Philippine Ventures & Destinations

Read about business opportunities and interesting travel destinations in the Philippines. Learn from the experiences of seasoned Filipino entrepreneurs and business executives. Explore places where you can listen to music, watch cultural performances, and simply have hours of fun. Check out where and what to eat while in Metro Manila, on the road or in the provinces. The following essays contain personal insights on Philippine culture and life particularly in the provinces.

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A statistics major, Leticia Subang spent the first 10 years of her professional career as an economic reporter covering for the Philippines' leading business paper. She later opted to become a free lance writer while working for her Masters Degree in Development Management. In the next ten years, she worked for a number of leading government agencies - the National Power Corporation, Public Estates Authority, Departments of Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Labor and Employment, and Energy.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Malaysian foundation supports CGMA

Some CGMA funds came from unexpected sources.

People in Profit Systems (PIPS) and Isabellamina Foundation, based in Malaysia and headed by Bryan Marsden, contributed $100,000. These groups are linked with the World Council of People for the United Nations, says Leo van Vogel, vice president for Asian operations.

Coordinating with Labor Attache Ma. Brenda L. Villafuerte, PIPS/Isabellamina financed 25 classrooms for 15 schools in different regions. They are:

* Jose P. Laurel St. High School in Quezon City.
* Sta. Maria, Eliseo Belen and Tagulod Elementary Schools and San Roque National High Schools in Pampanga.
* Mapalacsiao and Victoria East Central Elementary Schools in Tarlac.
* Lamao Elementary School in Bataan.
* Baquilan Resettlement Elementary School in Zambales.
* Dasmarinas Bagong Bayan Elementary School in Cavite.
* Lanatan-M Elementary School and Paharang National High School in Batangas.
* Infanta Central and Dinahican Elementary Schools in Quezon and
* Pili West Central School in Camarines Sur.

“We, the Sta. Maria Elementary School teachers, pupils, PTCA officers, homeroom officers and parents, have considered ourselves lucky for our prayers have been answered. Our dreams to have classrooms came true,” says principal Constancia M. Lagazon. “Our people were so happy when our donors, Leo van Vogel, Bryan Marsden and his wife, came for the groundbreaking. We will treasure and take good care of our CGMA building. We will always remember your good deeds.”

Sta. Maria barangay captain Florentino Infante adds: “The children are more inspired and interested in attending their classes, they feel more at ease and comfortable, they are no longer crowded in their rooms.”

Mercedita B. Panes, principal of Baquilan Resettlement Elementary School says the new rooms have made the school environment more comfortable and conducive for learning. “The 18 personnel, the 664 pupils and the whole community are very grateful,” she says.

“Education is the surest path to success and progress and I have great respect for the emphasis you are all placing on this issue,” says van Vogel, protector of Isabellamina Foundation, in his letter to Secretary Sto. Tomas. Van Vogel’s foundation is CGMA’s second biggest donor next to AMOSUP, having sponsored 25 classrooms.

“Your organization is by far the most professional entity with which I have worked since coming to Asia in 1992,” adds van Vogel.

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Some Christmas gifts from Saipan

It was one of the easiest decisions to make.

“When we learned about the CGMA project and the alarming classroom shortage in the Philippines, the group unanimously decided it was the most worthwhile project to support,” says Nicolas B. Loste, president of the Filipino Community Foundation Inc.-Saipan.

The group’s 2003-2004 Simbang Gabi Committee, chaired by Eduardo C. Caranzo, immediately initiated the fund raising. “Last August 2005, the Committee’s two-classroom building donation was inaugurated and is now being used by students of Lalawigan Central Elementary School in Borongan, Eastern Samar,” says Caranzo.

The group’s treasurer, Alicia E. Abueme recalls: “Through the efforts of various coordinators and support from CNMI Archibishop Tomas Camacho, Filipino clergy and attendees of the Filipino Simbang Gabi at Mount Carmel Cathedral, we were able to accumulate sufficient amount for the construction of the classrooms.” Saipan is part of the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands or CNMI.

Danilo L. Domingo, chairman of the Simbang Gabi Committee 2005-2006, adds: “With the completion of the classrooms and seeing their benefits to the Filipino children, our group is even more encouraged to work for another classroom building donation in the near future.”

“We laud the CGMA project and its implementers for giving us Filipinos abroad a concrete and vital medium with which to share our blessings with Filipino children back home and to ensure for them a better future through better education,” they add.

The fundraising efforts in Saipan are coordinated by Consul General Wilfredo Maximo and POLO representative Joan Lourdes D. Lavilla.

The CNMI chapter of the University of the Philippines Alumni Association (UPAA) also funded a school building for Calamba National High School in Laguna. “The UPAA is an academic nonprofit organization that aims to invest in education,” says chapter president Janet Villagomez.

After raising funds to construct one classroom, UPAA-CNMI tied up with Saipan businessman Glicerio Arago and the Marianas Filipino Women’s Association to be able to complete CGMA’s standard two-classroom module, which was inaugurated last July 2005.

“Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Through CGMA, UPAA was given the opportunity to share the gift of education to the children of Calamba, Laguna. UPAA will continue to support education-oriented causes and welcomes opportunities to make a difference in the educational development of the Filipino youth,” Villagomez adds.

When Labor Attache Araceli A. Maraya, who used to be posted in Saipan, introduced the CGMA project to Saipan-bsed businessman, Jerry Tan, he did not hesitate to support the project. Maraya is now based in Milan.

“From a very young age, my father encouraged everyone in our family to have an appreciation for education and social responsibility – two things that can make a great difference in the quality of life where we live, work and do business,” says Tan. “Today, the company that we started many years ago has grown to be a global business, and we are indeed very fortunate to be able to give some back to the community.”

His company, Tan Holdings, donated two classrooms to Dau Central Elementary School in Mabalacat South, Pampanga, which was inaugurated in January 2004. In addition, Tan made a separate personal donation for another classroom. Together with the donation from Al Ahliya Labor Supply based in the United Arab Emirates, a new CGMA school building was inaugurated in Capas National High School in Tarlac in March 2004.

“This makes it especially meaningful for us to have an opportunity to be part of this project. We hope that many more young people will benefit and lead happier and more productive lives because of the improvement in the education system that this project brings,” Tan says.

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A 50-cent contribution goes a long way

Seamen donate 30 classrooms to 11 schools

The example set by seamen affiliated with the Association of Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines (AMOSUP) shows how small contributions, when systematically pooled, could help in nation building.

Organized in 1960 by the Oca brothers Roberto and Gregorio, the seamen’s union started with 500 members. The steady demand for Filipino seamen from international shipping companies encouraged AMOSUP president Captain Gregorio S. Oca to put up the Maritime Institute of Asia and the Pacific in 1998.

“Then I realized from the applicants we were getting that our basic education has deteriorated,” Captain Oca says. So when Labor Secretary Sto. Tomas broached the idea of AMOSUP as CGMA’s first donor, Captain Oca did not hesitate to extend his support.

“Our association, as the biggest labor organization of Filipino seafarers, is fully aware of the importance of education and training as tools for national development,” says Captain Oca. “We are able to maintain our leadership in the global seafaring labor force because of better education and training.”

The seamen’s union collects $0.50-donations from each member when they renew their licenses. CGMA’s first and biggest donor started with a P2-million donation to build 10 classrooms in Tala High School in Caloocan. One of the most crowded schools, Tala has 6,199 students and 39 classrooms – or a student-to-classroom ratio of 159. Each classroom in Tala has to be shared by three classes.

A touching comment made by one of Tala’s student when the ten classrooms were inaugurated in December 2003 remains vivid for Labor Undersecretary Manuel Imson. Mustering his courage, the student approached Undersecretary Imson to express his gratitude that with their new classrooms, he will no longer have to attend night classes. “Children should be at home in the evenings doing their homework. This is the time when their parents are home from work,” says Imson.

AMOSUP also donated two classrooms to Victorias National High School in Negros Occidental, which was also inaugurated in December 2003.

AMOSUP, which has 75,000 members, has been able to pool a total of P6.04 million, enough to build 30 classrooms in 11 public schools. The fundraising is a continuing endeavour of the association. “We committed 50 classrooms to Secretary Sto. Tomas. We still lack 20,” says Captain Oca.

When rehabilitation activities were started in Quezon province, which was devastated by typhoons and landslides last December 2004, AMOSUP donated eight classrooms to four public schools – Infanta Central and Alitas Elementary Schools, both in Infanta, General Nakar Elementary School and Llavas High School in Real. These were inaugurated August 2005.

Ten more classrooms are now being built in five schools in Camarines Sur – Burabod, Hanawan, Don Tomas Garchitorena, and Nonito Paz Arroyo Elementary Schools and Rangas-Ramos National High School.

“Filipino seafarers are high qualified, reliable, experienced, competent, and loyal workers who can effectively communicate in the English language,” he adds. “We would like to continue supporting the CGMA project to ensure that our people would have access to better public education facilities that would help produce world-class human resources.”

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Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Philippine public schools need 45,000 classrooms, to cost P17 billion

The right of Filipino citizens to quality education at all levels is guaranteed under the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It provides that the state shall take appropriate steps to make education accessible to all and to establish and maintain a system of free public education in the elementary and high school levels.

This mandate carries with it the responsibility of providing the different components of education such as school buildings, textbooks, armchairs, and teachers. Nationwide, in School Year 2002-2003, a total of 16,435,529 students was enrolled in 36,301 and 5,394 elementary and secondary schools, respectively.

In the historical inventory of classrooms prepared by the Department of Education (DepEd), the classroom shortage for SY 2001-2002 for elementary and secondary education was 8,040 and 27,946, respectively or a total of 35,986. This was projected to increase to 44,716 by SY 2003-2004.

The shortage of classrooms is a long-standing issue raised every enrolment period. To ensure that substantial number of classrooms is built, the government is appropriating P2.0 billion annually for the School Building Program (SBP). For this purpose, the government has devised an allocation system that is intended to address equitable and fair allocation of resources. Under Section 4 of R.A. 7880, otherwise known as the “Fair and Equitable Access to Education Act,” 50% of the annual budget is allocated based on the student population, 40% based on classroom shortage and the remaining 10% left to the discretion of the DepEd Secretary.

Under the Act, 90% of the annual appropriation will be released to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for the implementation of the program while the 10% will be administered by the DepEd.

The budgets for CYs 2002 and 2003 were meant to build 6,154 and 5,330 classrooms, respectively, for elementary and secondary schools considering an average cost of P325,000/classroom in CY 2002 and P375,000/classroom in CY 2003. These units were distributed to the 210 Legislative Districts in accordance with RA 7880 allocations.

These allocations are not sufficient to eliminate the classroom shortage. The National Government is, however, not alone in these endeavour. Local government units (LGUs) and a number of government and private entities are also constructing schools buildings.

Source: Sectoral Performance Audit Report on the School Building Program for Elementary Education of the Department of Education (Cys 2002-2003)
Commission on Audit, August 2004.

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OFWs help solve classroom shortage

For the past three years, overseas Filipino workers have been helping raise funds to build classrooms in public schools under the Classroom Galing sa Mamayang Pilipino Abroad (CGMA), a project managed by the Department of Labor and Employment.

A total of P74.1 million has been donated as of November 30,2005and more pledges are coming in. The amount pooled is being used to build 376 classrooms, of which 296 have been completed. A total of 172 elementary and high schools all over the country is now benefiting from the program.

To cope with the acute classroom shortage, many public schools have adopted multi-shift schedules to be able to hold more classes. In many instances, several grade levels are being handled simultaneously by teachers in each classroom while thousands of public school students are holding classes under the trees or in makeshift structures.

The CGMA program is gaining headway, particularly in the rural areas where an additional classroom could mean a lot for both the pupils and the teachers.

DOLE’s team of labor attaches are actively soliciting donations from overseas Filipino workers. The project is a collaborative effort of the DOLE, Departments of Education and of Foreign Affairs and the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, manages the actual construction of the buildings.

“We have barely scratched the surface but we have made a good start and must be able to sustain the momentum,” says Labor and Employment Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas.

Assuming that a room is used by a class of 50, at least 19,000 public school students are now benefiting from CGMA efforts.

“The response from our donors, both here and abroad, has been encouraging,” says Labor Undersecretary Danilo Cruz, the program’s executive director. “This is a further validation of the long-established value given to education by most Filipinos. We believe that giving our youth better access to education would help solve our unemployment and underemployment problem.”

“In addition to the support from our OFWs, we are starting to attract the attention of local donors, particularly corporations who have identified education as one of the areas for their corporate responsibility projects,” Sto. Tomas says. “We are pleased to note that all regions have benefited from the CGMA program. WE owe our ability to expand the coverage of CGMA to the continued generosity of our local and foreign donors.”

Data from the Department of Education show that at the elementary level, the shortage is most acute in Metro Manila, which needs close to 9,000 additional classrooms, followed by Region 4-A or Southern Tagalog (close to 3,000 classrooms) and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (with a little over 1,000 rooms). These three regions have the highest enrolments at the elementary levels.

More is needed for the public high schools where total enrolment now stands at 3,202,757. The country’s public high school system has 41,039 classrooms, while the ideal, at 50 students per class, should be a little over 64,000 classrooms.

The enrolment pattern for high school students is different. The highest is in Region 4-A, followed by Metro Manila and Region 3 (Central Luzon) and Region 7 (Central Visayas). Many elementary graduates from the rural areas are sent to live with their relatives and friends in the urban centers, often working as house helps, to be able to finish their high school education.

With the country’s high population growth, the classroom shortage is increasing every year. According to the COA report, the entire public school system now needs close to 45,000 more classrooms. Given CGMA’s ballpark cost of $4,000 per classroom, at least $180 million will be needed to meet this shortage.

“The amount may sound staggering but that represents about 2% of the total remittances of our overseas workers,” Sto. Tomas says.

If every Filipino working abroad could give a one-time donation of $22.50 each, then the acute classroom shortage would be solved. About seven to eight million Filipinos are working abroad remitting over $8.6 billion in 2004. The Bangko Sentral estimates that OFW remittances reached $12 billion in 2005.

Even if just a third of the 12,000 Filipino community associations abroad would donate a classroom, then 4,000 could be built in public schools that are in need.

“We should invest in the education of our youth so our country could be assured of highly-skilled entrants into our labor force. We do not only solve our unemployment problem, we will also be able to increase our national productivity,” Sto. Tomas adds.

Total CGMA Donations (as of November 30, 2005)

Personal - 86 donors - P12,683,184.60

Filipino community associations, non-government and civic organizations - 78 donors - P30,059,778.28

Corporations and foundations - 63 donors - P24,092,584.49

Diplomatic community - 8 donors - P 2,418,972.55

Local government units - 4 donors - P 1,460,000.00

Cash pool - P 1,352,959.26

Total - 225 donors - P74,067,479.18

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