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Index

Editorial 

Community News
Ai Hu launches mobile kitchen
SM Group, RP’s top retailer
Robinsons wins bid for Manila Gas lot
Mindanao traders urged to ride China’s booming economy
Cebu makes its pitch in China business summit
Taguibao regains world masters title
Businessman slain in Mandaue
Kidnap Watch
Drug Watch

Opinion
Tsinoy Beats and Bytes
Gems of History
Comic relief

Feature
Kidnap suspect Zhang Du deported while on trial
In defense of the maligned gun

Kaisa
Beijing, Jinggangshan, Shengzhen—mga nakita, naisip at nadama sa isa pang biyaheng Tsina

Student
Second place winners in the PSCLF, Kaisa essay-writing contest winners, second batch
• Tell me
• Sigaw ng isang aba

Literary
Like a splitting bamboo

Cover
Rectifying man’s folly, returning nature’s bounty
Adopt a tree, save a forest

18 October 2005 vol. 18   No. 10 

10-18-05

Adopt a tree, save a forest: Tsinoy lumber merchants join hands to save La Mesa watershed

By Andrea Tan

On its 85th anniversary, the Philippine Lumbers’ Merchants Association chucked aside the customary banquet and decided to adopt: not a child, but five hectares of the La Mesa Watershed.On Sept. 18, members, their families and friends trooped to the La Mesa Dam in Novaliches, Quezon City to plant trees, making the PLMA the first Chinese-Filipino civic organization to join the Save the La Mesa Watershed project of Bantay Kalikasan and the ABS-CBN Foundation. read more...

About the cover:
Children of the members of the Philippine Lumber Merchants Association inherit their parents’ respect for nature, and a basic principle of giving back the bounty taken from Mother Earth.

Editorial

The long, tortuous wait for justice

Justice should be swift for the wicked, to protect the innocent.

Justice should not lie at the end of a long, tortuous road.

Justice should not creep along slower than a snail’s pace. read more...

Opinion

Gems of History By Go Bon Juan

Chinese revolutionists salute Filipino comrades

October marks the success of two Chinese revolutions. Oct. 10, 1911 marks the downfall of the last Qing emperor, which ended the 267-year Manchu rule in China (1644-1911). Oct. 1, 1949 marks the success of the People’s Revolution, which gave birth to the People’s Republic of China. read more...

Tsinoy Beats & Bytes By Teresita Ang See

Society’s scourge returns: Cops behind kidnaping and killing

The Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order and the Citizens Action Against Crime, two of the most active NGOs involved in the fight against crime, have documented instances of police involvement in recent kidnaping cases. We certainly have heard of such allegations before, but this sad state of affairs should continue to alarm and distress us. The involvement of law enforcers and former lawmakers in such heinous crimes, like ex-Rep. read more...

Community news

Kidnap Watch Update

5 kidnap gang suspects die in shootout, kidnap victim rescued

Five suspected members of the Waray-Waray kidnap-for-ransom gang were killed in a shootout after police raided their hideout and rescued the victim in Caloocan City on Oct. 10. read more...

Feature

Kidnap suspect Zhang Du deported while on trial

A foreign kidnaper has been deported despite a hold departure order issued against him.

Zhang Du, alias Wilson Zhang, was deported May 7, even as he faced trial for a 2001 well-known kidnap-for-ransom case. He was one of seven Chinese nationals accused of the abduction of Jacky Rowena Tiu four years ago. The case is being tried at the San Fernando City regional trial court in La Union. read more...

Kaisa

Beijing, Jinggangshan, Shenzhen

-- Mga nakita, naisip at nadama sa isa pang biyaheng Tsina

Ni Joaquin Sy

(Unang Bahagi)

Discovery trip iyon para sa mga sandaang “eminent young overseas Chinese” (ayon sa imbitasyon) mula sa mahigit dalawampung bansa sa Amerika, Europa, Oceania at Asya. Inorganisa ng Overseas Chinese Affairs Office ng China State Council at ng China Overseas Exchange Association. Ang petsa: Setyembre 11 hanggang 22. Ang ruta: Beijing, Jiangxi (Nanchang, Ji’an, Jinggangshan) at Guangdong (Guangzhou, Zhongshan, Fushan, Shenzhen). read more...

Cover stories

10-18-05

Adopt a tree, save a forest: Tsinoy lumber merchants join hands to save La Mesa watershed

By Andrea Tan

 

On its 85th anniversary, the Philippine Lumbers’ Merchants Association chucked aside the customary banquet and decided to adopt: not a child, but five hectares of the La Mesa Watershed.

On Sept. 18, members, their families and friends trooped to the La Mesa Dam in Novaliches, Quezon City to plant trees, making the PLMA the first Chinese-Filipino civic organization to join the Save the La Mesa Watershed project of Bantay Kalikasan and the ABS-CBN Foundation.

PLMA strongly shares the project’s aims to protect the country’s natural resources and to help keep the environment clean and green, stresses PLMA president Pedro Tan Tiong Sian.

“We are all Filipinos living in this country and it is our responsibility to give the next generation clean air, clean water and a clean future,” he says.

The rehabilitation project wants to reforest 1,500 hectares of the La Mesa Watershed to ensure a sustainable water source for Metro Manila. Donors plant 10 percent of the trees and Bantay Kalikasan takes care of the rest. The trees will be cared for and nursed until they can sustain their growth after three years. At present, the watershed is home to 72 indigenous plant species, including hardwood like narra.

Donors’ monetary contributions go to the maintenance of the hectares adopted. For three years, Bantay staffers care for the saplings: that they have enough fertilizer, don’t fall over during a typhoon, and most importantly, don’t burn during summer. The bulk of the donation isn’t used up until the summer months when La Mesa watershed hires extra personnel to patrol the forest. An irresponsible camper can flick one lit cigarette and easily burn down 1,000 hectares during the dry season.

PLMA’s participation in reforestation efforts seemed unthinkable when it was founded in 1920. The association traces its roots to sawmill operators and lumber dealers in Manila who had eagerly awaited cut logs that were pulled by carabaos and transported through the Pasig River. Its initial members include the illustrious Gocheco, Gotauco, Coseteng, Dy and Dee clans. Association members were—and are—classified as sawmill and lumberyard owners, lumber wholesalers and retailers mostly from Metro Manila, Bulacan and Pampanga 

In 1954, the PLMA, together with other Chinese-Filipino groups, helped organized the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Being the traditional business line of most Federation members before, the lumber industry became one of the four pillars of the Federation. The others were steel and hardware, textile, and cigar and cigarette.

The following year, PLMA’s membership had grown to more than 300, prompting it to start building a permanent home in Intramuros. Construction of the building was completed in 1957, earning the PLMA the distinction of being the first business organization to have its own building.

In recent years, however, the members have dropped to 150 as lumber became an increasingly restricted and limited commodity. Unchecked logging has left the country with a remaining forest cover of 5.5 million hectares, or 18.3 per cent of the total land area. At least 163,000 hectares of forest is lost every year. (See sidebar)

Today, to stem forest depletion, the government has permitted wood importation and imposed a log ban. This situation is a far cry from the country’s former lead position as exporter of three classes of Philippine mahogany. Hardwood includes narra, yakal, guijo. Hard construction materials include apitong, tangile and red lauan. Lighter construction materials include white lauan and pahutan.

To survive, most lumber merchants have diversified into the steel and hardware business. About five percent of members have become importers of wood from Malaysia, including Sabah.

The December 2004 landslides and floods in Quezon province serve as grim reminders to Filipinos, including the PLMA, of the consequences of illegal logging, irresponsible tree-cutting and poor reforestation. The PLMA thus sees to it that members keep abreast of forestry regulations and directives.

Tan says many PLMA members, including three founders who are still alive, have remained in the country.

“We lumber merchants are a loyal lot. We are rooted here in the Philippines, we choose to invest here and nowhere else,” he says.

A sawmill or lumberyard operator needs at least 4,000 sq.m. to 5,000 sq. m. of property to work on.

“This is an investment for the long haul. It also reflects our innate faith and hope for our country. Let’s all work together for this nation to succeed,” Tan says.

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Editorial

The long, tortuous wait for justice

Justice should be swift for the wicked, to protect the innocent.

Justice should not lie at the end of a long, tortuous road.

Justice should not creep along slower than a snail’s pace.

But kidnaping victims who have brought their cases to court have yet to receive justice. They have turned to the legal process as dutiful citizens in the hope that the criminals would be brought to justice. But justice has dragged its feet so slowly that many victims regret treading this path.

The court battles are several times costlier than the ransoms that some kidnap victims have paid. What cannot be quantified is the loss of peace of mind resulting from the threats and harassment that emanate from unrepentant kidnapers and their relatives.

The trauma of kidnaping is not one a victim quickly recovers from. A judicial system that fails to immediately dispense justice only retards the recovery process. For many victims, release from their ordeal means a long struggle to return to normal lives, punctuated often by continuing nightmares and fears that stem from the trauma of abduction: a period when their lives hung in a balance. Resolution in court of their cases would surely bring relief and closure to their ordeal.

Take the case of Jayson Kirby and Jayson Kevin, who were only four and two when abducted in 1992. In 2001, their kidnapers were convicted after nine long years. They were 13 and 11 by then. The mastermind has appealed the decision. These two youngsters would probably have children of their own before their case is resolved and closed for good.

Michelle Siu Ragos and Karen Hsieh were kidnaped in 1997 and 1998, respectively. Ragos’ case was promulgated last month, after eight long years, and Hsieh’s will be promulgated next week.

Jacky Rowena Tiu was taken by eight Chinese nationals in September 2001. Softdrink executive Betti Chua Sy’s second death anniversary is next month. Like Tiu’s case, the trial is hardly moving.

The long delay in receiving justice is unfair to the victims. They are victimized twice over: by the criminals and by our own defective criminal justice system. This situation has been brought to the attention of our government time and again, but the reforms in the system are as elusive as getting a fair and speedy trial in our courtrooms.

The rescue of kidnap victims does not end with their return to their families. Speedy trial to bring the criminals to justice must follow for proper closure. A justice system that crawls along is a grave injustice.

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Tsinoy Beats & Bytes By Teresita Ang See

Society’s scourge returns: Cops behind kidnaping and killing

The Movement for Restoration of Peace and Order and the Citizens Action Against Crime, two of the most active NGOs involved in the fight against crime, have documented instances of police involvement in recent kidnaping cases. We certainly have heard of such allegations before, but this sad state of affairs should continue to alarm and distress us. The involvement of law enforcers and former lawmakers in such heinous crimes, like ex-Rep. Dennis Roldan in the kidnaping of 4-year-old Kenshi Yu last February, is condemnable and hard to live down. The people involved in the fight against crime risk their lives to get rid of criminals, our society’s scourge. They don’t need to battle those whose duties are to protect us.

We are reprinting in full the statement recently issued by the MRPO-CAAC in light of recent police involvement in crimes.

“Our worst nightmares have once again come true. In the past month, rogue policemen were involved in three kidnappings, two murders, and an undetermined number of car thefts. It seems we must again be wary of the men who are supposed to protect us.

We recognize that these policemen do not represent the entire police force. They are among the few rotten eggs and we are heartened by the fact that police authorities have not tolerated these hoodlums in their ranks. But we cannot help but be alarmed by the brazenness and utter disregard for life and decency shown in these recent incidents:

• On Aug. 31, the 11-year-old twins, Jin Ritz and Kelvyelt Sermonia, and their 9-year-old sister, Vinz, were kidnaped on their way to school. The children, who were later rescued, recounted how the kidnapers tied them up in a stinking bathroom, fed them only crackers, beat them up and harassed them. The suspected perpetrators of that abduction were PO1 Antonio Castillo, assigned to the PNP Aviation Security Group, and PO1 Jose Lonmar Zapatos, who is assigned to the PNP Special Action Force. They were arrested by elements of the Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response (PACER) team and are now in custody.

• On Sept. 1, businessman Henry Sia was abducted, detained, and robbed. In addition, money was extorted from him. The main suspects in his case are PO2 Clifford de Guzman, assigned at the National Capital Region Police Office, and his brother PO2 Jeffrey de Guzman, of the Western Police District. Another police officer, Insp. Marijon Perez, assigned at the PNP-Camp Vicente Lim, is also suspected of involvement in the Sia abduction, according to the WPD’s Chief Supt. Pedro Bulaong. In August, the same group of policemen was also tagged in the abduction of John Chua.

• On Sept 14, Rosanna Guevarra was driving along the main road in Cainta, Rizal with her 1-year-old daughter, Erica Charlene, when her car was blocked by motorcycle-riding men. When Rosanna refused to stop, the armed men opened fire at the car, hitting and killing the 1-year-old Erica. The suspected perpetrators: PO1 Candido Vallejo, PO1 Roel Palana and the alleged leader, PO2 Joel Tapec, all from the district mobile group of the Eastern Police District. At the time of the killing, Tapec was out on bail for the robbery of Fernando Siy’s candy factory in Pasig City on Aug. 26. Suspects Vallejo and Palana were arrested on Sept. 28, while Tapec remains at large.

• On Sept. 15, the day after the girl’s killing, Vallejo and Palana were again involved in the abduction of Michael Chan, 33, a Hong Kong national. The abductors asked for a P5-million ransom. They killed Chan on Sept. 17 when his family could not afford to raise the ransom demanded. Rizal police officers said that when arrested, Vallejo’s mobile phone yielded text messages on the ransom negotiation, so they contacted PACER and learned about the kidnaping. The suspects later admitted to the murder and pointed where they dumped Chan’s body. Chan left a 1-year-old baby and is now lying at the Funeraria Paz on Araneta Ave., Quezon City.

Two innocent victims were killed in the span of just five days. There were two armed robberies in just two weeks. Policemen were responsible for all of them. What do these say about our police force?

We have also been informed that many incidents of carjacking and hijacking in Quezon City in recent months were supposedly perpetrated by rogue policemen. The problem is that few of the victims dared to report the incidents. As a consequence, the crimes multiplied because the victims, through their silence, allowed the perpetrators to go unpunished.

Fortunately, in the end, decent police officers showed determination in getting the criminals, even if these were their fellow policemen.

We condemn the dastardly acts of rogue policemen who have betrayed their duty to protect citizens and instead prey on those whom they are sworn to keep safe from harm. We commend the police force for their swift action in arresting the hoodlums in their ranks. We exhort them to exert even greater effort to arrest policemen who are still at large for the crimes they had committed. We urge them to conduct a prompt and honest-to-goodness cleansing of their ranks. The government must also act fast in supporting the transformation and professionalization of our police force and backing it with the logistics and resources it needs to put a stop to this scourge.”

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Gems of History By Go Bon Juan

Chinese revolutionists salute Filipino comrades

October marks the success of two Chinese revolutions. Oct. 10, 1911 marks the downfall of the last Qing emperor, which ended the 267-year Manchu rule in China (1644-1911). Oct. 1, 1949 marks the success of the People’s Revolution, which gave birth to the People’s Republic of China.

But little do Filipinos know that our own heroes and martyrs were among those who inspired the Chinese revolutionists and encouraged them to continue their struggle. The Chinese revolutionists, in turn, stoked in their Filipino comrades the same ideals to achieve freedom even at the cost of their lives. This mutual support and encouragement is seldom mentioned in our history books.

Liang Qi Chao (), one of the most renowned reformists, wrote that he wanted to go down on his hands and knees as a tribute to the brave Filipinos. In his treatise on “How to annihilate a country,” Cao said: “The Philippines, our brothers from the same continent and race, struggled with the white men twice already (against the Spaniards and Americans) and without losing hope in their defeats. I look toward the south (the Philippines) and go down on my hands and knees [prostrate myself] to kowtow to them.”

Galiciano Apacible, on the other hand, wanted to commit suicide in Hong Kong when he learned that the arms shipment on the Japanese vessel Nonibuki Maru, procured by Dr. Sun Yat Sen for the Filipino revolutionists, sank after hitting some reefs. His Chinese friend, Chen Shao Bai (), admonished him thus: “It is not so much adversities that the revolutionaries worry about but not ever seeing the day of victory. How can you lose hope for so small an adversity? In wanting to die, you seek only your own peace, forgetting everything else. Everyone has to suffer death, but death can be ‘heavier than the Tai mountain or lighter than a goose feather.’ You do not need to die but seek death—how about the hundred thousands of your comrades facing death in the midst of battle, braving the cannons and gunfire?... your own life is directly tied with the survival of the Philippines itself. Do not look at it lightly but guard it preciously for the sake of your country.”

After Apacible heard this touching admonition, he continued to call on Filipino patriots in Hong Kong to plot how they could help in the cause of the Philippine revolution.

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Kidnap Watch Update

5 kidnap gang suspects die in shootout, kidnap victim rescued

Five suspected members of the Waray-Waray kidnap-for-ransom gang were killed in a shootout after police raided their hideout and rescued the victim in Caloocan City on Oct. 10.

The gang had demanded P20 million in ransom for Chinese-Filipino businessman Willie Chua before police raided their hideout.

Police recovered from the slain gang members two caliber .38 revolvers, a caliber .45 automatic, a submachine gun and a hand grenade.

Caloocan police said the slain suspects, Ronnie Alcabal, Niño Canonizado and three others who have not yet been identified, believed to be members of the Calvin Lagada Waray-Waray Gang, abducted Chua in front of his shop in Novaliches, Quezon City at 2:55 p.m. on Oct. 7.

After the kidnaping, the gang fled with Chua in a silver L-300 van and a silver Toyota Corolla, toward Kaybiga in Caloocan.

 

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS

Abandoned: Ralph Ashley Alcular, 3, after Moro guerillas closed in on the suspects’ hideout, in Sultan sa Barongis, Maguindanao, on Oct. 8. Alcular was snatched by his nanny, Hazel Tuala, and two men from a daycare center near his home in Kidapawan on Aug. 23. The group had initially demanded P5 million in ransom but later lowered it to P2 million which Alcular’s parents still could not raise.

 

Freed: Taiwanese businessman, Kevin Tsai, of Taifini Copper and Conductor Inc., after payment of ransom, in Las Piñas City, on Oct. 3. Initial ransom demand was P5 million. Tsai’s company reported his disappearance after he failed to show up at its production plant in Silang, Cavite on Sept. 27. His vehicle was later found in the parking lot of a fastfood outlet in Gen. Mariano Alvarez, Cavite.

 

Identified: Insp. Marijoy Perez, assigned at Camp Vicente Lim, Calamba, Laguna, as the fourth suspect in the kidnaping of Chinese-Filipino businessman Henry Sia, from the police photo file, in Manila, on Oct. 6. Sia said Perez was one of those inside the Toyota Lucida van that the suspects used to transport him to their hideout in Quezon City on Sept. 1. Police earlier arrested PO2 Jeffrey de Guzman of the Manila Police District Anti-Illegal Drugs Division and tricycle driver Aurelio Pavo Jr. Sia also implicated De Guzman’s brother, Clifford de Guzman, also a policeman. National Bureau of Investigation operatives raided Clifford’s house on Linao St., Quezon City and seized the van used in Sia’s abduction, a .9 mm Beretta pistol and a hand grenade. The suspects had blocked Sia’s Pajero near his house in Sta. Cruz, Manila and forced him into the van that brought him to Clifford’s house. The suspects had demanded P5 million in ransom, which subsequently was reduced to P200,000. Sia was released, but the suspects took his car.

 

Released: Chinese-Filipino trader Arnel Dy and his companion Ding Kee Wee, by five men,  hours after the abduction, in Manila, on Oct. 4. The suspects, who introduced themselves as Bureau of Immigration agents, seized the victims near Baclaran in Pasay City.

 

Arrested: Maxwell Absis, suspect in the 1996 kidnaping of former tourism undersecretary Jose Clemente, in Agusan del Norte, on Oct. 3. Absis, who had a P250,000 bounty on his head, did not resist arrest when police served him the warrant of arrest issued by Manila Judge Edgardo Cruz.

 

Unreported

Kidnaped: Filipino DOCTOR, 63, by two armed men while buying a lotto ticket, in Parañaque City, on Oct. 7. On the same day, the kidnapers called the victim’s son informing that his father is with them and warning him not to report to the police. Ransom demand P10 million.

 

released: Filipino shopowner, 47, after payment of ransom, on Oct. 13. The victim was kidnaped in Mabalacat, Pampanga on Oct. 12.

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Feature

Kidnap suspect Zhang Du deported while on trial

A foreign kidnaper has been deported despite a hold departure order issued against him.

Zhang Du, alias Wilson Zhang, was deported May 7, even as he faced trial for a 2001 well-known kidnap-for-ransom case. He was one of seven Chinese nationals accused of the abduction of Jacky Rowena Tiu four years ago. The case is being tried at the San Fernando City regional trial court in La Union.

Former City Prosecutor Oscar Corpuz had reduced Zhang’s participation from principal to accessory. Corpuz was later sacked by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for incompetence and negligence in this case. 

The reduced charge allowed Zhang to post bail. But he was later apprehended by immigration agents for being an undocumented alien.

Since 2002, Zhang has been detained at the BI detention facility in Bicutan, Taguig.

Tiu learned about Zhang’s deportation on Aug. 7. She filed a complaint to Immigration Commissioner Alipio Fernandez after Philippine National Police chief Arturo C. Lomibao confirmed the deportation.

Lomibao then organized a case conference at the Police Anti-Crime Emergency Response headquarters on Sept. 7, discussed how Zhang was allowed to leave the country and the measures and sanctions that will be implemented. 

The case conference, which was requested by Tiu and anti-crime crusader Teresita Ang See, was attended by the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Foreign Affairs, Department of Justice, PNP, Citizens Action Against Crime’s Ang See, Tiu and her father, Rudy.

At the meeting, Fernandez promised that the results of the investigation will be out “next Thursday, Sept. 15.”

To date, no results have yet been released by the BID despite the victim’s follow-up requests.

Dismayed by the lack of attention from concerned law enforcement agencies, Tiu and Ang See went back to Malacañang Oct. 6 to seek the assistance of the president. Tiu seeks punishment for those involved in Zhang’s unwarranted deportation.

Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Angelo Reyes, chief of the National Anti-Crime Task Force, was ordered by the president to personally take charge of the investigation.

After Tiu’s appeal to the President, the BID claims to have sacked an immigration agent whose involvement in Zhang’s escape is suspected. However, Fernandez refuses to identify the agent, ostensibly because the bureau is also looking into possible involvement of other agents. He said findings will be out “next week.” 

Tiu was kidnaped Sept. 27, 2001 and released Oct. 4, 2001 after ransom was paid. It has been four years since her ordeal began. The last hearing was more than a year ago.

 “If they think they can stall until the issue dies down or I’ll tire of pursuing and fighting for justice, they better think again.,” Tiu said. “I will not relent! I deserve justice which is rightfully mine!”

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Kaisa

Beijing, Jinggangshan, Shenzhen

-- Mga nakita, naisip at nadama sa isa pang biyaheng Tsina

Ni Joaquin Sy

 

(Unang Bahagi)

Discovery trip iyon para sa mga sandaang “eminent young overseas Chinese” (ayon sa imbitasyon) mula sa mahigit dalawampung bansa sa Amerika, Europa, Oceania at Asya. Inorganisa ng Overseas Chinese Affairs Office ng China State Council at ng China Overseas Exchange Association. Ang petsa: Setyembre 11 hanggang 22. Ang ruta: Beijing, Jiangxi (Nanchang, Ji’an, Jinggangshan) at Guangdong (Guangzhou, Zhongshan, Fushan, Shenzhen).

Sampu ang naimbita sa Pilipinas. Anim mula sa Manila, isa sa Pampanga, tatlo sa Cebu. Kahit hindi nakasama ang isang taga-Manila, pinakamalaki pa rin ang tropang Pinoy sa lahat ng delegasyon dahil lima sa imbitado (kasama na tayo) ang nagsama ng kabalikat at katuwang sa buhay at isa ang nagsama ng nais maging kabalikat at katuwang sa buhay (nililigawan, sa madaling sabi).

Dahil inorganisa ng pamahalaang Tsino, iba ang itineraryo sa mga pangkaraniwang China tour. At para sa maraming delegado, hindi lang iyon pagkakataon para maobserbahan nang malapitan ang mga pagbabagong nagaganap sa Tsina (kagulat-gulat!). Pambihirang pagkakataon din para makasalamuha ang mga kapwa-etnikong Tsino, na dahil nagmula sa iba’t ibang bansa, ay hinubog ng iba’t ibang kultura’t karanasan (nakapagmumulat!).

Mahuhusay sa wika

Sa bagong gusali ng makasaysayang Beijing Hotel tumira ang mga delegado sa tatlong gabi sa Beijing. Nasa bukana ito ng Wangfujing, ang kilalang shopping street. Dalawang kanto lang ang layo mula sa Tiananmen Square. Sa lumang gusali ng hotel na ito ginanap ang bangkete para ipagdiwang ang pagkakatatag ng bagong republika ng mamamayan noong 1949.

Pinakapormal ang mga aktibidad sa Beijing.

Una’y ang welcome banquet na pinangunahan ni Xu Yousheng, deputy director ng Overseas Chinese Affairs Office. Sa kanyang talumpati, sinabi niya na ang kanilang director na si Chen Yujie (dumalaw siya sa Bahay Tsinoy dalawang taon ang nakaraan) ay kumukuha ng dalawang buwang kurso sa paaralan ng partido komunista, kaya siya muna ang tumatayong pinaka-host.

Malaki ang naiambag ng mga Tsino sa ibayong dagat para sa kaunlaran ng Tsina, ani Xu, kaya naman inoorganisa ang mga discovery trip para mapanatili ang ugnayan sa mga bagong salinlahi ng overseas Chinese, nang sa gayo’y patuloy silang maging mga tulay sa relasyon ng Tsina at mga bansang itinuturing na nilang tahanan. Pagkakataon din iyon para ang mga bagong salinlahi ay matuto ng wika at kulturang Tsino, aniya pa.

Ang totoo, napansin natin sa biyahe na multilingual ang karamihan ng delegado. Bukod sa marunong ng Ingles at Mandarin, marunong din sila ng wika ng pinagmulang bayan. Maging ang mga galing sa mga bayang sinikil ang pagtuturo ng wikang Tsino, gaya ng Burma, Thailand at Indonesia, mahuhusay sa Mandarin. Pinakamahuhusay sa wika ang mga galing Malaysia. Marunong sila ng Ingles, Mandarin, Hokkien o Cantonese at Bahasa Malaysia. Maraming dapat matutunan sa kanila ang mga kabataang Tsinoy, na madalas na may kahusayan sa Ingles, mababa ang tingin sa Filipino, uutal-utal sa Hokkien at walang alam sa Mandarin, pero mayabang na mayabang at nagtuturing sa sarili bilang edukado.

Lumilipad, sumisibad                                                

Ikalawang aktibidad ang mga briefing tungkol sa kalagayang pang-ekonomya at pampulitika ng Tsina. Kahanga-hanga ang mga estatistika. Pinakamabilis sa buong mundo ang average annual growth na 9.4 percent sa nakalipas na dalawampung taon. Ang ekonomyang Tsino ay naging mahalagang bahagi na ng ekonomya ng mundo at ang galaw ng Renminbi ay mahalagang indikasyon na sa ekonomyang pandaigdig. 280,000 kompanya ang namuhunan sa Tsina sa nakalipas na dalawampung taon, kasama na ang 400 sa 500 pinakamalalaking kompanya sa mundo. Sapol lahat ang mga target sa ikasampung five-year plan mula nang itatag ang bagong republika. Kaya naman sinasabi ng World Bank na mula nang buksan ang ekonomya ng Tsina noong 1979, natamo nito sa wala pang isang henerasyon ang kaunlarang hindi natatamo ng maraming bansa sa loob ng ilang henerasyon (aray!).

Sa mga briefing sa Beijing at iba pang siyudad, madalas gamitin ang mga idiomang tu fei meng jin (lumilipad at sumisibad) at fan tian fu di o tian fan di fu (yumayanig sa langit at lupa) para ilarawan ang mabilis na pagbabagong nagaganap sa Tsina. Hindi eksaherasyon ang paggamit sa mga idiomang ito.

Ang totoo, sa mismong Beijing, kaylaki na nga ng pagbabago mula nang unang marating natin ito noong dekada 80 ng nagdaang siglo. Noo’y kayrami pang mga bisikleta, bagama’t kabi-kabila na ang konstruksiyon. Sa mga sumunod na pagbisita nati’y padalang nang padalang ang mga bisikleta at pakapal nang pakapal ang mga kotse at bagong gusali. Sa pinakahuling bisita natin, kakaunti na ang mga bisikleta at nagsisikip na ang mga maluluwang na abenida sa dami ng sasakyan. Kaya naman nasabi ng nakausap nating tsuper na delikado nang magbisikleta sa Beijing dahil bago man ang mga sasakyan ay bagito naman ang karamihan ng tsuper.

Lalong makikita ang planadong pagdebelop sa Beijing sa bagung-bagong Beijing City Planning Exhibition Hall. At nalaman natin sa kabuuan ng biyahe na ang lahat ng siyudad, malaki man o maliit, ay may kanya-kanyang city planning exhibition hall. Halos isang obsesyon ang may pokus na pagpapaunlad sa mga siyudad.

Nalaman rin natin na dahil sa mabilis na pag-unlad at pagbabagong nagaganap sa iba’t ibang bahagi ng Tsina, naeengganyo nang manatili ang mahuhusay na propesyunal at kabataang Tsino sa halip makipagsapalaran sa ibang bansa.

Katatagan, kaunlaran

Pero nalaman din natin sa mga briefing na ang mabilis na pag-unlad ng ekonomya ay lumikha rin ng mga problemang panlipunan. Pangunahin sa mga ito ang hindi balanseng pag-unlad ng mga rehiyon at ang paglaki ng agwat ng kita ng mga tagalunsod at taganayon. Triple ang average income ng una sa huli, bukod sa mas maraming benepisyo ang mga tagasiyudad. Kaya naman ito ang sinisikap pagtuunan ng pansin ng pamahalaang Tsino sa ngayon at sa hinaharap. Sangkatlo (one-third) na lang ng kabuuang puhunan ang mula sa estado. Ang mas malaking bahagi’y mula sa pribadong sector. Pero sinasadyang ibuhos ang puhunan ng estado sa agrikultura para iangat ang kabuhayan ng mga taganayon. Ginagawa ito para matamasa ng mas maraming tao ang mga bunga ng kaunlaran. Kailangan ito para sa katatagang panlipunan.

Wending. Ibig sabihin, stability o katatagan. Paulit-ulit nating narinig ito sa mga briefing bilang pinakamahalagang sangkap para sa kaunlaran. Kailangan ito para sa may pokus, may plano at tuloy-tuloy na pag-unlad. Ang katatagang pampulitika, lalung-lalo na. Kaugnay nito, isang taga-Hongkong na nakatabi natin sa isa sa mga briefing ang nagsabi na sa Pilipinas, mukhang hindi matatag ang pulitika at meitian du buyiyang. Ibig sabihin, araw-araw nag-iiba, pero sinabi sa paraang hindi nangangahulugan ng mabilis na pagbabago kundi para ipahiwatig ang kawalan ng stability at consistency.

Nang magbriefing naman ang isang opisyal ng Jiangxi, nang ibenta ang lalawigan niya bilang pinakamainam na paglagakan ng puhunan, ipinagmalaki niyang doo’y sui hao, shan hao, ren geng hao (mabuti ang mga ilog, mabuti ang mga bundok at lalong mabuti ang mga tao), bukod sa mayroon itong matatag na kalagayang pampulitika. At nang mabanggit ang katatagang pampulitika, medyo nagulat pa tayo nang banggitin niya ang problema sa pulitika ng Pangulong Arroyo bilang halimbawa ng kawalan ng katatagang pampulitika.

Tatayo sana tayo para sabihing “Bosing, huwag mo naman kami ginagawang negatibong halimbawa,” pero totoo naman ang sinabi niya, kaya wala tayong nagawa kundi tahimik na iluha ang kapalarang kawawa ng bayan nating kawawa.

Ang bisa ng islogan

Sa kabila nito’y kahanga-hanga ang opisyal na iyon sa marubdob na pagbebenta sa Tsina bilang ideyal na lagakan ng puhunan. Sinabi niya nang tiyak na tiyak, “Aling bansa sa mundo ngayon ang may ganito kalaking merkado at ganito karaming oportunidad para sa negosyo?” At gaya ng ibang opisyal na nagbigay ng briefing, hindi siya gumamit ng mga visual aids at mga kagamitang high tech. Saulado ang mga importanteng numero at pigura, at sa tulong ng simpleng mikropono, sa paraang madulas at derederetso, nasabi ang gustong sabihin nang may kasama pang mga berso.

Karapat-dapat banggitin ang malaking islogang nakalagay sa provincial hall ng Jiangxi, na sumusuma marahil sa pangunahing tunguhin ng pamahalaang Tsino. Jiefang sixiang, jiakuai fazhan. Ibig sabihin: Palayain ang kaisipan, pabilisin ang kaunlaran.

Muli, sinusuma ng walong character ang may pokus at may planong pagsusumigasig at pagkukumahog tungo sa minimithing kaunlaran.

Mula noon hanggang ngayon, isang katangian ng lipunang Tsino ang pagpapahayag ng pangunahing tunguhin o mithiin sa pamamagitan ng islogan. Mga islogang nagiging gabay at sineseryoso ng lahat, at pinagmumulan ng tinawag na ningjuli (cohesion) ni Ericson Baculinao (dating lider estudyanteng Pinoy na ngayo’y media practitioner sa Beijing) nang minsang magtalumpati sa matatas na Mandarin sa isang forum sa Manila ilang taon ang nakaraan.

Dual citizenship, atbp.

Mahalagang aktibidad din sa Beijing ang dayalogo ng mga delegado at mga opisyal ng Overseas Chinese Affairs Office. Pangunahing isyu ang pagtuturo ng wikang Tsino at pagpapalaganap ng kulturang Tsino sa ibayong dagat, ang lumalaking agwat sa pagitan ng nakatatanda at nakababatang henerasyon ng overseas Chinese at ang isyu ng dual citizenship.

Sinabi ni Xu Yousheng, na siyang nanguna sa dayalogo, na sa panahong marami pang mga bata sa mga atrasadong lugar sa Tsina ang walang mga libro at gamit sa eskwela, malaking halaga ang inilalaan ng pamahalaang Tsino sa pagpapalaganap ng kultura at edukasyong Tsino sa ibayong dagat. Umaabot sa 100 milyong dolyares kada taon ang pondo para rito, aniya.

Tungkol naman sa dual citizenship, tiniyak niya na hindi nagbabago ang patakaran ng Tsina na nilinaw ng yumaong Premier Zhou Enlai maraming taon ang nakaraan. Ang mga Tsino sa ibayong dagat ay gaya ng mga anak na babaing nagsipag-asawa na, na kailangang maging matapat sa pamilya ng mga napangasawa. Sumulpot ang isyu ng dual citizenship, ani Xu, dahil hiniling ng mga Tsinong propesyunal sa Amerika na mapanatili ang Chinese citizenship kasabay ng pagkakuha sa US citizenship.

Kung hindi ka binati

Para balansehin marahil ang mga seryosong briefing at dayalogo, nagdaos ng Mid-Autumn Festival Evening sa gabi ng Setyembre 13. Nagpakitang-gilas ang ilang malalaking delegasyon. Kumanta ng awiting Thai at sumayaw at nagtanghal ng skit ang delegasyon mula sa Thailand. Kumanta ng awiting Malaysian, na kumpleto sa kasuotan at bandilang Malaysian ang delegasyon mula sa Malaysia. Hindi siyempre nagpahuli ang delegasyong Pinoy. Pagkatapos ng masayang pag-awit sa Bahay Kubo na may kasama pang simpleng choreography, isinunod ang yueliang daibiao wo de xin, isang awiting popular na popular sa mga etnikong Tsino sa buong mundo.

Karapat-dapat banggitin na nang mag-umpisa ang programa, isang opisyal ng Overseas Chinese Affairs Office ang nagpakuwela. Binati niya ang mga delegado sa iba’t ibang wika. Sa Mandarin, sa Ingles, sa Hapones, sa Malaysian, sa Indones, sa Thai ….. At dahil malaking grupo nga ang delegasyong Pinoy, inasahan nating babati rin siya sa Filipino. “Tatayo tayo pag binati tayo ha,” isang katropa ang excited na nagsabi. At humanda ngang tumayo ang grupo. Pero hindi dumating ang pagbati sa Filipino. Kaya naman we felt slighted, ‘ika nga. Nasaling ang amor propio ng Pinoy! Kaya bago bumira ng Bahay Kubo ang grupo sa entablado, nagpasakalye ang kabalikat at katuwang natin sa buhay (pagkatapos nating sulsulan). Sinabi niya sa matatas na Mandarin na dahil hindi bumati ang opisyal ng Overseas Chinese Affairs Office sa wikang Filipino, gusto ng grupo na batiin ang lahat sa wikang Filipino. At saka niya isinunod, “Mabuhay kayo at isang magandang gabi po sa inyong lahat.”

Maaaring hindi naman naintindihan ng mga delegado mula sa iba’t ibang bansa ang pagbati sa Filipino, pero para na rin naming naiwagayway ang bandilang Pinoy.

Napag-iiwanan tayo?   

Ang totoo, sa kahabaan ng biyahe, sa nakikitang kagulat-gulat na pag-unlad sa Tsina (kitang-kita sa mga airport, sa mga abenida at highway, sa naglalakihan at nagtatayugang gusali, at sa makakapal na puno’t halaman maging sa mga siyudad), di napigil ng mga kasama sa delegasyong Pinoy ang maghambing at makadama ng pagkainggit.

Minsan, isang kagrupo ang seryosong nagsabi, na sinundan pa ng mahabang buntong-hininga, “We are really being left behind.” Na mabilis nating sinagot ng, “Why? Are we competing?” Sabihin pa’y nagtawanan ang iba pang kagrupo, lalo na nang sabihin natin, nang pabiro siyempre, na hindi tayo puedeng mapag-iwanan dahil hindi naman tayo nakikipagpaligsahan, at dahil tayo’y masaya at kuntento at kayang humalakhak, sumayaw at kumanta kahit sa bundok ng basura.

Pero tunay na nalungkot tayo nang isang kagrupo ang nagsabi sa atin, “Sabi ko sa papa ko, tama para sa henerasyon nila na lumisan sa Tsina at magtungo sa Pilipinas. Tama rin para sa henerasyon natin na manatili sa Pilipinas. Pero hindi na tama para sa henerasyon ng mga anak natin na manatili pa sa Pilipinas.” Nalungkot tayo dahil hindi siya nagbibiro nang sabihin iyon. Sinabi niya iyon nang seryosong-seryoso.

Pero sa kabila ng pagkadismaya sa pagkabalaho ng mga bagay-bagay sa bayang minumutya, hindi rin nga pinalampas ng tropang Pinoy ang ipinalagay na kawalan ng pagpapahalaga mula sa opisyal ng Overseas Chinese Affairs Office.

Kung ika’y interpreter  

Pinaka-highlight ng tatlong araw sa Beijing ang pakikipagkita ng mga delegado kay Cheng Siwei, vice chairman ng standing committee ng National People’s Congress, sa Great Hall of the People. Ayon sa nakagawiang opisyal na protocol, inuna ang group picture bago ang dayalogo. Gaya ng ibang nagbigay ng briefing, saulado ni Cheng ang mga importanteng estatistika kaugnay ng ekonomya, at dahil may MBA mula sa Estados Unidos, maya’t maya’y iwinawasto niya ang ginagawang salin ng interpreter.

Pagkatapos ng itinakdang kalahating oras na pormal na pakikipagkita ni Cheng sa mga delegado, hindi man naaayon sa protocol ay may mga nagtangkang lumapit sa kanya para pakuha ng litrato kasama siya. Tayo’y mas itinuon ang pansin sa pag-obserba sa arkitektura ng Great Hall of the People, palibhasa’y nasanay na sa pagbisita sa Bahay Tsinoy ng pinakamatataas na lider Tsino.

Kaugnay ng interpreter, napansin natin na sa lahat ng briefing at dayalogo, gayong nakalagay sa name tag ang pangalan ng mga opisyal, ang nakalagay lang sa name tag ng interpreter ay fanyi. Ibig sabihin, interpreter. Kung tutuusi’y hindi madaling maging mahusay na interpreter. Bukod sa kailangang mahusay sa wika, kailangang maalam din sa paksang isinasalin. Kaya naman nasabi natin sa ating kabalikat at katuwang sa buhay na kung tayo ang interpreter, hindi tayo uupo sa puwestong walang kumpletong pangalan natin.

Isa pang akyat

Hindi siyempre kumpleto ang biyahe sa Beijing kung walang kasamang pag-akyat sa Great Wall. Kaya naman nang papiliin ng rutang sasamahan (ang isa’y city tour kasama ang mga hutong o eskinita sa lumang bahagi ng Beijing), pinili pa rin natin ang Great Wall kahit ilang beses na natin itong naakyat. Nang una natin itong akyatin ay kalagitnaan ng Disyembre at tumatagos na sa buto ang lamig ng hangin. Sa ikalawang pag-akyat ay Oktubre at kainaman ang panahon. Sa ikatlong akyat ay Setyembre nga at kainitan pa, pero bahagyang umulan nang araw na iyon kaya’t madulas ang daang paakyat.

Sa isang bahagi ng mahabang-mahabang pader, nakaukit sa stone tablet ang walang kamatayang islogan sa mismong sulat-kamay ni Uncle Mao: Bu dao changcheng fei haohan. Ibig sabihin: Hindi magaling na lalaki ang hindi nakarating sa Great Wall. Nang nagpapakuha tayo ng litrato sa tabi ng stone tablet kasama ang ating kabalikat at katuwang sa buhay, narinig nating may sumigaw: Bu dao changcheng fei nuqiangren. Ibig sabihin: Hindi magaling na babae ang hindi nakarating sa Great Wall.

(May karugtong)

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