Wednesday, August 31, 2011

sa pagdiriwang ng buwan ng wika

Ipinagdiriwang ng mga Pilipino ang "Buwan ng Wika" tuwing Agosto. Ito ang isa sa mga pagkakataon taon-taon para maipagmalaki at mapayaman ang pambansang wika ng Pilipinas, ang Filipino. Kaya't bago matapos ang buwan na ito, naisip kong maiba naman at magsulat gamit ang pambansang wika.

Magandang pagkakataon din ito upang isulat ang aking naiisip tungkol sa sanaysay na nilathala ni Ginoong James Soriano na lumabas sa Manila Bulletin kamakailan (makikita ito dito). Ako man ay napatigil matapos mabasa ito; bagama't maganda ang paksa at ang panimula ng artikulo, hindi naging maingat ang manunulat sa pagpapahayag ng kanyang mensahe.

Ayon sa kanyang sanaysay na pinamagatang Language, learning, identity, privilege, Ingles ang wika na kanyang kinamalayan, wika na kanyang kinasanayan sa paaralan, at wika na ginagamit sa trabaho. Dahil dito, Ingles ang kanyang tinuturing na inang wika. Sa kabilang dako, ang Filipino naman daw ang wika ng pagkakakilanlan. Ito ang wika na kailangan niyang gamitin upang maintindihan siya ng mga taong itinuturing niyang may mas mababang antas kesa sa kanya... mga taong kabilang sa lipunan ng malalansang isda.

Pinagdaanan ko din ang ilan sa mga naranasan niya sa kanyang paglaki: Ingles sa mga aklat, sa palabas sa telebisyon, sa paaralan... ngunit hindi ako sang-ayon sa kanyang pananaw. Para sa akin, pantay ang dalawang wikang ito. Pareho silang ginagamit araw-araw. Pareho nila pinapayaman ang kulturang Pilipino.

Ang Ingles ay ang ginagamit ng mga Pilipino sa larangan ng agham at sa malawakang pangangalakal; ito ang pangalawang opisyal na wika sa ating bansa. Ito ang wika ng mga pangkasalukuyang ilustrado. Ito ay wikang tinuturing na natatangi. Totoong may lamang ang mga marurunong gumamit ng Ingles sa pakikiharap sa ibang tao, lalo sa mga banyaga. Ngunit, sa dami ng Pilipino na nakakasalita at nakakasulat sa Ingles (at mababa pa rin ang tingin sa sarili nila), ang totoong kalamangan ng nakapag-aral ay hindi ang wikang gamit nila sa paaralan kundi ang kaalamang maibabahagi nila sa iba.

Filipino naman ang madalas ginagamit sa mas impormal na pakikipagtalastasan (lalo sa Luzon); ito'y isa sa mga lengua franca sa Pilipinas. Dahil dito, maaari ngang maging mababa ang tingin sa Filipino ng mga taong hindi sapat ang pag-aaral sa wikang ito at hindi nagkaroon ng wastong pagkakataon na gamitin ito (mga tulad ni G. Soriano). Ngunit kung naging mag-aaral siya ni Dr. Ruben Aspiras sa UPLB, nakita niya sana na marami nang tema sa agham ang itinuturo sa Filipino. Mahirap aralin, totoo, lalo't ang mga sangguniang babasahin ay nakasulat sa Ingles. Balang araw, kapag sapat na mayaman na ang wikang Filipino, baka makita na ito bilang wika ng kaalamang agham. Kung naging mag-aaral naman siya ni G. Rodel dela Torre sa Mataas na Paaralang Rural ng UPLB, nagkaroon sana siya ng mas malalim na pagunawa sa balarilang Filipino at sa iba ibang wika pa sa Pilipinas.

Hindi mababang uri ng wika ang Filipino. Mahina pa ito sa larangan ng agham, ngunit mayaman na ito sa mundo ng panitikan. Napatunayan ito ng mga mabubulaklak na salita ni Francisco Balagtas sa Florante at Laura at ni Huseng Sisiw sa Ibong Adarna. Nabasa na ito sa mga makukulay na salin sa Filipino ni Virgilio Almario ng Noli Me Tangere at El Filibusterismo ni Jose Rizal. Nakaantig na ito ng damdamin sa mga kanta nila Rey Valera, Ogie Alcasid, at Ryan Cayabyab.

Kay G. James Soriano, pinag-isip mo kami. Salamat dahil binuksan ng sanaysay mo ang kamalayan at inumpisahan nito ang talakayan tungkol sa mga suliranin ng mga pambansang wika natin at tungkol sa colonial mentality na buhay pa rin sa lipunan.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

presenting an imaginary world

As promised on Day #1 by the teachers in the training course on Enhancing Global Rice Research Leadership, our skills would be stretched by the activities we would have to undergo. For instance, each student was tasked to give a three-minute talk on a topic assigned to us by our teachers. Some were asked to talk about their inspiration, what they had done when they lost something, what challenges had they overcome, to sell the shirt they were wearing, to discuss what colour they'd paint the world... In my assignment, I had to be creative and imaginative since I was supposed to describe how amazing an imaginary country, called Dramanesia, is. 

A photo is worth a thousand words, they say. To paint a picture of the imaginary country in their minds, I pooled together some of pictures I've captured; photos that showed endemic plants and animals and landscapes that were not easily identifiable to one location... those images that made people say "I know this place, but I'm not quite sure where it is."

These are the slides I used in my presentation. What do you think? Isn't Dramanesia an amazing country? Hehehe.

But here's the challenge: Can you guess where these photos were really captured?

Monday, August 29, 2011

the learning journey

One of the highlights of the Enhancing Global Rice Research Leadership course was the "learning journey" to a rice farming community in Jala-jala, Rizal which we did on August 20, a Saturday.

The aim of the trip was to help us gain insights about the context of the farmer -- the environment, the community, the political and social structures, his/her values and beliefs, behavioral patterns -- things that could help us, the future drivers of rice research, to figure out solutions to barriers to development. We were encouraged to look at these factors as part of a whole ecology and not just in a cause-and-effect simplistic point of view.

In other words, we were instructed to go the farmers' fields as people going to the farm for the first time; not as scientists who had done a lot of farmers' surveys prior to this trip. We were outsiders, looking into the culture... and being in it, if we could.
Outsiders looking in.

In preparation for the journey, one of our teachers, Julie Arts, encouraged everyone to think of questions that would engage farmers into a dialogue with us. We had to avoid technical questions as much as possible; these questions that pertain to the details behind the way they conduct farming: the varieties on the field, the type of ecosystem, the nutrition management, etc. Aside from the interviews, we also had to observe the farmers' environment. We could take photos, wade into the fields, walk along the roads... but we were doing these as researchers, not as tourists.

The town of Jala-jala is along the shores of Laguna de Bay.
On the day itself, I went with Rosemary and we talked with Editha Delfin, one of the women working in the field at that time. Her story was very rich in history and I had a glimpse of Jala-jala's past from the eyes of this farmer.

Her surroundings were so serene, there were no tall buildings across the landscape, very few vehicles were traversing the concrete road, and the air felt really clean. On top of a hill, one had a clear view of Laguna de Bay. The contrast between the green fields and the sparkling lake was so beautiful. The community had an air of being lost in time. No wonder Jala-jala is called the paradise of Rizal.

Being in the midst of all these made me forget how close we actually were to the chaotic world of Metro Manila.

As the interview and the observation periods came to a close, I learned several things...

Out of the list of questions, we only were able to ask the first one. This, to me, meant that we could prepare a whole lot for a project but there are times when we just leave what we've prepared at the back our heads (as contingency plans) and we go with the flow. The path that our conversation went to was a "Surprise Me" moment: I had no idea what kind of information we'd get from Aling Editha.

My assumptions about farmers were either confirmed or corrected. Spending summer vacations with some of them (those who worked on sugarcane and coffee) had contributed to my farmer stereotypes. In this case though, Aling Editha was in charge of her family's property AND she helped organise farmers in their fight to claim their land. Also, I always thought that those who tilled the land would have graduated from high school at best; however, Aling Editha has a degree in Secretarial Science. One of my assumptions was correct: it was very clear how attached people are with their farms. During the interview, I was reminded of the character Wang Lung in "The Good Earth" (by Pearl S. Buck). Like Wang Lung, Aling Editha is unwilling to sell the family property (after fighting so hard to get it) and is disappointed with the transfer of land ownership to new players. She also prefers to stay in the farm rather than transfer to an urban area; to her, just work hard with the land and you'd be fed.

English is a good medium of communication in the Philippines but to get the richest stories, one has to understand the local vernacular. When Aling Editha began talking, she was conversing with us in English. But as her story unfolded, she found that her second language wasn't colourful enough to get her point across. That's when she shifted to Tagalog (in the dialect being used in Morong). Rosemary was completely lost and I had to give her periodic summaries as it was also hard to interrupt and translate at the most gripping parts of Aling Editha's story.

Going outside the laboratory and getting a feel of what it's like to live in the midst of farmers was certainly an enriching experience for me. Putting a face to what is commonly termed as "stakeholders" during meetings certainly gives us, the trainees, some perspective about the research that we're doing. The decisions we make in the comforts of the laboratory should be bright, colourful spots in the big picture.

After all, at its core, the work we do is for the benefit of rice farmers and consumers.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

learning to leading: our learning journey

footprints on a rice fieldrice fieldsfarm doggoing to the villageRosemary, Reza, and AnilynRosemary and farmer Editha
tricycle on the feeder roadChin, Deepinder, Rosemary, and Yu at the dairy coophut in the middle of the rice fieldunder a treetransplantingcow
biking on the highwaybiker on the Jala-jala roadKuntal, Sharif, and MandiayeJedi and AnnieGloria, Swe, Annie, and Yu with one of the farmersRosemary, Reza, and Chin
Alexis, Salina, and DorieReza, Yu, Chauhan, and KuntalGloria and Salinathe info sheets for the rice seedsgoing through the reading materialsEugene and the scholars looking at the materials for distribution
Learning Journey, a set on Flickr.
Photos from my trip to Jala-jala, Rizal with classmates from the leadership training course I attended. It was such a great experience for me. More about it in the next blog posts.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

learning to leading: culture sensitivity in an international community

Being exposed to an international community is a good way of becoming sensitive to what is acceptable to cultures other than one's own, or to normal behavior in one's own culture that is unacceptable in another culture. In a way, people exposed to such a community break themselves from their culture's stereotype; their behavior becomes more akin to what is "globally accepted".

In the training course I'm attending, I am surrounded by people coming from different cultural and national backgrounds. It's a good place to be for leaders in the making: a lot of conflicts arise from ignorance about cultural sensitivity and can just as easily be avoided if only people are aware or are sensitive about cultural differences.

Before going to another country, whether for work or for recreation, it is useful to research about cultural "peculiarities" (the departure from one's culture); these may take the form of gestures, other behavior patterns. Here are some examples of gestures that mean different things in different places:
  1. The "thumbs up" sign means "okay" in several countries; in Central and South Asia, this hand gesture may be seen as rude.
  2. The index finger being pointed straight at someone can make people from several cultures very uncomfortable.
  3. The "okay" sign (with the thumb and index finger forming an O while the rest of the fingers are outstretched) may mean money in Japan but may be vulgar elsewhere.
  4. Chopsticks must not be placed vertically on a container of cooked rice; this symbolizes death in East Asian countries.
  5. In some cultures (including mine), a nod means "yes" but it may mean "no" in others.
Conflict (due to cultural differences) are hopefully averted just by learning the acceptable and avoiding the unacceptable behaviors.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Back in college, I used to play with the UPLB Ethnomusemblia, a group of students who liked to play traditional Filipino music as live accompaniment to the UPLB Filipiniana Dance Troupe, those students who performed Filipino local dances. Tribal music was what I learned with the group: music filled with textures of the sounds from kulintang and agong; the resonating sounds of simultaneously beaten gangsa; and the deep tones from the dabakan. However, I never learned how to play stringed instruments that are part of the rondalla. I attempted the banduria but to no avail. That's why I never learned to play the music for the tinikling; instead, I contented myself with listening to the rondalla people play the lively song.

Tinikling is the national dance of the Philippines. In this lively dance, the man and the woman imitate the movements of a tikling, a bird found in the country, over two parallel bamboo poles set horizontally on the floor. The dance is made more challenging as the bamboo poles are being tapped together and on the ground: the dancers have to avoid having their feet hit by the colliding bamboo poles.

Nine years after college, I was sitting with classmates in the training course at dinner. The UPLB Sandayaw, another dance troupe on campus, performed several Filipino dances from the rural suite, including the tinikling. The cool thing was this: after the presentation, they taught the volunteers from the audience how to dance the tinikling! This was my first time to actually be involved beyond time-keeping in the rural suite!

Without a doubt, dancing the tinikling was a challenging experience. I needed to be nimble all throughout the dance because I didn't want to get hit by the bamboo poles! Scared of the poles, I kept jumping high too... akin to playing 10-20 or Chinese garter, maybe. On top of all that jumping, I had to keep count of the number of repetition of steps. Plus, I had to remember that this is a joyful dance: I had to do all that jumping with good posture and a big grin on my face! Each dancer who learns the steps must have a lot of foot-eye coordination, a good sense of balance and no aversion to risk because as the dance ends, the music speeds up to a dramatic finish; the dancers are required to keep everything in mind AND keep their poise too.

At least learning this dance has confirmed that I could actually try out the sayaw sa bangko. That's another stunt pretending to be a dance. The rehab doctor might see me more often because of this.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

learning to leading: introspection

"Gotta be conventional; you can't be so radical... For in this cycle that we call life, we are the ones who are next in line." 
-- Next In Line, After Image 

A few weeks back, I had to choose between attending an international workshop related to food science and attending an in-house training on leadership. I had a serious think about this because both are very good opportunities for me to grow as a person: the international workshop would give me the chance to meet with my group's collaborators; the in-house training was geared towards harnessing my potential... a look into my future roles, if you will. After a weekend of considering the options, I decided to attend the in-house training instead of the international workshop.

And so, for the next few days, I have given myself permission to commit to the intensive training called Enhancing Global Rice Research Leadership, a course being conducted by the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven. This training course was designed to prepare scientists early in their careers for future leadership roles in their organisations. We are, after all, the next in line. The participants of this course are very lucky: many who take on leadership roles are ill-equipped for the job; we, on the other hand, are being prepared as soon as possible. 

One of the things that struck to me as new in this whole experience is this: to be a good leader, I need to know myself. To do so, I need to define my personality, to understand the ways I approach stressful conditions, to learn how to react to ever-changing conditions... Basically, I need to see my attitude from an objective perspective. 

Through the course of the last few days, I realised some things about myself... 

My behaviour and my role during group activities varied depending on the situations and the personalities of the members of the groups I've been in. For instance, in a group of dominant figures, I tended to sit in the background as they planned for the expected, then I start asking about the what-ifs; in a group where there's a tendency for members to talk all at once, I tended to facilitate and to keep the conversations in order; and in a team whose emotions are in danger of running high, I seemed to maintain the communication lines going. 

My attitude towards team work also depends on what I plan to be in the future. Only by identifying my goals could I find ways to get them. A leadership position does not require as much technical skill as a team member, but it requires the development of "softer" skills and business (or management) know-how. So far, the group games we've been playing have allowed me to identify what my strengths and weaknesses are and the reflection times have given me the chance to think about how I could go about the improvements that I plan to do. 

And so, as the first week of the training program closes, I can say that it has been a wonderful learning experience for me. I can't wait to see how the next week will turn out to be... and how these things I've learned can be applied when I go back to my work group.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

happy birthday, Mam AKR!

Dr. Asuncion K. Raymundo was my academic adviser when I was majoring in Microbiology in UPLB. That was almost ten years ago. In a nutshell, she was one of the most influential people I've encountered; she helped steer my future towards a life of scientific research... I may not be a microbiologist anymore, but her tutelage has certainly set the foundation.

Today, a day before she retires, the graduates who experienced her guidance gathered together to celebrate her birthday with her. Alumni from as far as Iligan and Bacolod flew in to greet her on her special day. A former student even arrived from Canada! Those who couldn't attend sent in their messages through different forms of media.

To our academic mother, Ma'am AKR, we thank you for your guidance and setting the bar high for us. We wish you a happy birthday and all the best during your retirement.