ASEAN INTEGRATION:The inevitable is here

ARCHIVED: 2014. First Published in AGSHAN Community Newspaper. November 2014

This Editorial was written for the Agshan  (2014) a locally and academically produced community newspaper in La Trinidad, Benguet.

The ASEAN Integration was expected to happen by the year 2015 among the 10 member countries of the Association of the Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). With this, how are the grassroots being considered as stakeholders of the integration. How it will bridge development?

One of the key issues ASEAN is dealing with is the development divide within and across member countries. Several critiques say that this is clearly manifested by the huge disparity in per capita GDP (income) and other dimensions of human development such as life expectancy, literacy rate, and poverty incidence. How are the grassroots able to see themselves within these dimensions? As stakeholders, what can we do to narrow the gap so that we can participate in the integration?


The ASEAN Integration targets an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) by the end of year 2015 which follows the timeline on ASEAN Vision 2020 aiming: “to transform ASEAN into a stable,prosperous, and highly competitive region with equitable economic development, and reduced poverty and socio-economic disparities.”

Certainly, ASEAN 2015 was just the beginning of a lenghty effort integrating not only members of a single nation to end the vicious cycle of poverty and other issues around it. This time the whole region of Southeast Asian nations are involved. With that we have to be more equipped and empowered. The integration is inevitable. It requires the Philippines to be competitive in several aspects.

We are an agricultural country. Competitiveness will be triggered from the agricultural sector. With the removal of tariff and other protection to domestic products, there is a high possibility of losing the completion if low quality of production and packaging persist. Who will suffer then?

Now that the AEC considers food,agriculture and forestry as key components in the integration, our country, through the Department of Agriculture, is preparing the Filipino farmers to become more competitive…

Farm mechanization, irrigation, and financing are now included in the farming sector’s road map of the government.

Good as it seems we have to consider concerns raised by other groups who oppose the planned participation. The integration raises fear that land-grabbing, hunger, and poverty would worsen due to tariff issues that may flood the local market with highly subsidized agricultural products of other ASEAN nations like Thailand and Vietnam. How should the government address this then?

It all boils down to the readiness of both people and the government in terms of support to the local production processes, and marketing among others.

Whenever the state carries out  development efforts such as improving infrastructures, investing in both business and foreign trade, making new policies, every stakeholders should ensure that every Filipinos reap the benefits.

Each one has then the responsibility to check how these efforts are carried out in the communities. The answers to the question lies in everyone as responsible citizens. We have to be observant gaining awareness and being informed properly. In this way we are empowering ourselves. Being vigilant if how policies are implemented and how it will affect in the future.

In terms of support, continuous patronizing local products will help local producers improve their products through communicating suggestions and giving inputs, helping them create networks and market links.

Different sectors should focus now on building partnerships to strengthen local production practices and principles of local farmers and producers.



“Connecting Fragments” *

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This is how I remember my first lesson about the Philippines when I was a first grader. The first lesson is to describe a picture of small fragments of islands and islets being grouped under what are called Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

Coming to know of the country, which I have to be proud of, is home for a more than a thousand of species many of which are endemic to the country’s abounding wealth and beauty of various forms of natural resources.
These descriptions show how vast are the forms of life living in the Philippines, not only those we can find in nature but most especially are the people in-charge of these possessions as a

Baguio, Benguet has been my home since I started college. I am not a native of Benguet or in any part of the Cordillera, but I had a chance to make a dwelling at a small community at Longlong, La Trinidad. Through a relative from my hometown at Marikina, I found an opportunity to explore living on a different place. The first time I stayed in the community I was welcomed by the rural setting of the area. I got the impression that the people there knew that our family were visitors and not a local of the community. When I ride the jeep I felt that a common spirit exist among each person in the vehicle I am in. It is just like riding the jeep from the city of Manila, but the difference is that everyone talks with each other. It seemed that everyone knew everybody.

The culture is different. I felt different. It was the time that I felt that I am a total stranger. However, there was a warm sensation I get every time that the people would notice this stranger is with them and they will just smile. I really did not understand when they initiated talking to me through their local dialect, nevertheless I felt welcomed and at home.

More days had passed and more about the identity of this community was revealed. I noticed that it was only my relative’s house that had a gate built around it. Most of the houses of the community were open. There were no fences.

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Notice when traveling in the Cordillera region, the city of Baguio and its near locations, local’s houses will often be recognized when they build no fence around their home. (Taken at Tam-awan Village, this Nipa house reflects the humble living and attitude of openness locals in this region possess.)

It reflected a value among the people in that area shares. Sharing and co-existence is part of their way of life. The community consists of Ifugaos, Ibalois, and some have their roots in Bontoc. Others are Kalunguya. They live together. Some are subsistence farmers and they share resources to each other when possible.

The country is a home to diverse cultures. The environment shaped and influenced the people’s identity in many different ways. There is diversity in how people on this island practice their way of life according to their geographic locations. The form of living people create is also a way to adapt to the natural phenomena of their environment.

There are those who live on the mountains. People here must acquire skills to be able to go up and down the hills to work. Those who are living on the seaside developed knowledge on building boats to live with the waves in the ocean. Go to the south there are the Bagobos, Maranaos, Yakans; these are some popular ethnolinguistic groups found in the south. Set off further to its western and eastern parts you will hear of the Lumads.

On the east side of the Philippine map, you will find the Mangyans. Go further up the North, and be introduced with the indigenous groups of the Cordillera like the Ifugao, Kankana-ey, Ibaloi, and Kalanguya, just to name some of them, and

many others which if we will mention all we could reach to hundreds. Countless like the fragmented islands we see when we look at the map of the Philippines. These fragments scattered formed the Philippines. It had created the diversity among people and their way of life.

Though being through with my elementary years, these lessons from History and Geography subjects are more than just chapters of information from a grade school textbook. I realized that it is how I was introduced to Culture. Pursuing now a college degree, I find these past lessons very significant to being a Development Communication student. Culture is one of the important issues about people that need to be communicated.

Culture for me, is not just a field of study or a section in a magazine or a newspaper, but it is an aspect of human life where we can give our lives to devote for learning and deeper understanding about the Indigenous people who are in the society.
Cultural diversity sets a barrier to each Filipino that instead of seeing one nation, it was hard to form unity. Culture must not be a reason for conflicts, discrimination, and divisions. Through the differences, we can live with one another.

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“Dap-ay”. Or Ator, is a social-political structure known among the Cordilleran culture that signifies co-existence through sitting in a one circle, which the dap-ay has taken shape of,  when talking and settling issues in the community.

Communicate differences and pursue living towards peace and harmony. These issues can be addressed if we communicate with each other. The fragments need to connect.
Communication involves a process where it allows two ends, the “speaker” and the “receiver”, connect with each other. It does not focus to one side of a story only. Our communication would be more effective if we understand one another to the fullest. Relate with one another. Listen as others speak. Share your values to one another. Do not assume that another person will not understand you.

Break barriers.
Break the barrier of language. If you found yourself going to another region or even a country, learn the language. When we spend time with other people it also involves spending time learning how they speak and what they speak. It would definitely take time. It would take years. However, it is an effective means to connect to another person. In return, people who are different from your culture will allow themselves to connect with you. We have the ability to learn how to speak during childhood so we can continue learning another language when we are grownups.
The generation we are in today allows people to migrate to other places and change addresses. Break the barriers of pre-judgments when an idea is different from what you know and when an appearance of something is far from what you commonly see. Learn and let these differences teach you. Have an open mind, and with an open mind, open your heart too.
*(originally published on ZigZag Weekly. Young Thoughts of the Valley.November 2013. “Breaking Barriers Connecting Fragments, original title)