Sunday, 8 December 2013

Estancia, Iloilo: SELLING THE FILIPINO SOUL TO THE VULTURES




INSENSITIVITY TO HUMANITY AND ANCESTRAL DOMAIN
Filipino towns through the centuries  have had its public market  co-exists with its public town plaza, public rural health center,  public parks, public barangay centers and typically a century-old church or nice neighbourhood sari-sari stores of familiar faces and merchandise to sell. Remove one of those, and one will hurt the social and cultural heritage of a typical Filipino community.

Estancia, Iloilo, badly stricken by Yolanda with 100 deaths, 5,000 evacuees from the awful oil spill of a power barge, nice and sprawling but now-ghost-town schools, dotting islands with no food and shelter and  hard-working fishermen with fishing boats for their livelihood all gone—all  now  being slaughtered by insensitivities to humanity  of a very few un-thinking people at its town Municipal Hall.

WRONG TIMING
After Yolanda, the municipal hall ( “municipio”) , should have never ever dealt with Gaisano—now known in Estancia as opportunist and user. In the first place, the municipio has still huge responsibility to take care of the sufferings of its people. What?  Our officials hugged Gaisano meantime Estanciahanons were hungry, un-protected from the snail pace oil spill clean up, our homes have no roofs and power, our schools are closed indefinitely. This makes the whole town angry. Yet the municipio is mum. Gaisano has not even sent relief goods to our people, not that I know of.

MULTIBILLIONAIRES STEPPING ON THE SMALLEST OF FISH AND VEGETABLE VENDORS
Gaisano, a multi-billion Chinese conglomerate, is ready to crush the smallest of our Filipino  micro economies. It  is a typical example of how imbalanced  our economic growth can be  without respect to our small producers and traders. In many countries, the small and medium industries are the back bone of their economies which also ripple off to better social services of the majority by giving them work and sustaining our pride in our tradition. 


Sorry, Gaisano, you are not going to help our small fishermen and our farmers sustain their  local source of livelihood because your merchandise is mostly  90% made in China. You are only helping yourself and the few men whose interests we do not know. How can we support foreign economies when we can not even support our own? And Gaisano should learn that anything imported we buy depletes 30% of our monies from the  national treasury.  
 
Veronica de la cruz, 76 years old, has been a vendor at the Estancia Public Market since she was "dalaga" ( single). She sells small items like handmade bracelets from 5 Pesos ( USD 0.11) up. She sells some unexpensive toys which Gaisano can replace with digital games in a mall where high school students would rather skip classes and converge in gaming centers. She is not fully aware about what is happening and tomorrow she will just wake up to be moved near the coastal area--risking her life when the next storm will come-- because the multi-billionaire Gaisano will take over her place. Will Gaisano preserve those charming smiles she gives to Estanciahanons and strangers everyday for the past 50 years she has been in the market?
Iniga Druello, 69 years old, cleaning her "kulitis" ( local spinach like vegetables at the public market. She has been selling local vegetables she gets from the far flung barrios for 45 years. She knows my mother so well as she was her "suki" ( favorite buyer) of her vegetables. She said " Ay abaw Toto, anak ka gali ni Nanay Elving? Kung ari sia subong, maapin gid na siya sa amon. Palangga gid kami nia." ( (My son, you are the son of Nanay Elving? If she were alive, she will protect us here. She loved us so much). We all know that stories by  town folks  are preserved by its own people, not by the likes of Gaisano.  She can not imagine her life without her favorite public market where many of Estanciahanons come to see them everyday. Will Gaisano ever heal the wound in our heart as Estanciahanon when Nang Iniga will tell us  her stories about the public market she lived with for more than four decades? 
Nellie Mabasa, 70 years old, selling "buyo" and "malam-an" ( traditional mouth concoction for rural elders) who has selling them for 40 years at the Estancia Public Market. Will Gaisano sell "buyo" to sustain our cultural tradition?
Iglesias Malunes, may be the younger set of women in the market whose colleques are twice over her age, is struggling to survive in  the market after  it was burned to its ashes. They have been left out in the rain because no rebuilding was done for them. Gaisano is building one awful cube in  place of their stalls when the local government can rebuilt them after the storm.  

Nikito and Zenaida  Amborgo are husband and wife vendors whose sentiments are for their fellow vendors. They have raised their children selling at the market for years. They are committed to stay becausse they say they have paid their taxes well and they have not even complained with the sloopy way the market has not been provided with better facilities. Nikito is the classmate of my sister Rea and he reminiscent the past and saying that Estancia will never be the same again when "balikbayans" will come home. The old part of Estancia will not be preserved but destroyed by modernity. They are committed to stay, no matter what. 
Two very elderly couple selling local herbs. I did not interview them due to sensitivity but I will break down if I did. I could imagine these senior citizens soon to be deprived of their livelihood. Will Gaisano be able to explain to Estanciahanon how it will feel to the sunset years of our "kasi manwa" ( town folks)  to have them relocated to the coastal area near the sea when they will risk their lives even more?
Mother and child holding on to what could be their last days at the public market and be moved near the shoreline by December 15th. Is Gaisano and our public officials stupid enough to do so? Any mad dog will not bite these people whose rabies may be more potent than the dogs themselves. 

Meraluna Barana, 58, sells utilitarian handicrafts since "birth" she said. She could not imagine where Estanciahanons will now buy their "silhig" ( coconut broom), "ropero" ( bamboo hampers), bamboo barbeque sticks, coconut floor husks and "colon" ( clay pots).
Buy Local. Enjoy Local. What will happen to local farmers who produce these farm eggs when Gaisano will take over their place?  How can we encourage local farmers to sustain their livelihood when we are not going to give them the market and the patronage they need?
A little boy seem worried what his elders are talking about with me. He does not know his parents livelihood are endangered. His schooling is endangered, too, because his parents' income from the market will stop to send him to school. He will grow up seeing a "mall culture" aptly meant for a city but not for a small town like Estancia--where its daily heritage of people is to look at the beautiful islands everyday, wait for the fresh catch of fish everyday to come in the afternoon and exchange pleasantries with the town folks. This kid will see a concrete monstrous cube to take away his parents' bamboo stall. Will Gaisano explain  to this the kid and let us adults know how you will let him understand? Will you please damn Gaisano explain this? 
The Estancia public market damaged by un-explained fire, left unattended by the Municipal officials  for two years ( in deliberate preparation for the coming of Gaisano?) , ruined by Yolanda typhoon and now a candidate for extinction with building Gaisano right there. Gaisano shamelessly negotiated with heartless municipal officials when the Estancia has not even recovered from the typhoon. The market left to deterioration and for Gaisano to come as if it will restore its glory?

 The uncollected garbage in the market. Estancia is a coastal area, all these plastic will destroy the corral reefs of the town. I have never seen a town so dirty and so dilapidated. What did our present local leaders do to our dear town?



More garbage. Did Gaisano even offered public waste management assistance to the town?  We all doubt. 




BURSTING COMMERCIALIZATION , NO SOCIAL RELEVANCE
Cities can handle the influx of these big malls but the idea can overwhelm and crush the social nucleus of a small municipal economy where the billionaires will take away the earnings of the marginalized. Our municipal leaders may not even know how to interpret contracts, and obviously they do not,  so they are duped to sell the soul of our town.But then they do not listen to the advise of learned Estanciahanons. Their favorite accessories are rubber ear plugs to plug their jaded ears. Or perhaps their hearing aids are low batt.

True blooded Estanciahanons will protect its own people. Certainly, Gaisano has no historical relevance to Estanciahanons. They only want money from Estancia.  Will Ilonggos not protect its own kind and let a migrant Gaisano abuse what was once one of Iloilo’s most beautiful towns and now leave miserable to cope up after Yolanda?  Worse, left it with few municipal officers who do not see the total picture?

Close your eyes and imagine the beauty and charm of elderly women selling Estancia fresh fish still breathing with life over crisp banana leaves! These are fish vendors through generations who will please you with some advise how to cook what you buy with local  fruit“ batuan” and local vegetable “lupo”. 

That is an entirely different scenario at Gaisano  to buy  Estancia fish in a freezer blistered packed in plastic with an unmindful salesgirl whose impression you may only get is her  lipstick  spilled past over her lips. No Ma’am “ Hindi ka puede kaayo bisan kasimanwa pa kita, hindi man ko ka hatag paaman sa imo”. ( You can no longer bargain the Filipino traditional way nor I can give your extra fish just because you are my town mate.) That is where the naïf and sincerity of local tradition will be lost forever. 
Estancia's economic performance went down very badly recently. Perhaps no wonder the public market was not rebuild due to lack of public funds and to save its face, the handy Gaisano can take over like a King. We do not need a King. We need more servants to clean the town and put back its sash as a town with great sense of history and soul.




Gaisano plans to make this congested street of Estancia into its parking space. Mind boggling. Makes us feel the idiots cloned the morons. This is one of the streets which are passages to our public elementary school, rural health center, Catholic church and municipal hall. Will the school children be able to pass even how little their bodies may be?


NO URBAN PLANNING Estancia is bursting with people, now mostly migrants,  because its economic performance is robust ( though now it has dwindled). But it is overwhelmed with growth from migrations. The town is dirty, chaotic, ugly and disorganized. Garbage are uncollected and all over the place. The public market stinks. What was once an idyllic and orderly town is now a poorly organized commercial center. Growth is welcome but master planning urbanization is a must.

RUTHLESSNESS
While the whole town of Estancia was battered with 300 miles per hour super typhoon, the strongest in world, its local leaders called on to vote for Gaisano to take over the public market while they have not really addressed the sufferings of its people. It added insult to Estanciahanons, those who survived and those with families here and abroad, how disgusting public officials can have wrong priorities. We assume  the municipio is doing its best to help the survivors, it is working hard to help its people, but the Gaisano issue tainted the whole works against their favour.

EGO OVER HEART
Prior to the first voting when the municipal officials  Sanggunian Bayan (SB) voted 6 to 4  against Gaisano Mall to build it smack on the existing public market, another rounds of voting days after Yolanda struck, Vice Mayor Butching Aclaro, stopped SB lawyer Sumile and Iting Sulam to vote saying they can not vote because they have “puesto” ( stalls ) in the public market and voting is deprived for those officials until 4th degree of blood relationship. ( The Sanggunian Kabataan (SK) Chairman  can no longer vote because as of December 2013 the position was abolished).  Atty. Sumile protested since Vice Mayor Butching Aclaro has also relatives in the pubic market.SB members who are against the idea of Gaisano are Atty. Sumile, Rey Bataga and Chic Mosqueda. So they walked out of the voting procedure. So the other group in favour of Gaisano rejoiced—but not for long, I guess, not for now. This is now a case of the people of the Republic of the Philippines against Gaisano.
The graver problem is not Gaisano's negotiation for a mall, it is the oil spill that drove 5,000 people to flee from the coastline. Now our Mayor told the market vendors to vacate the public market on December 15th and go to the coastline! How can it can be utterly stupid? ( SEE FEATURE ON ANOTHER BLOG)

I can tolerate the bad odor of spilled oil. But I will die with the odor of Estancia public officials and Gaisano for their un-sensibilities to an ill-stricken community. 

BE CAREFUL
I had the opportunity to talk to the Mayor and Vice Mayor with some of their staff around. As Estanciahanon, I bought rebuilding project proposals which they can embrace and they were excited with it. Thank you. ( SEE ANOTHER SEPARATE BLOG ON REBUILDING PROJECTS FOR ESTANCIA).

 While diplomatically, I shared the idea to stop Gaisano because of several complexities they may not be able to handle later. Foremost, is the public sentiment that may hit the streets.We can not sell our traditional livelihood set-up at our  public market many of our elders built through the years.

I shared with them the power of  social media.  The case of Cabatuan building an ugly chapel to cover a 300 years old heritage site in its famous public cemetery, the  project was stopped by netizens of the world who is willing to march to Cabatuan and stop the insensitivities .

The Estancia mayor  answered me: “ But the Gaisano  is a closed deal already and the general public agreed to it.”  Was he referring to such time before the Yolanda aftermath when I suppose the survey was done through his majority party and his own clan of voting constituents? Did they not do the voting before hand with a no decision which was more credible and the new basis of Gaisano as a "go" project is based on voting with ousted SB members maneuvered  to turn around the votes to yes? The story is different now. The true pictures appear clearer now.

PUBLIC THINKING
Many Estanciahanons say there is allegedly “ money under the table” given to the Municipal officials who voted for Gaisano to take over our public market.  I do not believe it can be true because my thinking is the Municipio wants to add having a mall as a "pogi point" of their economic performance.  If money is involved, God forbids, when will our government officials learn that corruption begets uprising from people?

OCTOBER 8,21012
I did my little interviews of the vendors.The public town market was on  fire on October 8,2012 leaving it flattened. The vendors were never found out what was the reason for it. Some locals say they saw men pouring liquid somewhere before the fire. They claimed the Municipal hall never explained to them the cause of fire. Worse, their stalls were never rebuild. Was it a deliberate case for Gaisano to find its way in? If this is the case, think seriously what could be the connection? I remember well the case of Gaisano White Gold   arson case in Cebu City. So it may say it all.

CONGESTION.  Somes and Clement Street are two streets which are two narrow lanes and one way streets will be closed to give way to Gaisano street parking—since the public market is really small for a super mall. These streets are main thoroughway for schoolchildren to go to the public elementary schools both from the town and the islands. 

These streets, during public market days on Tuesdays, are where vendors from northern Iloilo converge to sell their goods on the rural streets—traditionally a Filipino well-loved culture . The town of Estancia is already bursting to the brim and to put in a huge mall in the middle of chaos of people, tricycles, and structures do not only interfere with human well-being but also forgo safety.

FIND YOUR PLACE ELSEWEHERE
There is nothing wrong with Gaisano coming to Estancia, but please do not displace our small vendors and take away our public market. Gaisano finds it difficult to find a land in the uptown, it is said. But that is not the problem of the Municipal Hall. It’s Gaisano’s problem. The municipio’s concern is public welfare and protection of the rights of its people as owners of public places.
Our Northern Iloilo Polytechnic College ( NIPSC) where thousands of students from Northern Iloilo go to college and high school is now a ghost town. Here a classroom beside the sea has one single chair remaining and all of things for learning in the classroom are gone. Is Gaisano mindful of this? Our town officials prioritized a mall over our schools.

NIPSC crushed to the grounds. Did Gaisano see this as our priority? To rebuild our schools so our folks can go back to the campuses and study? We do not need malls, we need our schools back to its shape!

The TENT City in Estancia Iloilo. Build mostly by Canadian assistance. Where is Gaisano's help?


RINGS OF URBANIZATION
In many intelligent urban planning, one can create new suburbs or counties outside to the usually congested area of urbanization in the heart of towns or cities.  Gaisano can build its mall in the upland of Estancia where there are more spaces and people can be decongested. Why take our public spaces? The rings of urbanization start with our public squares as the heart of a town or city—new modern structures outside of it will always be reachable by people now due to mass transit.  American urban planning is building country malls where the old part of the city is protected from congestion and interference to protect its well-being and social welfare.

We have volunteers groups and environmental experts including urban planners to help the town pro-bono. ( SEE SEPARATE BLOG ON REBUILDING ESTANCIA). 

HERITAGE LOST
Mayor Rene Cordero may think the future of young generation of Estancia is to see a big chunk of a concrete cube of an air-conditioned building in a small town. We know that malls have also ruined the mentalities of the young ones, where instead of being in open field like town parks and town plazas, they hang around malls, many skipped classes in awe of what malls can entice them with addicting games and the young ones escape from reality with the sad realities of life.  

In many towns the discrepancy between the poor and the rich becomes bigger because the poor are displaced and aleinated by introduction of the lifestyle of the rich shopping like crazy in malls in the midst of poor people who have nothing to eat. 

Our future kids may no longer understand why a Nang  Iniga sells “lupo”  to raise her children at the public market, why Nang Nellie has to sell little “buyo” to send her "apo" to school. And Gaisano cares what our town folks went through all these years by grabbing their livelihood away from them?

UGLY CONTRACT
Atty Tina Reyes, a cousin of mine, who is pioneering in the crusade against Gaisano described the Gaisano contract as ugly.  Estancia will be short changed. Many town mates verbally shared with me that Gaisano will not pay rental after 25 years and after that time, if ever they will continue, they will only pay Php 50,000 a month. With the depreciation, in 2038 the value of that money may be barely Php 5,000! And if they will not continue, they will remove the escalators and all. If a public official is not sharp enough with his elementary  mathematics, then he can flank his elementary social studies. How can one sell the soul of a town for nothing?  This is what fellow Estanciahanon Ned Belasoto posted.

1. Gaisano is expected to earn PHP 180,000,000.00/year, just from renting out vendor space. This amount does not include the 3-5% cut that Gaisano gets from the sale income of the vendors. Within only 3 years, Gaisano would recover its construction investment of PHP540M.




2. For the next 22 years, Gaisano is expected to earn PHP 3,960,000,000.00! What does Estancia get in return? NOTHING!!!! Why? Because the lease agreement says that Gaisano will start paying rent to Estancia only on the 26TH year; and only if Gaisano decides to continue with its contract.



3. By the 26th year, assuming that Gaisano will not renew the contract, Estancia is left with a totally depreciated building, reduced to a skeleton as Gaisano is free to removed all movables in the building: escalators, air conditioning systems, etc.

DEADLINE.   Dec 15th, 2013. All the public vendors are supposed to move to “Bagsakan” – a place in the reclaimed port area. I shared with the vendors that is adding more insult to them because the new government policy is to remove humans 40 meters away from the shoreline to reduce risks during calamities. The Philippine laws on shoreline setbacks  is not followed in Estancia—thus, so many suffered. What the Mayor told me, they wanted to add more reclamation on the shoreline! My mind is cracking with un-fanthomed puzzles.



My Aunt, Thelma Jutare Brockmann, a Yolanda survivor, was fished out of the water up to her neck with the storm surge hitting  her coastal house in Estancia. I paid her a visit and shared with her the concern with Gaisano and the general welfare of Estancia as well. She is worried and can only look back how Estancia was a better place to live in before. She lived in Florida, USA with her family for years and retired in Estancia and like many elders, her heart is for our fellow Estanciahanon to survive....and Gaisano is not and will never be in the list. 
The beautiful town of Estancia--known as the little Alaska of the Philippines, a title given by the American visitors when they landed in Estancia, becuase the town was brimming with fish. My grandfather Pio Jutare, narrated that during town fiestas, the town bantings were made of dried fish. Estancia is the gateway to exotic Sicogon and Gigantes Islands which are tourist destinations. Will Gaisano compete with its natural beauty over a square of a cement they will put in the heart of our public market?


PUBLIC DOMAIN
Public markets are public domains. I do not think any public official can sell any public place. It is as simple as one can not sell the public plaza to a private corporation. The Estancia local officials who voted yes to Gaisano should use their heart not their celebral matter, if they have it, anyway. These officials should also decide on their own rather listen  to those who may surround them and clouding them and not  thinking that public officials can not do away with people’s  multiplying power.

BLOOD OVER BULLDOZERS
The vendors vowed not to leave. “ Toto, bisan i-bull doze pa kami diri, indi kami mag halin. Diri na kami nag tigulang. Diri na kami nag kuha sang among pangabuhian. Diri na kami sang dalaga pa kami, diri na kami nag-pangasawa, diri na nag dalagku ang amon mga bata, pati apo namon—diri namon tanan gin kuha para mabuhi sila.  Maluloy man sila sa amon, nga amo lang gid ini amon pangabuhian diri. Nagabayad man kami sang buwis namon. Kabulig man kami sa banwa.” Said Zenaide Amborgo, a vendor. ( My son, even if the bulldozers will come here, we will not leave. This is the only place we earn a living. We were here since we were young girls and got married.  Now we have children and grandchildren. We all raised  them here. They should pity us, this is our only source of livelihood. We pay our taxes well. We also help the town this way.”)
 Fishermen rebuilding its livelihood by collecting fresh water they will bring to the ocean as their supply while fishing. 
 The site of the oil spill barely a mile from the town.
My sister Dercy's home splintered like toothpicks after Yolanda. When I saw it, I quivered. She lost everything. I can image other folks along the shoreline who lost lives. Now our Mayor is relocating our vendors back to the coastline.

IMPRINTS
No holds barred, I must say heart-to-heart what is happening with Estancia Iloilo now. My ancestors are the first settlers of the town, help built it and raised us up as children  of Estancia where we were sun-kissed and perfumed with salt water everyday. 

There is nothing like home. Being a true Filipino is also about memory.  The connection to our home towns will remind us of our roots and our elders—whose wisdom was to listen to its people---mostly the poorest of the poor because we were once poor. 

The Filipino umbilical cord is where the soul of his origin emanates from—his home town, his place of birth. It is when compassion to society  transgresses no boundaries. It is when moral sensibilities supersede what crooked modernity and absurd legality create havoc to humanity. It is when we preserve our own that we will leave an imprint of our legacy to those who will inherit a land we call our own. No amount of  money can buy that.

Rebuilding the lives of Estanciahanons is not about building Gaisano. Give us the decency to have our sense of pride of who we are--even as we remain humble in our traditional ways. We do not believe a mall will answer our search for betterment in our lives. ( Photo evacuateed children at the Tent City in Estancia)



HELP US

Help us spread this information as viral as we can get. We can not intimidate Yolanda survivors. We can not crush poor people by taking away their livelihood and sell the cultural heritage of Filipino communities to private corporations. My personal commitment now is to boycott Gaisano until Gaisano make a public notice our public market is returned to our people. 

Your help to the awareness of the entire Philippines will help us stop Gaisano buy our heritage which is eternally not for sale. The town you may help now like Estancia Iloilo may save the next town to the vultures like Gaisano who will clutched it helplessly with its ugly claws.

8 comments:

  1. in my opinion putting up a mall there would not hurt the economy of Estancia, it will even help it the most. There will be jobs available for everybody.. and it will attract other people from other towns to Estancia and it will keep economy going. What the town can do for the local vendors is to put them in a wide area and have an open air market type of place. it can be near the original Mercado or it can be a little bit far, the thing is people will not forget local vendors they will still buy from them and even choose to buy from them most of the time. But think about other people coming from nearby towns not only will they go to Gaisano but they will also notice local vendors and buy from them too.. Just remember Gaisano can provide lots of job opportunities for a lot of people and attract investors to Estancia. I think Estancia should climb up and stop being so stagnant.

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  2. Sustainable development is all about taking care of the local community, responsible economic progress, and environmental health. Bringing in Gaisano under an ugly contract that does not benefit Estancia, and displacing the vendors and local businesses that have operated in our public market for generations is not progress. It is a step back. The sustainable thing to do is to develop the public market to be a clean and environmentally friendly place for local businesses and consumers. Gaisano can build somewhere else in Estancia, but they have to build sustainably.

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  3. There is nothing wrong with Gaisano coming to Estancia ...just do not displace our vendors in an already congested area and take our streets for their parking and all. We have so much huge open spaces in the uplands. The trouble is Gaisano short changing our town with an ugly contract. The worse is, Gaisano has not even presented a sustainable plan to our people and our Mayor will relocate our poor folks near the sea to risk their lives till death when the next typhoon comes. The Mayor is ignorant about the new government set-back policy for humans to settle away from the danger zone of coastal urbanization. Gaisano has never been known for its green and sustainable social responsibilities to cities, how much more to small towns, whose knowledge about sustainability may not be fully understood by the majority until they themselves experience it first from entities who are aware of the concept and are willing to give back some portion of its profit back to the community, not in taxes, but in environmental and social servcies?

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  4. This is why Estancia is left behind progress... Judgmental people.. SAD...

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  5. Why hitting the mayor and Gaisano? I bet your on the other side, PJ Arañador.

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  7. Progress is not about having a Mall as a criteria alone --there are so many other considerations specially environmental issues. Gaisano is welcome in Estancia but they should make SENSIBLE proposal SENSITIVE to URBAN PLANNING including CULTURAL aspects of FILIPINOS in general such as traditional public markets to help small farmers. It is common sense. We like growth but be SENSIBLE to the WORLD we have already destroyed so much because of GREEDINESS and IGNORANCE. It can be any mayor or mall in the country, these sensibilities apply to anybody, anytime, anywhere.

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