Monthly Archives: May 2011

Taking CSR to New Heights – CSR Expo in Manila


Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) moves up to a higher level in the Philippines as the League of Corporate Foundations (LCF) begins preparations for the 10th annual CSR Expo to be held on July 20-21 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

This year’s theme”Taking CSR to New Heights,” will showcase the best and latest trends, practices, and models on CSR in this part of the world. From the official release of LCF, they announced that the two-day event will feature topics such as CSR’s crucial role in increasing business competitiveness, attracting and retaining talent,  the various ways CSR is practiced within different organizations, and measuring and communicating CSR activities in the plenary and breakout sessions. There will be a discourse on current issues such as the proposed CSR legislation in the Philippines and whether the practice of CSR should be mandatory or voluntary. For more details on the expo program, visit www.lcf.org.ph/csrexpo2011.

Aside from the conference proper, there will also be an exhibit of LCF, its members, partners, and other organizations to showcase their CSR initiatives and activities, as well as free CSR 101 sessions for students.

This year’s Expo is expected to build on the success of last-year’s event, which was the first large-scale green conference in the country.

LCF is an umbrella foundation composed of more than 70 corporations and corporate foundations in the Philippines. It helps its members to promote CSR and contribute to CSR practices through effective and strategic corporate social investments among its members. Our company, Energy Development Corporation is actively involved in LCF and SVP Agnes de Jesus is the Chair of the Environment Committee.

CSR Expo Theme in 2009
CSR Expo theme in 2010

Re-post from the early 2000’s


Whoa, this brought memories back from the early 2000. I found this again in my old blog site and maybe, this deserves a re-post. The setting was post-Erap ouster and the Philippines was heading for a political maelstrom that time. Where did my political fire go? I guess adulthood robs us of that idealism. Bring it back, bring it back.

Okay, here’s the post…

STRONG(LY BRINGING DOWN THE) REPUBLIC

THE JOKE

“A new element was discovered by scientists and they called it GOVERNMENTIUM. Governmentium has an erratic life cycle, the transition from one phase to another is always replete with ruptures, hemorrhages and violent displacements; it seems to be in decay but the longer it decomposes, the stronger its sub-atomic particles cling to the core. In fact, governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each life cycle will cause some morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron-promotion leads some scientists to speculate that governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a certain quantity in concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as Critical Morass.”

Pretty witty, this joke is. But when you read between the lines, our government is indeed an erratic, indefinable, cataclysm-inducing creature. And what better example do we have now than the recent government morass we are in. We hear discordant voices from the opportunist opposition group, senile ex-generals, brazen civil society groups and crazy intellectual elites calling for the ouster of Pres. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Pray tell, who else might deserve the presidency? Name one politician who did not cheat in the elections and tell me s/he is the better option. NONE. We could only choose the lesser evil, but evil that person will still be. The reckless manner in which some destructive sectors have employed in undermining the government has weakened our institutions, the presidency especially. How does one build a strong edifice of a republic when the smith has axed the mason? At the rate these destructive sectors are gnawing at the foundation of our institutions, these rats will surely bring down the republic faster than the Twin Towers bombing did in 9/11.

I agree with one friend in saying that it is the presidency, and not the person sitting in Malacañang, that must be protected and preserved.  If through the constitutional process we would install the next lousy president, then so be it. Given the number of maggots in the government, it would take this country decades before our institutions are cleansed. By then, we would be the poorest in Asia, our professionals and middle class would have already migrated abroad and renounced citizenship, and our government would have been permanently damaged. 

Amid the political turmoil, the threat of the left and military adventurism reverberates a clear and present danger. And we would be living in a caged morass if that happens. What choice have we?

Bring it on. Let us plunge deeper into the morass for us to learn our lesson. The political carnage is perpetual and the cycle is vicious. But a carnage must occur and heads should roll in the guillotine if that’s the only way to rid our institutions of those morally unfit to govern. We have not hit the pit yet that’s why we still run in circles. And it’s going to hurt when we hit rock bottom. At the rate things are going, the edifice of the strong republic is going down. Undergoing another violent ouster of the presidency would seal the death of that institution. Let the constitutional process work this time. And once the president is constitutionally replaced, let the reforms begin.

Or, we burn to ashes.  If we really are the Filipinos they say we are, then we will rise from the ashes as a Phoenix reborn. And this better happen sooner. The youth of my generation are fast becoming desensitized and apathetic. Until the hemorrhage of the political soul is stopped, we will continue to be ashamed of the stigma of being a Filipino. I fear that the government will only hurt us more in this mad battle and lose ourselves in the end.

Epilogue to the joke: You see, the reason why governmentium behaves this way is because it has not reached its critical point yet. And when it does, it would be of cataclysmic proportions. Only upon completion of the metamorphosis will it achieve stability. It has been hypothesized that the speed of light will hasten the transformation. However, extreme and constant light emissions may cause disrepair in governmentium. When this happens, it will collapse. That’s why optimum light is needed for its transformation. Neutrons, electrons and particles play also critical roles in its stability. Now, if only the oppositrons and anti-particles would stop blasting the governmentium, the process would be much smoother and faster.


Batanes: Sojourn to the Land of the Great Northern Winds


There is only one place in the Philippine archipelago where you can witness the majestic meeting of the mountains, the seas and the sky in one breathtaking view. And so, there I went, with the wind under my heel, to sojourn to the land of the winds – Batanes.

I go back to blogging with this fitting travelogue of Batanes. Join me and my traveling sneakers (and yes, my wife who is also my travel buddy)  as we embark on the soul-nourishing joys of traveling.

Batanes is one of the most fascinating destinations I have ever visited. Because of its location, it is advisable to plan your trip as soon as the summer season starts. This allows you to explore its evergreen landscapes and calming seascapes without worrying about typhoons or heavy rains.

Thanks to alternative airlines, flying in and out to far-flung destinations like Batanes is now possible. We boarded a 24-seater plane from Manila and flew for an hour and a half, landing smoothly in the airport of Basco, the capital of Batanes. While descending Basco, one cannot but be awed by the pristine islets dotting the cerulean waters of the Pacific and the South China Sea. Upon arrival, we were greeted with the warm smile of our tour guide. A minimal environmental fee was charged. Please be advised that Batanes is a protected area and that any destructive practice is punishable by law. The Ivatans (collective name of the Batanes people) expect tourists to respect the natural habitat while appreciating its tourist spots. Folks, that is the basic principle of ecoutourism – take nothing but pictures and leave the spots as you have found them.

We stayed in one of the seaside resorts and the rate is quite affordable. The one we got cost only PhP4,000 (around USD100-130) per person for 3 nights and 4 days inclusive of meals. Or you can opt to stay at the house of the locales – a traditional Ivatan stone house. The homes usually consist of the main house with its living room and bedroom/s and the outhouse and kitchen, which is also a storage room of sorts. Limestone walls and hardwood floors of the house ensure that it is cool during the day. The amenities may be far from that of a hotel but this makes for a more exciting experience.

A Master’s Grand Opus

Batanes is the smallest province of the Philippines, measuring 230 square kilometers only. It is composed of 10 tiny islands and islets located about 162 kilometers north of the Luzon mainland. Itbayat, Batan and Sabtang are the three main islands. Itbayat is the largest but Basco, the capital, is located in Batan. Sabtang is a nature trekker’s haven as it offers ruggedly beautiful terrains to be explored, not to mention the cool, white-sand beaches to be conquered. Farther up north are the five islets of Siayan, Mayudis, Diogo, North Island and Y’ami. The locales say that on a clear day, the southernmost tip of Taiwan is visible from Y’ami. Y’ami is actually nearer to Taiwan than to the mainland Luzon.

With wind-swept hills and brazenly blue sky towering over rolling hills, one conjures the image of the mighty Thor, the Norse God of Thunder fashioning hill after hill with his thunderbolts to create a masterpiece of grand proportions. It seemed as if I was transported to a land before time. I was communing with the Almighty as I stood still upon a hill one night, the midnight blue sky lit by a thousand stars. They looked so near that caught myself reaching towards them as if to scoop each twinkling diamond with my bare hands. I felt at peace and just let the soft breeze coming from the nearby beach caress my cheeks blowing away the heat of the day from the pores of my skin.  And I uttered a small prayer thanking God for letting me see one of His, if not the best, creations on Earth.

At the heart of Batan Island is the 1,008-meter Mt. Iraya – the ever-vigilant landmark that has spawned great stories about how the islands were formed. It is a dormant volcano that last erupted some 400 years ago. The sides are heavily forested and it is another great attraction for photo enthusiasts on the way up to the peak.

Batanes has been referred to as the Land of the Great Wind. Most time of the year, this island group is frequented by strong typhoons. Yet the occurrence of something violent leaves behind something that is naturally enthralling and awe-inspiring. And the winds, oh the great power of the mighty winds! Because of its wind path, Batanes is a potential site for bigger wind farms. The Philippines’, and probably Asia’s, first wind power was constructed in Basco to serve the power needs of PAGASA’s radar station back in 1981. In 2004, a 180-kW power turbine was commissioned making Batanes a pioneer in renewable energy production.

Rolling Highlands and Lighthouses

Isolated from the rest of the Philippines, Batanes brought the romantic and the adventurous in me. Trekking kilometers of of pasturelands was never tiring. The sun-drenched foliage and landscaped shrubberies will surely catch your fancy. Pleasant surprises would spring from every corner bend like the rainbow that waved its iridescent colors upon limestone cliffs. And then there are the lighthouses – the sentinels that stand witness to the docking and sailing of sea vessels. Lighthouses play a very important role in seaside regions like Batanes’ as they provide beacon and safe haven for fishermen and sailors on stormy nights.

The Rolling Hills and Rakuh-A-Payaman, touted as the Marlboro Country of the Philippines, offer an invigorating experience as well as a visual feast of green expanse coupled with azure skies at sunset. Both have similar topographies and provide the perfect backdrop for an outdoor adventure. The Marlboro is actually a pastureland overlooking the Pacific Ocean. From the viewdeck, we saw the Mahatao Lighthouse and Mt. Iraya. If you are adventurous enough, you may ride a motorcycle up and down the rolling terrain to pump that sporty energy up your bloodstream. There is only one word to describe that experience: FANTASTIC!

The Bounty of the Sea Beckons

There is that dirt road in Sabtang that leads to an untouched beach paradise. It was so rustic that one could almost feel the primal atmosphere around it – rocks and crevasses jutting from geological formations complemented by the patches of coral reefs along the seashore. The shoreline is dotted with stretches of semi-fine white sand, a prelude to the Boracay-like white sands created by the minerals of dead sea corals. This natural process takes about thousands of years and in a hundred years or so, these sands will be as fine as that of Boracay’s. This undiscovered paradise is called Nakabuang Beach by the locales. The main attraction of the beach is the Nakabuang Arch, a rock naturally sculptured by the winds and waters. The astounding panorama provides a perfect area for picnic or a lunch by the beach.

You cannot go to Batanes without sampling their cuisine. Sea food is easy to come by here and we had the gastronomic delight of our time when the cook served us lobsters, coconut crabs, lapu-lapu and flying fish – cooked to perfection, some steamed and some flavored with coconut milk. Our fare was complemented with yellow rice, the Ivatan’s version of Java rice. The Ivatans cook their rice with turmeric or yellow ginger. Then instead of plates, we were served on leaves of local bread fruit tree called kabaya.

We were told that lobsters are ordinary fares in the dining tables in Batanes. But tourists are not allowed to bring more than 250 grams (or more than four pieces) of lobsters out of Batanes. This regulation is part of the conditions set forth in the law that designated Batanes as a protected area. Sea foods are augmented by sweet potatoes, yams and other root crops.

The Most Honest Place in the Country

The warmth of the Ivatan culture and their non-condescending attitude made our visit an unforgettable experience. Rarely do you get this kind of reception from our kababayans in other regions, at least from what I have experienced in my previous travels (except perhaps in Sagada, but let’s save that for the next travelogue). Oh, and did you know that Batanes enjoys zero crime rate? You could say that this is the safest place in the country. Aside from being the safest place, Batanes also boasts as being the most honest place in the country, greatly popularized by the Honesty Café in Radiaw. The café earned its name because it’s usually not staffed, so everyone is expected to leave money for whatever they take. This Batanes Restaurant’s honesty system has made it a sort of novelty among both tourists and locals alike. There’s a clear plastic jar at the left of the counter for customers to pay and get their own change.

If you lost something (such as wallet, bag or other personal belongings) you can go to the radio station to announce it. Likewise, local people who have found something usually bring it to the radio station so that they could be returned to the owners.  It is not unusual that lost wallet or even large amount of cash can be safely returned to the rightful owner. Now, if only the rest of the country will rise up to the occasion and imbibe the culture of honesty, then we would have done away with problems of corruption.

Five Star Rating

For a nature lover like me, I will rate Batanes a perfect 5. You get to experience the nature at its best. The luxury of hotels and electricity may be scarce, but what you get is a full recharge of the soul, a well-rested mind and swathes of fresh air. A little trade-off cannot be that bad. After all, we need to commune with nature every once in a while to tune in with events that  matter more, a clarifying effect if you like. And in this bright and pure surroundings, you might just gain that clarity of mind you badly need. So much has been said and so much has been written about Batanes but this is my very own experience and I am proud to share my sojourn with you.