as the quarantine restrictions were
lifted in 2020. Her employees happily returned to work and resumed
production. But everything has changed due to the pandemic: mobility
remained limited, and safety concerns made everything difficult. So,
Emilia decided to diversify, and thought of products which she can
easily sell to neighbors and nearby communities.
She made lumpia, mixing
JJED’s main ingredient, tahong and other seafoods, with local
vegetables in their area. It was a hit, and soon, Emilia was selling
lumpia even in places as far as Leyte. This product allowed Emilia’s
enterprise to survive and serve many areas which remained on high
community alert levels throughout the pandemic. Eventually, the
economy began to reopen and her clients from NCR and other provinces
returned. With the support of CARD, she re-opened her stores and
actively sold her products online. Soon, she has resellers from as
far as Canada and Dubai.
Emilia and her family
admit that 2020 and 2021 were difficult years for their small
business. But they never thought of giving up it up, thinking of the
workers and suppliers who depend on them for livelihood. And so,
they plod on, participating in DTI Trade Fairs, exploring new
markets opportunities and developing new products. Their food
production enterprise is not big, but the employment and livelihood
opportunities it provides cannot be gainsaid.
Enterprises like those of
Emilia’s, with an asset size of up to P100 million and less than 200
employees are classified as micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs).
The sector is responsible for 40 percent of our Gross Domestic
Product (GDP) and employ more than 5 million workers or
approximately 63 percent of our workforce.
We need to support MSMEs,
as they are the key to economic recovery. They are engines of
growth, helping in poverty reduction by creating jobs for our
growing labor force. How can we help Emilia and entrepreneurs like
her? There are a few things we can do:
1. Provide financial
support – the government can provide loans, grants or subsidies to
provide MSMEs immediate relief. As proposed in the Bayanihan
stimulus package, it should incentivize financial institutions to
provide credit to give the sector much-needed capital infusion. In
the long-term, tax relief and wage subsidy programs for key
industries may even be considered.
2. Ease the regulatory
burden – simplify registration requirements and reduce the cost of
doing business. This is important, especially since majority of
MSMEs are into food production.
3. Business development
support – provide financial literacy and business development
training to help MSMEs access credit, ensure viability and address
liquidity issues. Given the pandemic-shaped landscape, they also
need training on how to operate in a digitalized market environment.
Big things often have
small beginnings. Let us support our MSMEs.
The true value of
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA,
March 16, 2022
“BEHOLD, we are going up
to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief
priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death, and
hand him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and scourged and
crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” (Mt 20,18-19)
With these words, we have
to understand that like Christ we have to learn to suffer, to see
the redemptive value of suffering. We have to realize that in this
life of ours in this world, we can never avoid suffering in one form
Suffering is part of our
human condition that is wounded by sin and all sorts of weaknesses
and our natural human limitations, and the fact that we are meant to
live a supernatural life which we can never attain unless we are
truly with God, and the fact is, we seldom are truly with God. We
can only be completely suffering-free when we are with God in
But we are given a way of
how to handle our suffering properly, to the extent of converting
our suffering as a way to our own salvation and eternal happiness.
And that is always to follow the example of Christ as he went
through all the suffering in his redemptive life here on earth.
We have to be willing to
suffer the way Christ suffered for all of us. That way, we attain
the true essence of our humanity which is love, channeling the love
of God for us in us. No wonder then that Christ himself said:
“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s
friends.” (Jn 15,13)
No wonder also that as St.
Peter said in his first Letter, “He (Christ) did not retaliate when
he was insulted, nor threaten revenge when he suffered. He left his
case in the hands of God, who always judges fairly.” (2,23) We have
to learn to restrain our urge to make revenge whenever we are
offended in some way by others.
It is this willingness to
suffer that would show how, like Christ, we can go all the way to
giving ourselves completely to everyone, irrespective of how they
are. That is also why Christ commanded us, as an integral component
of true love, that we even love our enemies.
In true love, the lover
goes all the way to identifying himself with the beloved with the
view of giving the beloved what is objectively good for both the
lover and the beloved. There is a kind of unification between the
two that is based on what is objectively good for both.
We have to train ourselves
to develop this kind of love. And we can use the usual conditions,
concerns and circumstances in our daily dealings with others to
develop that kind of love. Whenever some differences and conflicts
occur among ourselves, we should be willing to suffer for the
others, bearing their burdens, even if we also try to sort out and
settle these differences and conflicts as peacefully and charitably
This willingness to suffer
should be an active thing, not a passive one, waiting for suffering
to come. We have to look for the opportunities to suffer. That would
be a real proof that we are truly in love. What is more, such
attitude would help us in protecting ourselves from temptations,
sins and all other forms of evil!
the new COMELEC Chairman and Commissioners as it urges more
transparency in the 2022 elections
A press statement by the National
Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL)
March 10, 2022
NAMFREL wishes the new
Chairman and Commissioners of the Commission on Elections (Comelec)
all the best in their new posts. Their appointment comes at a
crucial period as the Commission prepares for the upcoming May 9,
Foremost of the challenges
ahead is securing the elections and ensuring that it is conducted in
a fair and free manner. The Automated Election System Law requires
that the electoral process "shall be transparent and credible, and
that the results shall be fast, accurate and reflective of the
genuine will of the people" (Section 2, Republic Act No. 9369).
NAMFREL believes that the
Commission's adherence to this policy of transparency and
inclusivity is important in order to earn public confidence and to
boost the integrity of the Commission, and of the elections.
NAMFREL commends efforts
by the Comelec, the Department of Education, and the Department of
Information and Communications Technology to require teachers who
will serve in the Electoral Boards (EBs) to enroll in the Philippine
National Public Key Infrastructure (PNPKI). The enrollment would
have allowed them to use their personal digital signatures on the
Election Returns. This would have enhanced the security of the 2022
election results compared to previous elections, when only a
pre-generated signature of the vote-counting machine was used.
However, with only nine
weeks before election day, NAMFREL expresses concern on the
following issues in the preparations by the Comelec, as observed by
stakeholders, and which were made public during the March 9, 2022
Senate Committee on Electoral Reforms and People’s Participation
1. The difficulties met by
Comelec in procuring the cable assembly needed to connect the
I-Button readers to a server in order to produce the I-Buttons for
digital signing. This has reduced the adoption of digital signing by
the teachers who will serve as EBs merely to a pilot test in some
areas, instead of nationwide. NAMFREL urges the Comelec to pursue
other alternatives like seeking local companies with the capacity to
fabricate the required cable assembly. A last resort, NAMFREL
recommends making the election results transmission package -- which
shall include the electronically transmitted election returns – in
protobuf format, which shall include the xml sig and public key
certificates for validation available through the transparency
2. Observation of the
ballot printing at the National Printing Office and in the
operations at the Comelec Sta. Rosa warehouse has not been opened to
election observation groups, including accredited citizens’ arms.
NAMFREL observers were invited to these in previous elections.
NAMFREL urges the Comelec to open the ballot printing and the
operations at the Sta. Rosa warehouse for observation by
stakeholders, including accredited citizens' arms.
Stakeholders’ request for
information on the regional hubs which the COMELEC plans to set up
with DOST and DICT, and to allow observation on election day,
remains pending. NAMFREL recommends opening up the facilities for
observation during the election period until termination of
3. The unresolved issue of
the alleged hacking reported on January 10, which may impact on the
credibility of the election results, and which has the potential of
inviting questions on the ability of the Comelec to secure the
elections. NAMFREL recommends speedy resolution of the issue.
4. The lack of guidelines
as of this date to open up observation by accredited election
monitors of the operations in the various data centers where the
Comelec Central Server, backup server, and the transparency server
are located, including access to regional hubs. NAMFREL recommends
the issuance of such guidelines and to allow stakeholders, including
accredited citizens' arms, to field observers in the various data
centers and regional hubs during the election period until
termination of operations.
NAMFREL understands the
challenges that the Comelec is facing as it prepares for the
elections given the varying COVID-19 alert levels. However, this
should not be an excuse to curtail observation activities and to
deny access to pertinent data. The Comelec may livestream
activities, such as ballot printing, logistics, and Pre-election
Logic and Accuracy Test (preLAT), which is not new to the
Commission, as it already streams on social media the e-Rallies of
national candidates daily, and its Memorandum of Agreement signing
The Comelec should be
commended for finding ways to ensure that voters and election
workers will be safe on Election Day. However, it has been
recommended that the Comelec extend this diligence to the
pre-election and post-election periods, ensuring the safety of other
election stakeholders like election monitoring organizations, media,
political parties, and other concerned groups, without preventing
said stakeholders from doing their monitoring work. The cornerstone
of the trust and confidence bestowed on the elections is anchored on
the inclusiveness and visibility of these various processes and
information to the voting public.
desire for heaven
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, email@example.com
February 27, 2022
THAT’S true. Despite our
weaknesses, mistakes, sins, etc., we have in our heart of hearts an
inherent desire for heaven. As the Catechism would put it, “This
desire (for happiness) is of divine origin: God has placed it in the
human heart in order to draw man to the One who alone can fulfill
This truth of our faith is
illustrated in that gospel episode where a rich young man approached
Christ, asking what he had to do to gain eternal life. (cfr. Mk
10,17-27) As that gospel story unfolded, Christ told him first to
follow the commandments, and when the young man said that he had
observed all those, Christ then told him to “sell what you have, and
give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come,
Well, we know how the
young man reacted to that response of Christ. It was a sad ending,
precisely because the young man found it hard and was unwilling to
follow what Christ told him. That’s when Christ said, “How hard it
is for those who have wealth to enter the Kingdom of God!...It is
easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one
who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
We have to realize that to
meet our inherent desire for eternal happiness, for heaven, we need
to free ourselves from any attachments to earthly things, even as we
use them and even enjoy them in our earthly affairs. The things of
this world should be a means for us to be with God. They should not
be a competitor with God.
That is why we have to
live in the strictest sense possible the virtue of Christian poverty
that allows us to use the things of this world to give glory to God
and to lead us to heaven.
We cannot overemphasize
the strategic relevance of this virtue. With all the glut of
material and temporal things now on us, we need to be more conscious
and adept in living and developing this virtue of detachment.
I don’t think we can
afford to be casual about this concern anymore. The worldly things
are now so attractive, so tempting and so riveting that if we are
not careful, there’s no way but be swept away by its rampaging
worldly laws and impulses.
This virtue has the
primary purpose of emptying our mind and heart of anything that can
compete or, worse, replace the love for God and for others which is
proper to all of us.
It’s not about running
away from worldly things, much less, of hating the goods of the
earth and our temporal affairs, but of knowing how to handle them,
so as not to compromise the fundamental law of love that should rule
To repeat, it is not just
a matter of emptying ourselves but rather of filling ourselves with
what is proper to us. In short, we practice detachment to acquire
and enhance the attachment that is proper to us as God’s image and
likeness and as God’s children.
It’s quite clear that a
requirement for entering heaven is detachment from earthly things.
This should be clear to all of us, and should guide us in the way we
use the things of the world. These things should lead us to God and
to others, not isolate us, building up our own world and destiny.
EDSA 1, the lessons we must learn
NCCP statement for the 36th year
commemoration of EDSA People Power Uprising
February 25, 2022
The National Council of
Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) is one with the Filipino people
in celebrating the 36th anniversary of the 1986 EDSA People Power
Uprising. This momentous event in history showed to the world how we
as a people acted valiantly together to put an end to a
much-abhorred dictatorship. As we commemorate this occasion, we
invite the faithful for a deep and meaningful reflection.
Those who stood their
ground during those dark times taught us that we should not take for
granted the basic freedoms that are now enshrined in our Bill of
Rights. We should never forget that during the dark days of Martial
Law, basic rights like the freedom of speech, freedom of the press,
and the freedom to peaceably assemble, to name a few, were violently
curtailed. The numbers speak for themselves: around 70,000 people
were imprisoned; 34,000 were tortured; and, 3,240 were killed.
While the people’s civil
and political rights were being violated, the country was being
robbed blind by the dictator, his family, and his cronies. These
were all documented and proven in court. Ferdinand E. Marcos and his
wife Imelda were even listed in the World Guinness Book of Records
with the dubious distinction of committing the “The Greatest Robbery
of a Government”.
have passed, and the promise that was the 1986 People Power Uprising
seems to have been squandered. Under the different post-Marcos
governments, the majority of our people remain mired in poverty
while only a handful became richer. Human rights violations also
persisted and the climate and culture of impunity worsened.
Under the present
dispensation, these problems became even more glaring and we have
been common witnesses to the erosion of human rights and the dignity
of the people. The War on Drugs that took thousands of lives, the
various reports of corruption, the militarized and unscientific
handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the negligence during typhoons
and other natural catastrophes, and the special favors given to
Pres. Duterte’s friends and allies were all reminiscent of the dark
years of Martial Law.
Nevertheless, we must
never forget the courage and vigilance of the people that spurred
EDSA 1. Moreover, EDSA 1 taught us the lesson that if the state
fails to honor democracy and freedom that must be enjoyed in full by
its citizens, then it becomes the people’s responsibility to fight
for and restore it. It is a reminder for the sovereign people and a
warning to government officials that the people’s collective power
is capable of bringing down rulers from their thrones and sending
the rich empty (cf. Luke 1: 52-53), especially when human life,
rights, and dignity are threatened and disrespected. Denouncing
evils in our society is a sacred task and we must work collectively
to ensure God’s plan of ushering peace and justice in our land.
Now that the National
Elections is imminent, may we muster the same courage, vigilance,
and active participation of those who fought 36 years ago. Let us
choose candidates who have a proven record and platform for
respecting human rights, promoting peace, and advocating for
people’s economic agenda. We must resist any candidate that will
potentially bring back, in any form, the Martial law years. May we
continue to guard our democracy by making sure that no dictator or
those who benefited from the plunder of our nation, will ever gain a
foothold in Malacañang ever again. Let us continue to pray, act and
hold fast in protecting our rights and democracy. May the spirit of
those who fought for freedom during the 1986 People Power uprising
continue to guide us.
education and poverty
JAIME ARISTOTLE B. ALIP, Ph.D.
February 12, 2022
There are many reasons to
celebrate this month. February 1 marks the Lunar New Year, also
known as Chinese New Year, which will be celebrated across the world
until February 15. Omicron may have given us an inauspicious start
in January, but I am so glad that we are kicking off the Year of the
Water Tiger with news that COVID-19 cases are declining nationwide.
February 14, of course, is
Valentine’s Day. Many lucky couples will celebrate this holiday with
love, flowers and chocolates. My wife and I will make do with our
usual morning tête-à-tête over kapeng barako and pandesal, our
weathered hearts full of celebrations past. With our kids and apos,
the love of friends and colleagues who are like extended family to
us, every day feels like Valentine’s. And we are grateful for that.
I am also praying that the
IATF will brighten our hearts on February 14, when it announces the
updated alert levels as it continues to monitor existing
restrictions in light of the decline in COVID-19 infections. The
Philippines is now back to moderate risk status, an improvement from
the previous high and critical risk classification. I hope that we
can all look forward to the reopening of the economy. Let us show
our love for others by following health safety standards like
frequent handwashing, observing physical distance, and wearing of
There is another reason to
celebrate February 14. It is the 21st anniversary of the CARD-MRI
Development Institute (CMDI), a globally-recognized learning
institution grown from our humble corner of the world, the scenic
province of Laguna. How CMDI came about is also a love story, hewn
from our decades of rural development work with the marginalized
CMDI began as the training
unit for personnel of the Center for Agriculture and Rural
Development (CARD), a non-government organization, which provides
microfinance and related services to poor women. As CARD grew into
several mutually-reinforcing institutions (MRIs) in response to the
needs of our expanding clientele, our capacity-building needs also
became more complex. We were rather naïve when we started CARD in
1986. Full of idealism, armed with limited funds and boundless hope,
we thought we only needed to provide microcredit to transform the
lives of our clients. But things were not that simple.
You see, poverty has many
roots, and lack of education is one of them. Working directly with
the poor --especially those in the rural areas -- we saw this
firsthand. Our clients suffer many forms of deprivation and their
needs go beyond microfinance. Providing them with funds for
livelihood is good, yes, but more is needed: financial literacy,
training in microenterprises, marketing support, microinsurance, and
a host of other things.
Thus, we established the
CARD Training Center in 2000 in Barangay Tranca, Bay, Laguna. In
there, we trained not just our staff, but our clients. Later on,
other organizations also approached us for their training needs. And
this is how our training unit evolved into the CMDI: a learning
resources network that provides an array of practitioner-led
training and education services to our staff and members, as well as
other microfinance practitioners seeking advanced education in
applied microfinance. It is now a government-recognized educational
institution with facilities in Baguio, Pasay, and Masbate, as well
as a campus in Tagum, Davao.
Nelson Mandela once said
that “Education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the
world.” The story of CMDI certainly proves this truth. As of
December 2021, CMDI has trained 1,570,848 clients under its Credit
with Education (CwE) program. Imagine the multiplier effect that
more than a million individuals trained on health, business,
microinsurance, disaster preparedness, and credit discipline could
have on their communities. The impact of these trainings had been
felt not just by our clients and their families. Through many
disasters and emergencies, our clients have become community
leaders, sharing with others what they have learned from us.
To help break the
inter-generational cycle of poverty, CMDI now offers affordable
education to clients and their children. It offers Senior High
School, TESDA-accredited courses and baccalaureate programs. CMDI
has granted more than 15,000 educational scholarships to poor and
Why focus on education?
Education is crucial
because it directly correlates with many solutions to poverty,
including economic growth and reduced income inequality. It is also
the highest aspirations of our clients: that their children get an
education. To poor parents, sending their children to school is the
greatest act of love.
Many Filipinos lack access
to education. According to DepEd, more than 3 million were not able
to enroll last year, while the latest PSA data (2017) show that we
have 3.53 million out-of-school youth, half of them from families
whose income fall within the bottom 30 percent of the population.
Based on PSA’s 2018 Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI), which
serves to complement the income-based measure of poverty, indicators
on educational attainment consistently had the highest incidence of
deprivation among Filipino families.
CMDI, then, is our humble
contribution to filling this educational gap. Providing training to
clients empowers and enables them to change their lives. We provide
affordable quality education to help our clients realize their dream
of securing their children’s future. It is also an act of love on
And because February is
the month of love, let me end with this quote from Brazilian
educator and philosopher Paulo Freire: “Education is an act of love,
thus, an act of courage.”
We are courageous in our
Let’s go viral
Fr. ROY CIMAGALA
January 20, 2022
LIKE Christ, we should try
to attract as many people as possible in order to lead them to
Christ. In a sense, we should be like today’s influencers in the
media and the cyberworld who with their gimmicks manage to go viral
and trending with whatever messages they want to convey.
Of course, we should do
this with the proper rectitude of intention, which is that
everything should be done for the glory of God and to truly help
people in their spiritual life and in their relation with God and
with everybody else. We have to rid ourselves of any ulterior
In the gospel, we can see
how Christ managed to attract many people mainly due to his
tremendous power of preaching and the miracles he made. But in all
these, he always warned the people not to make him known. He did all
the wonderful things trying his best to pass unnoticed. This can be
observed, for example, in the gospel of Mark, chapter 3, verses 7 to
We need to realize more
deeply that we are meant to have a universal sense of apostolate, of
helping lead people back to God. Let’s always keep in mind that
mandate Christ gave to his apostles before he ascended into heaven.
“Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of
the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them
to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28,19-20)
It’s a mandate that is
actually meant for all the disciples of Christ and believers of God.
We have to have a universal sense of apostolate. As one saint would
put it, of 100 souls we should be interested in 100.
For this purpose, we cannot exaggerate the need for us to master the
teachings of Christ, the doctrine of our Christian faith. Of course,
we can only achieve that if we make the effort to identify ourselves
more closely with Christ, who is not only a historical character,
but a living person who continues to guide us and to share his power
We also have to learn how
to adapt our language to the mentality of the people, always taking
note of their culture, their temperament, and all the other
conditionings that describe them. Let’s remember that the Christian
faith is full of mysteries that certainly are over our head, and the
challenge is for us to know how to make them appreciated, loved and
lived. Obviously, we always need to beg for God’s grace for this
But we have to know how to
convey the supernatural truths of our faith in a human and
attractive way, without compromising the integrity of these truths.
We should always be monitoring the developments of the world as we
go along, so that we would know how to present the Christian
doctrine in a way that flows with the wavelength of the people
today, especially the young.
This is when we can try to
use appropriate memes and other catchy slogans, so popular these
days. With rectitude of intention, let’s not be shy from making our
evangelization to go viral and trending.
Again, in all of these, we
should never forget that the first means we have to use are the
spiritual and supernatural ones: prayer, sacrifices, recourse to the
sacraments, continuing study of doctrine and formation, etc.
Best gifts for
JAIME ARISTOTLE B. ALIP, PhD
December 23, 2021
Pandemic or not, the
Christmas season is here. With the cool amihan wind comes a hopeful
air, so soothing after almost two years of uncertainty and fear.
These days, Christmas carols play in malls and radio stations,
parols light the streets, and holiday decorations brighten our
homes. Many Filipinos, young and old, are preoccupied with gifts:
what to gifts to give, what gifts to receive, worries about being
unable to give to loved ones. The devastation wrought by Typhoon
Odette has put a damper on things, but, like what happened in the
wake of Typhoon Yolanda in 2013, the catastrophe has brought out the
best of the Filipino. People from all walks of life are trying to
chip in, with social media filled with news about donation drives,
prayers for those affected and a myriad of stories of how people are
reaching out to those affected.
Gift giving at Christmas
is a Christian tradition that is widely practiced around the world,
symbolic of the tributes made to the baby Jesus by the Three Wise
Men in the story of the Nativity. It is heartening to see that in
this difficult time, in the wake of Odette’s devastation, even with
the threat of Omicron and fears of another COVID-19 surge, people
are rising above difficulties to give the best gift of all:
Unusual, but Necessary
We all strive to give
gifts that our families and friends would appreciate. The internet
is full of lists of gift suggestions – food, toys, bags, shoes,
books, household, and office items. Everything from day-to-day stuff
to the bizarre and unusual is being offered. And there is also my
personal favorite, the list of gifts that give back. These are the
ones that support important causes, with proceeds going to
charities, non-profits, and communities.
This year, I hope we give
gifts that transform lives. We can still give our loved ones their
favorite stuff, but we can buy from sources where part of the
proceeds goes to charity. We can also make donations in the name of
our loved ones to support causes that are important to them.
instead of giving cash or toys to our inaanaks, we can open a kiddie
savings account for them, giving not just the monetary value of the
items we originally intended to give but also paving the way for
financial literacy. This is important, because recent studies show
that Filipinos struggle to understand basic financial concepts, with
a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) survey showing that 41% of
Filipinos can only answer one of three financial literacy questions
correctly and a meager eight percent can answer three. BSP data also
show that about 36.9 million Filipino adults have no bank accounts.
This significant number of unbanked Filipinos (48% of the country's
adult population) is brought on by factors other than low-income
levels. To address the situation, BSP is promoting financial
inclusion. The DepEd is integrating financial education in the K to
12 Basic Education Curriculum. The private sector is also helping,
with fintechs and banks reaching out to low-income groups and
helping microfinance institutions serve the poor in remote and
underserved areas. This Christmas, we can help their initiatives in
our own little ways. Aside from kiddie savings, we can get kids
started on financial literacy by giving them books or board games
that help explain basic financial concepts.
We can also give the gift
of education, probably the most transformative gift of all. We can
donate to scholarship funds. Finance a poor kid’s education for a
semester. Or enroll family members in online courses or projects
that will give them new skills – painting, designing, photography,
pottery, cooking, baking. The possibilities are endless.
The gift of livelihood is
another great offering. While not everyone is in the position to
offer direct employment to others, we can still open doors by giving
referrals and linking people to those with job openings. We can also
tell our kasambahays about government offices or MFIs that provide
livelihood opportunities so they can encourage their family members
to join. Maybe, we help someone turn their hobby into a business. If
your teenager enjoys writing fiction, you can give him a
subscription to online resources that would help him get published.
If your sister makes lovely artworks or handicrafts, you can enroll
her in courses that would help her sell her creations online. You
can help your titos and titas who like to bake get started on their
online food delivery business. Or you can refer them to
organizations like the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development
Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), which supports
micro-small-and medium enterprises.
As we are now almost two
years into the COVID-19 pandemic, health is important. Let us give
loved ones gifts that will help them take care of their health. Give
healthier versions of your friends’ favorite foods. Give them
fitness tracker gadgets to help them monitor their daily goals. Or
give them yoga mats, water bottles, small exercise gears like
dumbbells and jump ropes. And because we live in the midst of a
pandemic, the best gift of all would be face masks. Washable ones,
so we can minimize the carbon footprint. In fact, it would be good
if we can give away face masks to strangers.
And in the wake of Typhoon
Odette which displaced hundreds of thousands of our kababayans, let
us give the gift of charity. Join one of the many donation drives to
assist victims. Government agencies and private sector have called
for volunteers. Many MFIs and mutual benefit associations are also
playing a big role in helping clients in relief and rehabilitation.
Let us all join these efforts and help affected communities in
Palawan, Southern Leyte, Eastern Samar, Agusan, Surigao, Cebu and
Bohol. They have lost their homes, livelihood, loved ones. The
communities are still submerged in floods, infrastructures had been
destroyed, and so they lack food, water, clothing, and other basic
necessities. Helping them would be among the best gift we can give
Letting Gifts into Our
It has been a difficult
two years since COVID-19 entered our lives. Then, just as things
were beginning to improve, Typhoon Odette came. Yet, amidst its
devastation, the all-important Filipino value – malasakit – still
pervades. Filipinos are helping those affected by Odette, giving
their resources, time and effort to even in this difficult time of
pandemic. It is a giving of self that should be celebrated.
Gifts are signs of
affection. It is an important part of human interaction, defining
relationships and strengthening bonds. And it is often the giver,
rather than the recipient, who reaps the biggest rewards from a
And so, as we greet the
holidays, let us give the best gifts we can: gifts that will help
our loved ones cope with the changes and challenges of the times.
Let us give lasting gifts. The gift of hope. The gift of education.
The gift of trust. The gift of livelihood opportunities. The gift of
financial literacy. Gifts that contribute to people’s financial
security and health. These are unusual gifts, true, but they have
the greatest potential for transforming people’s lives.
Life itself is a gift. Let
us give gifts that will keep on giving.