Are you hungry? According to Gloria, if you are in the Cordilleras (except Benguet) then you are. So she came up with this Accelerated Hunger Mitigating Program (AHMP) to feed those hungry people from the boondocks. Now they are giving smelly NFA rice to students in school. But truth be told, those rice are now being used as “megmeg” or chicken feed by some families we know.
Anyway the “feed the hungry” program of Gloria, the Patroness of Hungry People, does not seem to be sitting well with Cordillera officials. [Or maybe it’s not the program itself that is upsetting them but the fact that the Cordilleras is being branded as a hungry region.] Here’s what some of our officials said according to Sunstar Baguio:
“As far as I am concerned, hunger is not a concern in Mountain Province.” — Mountain Province Governor Maximo Dalog.
“We may be having a malnutrition because of the (imbalanced diet we have), but not hunger.” — Ifugao Governor Teddy Baguilat.
“They may suffer from malnutrition, as a result of the imbalanced diet, but they eat three times a day and never go hungry.” — Agriculture Assistant Regional Director Pedro Baliang.
“Generally, the so-called poor in the Cordillera region are not that extremely poor economically, but many cannot afford the necessities that make a decent life. Many are malnourished but we do not see the face of endemic hunger and starvation that stalk whole societies and tribes of Africa.” — Presidential Assistant for Cordillera Affairs Thomas Killip.
Really Tom? You should know better! Do you have to put down our friends in Africa to get your message across?
Anyway, the above officials are against the characterization of the Cordilleras as a hungry region because it puts them in a bad light. We agree with them of course that hunger is not a problem in the region. We also believe that the money being spent on those smelly and blackish NFA rice [it’s blackish because of the iron bits they add] should be used to fund more important things like, say, improving public health services. Or what about using the fund to teach iCordilleras how to fish? After all, didn’t a wise man say that it is better to teach man how to fish rather than just giving him fish?
The thing with Gloria’s anti-hunger program is that it is nothing but a gimmick. We’re sure that next year, in her state of the nation address (SONA), she will be boasting about the millions of tribal Cordillerans she fed and are thus no longer hungry. Want to bet? After all, wasn’t it two years ago when she brought a kid and his grandpa to Congress to serve as her props during her SONA? She went, “Look at them, look at their bare feet. I gave them land so they will be able to finally buy slippers.”
Cordillera officials of course were applauding like hell. The fact that they were being patronized and that their kailiyans were being used as props is lost on them. Closeness to the patron, or the desire to be close to the patron, will do that to you.
Now, if Gloria is really serious about improving the lives of the people of the Cordilleras, what she should do is to tell those companies who are extracting the natural resources of the region to pay their taxes in the region. Second, instead of sending foreign companies to extract the region’s resources, she should help local communities be in control of those resources. If there is going to be mining, or logging, or building of dams for electricity, then Gloria should help the community or the local government do it. We’re sure they will be mindful of the environmental consequences of their activities because they, after all, live in those communities.
Third, the government should control the importation of vegetables. Importation should only be resorted to if local producers cannot meet the demand of consumers. Such is not the case at present because importation is being used to keep the price of vegetables ridiculously low (cabbage at P2/kilo for instance) at the expense of hardworking farmers.
There are other things she could do, but doing any of the above suggestions would be a good start. We were hoping that Tom Killip, given his background, would be saying these things to Gloria and other people in power but nope, he has made himself irrelevant (but he does have a strong say on where the President spends her Cordillera visits) by coming up with statements that goes “Oh we’re doing better than those tribes of Africa”.
But we will eat our words and will stop criticizing Tom Killip and Gloria if they replace these gimmicky programs [which don’t have any lasting impact whatsoever] with ones that empower people and local communities.
PHOTO CREDIT: instockphoto.