Congrats Tom!

I found this from elsewhere … I was surprised I wrote this years ago.


I’m referring to someone who I doubt could be familiar to anyone here in blogosphere. I virtually met this 24-year old Tboli today from Brgy, New La Union in Maitum, Sarangani Province.

The Sarangani Information Office sent a press release, which our news organization used in this story.

Tom isn’t Mark Twain’s adventurous Sawyer kid of-all-time. Tom is Tom Balatac, the 24-year old Grade 1 student of Kipalkuda Elementary School in Maitum.

I commend Tom for the courage of going against social persecution, perhaps, of coming to school much later. It is one brave act that sends a wonderful message to those who have access to quality education but did not value the opportunity as of now.

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Buslot Buntong (Drain Bamboo Poles) Challenge: An Anti-Dengue Campaign

In many neighborhoods, bamboo fences are common fare.  The use of bamboo as material for fence is most affordable for Filipinos especially in rural and sub-urban areas.

 There is a proper way to cut the poles – near the nodes. A wrong way of cutting, however, exposes us to risk. If cut too far away from the nodes, the open bamboo cylinders are receptacles of water and — possible mosquito breeding sites. Dengue fever is one common condition not only in poor communities in the tropics. Even developed city-states like Singapore have to deal with it.

Let us not host mosquitoes in our homes. Often, we are reminded that receptacles or catchments should be turned upside down, be emptied to help drive away mosquitoes.

Receptacles on bamboo poles in fences, however, could never be turned upside down like pails or canisters. Instead, we must put a hole at the bottom of the receptacle to drain water. This will rid us from breeding sites for mosquitoes and possibly mosquito-borne diseases like dengue.

With a hole as drain, you may also cover the bamboo receptacle with anything clean to block entry of liquid.

We know this is an old practice for many. I got reminded of this by a family member. It’s time to share this practice to others so they can also do it in their neighborhoods.

Things needed: A hammer or any hard object like a rock to be used to pound. A steel bar or any pointed concrete object.

Time needed: Five minutes only.

Apil na sa Buslot Buntong Anti Dengue Challenge!

What can be done? Include anti-dengue measures as an item in the agenda of meeting in the purok/zone or barangay. Invite a health advocate to speak on dengue and what can be done against it. During community work or pahina, include the checking and draining of bamboo poles used in fencing the neighborhood as part of the many anti-dengue measures.  If you are already doing it, you may post the photo/video of you taking the challenge in your neighborhood (Optional).

One simple safety act a day, keeps the danger away.

Waltzib of Kalasungay, Malaybalay City, Bukidnon, Philippines


Bamboo poles receptacles are mosquito breeding sites, too.Bamboo poles receptacles are mosquito breeding sites, too.

Bamboo fences are in every communityBamboo fences are in every community

One pound to do itOne pound to do it

Simple tools for a noble actSimple tools for a noble act

Difficult but needed …

It was a mess for me going through my research for my Master’s project for my MA in Journalism in Ateneo de Manila U. It was time to pin a blame on something, which I can trace only back to my discipline as a student and as a researcher.
Cramming didn’t help. What made it more messy is the fact that I need to juggle between studying, researching, and working the toils of community journalism.
But it was a necessary move. It was imperative. I owe it to my benefactors at the fellowship, to my news organization who nominated me, to my media community, to family, and to the expected beneficiary of my scholarship. 
I hope finally it gave me the license to apply for my much desired formal entry to media education and training. 

I had been invited to teach journalism at the university. I have been placed in a position also to facilitate the training and media events committee of my mother news organization. The MA in Journ was and is the redemption.

Indeed, it was a difficult endeavor but a much needed one. As friends would say, why make life more complicated? It already is. 

REVISIT: Feature: Portrait of a generation of Shan

Special to Shan Herald Agency for News (S.H.A.N.)

In a dimly lit corner of a bar in Chiang Mai’s red
light district, Hseng Hawm greets the approaching
customers, “Sawasdee kha”. She guides them to a table
and sits with them as another girl takes the guests’

Her sweet and demure smile grabs the attention of the
guests, from the karaoke music played in the bar —to
her presence.
Her fair skin looked smooth. But make up didn’t cover
all of the little scars on her face.  Her black blouse
and skirt fitted well with her youthful body. Hseng
Hawm is only 20. The dark color of the bar’s red light
on her clothes made her look older and aloof.
According to her, she is a waitress in the bar. As she
sits and talks with the customers, she knew she was
doing more. “I am only doing this as part of my job,”
she told one of the guests who speaks her native

She spoke with confidence. With her head up and a
smile flashing her white teeth, she looked at ease
with what she was doing.
But this didn’t hide her anxiety. She asked to be
excused after an hour of conversation. She explained
that she and the other waitresses have to hide from
the police, who are inspecting the employees of
another bar nearby.
She hurried to an exit door trying not to lose her
poise. In an instant, she was gone.
Noom Hseng, 24, who comes at the bar “from time to
time” said like Hseng Hawm, he also has to run away
from police inspectors. After passing through the
border from Burma, Noom Hseng Sow said his “papers”
allow him only to work in the factory and in
construction sites.
He works at a Shan organization based in Chiang Mai.
He said it has been difficult for him and the likes of
Hseng Hawm to freely live the way they want to.
Everyday, they have to deal with some realities like
fearing the possibility that the police might arrest
them. Their movement is limited.
But Noom Hseng said his difficulty in Chiang Mai is
already heaven to those who are left in his hometown.
“I only realized many things about freedom here, there
are so many good things about life that I did not know
about back there,” he said.
For 29-year old Awn Tai, Noom Hseng’s friend, running
away from the police has already become part of who
they are as a people. They are not only fleeing from
the Thai police. They also have fled from their
homeland. He said they are a generation who runs away
to be free.
Awn Tai is a translator of Shan literature into Thai.
Having been in Thailand for the last 10 years, his
Thai is fluent. Also, he holds a Thai ID card, unlike
Noom Hseng and Hseng Hawm. But he is very much a Shan
in his ways. He said, he longs to go back to Shan
State, someday.
“Life here is difficult, but we want to be free from
poverty and fear, that’s why we are here,” he said.

According to estimates from the Shan Human Rights
Foundation (SHRF) and the Shan Women Action Network
(SWAN) there are at least 150,000 Shan refugees in
Thailand since 1996 up to 2002.
Most of them came from forced relocation sites in
Central Shan State.
In a 2003 study by the SHRF, it was shown that there
is a direct relation between the abuses committed by
the Burmese government in the forced relocation sites
to the number of refugees moving out from those areas.

Hseng Hawm’s family, now in Chiang Mai, came from
Kunghing, an area where most of the refugees came
from. But she doesn’t want to talk about what was left
behind there. While she missed her hometown, she said,
she will not go back there until the situation will
Her 21 year old friend, Mawn, another waitress, said
if she has a choice she would not be in the bar.
“Every night I shed tears of fear, of uncertainty,”
she said. Mawn, who sat with Hseng Hawm at the table
before the police came, said she looks forward to
another day for hope.
Unlike Hseng Hawm, who wants to be a tourist guide,
Merng has her eyes on an ambition.
“I wanted to be a teacher. Since I was a kid and even
up to now I still wanted to be a teacher. I will be a
teacher,” she said.
As a waitress, Merng earns 2, 000 Bt ($50) every month
with free food and bed space. She said she is going to
try her best to earn more money so she could go back
to school.
But Mawn, went up to primary school only way back in
Kehsi, a township in Central Shan State. She knew she
would have a hard time going back to school. But she
said what else she would look up to but her dreams.
Like Mawn, Charm Tong is also a young Shan woman. But
at 24, Charm Tong is probably one of the most
prominent Shan personalities. Her father was a leader
of a resistance group fighting the Burmese military
until his death.
Charm Tong is popular because her effort to help young
migrant Shan people like her to get education and her
contribution in exposing Rangoon’s human rights
violations had been recognized by international award
giving bodies.
She now travels to other countries to share about the
Shan people’s struggle for freedom. She has become an
inspiration to both young and old Shan people in
But Charm Tong came to Thailand when she was 6 inside
a basket with her younger sister on a horse back.  She
has to climb up with difficulties in growing up just
like the other young Shan youth. She attended the
school of a Shan teacher in a village along the
Thai-Burma border.
Now a woman of strength and influence, Charm Tong
flaunts only humility and sincerity. She said growing
in a conflict zone has greatly influenced who she is
Like Charm Tong, Hsai Lao, 24, also saw a turbulent
Burma in his life. But unlike Mawn, he has graduated
from High School. His English is good, thanks to years
of education in an American school in Rangoon.
He is in Thailand to scout for a school that could
offer him a scholarship. While still out of school,
Hsai Lao helps a Shan organization for its English
language works.
As he drove a motorcycle he borrowed from a friend,
Hsai Lao talked about his determination to study no
matter what it takes. “But it has to be in Thailand so
that I could work for Shan organizations at the same
time,” he said.
“I still do not know if I can reach my goal, but I
will do anything to get it,” he said.
Hsai Lao, in one of his reflections in coming out of
Burma, once wrote that he is not like other young
people who go out to other countries to become rich
and never come back.
“I will be back, yes, but I have to have education
from outside. I can help my country more if I am
educated,” he said.

Hsai Lao, Hseng Hawm, Noom Hseng, Awn Tai, Mawn and
Charm Tong, six different young men and women. They
are six images of the Shan youth in Thailand having
different pains and different joys. They have their
own story to tell.
But they all are the same: the youth of a displaced
people — running away from a repressive country.
They have the same language, history and homeland.
And they all look up to something, for one thing, —
a brighter future for themselves and their country.  (Walter Balane in Chiang Mai, Thailand/October 2005)

Mistakes, a reflection

Sometimes, we are in a hurry. And in the course, we make mistakes.

Yes, we can race with time and run (or drive) faster than we used to just to catch up.  Yes, sometimes, we can be there and beat the deadline. But sometimes the problem is we forget some other aspects.

I drove from home to work to catch an interview. I made it. But in the rush, I inadvertently turned the park lights on. I learned about it hours later. So, car battery went drained. What a waste. I’m glad the car electrician was on call. To the rescue he takes the battery to his shop. After an hour, I get it back. He gets some bucks in return.

That’s the cost. That’s the Pxxx.xx mistake. I hated the incident. I promised to learn from this.

Lesson: try not to be in a rush situation so the case will not be repeated. In case it is inevitable/ unavoidable try to be more watchful. After the rush, review, go back to the way and check.

Lastly, maybe take out MSG or ‘instant seasoning from Lunch or dinner.

But really, we cant blame substances all the time.

Reporting Environment: An important focus for Mindanao’s media

Citizen Journalism has been a field so close to my heart. This is what we wished to help enrich in Mindanao’s communities with MindaNews’ Grassroots Documentation and Reporting Training (GDRT). So when I first proposed a master’s project (the equivalent of a thesis at the Asian Center for Journalism in Ateneo de Manila University) I immediately thought of looking into Bukidnon’s treasure chest of citizen reporting experiences.

I poured energy and time to pore into documents and interviews around Mindanao on the topic of DXBB’s (forerunner of today’s DXDB in Bukidnon) own brand of citizen reporting using the Bandilyo newsletter way back during the dark age Martial Law.

However, several consultations thereafter my proposal did not prosper. I botched my intended research and resumed study only now. My materials had become obsolete or at least needed updating. So when asked for a topic again I was forced to propose a new one, another important topic.

Meantime,my research on citizen reporting in Bukidnon during martial law will be sidelined only as  a master’s project. It still remains my dream project outside this academic requirement to graduate.

I choose an equally compelling subject: the state of environment reporting in Mindanao. Of course, I choose only to look into two weekly newspapers in Bukidnon considering the constraints of a master’s thesis. When I submitted my proposal, I did not forget the request by both media and government officials back in 2011 during the 7th Mindanao Media Summit.

I wish to add to the knowledge on environment reporting in the community setting – to check on the extent and depth of environment issues covered by community media, how these issues are presented, what limitation and challenges abound the community media. This should compare with the expectations from the community, that is to check if the reports live up to the issues raised by the Bukidnon Environment Summit in 2008.

I would also like to check on how the two newspapers coverage of environment issues stack up to the coverage of Manila-based broadsheet newspapers with national circulation. Yes, I also plan to compare this to the state of environment reporting portrayed in a research of the subject in an Asia-Pacific context.

In an earlier training on Reporting Environment in Bukidnon, I have called on colleagues to level up to the tenets of environment reporting. I hope this research looks more clearly into the practicality of that encouragement.


Low pressure area, high pressure impact

I saw the news: they counted the dead and the injured. I have to blink faster when they said repeatedly that what we experienced for a week is only “low pressure area.” Already it has killed many.
Maybe it is timely to provide basic education on environment and climate change to all. I don’t care if it will be formal or informal education as long as it clarifies and enlightens.
LPA , I think tonight, is misunderstood just like “storm surge” during Yolanda’s time.
Another way at looking at this is via vulnerability. The number of dead and hurt tell how vulnerable we are in Mindanao.  Let’s assess the hazards in every area and prepare ourselves to face challenges like LPA.