The government is ready to provide free seedlings, but the ground must first be cleared of thousands of toppled trees, ruined buildings and other debris.
by Martin ABBUGAO
BURAWIN - The super typhoon that slammed through the central Philippines laid waste to a vast region of coconut farmland, eradicating in one fell swoop the livelihoods of tens of thousands of smallholders.
"It's all gone," Glen Mendoza said, gesturing towards the collection of snapped and toppled trees that used to be the small but reliable grove that fed and supported his family.
"My daughter might have to stop going to college," he said. "These coconut trees are our only hope and now they're gone."
Mendoza's plight is shared, not just by the farmers in his coconut-growing town of Burawin, but by tens of thousands of others across the island of Leyte.
A major coconut-growing province, Leyte accounts for one third of all the fruit produced in the fertile centre of the country, according to the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA).
The particular problem facing farmers like Mendoza is that there is no short-term solution to the loss of their groves.
Replanting can begin very soon but, depending on the variety, coconut trees take between five and ten years to reach maturity and bear fruit.
More than 208,000 hectares (515,000 acres) are planted with over 22 million trees in Leyte, providing a living for 122,000 families, or around 600,000 people, said Joel Pilapil, a senior PCA official in the province.
There are no firm estimates yet on the full extent of the damage, but ground reports and aerial views of Leyte and nearby Samar island tell the same story -- coconut trees either toppled, snapped or sheared when Typhoon Haiyan scythed across the region on November 8, packing winds of up to 315 kilometres (195 miles) per hour.
"I've spent 21 years in the industry and this is the first time that the damage has been this heavy," Pilapil told AFP in an interview at the PCA's typhoon-damaged building in the town of Palo.
"It hurts... Coconut farming families are going to go hungry," he said
Cipriano Alibay, 73, a farmer in Dagami town near Burawin, used to harvest 3,000 coconuts every three months from his now destroyed two-hectare smallholding.
"My investment is gone. I don't know what to do," he said.
According to Pilapil, the government is ready to provide free seedlings, but the ground must first be cleared of thousands of toppled trees, ruined buildings and other debris.
Trees that are still standing but have no hope of bearing fruit need to be cut down, he said, adding that the clearing operations could take months.
Pilapil said some of the felled trees could provide timber for rebuilding houses destroyed by the typhoon.
As well as the farmers, many others relied on the coconut industry, including Rodolfo Ortega, 54, who buys dried coconut meat -- called copra -- from farmers and sells it to millers.
Copra extracts can be used in a variety of products, including soap and shampoo.
"It will probably take 10 years before coconut farmers can get on their feet," Ortega told AFP as he and a few of his workers stood idly outside his warehouse in the town of Dagami.
He warned that with so many people dependent on the industry, the government must act fast to prevent social consequences.
"If people have no jobs, that can create social problems," Ortega said, adding that the government should teach farmers to plant alternative crops while they wait for the seedlings to grow.
For coconut farmer Alibay, there is no choice but to keep going.
"We need to be strong in order to go on living," he said.
The Supremo rejected the label used by the Spanish conquistadores to refer to all the natives of the Philippines. 
By Atty. Jojo M. Liangco
Filipinos in the United States observe two historically significant occasions this last week of November.  Thanksgiving Day was yesterday, November 28, then on Saturday, November 30, is the 150th birth anniversary of Andres Bonifacio. 
We joinedin the Thanksgiving Day celebration to commemorate and remember the contributions of the pioneering immigrants and the Native Americans who welcomed and helped these pioneering immigrants to establish themselves in this country after they arrived.  
These pioneering immigrants, the pilgrims from Europe, survived the challenges, difficulties, and hunger brought about by the inhospitable cold winter of 1620 because of the generosity of the Native Americans who welcomed them and provided them with their basic needs to survive. 
During the next winter, after the newly-arrived immigrants had their first successful harvest, they had a feast and invited their Native American neighbors to share in the bounty of their harvest.  The immigrants also thanked the Almighty for the blessings that they received in this country. 
These pioneering immigrants settled and thrived in their new found land, and generations later, together with other immigrants from Europe, they collectively identified themselves as “Americans.” 
 The historic moment came about when they revolted to break away from the British Empire by combining the forces of the thirteen colonies in North America to become the United States of America. 
The American Revolutionary War (also known as the War of Independence in 1775-1783) and the first Thanksgiving Day celebration which is traced back to the 1621 Plymouth feast, are both considered as the foundation of the identity of the American people. 
It is also accurate to state that both events are the “national identity formation” of the immigrants who originated from Europe.   
Unfortunately, for the natives of continental America, the American Indian tribes and nations, they were left-out not only in the celebration of Thanksgiving Day and the Fourth of July, but also in the establishment of the American government later on. 
For Filipinos everywhere, the celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Bonifacio also reminds us about the true meaning of being a Filipino--- and about the formation of our national identity as Filipinos. 
Bonifacio was the supremo of the revolutionary group known as the Katipunan. 
Together with Emilio Jacinto, the so-called brains of the Katipunan, Bonifacio did not only prepare the Katipunan’s membership to fight a revolution of freedom against the Spain.  Bonifacio also helped lay down the foundation of our national identity as Filipinos. 
Both Bonifacio and Jacinto referred to the Philippines as our Inang-Bayan and named the whole archipelago as “Sangkatagalugan.”  They dreamed about the concept of a free Filipino nation called “Haring Bayang Katagalugan (Sovereign Tagalog Nation).”  
The Katipunan had an all-encompassing view of the Tagalog nation.  They defined Tagalog to include all those who were born in the Philippine archipelago. 
Bonifacio never accepted the label used by the Spanish conquistadores to refer to all who were born in the Philippines---“Indio.” 
At that time, native Filipinos were not referred to as Filipinos, even though the Spanish conquistadores named their island nation as “Las Islas Filipinas” in honor of King Philip II.  “Filipino” was used by the Spaniards to refer to the Spanish people who were born in the Philippines (who were also known as “Insulares”)--- to distinguish them from the Spanish people who were born in the Iberian peninsula (“Peninsulares”). 
Later on, the Spanish mestizos or the offspring born from mixed marriages also started referring to and calling themselves as Filipinos.
Dr. Jose P. Rizal, an ilustrado and a Chinese mestizo, when asked of his ethnicity before he died declared that he was an “Indio Bravo” or a proud Indian. 
Just like Rizal, Bonifacio reminds us that before Spain and the other colonizers came to the Philippines, Filipinos thrived as a people and we had our own “kabihasnan (civilization)” to be proud about.  
Happy Thanksgiving and Bonifacio Day to all! 
Until next week.
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California.  His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases.  Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.  You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at 
Dr. Braid as high hopes that the FOI doesn’t meet the kind of fate that has been likened to the ‘Culture of Impunity.’
There is a reality pervading in the land of our birth.  It is the unavoidable and likewise so, inevitable use of acronyms.  Those who avail of the latter genre are not just puzzle solvers; they are more than likely ‘solvers’ to explain riddles.  
Many a time this space’s columnist looked more than mystified with the emergence of more and more acronyms not just ‘unfamiliar,’ but never (and I mean never) having heard of them at all, I found myself ‘on hold.’ I encountered too many ‘unknowns.’
Yet, it was only seven months between visits this same year when the call of my ancestral home beckoned.  
In the midst of the very initial period involving discussion of ongoing news items, a good friend said, “None of those disturbing ‘plunders’ would have happened if the FOI was approved.”
‘FOI?’ I asked.  The answer, “It belongs to the people.”
Continuing to listen to the discussants was mine to react.  By context, I then knew it meant the freedom of information bill (FOI) and I was informed farther how it had been languishing for ‘close to two decades’ and was hardly ‘alive.’
Repetition of rationales went on for a good while: the FOI would have ‘ensured accountability in the utilization of public resources and power;’ it would have defined
democracy the way the term was meant to be nurtured: for the people, by the people and of the people.
A group of my former students (now well past the sixth decade of their life) was not a bit at all hesitant in airing out their grievances about the delay of that FOI’s non-passage.
“Public documents and other pieces of significant information all related to the people’s concern would have found their way to disclosure.  Hence, the call about the ‘right to know,’ and ‘right now,’ remarks came simultaneously.”
To this publication’s readership: may I be allowed a sense of opining from your end?
Journalists belong to the leading organizations working for the FOI’s passage. Such a one whose friendship I deeply cherish, an editor of “Crimes and Unpunishment,” Florangel Rosario-Braid, Ph.D., President Emeritus, Asian Institute of Journalism and
Communication, has intensely advocated for the successful conclusion of the FOI. 
Dr. Braid as high hopes that the FOI doesn’t meet the kind of fate that has been likened to the ‘Culture of Impunity.’
“Writing 30 in journalism means the end of the story.  The phrase has evolved to also mean the passing of a journalist to the great beyond – by natural cause or otherwise,” was an apt statement.  
Ms.Braid doesn’t wish to see the fate of the FOI bill go ‘that way’ as one subject still stands out: the case of the ‘125 journalists killed since 1986.’
At times, queries have been raised: “Who is a journalist?”
The Braid definition stands out: “This is a complex issue in the Philippines because of the absence of a formal mechanism to ‘accredit’ professional journalists by an independent body.  By tradition, journalists are loosely defined as anyone who works in a news media organization, with or without journalism training.”
Returning to the significance of the People’s FOI Bill: the fact that the advocacy for it to join the all-important realm of legislations has become even more formidable as deplorably unfolding scenes on the PBS (pork barrel system) should proceed  unceasingly, open to the public guided by the latter’s expressed ‘right to know.’
Owing to the multi-faceted realities that today’s media and ‘lightning-speed’ modern communication present, that FOI Bill should be approved by the country’s legislative body soon. Those legislators wouldn’t be where they are today without the Filipino people’s vote. The bill should not remain solely by what it is known: The People’s FOI Bill. 
When the FOI becomes a law, undoubtedly, it will mean the people of the Philippines truly have that meaningful voice: the freedom of information.  It will be theirs, no other branch of government can take it from them.
How about more honesty and less spin? Let’s come to terms with what has happened by acknowledging the extent of what has happened.
In the past week we have seen not only the government response, but also the government’s attitude towards their response. While the former might be forgivable given the magnitude of the disaster, the latter is nothing but reprehensible. 
I understand our government’s limitations. It’s not like we aren’t painfully aware of them. And I don’t think anyone wants to make this recent tragedy an opportunity for political grandstanding. But we have to criticize, to point out what’s wrong, to expect our leaders to take responsibility. Then again, this administration is far from exemplary in taking responsibility or admitting any kind of failing. 
One of the ways in which the government is covering up its efforts is by re-framing the discussion into, “Either you’re supporting the government or you aren’t doing anything to help.” Lots of people have bought into this. Social network posts abound with the sentiment that we should just shut up and help and support the government. 
This, of course, is wrong. 
There are many of us who have extended help, in various ways, while also being critical of the government. This “Either you’re part of the solution, or you’re part of the problem” paradigm something that any of my English 10 students could point out as a black-or-white logical fallacy. In the way that they talk, there are no other options
What’s worse is that the government is manipulating its media influence to make it seem as if things are not as bad as they actually are. The government has been downplaying figures, insisting that things are going as well as they possible can, and generally denying any and all failings. We’ve seen local media used to portray this perspective. 
Civil society has stepped in and provided help to augment government efforts. And social media andcitizen journalists have served as watchdogs to make up for the limitations of traditional media. Foreign news agencies have also proved crucial in providing us with information. They have the resources after all, and more importantly they aren’t beholden in any way to local politicians and the government.
And while we’re on talking about local politicians, isn’t it something that the foreign aid packs are marked banning them from touching the goods? Like the world already knows that if the politicos get their hands on the goods, things won’t be kosher in any way. 
At this point, I think that our country and the world are coming together to do what they can. Food is arriving, volunteers are working, and though the progress will be slow and the process of rebuilding will be long and arduous, the work has begun and it continues. We are a strong, hard people, used to adversity. I don’t know how they are doing it, because I don’t know if I have anything close to the strength that they have, but already students from UP Tacloban have cross-registered and are attending classes in Diliman and other campuses. And I know that a lot of others are rising up, recovering, working through all of this. 
What do we need from our government? How about more honesty and less spin? Let’s come to terms with what has happened by acknowledging the extent of what has happened. Let’s take stock of where things have gone wrong. 
The problem is that the president and his people are more intent on peppering the blame elsewhere, rather than admitting their own failings. We don’t want them to admit failing just so that we can ridicule them (though for sure there are some who want to do that too). 
More importantly, we want to destroy this veneer of selfless service that really covers up a false sense of moral right and entitlement. The government has been happy to point at the LGUs, to blame local government employees like police who were themselves victims of the tragedy. This was wrong. And one would hope that at  least an apology be issued for the unfair implications made of those local officials and employees. 
As it stands though, the administration makes it clear that nothing is ever their fault. It was the last president’s fault. It was the storm. It was the LGUs. We’ve heard it, and we know it’s not true. So president and company, by not telling the truth, by directing blame all over the place rather than fessing up to your own failings, you are also contributing to the negativity. You want to be part of the good being done. — KDM, GMA News 
Carljoe Javier is a professor at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, and the author of the non-fiction book 'The Kobayashi Maru of Love.'  Reprinted from GMA News, content partner of PNews.
The world has not seen the worst yet.
By Atty. Jojo M. Liangco
With the record-setting strength of super-typhoon Haiyan, I wonder if there was something more that could have been done that could have lessened the number of lives that were lost.  I also wonder whether there was something more that could have been done to prepare for the super-typhoon’s aftermath.
From the media coverage showing the suffering of those who have survived Haiyan, I can say that the survivors are now experiencing the darkest and the most challenging moment of their lives. 
The distribution of water, food, shelter, warm clothing, and medicines to the survivors is still a big challenge for the government and the many volunteers who give their all to help survivors.  
Dead bodies remain scattered everywhere.  Many are still reported missing, injured, and suffering from different ailments. 
The rescue and relief efforts right after the super-typhoon’s impact were said to be slow due to many factors--- roads, bridges, sea ports and airport that were damaged or completely destroyed.  Many lines of communication were also cut due to non-functioning infrastructures. 
It was no surprise that many of the survivors of Haiyan felt that they were experiencing the “end of the world” during the time when the super-typhoon was at its full strength and creating all sorts of havoc and damage to the people and the places where it passed.  
Many Filipinos have also turned to religion and the bible to find guidance and answers amidst the crisis that Haiyan brought to the Philippines and its people.  
This development reminds me of the four horsemen of the apocalypse since Christians interpret the horsemen as a prophecy of a future tribulation. 
There is an interpretation that says that the four horsemen represent famine, pestilence, war, and death.
Because of the Philippines’ location on the planet, it is said that there are four horsemen that most Filipinos are fearful of--- typhoons, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and storm surges/tsunamis.  
The Philippine archipelago experiences more than 20 storms and typhoons annually.  There have been plenty of earthquakes, volcanic eruptions or activities, and storm surges that include many flash floods in different regions and places in the country.         
Experts also say that because of climate change, worst natural disturbances such as super heat waves and super cold winters will be occurring around the world, including super typhoons and storm surges similar to what Haiyan brought to the Philippines. 
In other words, the world has not seen the worst yet. 
Nevertheless, there are lessons learned because there is already this painful experience that could be our benchmark in order to be prepared or be “laging handa” as we say in Pilipino.   
After Haiyan, definitely, our systems and infrastructures in the Philippines should be improved to improve the country’s capability to deal with natural disturbances that are bound to happen in the future. 
What we have seen before, during, and after super-typhoon Haiyan should not just be a wake-up call for the Philippines but should also be a “global turning point” for quick response and disaster risk management.
Modern technology is of great value and importance in improving and enhancing quick response and disaster risk management system, however, we should not forget that the people themselves (not only the Philippine government and the NGOs) have roles and responsibilities that they have to do and to deliver--- before, during, and after the disasters.
In our culture, we Filipinos have four strong virtues that back us up during times of difficulties, challenges, and calamities.  
These are the virtues of tulungan (helping one another), alalayan (caring and supporting one another), damayan (providing sympathetic aid), and bayanihan (working together as a community of people). 
Tulungan, alalayan, damayan, and bayanihan are the traditional virtues that have made Filipinos robust and thrive as a people--- especially during the most trying times.
I think and honestly believe that these great virtues will also be our backbone and support as we assess our individual roles and responsibilities so that we could be of help to others, to our community, and to our country, as we try to recover, to stand-up, to live, and to deal with life and its realities after Haiyan. 
Until next week.
Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California.  His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases.  Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.  You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at