January 29 was a long day for me because I had to document the Ateneo Professional Schools (APS) Congress. It was a gathering of great minds from the fields of law, governance, medicine and business, and I was happy to be part of it even if (yeah) it was for work.
Eighteen people spoke that day, and I chose to listen to five:
- Ateneo President Bienvenido F. Nebres, S.J. who spoke on “The Ateneo Way”
- Ateneo Vice President for Professional Schools Alran Bengzon who explained what the APS Congress is all about
- Pipalawan Naga, environmentalist, prime mover of Save Lake Lanao Movement and Ateneo School of Government student who spoke on “Transforming Governance for Sustainable Development”
- Dr. Jessica Salas, president of Kahublagan Sang Panimalay Foundation, who spoke on “Mobilizing Communities for Sustainable Development”
- Thereese Fernandez, president of Rags2Riches, Inc. who spoke on “Enterprising FOR and WITH the Poor”.
From Fr. Nebres, I learned that the deeper poverty is the lack of capability
In his talk, he asserted that poverty is the result of weak social institutions. He said that the Philippines remains poor because the government does not pay attention to the poor. Even a corrupt government like Indonesia, he said, has managed to reduce the number of the poor by paying attention to this sector.
For Fr. Nebres, poverty is not just material poverty. Rather, he asserts that lack of capability is a deeper poverty. Beyond foreign investments, what we really need for takeoff are capabilities in terms of basic education and basic health. In other words, building human capacity is far more important than money and dole-outs in poverty alleviation and nation-building.
So I suppose then, that working in the field of education is a strategic place for me. However, the important question that Fr. Nebres asked was “Where does your heart take you?” Knowing the answer to that, I concluded to myself, is the best way to contribute to nation-building.
From Dr. Bengzon, I learned that the real value of the APS Congress is the action that follows
Dr. Bengzon, echoing what Fr. Nebres said, again stressed the importance of expanding our understanding of poverty. That is, poverty as not only the lack of material resources but the lack of capacity and opportunity. Again, he seeks to prioritize education and health, just like what our Asian neighbors did to alleviate poverty. This expanded view of poverty is what I shall take with me as I ponder my succeeding actions.
From Mr. Naga, I learned that passing environmental laws is easy; it’s the implementation that’s the “fun part”
Mr. Naga, through his Save Lake Lanao Movement (SALLAM), was able to obtain an environmental compliance certificate in order to save this majestic lake, connected to the world famous Maria Cristina Falls and the source of water that propels the turbines of the Agus grid power plants, supplier of up to 65 percent of the total electricity needs of Mindanao.
Protecting this lake is not just a matter of survival and subsistence. For Mr. Naga and his fellow Maranaos, this lake is tied to their identity and culture. Negotiating with them thus entails cultural sensitivity. Tip: Mr. Naga said Maranaos are clannish people. They look up to their leaders for action.
From Dr. Salas, I learned that rainwater can be harvested for reuse in households…and that the Philippines has a 10-year window to save itself the effects of climate change
Dr. Salas helped mobilize the community near Tigum River in Iloilo for harvesting rainwater. This project supplied enough water to double the people’s crop yield. Rainwater harvesting, through the Coca-Cola Foundation’s rain barrel program, allowed households to store enough fresh water, too!
According to Dr. Salas, managing rainwater is necessary if we are to maximize our freshwater resource. With our denuded forests, we are facing a water crisis. We must therefore retain, recharge and reuse rainwater!
Dr. Salas also touched on climate change during her talk. She said that the Philippines is the most vulnerable in Southeast Asia as we are an archipelago. We can feel the effects by the year 2040. However, she is optimistic that we can still do something to avert the deadly effects of climate change. She cited 2010-2020 as the 10-year period where we can still prevent disaster. It’s February now. Nine years and 11 months to go!
From Reese, I learned that personal mission is the greatest propeller
Reese is a BS Management graduate (correct me if I’m wrong) who bravely took the road to social entrepreneurship despite uncertainties and being the breadwinner of her family. Her story called to mind again Fr. Nebres’ earlier question of “Where does your heart take you?” Certainly, Reese’s heart took her to working for the social enterprise Rags2Riches, helping Payatas women earn a decent income and regain their dignity while providing women like me with lovely eco-chic designer bags.
I suppose studying MA Communication, combined with my varied interests, will naturally lead me to…