“In search of valuable spices”… this phrase sounds ordinary and yet it rings a lot of meaning that is interwoven in our history. Let me rewind a bit at the time when famous explorer Ferdinand Magellan led the expedition to circumnavigate the world under the flag of Spain. He set sail and crossed the Pacific Ocean to explore and to search for spices. Why spices in particular? At that time, European countries earned so much wealth by trading in spices. Thus, in the search of spices, Magellan discovered the Philippines when his ship landed in Homonhon Island, Samar.
Spices are seen in many forms. It can be a seed, fruit, root or bark that is used primarily to add flavor, color or preserve a food. To a typical Ilonggo like me who loves to spend my penny to a worthy hearty meal, spices enhance my appetite to partake more of the food that is available on my table. We are still lucky that here in Iloilo, we still have a space to grow a pepper or two in our backyard to put some spices in our food.
In life, however, ‘spice’ is analogous to that of ‘variety’ that we searched for to make life more interesting or somewhat adventurous. Spices that can put more flavors, colors or even preserve our lives. Spices that can be ‘funny’, for Filipinos love to laugh, but we expect too that it can be a ‘miracle’ that will change our lives and eventually, our society.
Through the years, I am a witness to this continued search of Filipinos to put ‘spice in our lives’ and in one way or another it somehow makes us resilient to whatever challenges or crises in the country. However, spicing up our lives does not mean we have to make a mockery of our ‘right to vote’ by putting absolutely unfit individuals in high positions of our town, province or country so that we can have ‘fun’ watching their debates during senate or congress hearing that are aired on television. And while we have more fun in the Philippines, intergenerational poverty and corruption continues.
Spice up our lives is to find that ‘means’ to make our lives better. And there’s no better time to start spicing up our lives but this 2019. I believe, we can begin by contemplating on what are the ‘changes’ that happened in the previous years which brought us to what we are today. Then, instead of asking, all the time, what the government can do for us and for our country, why not ask what we can do for ourselves and for our country?
This new year, allow me to impart the top three things that I think, we can do for our country.
Clean our backyard. Environment is one of the crucial factors to achieve sustainable development. And a clean environment begins with the habit that we have at home. The government provided already a lot of policies, programs and activities in support to a cleaner environment and what we can do is change our habit and start segregating our waste in our households. The closure of Boracay Island is a classic example of a man-made calamity. That if we do not do our part of properly segregating and disposing our waste, we also end up to be a victim of our own doing. There is in fact the Republic Act 9033 or Solid Waste Management Act and yet, as citizens we failed to do our share of following it.
Save a grain of rice. We all felt the problem on rice, specifically in 2018. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed that Western Visayas production of palay in the 3rd quarter of 2018 is 781,999 metric tons. This is 0.91% or about 7,164 metric tons less from the 789, 163 metric tons registered in the 3rd quarter of 2017. Added factor to the problem is the region’s inflation rate of 10.2 for food items and 7.1 to all items in the 3rd quarter of 2018.
So, while we all complain of insufficient rice for the hungry population or expensive cost of rice, we still can afford to waste rice in our own household. PSA report showed that in 2016 alone, the wastage of a Filipino individual on rice is around 335 grams from annual leftover on plates. And this did not include yet the rice that was cooked intentionally as food for house pets. If all the wastage grams of rice per person will be saved and combined, the daily rice wastage can already feed around 300,000 mouths in a day.
Self-help. I do not understand why we created this culture of begging in our country. We all have our hands ready to receive ‘dole outs’, conditional cash, and all sort of freebies. Every time I go home in my hometown or visit a particular far-flung community, the general behaviour of the people are ‘resigned’ and ‘lazy’. Where have all the hard-working Filipinos gone? It looks like that poor Filipino family is dependent on the government to alleviate them from poverty.
Look, I believe the government have provided a lot of programs and projects to help alleviate Filipino lives from poverty. Though it might not be a perfect program and there are still some gaps and that corruption persists, but then again, the government is doing their part of providing the necessary services for the people.
Now, the question is what do we do from our end to uplift our lives from poverty? Wait and wait for our 4Ps to arrive so we have food to feed our families while we have a vacant and unproductive parcel of land waiting also for us to plant at least a ‘pepper’. Worst is when I asked one person if he is interested to join in the livelihood project that we do in our community, the response is a resounding ‘No’ because if he will get better income, his family might not be included anymore in the list of beneficiaries of 4Ps. Such attitude and mindset is, indeed a pain in the neck, right?
Again, government is there to provide us enabling conditions and right programs and policies to alleviate us from poverty, but we must also do our share of helping ourselves of crossing the poverty line.
Cleaning our backyard, saving a grain of rice and helping ourselves are simple doable things that we can start within each of our households. Let’s make it a habit and do our share as a citizen of our country.
The 2018 ends with a positive vibe when Filipinos stood as one to support and cheer the Philippines’ candidate, Ms. Catriona Gray, in winning the 2018 Miss Universe crown. The bayanihan spirit on unity and cooperation of the Filipinos in such event was overwhelming and I hope that the same spirit also transcends in all aspects of the Filipino lives in making the real change that we dream to see in our society. As Filipinos, we are all creative and innovative in so many ways. Why don’t we stop our search for spices in our lives and instead make the spices ourselves? I know we can all do it. So this 2019, let us all spice up our lives in a more positive way for the betterment and unity in our country. Thus, we begin… Spice it! #